Situation. The town is known by two names: Gjakovë/Gjakova in Albanian (pronounced "dja-koeu-va") and Ђаковица/Đakovica in Serbian (pronounced "dja-ko-vi-tsa"). It has a population of 41,000 and about 95,000 inhabitants with the rest of the municipality (84 villages) of which it is the capital, mostly Albanians (91%), Ashkali (7%) and Roma (less than 1%). Gjakova/Đakovica is also the capital of the district of the same name (214,000 inhabitants, 95% Albanian and 3% Ashkali). The city is 12 km north of Qafa e Prushit (border crossing with Albania), 21 km southwest of Deçan/Dečani, 37 km southwest of Peja/Peć (via Deçan/Dečani), 37 km northwest of Prizren, 87 km southwest of Pristina.
Description. Particularly devastated by the first Balkan War (1912-1913) and, above all, by the Kosovo War (see below), Gjakova/Đakovica is now only the seventh largest city in the country in terms of population. However, it was a major commercial centre during the Ottoman period. Strategically located at the western entrance to the Metochia/Dukagjin plain and the Erenik valley, at an altitude of 350 m, the town developed strongly from the 15th to the 19th century as a stopover on the road between Constantinople and the Albanian port of Shkodra. Gjakova/Đakovica has also benefited from a significant immigration of Albanian Catholics from Malësi, an austere mountainous region straddling Albania and Montenegro. From this past, the city has inherited a rich heritage and the strongest Catholic minority in the country (16% of the municipality's population today). Alas, the entire old city, especially the former Ottoman Shariah, the largest in the country, was destroyed in 1999. Reconstruction financed by international aid has certainly given the city a new look, dominated by the bell towers of the Catholic Cathedral of St. Paul and St. Peter and the minaret of the Hadum Mosque. But the result is a bit fake, too smooth and soulless. Although ideally located halfway between Kosovo's two "tourist capitals" (Prizren and Peja/Peć), Gjakova/Đakovica manages to attract very few visitors, mostly day visitors.
Kosovo War. Gjakova/Đakovica was the city that suffered the most damage during the 1998-1999 war. While the municipality had a population of about 150,000 before the conflict, the population now stands at less than 100,000. The city remained largely untouched by the fighting in 1998, but Yugoslav troops stationed here were one of the first targets at the start of the NATO bombing campaign on 24 March 1999. To which Serbian President Slobodan Milošević replied by laying siege to the city and expelling 75% of its population. Until early June, the Yugoslav Army and Serbian paramilitaries destroyed the city centre and caused the death of hundreds of Albanian civilians, while two US Air Force planes mistakenly attacked a refugee convoy. For its part, the KLA launched retaliatory actions against the Serb and Roma minorities. In total, these three months of chaos led to the death or disappearance of around 3 000 Albanians and around 800 Serbs and Roma, the destruction of the city's heritage, but also the permanent departure of a third of its inhabitants. The abuses committed by the Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitaries in Gjakova/Đakovica constituted one of the main pieces of the prosecution's case in the unfinished trial of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević (1941-2006) at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
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