The "Republic of Kosova" (1989-1998) and the Resolution of Ethno-Separatist Conflict: Rethinking "Sovereignty" in the Post-Cold War Era



The Christopher H. Browne Center for International Politics (PennCIP)
Political Science Department
University of Pennsylvania
April 1999
Working Paper Series #99-01


[Endnotes did not translate properly in this HTML version, please see PDF version for proper citations.]


Introduction: "Sovereignty" and the Resolution of Ethno-Separatist Conflict

Over the past decade, a spate of ethno-separatist movements, many of them in post-communist regions, have challenged the authority of pre-existing nation-states while attempting to redraw national boundaries to accommodate the creation of new, independent states. This recent wave of ethno-separatism is distinctive in one important regard: although the groups involved draw upon Westphalian conceptions of state sovereignty to advance or defend their claims, many of the ultimate resolutions to the conflicts appear to call into question the principles of traditional state sovereignty and federal norms. Certainly, as Krasner has pointed out, "[b]reaches of the Westphalian model have been an enduring characteristic of the international environment because there is nothing to prevent them." However, upon a close examination of some of the informal accommodations or formal accords that have been negotiated over the past decade, we contend that the extent and manner in which territoriality and autonomy are being compromised bear little resemblance to past violations of the Westphalian model.

Nowhere is this point more evident than in the region of Kosovo. This small province of less than 2 million inhabitants came to be regarded as a top priority for Western foreign policy makers after February 1998, when violent confrontations between Serbs and Albanians first became evident on a large scale. The empirical focus of this paper, however, is the period of time from 1989 to 1998 when Kosovar Albanians, under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova, eschewed direct violent confrontation in favor of a non-violent effort to build quasi-state institutions within the self-styled "Republic of Kosova." Our analysis takes as its point of departure the observation that Serb authorities during the 1989-1998 period, while responsible for rampant human rights abuses and oppression, actually tolerated these "parallel" institutions despite their obvious implications for the antonomy of the sovereign Yugoslav state over all of its territory. The first section of this paper discusses some of the key events and trends leading up to an organized Kosovar resistance to Serb control. The second presents a context-sensitive account of the emergence of the "Republic of Kosova" and its institutional manifestations, largely informed by fieldwork conducted in 1997 (by Andrew March). These two sections together are designed to give a deeper understanding of the distinctive features and roots of the present Kosovo crisis, and to show how the actual relationship between Serb and Albanian narratives and institutions during the 1989-1998 period point to certain parameters for generating consensus regarding the status of the region.

The strained but non-violent "accommodation" between the "Republic of Kosova" and Serb authorities also offers broader theoretical and practical insights when viewed in comparison to some of the peculiar arrangements that have been negotiated in order to bring an end to long-standing ethno-territorial disputes in other post-communist regions (most notably, in Bosnia and Chechnya) as well as elsewhere in the world (most notably, in Northern Ireland and Palestine). Despite meaningful differences in these cases, the similarities between the accommodations or accords reached in these instances of ethno-separatist conflict suggest that we are dealing with something more significant than the past "breaches" of the Westphalian model discussed by Krasner. What we have been witnessing in recent years is the partial accommodation of separatist claims within states that, while stopping short of full partition, extends a degree of autonomy to the separatist group that goes far beyond the local autonomy found in even the most decentralized states. These accomodations, in contrast to the hierarchically ordered separation of powers underpinning the sovereignty of even the most loosely organized federal states, seek to institutionalize two distinct claims to autonomy, arising from two distinct visions of sovereign statehood, upon the same territory. Section III below compares the informal accommodation in Kosovo (1989-1998) to the informal or formal accords that have marked the end of ethno-separatist violence in other post-communist regions such as Bosnia, Chechnya, and Moldova, as well as in Palestine and Northern Ireland. The comparisons provide the basis for the attempt in section IV to develop a more nuanced typology to capture the range of alternatives that lie between, on the one hand, a complete partition, and, on the other hand, various types of states (whether unitary, federal, confederated or consociational) that are consistent with the Westphalian model.


I. The "Autonomous Province" of Kosovo: Two Narratives

Revered by Serbs yet today populated primarily by Albanians, Kosovo has become an integral part of two distinct narratives that inform two distinct, irreconcilable claims of sovereignty. For Serbs, Kosovo was the cradle of modern Serbian nationhood and today remains an integral part of national lore. Kosovo simultaneously serves as a symbol of Serbian greatness and triumph and a reminder of a history of betrayal and loss at the hands of ethnic Albanians. It is not surprising then that Serbs tend to view the present conflict as a product of irredentism and separatism spurred by a minority of disloyal Kosovar Albanians and state efforts to reassert control over Kosovo as justifiable actions undertaken by state on behalf of its citizenry within its territorial boundaries.

Albanians see the issue as a question of self-determination for a people with its own distinct history, a history of an ongoing struggle for freedom from the domination of outside powers. For them, Kosovo was not only the birthplace of modern Albanian nationalism in the late 19th century, but it also remained a distinct region whose Albanian population share a distinct political identity separate from Albanians elsewhere. Kosovar Albanians thus view Kosovo as the territory over which they alone have the legitimate right to form a sovereign state.


Kosovo as an "Autonomous Province": 1974-1989

Between the end of the Second World War and the early 1980s, these contending narratives appeared to have been reconciled within the federal system set up by communist elites in Yugoslavia. Tito’s 1974 constitutional reforms defined Kosovo as an "Autonomous Province" and handed over considerable powers to the province. While Tito may have hoped to off-set this sense of autonomy by giving Kosovar Albanians a greater stake as a part of socialist Yugoslav federation, his reforms in fact ended up paving the way for the present crisis. The period of 1974-1989 represented a crucial period during which Kosovar Albanians gained an even stronger sense of national political consciousness as they were able to experience considerable autonomy and self-rule within a distinct region with its own territorial boundaries. This is precisely why post-1989 attempts to reassert Serb control over Kosovo are inherently failure-bound: once Belgrade chose to define Kosovo as an autonomous province, it de facto recognized the rights of Kosovar Albanians to some sort of self-rule as a distinct people and institutional separation from Serbia. This genie, once let out of the bottle, prohibits the Kosovo question, thus, of ever being viewed as a matter of greater or lesser minority rights granted or revoked by Serbia.

What further contributed to the crystallization of a distinct Kosovar Albanian identity was persistent economic backwardness in Kosovo and the absence of significant political or social communication between Kosovo and the other parts of Yugoslavia. If Tito had hoped that federalism would give Yugoslavia’s non-Slav populations a stake in the system, then it is telling that the largest non-Slav group in the "land of the South Slavs" remained the least economically prosperous and least socially and politically integrated group within Yugoslavia. Throughout the 1974-1989 period, Kosovo remained the least developed -- and slowest developing -- region in the former Yugoslavia. During this period, unemployment among Kosovar Albanians soared to over 25%. Moreover, Serbs continued the exodus from Kosovo that they had begun after World War II, while Albanians came to constitute 90 percent of Kosovo’s population, a population that experienced no social interaction with Serbs beyond that inherent in the context of employment relations or the party-state apparatus. There was virtually no evidence of intermarriage among Serbs and Albanians, and Kosovar Albanians shared almost no political, economic, social or cultural ties with other groups in Yugoslavia. Whatever sense of a common "Yugoslav" national identity may have come to be shared by inhabitants of other regions, this sense was nowhere to be found among the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

By the early 1980’s Kosovar Albanian students were taking to the streets to demand greater autonomy. Specifically, they sought to upgrade the status of Kosovo from that of an "Autonomous Province" to that of a "Federal Republic." This move, although falling short of a claim to complete national autonomy, would have been a stronger institutional expression of the distinct political community Kosovar Albanians had come to constitute. However, Yugoslav authorities responded with sweeping arrests of protesters, while most Serbs viewed these arrests to be justified as they felt that Albanians were abusing their autonomy within Kosovo and making life unbearable for local Serbs. Thus, by the time Slobodan Milosevic became Serbia’s President in 1987, relations among Kosovar Albanians and Serbs had already sunk to a new low.


The Dismantling of Kosovo’s Autonomy, 1987-1991

While the Kosovar Albanians were beginning to clamor for greater autonomy, the fate of Kosovo’s Serbs became an increasingly popular subject of debate within Serbian political and intellectual circles. In January of 1986, some 200 Belgrade intellectuals sent petitions to the Serbian and Yugoslav assemblies protesting the conditions in Kosovo for Serbs. By the following year, over 60,000 Serbs had signed a petition alleging "genocide" against Serbs by local Albanians. The salience of the issue presented Milosevic with an opportunity to consolidate his power and fill the vacuum left by Tito’s death. Milosevic sought to appeal to Serb nationalism by repeatedly pointing to the importance of protecting the rights of Serbs in Kosovo and reasserting Serb control over Kosovo. The growing sense that Kosovo’s autonomy was about to be threatened spilled over into the League of Communists in Kosovo as well. In November of 1988, Party leader Azem Vllasi, a former Tito protégé, resigned from party leadership in protest of the growing threat to Kosovo’s autonomy. Mass demonstrations and general strikes ensued, resulting in the deployment in February 1989 of federal troops.

The year 1989 marks the beginning of Milosevic’s program for formally dismantling Kosovo’s autonomy and reasserting direct Serb political control over the region. It was in 1989 that Milosevic organized a rally attended by over one million Serbs to commemorate the infamous 1389 Battle of Kosovo (which was believed to have sounded the death knell for the medieval Serbian state and figured centrally during the 19th century Serbian national awakening). In March 1989, constitutional changes were ratified that formally amended the 1974 Constitution and severely curtailed Kosovo’s autonomy. More riots erupted in Kosovo that resulted in a number of deaths and mass arrests. Over 2000 industrial workers were arrested and 200 more had their passports revoked. Purges were carried out among journalists, teachers, medical workers, Party members, and unknown numbers of students were expelled from schools. When Vllasi was formally charged along with 14 other leading Albanians with "counter-revolutionary endangerment," a sit-in strike was held in Kosovo’s largest mine, Trepca, as well as other major cities. Strike leaders were arrested and demonstrations were dispersed with tear-gas. Albanians who refused to swear allegiance to Serbia were released from employment, barred access to sports and cultural facilities, and excluded from school and university premises. Many others left "official" institutions voluntarily in solidarity with their brethren and began to gravitate towards the leadership of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by Ibrahim Rugova .

In February 1990, an official State of Emergency was declared in Kosovo in response to mass riots. Students in Belgrade demonstrated publicly for the right to arm and protect their fellow Serbs in Kosovo. At the same time, the Serbian Communist party released a list of 300,000 Albanians who were accused of being émigrés from Albania and "subversives" (the list was later reduced to 732). Albanian attacks in March in retaliation for the alleged poisoning of Albanian school children led to the complete take-over of the Provincial police force – over 200 Albanian police officers were released and 2500 Serbs were instated. Then, when the Kosovo police chief, Prime Minister and six other ministers resigned in protest, Milosevic simply decided to "station" a Serb deputy prime minister in Pristina.

The declaration of the State of Emergency and "special circumstances" allowed Belgrade to take over those institutions of self-rule in direct violation of the 1974 Constitution. Hospital administrators and staff who refused to swear loyalty to Serbia were replaced. Similar procedures were used in schools, the University, and other governmental bodies. This interference led to the May 1990 collective resignation of the Provincial Council of Ministers. Then, on June 20, 1990, when the Kosovar Assembly attempted to foil the Serb incursion by declaring Kosovo a republic independent from Serbia, the Assembly President (a Serb) adjourned the body. When the Assembly members found the building locked on July 2, the scheduled date for convening, the Albanian delegates gathered outside and unilaterally adopted a declaration of Kosovo’s independence. Belgrade’s response was to officially dissolve the Kosovo Assembly and take over the government under the "special circumstances" law of June 26, 1990.

