Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Kosovo: A Short History

Kosovo: A Short History

by Noel Malcolm, New York University Press Staff

See All Formats & Editions

Kosovo, a contested region of Serbia, was left out of the Bosnian peace agreement of 1995. For the 2.2 million Albanians living in Kosovo, this sparked the abandonment of a nonviolent independence movement in favor of an armed struggle. This book provides the definitive story of Kosovo, from its origins to its present state of unrest.


Kosovo, a contested region of Serbia, was left out of the Bosnian peace agreement of 1995. For the 2.2 million Albanians living in Kosovo, this sparked the abandonment of a nonviolent independence movement in favor of an armed struggle. This book provides the definitive story of Kosovo, from its origins to its present state of unrest.

Editorial Reviews

Mr. Malcolm's narrative is gripping, even brilliant at times. He does nto shy away from controversial thought.
New Republic
Majestic, all-embracing, masterful.
The Wall Street Journal
A book every policy expert, journalist and lay person interested in the Balkans must read.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this awe-inspiring work, Malcolm has created a vital successor to his Bosnia: A Short History and an essential aid to anyone who wishes to understand this tragic region today. Through the dazzling use of linguistic evidence, Malcolm postulates that Albanians, whether their nebulous origins are Thracian or Illyrian, can reasonably be placed in the region as early as pre-Roman times. The historical description begins in earnest with the Middle Ages, with the advent of written records, and Malcolm appears to have ferreted out every one. His book is exceptional not only for his unimpeachable research, but also for his equitable examination of the conflicting ethnic views of what really happened in this contentious region, and his determination to debunk dangerous myths. If some will be shocked to learn that Serbian state policy mandated ethnic cleansing for more than 100 years, others will be equally amazed at the resilience of a people who for centuries have been caught in nationalistic crossfire. But probably the most important contribution of the book is its clear and thorough documentation of the legal status of Kosovo over time, and its compelling conclusions that challenge the accepted status quo. One can't help speculating on how a clear understanding of the information contained here might have affected the Dayton Accord and history.
A history of the Albanian-inhabited region of the former Yugoslavia. The author examines the claims of ownership made on the region by the Serbs and Albanians and tries to separate out the facts and fictions that form the foundations of these claims. The history begins in the 9th century and covers the rise of the medieval Serbian state, the Ottoman Empire's influence in Europe, and the making of modern Albania. Includes a 40-page bibliography.
Anna Husarska
...[P}ainfully useful...[a] well-written, readable book.
The New York Times Book Review
Timothy Judah
Mr. Malcolm's [book] is...controversial. He has clearly taken it upon himself to explode virtually all Serbian historical claims to the province....Mr. Malcolm makes a convincing case, drawing on 17th-century archival material he has brought to light.
The New York Review of Books
Kirkus Reviews
A timely and penetrating history of the Balkans' next crisis zone, the Serbian province of Kosovo. With its 90 percent ethnic Albanian population dominated by Serbs with a nasty record of human-rights abuses, Kosovo is a nightmare waiting to happen. Throughout the 20th century it has presented an intractable problem to Yugoslav leaders, both royalist and communist. Malcolm, a seasoned British journalist in the Balkans and the author of a much-acclaimed work on the region (Bosnia: A Short History), demonstrates a similar appreciation for the urgency and significance of both the present turmoil and the complicated past of the region. He manages to be both concise and comprehensive. The book begins with geographic and ethnographic background and follows historical developments chronologically from the medieval period to the present. Malcolm's prose is lively and engaging, his scholarship well documented, and he seems unafraid of offending the warring camps, displaying a strong, healthy skepticism bred of many years spent in the Balkans. He identifies several major factors in the shaping of Kosovo's past and present situation. The Serbian Orthodox Church's use of religious rhetoric to defend 'sacred' Serbian interests (the official Serbian Patriarchate and several historic churches) is, he asserts, 'a classic example of religion being mobilized and manipulated for ideological purposes.' He also objects to the Serbs' claims of political hegemony based 'on the geography of long-gone kingdoms or empires.' He blames the politicization of Albanian-Orthodox relations since the 19th century for turning divisions into outright hostility, drawing a parallel to the key role of politiciansin creating the Bosnian crisis. Significantly, Malcolm openly challenges both the legality of Kosovo's incorporation into the Serbian state as well as a historiography of Kosovo that has misrepresented parts of the regionþs history due to national and ideological biases. Both scholars and general readers will appreciate Malcolm's vigorous and trenchant analysis of the region's troubled past and present. This is destined to become a standard work on the subject.

