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Priština (Приштина) (Serbian) or Prishtina/Prishtinė (Albanian) is the capital city of the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohia (Kosova in Albanian), located at 42°65' N, 21°17' E. The population is 204,500 as of 2003. The city now has a majority of Albanians. Most of the city's Serb and other non-Albanian population fled after the Kosovo War in 1999.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Priština after World War II
3 Priština in the Kosovo War and afterwards
4 See also
5 Census data, 1931-1981
6 References and links


In Roman times a large town called Ulpiana existed 15 kilometres (9 miles) to the south of modern-day Priština. This city was destroyed but was restored by the Emperor Justinian. Today the village of Lipljan/Lipjan stands on the site of the Roman city, and remains of the old city can still be seen.

In medieval times Priština grew from the ruins of the former Roman city. The city was located at a junction of roads leading in all directions throughout the Balkan peninsula. For this reason Priština rose to become an important trading centre on the main trade routes across south-eastern Europe. It also became an important mining town.

During the time of the medieval Serbian state, Priština was the capital of King Milutin (1282-1321) and other Serbian rulers from the Nemanjic and Brankovic dynasties until the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, when an invading Ottoman army decisively defeated the Serbian army. The whole of Serbia was subsequently conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1459.

While the town retained an almost exclusively Serb character for at least a quarter century more, it progressively became more and more Turkish, although it was noted that in the 17th century, most of the inhabitants were local Muslim converts (Slavic) rather than Albanians. After centuries of Ottoman rule the town gained a distinct Turkish character.

From the 1870s onwards Albanians in the region formed the League of Prizren to resist Ottoman rule, and a provisional government was formed in 1881. In 1912 Kosovo was briefly included in the newly independent state of Albania. But the following year the Great Powers forced Albania to cede the region to Serbia. In 1918 Kosovo became a part of the newly formed Yugoslavia.

Before the Second World War, Priština was an ethnically mixed town with large communities of Turks, Serbs and Albanians. However, Priština's Turkish character began to fade slowly during the late 1930's with migrations to the newly-founded Republic of Turkey, which was eager to attract ethnic Turks from outside Turkey to settle the Turkish provinces formerly inhabited by Greeks and Armenians.

The Second World War saw the decline of Priština's Serbian and Jewish communities as well as a large-scale settling of Albanians in the town. Between 1941 and 1945 Priština was incorporated into the Italian-occupied Greater Albania.

Priština after World War II

In 1946, Priština became the capital of the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo-Metohia. Between 1953 and 1999, the population of Pristina increased from around 24,000 to over 200,000. All of the national communities of the city increased over this period, but the greatest increase was among the Albanian population, with its unusually high birthrate and an influx of peasants from Kosovo and elsewhere seeking work in the city's factories. The Albanian population increased from around 9,000 in 1953 to nearly 76,000 in 1981. The Serbian and Montenegrin population increased too but by a far more modest number, from just under 8,000 in 1953 to around 21,000 by 1981. By the start of the 1980s, Albanians constituted over 70% of Priština's population.

Although Kosovo was under the rule of local Albanian members of the Communist Party, economic decline and political instability in the late 1960s and at the start of the 1980s led to outbreaks of nationalist unrest. In November 1968, student demonstrations and riots in Belgrade spread to Priština, but were put down by the Yugoslav security forces. However, some of the demands of the students were met by the Tito government, including the establishment in 1970 of Priština University as an independent institution. This ended a long period when the institution had been run as an outpost of Belgrade University and gave a major boost to Albanian-language education and culture in Kosovo.

In March 1981, students at Priština University rioted over poor food in their university canteen. This seemingly trivial dispute rapidly spread throughout Kosovo and took on the character of a national revolt, with massive popular demonstrations in Priština and other Kosovo towns. The Communist Yugoslav presidency quelled the disturbances by sending in riot police and the army and proclaiming a state of emergency, with several killed in clashes and thousands subsequently being imprisoned or disciplined.

Priština in the Kosovo War and afterwards

Following the abolition of Kosovo's autonomy by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in 1990, a harshly repressive regime was imposed throughout Kosovo by the Serbian government with Albanians largely being purged from state industries and institutions. Priština University was seen as a hotbed of Albanian nationalism and was duly purged: 800 lecturers were sacked and 22,500 of the 23,000 students expelled. In response, the Kosovo Albanians set up a "shadow government" under the authority of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by the writer Ibrahim Rugova. Although the city was formally controlled by Serbs appointed by the Milosevic government, the LDK established parallel structures, funded by private contributions, to provide free services such as health care and higher education that were largely denied to the Albanian population.

The LDK's role meant that when the Kosovo Liberation Army began to attack Serbian and Yugoslav forces from 1996 onwards, Priština remained largely calm until the outbreak of the Kosovo War in March 1999. The city was placed under a state of emergency at the end of March and large areas were sealed off. After NATO began air strikes against Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999, widespread violence broke out in Priština. Serbian and Yugoslav forces shelled several districts and, in conjunction with paramilitaries, conducted large-scale expulsions of ethnic Albanians accompanied by widespread looting. Many of those expelled were directed onto trains apparently brought to Priština's main station for the express purpose of taking them to the border of Macedonia, where they were forced into exile. The United States Department of State estimated in May 1999 that between 100,000-120,000 people had been driven out of Priština by government forces and paramilitaries.

Several strategic targets in Priština were attacked by NATO during the war, but physical damage appears to have largely been restricted to a few specific neighborhoods shelled by Yugoslav security forces. At the end of the war, most of the city's 40,000 Serbs fled. The few who remained were subjected to harassment and violence by Albanian gangs, which reduced Priština's Serb population still further. Other national groups accused of collaboration with the Serbian war effort by Albanians - notably the gypsies - were also driven out. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, by August 1999 fewer than 2,000 Serbs were left in the city.

Priština is today the centre of the international presence in Kosovo and is home to the transitional administration of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo.

See also

Census data, 1931-1981

References and links