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Oxford’s Place of the Year 2008: Kosovo


Coordinates: 42 30 N 21 0 E

Population: Around 2 Million

Welcome to Geography Awareness week, the perfect time to announce another Place of the Year. In all honesty, I struggled with my decision this time, and sought the advice of several mapmakers and geographers. Looking back on 2008—well, most of it anyway—I found it difficult to settle on a single location because I didn’t want to make my selection based solely on its ability to stay in the headlines. Should I pick Naypyidaw because of what happened in Burma? One of my colleagues proposed Honolulu, the birthplace of the first African American president of the United States. But perhaps Darfur, Wall Street, or the pirate-plagued Gulf of Aden would be more interesting? Above all, what I really needed was a place where changes had occurred that would be observable on a map.

In the end, I chose Kosovo for a few different reasons. First of all, by declaring their independence from Serbia, the roughly two million Kosovars occupying this small part of southeastern Europe have forced cartographers to contend with their new (albeit still contested) status as a sovereign state. Secondly, as I mentioned in my original post back in February and as recent events in the Caucasus emphasized, Kosovo serves as a current reminder that our map of the world continues to evolve. Geography is by no means static.

To me, Kosovo deserves the distinction of Place of the Year because it represents several types of shifting geographies: social (Will the ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo find acceptance in this new country?), political (Can the government of President Fatmir Sejdiu successfully—and peaceably—chart a course to eventual admission into the EU?) and historical (Will the new boundaries hold or again be altered by events in the future?). Finally, I took physical location into account; Kosovo isn’t far from the heart of Europe.

Other examples of separatist movements and border disputes abound around the globe, and pose nearly as many challenges for atlas publishers as they do for policy-makers and politicians. Last year I remarked that global warming will likely keep mapmakers busy by altering the extent of sea ice or exposing new landmasses long hidden beneath glaciers. Yet as the socio-cultural complexities of areas such as the Balkans demonstrate, the environment isn’t the only force with the power to reshape our planet. So what are the cartographic appearances or disappearances you think we’ll be talking about in 2009?

Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.

Recent Comments

  1. Bob NYC

    I don’t think Kosovo will last as “state” simply because neither Serbs nor Serbia will ever accept the second Albanian country (besides Albania). Serbs in Kosovo will never accept to live in “multi ethnic” ghetto neither. Kosovo will be a quick cartographic disappearance, mark my word.

  2. Arber

    Thank you for your interesting writing. I just wanted to share one more reason with you that you could have used to choose Kosovo. It is a country in Europe that some of the worse genocide by the serbian government and paramilitary forces, with rape, burning, and murder of thousand of innocent Albanians.


  3. Filip

    kosovo is NOT independent. do your research before publishing such nonsense.

  4. Fred


    Go back to B92. Kosovo has declared it’s independence and has been so recognized by a significant number of states. Probably most importantly its been recognized my most EU member states, and its neighbors Montenegro and Macedonia.

    You may contest that independence, you may claim that its recognition is undeserved, you may claim that its only legally independent and not functionally independent, but calling it “nonsense” is pure bluster.

    As ever,

  5. Me

    Serbs please do not start with your propaganda and myths again its not worth it anymore.


  6. “Bob NYC” you are out of touch with reality. You don’t have to mark my words because I couldn’t care less about your propaganda. Kosovo will never ever be part of Serbia again. Whether you like or not – it’s none of our business. Kosovo is reality. It’s been recognized by 52 most poweerful western democracies including the United States. Deal with it.

  7. Adrian

    There is not any doubt about Kosova (please note how is wroten by 2.5 million, 92%,of kosovars). The truth is that Kosova didn’t split with Serbia because they never are been together. Like Macedonians, Montenegrians, Croats, Bosnians and Serbs, they where a constitutive part of Yougoslavia. This status was removed with force by Milosevic. The realty is that Kosova split from Yougoslavia.

    If Kosova is (or was part of Serbia) Should be someone to say who are or was they’re representatives in Serbian Parlament. Moreover there is not any vacant place where kosovar representatives can seat.

