Albanians in Serbia

Albanians in Serbia (Albanian: Shqiptarët në Serbi; Serbian: Албанци у Србији, romanizedAlbanci u Srbiji) are an officially recognized ethnic minority living in the present-day country of Serbia.

Albanians in Serbia
Shqiptarët në Serbi
Албанци у Србији
Albanci u Srbiji
Total population
5,809 (2011 census)
~60.000-70,000 (est.)
Regions with significant populations
Preševo31,098 (2002 census)
Bujanovac23,681 (2002 census)
Medveđa2,816 (2002 census)
Vojvodina2,251 (2011 census)
Belgrade1,252 (2011 census)
Sunni Islam (majority)
Bektashi (minority)


In the municipalities of Preševo and Bujanovac Albanians form the majority of population (89.1% in Preševo and 54.69% in Bujanovac according to the 2002 census). In the municipality of Medveđa, Albanians are second largest ethnic group (after Serbs), and their participation in this municipality was 32% in 1981 census, 28.67% in 1991 and 26.17% in 2002.[1] The region of Bujanovac and Preševo is widely known as the Preševo Valley (Serbian: Прешевска Долина, Preševska Dolina, Albanian: Lugina e Preshevës).

There is a small community of Albanians in the Pešter region of Sandžak living in villages such as Boroštica, Doliće and Ugao.[2] For the past two generations these villages have become partly bosniakicised, due to intermarriage with the surrounding Bosniak population.[2] As such and also due to the Yugoslav wars and thereafter, they have opted to declare themselves in censuses as "Muslims" and "Bosniaks" instead of as Albanians to avoid problems.[2] Elders in these villages are still fluent in Albanian.[2]

Municipalities with an Albanian majorityEdit

Of the 107 municipalities in the country, 2 have an ethnic Albanian majority.

km² (sq mi)
Population (2002) Mayor
Total %
264 km2 (102 sq mi) 35 34,904 89.1% Shqiprim Arifi (APN)
461 km2 (178 sq mi) 59 43,302 54.69% Shaip Kamberi (PVD)
2 725 km2 (280 sq mi) 94 78,206


Principality of Serbia (1815-1882)Edit

Expulsion of the Albanians 1877–1878Edit

After the Serbian-Turkish War and the territorial expansion of the Principality of Serbia in 1878, massive and violent expulsion of Albanians from the newly occupied regions (mainly from the district of Toplica, formerly partly inhabited by Albanians) and the burning of villages and Albanian quarters. The Principality of Serbia occupied the region of Niš, Leskovac and Prokuplje in which lived a large Albanian population, which was not limited to the Preševo valley, but also further north to Niš resident. Driven by Nationalism, Albanophobia and Islamophobia after the Ottoman occupation, however, the Albanians were displaced from this area to Kosovo or those areas where they still live today.

Hostilities broke out on 15 December 1877, after a Russian request for Serbia to enter the conflict. The Serbian military crossed the border in two directions. The first objective was to capture Niš and the second to break the Niš-Sofia lines of communication for Ottoman forces. After besieging Niš, Serbian forces headed south-west into the Toplica valley to prevent a counterattack by Ottoman forces. Prokuplje was taken on the third day of the war and local Albanians fled their homes toward the Pasjača mountain range, leaving cattle and other property behind. Some Albanians returned and submitted to Serbian authorities, while others fled to Kuršumlija. Advancing Serbian forces heading to Kuršumlija also came across resisting Albanian refugees spread out in the surrounding mountain ranges and refusing to surrender. Many personal belongings such as wagons were strewn and left behind in the woods.Kuršumlija was taken soon after Prokuplje, while Albanian refugees had reached the southern slopes of the Kopaonik mountain range. Ottoman forces attempted to counterattack through the Toplica valley and relieve the siege at Niš, which turned the area into a battlefield and stranded Albanian refugees in nearby mountains. With Niš eventually taken, the refugees of the Toplica valley were unable to return to their villages. Other Serbian forces then headed south into the Morava Valley and toward Leskovac. The majority of urban Albanians fled, taking most of their belongings before the Serbian army arrived. The Serbian army also took Pirot and the Albanians fled to Kosovo, Macedonia and some went toward Thrace.

Balkan Map of 1878, Albanians pictured in green.