The path had been cleared for complete destruction of all aspects of Kosovo’s self-rule. On August 7, the Serbian Assembly passed a series of laws abolishing the previous laws that guaranteed Kosovo’s independent education system. The law on "temporary measures" enabled the Serbian Assembly over the course of the summer and fall to take steps towards the "protection of the right to self-management and social property," and usurp economic, labor and social institutions (including the liquidation of the United Bank of Kosovo with $721.1 million in assets). By September, over 15,000 Albanian functionaries across all sectors had been released and the University of Pristina had been stacked with Serb students and faculty. In addition to all of the ministries and cultural institutions that were closed down, the Albanian language section of the University of Pristina was closed, as were all Albanian-language secondary schools and 27 out of 837 elementary schools. Albanian-language broadcasting on TV and radio was suspended and the Albanian-language newspaper Rilindja was banned. An additional 1500 Albanian policemen were dismissed, as were employees across all sectors who refused to recognize Serbia.

Finally, a new constitution was ratified in Serbia in September that effectively ended the autonomy of both Kosovo and Vojvodina. Since that point, an estimated 400,000 Albanians from Kosovo have emigrated in search of work or asylum to foreign countries. The Serbian Bloc for the Colonization of Kosovo was set up in Pristina, and housing, credit and even employment was offered to those Serbs "returning" to Kosovo as well as to Montenegrins or refugees from Croatia and Bosnia. That these efforts did not lead to a large Serb settlement, however, has prompted observers to call Kosovo the land Serbs will fight and die for, but not live in.

The attacks of the Serbian leadership on Kosovo’s economy, education system, legal system and representative institutions represented a concerted attempt at re-building a unitary state over all of the territories that Serbs considered to be a part of the Serbian nation in the wake of the truncation of the former Yugoslav federation. The attacks also served as a signal to all groups and regions that whatever autonomy local institutions enjoyed was ultimately granted by the Serbian state. Serbian leaders viewed as an absurdity the idea that Kosovo’s (or any region’s) provincial autonomy was an expression of any kind of distinct national identity. Thus, what is at stake today in Kosovo for Serbs (at least, for those who do not seek to forcibly change the ethnic balance of Kosovo) is not whether Albanians will have schools in their own language, a separate police force, and so forth, but the recognition that these are privileges granted and revoked at the will of Serbian authorities, for Kosovo is nothing more than a part of Serbia.


Civil Disobedience and Political Mobilization

As indicated above, the initial response on the part of Kosovar Albanians was to protect their autonomy and constitutional status through direct engagement with the regime. Throughout 1989 and 1990, riots broke out in most of Kosovo’s major cities, frequently bringing certain residential areas under Albanian control for days or weeks (in a manner reminiscent of the Intifadah’s tactics in Palestine). At the same time, there were also highly organized manifestations of civil disobedience launched by various sectors of Kosovar society. One of the most publicized of these efforts was a series of strikes, hunger strikes, and a 40-kilometer march coordinated by the miners at Trepca in 1989. These protests called for the release of Azem Vllasi and the resignation of three top ethnic Albanian officials seen as tools of the Serb regime (including the man who had succeeded Vllasi as head of the Communist Party in Kosovo). The hunger strike of over 3000 workers inside the depths of the mines did, in fact, result in the realization of the last of their demands. Participation in these events, as well as a one-day general strike in September 3, 1990 across all sectors of Kosovar society, led to mass arrests and beatings and the permanent dismissal of tens of thousands of Albanian workers. But, out of this experience would emerge new parties, new tactics, and new social organizations, all aiming to reestablish the institutional expressions of political, economic and cultural autonomy that Serb authorities were in the process of dismantling.

The 1989-90 period witnessed the proliferation of new political parties, some supporting the reformist movement of Federal Prime Minister Ante Markovic, others now calling for complete independence and sovereignty for Kosovo , and still others calling for union with Albania. These parties joined forces with students, teachers, medical personnel and other professional groups for a series of demonstrations calling for non-violent action and for efforts to preserve the University and the "Kosova Republik." But, perhaps the most symbolic and most emotionally charged effort to galvanize ethnic Albanians was the 1990 mass reconciliation of blood feuds involving more than a thousand Kosovar families. This extraordinary event deserves a closer look.

According to Albanian customary law (Kanun of Leke Dukagjin), blood vendettas were the most honorable means to settle disputes and exact vengeance when a family or clan had suffered a wrong at the hands of another. Although the incidence of revenge killings had declined in recent decades, the extra-judicial avenging of the death or insult of a family members remained a common feature of Kosovar and northern Albanian society. In 1990, there were a thousand such families that either owed or sought blood, which meant that whole generations of the male members of those families owing blood very often spent years without leaving the confines of their houses. In the spirit of national unity and in anticipation of conflict, students in western Kosovo set out to bring a permanent end to these outstanding family feuds. This effort was touted by well-known intellectuals (most affiliated with the Albanological Institute), most notably, Anton Cetta who proceeded to establish a new "Council of Reconciliation" (Keshillat te pajtimit). This council, following the tradition of village elders intervening to resolve inter-family disputes, tracked down Albanian families (even those living as part of diaspora communities in Switzerland, Germany and the United States) and brought them together for a mass reconciliation. The event then blossomed into the Pan-National Movement for the Reconciliation of Blood Vendettas, established branches in all of Kosovo ’s municipalities and began to establish procedures for resolving all forms of dispute and conflict. We will return later to the manner in which these procedures would come to represent an alternative to Serb police and courts for maintaining order in the Republic of Kosova.

Despite the success of Kosovar intellectuals in stimulating national consciousness and unifying Kosovar families in a common struggle, it soon became obvious that Serb authorities, especially the police, army and, increasingly, state-tolerated paramilitary forces, had no intention of relaxing their control over Kosovo for the foreseeable future. Kosovar intellectual and political elites found themselves in a difficult position. On the one hand, it was clear that non-violent demonstrations or other acts of civil disobedience, no matter how wide-spread or well-coordinated, would not be sufficient to withstand the Serb assault on Kosovo’s autonomy. On the other hand, the consequences of armed resistance were made all too clear by the unfolding events in Croatia and Bosnia, where the Yugoslav People’s Army was already engaged with secessionist forces. Determined to achieve the same objectives as those republics – complete independence and sovereignty -- but without the Territorial Defense apparatus or political leadership to coordinate a military assault against Serb forces, Kosovars opted for a highly unusual path: resistance through specific, unilateral acts of state-building within a region already being formally administered by an existing state.


II. The Republic of Kosova : The Creation of "Parallel" Institutions

The "Republic of Kosova" refers to the independent quasi-state declared into existence by the political leaders of Kosovo after Milosevic’s dismantling of Kosovo’s provincial autonomy. While declarations of independence and claims to self-determination are nothing new in ethno-separatist conflicts, what is interesting in the case of the Kosovar declaration is the unilateral attempt to develop a host of autonomous political, economic, and socio-cultural institutions in order to represent sovereignty without directly challenging the existence of -- and being tolerated by -- official political, economic, and sauce-cultural institutions set up by the Serbs. Below, we discuss in some detail some of the more significant "parallel" institutions established by Kosovar Albanians during the 1989-1998 period as part of an unusual effort at gaining national autonomy without directly challenging the official regional apparatus of the Yugoslav state.


The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK): From Party to Party-State Apparatus

The broad-based coalition party that soon emerged as the main political organization of Kosovar Albanians is the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), lead by writer and literary critic, Ibrahim Rugova. Formed on December 23, 1989, the LDK was the first non-communist party in Kosovo since its incorporation into Yugoslavia and soon swelled to 700,000 members, at its time the largest political party in all of Yugoslavia (save for the League of Communists which, under the Constitution claimed all Yugoslav citizens as members). Under its leadership, Kosovo took a series of unilateral steps toward statehood.

After the indefinite dissolution of the Provincial Assembly, the Albanian members of that body met in secret in the southern city of Kacanik and adopted a declaration of independence within the "Yugoslav Community of Nations," the Constitution of the Republic of Kosova , the Law on Political Association, and the Election Law. All of these acts were declared "a criminal act" by the Serbian government, which moved to bring charges against those participating sending many of them fleeing into exile. The First Convention of the Democratic League of Kosovo was held subsequently on May 5, 1991 in Pristina, calling for the recognition of Albanians as a constituent nation, and not nationality, within Yugoslavia, and for the establishment of Kosovo ’s status as a constituent Republic. The declaration of sovereignty would come later that year, on September 22, 1991, at a session of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosova when the Assembly adopted the resolution by which "the Republic of Kosova is declared a republic – a sovereign and independent state with the right to constitutive participation in the alliance of states."

After Kosovar Albanians boycotted a referendum on the Constitution held by Serbia over all of its territory (including Kosovo and Vojvodina), an open referendum was held in Kosovo by the Assembly between September 26 and 30 on the issue of sovereignty. According to the Republican Council on the Referendum, 87.01% of all eligible voters took part in the referendum (914,705 citizens out of 1,051,357), of which 99.87% voted to affirm the resolution of the Assembly, thereby declaring the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Kosova . To this day, the only state to have recognized that referendum and Kosovo ’s independence is Albania (in October 1991).

The "success" of the referendum spurred the Assembly to name a provisional government with Dr. Bujar Bukoshi as Prime Minister and to set multi-party elections for May of 1992. On May 24, with eight groups of international observers and 82 teams of journalists from around the world on hand, Kosovars went to the polls again to elect a new parliament and president. The Assembly opted for a split system, with 100 seats allotted based on the majoritarian principle, and 30 distributed on the basis of proportional representation. Ballots (printed in Serbian, Turkish, and Albanian) contained 22 various political parties and 490 candidates. Turnout was 89.32%, of which the LDK garnered 76.44% (96 seats), the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo 4.86% (13 seats), the Peasants’ Party of Kosovo 3.15% (7 seats), the Albanian Christian Democratic Party 3.10% (7 seats), and independent candidates 3.29% (2 seats). Fourteen seats were also set aside for Serbs and Montenegrins; these would remain unclaimed. In the Presidential elections, Dr. Ibrahim Rugova was elected with no opposition.

Before the Parliament ever had a chance to convene, however, Serbs forced the provisional government of Bukoshi into exile. The movement was soon split between those in exile, who had (and still have) control over most of the money from the diaspora community, and the LDK party apparatus, which remained in Kosovo. In effect, while the government "ministers" all ended up in Germany, the main decision-makers in Kosovo became those unofficial advisors around Rugova, who remained in Pristina. It is thus the LDK which faced the task of determining the path of resistance against Serb control over the "Republic of Kosova." It is for this reason we turn now to the internal organizational structure of the LDK as a set of state-forming institutions.

The main official bodies of the LDK are the Presidency, with 16 members, and the General Council, with 55 members. Taking the place of the governmental ministries are various LDK advisory committees on foreign affairs, education, health care, economy, finance, agriculture, sports and culture, which oversee activities in all of those sectors throughout Kosovo . There is also a Women’s Forum and Youth Forum. The central bodies of LDK, along with all its committees and Forums, are then divided into 36 branches in all of Kosovo ’s municipalities, with local sub-branches in virtually every village and town. The branch chairmen hold weekly meetings with Rugova and the Presidency. It was this system of political and administrative organization -- one that reached down to the grassroots -- that served to unite hundreds of thousands of LDK members. It is also the LDK’s organization to which Rugova himself attributed the lack of violence: "We are organized down to the smallest village. It is this organization that allows our members to be heard and for discipline to be maintained in the difficult conditions of occupation."


