Demographic history of Kosovo

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This article includes information on the demographic history of Kosovo.


Archeological findings show that Bronze and Iron Age tombs were found only in Metohija, not in Kosovo proper.[1][unreliable source?] The region was originally inhabited by Thracians, and subsequently by Illyrians, Celts[2][3] and Thracians.[3][4] During antiquity, the area was inhabitet by Dardani and by the fourth century the Dardanian Kingdom was found. The Dardani, whose exact ethno-linguistic affiliation is difficult to determine, were a prominent group in the region during the late Hellenistic and early Roman eras.[5] The area was originally populated with Thracians who were then exposed to Illyrian influence.[6][7] After Roman conquest of Illyria at 168 BC, Romans colonized and founded several cities in the region, like Ulpiana, Theranda, Vicianum,[8] incorporating it into the Roman province of Illyricum in 59 BC. Subsequently, it became part of Moesia Superior in AD 87. The region was exposed to an increasing number of 'barbarian' raids from the 4th century AD onwards, culminating with the Slavic migrations of the 6th and 7th centuries. Archaeologically, the early Middle Ages represent a hiatus in the material record,[9] and whatever was left of the native provincial population fused into the Slavs.[10]

Early and High Middle Ages[edit]

Slavs are mentioned in the area since the 520s AD, with the Slav tribe of Sklavenoi settling the Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum, the mythological founders of the Serbs were the White Serbs; "who settled in the Balkans during the rule of Emperor Heraclius" (610-641)[11] and they mixed with the natives. Archaeological findings suggest that there was steady population recovery and progression of the Slavic culture seen elsewhere throughout the Balkans. The region was absorbed into the Bulgarian Empire in the 850s, where Christianity and a Byzantine-Slavic culture was cemented in the region. It was re-taken by the Byzantines after 1018, and became part of the newly established Theme of Bulgaria. In 1054, the Great Schism divided the historical Roman Empire into a Western and Eastern part on religious basis; Kosovo, located in the Eastern part, became part of the Orthodox world. As the centre of Slavic resistance to Constantinople in the region, the region often switched between Serbian and Bulgarian rule on one hand and Byzantine on the other, until Serbian Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja secured it by the end of the 12th century.[12] An insight into the region is provided by the Byzantine historian-princess, Anna Comnena, who wrote of "Serbs" being the main inhabitants of the region (referring to it as "eastern Dalmatia" and the "former Moesia Superior").[13] The earliest reference of Albanians comes from Michael Attaleiates, who spoke of the "Arbanitai" located around the hinterland districts of Dyrrachium, modern Durrës.[14][not in citation given]

14th century[edit]


The Dečani chrysobulls (1321–31) of Serbian king Stefan Dečanski contains a detailed list of households and villages in Metohija and northwestern Albania. The first charter concludes that this region was ethnically Serb.[15] 89 settlements with 2,666 households were recorded, out of which 86 were Serb (96,6%), and 3 were Albanian (3,3%); there were 2,166 livestock households of 2,666 agricultural households, out of which 2,122 were Serb (98%), and 44 were Albanian (2%).[16]

15th century[edit]


The Ottoman cadastral tax census (defter) of 1455 in the Branković lands (covering most of present-day Kosovo) recorded:

  • 480 villages,
  • 13,693 adult males,
  • 12,985 dwellings,
  • 14,087 household heads (480 widows and 13,607 adult males).

Yugoslav and Serbian scholars have researched the defter, concluding that:[17]

  • 13,000 Serb dwellings present in all 480 villages and towns
  • 75 Vlach dwellings in 34 villages
  • 46 Albanian dwellings in 23 villages
  • 17 Bulgarian dwellings in 10 villages
  • 5 Greek dwellings in Lauša, Vučitrn
  • 1 Jewish dwelling in Vučitrn
  • 1 Croat dwelling

Out of all names mentioned in this census, conducted by the Ottomans in 1455, covering areas of most of present-day Kosovo, 95.88% of all names were of Serbian origin, 1.90% of Roman origin, 1.56% of uncertain origin, 0.26% of Albanian origin, 0.25% of Greek origin, etc.[18][19]


The defter of 1487 in the Branković lands recorded:

