Kosovo (fifth part): Socialist Yugoslavia and the Pristina Spring

(To Guglielmo Maria Barbetta)

Lo status constitutional constitution of Kosovo in Tito Yugoslavia1 it was that of an autonomous province of Serbia. There Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija it was in fact established in 1946 within the People's Republic of Serbia, the main republic that made up the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia.

The Province was officially established as an autonomous province of Socialist Republic of Serbia with the 1963 constitution. The 70s saw its autonomy increase, until it became one of the federal units of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, taking the name of Autonomous Socialist Province of Kosovo.

Lo status of great autonomy obtained since 1963, and above all since 1974, however, it was not equal to that of the six constituent republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia) who had the constitutional right to secede.

After the war, the Albanians of Kosovo were treated harshly and considered collaborators of the Nazi-fascists and enemies of the new socialist order. However, the new socialist government in Belgrade abandoned the interwar project of Serbian recolonisation, in the hope of putting an end to the violent cycle of revenge, and initially prevented displaced Serbs from returning to Kosovo2.

After some protests, this blockade was lifted and some returned to Kosovo3. The consequence of these choices was, however, a strong change in the demographic balance, with the prevalence of the Kosovar-Albanian element4.

In the following years, the Belgrade government tried to enhance Kosovo and promote its economic growth. The objective was to reduce the growing gap in terms of quality of life compared to the other republics of the federation but the regional economy failed to take off as hoped.

In fact, in the 70s, massive investments were allocated to Kosovo, especially towards the industrial sector. Many resources were directed to the development and enhancement of human capital, as happened for example with the opening of the University of Pristina, and a special fund was established for the implementation of further projects belonging to this sphere of action.

The Albanian ethnic group, for its part, had openly expressed, even if in vain, the desire for a Kosovo with the status of Repubblica already in 1968, obtaining it de facto but not de jure in 1974.

There were also numerous demonstrations in March 1981, a few months after Tito's death, when the so-called Pristina Springs (1981-82), marked by a brutal repression carried out by the state police against the population who were protesting against the precarious conditions in which the region found itself and who were pushing for greater autonomy. The Albanian population increased in the socialist period, going from 75% to over 90% of the total. In contrast, the ethnic Serb population continued to decline, decreasing from 15% to 8%.

During the period of the rise of Serbian nationalism in Yugoslavia in the 80s and 90s, revisionist volumes were published propagating the thesis that Serbs were the only ethnic group victimized in Kosovo during the Yugoslav period5.

On October 24, 1986, the anti-Titonian and anti-Albanian “Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences” (the so-called SANU Memorandum) was published in Belgrade. In 1987 the then leader of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in Serbia Slobodan Milošević was sent to Kosovo for pacification purposes, but he immediately took the side of the Serbs, declaring that “Never again will anyone be able to touch a Serb” and proclaiming himself a nationalist leader.

In March 1989, Milošević succeeded in having much of the constitutional autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina revoked using unconstitutional methods. Furthermore, it was revoked status equal status enjoyed by the Albanian language which until then represented the co-official language of Kosovo, alongside Serbo-Croatian.

On 28 June 1989, during the 600th anniversary of the first battle of Kosovo, in Kosovo Polje, the place where the famous battle took place, Milošević, President of the Republic of Serbia since 8 May of that year, gave a violent speech against the Albanian ethnic group, also addressing the Ottoman Turks.

The 1989 speech thus marked the start of a policy of forced assimilation of the province, with the closure of the autonomous Albanian-language schools and the replacement of ethnic Albanian administrative officials and teachers with Serbs or figures deemed loyal to Serbia.

Initially, ethnic Albanians reacted to the loss of their constitutional rights with nonviolent resistance, led mainly by Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) by Ibrahim Rugova. Albanians boycotted official institutions and elections, established separate institutions and schools, and declared the independence of the Republic of Kosovo on 2 July 1990, recognized only by Albania. Furthermore, they adopted a constitution in September 1990 and held a referendum on independence in 1992, which recorded the presence of 80% of those entitled to vote and 98% in favor: the referendum was never formally recognized but some people still participated. international observers.

Following theStorm operation6 of August 1995, which led to the exodus of 200.000 Serbs (photo) from Croatia7, the Belgrade government decided to forcibly resettle 20.000 refugees in Kosovo, in an attempt to change its demographic balance again. Numerous members of the international community appealed to the Serbian government to conclude the operations as soon as possible.

Read: "Kosovo (part one): a history spanning millennia"

Read: "Kosovo (second part): the Ottoman Empire"

Read: "Kosovo (third part): the Balkan Wars (1912-1913)"

Read: "Kosovo (fourth part): the First World War and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia"

Read: "Kosovo (sixth part): towards conflict"

1 Titoism (or Titoism) is a term in use since 1948 and indicates an adaptation of communist ideology, characterized by an ideological and political attitude of independence from the directives of the Cominform, and therefore from the Soviet Union, assumed by Tito to give life to a “Yugoslav road” to socialism. The term is used to describe the specific socialist system built in Yugoslavia following its rejection of the Cominform Resolutions of 1948, when the Communist Party of Yugoslavia refused to take further orders from the Soviet Union.

2 M. Anthony, The bridge betrayed: religion and genocide in Bosnia. University of California Press, p. 54

3 R. John R., Yugoslavia as history: twice there was a country. Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 228

4 P. Mojzes, Balkan Genocides: Holocaust and Ethnic Cleansing in the Twentieth Century, pp. 94-96

5 J. Dragović-Soso, Saviours of the nation: Serbia's intellectual opposition and the revival of nationalism, McGill-Queen's Press, 2002, p. 127

6 Operation Storm (in Croatian Operation Storm) was a military operation, during the Croatian War of Independence, coordinated by the Croatian Army and militarily supported by the Bosnian forces of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, against the Serbian Army of Krajina and the rebel Bosnian militias of the Autonomous Region of western Bosnia.