Opolje (Albanian: Opoja/Opojë, Serbian: Опоље) is a region in the southern part of the municipality of Prizren in southern Kosovo[a]. The region has 19 villages inhabited by Albanians.[1]

The region and its settlements.
The region and its settlements.
DistrictDistrict of Prizren
 • Total108 km2 (42 sq mi)
 • Total18,036
 • Density170/km2 (430/sq mi)


The region of Opoja includes 19 settlements:

  • Belobrod
  • Bljač
  • Brezna
  • Brodosana
  • Brrut
  • Buča
  • Buzec
  • Kapra
  • Kosovce
  • Kuklibeg
  • Kukovce
  • Plajnik
  • Plava
  • Rence
  • Šajinovac
  • Zapluxhë
  • Zgatar
  • Zjum Opoljski
  • Zrze


The name Opolje is of Slavic, Serbian origin.[2] According to Milisav Lutovac, the name "had to do with the inhabited localities dotted around a field".[2] The name also appears in Lower Silesia, in Poland - Opole,[2] and in Russia - Opolye.


Gora, in a collective term, refers to both the Gorani-inhabited Gora (which greater part is in Kosovo, the rest in Albania and Macedonia), and its sub-region Opolje, which is inhabited by Albanians.[3] According to the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (1955), Opolje had an area of ca. 108 km2, while Gora had an area of ca. 500 km2.[3] Sheltered by high mountain ranges of strong and cold winds, Gora and Opolje does not have harsh winters.[4] There is no natural border between Gora and Opolje, while the northern part of the town of Dragaš has been considered part of Opolje as well.

Opolje is one of the traditional župa (county) in the Šar Mountains massif in southern Kosovo, alongside Sredačka Župa, Sirinićka Župa, Gora and Prizrenski Podgor.[5] In the west of Opolje is the region of Lumë, which extends in both Kosovo and Albania.[6]


Middle AgesEdit

The Serbian rulers King Stephen Uroš III (in 1326) and Emperor Stephen Dušan (in 1348, 1355) mentioned many of the Opolje and Gora villages in their charters, which shows that they existed before those dates.[2] Opolje was a church estate of the Church of the Holy Theotokos in Prizren throughout the Middle Ages.[7]

The surrounding region possesses a good amount of Aromanian toponyms which Dumbrowski argues show the linguistic situation before Slavification.[8]

In one of Nemanja’s charters giving property to Hilandar, 170 Vlachs are mentioned, located in villages around Prizren. When Dečanski founded his monastery of Dečani in 1330, he referred to ‘villages and katuns of Vlachs and Albanians’ in the area of the white Drin.[9] King Stefan Dečanski granted the Visoki Dečani monastery with pasture land along with Vlach and Albanian katuns around Drim and Lim rivers of whom had to carry salt and provide serf labour for the monastery[10]

Ottoman eraEdit

In 1455, the southern territories of the Serbian Despotate were annexed by the Ottomans, and organized into the beylerbeylik of Rumelia. Gora, in its broadest meaning, became a nahiyah of the Sanjak of Prizren.[11] The Ottoman conquest resulted in the old trade routes that linked the Adriatic to the Aegean and Black sea lost their importance because of the insecurity on the roads, and the towns and villages along the roads stopped growing.[11] There are no sources which name Opolje a nahiya in the 15th century.[12] Ottoman cadastral records indicate that the Opoja region was inhabited by a dominant Albanian majority of mixed Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic faith during the 15th-16th centuries due to the anthroponomy present; additionally, most of the region was islamised by 1571. In the second half of the 15th century, the Ottoman defters of 1571 and 1591 indicated that Opoja had become a territorial administrative division with a dominant Timar system. 18 timars were recorded in the 23 villages of Opoja in 1571, and 13 timars in 1591. At the end of the 16th century, in the Nahiya of Opoja, of the 27 newly-Islamised households spread across 9 villages, 24 had Albanian last names and only 3 had Slavic last names. Of the 37 Christian households spread across 8 villages, 36 had Albanian or Albanian-Slav anthroponomy whereas only 1 had Slavic anthroponomy. Of the 23 field owners of the Nahiya, 18 had Albanian names and 5 had Slavic names.[13]

In 1955, Lutovac argued that in the 16th century, the Slavic population of Opolje partially adopted Islam and partially emigrated elsewhere, and the vacancies created by emigration were filled by Albanian incomers.[14] Dumbrowski in 2012 argued that the situation described by Lutovac led to language shift from Slavic to Albanian in Opolje and the surrounding region (but not Gora), and that this is the reason for what Dumbrowski argues is evidence of Slavic substrate effects in the Opoja Albanian dialect.[8] Pulaha in 1984 noted that most Christians in Opolje in 1591 had Albanian names, which Dumbrowski interprets to indicate that at the time Opolje was switching from Slavic to Albanian, what Dumbrowski argues were the Albanian incomers had not yet been fully Islamized.[8]