Ottoman forces surrendered Niš on 10 January 1878 and most Albanians departed for Pristina, Prizren, Skopje and Thessaloniki. The Albanian neighbourhood in Niš was burned. Serbian forces continued their southwest advance entering the valleys of Kosanica, Pusta Reka and Jablanica. Serbian forces in the Morava Valley continued to head for Vranje, with the intention of then turning west and entering Kosovo proper. The Serbian advance in the southwest was slow, due to the hilly terrain and much resistance by local Albanians who were defending their villages and also sheltering in the nearby Radan and Majdan mountain ranges. Serbian forces took these villages one by one and most remained vacant. Albanian refugees continued to retreat toward Kosovo and their march was halted at the Goljak Mountains when an armistice was declared. The Serbian army operating in the Morava Valley continued south toward two canyons: Grdelica (between Vranje and Leskovac) and Veternica (southwest of Grdelica). After Grdelica was taken, Serbian forces took Vranje. Local Albanians had left with their belongings prior to Serbian forces reaching the town, and other countryside Albanians experienced tensions with Serbian neighbours who fought against and eventually evicted them from the area. Albanian refugees defended the Veternica canyon, before retreating toward the Goljak Mountains. Albanians who lived nearby in the Masurica region did not resist Serbian forces and General Jovan Belimarković refused to carry out orders from Belgrade to deport these Albanians by offering his resignation. Ottoman sources state that Serbian forces during the war destroyed mosques in Vranje, Leskovac and Prokuplje.

Kingdom of Serbia (1882-1918)Edit

During the Balkan wars Kosovo, Sandzak and Macedonia became part of Kingdom of Serbia. In this territories lived a large Albanian population. The forced displacement of Albanians from Kosovo, Metohija, Sandzak and Macedonia started in the First Balkan war in October 1912.

According to Serbian diplomacy documents, 281,747 Albanians were expelled until August 1914, not counting children until the age of six. Albanian families are from newly occupied areas deported through Greece to Turkey. For populations with Albanian Muslims from the Balkan states, the space was called Anadoll, for the Albanians of Halep and Baghdad, in Syria and Iraq. In the properties of expelled Albanians, the Serbian government has placed over 20,000 Serb families, while the Montenegrin government has planned to put 5,000 families in Metohija.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1941)Edit

Albanians refugees on their way to Turkey.

With the return of the Serbian army in 1918, the forcible resettlement of Albanians, without the right to return, continued until the World War II. In the period of the Yugoslav Kingdom, the "flying units" of the army, police and Chetniks tortured and killed the Albanian population. From 1918 to 1938, the Yugoslav army burned and destroyed 320 Albanian villages. Only in the period 1918-1920, 12,346 persons were killed, 22,150 persons were imprisoned, 50,515 homes were stolen and 6,125 houses were burned. According to the data from the Institute of History in Pristina, in the period 1919-1940, 255,878 Albanian Muslims from the Yugoslav Kingdom in Turkey were generally expelled, of which:

Albanians: 215,412 Turks: 27,884 Bosniaks: 2,582

In addition to the migration to Turkey, there has been a greater relocation in Albania. According to some data, only 40,000 persons were displaced from Yugoslav areas in Albania in 1921. Apart from Turkey and Albania, Albanians have also fled to Europe and North America, and thus have created very big Albanian diaspora in those countries.

Yugoslav colonisation of KosovoEdit

The first state contacts between Yugoslav Kingdom and the Turkish Movement of Albanians were developed in 1926, new platforms of the Yugoslav ministry of argoculture were established, the purpose of which being the escapement of Albanians could only be achieved as a long-term process, since even Yugoslav Kingdom did not there are sufficient funds nor international circumstances allow allowing it to be decided for a short term. After the deployment of the dictatorship, the Yugoslav Kingdom intensified the ethnic cleansing of Albanians, where the leading role was the Serbian Cultural Club, supported by the state administration

The Yugoslav Government in 1935 held meetings with five representatives from five ministries and the General Staff drafted the project "On expulsion of the non-Slav element from southern Serbia." Among its conclusions was the urgent flow of a bilateral convention with Turkey and Albania. The agreement provided for the release of all tax and military duties to all those who voluntarily renounced Yugoslavia's statehood and transport free of charge to those who gave their real estate to the state. General Staff Suggestions have been accepted as measures for "successfully and expeditiously expelling the non-Slav populations" in Turkey and Albania. Measures have also meant the expulsion of propaganda against displacement that was led by Tirana, often calling Albanian recruits from the spaces border services in military exercises, ban on admission to the state service "persons who are considering migration", transfer of non-Slav officials to other parts of the country, "nationalization of geographic objects and personal surnames" etc.

Turkey in early 1936 expressed readiness to reach a formal agreement with Yugoslavia for the transfer of 200,000 resemblers to the Turkish mentality, those in Turkey "would be assimilated easily." [8]

Criticizing long-term policy of expulsion of Albanians, Serbian academician and politician Vaso Čubrilović suggested ways to choose the "Albanian problem" with ethnic cleansing of Kosovo by Albanians. Čubrilović in 1937 made the Albanians Expulsion Project for Stojadinović's Government, to be followed by state governments.

