1981 protests in Kosovo

In March and April 1981, a student protest in Pristina, the capital of the then Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo, led to widespread protests by Kosovo Albanians demanding more autonomy within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Presidency of Yugoslavia declared a state of emergency in Pristina and Kosovska Mitrovica, which led to rioting. The unrest was suppressed by a large police intervention that caused numerous casualties, and a period of political repression followed.


The University of Pristina was the starting point of the 1981 Kosovo student protests. Kosovo's cultural isolation within Yugoslavia and its endemic poverty resulted in the province having the highest ratio of both students and illiterates in Yugoslavia. A university education was no guarantee of a successful future; instead of training students for technical careers, the university specialized in liberal arts, in particular in Albanology, which could hardly secure work except in bureaucracy or local cultural institutions, especially outside of Kosovo.[1] This created a large pool of unemployed but highly educated, and resentful, Albanians – prime recruits for nationalist sentiment.[2] Demonstrations were organized by several professors and students: Besim Baraliu, Fehmi Lladrovc.

In addition, the Serb and Montenegrin population of Kosovo increasingly resented the economic and social burden incurred by the university's student population. By 1981, the University of Pristina had 20,000 students – one in ten of the city's total population.[2]

Student protests

The demonstrations started on 11 March 1981, originally as a spontaneous small-scale protest for better food in the school cafeteria and improved living conditions in the dormitories. Tired of being made to wait in line, for hours, for poor quality food, students began demonstrating under Besim Baraliu's command, who later was arrested.[2] Two to four thousand demonstrators were dispersed by police, with around a hundred arrests made.[2][3]

The student protests resumed two weeks later on 26 March 1981, as several thousand demonstrators chanted increasingly nationalist slogans, and the police used force to disperse them, injuring 32 people.[4] The engagement included a sit-in by Albanian students in a dormitory.

As the police reacted negatively to a perceived increase in nationalism among the protesters, more arrests were made, which in turn fueled more protests.[4] On 30 March, students of the three of the largest university faculties declared a boycott, fearing a return of Rankovićism.[4]

The demands of the Albanian students were both nationalist and egalitarianist, implying a desire for a different kind of socialism than the Yugoslav kind, marked by semi-confederalism and workers' self-management.[3]

Escalation of protests

On 1 April, demonstrations swept through Kosovo, and 17 policemen were injured in clashes with demonstrators, failing to disperse them.[4] The army moved in to secure state institutions, and Mahmut Bakalli soon called on them to send tanks to the streets.[4]

Within days, the protests over conditions for students turned into discontent over the treatment of the ethnic Albanian population by the Serbian majority, and then to rioting and Albanian nationalist demands.[5][3] The primary demand was that Kosovo become a republic within Yugoslavia as opposed to its then-current status as a province of Serbia.[3][6]

The authorities blamed the protests on nationalist radicals – the May 1981 Politika said the goal of the protests was for a Republic of Kosovo to become separate from Yugoslavia, and join Albania.[7] The authorities imposed a ban on foreign reporting, and the local reporting, unlike at the time of the 1968 protests in Kosovo, entirely lacked independence, and instead ran only official statements.[8] Some of the official statements were inherently vague, talking of "internal and external enemies", which provoked a variety of conspiracy theories that stoked nationalist sentiment elsewhere in Yugoslavia.[9] One of the conspiracy theories was promoted by Azem Vllasi, who later publicly discussed the alleged involvement of the Albanian security service Sigurimi in the protests.[10]

The demand that Kosovo become the seventh republic of Yugoslavia was politically unacceptable to Serbia and the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. Some Serbs (and possibly some Albanian nationalists as well) saw the demands as being a prelude to a "Greater Albania" which could encompass parts of Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo itself.

A standoff happened near Podujevo, where police reinforcements coming in from Central Serbia were stopped by Albanian demonstrators who had taken local Serbs and Montenegrins as hostages.[11]

State of emergency

The leadership of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia saw the protesters' opposition to self-management and their nationalism as a grave threat, and decided to "suppress them by all available means".[3]

On 2 April 1981 the Presidency of Yugoslavia under the chairmanship of Cvijetin Mijatović declared a state of emergency in Pristina and Kosovska Mitrovica, which lasted one week.[12][13]

Presidency sent in special forces to stop the demonstrations.[12]

The federal government rushed up to 30,000 troops to the province. Riots broke out and the Yugoslav authorities used force against the protesters.