  • Vučitrn district:
    • 16,729 Christian households (412 in Pristina and Vučitrn)
    • 117 Muslim households (94 in Pristina and 83 in rural areas)
  • Ipek (Peć) district:
    • Ipek (town)
    • 121 Christian households
    • 33 Muslim households
  • Suho Grlo and Metohija:
    • 131 Christian households of which 52% in Suho Grlo were Serbs
  • Donja Klina - 50% Serbs
  • Deçan - 64% Serbs
  • Rural areas:
    • 6,124 Christian households (99%)
    • 55 Muslim households (1%)

16th century[edit]


  • Vučitrn: 19,614 households
    • Christians
    • 700 Muslim households (3,5%)
  • Prizren
    • Christians
    • 359 Muslim households (2%)


The 1582–83 defter of the Sanjak of Scutari recorded the Peć nahiya as having 235 villages of which some 30 have Albanian families besides the majorital Orthodox Serbs. The Altun-li nahiya had 41 villages with a Serb majority and Albanian minority.[20]


Ottoman defter from 1591:[21]

  • Prizren – Serbian majority, significant Albanian minority
  • Gora – Serbian.
  • Opolje – Albanian Muslim.

17th – 18th centuries[edit]

The Great Turkish War of 1683–1699 between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs led to the flight of a substantial numbers of Serbs and Albanians who had sided with the Austrians, from within and outside Kosovo, to Austrian held Vojvodina and the Military Frontier – Patriarch Arsenije III, one of the refugees, referred to 30,000 or 40,000 souls, but a much later monastic source referred to 37,000 families. Serbian historians have used this second source to talk of a Great Migration of Serbs. Wars in 1717–1738 led to a second exodus of refugees (both Serbian and Albanian) from inside and outside Kosovo, together with reprisals and the enslavement and deportation of a number of Serbs and Albanians by the victorious Ottomans.[22]

19th century[edit]

Ethnographic map of Balkans (detail), Atlas Général Vidal-Lablache, Paris, 1898.

19th century data about the population of Kosovo tend to be rather conflicting, giving sometimes numerical superiority to the Serbs and sometimes to the Albanians. The Ottoman statistics are regarded as unreliable, as the empire counted its citizens by religion rather than nationality, using birth records rather than surveys of individuals.

A study in 1838 by an Austrian physician, dr. Joseph Müller found Metohija to be mostly "Slavic" in character.[23] Müller gives data for the three counties (Bezirke) of Prizren, Peć and Đakovica which roughly covered Metohija, the portion adjacent to Albania and most affected by Albanian settlers. Out of 195,000 inhabitants in this region, Müller found:

Müller's observations on towns:

Map published by French ethnographer G. Lejean[24] in 1861 shows that Albanians lived on around 57% Kosovo while a similar map, published by British travellers G. M. Mackenzie and A. P. Irby[24] in 1867 shows slightly less; these maps don't show which population was larger overall. Nevethless, maps cannot be used to measure population as they leave out density.

A study done in 1871 by Austrian colonel Peter Kukulj[25] for the internal use of the Austro-Hungarian army showed that the mutesarifluk of Prizren (corresponding largely to present-day Kosovo) had some 500,000 inhabitants, of which:

Ethnic distribution of Albanians, The Historical Atlas, New York, 1911

Modern Serbian sources estimated that around 400,000[26] Serbs were cleansed out of the Vilayet of Kosovo between 1876 and 1912.

Maps published by German historian Kiepert[24] in 1876, J. Hahn[24] and Austrian consul K. Sax,[24] show that Albanians live on most of the territory of what is now Kosovo, however they don't show which population is larger. According to these, the regions of Kosovska Mitrovica and Kosovo Polje were settled mostly by Serbs, whereas most of the territory of western and eastern parts of today's province was settled by Muslim Albanians.

An Austrian statistics[27] published in 1899 estimated:

At the end of the 19th century, Spiridon Gopchevich, an Austrian traveller – comprised a statistics and published them in Vienna. They established that Prizren had 60,000 citizens of whom 11,000 were Christian Serbs and 36,000 Muslem Serbs. The remaining population were Turks, Albanians, Tzintzars and Roma. For Peć he said that it had 2,530 households of which 1,600 were Mohammedan, 700 Christian Serb, 200 Catholic Albanian and 10 Turkish.

