Last modified on 16 January 2015, at 21:42

Demographic history of Kosovo

This article presents the demographic history of Kosovo through census results and other estimates. See Demographics of Kosovo for a more detailed overview of the country's present-day demographics.

Early historyEdit

Archeological findings show that Bronze and Iron Age tombs were found only in Metohija, not in Kosovo proper.[1][unreliable source?]

The region was inhabited by Illyrians, Celts[2][3] and Thracians.[3][4] After Roman conquest of Illyria at 168 BC, Romans colonized and founded several cities in the region.[5]

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)[6] and they mixed with the natives. In the 12th century, according to Anna Komnena, the Serbs were the main inhabitants of what today would be a small swath of central Serbia (Eastern Dalmatia and former Moesia Superior) and explicitly excluding what would be called Kosovo. Kosovo had experience transient Slave invasions up until that point but no permanent settlements except by Bulgars, Vlachs, Celts and Saxon Miners.[7]

14th centuryEdit


Turkish cadastral tax census (defter)[8] of the Branković District (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).

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 are of Serbian origin, 1.90% of Roman origin, 1.56% of uncertain origin, 0.26% of Albanian origin, 0.25% of Greek origin, etc.[9][10] Totally there were around 75,000 inhabitants in 590 villages comprising modern-day Kosovo.


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


Ottoman defter from 1591:[11]

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

17th – 18th centuriesEdit

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.[12]

19th centuryEdit

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.[13] Müller gives data for the three counties (Bezirke) of Prizren, Peć and Gjakova 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[14] 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[14] 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[15] 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[16] Serbs were cleansed out of the Vilayet of Kosovo between 1876 and 1912.

An Austrian statistics[17] 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.

20th centuryEdit

Ethnic composition of Kosovo in 1911

British journalist H. Brailsford estimated in 1906[18] 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,[19] 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,[20] 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.[20]

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.[21]

Balkan Wars and World War I-World War IIEdit

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:
  • 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 IIEdit

Most of the territory of today's province was occupied by Italian-controlled Greater Albania, massacres of some 10,000[22][23] Serbs, ethnic cleansing of about 100[22] to 250,000[22][24] or more[23][unreliable source?] occurred.

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

On graph are displayed percentages of Albanian and Serbian population in Kosovo during 20th century.[citation needed] All other nations together never took more than 6%, so they are not displayed

1948 censusEdit

727,820 total inhabitants:

1953 censusEdit

808,141 total inhabitants

1961 censusEdit

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 censusEdit

1,243,693 total inhabitants[citation needed]

  • 916,168 Albanians or 73.7%[24]
  • 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 censusEdit

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 censusEdit

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

  • 194,190 Serbs (10%)[25]
  • 20,356 Montenegrins (1%)
  • 9,091 Albanians (most boycotted)
  • 66,189 Muslims
  • 45,75 Romas
  • 10,446 Turks
  • 8,062 Croats (Janjevci, Letnicani)
  • 3,457 Yugoslavs

Official Yugoslav statistical corrections and projections, with the help of previous census results (1948–1981):

1,956,196 Total population

  • 1,596,072 Albanians (81.6%)
  • 194,190 Serbs (9.9%)
  • 66,189 Muslims (3.4%)
  • 45,760 Romas (2.34%)
  • 20,365 Montenegrins (1.04%)
  • 10,445 Turks (0.53%)
  • 8,062 Croats (Janjevci) (0.41)
  • 3,457 Yugoslavs (0.18%)
  • 11,656 others (0.6%)

The corrections should not 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.

1995 estimateEdit

In the year of 1995, Official Yugoslav statistical results,.[citation needed] There was a total of around 1,600,000 inhabitants in Kosovo (and a further 600,000 living abroad):

    • Albanians – around 1,360,000 (89.9%); 1,960,000 with the diaspora
    • Serbs – around 140,000 (6.3%)
    • Muslims – around 40,000 (1.9%)
    • Roma – around 40,000 (1.9%)
    • Turks – around 8,000 (0.3%)
    • Montenegrins – around 7,000 (0.3%)
    • others – around 5,000 (0.2%)


  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, Dardanians, 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. ^ Hauptstädte in Südosteuropa: Geschichte, Funktion, nationale Symbolkraft by Harald Heppner,page 134
  6. ^ Constantine Porphyrogenitus: De administrando imperio
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ The original Turkish-language copy of the census is stored in Istanbul's archives.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ TKGM, TD № 55 (412), (Defter sandžaka Prizren iz 1591. godine).
  12. ^ Noel Malcolm, Kosovo, A Short History pp.139–171
  13. ^ Dr. Joseph Müller, Albanien, Rumelien und die Österreichisch-montenegrinische Gränze, Prag, 1844
  14. ^ a b H.R. Wilkinson, Maps and Politics; a review of the ethnographic cartography of Macedonia, Liverpool University Press, 1951
  15. ^ Das Fürstenthum Serbien und Türkisch-Serbien, eine militärisch-geographische Skizze von Peter Kukolj, Major im k.k.Generalstabe, Wien 1871
  16. ^ ISBN 86-17-09287-4: Kosta Nikolić, Nikola Žutić, Momčilo Pavlović, Zorica Špadijer: Историја за трећи разред гимназије, Belgrade, 2002, pg. 63
  17. ^ Detailbeschreibung des Sandzaks Plevlje und des Vilajets Kosovo (Mit 8 Beilagen und 10 Taffeln), Als Manuskript gedruckt, Vien 1899, 80–81.
  18. ^ H. N. Brailsford, Macedonia, Its Races and Their Future, London, 1906
  19. ^ 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).
  20. ^ a b Gustav Weigand, Ethnographie von Makedonien, Leipzig, 1924; Густав Вайганд, Етнография на Македония (Bulgarian translation)
  21. ^ "Is Kosovo Serbia? We ask a historian". The Guardian. 26 February 2008. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  22. ^ a b c Serge Krizman, Maps of Yugoslavia at War, Washington 1943.
  23. ^ 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
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ 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.