We entered Kosovo from Skopje and drove the the beautifully eerie countryside that became all too familiar to me during the mid 90’s as I watched the war unfold on TV. I felt a strange feeling as I entered because I remembered the war and watching it and the interviews with people affected by the war. I remembered Slobodan Milosevic’s face plastered everywhere before he was tried for crimes aginst humanity and eventually dying in prison before his trial was complete. It was strange but very rewarding to me as I think it’s interesting to see the places of modern events in the flesh.
Kosovo is a region in southern Serbia which has been under United Nations administration since 1999. While Serbia’s sovereignty is recognized by the international community, in practice Serbian governance in the province is virtually non-existent. The province is governed by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the local Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, with security provided by the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR).
The Province of Kosovo borders Montenegro, Albania, and the Republic of Macedonia. It has a population of just over two million people, predominantly ethnic Albanians, with smaller populations of Serbs, Turks, Bosnians, Romani people, and other ethnic groups. Priština is the capital and largest city.
The province is the subject of a long-running political and territorial dispute between the Serbian (and previously, the Yugoslav) government and Kosovo’s largely ethnic-Albanian population. International negotiations began in 2006 to determine the final status of Kosovo which I believe will result in their independence in the very near future.
The capital, Priština was particularly interesting to me as to see it was like living modern history. It wasn’t ramshackle or dumpy as I had expected, it was alive with life and also had a crazy affinity for former US president Bill Clinton. The main road in Priština was titled Bill Clinton Boulevard with pictures and thank you signs everywhere. I found this pretty cool and certainly interesting. In contrast to the Bush street in Tbilisi I had previously written about in my Tbilisi entry, Clinton had actually done something to warrant this street and I was happy and even sort of proud to see that.
Seeing Kosovo in such good shape just so few years after a debilitating war gripped the region, made me realize that these people were determined to make it work. They will certainly succeed in independence whenever it officially comes.