Note: Territory of Ottoman Kosovo Vilayet was quite different from modern-day Kosovo.

Early 20th century[edit]

Ethnic composition of Kosovo in 1911

British journalist H. Brailsford estimated in 1906[28] that two-thirds of the population of Kosovo was Albanian and one-third Serbian. The most populous western districts of Gjakova and Peć were said to have between 20,000 and 25,000 Albanian households, as against some 5,000 Serbian ones. A map of Alfred Stead,[29] published in 1909, shows that similar numbers of Serbs and Albanians were living in the territory.

German scholar Gustav Weigand gave the following statistical data about the population of Kosovo,[30] based on the pre-war situation in Kosovo in 1912:

  • Pristina District: 67% Albanians, 30% Serbs
  • Prizren District: 63% Albanians, 36% Serbs
  • Vučitrn District: 90% Albanians, 10% Serbs
  • Ferizaj District: 70% Albanians, 30% Serbs
  • Gnjilane District: 75% Albanians, 23% Serbs
  • Mitrovica District: 60% Serbs, 40% Albanians

Metohija with the town of Gjakova is furthermore defined as almost exclusively Albanian by Weigand.[30]

Citing Serbian sources, Noel Malcolm also states that in 1912 when Kosovo came under Serbian control, "the Orthodox Serb population [was] at less than 25%" of Kosovo's entire population.[31]

Interwar period[edit]

1921 census[edit]

Ethnographic map of Europe in 1922, C.S. Hammond & Co.
Distribution of Races in the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor in 1923, William R. Shepherd Atlas
  • The 1921 Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes population census for the territories comprising modern day Kosovo listed 439,010 inhabitants:
By religion:
By native language:

It should be noted that the Yugoslav government settled Serbs and Montenegrins in the region, after past depopulation due to wars and Muslim emigration to Turkey.

1931 census[edit]

  • According to the 1931 Kingdom of Yugoslavia population census, there were 552,064 inhabitants in today's Kosovo.
By religion:
By native language:

World War II[edit]

Most of the territory of today's province was occupied by Italian-controlled Greater Albania, massacres of some 10,000[32][33] Serbs, ethnic cleansing of about 100[32] to 250,000[32][34] or more[33][unreliable source?] occurred.

Nazi Germany estimated that from November 1943 to February 1944, 40 000 Serbs fled Italian-occupied Kosovo for Montenegro and Serbia.


1948 census[edit]

727,820 total inhabitants:

1953 census[edit]

808,141 total inhabitants

1961 census[edit]

963,959 total inhabitants

  • 646,604 Albanians (67.08%)
  • 227,016 Serbs (23.55%)
  • 37,588 Montenegrins (3.9%)
  • 8,026 Ethnic Muslims (0.83%)
  • 7,251 Croat (0.75%)
  • 5,203 Yugoslavs (0.54%)
  • 3,202 Romani (0.33%)
  • 1,142 Macedonians (0.12%)
  • 510 Slovenes (0.05%)
  • 210 Hungarians (0.02%)

1971 census[edit]

1,243,693 total inhabitants[citation needed]

  • 916,168 Albanians or 73.7%[34]
  • 228,264 Serbs (18.4%)
  • 31,555 Montenegrins (2.5%)
  • 26,000 Slavic Muslims (2.1%)
  • 14,593 Romani (1.2%)
  • 12,244 Turks (1.0%)
  • 8,000 Croats (0.7%)
  • 920 Yugoslavs (0.1%)

1981 census[edit]

1,584,558 total inhabitants

  • 1,226,736 Albanians (77.42%)
  • 209,498 Serbs (13.2%)
  • 27,028 Montenegrins (1.7%)
  • 2,676 Yugoslavs (0.2%)

1991 census[edit]

Registered population[edit]

Official Yugoslav statistical results, almost all Albanians and some Roma, Muslims boycott the census following a call by Ibrahim Rugova to boycott Serbian institutions.

