Michael Bothager

Photographer

Kosovo Serbs

The ending of the Kosovo conflict in 1999 marked the end of the Balkan Wars. As NATO forces went into Kosovo, the Serbian military and Police fled north into Serbia, leaving the Serbian population unprotected from the returning Albanian population. The Albanians sought revenge from the atrocities committed by the Serbs, and during the next decade, several riots and attacks threatened the Serbs in Kosovo, forcing more than 200.000 Serbians to flee.

Today, more than 10.000 Serbs are internally displaced in Kosovo, living in small enclaves in the Albanian dominated areas or in the Serbian dominated north.

Many Serbs feel that the heart of Serbia is Kosovo, and they have never recognized Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence made on February 17th, 2008. The situation is still unresolved, since Serbia is under pressure from the European Union to accept Kosovo's independence.

View Thumbnails

Vladan Lazic looks out the window of the small convenience store in the village Gojbuje in central Kosovo.
Vladan Lazic looks out the window of the small convenience store in the village Gojbuje in central Kosovo.
Strpce is the southernmost Serbian enclave in Kosovo, close to the formerly famous ski area Brezovica. Almost 10.000 Serbs live in the area, scattered in a handful of villages.
Strpce is the southernmost Serbian enclave in Kosovo, close to the formerly famous ski area Brezovica. Almost 10.000 Serbs live in the area, scattered in a handful of villages.
Two speeches held by Milosevic in 1987 and 1989 for a million Serbs at Kosovo Polje has been interpreted as a encouragement to serb nationalism and an endorsement of the ethnic superiority of the Serbs.
Two speeches held by Milosevic in 1987 and 1989 for a million Serbs at Kosovo Polje has been interpreted as a encouragement to serb nationalism and an endorsement of the ethnic superiority of the Serbs.
Alaksandra Todorovic, 15, talks to her parents Dosta, 41, and Dragan, 43, before going to school. She attends the High School in Strpce, the southernmost Serbian enclave in Kosovo, does not expect to go to College.
Alaksandra Todorovic, 15, talks to her parents Dosta, 41, and Dragan, 43, before going to school. She attends the High School in Strpce, the southernmost Serbian enclave in Kosovo, does not expect to go to College.
Barricade in Jarinje (near Leposavic), between the Kosovo and Serbian border posts. During the second half of 2011, Serbs in Northern Kosovo setup setup barricades to restrict the movement of KFOR and EULEX.
Barricade in Jarinje (near Leposavic), between the Kosovo and Serbian border posts. During the second half of 2011, Serbs in Northern Kosovo setup setup barricades to restrict the movement of KFOR and EULEX.
A Montenegrin Serb at the barricade in Jarinje (near Leposavic), between the Kosovo and Serbian border posts. During 2011, Serbs barricaded roads in Northern Kosovo to restrict the movement of KFOR and EULEX.
A Montenegrin Serb at the barricade in Jarinje (near Leposavic), between the Kosovo and Serbian border posts. During 2011, Serbs barricaded roads in Northern Kosovo to restrict the movement of KFOR and EULEX.
The majority of the houses in the Serbian villages are heated with firewood, usually only in a single room which functions as kitchen and living room.
The majority of the houses in the Serbian villages are heated with firewood, usually only in a single room which functions as kitchen and living room.
The Serbs in the Balkans are united through the Serbian Orthodox Church, and religion plays a central role in the everyday life.
The Serbs in the Balkans are united through the Serbian Orthodox Church, and religion plays a central role in the everyday life.
New Years Eve in Zvecan, Northern Kosovo. Locals partying at Restaurant Galija.
New Years Eve in Zvecan, Northern Kosovo. Locals partying at Restaurant Galija.
Javorka Cvejic, 34, lives in Camp Padaliste, a small IDP container settlement at the outskirts of the Serbian enclave Gracanica, with her mother Milanka, 71.
Javorka Cvejic, 34, lives in Camp Padaliste, a small IDP container settlement at the outskirts of the Serbian enclave Gracanica, with her mother Milanka, 71.
Camp Padaliste, a small IDP container settlement at the outskirts of the largest Serbian enclave Gracanica. The camp is run by the Serbian Red Cross.
