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Kosovo is a beautiful land with fascinating people. Sharing the same language and ethnicity, Kosovo’s closest ally in the Balkans is Albania.

Even though it is relatively small and land-locked, Kosovo has played an important role in the region throughout its history. During the middle ages, it was the capital of the Serbian empire and was home to the most important Serbian Orthodox churches from that era in the Balkans.

In 1912, Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman empire (Turkey). The international community divided the Balkans along geographic and not ethnic lines, so large pockets of ethnic Albanians were left out of Albania and became minority populations in the surrounding countries. The region of Kosovo in Serbia contained the largest group of Albanians not in Albania.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 1998, but Serbia refused to recognize it, due partly to Kosovo’s historical significance to the Serbian Orthodox church. Instead, Serbia attempted to force the Albanian majority out of Kosovo and framed it as a war of Christianity vs. Islam. In 1999, more than one million Kosovars fled the Kosovo as refugees into Albania.

Following years of conflict, the refugees were able to return home. After that point, 112 countries recognized Kosovo as an independent nation. Serbia, Russia, and several other nations still do not recognize the sovereignty of Kosovo more than twenty years later.

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