"The Araraths is impossible to suppress only with gradual colonization ... The only way and means is the brutal violence of an organized state government ... where we have always been on them." The Belgrade government has organized paramilitary formations of the Chetniks led by Kosta Pećanac, Milic Krstic, Jovan Babunski, Vasilije Trbić and others, who have organized condemned expeditions by committing violence, terror and organized robbery. October 7, 1938: The Army Ministry of the Yugoslav Kingdom has ordered to continue with the deportation action of the Albanians, while Army Command III suggested measures that they should pursue "deliberately, systematically but energetically" and as long as possible short the compact masses of Albanians must be broken. The army in this regard shows an important role that should be guided by the Church's popular advocacy and private initiative.

During the very difficult times for Albanians under Serbian monarchy administration, the Yugoslav Communist Party has acted in Kosovo, thanking for the autonomy and the peoples' fraternal equality, it was against the expulsion of Albanians in Turkey, the confiscation of their property and the terror against them.

The Yugoslav-Turkish conventionEdit

State expulsion activities culminated with the signing of the Yugoslav-Turkish convention. From 9 to 11 July 1938 in Istanbul held a series of meetings in the preparation of the Yugoslav-Turkish agreement on expulsion of Albanians.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia (1990–)Edit

In 1992, the Albanian representatives in the municipalities Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac organized a referendum in which they voted for the joining of these municipalities to the self-declared assembly of the Republic of Kosova.[3] However, no major events happened until the end of the 1990s.

Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, and nearby Kosovo War which lasted until 1999, between 1999 and 2001, an ethnic Albanian paramilitary separatist organization, the UÇPMB, raised an armed insurgency in the Preševo Valley, in the region mostly inhabited by Albanians, with a goal to occupy these three municipalities from Serbia and join them to (future independent) Kosovo.

The Serbian media during Milošević's era was known to espouse Serb nationalism while promoting xenophobia toward the other ethnicities in Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanians were commonly characterized in the media as anti-Yugoslav counter-revolutionaries, rapists, and a threat to the Serb nation.[4] During the Kosovo War, Serbian forces continually discriminating Kosovo Albanians:

Throughout Kosovo, the forces of the FRY and Serbia have harassed, humiliated, and degraded Kosovo Albanian civilians through physical and verbal abuse. Policemen, soldiers, and military officers have persistently subjected Kosovo Albanians to insults, racial slurs, degrading acts, beatings, and other forms of physical mistreatment based on their racial, religious, and political identification.[5]

— War Crimes Indictment against Milosevic and others

A survey in Serbia showed that 40% of the Serbian population would not like Albanians to live in Serbia while 70% would not enter into a marriage with an Albanian individual the same exists in Albania towards Serbs.[6] In recent times, prominent politician Vuk Jeremić in his comments on Twitter about the rights and wrongs of the Kosovo dispute compared Albanians to the “evil Orcs” of the movie The Hobbit.[7]

Unlike in the case of Kosovo, western countries condemned the attacks and described it as the "extremism" and use of "illegal terrorist actions" by the group.[8] Following the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević, the new Serbian government suppressed the violence by 2001 and defeated the separatists. NATO troops also helped the Serbian government by ensuring that the rebels do not import the conflicts back into Kosovo, and even supported Serbia's military suppression of Albanians in their country, as an act to restore the relations with Serbia after 1999 bombing. This has left a dark chapter on Albania's relations with NATO, although Albania later joined the organization.

Since then, the Albanian Coalition from Preševo Valley has gained representation in the National Assembly of Serbia where it holds two seats. In 2009, Serbia opened a military base Cepotina 5 kilometers south of Bujanovac, to further stabilize the area.[9]

On 7 March 2017, the President of Albania Bujar Nishani made a historical visit to the municipalities of Preševo and Bujanovac, in which Albanians form the ethnic majority.[10] On 26 November 2017, the President of Albania Ilir Meta made a historical visit to Medveđa, municipality with Albanian ethnic minority.[11] On 26 November 2019, an earthquake struck Albania. Albanians of the Preševo valley donated aid and sent it through several convoys to earthquake victims.[12]


Education in Albanian is provided for primary and secondary schools. There may be some university-level courses provided in Albanian, in the capital of Serbia, Belgrade, but students mainly do their university degree in the University of Prishtina in the Republic of Kosovo, in Macedonia, or in Albanian Universities.


The main religion of Albanians in this region is Islam. Prior to the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans, the population of the Preševo Valley was mostly Roman Catholic. There are still Catholic churches in the Karadak villages, located in Kosovo today.

