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Context of 'March 1981 and after: Kosovo Communist Leadership Blamed for Demonstrations'

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Communist leader Fadil Hoxha proposes that the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) use the name Dukagjin Plateau instead of Metohija for the western part of Kosovo, that Partisan operations in the region be split between a Kosova committee under Serb leadership and a Dukagjin Plateau committee under Albanian leadership, and that a conference be held to elect a Kosova and Dukagjin Plateau national liberation council. The Regional Committee of the CPY for Kosova approves the plan, but the CPY leadership rejects it. They say the region “is not a separate, compact region,” so it does not need a “provincial committee,” and they want “to avoid strife over ‘all sorts of demarcations.’” [Kola, 2003, pp. 51-52]

Entity Tags: Fadil Hoxha, Regional Committee of the CPY for Kosova, League of Communists of Yugoslavia

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The First Conference of the National Liberation Council for Kosovo and Metohia meets at Bujan, Albania, and proclaims that the way to Kosovar Albanian self-determination is to unite with the Yugoslav Partisans. The Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia for Kosova, the Communist Party of Albania’s branch in Tropoja, and the “Perlat Rexhepi” Battalion of Shkodra (Albania), which is operating around Gjakova, organized the conference. The National Liberation Council has 51 members, including 42 Albanians. The Council unanimously endorses a resolution that “Kosova and the Dukagjin Plateau [Metohia] is a province inhabited for the most part by an Albanian population, which today, as always, wishes to be united with Albania… the only way for the Albanian people of Kosova and the Dukagjin Plateau to be united with Albania is to fight together against the blood-thirsty Nazi occupiers and those in their pay.” The signers, from the Council’s Presidium, include Mehmet Hoxha, Pavle Jovicevic, Rifat Berisha, Xhevdet Doda, Fadil Hoxha, Hajdar Dushi, and Zekerija Rexha. According to Enver Hoxha, General Secretary of the Party of Labor of Albania, the Yugoslav Communist leadership will subsequently cover up the resolution; that “Kosovo should be restored to Albania” was endorsed by the Yugoslav Communists in 1928 and 1940, at the 5th Party Conference. [Prifti, 1978, pp. 227-228; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 117-118]

Entity Tags: Xhevdet Doda, Hajdar Dushi, Fadil Hoxha, Enver Hoxha, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Mehmet Hoxha, National Liberation Council for Kosovo and Metohia, Party of Labor of Albania, Yugoslav Partisans, Pavle Jovicevic, Zekerija Rexha, Rifat Berisha

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

With the rise of Slovenian and Croatian influence in the LCY, and following 1968’s ethnic Albanian demonstrations, Amendments VII through XIX are made to Yugoslavia’s Constitution, giving the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina more autonomy. In Amendment VII, Yugoslavia is redefined as having eight instead of six constituent parts: six republics and two socialist autonomous provinces. Yugoslavia becomes the custodian of the provinces’ rights and duties, instead of Serbia, and Kosovars can elect representatives to the Yugoslav legislature. Kosovo-Metohija becomes just Kosovo, under Amendment XVIII. Kosovo gains a constitution (instead of statutes), its assembly can pass laws equal to those of a Yugoslav republic (instead of decrees), and it gains a provincial supreme court. Federal development aid is channeled to Kosovo ahead of other areas. The term national minority is replaced by nationality. Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito will say national minority “carried a tone of inequality, as if second-class citizens were involved. When it comes to rights there can be no difference whatsoever between nations, nationalities, and ethnic groups.” A year later, Serbia will approve Kosovo’s new constitution. Following these and other changes, Yugoslavia’s Albanian population will begin gravitating towards Kosovo while Slavs will start moving out of the province. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 169-170; Kola, 2003, pp. 109-110]

Entity Tags: Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslavia, League of Communists of Yugoslavia

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Mahmut Bakalli, president of the League of Communists’ Kosovo Provincial Committee, resigns and is replaced by Veli Deva, also a Kosovar Albanian. Bakalli is blamed for not seeing a series of demonstrations that have rocked the province coming, although at a committee meeting on March 8 he did say there was a lack of basic goods and that conditions had to be alleviated for those without jobs or with low wages, as well as students. The next month another senior official resigns and in all six of the nine committee members leave their positions. In his last speech, Bakalli blames “subversive propaganda” from Albania, and says letting the situation get out of hand is his responsibility. In September 1981 a report by the Serbian and Kosovo committees of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia will blame Bakalli’s administration, saying it did not warn the Yugoslav and Serbian governments, though it allegedly knew the Marxist-Leninist Party of Albanians in Yugoslavia was planning demonstrations and that Albanian nationalism was increasing. Veli Deva is a former committee president and has the support of Albanians, for opposing Serb chauvinism, but is also against the Albanian government. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 201, 208; Kola, 2003, pp. 161-162]

