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Mitrovica bridge
Mitrovica bridge. Photo: flickr/nicoland

The Mitrovica Bridge spanning the Ibar Rivar has become a symbol of inter-ethnic tensions in post-war Kosovo. The current division of the town into a Serb-majority North (approx.16.400) and an Albanian South (approx.66.000), as well as the lingering threat of partition along the Ibar, leave Mitrovica as Kosovo's last contested territory.

Not long ago, Mitrovica was a proud mining town, with Albanians and Serbs working side by side at the Trepca mining and metallurgy giant, one of socialist Yugoslavia’s biggest companies. Mitrovica was probably the most 'Yugoslav' city in Kosovo. In no other urban area of Kosovo did so many Serbs speak Albanian. There was no division along ethnic lines; North Mitrovica always had an Albanian majority and the Serb Orthodox church and cemetery have always been located in the South.

Today, it is a dying town. The near-total collapse of the Trepca company deprived Mitrovica of both its industry and its jobs. Two thirds of North Mitrovica’s monthly cash income comes directly from Belgrade, in the form of transfers, pensions and salaries; the university and the hospital are the biggest employers. Whereas the North is politically and economically dependent on Belgrade, the South is impoverished, with average per capita incomes of 38 Euros per month. Industrial decline only helps fuel ethnic tensions.

The most recent outbreak of violence took place on 17 March 2008, one month after the declaration of independence. UN police and KFOR came under heavy fire as they tried to retake the UN court building in North Mitrovica after it had illegally seized by a Serb mob. A 25-year old Ukrainian police officer was killed; 42 international police officers and 22 KFOR soldiers were seriously wounded by hand grenades thrown at them by Serb protestors.

The March 2004 riots had also erupted in Mitrovica, spreading across all of Kosovo. The worst violence Kosovo had seen since 1999 left 19 people dead, including 8 Serbs, and about 3,000 Serbs displaced from their homes.

Mitrovica – Chronicle of a death foretold? (2003 – ESI film from 2003)

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Mitrovica – Chronicle of a death foretold? © 2003 ESI. All rights reserved.

Trepca lead-smelter (North Mitrovica)

Trepca company headquarters (North Mitrovica)

   


Miners hill (North Mitrovica)


Kiqiq village (South Mitrovica), a village dependent on the diaspora

   


"Those were the days" – Memories of Mitrovica Football Club’s days in the Premier League of Yugoslavia


Trepca Miners ( South Mitrovica)

 


The March 2004 riots destroyed Serb house in Svinjare (South Mitrovica)

May 2008

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