According to the 2011 census, 71.1% of all Albanians are Muslim, followed by Catholics (16.8%) and Orthodox Christians (2.6%). The remainder did not declare their religion or belong to smaller religious groups (9.5%).[13]


Historical population
since 1991, the census was not conducted on the territory of Kosovo[a]
Source: [14]

The first census in the independent Kingdom of Serbia was held in 1884. It counted 1,901,336 people (not including Voivodina, the Kosovo and Sandzak area) in which only 1,862 Albanians were recorded (around 0.1% of total population). In fact, Serbia would have more than 2 million people, but more than 100,000 to 150,000 Albanians of south Serbia were expelled to the rest of Kosovo and other parts of the Ottoman Empire, and only around 2000 remained around Medveđa by 1884. An estimate of 50,000[15]–70,000[citation needed] Albanians live in Serbia, a majority of whom live in the municipalities of Preševo (Albanian: Preshevë), Bujanovac (Albanian: Bujanoc), and part of the municipality of Medveđa (Albanian: Medvegjë). According to the results of the 2002 census, there were 61,467 ethnic Albanian citizens. Most Albanians boycotted the 2011 census, which resulted in only 5,809 Albanians being recorded as living in Serbia.[16]

Also, Belgrade has a minor Albanian community. In the census of 1981, 8,212 Albanians were registered. In 1991 there lived only 4,985 Albanians in Belgrade. After the Kosovo War, this number decreased to 1,492, and according to the latest census (2011), the number is 1,252.

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008. Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo is currently (this note self-updates) recognized as an independent state by 98 out of the 193 United Nations member states. In total, 113 UN member states recognized Kosovo at some point, of which 15 later withdrew their recognition.
b.  ^ During the 2011 census, in the municipalities of Bujanovac and Preševo there was undercoverage of the census units owing to the boycott by most of the members of the Albanian ethnic community.
  1. ^ Popis stanovništva, domaćinstava i Stanova 2002. Knjiga 1: Nacionalna ili etnička pripadnost po naseljima (in Serbian). Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia. 2003. ISBN 86-84433-00-9.
  2. ^ a b c d Andrea Pieroni, Maria Elena Giusti, & Cassandra L. Quave (2011). "Cross-cultural ethnobiology in the Western Balkans: medical ethnobotany and ethnozoology among Albanians and Serbs in the Pešter Plateau, Sandžak, South-Western Serbia." Human Ecology. 39.(3): 335. "The current population of the Albanian villages is partly “bosniakicised”, since in the last two generations a number of Albanian males began to intermarry with (Muslim) Bosniak women of Pešter. This is one of the reasons why locals in Ugao were declared to be “Bosniaks” in the last census of 2002, or, in Boroštica, to be simply “Muslims”, and in both cases abandoning the previous ethnic label of “Albanians”, which these villages used in the census conducted during “Yugoslavian” times. A number of our informants confirmed that the self-attribution “Albanian” was purposely abandoned in order to avoid problems following the Yugoslav Wars and associated violent incursions of Serbian para-military forces in the area. The oldest generation of the villagers however are still fluent in a dialect of Ghegh Albanian, which appears to have been neglected by European linguists thus far. Additionally, the presence of an Albanian minority in this area has never been brought to the attention of international stakeholders by either the former Yugoslav or the current Serbian authorities."
  3. ^ organized a referendum in which they voted that Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac should join Kosovo
  4. ^ International Centre Against Censorship. "Forging War: The Media in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina". International Centre Against Censorship, Article 19. Avon, United Kingdom: Bath Press, May 1994. P55
  5. ^ American Public Media. "Justice for Kosovo". Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  6. ^ "Raste etnička distanca među građanima Srbije". Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  7. ^ Barlovac, Bojana (19 December 2012). "Jeremic Likens Kosovars to 'Hobbit's' Evil Orcs". Balkan Insight. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  8. ^ European Centre for Minority Issues Staf (1 January 2003). European Yearbook of Minority Issues: 2001/2. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 652–. ISBN 90-411-1956-6.
  9. ^ "Otvorena baza na jugu Srbije". (in Serbian). Beta. 23 November 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Musliu: Albanski predsednik Bujar Nišani posetiće 7. marta Bujanovac i Preševo". (in Serbian). Beta. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  11. ^ Mitić, I. (26 November 2017). "Ilir Meta u Medveđi: Posetom šalje poruku o saradnji". (in Serbian). Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  12. ^ "Lugina e Preshevës në këmbë për Shqipërinë, gati maunia e dytë me ndihma" (in Albanian). Vizion Plus. 27 November 2019. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  13. ^ Population by national affiliation and religion, Census 2011
  14. ^ "2011 Census of Population, Households and Dwellings in the Republic of Serbia" (PDF). Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  15. ^ "South Serbia Albanians Seek Community of Municipalities". Retrieved 17 July 2013. South Serbia is home to 50,000 or so Albanians.
  16. ^ "2011 Census of Population, Households and Dwellings in the Republic of Serbia: Ethnicity" (PDF). Belgrade: Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia. 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2015.

External linksEdit