Ibrahim Rugova: Advocate of Peaceful Independence for Kosovo

Working tirelessly towards peaceful solutions and dialogue, the first President of Kosovo dedicated his life to the non-violent resistance of ethnic Albanians against Serbian oppression.

Born in Cerrcë, Kosovo, in 1944, Rugova studied in Prishtina and at the Sorbonne. He taught literature, authored 10 books and presided over the Kosovo Writers’ Union, which was at the heart of growing ethnic Albanian opposition to Serbian rule in Kosovo. In 1989 he founded the Democratic League of Kosovo, the first political party to challenge the communist regime directly, as Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milošević revoked Kosovo’s autonomous region status and imposed Serbian control.

In the face of increasing oppression, Rugova headed the political movement that declared the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. In 1992, he was elected president of a republic recognised only by Albania. In the face of the subsequent Serbian crackdown, he launched a system of education, hospitals and taxation for the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo, parallel to the Serbian system.

A soft-spoken politician who always wore a trademark silk scarf, Rugova was seen throughout the 1990s as the moderate, intellectual face of Albanian opposition to the Belgrade regime. He secured a second term as president in 1998, even as the armed conflict between Serbian units and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an Albanian guerrilla movement, escalated, precipitating a major Yugoslav military crackdown.

The European Parliament honoured Rugova with the Sakharov Prize in 1998, as a man committed to the principle of peaceful resistance to violence. Rugova viewed the prize as representing ‘for me and for all the people of Kosovo, recognition of our peaceful struggle and our sacrifices’.

He remained firm in his non-violent opposition to the Serbian regime, constantly reiterating his willingness to enter into dialogue with Belgrade, which put him at odds with the more nationalistic Adem Demaçi, his principal political rival. The ‘Gandhi of the Balkans’ endeavoured to win over world opinion as he urged the international community to offer Kosovo protection.

Rugova, as chief of Kosovo’s negotiators, signed the internationally brokered Rambouillet peace agreement on 18 March 1999, but Belgrade’s refusal to endorse it led to the launch of NATO bombing attacks. As Kosovo came under UN administration, Rugova, having briefly left Kosovo for Italy in 1999, returned to Kosovar politics, sharing power with KLA leaders who were now at the helm of the Democratic Party. In 2002, Rugova was re-elected as president and served until his death from lung cancer in 2006, just days before negotiations on Kosovo’s final status were due to begin. To many, he was the ‘father of the nation’.

Written from European Parliament.

Books by and about Ibrahim Rugova

Often referred to as the father of his nation, Rugova was a college professor who emerged as an unlikely leader of Kosovo in the late 1980s when this province of Serbia suffered its first wave of violence against its majority Albanian populace. Rugova’s “academic appearance,” noted New York Times writer Nicholas Wood, “and resolute pacifism in the face of severe repression and human rights abuses by Serbian security forces in the region made him a near legendary figure among his followers.” Below you can find books by and about Ibrahim Rugova.

  • Prekje lirike, [Lyrical Touches], essays, Rilindja, Pristina, 1971;:
  • Kah teoria, [Towards Theory], essays, Rilindja, Pristina, 1978;
  • Bibliografia e kritikës letrare shqiptare 1944–1974, [Bibliography of Albanian Literary Criticism 1944–1974], Instituti Albanologjik, Pristina, 1976 (together with Isak Shema),
  • Kritika letrare (nga De Rada te Migjeni), [Literary Criticism], anthology with commentary, Rilindja, Pristina, 1979 (together with Sabri Hamiti);
  • Strategjia e kuptimit, [Strategy of Meaning], essays, Rilindja, Pristina, 1980;
  • Vepra e Bogdanit 1675–1685, [Bogdani’s Oeuvre 1675–1685], monograph study, Rilindja, Pristina, 1982;
  • Kahe dhe premisa të kritikës letrare shqiptare 1504–1983, [Directions and Premises of Albanian Literary Criticism 1504–1983], monograph study, Instituti Albanologjik, Pristina, 1986;
  • Refuzimi estetik’, [Aesthetic Rejection], essays, Rilindja, Pristina, 1987;
  • Pavarësia dhe demokracia, [Independence and Democracy], interviews and other occasional pieces, Fjala, Pristina, 1991;
  • Çështja e Kosovës, [The Kosovo Issue], (together with Marie-Françoise Allain and Xavier Galmiche), Dukagjini, Peć, 1994; translation of the original La question du Kosovo – entretiens avec Marie-Francoise Allain et Xavier Galmiche, Preface de Ismail Kadare, Paris, 1994;
  • Ibrahim Rugova: “La frêle colosse du Kosovo” , Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1999;
  • Kompleti i veprave të Ibrahim Rugovës në tetë vëllime [Ibrahim Rugova’s Oeuvre in eight volumes], Faik Konica, Pristina, 2005.
  • On the first anniversary of Rugova’s death, the Kosovo Presidency published a book entitled President Rugova, with a Preface by President Fatmir Sejdiu (‘The First Statesman of Kosovo’) and a long introduction by Sabri Hamiti (‘Memento for Rugova’). The book collects some of the President’s major speeches/addresses as a leader and statesman.
  • Rugova: Vizioni nacional”, a publicistic book by Vehbi Miftari, „AIKD”, 2007
  • “Rugova: The symbol of independence”, a publicistic book by Vehbi Miftari „AIKD”, 2008
  • “Rugova – mendimi, kultura, politika”, a book by Vehbi Miftari, 2010
  • The Winter Of Great Despair by Jeton Kelmendi

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