Entity Tags: Mahmut Bakalli, Kosovo Provincial Committee of the LCY, Veli Deva, Yugoslavia, Marxist-Leninist Party of Albanians in Yugoslavia

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Pristina University students begin protesting over dormitory and dining hall conditions at the school. The protest grows and hundreds of protesters go off campus, where they are blocked by police. The police try to detain the alleged organizers, which brings out more people overnight, and begins to radicalize their demands. In coming weeks and months, the government and media will blame many groups and countries for the demonstrations, but in interviews years later with Albanian scholar and diplomat Paulin Kola, Kosovan nationalist Xhafer Shatri will say that he thinks the events were unplanned. On the morning of March 12, the crowd is dispersed with tear gas. More demonstrations will erupt in a week.
The Students of Kosovo - Because unemployment is high in Kosovo, many Kosovars turn to further education, making Kosovo’s ratio of students to population the greatest in Yugoslavia—274.7 out of 1,000, while Yugoslavia’s national ratio is 194.9. One in three Kosovars is a student of some kind, yet educational facilities for Albanians are underfunded. Pristina University has 36,000 full-time and 18,000 extension program students, two-thirds more than planned when the university was created, forcing some students to share beds. About 80 percent of the students are in programs such as Islamic art, Albanian history, or folklore, graduating more students than there are available jobs in these fields. Their professors are generally poorly qualified, more than half lack PhDs, and they generally produce little new research and are not well regarded by their colleagues elsewhere in Yugoslavia. The student body is generally disaffected. Many ignore Rilindja, an Albanian language newspaper in Pristina, which covers university news on Wednesdays, and prefer TV and radio from Albania rather than Yugoslavia’s Albanian stations.
Economic Conditions - Kosovo is the poorest part of Yugoslavia, and Albanians are generally poorer than Slavs—for example, in 1980 67,000 Kosovars were unemployed, over 10 percent of the population and the highest rate in Yugoslavia. Out of every 1,000 people newly employed in Kosovo in the early ‘80s, 258 are Montenegrin, 228 Serb, and 109 Albanian, though the majority of Kosovars are Albanians. By 1988, Serbs will be 23.6 percent of the population and have 36 percent of the jobs, and Montenegrins will be 2.5 percent of the population and have 9.3 percent of the jobs. Mahmut Bakalli, president of the Kosovo Provincial Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, is unable to change Kosovo’s economic relations with the rest of Yugoslavia, which pays very little for natural resources obtained from Kosovo. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 196-197, 199-200, 216; Kola, 2003, pp. 156-157]

Entity Tags: League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Paulin Kola, Rilindja, Mahmut Bakalli, University of Pristina, Yugoslavia, Xhafer Shatri

