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Russia's Province Of Kosovo?

Russia's NATO Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin: "A second homeland in Russia."

Russia's NATO Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin: "A second homeland in Russia."

Some Kosovar Serbs had hoped that Russian citizenship would be the best way to get Moscow involved and so prevent their enclave from being integrated under the Kosovar Albanian-led government's control.

What they got instead was an offer -- from no less than Moscow's NATO Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin -- to move to Russia to help alleviate its "demographic problems."

Earlier this week, about 21,000 Kosovar Serbs submitted a collective letter to the Russian State Duma asking to be granted Russian citizenship, saying they felt Serbia was not capable of providing them with "protection and freedom" in Kosovo, whose independence they do not recognize.

What they obviously had in mind was Russia's 2008 war with Georgia. One of the reasons Moscow went to war with Tbilisi over Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was to protect Russian passport holders there. Russia has recognized the two regions' independence and has kept troops stationed there.

Zlatibor Djordjevic, the representative of one of several groups of Kosovar Serbs who submitted the request to the Russian Embassy in Belgrade, said they had lost hope in the Serbian government.

"We see that this country of ours has no power to protect us. Whether it wants or does not want to do this is something we don't know. ... Our only salvation is in the Russian state. We hope for the best," Djordjevic said.

Russia is Serbia's most loyal ally in the diplomatic fight to reverse Kosovar independence. Russian leaders Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev enjoy high popularity. They are revered by some as saviors of their Orthodox Christian Slav brethren. Their pictures regularly grace some protest gatherings.

Russia's ambassador to Serbia, Aleksandar Konuzin, for example, feels so much at home that he took part last month in a nationalist Serbian Progressive Party rally, praising its policies. In September, he blasted Serb politicians and intellectuals at a security forum for leaving it to Russia to defend Serbia's interests abroad.

But judging by the first reactions from Russia, Kosovar Serbs may have gotten a false impression about how far Moscow is willing to go.

"The Serbs are, of course, a friendly nation, but I am not sure that this request would be discussed at a Duma session," Serbian media quoted Andrei Klimov, deputy head of the Duma's Committee for Foreign Policy, as saying. "The State Duma does not grant citizenship, and in order to fulfill this request a law must be changed."

The "Kommersant" daily wrote that granting Kosovar Serbs Russian citizenship could eventually provoke a conflict with NATO, which Russia does not want.

In the spring of 1999, Russia deployed a small contingent of troops to Kosovo after NATO's air campaign drove Serbian forces out of the then southern province but withdrew them in 2003 after disagreements with the NATO-led international peacekeeping force (KFOR).

"Kommersant" said any incident involving Kosovar Serbs with Russian citizenship would have to trigger a reaction from Moscow.

For Rogozin, as the Interfax new agency quoted him as saying, a much simpler solution would be to offer Kosovar Serbs resettlement in areas where Russia "feels great demographic problems, especially where the population is Slavonic -- east of the Urals."

"Kosovar Serbs should be enrolled in the repatriation program for the Russians. The Serbs are not strangers to us. They are the people who could get a second homeland in Russia," the ambassador said.

-- Nedim Dervisbegovic

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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