The Janjevans declare as ethnic Croats, and derive their ethnonym (Janjevci) from their traditional community centre, in Janjevo. A South Slavic people, they are believed to have been mostly descended from Catholic traders who settled in Kosovo, part of medieval Serbia, during the 14th century from the Republic of Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik, Croatia). The first written mention of catholics in Janjevo is a letter writen by Pope Benedict XI in 1303, mentioning Janjevo as the center of the Catholic parish of St. Nicholas. They have maintained their Catholic faith until today. The community traditionally speak the Prizren-South Morava 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 and Metohija; 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 commmunity 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 Janjevans in Kosovo to Croatia. According to the Kosovan 2011 census, there was a total of ca. 400 Janjevans, 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 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).