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Protesters, now including workers, farmers, police, soldiers, and members of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, along with the students, continue to demonstrate, and in greater numbers, demanding the release of those arrested earlier and more. Some say that Kosovo should be a Yugoslav republic, instead of an autonomous province, or join Albania. Many Serbs agree with Tihomir Vlaskalic, president of the Central Committee of the Serbian LCY, who says, “We have taken it for granted that Kosovo has its own Republic in Yugoslavia—the Socialist Republic of Serbia.” On March 26, students in Pristina attack Serbs and Monenegrins, and rob and burn houses and businesses. Students in Podujeve, Vucitern, Gjakova, Gjilan, Ferizaj, and Mitrovice join in on April 1-2. Serbia calls in the Yugoslav police and army and fighting occurs during a state of emergency, prohibition on gathering, and a curfew on April 2, throughout Kosovo. Thirty thousand soldiers and tanks are deployed, which some Albanians see as an occupation. Kosovo LCY President Mahmut Bakalli urges the military and police not to guard the radio and TV studios, because it would inflame the public. The last large demonstration is the May 18 occupation of Pristina University dormitories, which is ended by police using tear gas on May 19. The university is closed and its University Council is disbanded. High school students are expelled for demonstrating. More than 1,000 LCY members will be expelled or unilaterally removed from membership, and 11 LCY basic organizations will be disbanded during the emergency measures. Two months later martial law will end, but major towns are patrolled by security forces and covert officers of the Yugoslav Ministry of the Interior afterward.
Casualties - From March 11 to April 2, nine Albanians and a Serb policeman are killed, according to the Yugoslav government. In 1989 a Yugoslav source will say the wounded include 75 Albanians (55 of whom were wounded by gunshots), three militia with serious injuries, and 127 with less serious wounds. Kosovar Albanian sources say as many as 1,000 are killed and even more hurt. Amnesty International will later say that the Serbian LCY Central Committee was told more than 300 were killed. In 1992 the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, located in Pristina, will find only 13 Albanians known to have been killed.
Government Countermeasures - Around 1,400 Albanians are given prison terms of up to 15 years, 3,000 given sentences of up to three months in prison, and 6,000 are otherwise punished. During the summer break, almost 300 students are given trials as brief as a few hours, and given up to 15-year prison terms. In June, the government says 506 people were summarily fined or jailed for up to 60 days under the Code for Petty Offenses. By August 31, another 245 people are given one to 15-year prison terms by the federal authorities and 60 people are convicted in September. The education minister of Croatia and other Croatian and Slovenian authorities will say Serbia should be less draconian. Many professors will be blacklisted in the Komunist magazine. The Kosovo Committee of the LCY calls for a 10 percent smaller student body at Pristina University and dispersal of some departments elsewhere in the province. When the fall semester begins in September, Albanian history, literature, language, culture, and art courses will be censored. Translated Serbian textbooks replace uniformly banned textbooks from Albania. The number of Albanian students, and their former quota of two-thirds of the student body, will be reduced annually.
Continuing Unrest - For years after spring 1981, government offices, monuments, and Serb graves will be vandalized and subversive literature circulated in Kosovo, western Macedonia, and parts of Montenegro. Slavs will begin to leave Kosovo out of intimidation rather than for economic reasons, and refer to threats, attacks, murder, arson, and vandalism. Many settle in Smederevo, Kragujevac, Nis, Kraljevo, Svetozarevo, and Belgrade. Belgrade residents insultingly call them Vrcani, and reportedly Slavs from Kosovo are considered tainted by association with Albanians. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 197 - 209, 212-213; Kola, 2003, pp. 157-158, 162]

Entity Tags: Mahmut Bakalli, Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, Amnesty International, Komunist, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, University of Pristina, Yugoslavia, Tihomir Vlaskalic

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The Central Committee of the Federal LCY (League of Communists of Yugoslavia) endorses Serbia’s demands for constitutional changes. On November 19, Serbian LCY leader Slobodan Milosevic speaks at a rally of 100,000 people in Belgrade, reportedly the largest gathering since the end of World War II. Milosevic says he will “establish peace and order” in Kosovo and that “Kosovo is the very center of [Serbia’s] history, its culture, and its memory. All people have a love which burns in their hearts for ever. For a Serb that love is Kosovo. That is why Kosovo will remain in Serbia.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 177]

Entity Tags: League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Two days of Kosovar Serb demonstrations about the economy, after earlier demonstrations had been dispersed by police, persuade the leadership of the Montenegrin communist party, the LCY, and the government to resign. Momir Bulatovic, a supporter of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, becomes the new leader of the Montenegrin LCY. This follows Kosovar Serb protests in October 1988 that toppled the provincial government in Vojvodina, another part of Serbia. [Kola, 2003, pp. 175]

Entity Tags: League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslavia, Momir Bulatovic

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Several members of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY)‘s Political Bureau, including Kosovar representative Kole Shiroka, resign to protest Slobodan Milosevic’s push for the removal of Kosovar Albanian leaders. The resignations precede the Eighteenth Plenum of the Central Committee, which will meet on October 17. [Kola, 2003, pp. 175]

Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, Kole Shiroka, Slobodan Milosevic, League of Communists of Yugoslavia

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY)‘s Eighteenth Plenum does not approve Slobodan Milosevic’s proposal that the Central Committee be purged; Milosevic, the leader of the LCY’s Serbian branch, retains his post. National LCY leader Stipe Suvar, a Croat, and Milan Kucan, leader of the Slovenian LCY, criticize Milosevic. Suvar proposes a confidence vote in the Politcal Bureau, but Milosevic rejects the idea, because he is a regional leader and the Plenum represents the entire Yugoslav party. Milosevic also ignores the Plenum’s vote to fire his aide, Dusan Ckrebic. The Slovenian leadership is willing to consider Serbia’s demand for constitutional amendment in exchange for more capitalistic economic policies. Milosevic says the recent Serb demonstrations show the high level of civil liberties in Yugoslavia, while Kosovar LCY leader Azem Vllasi, an ethnic Albanian and target of Serb demonstrations, says they are one aspect of “a well-disguised attempt to change the policy of national equality in Yugoslavia and the country’s foundations.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 175-176]

Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, Azem Vllasi, Dusan Ckrebic, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Milan Kucan, Stipe Suvar, Slobodan Milosevic

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

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