The Associated Press
October 23, 1981, Friday,
Minorities Leaving Yugoslav Province Dominated by Albanians
By KENNETH JAUTZ,
Associated Press Writer
Hundreds of Serbs and Montenegrins are leaving Kosovo Province in the aftermath of rioting that erupted last spring over demands of the ethnic Albanian majority for greater autonomy.
Nine people were killed and 260 others injured in the disorders, during which extremists proposed making Kosovo part of neighboring Albania, Eastern Europe's most-orthodox Communist nation.
Local officials say security has been restored to the province, but the minorities leaving are said to fear for their future in the area.
"We have the situation under full control, but this does not mean hostile activity has totally ceased," Azem Vlasi, president of the Kosovo Socialist Alliance, told visiting journalists recently.
Reports on the number of those leaving Kosovo vary widely. But the newspaper Politika of Belgrade, the national capital, estimated that as many as 4,000 people have left or are planning to leave the province, which has a population of about 1.5 million, 77 percent of whom are ethnic Albanians.
Officials here downplay the reports of departures, saying citizens have a right to move about the country as they please.
Nevertheless, a municipal commission, set up in this provincial capital after the rioting to help those moving obtain job transfers and new housing elsewhere, recently has been turning down requests for such assistance.
Enver Redzepi, deputy president of the provincial legislative assembly, said 882 Serbs and Montenegrins have formally applied to move from the area since the riots.
"There may have been some other cases of people leaving our area, perhaps nearly a thousand," he said. Most of those asking to leave say new jobs, better living conditions and family considerations prompted their move, but Redzepi said 147 requests had been turned down.
"We will not assist in departures that are not justified," he said without elaboration.
Politika indicated that many do not give "true reasons," fearing they will not receive official help with their move. The departures from the province could prove significant for Yugoslavia, since the nation is made up of areas inhabited by various ethnic groups with long histories of rivalry.
In Kosovo, relations have long been poor between the province's Albanian majority and the Montenegrins and Serbs, who used to hold the most important political and economic jobs.
The province is in the southern part of the Republic of Serbia, one of Yugoslavia's six constituent republics. In view of Kosovo's large non-Serbian population, however, the province enjoys a greater degree of autonomy than provinces in other constituent republics.
"It's a real worry for them," one Western diplomat said of the departing Serbs. "It's a part of Serbia, but over the years there's fewer and fewer Serbs."
Serbs have been gradually leaving the province for years. This trend, coupled with an ethnic Albanian birthrate three times the national average, could raise the likelihood of increased Albanian nationalism in the area.
Diplomatic analysts say the Pristina commission, although advertised as a government body to assist in moving, is a way of hindering people from leaving.
"The net effect is that it shows they want to keep Serbs there," one diplomat said in Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital. Authorities here emphasize the trouble-free reopening of Pristina University, where student unrest first sparked the demonstrations, but say there have been isolated cases of "nationalist-oriented grafitti."
"Nationalism is a state of mind, an ideology," said Vlasi. "One does not fight it quickly, with hostile measures, but over time and with education."