Kosovo, the former Serbian province which is poised to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its declaration of independence on Sunday, is one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Leaders of Kosovo's overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian population proclaimed independence on February 17, 2008. It has been recognised to date by 98 countries, including the United States and most of the European Union.
Serbia, backed by Russia, refuses to recognise its sovereignty.
- GEOGRAPHY: Kosovo is a land-locked territory in the southwestern Balkans which borders Serbia, Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.
It covers 10,877 square kilometres (4,200 square miles).
- POPULATION: Around 1.8 million. About 90 percent of the population is ethnic Albanian, most of whom are Muslims. The small Serb population of about 120,000, which is of the Christian Orthodox faith, is concentrated mostly in the north and in tiny enclaves scattered throughout the territory and has been steadily decreasing since the 1998-1999 war.
- CAPITAL: Pristina
- LANGUAGES: Albanian, Serbo-Croat.
- HISTORY: Serbs believe Kosovo to be the birthplace of their nation, for it was where the Serbian Orthodox Church had its seat, and also where the Serb army was defeated by the Turks in 1389.
The province was granted considerable autonomy in the federal Yugoslavia that emerged after World War II, but in 1989 Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic removed most of its privileges, leading to a rise in nationalistic tensions.
After the wars which tore apart the rest of Yugoslavia between 1990 and 1995, Milosevic moved to crush an independence movement led by the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), leading the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to intervene militarily in 1999. Milosevic was forced to withdraw his forces from Kosovo and Belgrade lost its control of the territory, which came under UN administration and NATO protection. It proclaimed independence on February 17, 2008.
- POLITICAL SITUATION: A parliamentary democracy. Since 2011 the president, elected by parliament, has been Atifete Jahjaga, a former police commander. The country's strongman is Hashim Thaci, prime minister since 2008, a former guerrilla leader who has been implicated in Serb prisoners' organ trafficking.
- ECONOMY: The economy is mostly based on farming, but suffered great damage during the war. The province remains one of the poorest regions in Europe, although it has rich deposits of coal, lead, zinc, chromium and silver.
According to the World Bank Kosovo's gross domestic product stood in 2012 at $6.45 billion and income per capita at $3,520, against $7,610 dollars for the rest of Europe and central Asia.
The economy is heavily dependent on international loans and remittances from the diaspora based mainly in western Europe. According to the International Monetary Fund Kosovo has withstood the world economic crisis and should register more than three percent growth in 2013.
- CURRENCY: The euro