359,346 total population

By ethnicity:
  • 194,190 Serbs [35]
  • 57,758 Muslims (minority boycotted)
  • 44,307 Roma (minority boycotted)
  • 20,356 Montenegrins
  • 9,091 Albanians (majority boycotted)
  • 10,446 Turks
  • 8,062 Croats (Janjevci, Letnicani)
  • 3,457 Yugoslavs
By religion:
  • 216,742 (60,32%) Orthodox
  • 126,577 (35,22%) Muslims
  • 9,990 (2,78%) Catholics
  • 1,036 (0,29) Atheist
  • 4,417 (1,23) Unknown

Estimated population[edit]

Statistical office of Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija estimated total number of Albanians, Muslims and Roma.

1,956,196 Total population

  • 1,596,072 Albanians (81.6%)
  • 194,190 Serbs (9.9%)
  • 66,189 Muslims (3.4%)
  • 45,745 Roma (2.34%)
  • 20,365 Montenegrins (1.04%)
  • 10,445 Turks (0.53%)
  • 8,062 Croats (Janjevci, Letnicani) (0.41)
  • 3,457 Yugoslavs (0.18%)
  • 11,656 others (0.6%)

The corrections should not be taken to be fully accurate. The number of Albanians is sometimes regarded as being an underestimate. On the other hand, it is sometimes regarded as an overestimate, being derived from earlier censa which are believed to be overestimates. The Statistical Office of Kosovo states that the quality of the 1991 census is "questionable." [1].

In September 1993, the Bosniak parliament returned their historical name Bosniaks. Some Kosovar Muslims have started using this term to refer to themselves since.

2011 census[edit]

In the 2011 census there were 1,739,825 inhabitants. ECMI "calls for caution when referring to the 2011 census", due to the boycott by Serb-majority municipalities in North Kosovo and the partial boycott by Serb and Roma in southern Kosovo.[36] According to the data, this is the ethnic composition of Kosovo:

The Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians,are in fact Roma, but who self identify in such terms to distinguish itself from the Romani people.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Djordje Janković: Middle Ages in Noel Malcolm's "Kosovo. A Short History" and Real Facts
  2. ^ The central Balkan tribes in pre-Roman times: Triballi, Autariatae, Dardani, Scordisci and Moesians by Fanula Papazoglu,ISBN 90-256-0793-4,page 265
  3. ^ a b Pannonia and Upper Moesia: a history of the middle Danube provinces of the Roman Empire The Provinces of the Roman Empire Tome 4,ISBN 0710077149, 9780710077141,1974,page 9
  4. ^ Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992,ISBN 0-631-19807-5.,Page 85,"... Whether the Dardanians were an Illyrian or a Thracian people has been much debated and one view suggests that the area was originally populated with Thracians who where [sic?] then exposed to direct contact with illyrians over a long period..."
  5. ^ N G Hammond, The Kingdoms of Illyria c. 400 – 167 BC. Collected Studies, Vol 2, 1993
  6. ^ Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, ISBN 0-631-19807-5, p. 85, "... Whether the Dardanians were an Illyrian or a Thracian people has been much debated and one view suggests that the area was originally populated with Thracians who where [sic?] then exposed to direct contact with illyrians over a long period..."
  7. ^ "the Dardanians [...] living in the frontiers of the Illyrian and the Thracian worlds retained their individuality and, alone among the peoples of that region succeeded in maintaining themselves as an ethnic unity even when they were militarily and politically subjected by the Roman arms [...] and when at the end of the ancient world, the Balkans were involved in far-reaching ethnic perturbations, the Dardanians, of all the Central Balkan tribes, played the greatest part in the genesis of the new peoples who took the place of the old" The central Balkan tribes in pre-Roman times: Triballi, Autariatae, Dardanians, Scordisci and Moesians, Amsterdam 1978, by Fanula Papazoglu, ISBN 90-256-0793-4, p. 131.
  8. ^ Hauptstädte in Südosteuropa: Geschichte, Funktion, nationale Symbolkraft by Harald Heppner,page 134
  9. ^ F Curta. The Making of the Slavs. p. 189
  10. ^ Aleksandar Stipčević (1977). The Illyrians: history and culture. Noyes Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-8155-5052-5. 
  11. ^ Constantine Porphyrogenitus: De administrando imperio
  12. ^ Fine 1994, p. 7

    the Hungarian attack launched in 1183 with which Nemanja was allied [...] was able to conquer Kosovo and Metohija, including Prizren.

