Following news on his death and reactions, Kosovo dailies also carry a biography on
Ibrahim Rugova. Following there is a summary of the main points taken from
Koha Ditore and Zëri.
He was born on 2 December 1944 in Cërrcë, a village in Istok municipality. When
he was one-year old, on 10 January 1945, Yugoslav communists executed his
father Ukë and his grandfather Rrustë. Finished high school in Peja in 1967 and
later graduated Albanian language studies from Pristina University. In 1976-77
Rugova spent a year at Sorbonne University in Paris, under supervision of Roland
Barthes, furthering his studies on literature and literary criticism. He got his PhD
at Pristina University in 1984. Rugova has written a dozens of books which got
republished in 2005. In 1998 he was awarded Sakharov Peace Prize, and in 2004
he also was awarded a prize by the European Parliament. Rugova was known as a
chain smoker, loved poetry, precious stones and Sharri mountain dogs. He was
never seen in public without his scarf. Because of his non-violent resistance
Rugova was also called “European Ghandi”.
On 23 December 1989 a group of writers and intellectuals decided to establish the
Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) as a party that would articulate the political
concerns of Albanians. They insisted that Rugova was elected president of the
party. Under his leadership Kosovo started a journey unheard of before of parallel
life, completely denying the existence of the Serbian authorities. The Republic of
Kosovo was declared and for over ten years of its existence Kosovo managed
despite difficulties to organize life or ‘the parallel state of Kosovo’, as President
Rugova used to call it at the time. This state however was not recognized
internationally but it was present in the lives of Kosovo Albanians. His nonviolent
politics was not producing the expected outcome and therefore in 1998 the
Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK) appeared marking the end of the peaceful
resistance. Rugova still believed in peaceful solution and was not supporting
radical ways to achieve freedom. In May 1998 the US mediator for Kosovo,
Richard Hollbrooke, managed to organize the first direct meeting between Rugova
and Milosevic in Belgrade, but without any result. During those times the
authority of the KLA was growing while Rugova’s was fading out.
After failing of talks in Rambouillet, and during the NATO bombing of Serbia,
Rugova was kept in home detention at his residence in Pristina and was afterwards
forced to meet against his will the Serbian President of the time, Slobodan
Milosevic, a meeting that affected his image. It was the time when about one
million of Albanians were being deported and Rugova reached an agreement with
Milosevic calling for an ‘end to bombing’. He was let to go to Italy and from there
he came back to Kosovo after the entrance of NATO forces.
To the surprise of many, Rugova’s party won all the elections organized after the
war and kept the post of Kosovo’s president, now internationally recognized.
Rugova testified against Milosevic at the ICTY and clarified the circumstances of
his meeting with him during war time. “Serbia wanted to destroy the people of
Kosovo”, he said.
He also was engaged in shaping a Kosovar identity based on the old tradition and
which is closer to Christian and European tradition. Despite fierce criticism by his
opponents, he also proposed Kosovo’s anthem and flag.
Rugova never stopped mentioning the word ‘independence’ but, his death left
many things unfinished. In his last address to the media, he seemed to have a
premonition, as he said there ‘always remains unfinished work….the main
unfinished work is recognition of Kosovo’s independence’.
He died without seeing his dream come true. He left behind his wife Fana, two
sons Mendim and Ukë and one daughter Teuta.