Foreign Relations: The Search for International Recognition

Although Kosovo has not been recognized as a sovereign international entity and its legal status has not been resolved, the figure of Ibrahim Rugova, in sharp contrast to the leaders of the other Yugoslav successor states, had already earned the Kosovar non-violent movement significant international respect and admiration. Not surprisingly, in light of the movement’s denunciation of violence, the international community became the primary front for LDK activity in the search for recognition and realization of the declaration of independence.

The primary success of the foreign policy of the LDK, admittedly helped greatly by the transparency of Serb policy and practices, had been the internationalization of the Kosovo crisis. The diplomatic internationalization of the conflict had been evidenced by certain victories, such as the creation – over great protests by Milosevic – of the Special Group on Kosovo at the London Conference on the former Yugoslavia in 1992 (a particularly poignant statement after the exclusion of a Kosovar delegation from the Badinter Commission of 1991), the inclusion of reference to Kosovo in the Dayton Accords, the linking of normalization and the removal of the "outer wall" of sanctions for Serbia to the Kosovo question, and the establishment of a United States Information Center in Pristina.

The LDK maintains offices in many foreign countries, especially those with large Albanian diaspora communities, and these offices aim to coordinate activities within those communities while building contacts with the parliaments, political parties and foreign ministries of the host countries. A few countries even host branches of the Kosovo Information Center that seek to disseminate information on human rights abuses in Kosovo and on the policy positions of the Government of Kosovo . Visits to Pristina by both official and unofficial delegations were frequent before the war, as were trips abroad by Rugova and his foreign policy team, including official delegations to international conferences such as the World Food Summit in Rome and the Women’s Summit in Beijing. From the perspective of the international community, these contacts amounted to expressions of international support for non-violence and condemnation of state repression. From the Kosovar perspective, however, these contacts were seen as the basis for eventually resolving its legal status and gaining internal recognition as a state through the establishment of formal diplomatic relations and representation in international bodies. However, even the most supportive governments -- Germany, Italy and the United States- -- continued to insist on a solution within the framework of Yugoslavia. Despite all the success Rugova and the LDK had in gaining international sympathy, they did not succeeded in convincing the world of their fundamental assertion – that Kosovo is a separate political and territorial unit from Serbia and that the destruction of Kosovo ’s autonomy an illegal act amounting to occupation. Nevertheless, the LDK’s efforts to establish diplomatic ties, participate in international meetings, and identify a foreign policy speak to the formation of a parallel foreign ministry.


Economy and Finance

The finances of the Republic of Kosova had been managed through a Central Financial Council divided into 30 municipal sub-councils. Representation on the councils was proportional, with over 50% from the LDK and the rest composed of members of other political subjects and non-governmental bodies, such as the Union of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo (BSPK). The sub-councils were broken into separate commissions for the gathering of revenue, for allocation of funds, and for professional services.

The source of revenue was two-fold. First, Albanian families and businesses in Kosovo paid "voluntary" contributions to the government. The suggested guideline for employed individuals was 5%, for businesses from 8% to 10%, and for landowners based on the productivity of their land. Second, workers in the diaspora were expected to contribute 3% of their income to the government through the LDK branches in those countries with the largest diaspora communities (these contributions are now going to the UCK, the "Liberation Army of Kosovo" which is waging the present armed struggle). Those funds were then transferred to the Dardania Bank in Tirana and then to Kosovo physically, barring seizure and confiscation by Serb police.

Computerized databases were maintained in Pristina that regularly and systematically kept track the financial situations of individual families and their "tax" records. Approximately 25% of all families were exempted from contributing. Those who were not exempt and yet did not contribute were subjected to "moral pressure." Lists of such individuals and enterprises, for example, were publicized in the Albanian-language daily Bujku which would provide for public exposure and humiliation. Central Financial Council Chairman Ismajl Kastrati claimed, however, that the level of non-compliance was extremely low; in fact, it was even lower than at the beginning of the "occupation" period. He attributed this both to improved organizational capacity and the growing appreciation of the legitimacy and importance of the state-forming institutions on behalf of the population during the mid-1990’s.

Once in Kosovo, the funds are distributed to the municipal councils where they go towards education, health care, culture, science, sports, agriculture and social assistance. Roughly 25,000 individuals working in these sectors were directly on the LDK payroll as of 1997, making an average of $100 (DM 150) per month. The allocation of funds was regulated and accounted for through periodical reports sent to the Finance Minister, Isa Mustafa, in Germany and locally through the parliamentary Finance Committee. The money itself is quickly distributed in many directions, never resting in a single secret location.


The Making of a "Judicial Branch"? Reconciliation Councils

While the Parliament never managed to meet long enough to establish a formal and official legal-judicial order, a traditional institution of Albanian society grew organically into a widely recognized and used system of justice: the ritual reconciliation, mediated by elders, between feuding parties to halt the cycle of reciprocal blood vendettas. As noted above, this tradition has deep roots in Albanian common law enshrined in the Kanun of Leke Dukagjin. In the course of history, a "judicial dualism" emerged: while some of the cities and lowlands may have succumbed to the laws imposed by foreign rulers (whether Byzantine, Ottoman, Yugoslav or Serbian), clans in the mountains (including two-thirds of Kosovo’s population) lived almost entirely on the basis of their own customary law. This dualism existed for centuries and is deeply imprinted in the Albanian consciousness. It is precisely the customary law of the Kanun that preserved de facto independence during the years of Ottoman rule, as well as many features of Albanian society and culture that later provided the foundation for a modern national identity.

Under Tito’s rule, the "Councils of Elders" or "Councils of Reconciliation" had remained active in mediating blood feuds, but this was primarily in villages and primarily to deal with cases that the state had little interest in or was unable to control. As long as Kosovo remained an "Autonomous Province," Yugoslav police and courts were grudgingly accepted by Kosovar Albanians as legitimate authorities in resolving disputes, although families still kept track of the blood "owed" by or to others. Since 1989, when Milosevic began to dismantle Kosovar autonomy, Kosovar Albanians came to view the official police, army and courts as instruments of an occupying and repressive regime and, therefore, as completely without legitimacy. Sentences handed down by Serb courts carried virtually no significance; if an Albanian was to kill another Albanian and Serb courts were to punish the killer, the family of the murdered would not consider the case as settled until some form of justice is carried out against the family of the killer -- either in the form of a blood vendetta, or through the mediation provided by a reconciliation council.

Hence, the significance of the mass reconciliation of 1990, when key Kosovar leaders formed a "Council of Reconciliation" and brought about a reconciliation of over 1000 families still engaged in blood feuds. While this was certainly important as an expression of national unity and resistance, it is also important to recognize how the practice of reconciliation became a very real and quite legitimate legal entity, despite the absence of a formal police, courts, jails or any other manifestation of a state’s monopoly on legitimate violence. After 1990, a Council for Reconciliation was established for the entire republic, along with 23 municipal councils and countless sub-councils in various towns or rural districts. Some municipal councils proved to be far more effective than the former Yugoslav police and courts in "solving" and "prosecuting" large numbers of cases involving murder, assault, theft and other crimes. On the whole, since its inception, leaders of the reconciliation councils claim to have resolved over 23,000 cases based on an average of 1,000 per municipal council, where most cases are handled.

While the Kanun of Leke Dukagjin is no longer used as a basis for rendering justice, concepts found within it, such as the besa (solemn, sacred oath of honor) and laws of hospitality are. And, while the sworn purpose of the Councils was traditionally to prevent further cycles of violence and retribution, the reconciliation sessions also carried unveiled threats of isolation, "boycott," and dishonor for families that either refused to reconcile or broke besas. Although the principles on which the Albanian concept of reconciliation is based and the methods it utilizes may be incomprehensible to foreigners, a brief description of the process may help provide some sense of this phenomenon.

The typical contemporary Kosovar reconciliation council begins with the "elders" (i.e. the members of the council) visiting first the aggrieved party. They typically sit on couches so as to be elevated above the male members of the aggrieved family, who sit on the floor facing the mediators, with their seating arrangement reflecting an age-graded hierarchy. Breaking with ordinary hospitality rituals, the council refuses any food or drink until all male members of the family, beginning with the patriarch (household head) has acceded to its request for the "hand" of reconciliation. Each of the mediators then proceed to each implore the family to pronounce forgiveness. Whether the crime to be forgiven is a father’s murder or a passing insult, the language that is used is intended to be lofty, authoritative and imposing. Calling on the party "in the name of Skanderbeg, the entire Albanian nation, the Albanian flag, Ibrahim Rugova," the men are told that it is not only in their family’s interest to forgive, but that "it is their honorable, patriotic responsibility to their brethren in this period of brutal occupation and the only way to maintain faqe bardhe," – "white face," or honor. If one of the men tries to speak in his family’s defense before his allotted time he is quickly reprimanded and reminded that he is not, after all, in his own home, but "in the home first of every Albanian, of your guest, of the mother that gave you bread, then in your own home." After what can last for hours, the council will break off all talk and declare that the time for "the hand" has arrived. The men are then expected to line up and shake the hand of every member of the council, thereby giving their besa and securing forgiveness. If the patriarch is unwilling, then the men routinely grab the unwilling man and attempt to physically pull him into giving his hand, considered this act to be just as binding and sacred.

Having received the hand of reconciliation, the council then travels to the house of the guilty party to bring them "the hand" (the parties never meet face to face). The hand, however, is not merely given to the men, the process of receiving acceptance is just as arduous. The members begin by tearing into the culpable party with the same, or perhaps greater, acerbity that they had used to secure forgiveness from the aggrieved family. Patriotism, personal honor, ancestor worship and, primarily, shame are the central features of the rhetoric of reconciliation, with the threat of being "boycotted" and ostracized always hovering above the guilty party. After hours of speeches, the hand is given in the same fashion as it was received, and only if the party has shown sufficient remorse or rendered their besa to desist from further offensive activity.

It should be noted that one of the reasons the system of reconciliation worked was precisely because it was viewed as a necessary temporary solution in the interest of national unity. The reconciliation councils, and the families that dealt with them, ultimately operated on the assumption that once the LDK came to power "for real" all of these perpetrators receiving forgiveness now will be punished properly. Nevertheless, until the recent violence erupted in 1998, the reconciliation councils did serve as a legitimate and effective substitute for the official Serb courts and police in maintaining order and controlling the cycle of reciprocal blood vendettas.

Let us turn now to some of the other "parallel" structures designed to turn the idea of the "Republic of Kosova" into an institutional reality, namely, those social institutions -- some encouraged by the LDK, others more autonomous -- that were instrumental in coordinating education, health care, sports/cultural activities, and labor issues.


