Nov 2nd 2006 BRODFrom The Economist print edition
Kosovo is lived in by others besides dominant Albanians and minority Serbs
HAMDIJE SEAPI, a local Gorani official, excuses himself to go to the funeral of a woman from a neighbouring village. He did not really know her, but since her village was all but abandoned in 1999, somebody has to. In his village, Mlike, there were 1,380 people before the Kosovo war, but now there are barely 400, 70% of them over 65. “Before, we were somehow like shock absorbers between Serbs and Albanians, but now we have our backs to the walls.”
The Gorani are among the smallest of Kosovo's minorities. Before the war, say officials, anywhere up to 18,000 of them lived in Gora, a rural sliver of land squeezed between Macedonia and Albania. Now a mere 8,000 remain. They are Muslims, living in villages in the remote south and speaking a language close to Serbian and Macedonian. At school they have always been taught in Serbian. Many of them were loyal Serbian citizens, serving in the police and as officials until the end of the war in 1999.
This has incurred much enmity from Kosovo's Albanians. Since 1999 Serbia has continued to pay Gorani teachers like Serbian ones, and they have continued to use the Serbian curriculum. Now the Kosovo authorities want to force them to change. If they did, Gorani children could not go to Serbian secondary schools. Serbia pays its teachers in Kosovo at least twice what the Kosovo authorities do. As a result of this dispute, several hundred Gorani children are now locked out of their schools.
In the village of Brod, locals still burn manure for fuel. Hakija Cuculj, a member of the local council, says that since the UN took over in Kosovo it has redrawn local boundaries so that Gorani are now outvoted on everything by Albanians. Immediately after the war many Gorani left for Serbia; now they go farther afield. Mr Cuculj's son works in Italy and sends home money. “People are just living in uncertainty,” he says. “They just want to survive.”
There are no reliable figures for anything in Kosovo. But a rule of thumb is that some 90% of the province's 2m people are Albanians. At least half of the remaining 200,000 are Serbs. The biggest minority after that are local Slav Muslims, many of whom, since 1999, have chosen to identify themselves as Bosniaks (ie, Bosnian Muslims). Then come Roma, some of whom are called Ashkali and some Egyptians; Turks; Gorani; and, finally, a tiny number of Croats. Since the early 1990s most Croats have left, many to settle in places in Croatia from which Serbs have fled. The Gorani are now the smallest of the small.