Kosovo's capital city is Pristina. The largely mountainous region includes the fertile valleys and is drained by the Southern Morava River. Kosovo’s population is 80% Albanian; Serbs and Muslims are the dominant minorities. Farming, livestock raising, forestry, and the mining of lead and other metals are the major occupations.
Before the conflicts of the 1990s, Kosovo was best known as the site of a famous 14th-century battle in which invading Ottoman Turks defeated a Serbian army led by Tsar Lazar. At Kosovo Field (Serbian Kosovo Polje = field of the blackbirds) in 1389, the Turks under Sultan Murad I defeated Serbia and its Bosnian, Montenegrin, and other allies. The battle of Kosovo Field broke the power of Serbia and Bulgaria, which soon passed under Ottoman rule. The battle figures prominently in Serbian poetry. From the battle until the Balkan War of 1913, Kosovo was under Turkish rule.
The Ottomans ruled Kosovo for more than four centuries, until Serbia reconquered the territory during the First Balkans War in 1912-13. First partitioned in 1913 between Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo was then incorporated into the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later named Yugoslavia) after World War I. During World War II, parts of Kosovo were absorbed into Italian-occupied Albania. After the Italian capitulation, Nazi Germany assumed control until Tito's Yugoslav communists reentered Kosovo at the end of the war.
Following World War II, Kosovo became an autonomous region within Serbia. In the late 1980s, Slobodan Milosevic propelled himself to power in Belgrade by exploiting the fears of the small Serbian minority in Kosovo. In 1989, he arranged the elimination of Kosovo's autonomy in favor of more direct rule from Belgrade. Belgrade ordered the firing of large numbers of Albanian state employees, whose jobs were then taken by Serbs. As a result of this oppression, Kosovo Albanian leaders led a peaceful resistance movement in the early 1990s and established a parallel government funded mainly by the Albanian diaspora. The strife between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in the province escalated in the late 1990s into a military occupation of the province by Serb/Yugoslav troops, with the expulsion of some ethnic Albanians and the flight of hundred of thousands of other refugees.
NATO forces pressed the withdrawal of Serb/Yugoslav troops in 1999, after which the province was occupied by NATO and Russian peacekeeping forces.
In 2001, United Nations interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) promulgated a constitutional framework that allowed Kosovo to establish institutions of self-government and led to Kosovo's first parliamentary election.
Columbia Gazeteer; CIA World Factbook, 2005; 12/2008