From State to Society: Education, Health Care, Sports/Culture, and Labor

Since January 20, 1992, a massive network of underground schools has been set up and in operation throughout Kosovo . In place of the 61 secondary schools and 13 faculties of the University of Pristina that had offered Albanian-language instruction to Albanian students, there were by 1997 over 1500 improvised "classrooms" converted from rooms in private homes, garages, storage areas and empty buildings with approximately 65,000 high school students per year and an average of 12,000-15,000 University (undergraduate) students per year since the expulsion in 1991. The University carries over 14 functioning faculties, including graduate-level education, seven higher trade and teaching schools, a governing University Senate, student unions and scientific research institutions. Degrees from the University of Pristina have been recognized by Germany, Sweden and other western European countries, and Rector Ejup Statovci was welcomed formally into the Conference of European Rectors. All schools, from pre-school to university, are supported through the public finance system and modest tuition (students through secondary school attend for free, while University students pay DM 70 per semester). It has been estimated that, given the low teacher wages (DM 80 to DM 150 per month) and the absence of large-scale teaching or research facilities (beyond classrooms), roughly 90% of the budget is actually spent on education. The schools revised their curriculum and replaced Marxism-Leninism with a more nationalist curriculum emphasizing the making of Kosovar independence. It should be noted, however, that the University is legally independent of the LDK and other political subjects, and its student and administrative leaders have sometimes voiced criticism of Rugova and his methods.

The health care sector was hit particularly hard by the purges of 1989-1991. Albanian personnel were dismissed en masse from the Medical Faculty of the University of Pristina (which is now continuing to function in private homes), hospitals and clinics. These purges contributed to the severe worsening of the overall health care situation in Kosovo. The number of individuals not covered by health insurance rose rapidly due to rising impoverishment; the LDK estimates the number of uninsured Kosovar "citizens" to be around 600,000. Moreover, there was a genuine crisis in health and sanitary conditions throughout Kosovo . Under 50% of all children were receiving full vaccinations, infant mortality rates increased as Albanian women all but stopped going to the fully-purged obstetrics departments of hospitals. Between 1990 and 1996, 110 epidemics of diseases ranging from hepatitis to polio – claiming hundreds of lives – were recorded.

Although the purges in hospitals were not as complete as in such sectors as education, and Albanians with insurance do still sometimes visit official hospitals, doctors and non-governmental organizations have engaged in numerous alternative forms of providing health care to impoverished citizens. Many private doctors have established "house-clinics" with LDK subsidies to provide basic care to citizens, usually free of charge for those who cannot afford it. Other doctors have banded together in organizations such as the Kosovo Medical Association, Independent Union of Medical Workers and Red Cross of Kosovo . The largest humanitarian organization, funded completely by Albanians in the diaspora, is the "Mother Theresa" Foundation, which has provided vaccinations and primary care to tens of thousands of individuals across ethnic lines.

Sports and cultural institutions were not spared by the events of 1989-1990. Kosovo previously had a fully functioning, state-funded sports structure (ranging from the 650 sports clubs at the community level to professional teams that competed on the provincial and federal level) and cultural life. While cultural manifestations were subject to government censors, there were concerts, folk festivals and theaters all functioning with state subsidies in the Albanian-language. Albanians had full access to all facilities and resources. In May of 1991, the entire sports structure was disbanded, with Albanians barred from all facilities, from official soccer stadiums to boxing centers, and removed from federal teams representing Yugoslavia. Cultural facilities that are still subsidized for Serbs remained accessible only for fees to Albanians and only for functions without political significance.

The preservation of sports facilities in Kosovo was managed by the Sports Federation of Kosovo, an organization independent from the LDK. Partial financing comes from the Financial Councils of the LDK, although the majority of funds came from private donors and individual participants. While there were 650 local sports clubs from which Albanians were expelled in 1991, approximately 780 new ones have been reopened in private facilities. The Federation loosely unites 23 distinct disciplines (15 active) and 25 leagues (23 active) while boasting 28,347 active athletes and more than 200,000 participants throughout Kosovo’s municipalities. The Federation also has ties to the University Sports Union, and even a "Kosova Olympic Committee." The Sports Federation had also been successful in establishing foreign contacts and even gaining representation for Kosovo in international competitions. Karate clubs competed in the European Championships in Budapest in 1993, World Championships in 1994 and in international tournaments in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Delegations from Kosovo in other disciplines had been invited to other tournaments but were prevented from attending by Serb authorities.

In addition to paying Serb authorities to hold cultural festivals in public venues, Kosovars opened a private theater in Pristina that featured uncensored performances of plays dealing with a variety of subjects. For the first time since World War Two, works of a political and nationalist nature, most notably by Kosovar playwright Teki Dervishi, were performed in Kosovo. The LDK Youth and Women’s Forums sponsored literary events, as well as celebrations for the new "state" holidays of Independence Day (July 2) and Flag Day (November 28). Financial support for such events came not only from the LDK Financial Councils, but also from international NGO’s such as the Soros Fund, which maintains an office in Pristina. The advent of independent publishing houses has also allowed the spread of literary works by authors banned under communism, including Dervishi, Adem Demaqi and Azem Shkreli.


Beyond the LDK: Independent Trade Unions and the Growing Political Opposition

Despite the ability of Kosovar Albanians to develop a set of political, economic and social institutions to represent national autonomy, one basic paradox remained unresolved and became the basis for challenges faced by the LDK from other political organizations, including, ultimately, the UCK (the "Ushetria clirimtare e Kosoves" or "Kosova Liberation Army"): one of the reasons all of these institutions achieved so much legitimacy is that they were viewed as a temporary substitute for the formal institutions that would be established as part of a single, autonomous state in the territory of Kosovo. Rugova himself viewed the LDK’s apparatus as more of a non-violent means of resistance than as the genuine foundations for a legitimate Kosovar state. Yet, over the course of the 1989-1998, it is possible that these institutions came to be mistaken by the LDK for the "fact" of actual autonomous statehood, with a fully formed government waiting for a deus ex machina to sweep it into the actual position of direct rule and the ranks of UN membership. It is for this reason that Rugova’s LDK must not be seen as either a modern-day equivalent of either the non-violent anti-colonial struggle led by Gandhi and the Indian National Congress or the Algerian National Liberation Front’s (FLN’s) attempt to build substitute state-forming institutions as a prelude to a violent assault on the colonial French. The LDK, once it had reached an accommodation with the Serbs, came to behave as if its purpose was achieved, and this surreal self-delusion became the basis for opposition to its leadership within Kosovo.

One of the organizations in which opposition to the LDK first became apparent was the Union of Independent Trade Unions (BSPK). In the summer of 1990, in response to the massive dismissal of Albanian workers from all sectors of employment and from the former trade unions aligned with the League of Communists, Albanian workers united in July 1990 to form the BSPK. Among the first act organized by the BSPK was the one-day General Strike of September 3, 1990 and a march in Pristina on July 1, 1991 under the slogan "We stand for dialogue – And you?" Subsequently, the BSPK became successful in establishing ties with independent trade unions in the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey and ten countries in Western Europe. A BSPK delegation also attended the 20th Congress of the AFL-CIO in 1993, and has since received support and recognition from international associations such as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the European Trade Union Confederation, the World Confederation of Labor and the International Labor Organization.

The BSPK has remained a completely independent organization and not a wing of the mainstream movement represented by the LDK. While the BSPK supports the goal of independence for Kosovo, it’s leaders have been highly critical of the methods and attitudes of the LDK from the beginning. When speaking about the reactions of LDK leaders to the strikes and marches the BSPK held in 1990 and 1991, BSPK Chairman Hajrullah Gorani remarked that "We don’t like either the Serb police or our own political parties. Their idea of resistance is sitting in their offices and holding meetings." Of course, in the time since the July 1, 1991 march, the BSPK has itself done little beyond holding six conventions and two congresses. This is not surprising given the fact that much of the funding for political activities went to the LDK, leaving little for the BSPK. When about the types of services provided BSPK members, particularly those out of work, Gorani responded: "Moral support. We have no money to offer and, as a union with the majority of its workers jobless, there is little we can do to mobilize."

Also worth noting are three other political organizations that reflected the growing sense that the LDK’s non-violent accommodation with the Serbs was not going to pave the way for independence. The Student Union of the University, for example, became an alternative to the LDK’s Youth Forum, and from September of 1997 to March 1998, it held five massive demonstrations calling for the "liberation" of the University, three of which were met with tanks, truncheons and tear gas. As a reaction to this Serb assault, however, the students opted to make demands from Belgrade as to the basic rights of Kosovars within the present framework of the Yugoslav state. A more radical organization known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo that, while not yet engaging in any acts of violence, published a newspaper (Clirimi – Liberation) calling for a more forceful effort to liberate of Kosovo. However, A mass show trial in June of 1997 sentenced 18 members of its organization to prison terms ranging from four to 15 years. The third alternative to the LDK and its affiliated organizations was provided by Parliamentary Party of Kosovo whose eventual chairman, Adem Demaqi would become the political spokesman for the UCK and its armed resistance. While the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo began as a youth party led by Veton Surroi (now editor-in-chief of the opposition daily Koha Ditore), under Demaqi, a political prisoner of 28 years, it consistently called for a more active form of non-violent resistance that would engage the Belgrade regime, although not the guerrilla-style warfare he is now associated with. At the same time, however, Demaqi also put forth a plan for the reconfiguration of Yugoslavia – a confederation of Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro as independent republics in a state he called Balkania. Thus, Demaqi seemed to want to out-flank Rugova on both a more radical and a more conciliatory front, simultaneously calling for "active resistance" and reaching out to "brother Serbs."

The LDK’s response to such criticism was that it was, theoretically, ready to allow other leaders and parties to step to the fore, but insisted that "with us, non-violence goes." However, the rise of the UCK and the present armed struggle appears to now suggest the reverse: "With non-violence, the LDK goes." Essentially, all other political organizations, including the LDK itself, were caught off-guard, and subsequently swept aside, by the rise of the UCK. While responsibility for various acts going back to 1994 had been claimed by a group operating under the name "Liberation Army of Kosovo ," its origins and membership were not known, save for a newspaper called "Zeri i Kosoves" ("Voice of Kosovo ") that was published in Zurich and openly called for contributions for the "liberation of the homeland." In statements for which he has not yet been forgiven, Rugova even publicly doubted the existence of the UCK until March of 1998, even after systematic and coordinated attacks on Serb authorities were well in evidence. While the origins of the UCK are slowly being revealed by journalists in Kosovo, as well in Europe and the US, the events that led directly to its emergence occurred in February and March of 1998 in a region northwest of Pristina called Drenica, which has a history of mythic proportions of Albanian armed resistance dating as far back as the 19th century.


III. The "Republic of Kosova" in Comparative Perspective

The central concern of this paper, however, has to do with the extraction of possible lessons from the 1989-1998 period. The perception that the LDK was ultimately unable to deliver the goods, as well as Rugova’s loss of authority in the eyes of many Kosovar Albanians, are both products of the initial expectations created by Rugova and the LDK. Absent these expectations, the institutions of the "Republic of Kosova" did enable Kosovar Albanians to participate in a meaningfully ordered public arena that was autonomous, identified with a given territory, and yet not threatening to Serbs. This was not an ideal situation by any means, and it did involve risks, tensions, and occasional conflicts; but, where centuries-old territorial claims form the basis for ethno-separatist conflict, months and years of negotiations will probably not yield a result that both parties are actually content with. Under these conditions, a tolerable sub-optimal outcome may very well take the form of the kind of informal arrangement that appears to have existed during the 1989-1998 period. To explore this possibility further, we now turn to a discussion of the Serb attitude towards the "Republic of Kosova" within a broader comparative perspective that includes other recent accommodations or accords that have been negotiated to bring an end to ethno-separatist disputes.


Serbia and the "Republic of Kosova": A Tacit Accommodation?

