Secret CIA’s report from 1979: “Yugoslavia: The Kosovo Problem”

In April 1979, CIA did an analysis of the so-called Kosovo issue in Yugoslavia. In a document filed under number RDP80T00942A001000060001-7 and titled “Yugoslavia: The Kosovo Problem”, the US intelligence agency had identified the roots of the Serbian-Albanian problem, and its implications on the future of Kosovo in the post-Tito era in Yugoslavia.

CIA starts its report with a thesis that although “the future course of the Serb-Croat rivalry over the distribution of power in Yugoslavia is well-acknowledged key to maintaining the integrity of the Yugoslav state in a post-Tito period, the rivalry between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo may have an equally important bearing on Belgrade’s handling of its ethnic minority problems”.

The report goes on to say that “the Enver Hoxha regime in neighbouring Albania views Kosovo as only temporarily under Yugoslav control”. The analysis authors then say that “although CIA has no evidence of foreign subversive activity in Kosovo, the situation there is ready-made for foreign meddling”, and add that “this is particularly true because the Albanian minority problem in Macedonia could unsettle this Yugoslav republic against which Bulgaria lays irredentist claims”.

CIA goes on to underline that Kosovo Albanians, all one million of them, are the poorest nationality minority in Yugoslavia, while having the highest illiteracy and birth rate.

“A hard brand of Albanian nationalism has developed among them (*Kosovo Albanians), aimed at overcoming the effects of the past Serbian rule and based on unrealistic expectations of economic gain”, the report says.


The CIA’s report also touches upon the historical roots of the problem and goes on to say that “largely Muslim Albanians claim that they are descendants of the ancient Illyrians, who are considered the original inhabitants of the Kosovo area, while Slavs (Serbs) are the interlopers”.

The report claims that Josip Broz Tito had serious problems with the Albanians inhabiting south of Serbia too. “In 1944, for example, Tito’s partisans fought an indigenous Albanian Army, bent on establishing control over the region. Albanian hostility, always beneath the surface, erupted again in the late 1960s in the wake of the fall from power of Aleksandar Rankovic, a Serb nationalist, confidante of President Tito and the overseer of the secret police. Rankovic had played a key role in the sometimes brutal repression of the Albanians, and his departure raised hopes that the door was no open to social and political change”, the report states.

It then cites an Albanian protest in 1968 when the Albanian demands range from “moderate to far-reaching” and included an end to “the colonization of Kosovo”, the fulfillment of autonomous rights promised during the Second World War, the right of self-determination, the right to have a separate constitution for Kosovo, the creation of an Albanian republic within Serbia, and the right to fly the Albanian flag.

In December 1974, disorders broke out again, centering at Pristina University. The report recalls that period: “Hundreds of arrests were reportedly made, and many persons were jailed for crimes ranging from the distribution of Albanian nationalist leaflets to painting nationalist slogans on university buildings; the slogans that called for a “Greater Albania”.


The CIA’s reports then says that official Belgrade was willing to come to a compromise with a moderate Albanian wing, while, on the other hand, it dealt harshly with the Albanian nationalists.

“The effort to defuse the Kosovo problem has met with only limited success. Investments in the province stimulated large-scale migration of unskilled workers into the cities and towns where the promise of employment has been largely unfulfilled. The decision to expand Pristina University, severing its ties to Belgrade University, and lower entrance requirements has produced a pool of semi-educated, unemployed malcontents. Crowded living conditions and limited recreation facilities added to discontent of the university where the students demonstrated a particularly strong inclination towards nationalist extremism”, the report underlines.


“Given the international insurgence of the Muslim faith and its recent impact on events in Iran, the Yugoslav leadership has a new element to ponder…. According to the Yugoslav Muslim Supreme Body of Elders, about 1.3 million Albanian and Turkish Kosovars (or about 85% of Kosovo’s population) live in the texture of Muslim culture and civilization”, the report touches upon the religious aspect of the conflict.

“Blood feuds and bride-selling are still fairly common in Kosovo, but have long ago disappeared among the more modernized Muslim-Slavs. While religious attitudes are an important factor in the attitude of Albanian Muslims in Kosovo toward neighbouring Albania, which promotes atheism, the Kosovo youth appear less attracted than their elders to the religious aspects of the Muslim heritage”, CIA goes on to say.

CIA also assumed that, in the case of an Albanian nationalistic surge in Kosovo, “there probably would be two fringe fractions with opposite orientations – one that would gravitate towards such leading Muslim states as Libya, Iraq and Kuwait, and the other that would consist of primarily university students who would probably look towards the official Tirana”.


 In its report, CIA then touched upon the economic hardship of the Kosovo Albanians and said: “The outlook is bleak: the continuing population boom leads to doubts that job opportunities will ever expand fast enough for the unemployment situation to improve. Moreover, it is doubtful that the Kosovars will ever be able to join the Yugoslav economic mainstream.”

CIA underlines that the Albanian president Enver Hoxha claimed that he had no intention of interfering in Yugoslav internal affairs. However, in a discussion with an unnamed Western diplomat, the then Albanian Foreign Minister, Nesti Nase suggested that “Albania’s natural and permanent aim is to reunite all Albanians in one state”.

“Nase’s comments maybe a good indication that Tirana hopes to take advantage of the post-Tito era – should the Yugoslav federation begin to come apart – to achieve a greater Albania”, the report concludes.

(Newsweek, 06.02.2107)

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