    It is different with north part city of Mitrovica. They have they’re places in the parlament of Rep. of Kosova, much more than they belong according to they’re presence in Kosova. They have chosen to not participate but no one said to them to not be present and no one is taking their place. They are more privileged in Kosova than albanians are. Other Serbs from other parts of Kosova now are members of Kosova Parliament as an integral part.

    It’s easy to understand that this part is not quiet because of Rep. of Serbia. An very risky comportment considering that they are Albanians in south Serbia, west Macedonia, south Montenegro etc… All bordered with Albanians.

    No one want an other war in Balcan this is why I think that the border of KOSOVA will not change.

  8. Robin NYC

    Dear BOB NYC, you have to get out of the fog and see clearly things!
    Dear Filip i think you didn’t watch or read any news in a few years maby you think also that Hitler is still alive, just a new news he’s not, and Kosovo is Independent!

    Good description nice work!

    Good luck everyone!

  9. Toni Rep.Kosova

    some of you guys i think you are living in 19 century ,Milosevic is dead Hitler is dead and Filip is crazy. This is 21 century KOSOVA IS INDIPENDET thats it FULL STOP.

  10. Tommy

    I just googled Kosovo and man…the only thing I saw, was Kosovo’s State Intitutions made this and this and this….I jut dodnt know where some people get their news, but cleraly some need to change their computers…or maybe net conection….


    Tommy USA

  11. Jiri

    I visited Kosova numerous times in behalf of UN. I support independence. I agree Serbs shall never accept it and probably flee to Serbia in decade or so. Most of them still follows old nationalist politics – in fact, even Tadic’s democratic goverment reinstalls old Milosevic’s cadre. In most media, Albanians are still treated as Untermensch. All together, minds of Serbs haven’t changed from 90’s – Milosevic had been expelled not becouse he was wrong, but becouse he had failed. Politics is still runs in terms of “blood and soil” , “national interest”, and “global conspiracy agains Serbs”. Only thing new is glorification of Putin’s Russia, who they see as future superpower that will help them to “restore justice for Serbs”.
    Balkan is still not peacefull place, Serbia is still destablilizing factor. Just watch for Serbs in Bosnia and their leader Dodik.

  12. Dee Jay

    This is very idilic picture of small nation getting their independance.
    But, you have to know that they were supported by AlCaida, that they had terrorist attacks all over the Europe, that Kosovo is center for drug trade and women trade and that they trade with human organs from imprisoned Serbian civilians and soldiers.(http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/12/warcrimes.kosovo).
    So enjoy in this paradise, I hope that you will save your kidneys.


  13. kore NYC

    let say Serbia whatever they want , but nobody is asking them !!! GO KOSOVA> and big thnx to US and UK.and all our Supports. god bless you

  14. albina

    no kosova isn’t serbia ,,,,,,,, kosova is new country and for it we don;t have to talk

  15. Ardiana

    The culture of the comments in here, tells much about the reality in Kosovo itself.
    Kosovo didn’t get the recognition of almost all members of EU and many other countries of the world because any other reason, but the simple one, because Kosovo was a occupied territory for decades and as it is, for every colony someday comes the end ( this, most all of European countries itself have made experience with. The Independence of Kosovo stands more than just for the freedom of the country itself, it tells that EU was able at the end ( with the help of USA, of course ) to see that Europe is larger than the EU members thought it was and that denying the history of any parts of it, doesn’t make it’s consequents go away. And as this consequences began to be a real problem for the EU members and their economy, getting nearer to their ass with other words, finally Europe was ready to clear some shit from the past and act like they should have done so many years before when thousand of Albanians from Kosovo were forced to immigrate and run away from their homes, to save their life. The war in Kosovo, that one, what the world saw on their televisions, was the last step of the long fight of Albanians in Kosovo for freedom and democracy. Maybe it was, the trains filled with people deported to Macedonian border, that was so frightened for Europe, maybe the massacre of Recak maybe the USA…what counts is that they finally react and by recognising Kosovo they not only recognized the right for freedom of 2 million people but also ones right to fight for it when necessary

  16. […] Oxford: Place of the Year – Kosovo […]

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