The point of departure for the broader theoretical discussion to follow is the observation that Serb authorities did not resort to military means to squash Kosovar resistance as long as the LDK and its non-violent strategy remained in place. Between 1989 and 1998, although Kosovar autonomy was formally dismantled, the existence of "parallel" state-forming institutions were not viewed as a threat by Milosevic in spite of their obvious implications for the autonomy and territoriality of the Yugoslav state. Despite the strength of its military and police apparatus -- that is, despite having the power to dissolve institutions that violated the principle of Serb state sovereignty -- Serb leaders appeared content to retain legal jurisdiction over the Kosovo region even if Kosovar Albanians were themselves participating as though they were citizens of a separate nation-state. This points to a pattern of tacit accommodation that implicitly violated the Westphalian principles that were the basis of both, the Yugoslav state and the movement to carve out an autonomous Kosovar state.

Certainly, there have been regimes elsewhere whose leaders wish to control a disputed land but not necessarily integrate the people on it. But, what distinguishes such regimes from Kosovo during the 1989-1998 period is the fact that, in the latter case, an existing regime de facto tolerated certain political institutions that were explicitly and publicly upheld as a symbol of autonomy for a subjugated people within "their" region, and that reflect a challenge to the regime’s de jure territorial claims over that territory. While Serbia has consistently uprooted and persecuted any organization that seeks to topple or openly engage its rule in Kosovo (as witnessed by its scorched-earth tactics in UCK lands and show trials of youths for publishing a newspaper), it shows remarkable tolerance toward the LDK and its institutions. While it was "illegal" to attend LDK schools and students, teachers and proprietors of buildings housing schools were on occasion harassed and beaten, the police never made a serious attempt to squash the education network. While LDK members were routinely called to "informative talks" by Serb authorities, and while the original government remained in exile, its top leaders maintained an office not 100 meters from the main state security office in the region while traveling around the world seeking recognition for the "Republic of Kosova " (on Yugoslav passports!). Similarly, at a July 1997 meeting of the national-level Council for Reconciliation (witnessed by Andrew March), the chairman of the council, standing literally in the shadow of the Serb district jail and Serb state security headquarters, gave a speech over a loudspeaker referring to the "Serb enemy" and "our ongoing resistance" to explain to a crowd the purpose of the reconciliation movement.

This is not to make light of the daily risk, frustration, and anger that all Kosovars faced before the present war. Repression in such a situation is the norm. As is the expression of powerful sentiments indicating resistance. What is not the norm is for an aspiring unitary state to willingly and knowingly allow the existence of a set of political institutions that proclaim separation from the state on the basis of a Constitution and Declaration of Independence and engage an entire demographic group within a territory claimed by the unitary state. While this situation may be partially explained by internal Serbian political dynamics (one might argue, for example, that Milosevic does not want the political participation of two million Albanians in the Serbian political system and even prefers to leave evidence of instability in Kosovo to legitimize his rule), it nevertheless poses intriguing questions as to the meaning of statehood and sovereignty. The institutions controlled, or at least encouraged, by the LDK represented not only "alternative rule-making bodies" that challenged the ability of the Yugoslav state to exert social control in Kosovo; these institutions were an alternative locus of national loyalty and identity and were publicly and explicitly intended to represent an autonomous state in the making within the borders of the truncated Yugoslav state. And the Yugoslav state authorities, for their part, allowed these institutions to persist and perform important functions, while allowing Kosovar Albanians to behave as citizens to a different "nation" on territory formally claimed by Yugoslavia. Without pressing this point further, let us now compare the experience of the "Republic of Kosova" until February 1998 to some other informal accommodations and formal accords that have been recently negotiated in other regions suffering from long-standing ethno-separatist conflict.


Similarities to Other Recent "Resolutions" of Ethno-Separatist Conflicts

What is interesting for the purposes of this paper is how the recent "resolutions" of several other conflicts, whether intended to be transitory or final, bear some resemblance to the pre-war state of events in Kosovo. Within the post-communist world, among the most prominent examples of this phenomenon are to be found in Chechnya, the Republika Srpska and Trans-Dneister region of Moldova. Chechnya is for all intents and purposes a state with no meaningful subjugation to Russia, and yet does not enjoy international sovereignty ; the Russian state, for its part, continues to regard Chechnya as an integral part of Russian territory without making any further effort to squash institutional manifestations of Chechen autonomous statehood. Trans-Dniester maintains a parallel government and controls its own borders (pending a final diplomatic resolution), but is still within the territory over which the state of Moldova claims international sovereignty. The Republika Srpska in Bosnia controls all borders, maintains complete state-forming institutions and does not cooperate in any meaningful way with any of the central Bosnian institutions, although it is within the territory over which the state of Bosnia claims sovereign control.

It is possible to extend this pattern beyond the post-communist world as well. The Palestinian Authority enjoys limited sovereignty within the limited territory so far rendered it under the Oslo Accords and holds an observer seat in the United Nations and other supranational bodies, but is not recognized as an internationally sovereign state. The Republic of China has long functioned as a sovereign state on Taiwan (indeed, more successfully that most "real" states), yet does not enjoy international sovereignty, while the People’s Republic of China continues to claim Taiwan as falling within the territorial jurisdiction of its own autonomous state. These are not cases of federalism, confederation, consociationalism or any other recognizable form of power-sharing among members of different regional or ethnic groups within a nation-state. They are all cases of "para-states within states": the internationally recognized state tolerates the creation and persistence of regional institutions that explicitly represent autonomy and territoriality within a part of the territory over which the recognized state claims sovereignty.

Other cases, namely the status of the Croats of Bosnia and the recent Good Friday Agreement on Northern Ireland, represent institutional arrangements that stretch the boundaries of traditional federalism but, unlike the above cases, do not involve the creation of territorially-defined "para-states" that enjoy institutionalized representations of autonomous statehood within a portion of a larger territory within which a recognized state claims the power of rule-making and the legal monopoly of violence. The Northern Ireland agreement, for example, does nonetheless violate the Westphalian model, not because of the various bodies of local rule that are to be established, but because of the creation of the cross-border North-South Ministerial Council that mandates a say for the Republic of Ireland in certain of the affairs of the North. This is an agreement that deals with an irredentist movement not only through greater regional power sharing, but also through the inclusion of the foreign motherland in the region, thus weakening the borders between the communities, and thus the potency of demands for separation.

In contrast, the first set of ethno-separatist conflicts discussed (Chechnya, Republika Srpska, Trans-Dneister, etc.) reflects some variation on the phenomenon of mutual accommodation of conflicting sovereignties within Kosovo during the 1989-1998 period. The pre-war "Republic of Kosova" shares with the above examples a perfunctory, but apparently tolerable, de facto "resolution" of competing, irreconcilable de jure claims to sovereignty. In all cases, we are discussing internationally recognized sovereign states, pieces of which claim distinct identity and maintain separate states or para-states. They all somehow seek to reconcile the self-determination aspirations of one group and the territorial integrity of the state from which they wish to disassociate. In most cases, these accommodations are tacit, usually intended to be temporary, and occasionally unable to prevent the out-break of violence. Nevertheless, these cases may collectively be seen as the basis for a sub-optimal but durable means for preventing extended ethno-separatist violence despite the implied violation of Westphalian principles.

What distinguishes these cases from classical notions of federalism or confederalism? Is it not the case that the every American State is enjoys some form of partial sovereignty within its borders while all existing within one internationally sovereign entity? Are the above cases merely cases of asymmetrical federalism or confederations in the making that, for reasons of political expediency, are not being recognized as such? We contend that there is a fundamental difference between the commonly understood manifestations of "federalism," "confederation," or "consociationalism," on the one hand, and the tacit accommodations or formal accords reached in our cases of ethno-separatist conflict, on the other.

The various kinds of federal arrangements negotiated in multi-ethnic or multi-state settings, whether hierarchical or closer to confederation, are ultimately based on what Elazar has called the principle of "self-rule plus shared rule." In other words, if the very idea of a "state," however weak its center, is to have any meaning at all, it must involved some mutual recognized consensus that includes reserving certain competencies or functions as the exclusive prerogative of the center (even if these competencies are limited to defense, foreign policy or currency management). Federalism, confederal arrangements, and consociational democracy may very well involve competition among different regions or ethnic groups for power and wealth, but ultimately this competition takes place within a framework that all parties ultimately accept as legitimate and binding. If certain regions, whether administrative states or the homelands of ethnic groups, enjoy considerable autonomy in managing their own affairs, then this autonomy is one that the center formally recognizes just as readily as the regions recognize the authority of the center to make binding rules or common policies on some set of issues.

That is not the case with the claims of Moldova over Trans-Dniester, Russia over Chechnya, Bosnia over Republika Srpska or, increasingly, Israel over Palestine. Furthermore, some of the accommodations reached, such as the Chechen and Bosnian agreements, tacitly allow for the rupture of the principle of sovereignty. In all these cases, the disputed regions are presently being allowed to exercise autonomy in domains that are formally recognized as falling within the legal jurisdiction of an existing state center. The vast majority of the populations in these regions does not recognize the authority of this center. The center does not recognize the regional para-state institutions formed within the disputed land. These institutions do not merely offer their population a different locus of identity that can coexist with a broader "national" identity (as in the case of, say, a Gujarati or Bengali in India); these institutions reflect the sole locus of "national" identity. Yet, neither party is pursuing the next logical step: to act upon its claim to territorial sovereignty. This may very well be a result of strategic considerations, and the accommodation is certainly not an optimal outcome; but, in light of the virtual impossibility of actually negotiating a solution where irreconcilable territorial claims are in evidence, perhaps we can begin to make a virtue out of these "temporary" accommodations as an alternative to all-out war.


Ethnicity vs. Territoriality as the Basis for "States within States"

Having thus far emphasized the similarities between Kosovo and other recent resolutions of ethno-separatist conflict, we do not wish to leave the impression that the situation in Kosovo is in every respect an instance of a more general phenomenon. In other words, despite the general similarities across the above cases in terms of their implications for understandings of "sovereignty", the situation in Kosovo does deserve to be regarded in other respects as unique. In particular, the kinds of claims and accommodations made in the Moldova-Trans-Dniester, Russia-Chechnya, and Bosnia-Republika Srpska cases are in some ways quite different from the Serbia-Kosovo situation. For one, the Kosovar Albanians represent the only group that, before 1998, had done everything but pursue the use of force to assert their complete independence. While the Russia-Chechnya and Bosnia-Republika Srpska accommodations were only reached after a protracted violent confrontation failed to resolve the issue, the "Republic of Kosova" functioned for nine years without exploding into violence.

More importantly, the nature of the Kosovar Albanian claim is more ambiguous with regard to the issue of territoriality. Chechnya’s claims are explicitly territorial -- claims reflecting autonomous jurisdiction over all, Chechen or Russian, who reside within Chechnya’s borders. Likewise, the Slav separatists of Trans-Dniester rule over the entire area they hold: in 1998, for example, they announced that they would not allow the participation of Moldovans on their territory in Moldovan elections since this suggested a violation of Trans-Dniester’s understanding of its autonomy within its borders. In contrast, the 1989-1998 period in Kosovo involved the creation of institutions that were theoretically designed to make binding rules for ethnic Kosovar Albanians: Serbs living within the region of Kosovo were not subjected to these rules, while Kosovar Albanians who had left Kosovo were expected to (and did) participate in the alternative system of taxation and the mass reconciliation of blood feuds.

