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Yugoslav leaders try to find who's behind Kosovo riots

By Eric BourneSpecial correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / April 8, 1981



Warsaw

Marshal Tito's heirs are in political trouble with the largest minority in Yugoslavia. That minority is the ethnic Albanians who constitute the majority in the southern province of Kosovo, which has just erupted in its worst nationalist unrest since 1966.

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The riots have resulted in many injuries and arrests and have taken 11 lives. They have also bewildered Yugoslavia's new lead ers, who want to know who was behind the riots, and why.

Economic conditions apparently sparked the April 1-2 unrest. All Yugoslavia is in a slump. But Kosovo -- population 1.6 million, of whom 3 out of 4 are ethnic Albanians -- has been hit hard. Kosovo, one of the poorest regions in the Balkans, has seen a painful drop in living standars, despite sizable federal aid over the past two decades.

In addition, there are dangerous political symptoms. Even after nearly 20 years of steady "Albanianization" of a provincial administration that had been dominated by Serbs, many younger Kosovar Albanians do not feel they are masters in their own house.

Despite their tradition of national pride, the Kosovar Albanians still suffer from an inferiority complex. Serbs and members of the country's other major groups often are condescending to them.

Even Marshall Tito's postwar recipe for unifying and equalizing the country's diverse racial, religious, and language groups did not begin to embrace the Kosovars until later.

Until 1966, the only "equality" they had gained was the right to education in their own language, which was forbidden by the Serbdominated monarchy between the wars.

It was in 1966 that Tito cracked down on the Serb "colonist" and police apparatus which made the area a powder keg of Albanian resentment, capable (he realized) of sooner or later posing a serious threat to federation. Then conditions began to improve.

The wealthier republics began -- albeit grudgingly -- to aid their "Cinderella." More and more Albanians were brought into government and civil service. And, in 1970, Kosovo got its own university.

It now has 34,000 students, and some 17,000 more are linked with it through outside courses. The bigger republics say this is an excessive level of enrollment.

Local leaders defend it as the educational takeoff needed to put the region on a par with the advanced republics, Slovenia and Croatia.

But these leaders also note that too many young Albanians opt for the arts and the humanities and take it for granted that Slovenes and Croats will continue to provide the technological expertise the province obviously needs more than anything else.

It was, in fact, the university where trouble began April 1 and 2. Violence spilled out into the streets, leading finally to shootings.

The region has since been under strict military curfew while worried local and federal leaders ponder the source of the disturbances. So far, it is baffling even the security skills of a country well versed in the traditional labyrinth of Balkan "konspiratzia" and political plotting.

Is Albania involved? This correspondent has found on several visits that many Kosovars express strong approval for this neighboring country.

Are Serbs and Montenegrins still itching for their old dominant role in the province?

Did pro-Soviet "Cominformists," sporadically active around Yugoslavia in the last 10 years, have a part in the riots?

Compared with Albania's capital, Tirana, the Kosovar capital, Pristina, is a place of consumer affluence. But young Kosovars prefer the austere egalitarianism across the border and admire Enver Hoxha's total refusal to be beholden to East or West.

It is, however, questionable whether there is any widespread desire for unification.

Mr. Hoxha might be sympathetic. But he is not thought to encourage unification. He is too much a realist to overlook that, amid present East-West tensions, Albania's security is inseparable from Yugoslavia's.