The Janjevci declare as ethnic Croats, and derive their ethnonym (Janjevci) from their traditional community centre, in Janjevo. It is believed that the community descends from migrating merchants from the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik and its hinterland) who settled the area in the 14th century, when modern-day Kosovo was part of medieval Serbia. The first written mention of Catholics in Janjevo is a letter written by Pope Benedict XI in 1303, mentioning Janjevo as the center of the Catholic parish of St. Nicholas. Together with the Saxons from Central Europe, they worked the Serbian mines.
They have maintained their Catholic faith until today. The community speak the Prizren-South Morava sub-dialect of the Shtokavian dialect.
Ethnic composition of Kosovo in 1981 according to Yugoslavia census of population with Serb enclaves shown as in 2011.
In 1948, there were 5,290 Croats (0.7%) in Kosovo; in 1971 there were 8,264; in 1981 - 8,718 (0.6%); in 1991 - 8,062 (0.4%). During and after the Kosovo War, most of the community had fled to Croatia. 1998 estimations had their number at only 1,800, of which 350 lived in Janjevo. In 2008, there were only 300 Croats estimated to live in Janjevo. In 2011, about 270 Croats lived in the area. The Croatian government has planned to resettle the remaining Janjevci in Kosovo to Croatia. According to the Kosovan 2011 census, there was a total of ca. 400 Janjevci, of whom 80 remain in the Vitina municipality.
Janjevci families started migrating to SR Croatia, part of Yugoslavia, in the 1950s, mostly settling in Zagreb. By the beginning of the 1970s, there was a large community of Janjevci along and within the vicinity of Konjšćinska Street in Dubrava, a district in the eastern part of Zagreb. They have since turned this area into a vibrant shopping district.
During the Yugoslav Wars, a significant part of the Janjevci emigrated to Croatia in several waves (1992, 1995, 1997, 1999), and were settled by the authorities in the abandoned homes of Serbs in western Slavonia and the Dalmatian hinterland.
According to records[which?] in 2002, there are 966 families of Janjevci in Croatia, with the majority of them residing in the capital Zagreb (669 families), and the rest in other parts of Croatia (297 families).