By the mid-20th century, Kosovo was an autonomous region of mostly Albanian-speaking Muslims, a minority in the rest of Yugoslavia. But tensions rose between ethnic Albanians calling for more political representation within Yugoslavia and Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs, who feared increasing marginalization on what they saw as sacred Serbian land.
After Serbian socialist Slobodan Milosevic rose to power in the 1980s, he tossed gunpowder on the smoldering fire of nationalism. In 1989, he met with Serbs inside Kosovo who complained of oppression from the Albanian majority. Outside the meeting, violence broke out between Serbs and ethnic Albanian police. Milosevic then marched outside and promised the angry crowd that “no one will beat you again.” He then imposed direct control over Kosovo and installed Serb police in the region.