On 3 April, the last demonstrations happened in Vučitrn, Uroševac, Vitina and Kosovska Mitrovica, which were soon suppressed by the additional police deployment.[11]

The rioting involved 20,000 people in six cities.[14]

In late April, New York Times reported that nine people had died and more than fifty were injured.[14] In July, New York Times reported that more than 250 had been injured.[15]

The Yugoslav press reported about 11 killed and another 4,200 were imprisoned.


2 April 1981 memorial, Pristina
Memorial to two of the dead

Kosovo's Communist Party suffered purges, with several key figures, including its president, expelled. Veli Deva replaced Bakalli because he was thought to have been harder on Tirana.[16]

Following the demonstrations, the University of Pristina faculty and students were purged of those deemed to be "separatists". 226 students and workers were tried, convicted and sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison. Many Albanians were purged from official posts, including the president of the university and two rectors. They were replaced with Communist Party hardliners. The university was also prohibited from using textbooks imported from Albania; from then on, the university was only permitted to use books translated from Serbo-Croatian. The demonstrations also produced a growing tendency for Serbian politicians to demand centralization, the unity of Serb lands, a decrease in cultural pluralism for Albanians and an increase in the protection and promotion of Serbian culture.[17] The university was denounced by the Serbian Communist leadership as a "fortress of nationalism".[18]

Presidency did not repeal the province's autonomy as some Serbian Communists demanded.

The League of Communists of Kosovo declared the riots to be a product of Albanian nationalism, and Serbia reacted by a desire to reduce the power of the Albanians in the province, and a propaganda campaign that claimed that Serbs were being pushed out of the province primarily by the growing Albanian population, rather than the bad state of the economy.[19]

In 1981, it was reported that some 4,000 Serbs planned to move from Kosovo to Central Serbia after the riots in March that resulted in several Serb deaths and the desecration of Serbian Orthodox architecture and graveyards. 33 nationalist formations were dismantled by the Yugoslav Police who sentenced some 280 people (800 fined, 100 under investigation) and seized arms caches and propaganda material.[20]

The demonstrations in Kosovo were the beginning of a deep crisis in Yugoslavia that later led to its dissolution.[11] The government response to the demonstrations changed the political discourse in the country in a way that significantly impaired its ability to sustain itself in the future.[21]

In literature and arts

The events inspired a novel by Albanian writer Ismail Kadare, The Wedding Procession Turned to Ice (Albanian: Krushqit jane te ngrire), where he describes an Albanian physician, Teuta Shkreli, tending to the injured students. The figure of Teuta was inspired by the actions of Albanian physician Sehadete Mekuli, gynaecologist and wife of Albanian writer Esad Mekuli.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Mertus 1999, p. 28.
  2. ^ a b c d Mertus 1999, p. 29.
  3. ^ a b c d e Jović 2009, p. 184.
  4. ^ a b c d e Jović 2009, p. 185.
  5. ^ Mertus 1999, p. 30.
  6. ^ Pavlović, Momčilo (26 April 2013). "1981 demonstrations in Kosovo". transconflict.com. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  7. ^ Bulatović 1981, p. 10.
  8. ^ Mertus 1999, p. 31.
  9. ^ Mertus 1999, p. 32.
  10. ^ Mertus 1999, p. 39.
  11. ^ a b c Jović 2009, p. 186.
  12. ^ a b Antić, Zdenko (17 March 1982). "Kosovo: One year after the riots". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 2013-08-14.
  13. ^ Pejić, Nenad (27 February 2008). "Raif Dizdarević: Velika prevara" (in Serbo-Croatian). Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 2013-08-14.
  14. ^ a b "One Storm has Passed but Others are Gathering in Yugoslavia". The New York Times. 19 April 1981. Retrieved 2013-08-14.
  15. ^ "6 More Yugoslavs Sentenced For Ethnic Rioting in Kosovo". New York Times. 30 July 1981. Retrieved 2013-08-14.
  16. ^ Mertus 1999, p. 42.
  17. ^ Mertus 1999.
  18. ^ Kostovicova 2005, p. 44.
  19. ^ Ramet 2010, p. 361
  20. ^ Paul Lendvai (February 5, 1982). "Police fail to crush resistance in Kosovo". London: Financial Times.
  21. ^ Mertus 1999, p. 44.
  22. ^ Elsie 2010, p. 82.


