The Janjevci as a specific group is one of two regional communities in Kosovo who nationally identify as Croats. They are a Slavic people and are believed to be mostly descended from traders who settled in Kosovo during the 14th century from Republic of Ragusa (from the present-day area of Dubrovnik). They have maintained their Catholic faith throughout the centuries.
The first written mention is by pope Benedict XI in 1303, mentioning Janjevo as the center of the catholic parish of St. Nicholas.
Ethnic composition of Kosovo in 1981 according to Yugoslavia census of population with Serb enclaves shown as in 2011
Janjevci families started migrating to Croatia in the 1950s (when all was part of Yugoslavia), with most 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.
Because of rising anti-Croat rhetoric in the Serbian media in Kosovo from the late 1980s and the subsequent pressure,[clarification needed] Croats from Janjevo and Letnica and other Croat-inhabited villages became more inclined to leave Kosovo, and mostly migrated to Croatia.
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 inland Dalmatia.
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).
Before 1991, there were 8,062 Janjevci in Kosovo. In 1998 about 1,300 remained. After the Kosovo War, in Janjevo itself only around 350 remained, the rest fled mostly to Croatia. In 2008, there were only 300 Croats estimated to live in Janjevo. In 2011, about 270 Croats lived in the area.
In the municipality of Vitina, in which the village of Letnica is, there are only 80 Croats left according to the 2011 Kosovo population census. Today in all Kosovo according to 2011 census is estimated that around 400 Croats still live in the region.