The two cases that most closely approach the particular features of Kosovo are to be found in Palestine and among the Croats within the Republika Srpska. In Palestine, where Jewish settlers are directly subject to Israeli rule (or vice-versa?!), there are some elements of what is present unofficially in Kosovo. "Palestine" is recognized by all Palestinians, but its territoriality is not complete, it is punctuated by zones of Israeli rule and will most likely continue to have islands within it where Israel is sovereign even after a "final settlement." Even more similar to Kosovo is the case of those Croats in the Muslim-Croat Federation within the Republika Srpska who participate in the central institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina while (illegally) participating separate institutions on an ethnic basis largely in consort with the Republic of Croatia. Manifestations of this participation range from license plates with the Croatian "sahovnica" seal issued in towns with significant Croat communities to the usage of Croatian passports and currency. Thus, while there is no territorially defined fragment of Bosnia that is officially under "Croatian sovereignty," Croats, wherever they live, associate themselves within Croatian rule-making bodies. In this regard, they are similar to Kosovar Albanians for whom "Kosovo " does not in fact represent a distinct political community linked to the former "Autonomous Province" of Kosovo as much as it represents a separate trans-territorial political community in which Kosovar Albanians everywhere are expected to maintain their ties to.


IV. Towards a Typology of Ethno-Separatist Conflict Resolution

In the above section, we argued that the over-all situation in Kosovo from 1989-1998 -- that is, the non-violent strategy of parallel institution-building by the LDK together with the Serb acceptance of these institutions -- represents both a theoretical anomaly in itself and fits a pattern of similar anomalies among the resolutions of other comprable ethno-separatist conflicts. In this section we will use the comparisons identified above between Kosovo and the other cases as a basis for constructing a typology designed to capture the range of alternatives between cases where ethno-separatist conflicts end in partition or separation to cases where some type of mutually recognized arrangement is crafted within the framework of conventionally accepted forms of statehood. The latter can include unitary states, consociational arrangements, asymmetrical federalism, federalism and even some type of confederation. What we are interested in doing is filling in the gap between ethno-separatist conflicts that result in the preservation of the Westphalian model within a territorial state, and those that result in the creation of two sovereign states (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Typical Frameworks for "Sovereign" States







Post-Soviet nations



United States





Early U.S.






Future E.U.?

India? Canada?




While this continuum already suggests a very diverse and flexible understanding of the possible forms of statehood and the divisibility of sovereignty, it reflects certain constants: the all-party recognition of power-sharing agreements, ultimate legitimate authority, status of sub-state units, borders (both territorial and institutional) and, most importantly, the recognition on the part of all sub-state units or communities of their participation in the state. All of the state formations of a "power-sharing" nature require the participation of all units and communities at the central level, and all require the universal recognition of a final legitimate authority that retains certain fundamental prerogatives such as the monopoly on the means of violence, monetary policy and foreign policy. At the same time, important differences between unitary states and loose federal arrangements suggest that many other competencies are not regarded as sacred manifestations of state sovereignty.


Anomalous "Resolutions" of Ethno-Separatist Conflict

Most ethno-separatist conflicts are thought to follow certain typical pathways, ultimately ending when one of the categories in figure 1 comes to be accepted as an acceptable outcome by the contending parties. When a group first launches an effort at gaining complete territorial autonomy within a region that an state views as a part of its own territorial sovereignty, it is highly improbable that the state will immediately choose to let that group secede to form its own state (the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Macedonia’s secession from Yugoslavia are rare examples). More often, the state will resist separatism, the separatist group will take up arms, and some confrontation will ensure. Sometimes, the separatist group will realize its objectives, and the matter will end with the international community (and sometimes even the truncated state) recognizing the independence of the seceding group (as in the case of the Eritrean war of independence from Ethiopia, and the secession of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia from Yugoslavia). In other scenarios, the state is able to enforce its hegemony and its borders, with many possible results, including domination (Tibet, East Timor, Kosovo), protracted guerrilla resistance (Iraqi Kurdistan, Chiapas, Tamil-inhabited areas of Sri Lanka) or the marginalization of the rebel group(s) and quasi-normalization of society (parts of Turkish Kurdistan). Other outcomes include compromise, power-sharing agreements that fit somewhere along the above continuum (such as in Lebanon), and separatist demands for full independence and sovereignty devolve into conflicts over competencies within an accepted state framework. All of these cases are accommodated within figure 1, that is, within the range of outcomes that do not dramatically violate Westphalia.

Yet, evidence from the past decade has brought even this variegated understanding of sovereign statehood into question. The resolutions of ethno-separatist conflict in recent years have shown that wars and protracted violence can be halted at the expense of even the most sacred of "fundamental state competencies." There are now many more instances of ethno-separatist conflict -- for example, the cases discussed in section III above -- where accommodations are being tacitly or formally reached that fall somewhere into the gap (noted by X in figure 1 above), a gap that explicitly challenges even the most nuanced and flexible understandings of Westphalia (fn. 3). Figure 2 summarizes some of the ethno-separatist conflicts that we deem noteworthy instances of atypical or anomalous (but potentially enduring) "resolutions" of ethno-separatist conflict.

Figure 2: Some Ethno-Separatist Conflicts and their "Resolutions"

Bosnian Serbs vs. Muslim/Croat alliance

Formal treaty and constitution, Republika srpska established

Bosnian Croats vs. Bosnian Muslims

Formal definition of status and accepted informal practices

Turkish Cyprus vs. Greek Cyprus

Extended cease fire without formal definition of status or recognition of Turkish Cyprus

Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh vs. Azerbaijan

Extended cease fire with Armenians in control of Nagorno-Karabakh

Chechnya vs. Russia

Extended cease fire, formal delay of final status talks, Russian withdrawal

"Transdniester Republic" vs. Moldova

Formal "Normalization of Relations" without final status of Dniester region determined

Palestine vs. Israel

Formal agreement signed, implementation and final status pending

Catholics of Northern Ireland vs. Great Britain

Formal agreement signed, ratified and being implemented

Abkhazia vs. Georgia

Informal cessation of hostilities with Abkhazian forces in control

In addition to these cases, there are examples of pre-emptive resolutions of budding conflicts (Tatarstan in the Russian Federation) and long-standing conflicts that have been dormant long enough to look to them as de facto anomalous resolutions (Taiwan and China). It is the cases of the above list, however, that will provide the bulk of the empirical evidence for the remainder of this paper. The main common elements present in the above examples of resolution include:


A Typology of Anomalous Resolutions to Ethno-Separatist Conflict

It is thus clear that, while quite diverse, the above resolutions of ethnic wars or conflicts suggest a pattern of anomaly that promotes stability (defined liberally as the lack of open hostilities and the ability to engage in state-building). While violations of Westphalia may have occurred frequently in the past for the purpose of enhancing international and domestic stability (fn. 3), these cases are both numerous enough and consistent enough to demand a careful analysis with an eye to the extent and manner in which the Westphalian principles of sovereignty, while informing the claims of disputants, can be violated in the crafting of sub-optimal outcomes that are at least preferable to protracted ethno-separatist violence. Figure 3 below (which corresponds to the gap marked by "X" in figure 1 above) places the above cases of resolved ethnic conflicts on a continuum that corresponds to the levels and aspects of sovereignty attained by separatist groups according to the type of separatism (secessionist or irredentist) and the level of escalation:


Figure 3: (a) Recent Ethno-Separatist Conflict and

(b) Level/Aspects of Sovereignty Achieved


a. Cases of separatist groups or territories:


all-out war

organized instability

passive resistance

pure secessionism


Dniestr region



East Timor



Turkish Republic of Cyprus

Republika srpska



Northern Ireland

(Bosnian Croats)

Kosovo (pre-1998)


b. Levels and aspects of sovereignty achieved by group:


all-out war

organized instability

passive resistance

pure secessionism

complete control over all institutions, natural resources, borders, means of violence

almost all internal political institutions, official symbols, recognized separation from center

symbolic claims, certain underground or exile institutions not threatening to hegemon


same as above, plus unhindered ties and interference from "motherland"

local self-rule, plus official institutional ties to "motherland"

same as above, plus underground ties to "motherland"


Figure 3 is designed to serve as a basis for some predictive hypotheses as well as prescriptive formulas. The predictive hypotheses bear on identifying what aspects of sovereignty will be needed to placate a group once it has crossed certain thresholds. As for the prescriptive dimension, where conflicts are not quickly ended or resolved, and where negotiations cannot find breach the gap created by irreconcilable narratives and territorial claims, figure 3 can be brought to bear on discussions regarding how to formulate solutions for conflicts in progress based on their level of escalation. By systematically gauging how far ethno-separatist conflicts have proceeded, agreements can be drawn up that deliberately violate the principles of Westphalian sovereignty -- and ignore the de jure claims of the disputants -- in order to offer international recognition to the de facto autonomy and territorial control achieved by both parties. This may not be an optimal solution, but it may be a preferred sub-optimal outcome for the disputants when contrasted with years or decades of violence or instability.

Thus, for those conflicts that have passed the far left threshold, where a group has virtually achieved its desired separation and merely awaits recognition (i.e., de facto partition) agreements can be made that guarantee the group what it has already achieved (full control over its territory and a militarily defensible posture), while withholding the final carrot that the outer state has to lose: recognition. For those movements that have passed the second threshold, the right not to recognize the outer state has its only legitimate authority could be granted along with political control over its territory could be granted, while withholding the right to form an army. For dominated groups stubbornly resisting a unitary state, the right to a dual authority could be granted, whereby the group is given the right to organize its own society and political life and to not recognize formally the outer state, while withholding full legitimacy over the entire territory and its inhabitants. (Although we acknowledge that this is probably not likely in a situation where the state is bothering to dominate the other group in the first place.)

It should also be noted that the middle column represented by Palestine, Northern Ireland and the Bosnian Croats is intended to reflect the most diversity and variation. Since the category of "organized instability" is a broad one that can mean terrorism campaigns, prolonged unrest, civil-disobedience, etc., the level of pressure put on the state to compromise varies wildly. Furthermore, since this category implies a great level of leeway on the part of the state, it provides an opportunity to examine the creative and fascinating ways conflicting state and national narratives can be reconciled and how the state’s level of attachment to the territory in question, or desire to include the separatist group in its civic or ethnic notion of nationality affects the spirit and details of the resolution. Thus, this category shall be presented not so much as a section of a continuum where certain groups have attained "more" or "less" sovereignty, but where different aspects of sovereignty are compromised based on the particulars of the case in question.

Finally, while disputants will undoubtedly place significant emphasis on evaluating the extent to which their interests are satisfied by the "deal" that they ultimately accept, and by the trade-offs of accepting this deal rather than continuing armed conflict, this should not be interpreted as an endorsement of a rationalist argument about the motivations of the disputants. In fact, claims to sovereignty and independence cannot be seen everywhere as tactics to extract more from the center. While this may be the case in places like Tatarstan and regions in other federal states such as India, the cases considered here are often predicated on a group’s struggle to assert its right not to get anything from the center but to become independent of it even if it is at a high economic and social cost.

Let us now turn to brief overviews of those ethno-separatist conflicts that represent the signature cases informing the typology in figure 3:


i. Chechnya:

This conflict represents a pure secessionist conflict (no other "motherland" with which it seeks to unite) that through all-out war has achieved de facto independence/partition. Although it has not yet signed an official agreement with Russia that would clearly define its status, and a referendum is pending that is designed to offer Chechnya the right to officially secede, it has already successfully forced Russia through armed struggle to disengage. The Russian state has no capacity to enforce Federation-wide laws, collect taxes or station troops, and Chechnya is free to embark on the path of state-building independent of the constraints of the Russian Federation (whether it can do so despite severe internal clan-based divisions, power struggles and economic deprivation is another question entirely). Most importantly, the Chechen government itself considers that the Khasavyurt agreement reached with General Lebed guarantees its independence and it insists that any agreements with Russian take place on the level of two sovereign states. It controls the means of violence on its territory (at least in relation to Russia; the Chechen "state" has yet to assert its absolute authority over its own various clan groups and criminal elements), it controls its own natural resources without hindrance from Russia (again, agreements on Caspian oil flow through Chechnya occur on the level of sovereign states), it does not take part in central Russian institutions, and it has begun the process of establishing foreign relations.