From the Publisher
"An excellent scholarly contribution to the study of the province. . . . Seriously differs from the biased interpretations published by Serbian and Albanian historians, or trendy but shallow Western "Kosovology experts."-Canadian Slavonic Papers

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.22(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Orientation: places, names and peoples

A journalistic cliche of the nineteenth century described the Kosovo region as the lost heart of the Balkans. Like many cliches, this one was both slightly foolish and, at the same time, suggestive of a significant truth. Although Kosovo has played a central role in Balkan history, it has remained, during much of that history, mysterious and little known to outsiders. Western knowledge of the whole central Balkan area was confined to the major through-routes until surprisingly recently: European maps of this area contained gross inaccuracies well into the late nineteenth century. Yet it was not only Westerners who knew little of this area. According to a Bulgarian geographer who visited Kosovo during the First World War, parts of the Kosovo region had been, until just a few years previously, `almost as unknown and inaccessible as a stretch of land in Central Africa' .Z Political factors are the main reason for the inaccessibility of Kosovo during the last period of Ottoman rule, which was marked by chronic disorder, violent rebellion and even more violent repression. But simple physical geography also matters, helping as it does to explain both the seclusion of the area and, at the same time, its near-central importance.

The present borders of Kosovo -- that is, of the `Autonomous Province' of the post-1945 Yugoslav constitutions -- are of course the products of political history. At the same time, they correspond more or less to a physical fact. Kosovo forms a geographical unit because it is ringed by ranges of mountains and hills. The most dramatic of these is the range of thefar mountains (Alb.: Sharr) which runs eastwards out of the mountain complex of northern Albania and forms much of Kosovo's southern border. Its highest peaks are over 2,500 metres (nearly 8,000 feet), some of them crowned with permanent snow; the high pastures, green and Alpine, are places of breathtaking beauty, grazed in the summer by herds of semi-wild horses, which veer off from the approaching traveller like flocks of starlings on the wing. On the western side of Kosovo, running northwards from the Albanian massif into Montenegro, is another range, the `Accursed Mountains' (Srb.: Prokletije; Alb.: Bjeshket a Nemura), so called because of their fierce impenetrability: rivers have sliced through their dry limestone like wires through cheese, creating a network of vertiginous gorges. The borders of Kosovo continue (still moving clockwise) along another mountain range until, at their northernmost extension, they cross a different massif the Kopaonik range, which pushes down into Kosovo from the highlands of central Serbia. On the eastern side of Kosovo the circuit of mountains softens, with a string of summits less than half the height of those of the south and west, until we come back, in the south-eastern corner of Kosovo, to the easternmost extension of the far mountains -- a range of hills known as the Skopska Crna Gora (Alb.: Karadak, from the Turkish for `Black Mountain'; this is also the meaning of Srb. `Crna Gora').

Within this ring of peaks and hills, the interior of Kosovo is raised up, its plains qualifying as plateaux, 1,200 feet or more above sea level. Some idea of the elevation, and the near-central position of Kosovo in this Balkan region, can be gained from the curious fact that rivers run out of Kosovo into each of the three coastlines of the Balkans: the Aegean, the Black Sea and the Adriatic.' One, the Lepenac, runs south through the Kacanik (Srb.: Kacanik gorge into Macedonia, where it joins the broad river Vardar on its slow journey to the Greek coast near Salonica. Another, the Ibar, flows northwards out of the eastern half of Kosovo and passes through central Serbia into the river Morava, which joins the Danube near Belgrade. The valley of the Morava is the main south-north axis of Serbia, and its most important head-waters, near the Serbian-Macedonian border, are streams which flow out of the southeastern corner of Kosovo. Finally, on Kosovo's western flank, there is a river whose name recurs constantly in the history of the region: the Drin (Srb.: Drim). This is the river which flows westwards through the mountainous territory of northern Albania, entering the Adriatic a little way past the city of Shkodra (Srb.: Skadar; Itl.: Scutari). At a point just inside Albania, 10 miles west of the border with Kosovo, two contributary rivers join to create the united Drin: one, the White Drin, has flowed southwards through the western half of Kosovo, while the other, the Black Drin, has never quite touched Kosovo territory, flowing northwards from Lake Ohrid, first through Macedonia, then through Albania itself.

Running from north to south through the middle of Kosovo is a lesser range of hills which divides the whole territory into two roughly equal halves: streams running off the eastern side of these hills will flow into the Ibar and the Danube, while the western side sends its waters to the White Drin and the Adriatic. The two halves of Kosovo have their own traditional names, which for various reasons, political and geographical, have been sources of both friction and confusion. The western half of Kosovo is known to Serbs as the Metohija. This is derived from metochia, a Byzantine Greek word for monastic estates, and reflects the fact that many Orthodox monasteries were granted rich endowments here (farmland, orchards and famously fine vineyards) by medieval Serb rulers. Kosovo Albanians, on the other hand, resent the use of this name, since it seems to imply that the identity of the territory itself is bound up with Serbian Orthodox land-ownership. Their own name for this part of Kosovo is Rrafsh i Dukagjinit, the `Dukagjin plateau' - Dukagjin being a medieval Albanian ruling family which also gave its name to a broad swathe of territory in northern Albania.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

An excellent scholarly contribution to the study of the province. . . . Seriously differs from the biased interpretations published by Serbian and Albanian historians, or trendy but shallow Western "Kosovology experts."-Canadian Slavonic Papers

Meet the Author

NOEL MALCOLM, author of the widely acclaimed Bosnia: A Short History (also available from NYU Press), has been described by The New York Times as "President Clinton's favorite Balkans expert."

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews