1944 – 2006
Who was Ibrahim Rugova?
Ibrahim Rugova was the first President of Kosovo, serving from 1992 to 2000 and again from 2002 to 2006, and a prominent Kosovo Albanian political leader, scholar, and writer. He oversaw a popular struggle for independence, advocating a peaceful resistance to Yugoslav rule and lobbying for U.S. and European support, especially during the Kosovo War. He strongly emphasized the heritage of ancient Dardania, the independent kingdom and later province of the Roman Empire that included modern-day Kosovo, to strengthen the country's identity and to promote his policy of closer relations with the West. Owing to his role in Kosovo's history, Rugova has been dubbed "Father of the Nation" and "Gandhi of the Balkans," awarded, among others, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and posthumously declared a Hero of Kosovo.
Rugova was born to an Albanian family in Yugoslavia; Yugoslav communists executed his father and grandfather while Rugova was still an infant. He studied literature at the University of Pristina and the University of Paris, and received a doctorate with a dissertation on Albanian literary criticism. As a student, he participated in a civil rights movement for the Albanians, although he formally joined the Communist League of Yugoslavia to secure career advancements. Thereby, he worked as editor of prestigious literary and scholarly publications and research fellow at the Institute of Albanian Studies; in 1988, he was elected president of the Kosovo Writers Union.
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