Constitution Day in Kosovo comes every 9th of April to commemorate the day in 2008 when a constitution for the newly independent state of Kosovo.
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The 2008 constitution was signed in the Pristina National Library on 7th of April, ratified by the people on April 9th, and implemented on June 15th. While Kosovo’s independent status is denied by Serbia, it is recognized by over 100 nations around the world and is a practical reality regardless of one’s “geo-political opinion.”
Kosovo is a small, landlocked region bordered by Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. In ancient times, it was the centre of the Kingdom of Dardania and eventually became the Roman Province of Dardania. In the early Middle Ages, it became the centre of the Serbian Empire, until in 1389, Serbia was defeated by the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Kosovo. The Ottomans soon conquered Kosovo and much of Serbia following this cataclysmic battle, and Kosovo would remain under Ottoman Turkish rule for four hundred years.
In the late 1800’s, Kosovo’s League of Prizren became the driving force of the movement for Albanian independence. Yet, it did not end up joining Albania. Instead, it was divided between the nations of Serbia and Montenegro before being subsumed into Yugoslavia after World War I. After World War II, Kosovo was made a semi-autonomous region within Serbia, which in turn, was within Yugoslavia.
With the fall of the Communist Yugoslav government, a series of wars erupted between former Yugoslav republics. Conflicts occurred between Croatia and Serbia, within Bosnia, and also within Kosovo. As tensions mounted, ethnic violence broke out and eventually led to the NATO-led air assault known as the “Kosovo War” in 1998 and 1999.
Finally, in 2008, the sitting government of Kosovo drafted a constitution to submit to the people, and in was ratified on April 9th of that year. The constitution provided for a unicameral legislature, a president and prime minister, and a supreme court. It also provided for a special “constitutional court” to have the final say on interpreting the new constitution.
The constitution begins “We the people of Kosovo” and expresses a desire to establish an independent, democratic, and peaceful state for all ethnic groups in the country. The wording indicates a desire for peace between the Albanian Muslim and Orthodox Serb elements of the population. The Constitution also states a desire for “Euro-Atlantic integration,” and Kosovo’s membership in the E.U. is one step in that direction.
Three ideas on what to do if in Kosovo for Constitution Day are:
- Watch the official ceremonies, held in Pristina, on TV. Government officials gather in the National and University Library to mark the occasion. The Kosovo national anthem is played, and the president gives a speech on the importance of the constitution.
- Get a firsthand look a Kosovo’s culture and history in its second-largest city, Prizren. You will see the surrounding peaks of the Sar Mountains and will not be far from the borders with both Albania and Macedonia. You can tour the Sinan Pasha Mosque, which dates from Ottoman times, the Medieval Our Lady of Ljevis church, and the Prizren League Museum. The latter contains not only historical exhibits but an art gallery and ethnographic section as well.
- Tour the National Museum of Kosovo in Pristina, the capital. The “Kosovo Museum” has sections on archaeology, ancient history, the Kosovo independence movement, culture, the natural sciences, and more.
Anyone visiting Kosovo for Constitution Day will find there are many relevant tourist stops to see, along with a few special events. You can walk away with a greater appreciation for Kosovo’s history and culture.