  13. ^ Anne Comnène, Alexiade – Règne de l'Empereur Alexis I Comnène 1081–1118, texte etabli et traduit par B. Leib, Paris 1937–1945, II, 147–148, 157, 166, 184
  14. ^ Alexandru Madgearu; Martin Gordon (2008). The Wars of the Balkan Peninsula: Their Medieval Origins. Scarecrow Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-8108-5846-6. The first indisputable reference comes from the Attaliates, who wrote that the Albanians (Arbanitai) were involved in the 1078 rebellion of [...] 
  15. ^ Milica Grković, 2004, First charter of Dečani: Dečanski hrisovulja ili raskošni svitak, Zbornik Matice srpske za književnost i jezik, vol. 52, iss. 3, pp. 623-626
  16. ^ Pavle Ivić and Milica Grković, 1976, Dečanske hrisovulje, Institute of Linguistics (Novi Sad), (Serbo-Croatian)
  17. ^ In 1972 the Sarajevo Institute of Middle Eastern Studies translated the original Turkish census and published an analysis of it Kovačević Mr. Ešref, Handžić A., Hadžibegović H. Oblast Brankovića - Opširni katastarski popis iz 1455., Orijentalni institut, Sarajevo 1972. Subsequently others have covered the subject as well such as Vukanović Tatomir, Srbi na Kosovu, Vranje, 1986.
  18. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ (PDF)  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ Varia turcica IV. Comité international d'etudes pré-Ottomanes et Ottomanes. VIth Symposium Cambridge, 1-4t July 1984, Istanbul-Paris-Leiden 1987, pp. 105-114
  21. ^ TKGM, TD № 55 (412), (Defter sandžaka Prizren iz 1591. godine).
  22. ^ Noel Malcolm, Kosovo, A Short History pp.139–171
  23. ^ Dr. Joseph Müller, Albanien, Rumelien und die Österreichisch-montenegrinische Gränze, Prag, 1844
  24. ^ a b c d e H.R. Wilkinson, Maps and Politics; a review of the ethnographic cartography of Macedonia, Liverpool University Press, 1951
  25. ^ Das Fürstenthum Serbien und Türkisch-Serbien, eine militärisch-geographische Skizze von Peter Kukolj, Major im k.k.Generalstabe, Wien 1871
  26. ^ ISBN 86-17-09287-4: Kosta Nikolić, Nikola Žutić, Momčilo Pavlović, Zorica Špadijer: Историја за трећи разред гимназије, Belgrade, 2002, pg. 63
  27. ^ Detailbeschreibung des Sandzaks Plevlje und des Vilajets Kosovo (Mit 8 Beilagen und 10 Taffeln), Als Manuskript gedruckt, Vien 1899, 80–81.
  28. ^ H. N. Brailsford, Macedonia, Its Races and Their Future, London, 1906
  29. ^ Servia by the Servians, Compiled and Edited by Alfred Stead, With a Map, London (William Heinemann), 1909. (Etnographical Map of Servia, Scale 1:2.750.000).
  30. ^ a b Gustav Weigand, Ethnographie von Makedonien, Leipzig, 1924; Густав Вайганд, Етнография на Македония (Bulgarian translation)
  31. ^ "Is Kosovo Serbia? We ask a historian". The Guardian. 26 February 2008. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  32. ^ a b c Serge Krizman, Maps of Yugoslavia at War, Washington 1943.
  33. ^ a b ISBN 86-17-09287-4: Kosta Nikolić, Nikola Žutić, Momčilo Pavlović, Zorica Špadijer: Историја за трећи разред гимназије природно-математичког смера и четврти разред гимназије општег и друштвено-језичког смера, Belgrade, 2002, pg. 182
  34. ^ a b Annexe I, by the Serbian Information Centre-London to a report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
  35. ^ Bugajski, Janusz (2002). Political Parties of Eastern Europe: A Guide to Politics in the Post-Communist Era. New York: The Center for Strategic and International Studies. p. 479. ISBN 1563246767. 
  36. ^ "ECMI: Minority figures in Kosovo census to be used with reservations". ECMI.