1968 Red Square demonstration

The 1968 Red Square demonstration (Russian: Демонстра́ция 25 а́вгуста 1968 го́да) took place on 25 August 1968 at Red Square, Moscow, Soviet Union, to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, that occurred during the night of 20–21 August 1968, crushing the Prague Spring, a set of de-centralization reforms promoted by Alexander Dubček.

Many people over the world had protested against the suppression of the Prague spring with troops of Soviet Union and other countries of the Warsaw Pact. One such act of protest took place in Moscow, at the Red Square. The protest was held at the Lobnoye Mesto, to avoid any violation of public order that could have occurred during the demonstration. The protesters were sitting to avoid any inconvenience to ordinary citizens which might be caused by them standing, although this appears to have had little effect.

1968 student demonstrations in Yugoslavia

Student protests were held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia as the first mass protest in Yugoslavia after World War II. Protests also broke out in other capitals of Yugoslav republics—Sarajevo, Zagreb and Ljubljana—but they were smaller and shorter than in Belgrade.After youth protests erupted in Belgrade on the night of 2 June 1968, students of the Belgrade University went into a seven-day strike. Police beat the students and banned all public gatherings. Students then gathered at the Faculty of Philosophy, held debates and speeches on the social justice and handed out banned copies of the magazine Student. Students also protested against economic reforms, which led to high unemployment and forced workers to leave the country and find work elsewhere.The protests were supported by prominent public personalities, including film director Dušan Makavejev, stage actor Stevo Žigon, poet Desanka Maksimović and university professors, whose careers ran into problems because of their links to the protests.

President Josip Broz Tito gradually stopped the protests by giving in to some of the students’ demands and saying that "students are right" during a televised speech on 9 June, but in the following years dealt with the leaders of the protests by imprisoning students (Vlado Mijanović, Milan Nikolić, Pavluško Imširović, Lazar Stojanović and others) and by firing critical professors from university and Communist party posts.

1972 unrest in Lithuania

1972 unrest in Lithuanian SSR, sometimes titled as Kaunas' Spring, took place on May 18–19, 1972, in Kaunas, Lithuania, Soviet Union. It was sparked by the self-immolation of a 19-year-old student named Romas Kalanta and prohibition in taking part in Kalanta’s funeral by officials. As a result, thousands of young demonstrators gathered in the central street of Kaunas, Laisvės Alėja in anti-government protests that lasted from May 18 to May 19.

2013 protests in Kosovo

The 2013 protests began in Pristina, Kosovo after people started to receive high electricity bills. Sparked by comments in social media, on February more than 1000 people gathered in front of Kosovo's Electricity Corporation building. The protests continued in the next several weeks, eventually turning into a protest against corruption. Some of the main slogans from the protest where "KEK pumping bills", "No country with thieves" and "Stop the theft, develop the state". Government responded with great caution during the protests, promising fulfillment of all requirements set by protesters.

Ali Ahmeti

Ali Ahmeti (Macedonian: Али Ахмети; born January 4, 1959) is a Macedonian politician of Albanian descent, leader of the Democratic Union for Integration, and a junior coalition partner in the Macedonian government since 2008. Ahmeti is also known as the political leader of the former Albanian National Liberation Army in the Macedonian Conflict in 2001. He also was fighting against Macedonia in the Macedonian war in 2001 and he was the commandant of UÇK.

Anti-bureaucratic revolution

The anti-bureaucratic revolution was a campaign of street protests by supporters of Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević that ran between 1988 and 1989 in Yugoslavia. The protests overthrew the governments of the Serbian autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, as well as the government of the Socialist Republic of Montenegro, and replaced them with allies of Milošević, thereby creating a dominant voting bloc within the Yugoslav presidency council.

The name anti-bureaucratic revolution is derived from the proclaimed revolt against bureaucratic and corrupt governing structures.

