Fast Facts

10,887 square kilometers (4,203 square miles)
Albanian, Serbian, regional languages
Muslim, Orthodox Christian
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $1,409
Literacy Percent:
Males: 98; Females: 90
Flag: Kosovo
Map: Kosovo

Kosovo became a nation when its parliament declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. The United States and many European countries have recognized Kosovo's independence, while Serbia and some of its allies, most notably Russia, have denounced the declaration as illegal.

Kosovo, which was part of the former Yugoslavia, had been run by the United Nations and NATO since 1999, when Serbian forces were ousted after a U.S.-led NATO air war was launched to end Serbia's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists. About 10,000 people were killed and nearly one million others were driven from their homes during the conflict.

Located in southeastern Europe, Kosovo is landlocked and roughly the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut. Its name refers to a place outside the capital, Prishtina, and loosely translated it means "field of blackbirds." Much of Kosovo's terrain is mountainous, with the highest peak, Gjeravica, rising 8,714 feet (2,656 meters) above sea level. Kosovo has two main plains and several notable rivers and lakes. The climate is continental with warm summers and cold and snowy winters.

About 90 percent of Kosovo's two million people are ethnic Albanians, most of whom are Muslim. The remaining 10 percent are mainly Orthodox Christian Serbs living in northern Kosovo, near the border with Serbia.

Kosovo was the site of a famous battle between Serbs and Turks in 1389 and is often described as the birthplace of Serb identity. Ethnic Albanians say they are the descendants of the ancient Illyrians, Kosovo's first inhabitants. When Kosovo's parliament first declared its independence, in 1990, Albania was the only country to recognize it.

In the 1990s poor economic policies, international sanctions, limited access to trade and finance, and ethnic conflict severely damaged Kosovo's economy, and it now has one of the poorest economies in Europe.

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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