Albanians are the dominant people group in today’s Kosovo with Serbs as the largest minority. The population is one of the youngest in Europe, about half of the population is under 25.
In 2011, the first census was held since 1993. The number of residents was then stated at just over 1.7 million, which was about 20 percent lower than previously estimated. Since northern Kosovo, where many Serbs live, did not participate in the census, the size relationship between different ethnic groups is not entirely clear. Around nine out of ten residents are estimated to be Albanians and just over half of the rest are Serbs.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Kosovo, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
Other minority groups are Bosniaks and Gorani (both Slavic-speaking Muslims), Turks as well as Ashkali, Egyptians and Romans. The three latter have previously been collectively seen as Roma, but are both seen and self-identified as three distinct groups. Ashkali and Egyptians speak mainly Albanian and are often Muslim, while the Romans speak mainly Romani or Serbian and are usually Christian.
The Serbs immigrated in the 600s from what is now Ukraine, to the area they claim was then uninhabited. The Albanians, on the other hand, believe that Kosovo was populated by descendants of their ancestors, the Illyrians.
In the early 1960s, the Serbs made up almost a quarter of the population, but emigration, war and conflicts, together with high birth rates among the Albanians, have reduced the Serbs’ share. Many Kosovo Serbs are divided into the new state, which was formerly a province of Serbia. Most of the Serbs live scattered in southern Kosovo, and many have chosen to be integrated into the new social structure. At least one-third of Serbs live in the regions along the border with Serbia in the north and constitute a majority there. Among Serbs in northern Kosovo, opposition to the country’s institutions is strong. More and more Kosovo Serbs are leaving the country as they have no future there.
During the Serbian repression of the 1990s (see Modern history), many Kosovo Albanians fled abroad, mainly to neighboring countries such as Albania and Macedonia (now Northern Macedonia). A large number of them have since returned to Kosovo. However, hundreds of thousands of Albanians from Kosovo still live in exile, most in Switzerland and Germany, but also in, for example, Sweden.
In connection with the fact that the NATO defense alliance by force forced Serbia to release Kosovo in 1999 (see Modern History), in turn, many Serbs fled. In 2015, around 220,000 refugees from Kosovo lived in Serbia itself. Of them, the majority were Serbs and the rest above all were Romans.
Movement to the cities is steady, but a large part of the population still lives in rural villages. But many young people also try to emigrate in search of better living conditions.
The Kosovo Albanians speak the northern, most common variant of Albanian (Gaelic). The Albanian belongs to the Indo-European language family and is the only language originating from the extinct Illyrian risk. It is not closely related to any other language but has been influenced by Latin, Turkish and Greek as well as Slavic languages.
The Serbs speak Serbian, a South Slavic language. Both Albanian and Serbian are official languages of Kosovo. Serbian is written with the Cyrillic alphabet but more often also in Latin letters. Locally, other languages (Turkish, Bosnian, Roman) can also be used in official contexts if spoken by a majority of the population.
Albanian pronunciation guide:
C = ts; Ç = tj; Dh = as th in English this; Ë = much like English’s indefinite article a, is not pronounced at all if it is last; Gj = much like a marked Swedish j; Q = much like a soft Swedish k, chain; Xh = as dj, with distinct d; Zh = voicing sj
Serbian pronunciation guide
C = ts; Ć = tj; Č = tsch; Dž = about dzj; Đ đ = dj; G and K = always hard pronunciation as in good cake; Š = sch; Z = toning z; Ž = toning zj
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Around nine out of ten residents are Albanians, the rest mainly Serbs but also Bosniaks, Turks, Ashkali, Egyptians, Gorani, Romans
Number of residents
1 830 700 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Nativity / birth
16.8 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
7.0 per 1000 residents (2016)
0.8 percent (2017)
2.1 number of births per woman (2016)
72 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
74 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
70 years (2016)
Former guerrilla members are arrested
Ten former members of the Kosovo Albanian guerrilla are arrested by Serbia and charged with war crimes.
Eulex begins its work
EU Police and Justice Mission Eulex formally assumes responsibility for the Kosovo police, justice system and customs from the UN. Serbia accepts Eulex.
Kosovo’s independence on a referral to The Hague
The UN General Assembly decides to submit the issue of Kosovo’s independence on a referral to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Rival Kosovar Serbian rule
The Kosovo Serbs set up their own rival administration in the city of Mitrovica.
The Kosovo government is taking over power
The new constitution enters into force and transfers formal power from the UN to the Kosovo government.
Former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj is acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal on charges of murder, persecution, rape and torture during his time as guerrilla leader in the late 1990s.
New constitution is adopted
Parliament adopts a new constitution for independent Kosovo. It will formally enter into force on June 15.
Independence is proclaimed
Prime Minister and former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaçi proclaims independence for Kosovo. The Kosovo Albanians – about 90 percent of the population – cheer as the Kosovo Serbs protest. In Mitrovica, which is divided between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, unrest erupts.