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November 15, 2005


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Andrew Reeves

I have a more general question. Does Kosovo seem like it's going to keep its quasi-colony status indefinitely?


Tell us more! What exactly are you doing there?

Oh, and Doug, could you email me at my work address? I seem to have lost your contact.

Mike Ralls

I'm definitly interested and would love to hear more about your experiences there.


Oskar L.

Interesting note on Pristina. My experience is that capital/large cities get more and more alike. The cultural elites in Europe (and the world for that matter) share, at least superficially, the same global culture. So cities are usually not very good reflections of the countries they're in. Usually the countryside is where you'll find the true character of the country. London, Washington DC, Shanghai, Jakarta and Moscow are not good example of their respective countries. Probably the same is true of Pristina/Kosovo.

Did you have any chance to venture outside the city? Something else which I've been curious about but have not been able to find an answer to is - are there regional differences within Kosovo (cultural, economic, linguistic, etc.)?

Doug M.

Andrew, Kosovo will lose it's quasi-colony status fairly soon. Negotiations over "status" -- a nice way to say independence -- began last week. They'll probably continue into the back half of next year, but by 2007 Kosovo will be en route to full independence.

Oskar, yes, there are regional differences in Kosovo -- not so much linguistic (they're all speaking northern or Gheg-dialect Albanian) as social, economic and cultural.

To simplify, up until the 1950s it was a rural backwater, with no industry and no large towns. Tito brought mass education and forced industrialization and created, well, a class society. By 1990, there were several large towns and one small city, and urban elites that were very similar to urban elites elsewhere in Yugoslavia. A judge, an accountant or a manager in Prizren or Pristina was more like a judge/accountant/manager in Belgrade than like the peasants out in the plains... never mind the folks up in the mountains.

Of course, these elites were maybe 10% of the population.

Anyway: one distinct region in Kosovo is Devnice, which is sort of the central-western portion of the Great Plain of Kosovo, west and south of Pristina. This area is rural, culturally conservative, and produced a disproportionate number of KLA fighters.

The towns also have distinct personalities. Pristina, the capital, was always the educational, political and economic hub, and relatively liberal; today it's a boom town, having grown from ~250,000 before the war to more like ~600,000 today. Prizren was an Ottoman market town and preserves the most Ottoman flavor of anywhere in the province; it's still considered the cultural center of Kosovo, and Prizreners look down on the sharp-elbowed arrivistes in Pristina.

In the '90s, both Prizren and Pristina clung for years to the (ultimately futile) pacifist program of Ibrahim Rugova. Gjakova, in the far west, under the shadow of the Accursed Mountains, did not. Gjakova is a hard-bitten Communist industrial town with a well-deserved reputation for radicalism and political violence. Gjakovans were the urban equivalent of the Devnicers, Detroit to their Alabama if you like, producing another bumper crop of KLA fighters.

So, the short answer is, yes. There's a lot of variety. Kosovo is pretty teensy -- it's a square about 100 km or 60 miles on a side, a bit smaller than Connecticut -- but it's fractally complex.

It still doesn't make a lot of sense as an independent country, but that's another story.

Doug M.

Oskar L.


Thank's for the review of the regional differences in Kosovo. It was all news to me and very interesting.

You write that Kosovo "doesn't make a lot of sense as an independent country." What's your opnion on this very charged issue?

I'm not a big fan of how things turned out, but now that it's a fact I'm all for giving (most of) Kosovo independence and moving on.

Let Serbia keep some northern slice of it and let the EU/US/World Bank pay for the resettlement of the serbs in the 'wrong' parts of Kosovo. Maybe the EU could promise accession talks as an extra incentive. Finally letting go of Kosovo should help Serbia becoming a more 'normal' (ie monoethnic) state.

From the international community's perspective, this way they wouldn't have to spend treasure, troops and political effort in the doomed effort of turning Kosovo into a multiethnic state with strong minority rights. Maybe they could even move some of the most important orthodox monasteries and churches to Serbia (stone by stone, in the long run probably a lot cheaper than guarding them).

For the Kosovo Albanians, full independence for (most of) Kosovo would make them the responsible for their own future within clearly defined borders.


[comment deleted]

I leave comments open so that people can talk, not scream at each other.

Play nice.

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