This case study serves as a parallel to the situation in Ukrainian and Russian controlled Transdniestria slice of Moldova and, increasingly, the Abkhazia region of Georgia.


ii. Republika srpska

The Serb entity in Bosnia and Hercegovina considers itself a fully separate entity from the Muslim-Croat federation in Bosnia, as evidenced by its retention of an army, government with separate foreign policy, distinct border and visa regulations and monetary and taxation policy, albeit many of the practices of the Bosnian Serb entity (such as recently refusing to recognize the common currency imposed by the international protectorate) continue in flagrant violation of the Dayton Accords, rather than by sanction of them. While there are common central institutions in which the Serbs participate, they have almost no power of enforcement (less even than a states’ union agreement) and even as such are barely recognized by the Serbs. Furthermore, as the efforts by the Bosnian Serbs during the civil war were largely centered around securing as much of an eventually partitioned Bosnia as possible for unification with Serbia, their present status ensures them unhampered institutional and political ties to Serbia. These ties include open borders, the use by Bosnian Serbs of Yugoslav identity cards and currency and direct interference in the politics of Republika srpska by Yugoslav politicians. This agreement allows (Muslim and Croat) Bosnian authorities to maintain a minimal framework that legitimizes their claims to a united, integral Bosnia and for refugees to return to their homes, and at the same time to withhold from an armed, (demographically) Serb-dominated entity the final step towards secession – recognition.

This case study serves as a parallel to the situation in Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh and Turkish Cyprus.


iii. Palestine

The inclusion of Palestine in the list of "ethno-separatist" conflicts is problematic in itself as the West Bank and Gaza Strip have never been recognized as part of Israel nor been integrated institutionally. Thus, Palestinian efforts are better characterized as "resistance to incorporation" than "separatism." While this distinction is not insignificant, the fact remains that the process involves the creation of a separate state from under foreign rule and is thus comparable to separatist movements. Furthermore, this case represents the greatest divergence of all the cases between the spirit of the agreement signed and the reality of implementation thus far. While the reality is that the situation on the ground still closely resembles domination as Israel closely controls over 60% of the land designated as "occupied" and only cedes competencies and authority to the Palestinian entity under the greatest of pressure, the Oslo accords clearly calls for the creation of some form of separate Palestinian entity, without specifying the formal final international status of it. Under that agreement, the Palestinians would have full political sovereignty over their designated areas and the Palestinian population living therein. They would be granted the trappings of statehood (flag, observer or non-voting membership in certain international organizations, passports, etc.) and would not be subject to Israeli law. However, final authority on matters of security and transportation, as well as political sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank, would be retained by Israel. The Palestinian entity would not have the right to maintain an army and would not have the unlimited right to exploit natural resources, particularly water and the rare fertile area around the Jordan basin. Consistent with model we put forth, the nature of Palestinian sovereignty would be significantly truncated in comparison with that enjoyed by Chechnya, the Republika srpska and other examples of de facto partition (Transdniestria, Turkish Cyprus, Nagorno-Karabakh, etc.). While many of the important questions of final status (as so much of this paper depends on subtle twists regarding status) have yet to be discussed, it is not conceivable how Israel could be compelled to relent on issues such as an army and final say on water resources. Thus, the final result could be a "state" under indefinite "protective control" by Israel.


iv. Northern Ireland

This case differs from all of the others in that the group that seeks to secede and reunite with its motherland is a minority in the territory that it claims. (Catholics in Northern Ireland compose 40% of the population.) For this reason, it will not be possible, as with the other cases, to speak of "full political control" over its territory, etc. The agreement recently reached is primarily based on a form of regional autonomy with consociational elements. However, the most interesting and unique aspect, and the most relevant for this paper, designed as it is to placate Republican demands, is the proposed "North-South Ministerial Council" that gives the Republic of Ireland direct and mandatory say in certain affairs of the North. While these affairs are among the lesser institutions and competencies (tourism, fishing, roads, etc.), the act represents a unique concession on the part of a sovereign state to willingly institutionalize the role of another sovereign state in the affairs of part of its territory. Furthermore, Catholics were given the legitimate option of formally declaring their political and civic identity (as well as their ethno-national identity) to be one other than that of the sovereign state. That is, a Catholic living in Northern Ireland/Britain can chose to identify himself exclusively as Irish and carry Republican passports and documents. Thus, this arrangement corresponds to the model’s description of "internal political institutions, plus official institutional ties to the motherland." This agreement allows Great Britain to codify certain tenable demands that had been placed, without conceding the next level of aspects of sovereignty, namely political control over all of the six counties and the recognized right to a standing army.

This situation finds its closest parallel in the status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Largely in contradiction with the terms of the Dayton Accord, Bosnian Croats maintain separate symbols and institutions right down to separate license plates. Although the territorially defined enclave of Herceg-Bosna has been integrated into Bosnian structures, Croatian towns and city districts (most notably East Mostar) maintain separate police and paramilitary units (the latter illegally) and taxes. Like Northern Ireland or Lebanon, Bosnia’s constitution calls for elements of consociationalism, but in addition to these guarantees Bosnian Croats have official institutional ties to their mother Republic of Croatia, including investment, use of currency, passports, identification cards and 10% of the seats in Croatia’s parliament.


v. Kosovo

Although Kosovo has passed into a virtual state of war, the period of 1989-1998 is very instructive for the institutions described in section II. These efforts essentially amounted to a wide-scale and highly-politicized organization of society, as any efforts to create executive institutions (police, army, etc.) that would challenge the fact as well as the legitimacy of Serb rule in Kosovo have been met with severe force. As a case of domination and voluntary non-engagement with the adversary, the Kosovo case represents by far the best case of how far a repressed group can go to pronounce its claims to sovereignty and legitimate self-rule. The fact of Serbian toleration of these innocuous institutions suggests more than just a cost-benefit analysis of what can be perceived as actual accommodation of Serb rule rather that resistance to it. The refusal of a exclusionist ethnically-based nation-state to insist on the integration of a large segment of its population of another ethnicity into its political and social institutions and rule-making bodies bespeaks the same acknowledgment given by Israel, Bosnia, Britain and Russia sovereignty is divisible in many directions.

While cases of ethnic domination abound, we are not aware of any similar case in which the dominated group has elected to organize its society and political institutions in contradiction with the constitution of the state and not met with opposition. Such a phenomenon is based on the mutual desire to maintain separation (often out of fear of the demographics of the dominated groups, as with Israel and Serbia towards the Palestinians and the Albanians) along with the state’s insistence on its borders. Thus, cases such as Chinese rule in Tibet and Indonesia’s rule in East Timor are not direct parallels, as the governments pursue policies of assimilation and homogenization.


V. Conclusion

This paper offers three related contributions. First, we have attempted to provide a deeper and historically grounded understanding of the present development of the Kosovo crisis. The claims that gave rise to this crisis were present ten years ago, yet it is only now that the violence has erupted. The explanation for this is two-fold. First, for nearly ten years, the LDK did manage to create a set of institutions that, however temporary, gave meaning and institutional representation to the idea of autonomous statehood for Kosovar Albanians. This represented a non-violent strategy of resistance that was tolerated by Serb authorities but also left Kosovar Albanians with considerable de facto autonomy. But, while the LDK ensured that direct Serbian dismantling of Kosovar autonomy would not pave the way for the enterprise of building a unitary Yugoslav state, Rugova’s persistent refusal to engage in any concrete act of engagement vis-à-vis Serbia contributed to a growing sense of anticipation and frustration given the stated aims of the LDK. By pursuing maximalist objectives with bare minimalist means, Rugova guaranteed that the reconciliation of this contradiction – either through a moderation of the goals, or the escalation of the means to realize them – would be perpetually looming over the heads. Given that the LDK refused to moderate its demands, Rugova essentially sewed the seeds for other Kosovar leaders who would seek a more active and direct form of resistance to Serb rule. This accounts for the present violence. Rugova bears no small part of the responsibility for the direction in which events have headed. Thus, by studying the 1989-1998 we can see simultaneously how the demand for independence became the expectation of independence, how the assertion that Kosovo is separate from Serbia became more of a concrete reality, and how the LDK’s inability to bridge the gap between its demands and its effort to realize them paved the way for the UCK’s armed resistance.

Second, this paper has sought to develop a distinctive interpretation of the Serb-Albanian relations in view of Serb responses to the "Republic of Kosova" during 1989-1998. This period illuminates the "win-sets" of both sides and hints at some possible resolutions not only for the Kosovo conflict but for other ethno-separatist conflicts in the post-Cold War era. Despite Serbian insistence that Kosovo is an inseparable part of Serbia and that it alone has sovereignty over the territory, its policy from the 1989-1998 period suggests otherwise. Sovereignty over a territory suggests a relationship not only between a state and the piece of ground in question, but between the state and the people living on the ground. The fact that Serbia did nothing to prohibit the institutions of the "Republic of Kosova" -- institutions that explicitly challenged the authority of the Serbian state and its agents -- and the fact that Serbs did little to change the ethnic composition of Kosovo suggest that Serbia’s understanding of its own sovereignty might not completely exclude significant manifestations of Kosovar autonomy. In fact, the Serb position, juxtaposed with the Albanians disengagement from Serb-dominated political, economic and social life, actually points to a common point of agreement: that there is no place in the Serbian or Yugoslav political system for Kosovar Albanians, and that Albanians can feel free to do what they need to in order to provide for themselves or manage public goods normally administered by a sovereign, autonomous state.

Finally, this last observation points to the broader theoretical significance of our analysis: if the 1989-1998 period can be interpreted the manner that we have suggested above (in sections III and IV), then is it, in fact, possible to conceive of a wider (and more widely accepted) repertoire of diplomatic solutions that can bring an end to ethno-separatist conflicts without actually seeking to implement an agreement within even a loosely defined understanding of Westphalian sovereignty? The comparisons between Kosovo’s experience and the experiences of disputants in other post-communist regions (e.g. Bosnia, Chechnya, Transdniestria) and even in Palestine and Northern Ireland point to an affirmative answer to this question. While the comparisons and the typology presented in sections III and IV above are in the process of being further developed, certainly one tentative general prescription to be inferred from the analysis is to seek out solutions that bring international recognition to the existing institutional situation in a disputed land. Although international treaties and organizations, and indeed the claims of disputants themselves, are consistently couched in terms that take for granted the principles of autonomy and territoriality as part of any enduring solution, what we are suggesting is that de facto accommodations or arrangements, although they do not represent the preferred outcome of either disputant, can be turned into internationally sanctioned manifestations of "shared" or "simultaneous" sovereignty over a given people within a given region.

While Kosovar Albanians and the ethno-separatist movements analyzed in this paper certainly have grievances and frustrations after failing to gain full independence, they have managed to secure their right to be regarded as something other than just another administrative region of the existing autonomous territorial state. While this achievement may pale next to the expectations initially fostered by ethno-separatist leaders (whether employing violence or not), it is a significant enough achievement to provide a normative justification for our effort to seriously consider whether enduring solutions to contemporary ethno-separatist conflicts can or should be crafted in the absence of full-blown sovereignty as approximated by the understandings of territoriality and autonomy associated with the Westphalian model.



