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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) and the lingering threat of partition along the River meant that Mitrovica is Kosovo's last contested territory.

Not long ago, Mitrovica was a proud mining town with Albanians and Serbs working side by side in the Trepca mining and metallurgy giant, one of the biggest companies of socialist Yugoslavia. It was probably the most 'Yugoslav' city in Kosovo. In no other urban area in 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 has always been located in the South.

Today, Mitrovica is a dying town. The near-total collapse of Trepca Company reduced Mitrovica to a town without industry and without jobs. Two thirds of monthly cash incomes in North Mitrovica come directly from Belgrade, in the form of transfers, pensions and salaries. The University in North Mitrovica and the Hospital are the biggest employers. Whereas the North is politically and economically dependent on decisions taken in Belgrade, the South is impoverished, with average per capita incomes of 38 Euros per month. Industrial decline on such a scale only serves to 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 been taken over illegally by a Serb mob. A 25 �year old Ukrainian police officer was killed and 42 international police officers and 22 KFOR soldiers were seriously wounded by hand grenades thrown at them by Serb protestors. Five years earlier, the 2004 March riots also erupted in Mitrovica and subsequently spread all over Kosovo. The worst violence Kosovo has 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 when Mitrovica Football Club played in the Premier League of Yugoslavia


Trepca Miners ( South Mitrovica)

 


Riots March 2004 � destroyed Serb house in Svinjare (South Mitrovica)

May 2008

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