By the time the Turks defeated the Balkan coalition at Kosovo Polje in 1389, the Serbs, who had arrived with the Slav migrations of the 6th and 7th centuries AD, saw Kosovo as the homeland and heartland of the Serbian Kingdom which reached its peak as the Serbian Empire in 1346 then soon began to fall apart. Under five hundred years of Turkish rule, the balance of ethnicity in Kosovo shifted to predominantly Albanian, until, when Kosovo was incorporated into the cobbled-together republic of Yugoslavia in the 1940’s, the population was nearly eighty percent Albanian, with both Serbs and Albanians feeling they had an ancient ancestral claim to its soil.
The five provinces and two autonomous regions of Yugoslavia were dominated from the start by Serbia. By the 1990’s the other provinces were agitating for more power and, finally, for autonomy. The Serb-dominated central government, under Milosevic, resisted with armed force. Although Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia managed to break away, Milosevic wasn’t about to let Kosovo, the gem of the Serbian crown, escape. He revoked its autonomous status and imposed martial law; the Kosovo Liberation Army upped its guerilla attacks.
NATO imposed sanctions, then, when peace talks failed, began to bomb Yugoslav targets in an attempt to force Milosevic to withdraw his troops from Kosovo. Instead, on the night of March 24, 1999, Yugoslav death squads descended on border towns, expelling hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians into neighboring Albania and Macedonia. After Milosevic surrendered in June, Kosovo was a protectorate under NATO’s KFOR until it declared independence in 2008. Serbia has not yet recognized it as a separate state, and international peacekeeping forces are still in place.