[Endnotes did not translate properly in this HTML version, please see PDF version for proper citations.]


1 Stephen D. Krasner, "Compromising Westphalia," International Security 20, 3 (Winter 1995/96): 115. See also Krasner, "Westphalia and All That" in Gene M. Lyons and Michael Mastanduno, Beyond Westphalia: State Sovereignty and International Intervention, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

2 Earlier accounts of Rugova’s strategy of non-violent resistance include Shkelzen Maliqi, "Self-determination through Non-Violence" in Why Bosnia?, ed. Rabia Ali (Stoney Creek, CT: Pamphleteer’s Press, 1993).

3 Krasner primarily focuses on the inherent discrepancy between certain kinds of international conventions or contracts, on the one hand, and the principles of autonomy and territoriality, on the other. These discrepancies, for Krasner, merely reflect the gap between ideal-typical understandings of state sovereignty and the practical choices made by states facing different constraints. See Krasner, "Compromising Westphalia," pp. 124-131. What we are discussing, however, is a more significant departure from Westphalian notions of sovereignty since even the same regions, and even the same populations, are likely to come under the partial jurisdiction of different sovereign states both of which acknowledge two or more competing claims about territoriality and autonomy.

4 There are a number of important major events that historians frequently point to in tracing the roots of the present crisis: the Battle of 1389, the Exodus of 1690, the League of Prizren of 1878, the "Reconquest" of 1912. Attempts to discuss the present conflict in light of these events, while often insightful, invariably end up going down one of two paths: either justifying a belief that all of the history of Kosovo has been a perpetual prologue to the same conflict present today, or sympathizing with one or the two groups’ exclusive claims upon the territory. For the purposes of this paper, we take for granted that both Serbs and Kosovar Albanians attach a great deal of importance to various historical events or episodes as part of their shared historical memory. Thus, our starting point for the analysis of the present crisis is the recognition of the existence of two narratives of two peoples within the Yugoslav federation.

5 See Dr. Gazmend Zajmi, Dimensionet e Ceshtjes se Kosoves ne Ballkan (Qendra per Informim e Kosoves - Pristina, 1994), pp. 10-24.

6 Thus, it is difficult to treat Kosovo as a simple case of minority irredentism (as would be the case with the Hungarian minorities of Slovakia and Romania, or the Albanian minority of Macedonia). Kosovar Albanians actually experienced a period of self-rule within a clearly demarcated territory; they were not merely a scattered, oppressed minority whose only recourse would be to identify with ethnic Albanians in Albania. This fact is crucial to appreciating why Kosovar Albanians have been pressing their demands so vigorously during the 1990s.

7 Poulton, Hugh, The Balkans – Minorities and States in Conflict (London: Minority Rights Publications), 1994, p. 67.

8 The political elites of other Slavic republics were bent on securing as much of their own independence as possible from Belgrade, and they were not about to intervene on behalf of two million Albanians for the sake of a constitution they were themselves seeking to undermine. This left Milosevic unchecked in Kosovo.

Kelmendi, Nekibe, Discriminatory and Unconstitutional Laws and other Judicial Acts on Kosovo Passed by the Assembly of Serbia (Qendra per Informim e Kosoves - Pristina) 1994, p. 14.

Ibid., p. 21.

Fetahu, Adil, Masat e Perkohshme (Bashkimi i Sindikatave te Pavarura te Kosoves - Pristina) 1992, pp. 43-119.

Those that function do so in a separated, apartheid-style format, with limited access to facilities for Albanian students.

Poulton, p. 70.

Vickers, p. 226. Maloku, Enver, ed., Expulsions of Albanians and Colonisation of Kosovo (Qendra per Informim e Kosoves - Pristina) 1997, pp. 102-106.

Trepca is the largest lead and zinc mine in Yugoslavia, located in northern Kosovo near the city of Mitrovica. During World War Two, it was the only piece of Kosovo held by the Nazis when the region was partitioned between Italy and Germany.

Abrashi, Aziz, Epopeja e Minatoreve (Koha - Pristina) 1996, pp. 34-35.

Hoti, Behram, Anton Cetta – Orakulli i pajtimit kombetar (Pristina) 1996.

The 1974 Constitution created Territorial Defense units for the Republics and the Autonomous Provinces. Kosovo, however, was stripped of its Territorial Defense after the events of 1981.

From the "Resolution on the Independence and Sovereignty of Kosovo ." This and the above information taken from the "Political Declaration of the Democratic League of Kosovo " and the "Kacanik Resolution" were printed collectively in The Albanian Democratic Movement in Former Yugoslavia – Documents: 1990-1993 (Qendra per Informim e Kosoves - Pristina) 1993.

From Lidhja Demokratike e Kosoves – Dokumente - ngjarje - shenime (Dukagjin - Peje) 1994, p. 75.

Ibid., pp. 95-100.

Author’s interview with Fatmir Sejdiu, General-Secretary of the LDK, July 2, 1997.

Author’s interview with Ibrahim Rugova, August 1, 1997.

Interview with Edita Tahiri, Foreign Affairs Secretary for the LDK, conducted by Andrew March, July 9, 1997.

In fact, had the international community responded more favorably to these efforts, the UCK (the armed group presently battling Serb forces) would not have been able to claim that it has done more to achieve international recognition for Kosovo in one year on the battlefield than the LDK was able to do in nine years of meetings.

This discussion is based primarily on an interview with Ismajl Kastrati, Chairman of the Central Financial Council of the Republic of Kosova, July 6, 1997.

When Rilindja and other publications were banned, the agricultural journal Bujku (The Farmer) was the only registered periodical left. The Rilindja staff moved to Bujku and has since been publishing under that name.

Much of background discussion on the Kanun and the Albanian tradition of mediation drawn from Blerim Reka, "Elements of Negotiation, Mediation, ‘Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution’ in the "Code of Leke Dukagjin," Kosova Law Review, Vol. 1/2, 1997. See also Vickers, p. 6.

The legal tradition that the code represents is a product both of toleration on the part of occupying regimes and Albanian intransigence. It has been established that the Kanun has its roots in the customary law of the Illyrians, which was tolerated by the Romans so long as it did not "collide with Roman law." The later Byzantine and Ottoman occupations had periods both of toleration and of imposition of their own, foreign legal codes.

The Central Council for Reconciliation of Mitrovica (a town north of Pristina), for example, was one of the most effective. The council was established in 1991 with 14 permanent members, including a teacher, trade union leader, lawyer, farmer and miner, among others. It soon established 80 sub-councils throughout the entire district of Mitrovica. The Central Council claimed to have resolved since 1991 exactly 1766 cases of murder, attempted murder, assault and battery, divorce, theft, debt, etc. As proof of its growing levels of legitimacy and authority during the 1990’s, the number of cases the Council solved rose dramatically from year to year, from 110 cases its first year to 387, 435 and 467 in successive years.

Author’s interview with Dr. Kajtaz Rrecaj, Chairman of the Council for Reconciliation at the Republican Level, July 24, 1997.

Rrecaj claims that of out 23,000 reconciled disputes, none have been broken after the mutual exchange of besa. Whether or not this is, in fact, the case, asserting that it is provides an extremely potent rhetorical tool for mediators as they press feuding parties into making reconciliations permanent.

Observations based on author’s experience traveling with the Republican Council for Reconciliation in the district of Kamenica.

Author’s interview with Zejnullah Rrahmani, Education Advisor to President Rugova, May 30, 1997.

Koliqi, Hajrullah, Mbijetesa e Universitetit te Prishtines 1991-1994 (Verana - Pristina) 1995, p. 54.

Statuti i Universitetit te Prishtines (Pristina) 1995.

Author’s interview with Dr. Ejup Statovci, Rector of the University of Pristina, July 5, 1997.

Author’s interview with Ismajl Kastrati, Chairman of Kosovo ’s Central Financial Council, June 4, 1997.

LDK report to the World Food Summit in Rome, November 13-17, 1996.

The LDK may have contributed to the worsening situation by discouraging Albanians from receiving what state health care was still available for the purposes of political unity.

Soccer leagues, for example, have continued competitive play at five levels in abandoned fields, although they must frequently deal with police interference and, occasionally, brutality. Other sports leagues, such as karate, table tennis and boxing, have functioned in much the same way as the schools – in private homes.

Author’s interviews with Ismajl Kasumi, Chairman of the Sports Federation of Kosovo , July 1, 1997, and with Rame Buja, Member of LDK Presidency and head of the LDK’s Committee for Sports and Physical Education, June 11, 1997, and from internal documents of the Sports Federation from 1997.

Author’s interviews with Edi Shukriu, Chairwoman of the Women’s Forum of the LDK, June 9, 1997, and Zenon Pajaziti, former Chairman of the Youth Forum of the LDK, June 10, 1997.

The Founding Congress of the BSPK was conducted not only in Albanian, but also in Serbian and Turkish. From the beginning it claimed a certain number of Serbs, Montenegrins, Turks and Roma among its members. Most Serbs and Montenegrins have since left. Presently, the BSPK consists of 21 independent unions that themselves are divided regionally based on membership. The largest unions are those of agriculture workers, private economy employees, construction workers, educators, miners, metallurgists and hotel and tourism workers. The BSPK claims 259,862 members, 145,272 of whom have been indefinitely dismissed. These figures are from the Chairman’s Report to the Second Congress of the BSPK, December, 1995 in Pristina.

Author’s interview with Hajrullah Gorani, Chairman of the BSPK, June 19, 1997.

Author’s interview with Edita Tahiri.

Against the Turks: in 1892, when the Ottomans tried to establish the first administrative center in the region since the 1400’s, and 1912 when the uprising that freed Kosovo was lead and manned largely by Albanians from Drenica. Against the Serbs: From 1919-1924, during World War Two, and again in 1991, when over 2,000 unarmed inhabitants of Drenica surrounded Serb police in the village of Prekaz when two families that were being searched for arms resisted with force. Between 1989 and 1990, many villages of Drenica formed village defense units to act in the case of police incursion. There were three isolated episodes in which villages did actively resist police arms searches and attempts to station in villages or small towns. (Author’s interviews with Jashari families of Prekaz village, June, 1997. It was the massacre of these families in Prekaz in March, 1998 that began the wide-scale outbreak of resistance that continues until today.)

See, for example, the discussion of the Israeli control over Palestinian territories and the comparison to the French presence in colonial Algeria in Ian Lustick, Unsettled States, Disputed Lands (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993).

The concept of "alternative rule-making bodies" is from Joel Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988)

This example is, of course, of limited relevance since even Palestine’s present status is constantly in flux.

Elazar, Daniel, Exploring Federalism (University of Alabama Press), 1987, p. 5.

RFE Daily Report, January 14, 1998.

Recently, however, these have been dismantled by High Commissioner, Carlos Westendorp.

The question of whether Kosovar separatism is pure separatism or irredentism is not an easy one to answer. Certainly, many Kosovar parties -- including the UCK and prominent Kosovar academic, politician and now Rambouillet negotiator, Rexhep Qosja -- have called for the unification of all Albanian-inhabited lands. However, the majority sentiments of Kosovar Albanians, as well as the behavior of Albanians suggest that irredentism is not the dominant force. Furthermore, and most importantly, talks to this point and immediate Kosovar demands have not treated the problem as an irredentist dispute.