The events were condemned by the communist governments of the western Yugoslav republics (especially SR Slovenia and SR Croatia), who successfully resisted the attempts to expand the revolt onto their territories, and turned against Milošević. The rising antagonism eventually resulted in the dissolution of the ruling League of Communists of Yugoslavia in 1990, and subsequently in the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Baltic Assembly

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The budget of the BA is funded by the three-member governments. The official languages of the Baltic Assembly are Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian. The headquarters and secretariat of the organization are located in Riga, Latvia.

Bulevar (band)

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Founded on October 5, 1947, Cominform (from Communist Information Bureau) is the common name for what was officially referred to as the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers' Parties. It was the first official forum of the International Communist Movement since the dissolution of the Comintern and confirmed the new realities after World War II, including the creation of an Eastern Bloc.

Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic

The Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic (Karelo-Finnish SSR; Finnish: Karjalais-suomalainen sosialistinen neuvostotasavalta ; Russian: Каре́ло-Фи́нская Сове́тская Социалисти́ческая Респу́блика, tr. Karelo-Finskaya Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika), also called Soviet Karelia or simply known as Karelia, was a republic of the Soviet Union. It existed from 1940 until it was made part of the Russian SFSR in 1956 as the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. The latter became the Republic of Karelia, a federal subject of Russia, on November 13, 1991.

Kosovo unrests

Kosovo unrests may refer to:

1981 protests in Kosovo

Insurgency in Kosovo (1991–98)

Kosovo War

2004 unrest in Kosovo

2008 unrest in Kosovo

North Kosovo crisis

Novocherkassk massacre

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Sehadete Mekuli

Sehadete Mekuli (16 October 1928 – 12 November 2013), also spelled Sadete Mekuli, was a Yugoslavian-born Albanian gynecologist, professor, and public figure. She became known for tending to the injured students of the 1981 protests in Kosovo, when Albanians demanded more autonomy within the Yugoslav federation. As a result of her actions, she was denied a full professorship at the University of Pristina School of Medicine and was forced into early retirement in 1988. She is the inspiration for the character of Teuta Shkreli in Ismail Kadare's 1985 novel The Wedding Procession Turned to Ice (Albanian: Krushqit jane te ngrire).

Singing Revolution

The Singing Revolution is a commonly used name for events between 1987 and 1991 that led to the restoration of the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The term was coined by an Estonian activist and artist, Heinz Valk, in an article published a week after the 10–11 June 1988, spontaneous mass evening singing demonstrations at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds.

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Timeline of the Kosovo War

Timeline of the Kosovo War. Abbreviations:

CombatantsKLA—Kosovo Liberation Army

FARK—Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo

VJ—Yugoslav Army

NATO—North Atlantic Treaty OrganizationPeace-keeping forcesKFOR—Kosovo Force (NATO)OrganizationsICTY—International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (UN)

IICK—Independent International Commission on Kosovo

KDOM—Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission

Ukshin Hoti

Ukshin Hoti (1943–1999) was a Kosovo Albanian philosopher and activist. Hoti was a professor of international law and later philosophy at the University of Pristina and founder of UNIKOMB, a political party of Kosovo. Since 1982 he had been arrested several times by Yugoslav authorities. In 1994 he was convicted to five years in the Dubrava prison. In May 1999, when his sentence ended and he was to be released, guards of the prison relocated him. His whereabouts are unknown and many human rights activists consider him dead.

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Polls supporting unification of Kosovo with Albania notwithstanding, the goal of Albanian politicians has been entrance into NATO and the EU, rather than national unification. Some Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian Albanians fear that any possible unification of Balkan areas that bring sizable numbers of Muslims into the new state may lead to an increasing "Muslimization" of Albania.Unification at the practical level has already been achieved. Kosovo is predominately Albanian, and with the Republic of Albania shares some common administrative sectors such as education, policing, and foreign policy. Culture, heritage and trade have also been greatly unified between the two which also share an open border.

Yugoslavia and the United Nations

Yugoslavia was a charter member of the United Nations from its establishment in 1945 as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until 1992 during the Yugoslav Wars. It rejoined the UN under the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 2000 as a new member. Its seat was transferred to Serbia in 2006.

Annexed as, or
into, SSRs
Satellite states
Annexing SSRs
Revolts and
Cold War events
Post-Cold War topics

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