Welcome to 1970

How the numbers of Serbian refugees increased, how the number of students decreased and how Albanians are aging together with other Europeans


In 1991 I was part of the Coordinating Council of Albanian Political Parties, chaired by dr. Rugova, when we took one of the decisions that turned out to be important - to call the Albanians in Kosovo not to participate in the population census that would be organized by the then government of Milosevic, decided by the force of tanks in 1989/1990. The decision had a simple rationale, which was elaborated by Dr. Fehmi Agani: if we participated in the census, we would legitimize every result, of course the results which would be announced by an administration which until then had expelled Albanians from work everywhere, that is, even in the Statistics Agency.

The population census was done, the Albanians did not participate (only 9 thousand Albanians were officially registered), but the value of this census would increase after the liberation of Kosovo, in 1999. A year later, in the official Serbian discourse, the figure of 250 thousand Serbs (and other non-Albanians) expelled or fled from Kosovo, and officially registered as refugees in Serbia. This speech was so strong, that with an extra care it also entered the discourse of the offices of the UNHCR and the International Red Cross in Belgrade. The figure, which even today is mentioned in the official documents of Belgrade, was completely untrue, and the official Serbian authorities could testify to this fact. In 1991, in a population census organized by Serbia, carried out in the field by Serbia and with results announced by Serbia, it turned out that there were 194.190 Serbs in Kosovo. How is it possible, then, that 250 thousand have gone to Serbia after the war? And, moreover, how is it possible that 250 have gone and 130 have remained in Kosovo?

Such a count would merit Mark Twain's old saying: "There are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics."


Statistics as the culmination of the manipulation came out in the past days with the declaration of Serbian officials, including President Vučić at the UNSC, when the figure of the departure of Kosovo Serbs, especially from the northern part of the country, since the coming to power of LVV. According to these manipulative statistics, it should appear that only in the last twelve months, 14 percent of the Serbs of the northern part of Kosovo have left (President Vucic once mentioned the figure of 18 percent). Even a number of 10 percent of those who left was mentioned by the ICG (International Crisis Group), an organization not without name. But, according to the analysis made by ESI (European Stability Initiative), an organization that bases its work on credibility and on the analysis of data, it turns out that in the last two or three years there has not been any major movement. negative of the Serbian population. And this comes from the figures of the Serbian authorities themselves for social insurance, where all Kosovo Serbs are registered. During the last three years, the decline was 4.9 percent, but at the same time the number of Serbian newborn babies marked a slight increase in 2023, the year in which the campaign to expel the Kosovo Serbs is said to have taken place.


But while statistics can find their way manipulative, they read within their real context carry the weight of the hammer of reality. Yes, manipulation with "pogrom" and expulsion of Serbs has no support in numbers, but yes, there is a trend of dramatic reduction of Serbs in Kosovo. According to ESI and based on the register of Serbian authorities, the number of Serbian students in elementary schools in Kosovo shows that in 2023, compared to 2004, there were 3700 students less, or 26 percent. When this number is extrapolated to an approximate figure for the number of Serbian residents in Kosovo, it turns out that in 2004 there were 128 Serbs, while today somewhere between 95 and 100.

Such a dramatic decline would have to confirm, then, that the Serbs are increasingly leaving Kosovo? This finding would take on the usual political manipulative connotation if it were not placed in its own context. According to the ESI, based on the register of Serbia and the Serbian Republic in BH, it appears that in Serbia the percentage of dropouts in primary school is 25 percent and in the Serbian Republic in BH even 32 percent. Kosovo Serbs are not an exception, they are even a modest part of the general rule that has demographically captured the Serbian nation: in 22 of the 25 administrative units of Serbia, there is a greater drop in students in primary school than in Kosovo Serb schools.


And, of course, this demographic movement is not a Serbian specialty.

According to Eurostat, the birth rate of the 27 countries of the European Union is somewhere around 1.55, far below the figure of 2.1 that is taken as a basis for simple reproduction. So by 2050, 30 percent of EU citizens will be 65 years or older.

Albania has already been accommodated to the European level of birth rate, if not finally found, while Kosovo, which once had the highest birth rate in Europe, has fallen to 1.7.

To those who find these figures abstract, there are some others that are more concrete. Dukagjin Pupovci, a prominent education expert, released a simple figure last year: in 2023, Kosovo had 313 students, something less than it had in 1970.

Kosovo had 1.24 million inhabitants.

A British friend, who is researching the demographic trends of the Western Balkans in recent years, told me a few months ago that based on the current demographic trend, Kosovo could reach 2030 million inhabitants in 1.2.

When the population census takes place in April-May of this year, we will see how close we are to 1970.