... was part of the Ottoman Empire, from the 15th century to the early 20th. Following their defeat in the Balkan Wars, the Ottomans ceded Kosovo to Serbia and Montenegro. Both countries joined Yugoslavia after World War I, but tensions between Kosovo's Albanian and Serb communities simmered throughout the 20th century, occasionally erupting into major violence – culminating in the Kosovo War of 1998–9, when the Kosovo Albanian rebel group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) challenged Serbian rule. NATO intervened in March 1999, with a large–scale air campaign intended to destroy the Serbian military infrastructure. NATO saw this as a humanitarian campaign, but it was criticised for failing to gain the approval of the UN Security Council and for causing a number of civilian deaths (probably upwards of 500). The war ended in June 1999, with the withdrawal of Serbian armed forces from Kosovo and the establishment of a UN peace–keeping mission.

On 17 February 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia. At the time of writing (July 2017) it had gained diplomatic recognition as a sovereign state by over a hundred UN member states. Serbia however refuses to recognise Kosovo as a state, although it has accepted the legitimacy of its institutions.

© Haydn Thompson 2017