The Ottoman officials noted which heads of families were new arrivals in their places of residence; in the Sanjak of Prizren in 1591 only five new arrivals out of forty-one bore Albanian names.[15] In the nahiye of Pec in 1485, majority of new arrivals had Slavic names. In several Kosovo towns in the 1580's and 1590's; twenty five new Albanian immigrants were recorded and 133 immigrants with Slav names, several of them described coming from Bosnia.[16]Noel Malcolm argues this counts strongly against a mass immigration from northern Albania.[17] Kosovo's population was bigger during this period than that of central and northern Albania and its rate of growth was lower[18]

A prominent family of Opoja in the 16th century emerged in the new social environment. The Kuka, descendants of Iljaz Kuka built many public buildings, trade routes, shops and left a large endowment (waqf) to the city of Prizren. The mosque of Iljaz Kuka, rebuilt by his grandson Mehmed Bey Kuka (known as Kukli Bey) is one of the oldest mosques of Prizren. [19]


Opolje and other rural areas of the upper Drin valleys were economically tied to Prizren.[20]

From 1945 to [sometime after 1981] Opolje was part of the municipality of Gora, but was then given status of a municipality (due to its Albanian population, as opposed to Gora, which was inhabited by Gorani people). It was abolished on November 3, 1992, under the law of the federal Federal Yugoslav Republic of Serbia, and instead joined into the municipality of Prizren.[1] The Gora municipality and Opoja region remained separated during the Milošević period.[21]

During the Kosovo war (1999), Albanians from Opoja fled to neighbouring Albania in cars, trucks and tractors along with others on foot that following the conflict returned home.[22] After the war, Opoja was merged with Gora to form the municipality of Dragaš by the United Nations Mission (UNMIK) and the new administrative unit has an Albanian majority.[21][22] Located in Gora, the town of Dragash is the regional and municipal centre for both the Opoja and Gora regions of Dragash municipality.[21]


The population of Opolje, in 19 localities, is totally homogeneously Albanian. According to the 1981 census, Albanians constituted 99.9% of the Opolje population (18,003 of 18,036). The ethnic homogeneity of Opolje dates from long before, as evident from the 1948, 1953 and 1961 censuses, when 99.8% declared as Albanians. Opolje had an annual population growth in 1961-1971 of 33 per 1,000, and in 1971-1981, 29.8 per 1,000, which represents an enormous relative overpopulation (Albanian population boom); according to estimates for 1991, there were 173 people per 1 square kilometre, and in some villages, up to 250 per 1 square kilometre, all in conditions of scarce natural and economic resources.[23] The majority professes Islam.

Preliminary 1981 census, Opolje settlements[24]
Ethnic groups
Belobrod 808 A, 808 (100%)
Bljač 1122 A, 1122 (100%)
Brezna 1971 A, 1964 (%); S, 1 (%); M, 6 (%)
Brodosavce 2499 A, 2499 (100%)
Brut 1095 A, 1094 (99.9%); O, 1 (0.1%)
Buča 770 A, 767 (); S, 1 (); M, 1 (); O, 1 ()
Buzec 240 A, 240 (100%)
Kapra 482 A, 482 (100%)
Kosovce 912 A, 912 (100%)
Kuklibeg 658 A, 655; M, 2; O, 1
Kukovce 1334 A, 1334 (100%)
Plajnik 528 A, 528 (100%)
Plava 973 A, 970; M, 3
Rence 473 A, 473 (100%)
Šajinovac 1254 A, 1252; M, 2
Zaplužje 1273 A, 1270; M, 3
Zgatar 822 A, 821; M, 1
Zjum Opoljski 457 A, 455; M, 2
Zrze 335 A, 333; M, 2
Total ? (%), ? (%) ? (%), ? (%)
A - Albanians, M - Muslims, S - Serbs, O - Others



a.   ^ The political status of Kosovo is disputed. Having unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo is formally recognised as an independent state by 97 UN member states, while Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory.