Camp Padaliste, a small IDP container settlement at the outskirts of the largest Serbian enclave Gracanica. The camp is run by the Serbian Red Cross.
Milanka Cvejic, 71, at the entrance to their container home in Camp Padaliste. In July 1999, her son Sasa was killed with 13 other Serbs outside their village Kraiste, which made them flee.
Milanka Cvejic, 71, at the entrance to their container home in Camp Padaliste. In July 1999, her son Sasa was killed with 13 other Serbs outside their village Kraiste, which made them flee.
Serbian Cemetery in Strpce, the southernmost Serbian enclave.
Serbian Cemetery in Strpce, the southernmost Serbian enclave.
The Serbian Christmas is celebrated on January 6th. A tradition is to go into the woods and get a christmas tree, which is burned later christmas evening.
The Serbian Christmas is celebrated on January 6th. A tradition is to go into the woods and get a christmas tree, which is burned later christmas evening.
Dragan Todorovic, 43, collects hay for his horse. He later had to sell the horse during financial hard times.
Dragan Todorovic, 43, collects hay for his horse. He later had to sell the horse during financial hard times.
Locals in Strpce celebrates the Slava of Saint Stefan.
Locals in Strpce celebrates the Slava of Saint Stefan.
Aleksander looks out the window from his grandparents home in Gojbuje.
Aleksander looks out the window from his grandparents home in Gojbuje.
Mladin Cvejic, 71, lives with his wife, daughter and three grandchildren in Gracanica.
Mladin Cvejic, 71, lives with his wife, daughter and three grandchildren in Gracanica.
Religious icons depicting Saints are seen in almost every Serbian home.
Religious icons depicting Saints are seen in almost every Serbian home.
Dosta Todorovic, 41, and her son Nenad, 18.
Dosta Todorovic, 41, and her son Nenad, 18.
Locals from Strpce drinking Rakija after they have collected the traditional Serbian christmas trees.
Locals from Strpce drinking Rakija after they have collected the traditional Serbian christmas trees.
A family mourns the loss of a family member.
A family mourns the loss of a family member.
During the riots in March 2004, the village Svinjare was attacked by Albanians from nearby Vushttri and Mitrovica, Kosovo in March 2004. Today only a single Serbian family lives here, Vojislav “Isko” Jovic, 59, and his wife Darinca, 59.
During the riots in March 2004, the village Svinjare was attacked by Albanians from nearby Vushttri and Mitrovica, Kosovo in March 2004. Today only a single Serbian family lives here, Vojislav “Isko” Jovic, 59, and his wife Darinca, 59.
Little Zvecan, a small city build for IDP’s from the Balkan Wars. In 2004, many IDP’s from Svinjare came here after the Albanian riots.
Little Zvecan, a small city build for IDP’s from the Balkan Wars. In 2004, many IDP’s from Svinjare came here after the Albanian riots.
On the main road from Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, to Mitrovica in the north, the empty frames of Serbian houses flanks the road in the Albanian dominated areas.
On the main road from Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, to Mitrovica in the north, the empty frames of Serbian houses flanks the road in the Albanian dominated areas.
The largest Serbian population in Kosovo is in the north, where the proximity to Serbia means safer living conditions and more job opportunities.
The largest Serbian population in Kosovo is in the north, where the proximity to Serbia means safer living conditions and more job opportunities.
The village Gojbuje is trapped between three Albanian villages. Around 500 serbs lived here before the Kosovo conflict. By December 2010, more than 300 has left the village.
The village Gojbuje is trapped between three Albanian villages. Around 500 serbs lived here before the Kosovo conflict. By December 2010, more than 300 has left the village.
Nebosja Ilic, 38, lives with his mother Danitca Ilic, 61, in an apartment built for internally displaced people (IDP) in Laplje Selo in Kosovo. The family was forced out at gunpoint from their home in Djakovica at 1am the 28th of June 1999.
Nebosja Ilic, 38, lives with his mother Danitca Ilic, 61, in an apartment built for internally displaced people (IDP) in Laplje Selo in Kosovo. The family was forced out at gunpoint from their home in Djakovica at 1am the 28th of June 1999.