  1. ^ a b Weller, Marc (1999). The crisis in Kosovo 1989-1999. Documents and Analysis Publishing. p. 117. ISBN 9781903033005. "Consequently, the region extending north of Dragas city to Prizren, known as Opoje, which comprises 24,000 Albanians in 19 villages are grafted on to the Municipality of Prizren"
  2. ^ a b c d Radovanovic, p. 8
  3. ^ a b Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti 1955, p. 234
  4. ^ Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti 1955, p. 236: "заклоњена високим планинским венцима од јаких и хладних ветрова, ни Гора ни Опоље немају оштру зиму."
  5. ^ Dedijer 1913, p. 230
  6. ^ Fejzulla Gjabri (Department of Culture of Albania), Information about the Heroic Epos in the Province of Luma
  7. ^ Mikic 1988, p. 15: "силни Кукли-бег заузео је Опоље, оредњовековни црквени посед Богородичине цркве у Призрену, где је имао свој дворац. После ње- гове омрти сељаци су постали власници земље и корисници планине у границама села."
  8. ^ a b c Dumbrowski 2012. Phoneme /o/ in Opoja Albanian: Albanian-Slavic Contact and the Slavic Jers. Journal of Language Contact vol 5 issue 2.
  9. ^ Malcolm, Noel (1998). Kosovo: A short history. Macmillan. p. 54. ISBN 9780810874831. "From the details of the monastic estates given in the chrysobulls, further information can be gleaned about these Vlachs and Albanians. The earliest reference is in one of Nemanja’s charters giving property to Hilandar, the Serbian monastery on Mount Athos: 170 Vlachs are mentioned, probably located in villages round Prizren. When Dečanski founded his monastery of Dečani in 1330, he referred to ‘villages and katuns of Vlachs and Albanians’ in the area of the white Drin: a katun (alb.:katund) was a shepherding settlement."
  10. ^ Wilkinson, Henry Robert (1955). "Jugoslav Kosmet: The evolution of a frontier province and its landscape". Transactions and Papers (Institute of British Geographers). 21 (21): 183. JSTOR 621279. "The monastery at Dečani stands on a terrace commanding passes into High Albania. When Stefan Uros III founded it in 1330, he gave it many villages in the plain and catuns of Vlachs and Albanians between the Lim and the Beli Drim. Vlachs and Albanians had to carry salt for the monastery and provide it with serf labour."
  11. ^ a b Бурсаћ 2000, pp. 71-73 (Орхан Драгаш)
  12. ^ MSC 1988: "Није, међутим, сачуван из XV века (или није засад познат) попис нахија Призрен, Хоча и Опоље, али за њих имамо пописе из друге половине XVI века, тако да из XV и XVI века имамо пописе свих метохијских насељених места."
  13. ^ Pulaha, Selami (1984). Popullsia Shqiptare e Kosoves Gjate Shekujve XV XVI. Tirana: 8 Nëntori. pp. 105, 107, 109.
  14. ^ Lutovac, Milislav. 1955. "Gora i Opolje: Antropogeografska proučavanja". Srpski etnografski zbornik 35: 229–340. Pages 278-280. Cited in Dumbrowski.
  15. ^ Kosovo: A Short History - Ottoman Kosovo, Medieval Kosovo. Serbian historians explain the growth of an Albanian population in Kosovo during the early Ottoman period in terms of physical immigration: it is suggested that Albanians from the Malesi were encouraged by the Ottomans to settle in Kosovo, that many of these turned to Islam to gain the advantages of superior status, and that those Slavs who became Muslims were not merely Islamicized but, sooner or later, Albanianized as well. The Ottoman officials usually noted which heads of family were new arrivals in their places of residence; out of 121 new arrivals in the nahiye of Pec in 1485, the majority had Slav names. In the sancak of Prizren in 1591, only five new arrivals out of forty-one bore Albanian names; and in a group of Kosovo towns in the 1580's and 1590's there were twenty five new Albanian immigrants and 133 with Slav names - several of them described as coming from Bosnia. This evidence counts strongly against the idea of mass immigration from northern Albania. Other more general arguments against that idea are based on relative population sizes and rates of growth. The population of Kosovo during this period was much bigger than that of northern and central Albania, and its rate of growth was actually lower. This is not what one would expect if a large overflow from the Albanian Malesi were flooding into Kosovo.
  16. ^ Kosovo: A Short History
  17. ^ Kosovo: A Short History
  18. ^ Kosovo: A Short History
  19. ^ Katic 2019, pp. 116–117.
  20. ^ Dedijer 1913, p. 253: "Испод варошн су плодна Подрима и Подгор, затим ђаковички Хас, који је такође знатним делом упућен на призренску пијацу; економски су за Призрен привезане и шар^ ске жупе Средска, Опоље и Љума."
  21. ^ a b c Schmidinger, Thomas (2013). Gora: Slawischsprachige Muslime zwischen Kosovo, Albanien, Mazedonien und Diaspora. Wiener Verlag. p. 65. ISBN 9783944690049.
  22. ^ a b Krasniqi, Elife (2016). "Social Change in Relation to Patriarchy after 1999 war in Opoja, Kosovo". In Roth, Klaus; Kartari, Asker (eds.). Culture of Crisis in Southeast Europe, Part I: Crises Related to Migration, Transformation, Politics, Religion, and Labour. LIT Verlag. p. 191. ISBN 9783643907639.
  23. ^ Radovanovic, p. 13
  24. ^ 1981 Census, Kosovo (Preliminary)


External linksEdit

Further readingEdit

Coordinates: 42°03′38″N 20°38′25″E / 42.06056°N 20.64028°E / 42.06056; 20.64028