Mitrovica is one of the most complex places in Kosovo and was also, in the past, one of the most multi-ethnic areas in the entire former Yugoslavia, on that time with 60% Albanians and 40% mostly Serbs, then many other nationalities and, inside such 40%, something like 30% Serbs and something like 10% different communities, as Bosniaks and Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians. Even if the ethnic balance changed from time to time, in the Socialist period the city was shaped by multi-ethnic tolerance, reciprocity and coexistence.
Before the Kosovo war of 1998-1999 and in former Yugoslavia Socialist system, the region had both economical and social relevance, thanks to the presence of Trepça Mines, which employed over thousands workers, and also social welfare and people’s power as well, since it had very broad diversity, in terms of richness and value. Whenever you have diversity, you have social life and cultural richness, values and competition in a positive way. So, being in the middle, you can usually get your pragmatic view to address issues.
After the war, Mitrovica is one of the poorest cities in Kosovo and entirely in the Balkans, and this contradiction between the past and the present, the history of opportunities and coexistence and the present of difficulties and division, is now a major feature and a relevant shortcoming for Mitrovica itself, having been, before the war, the most industrialized city in the region, with a rich economic, social and cultural environment, sport facilities and cultural scene (it used to be addressed as the “Rock City”) while now, after the war, it is one of the poorest cities in the area, with lots of problems and various misfunctions, (social and cultural) divisions and (concrete and psychological) barricades.
As a consequence, this is also the place in the region (and one of the places in the Balkans) with the highest number of unemployed young people, mostly 60% of young people. For all those reasons, Mitrovica today represents a wound of conflict which is still “frozen” and “freezing” the society, because anyone is settled in his own way, mood and home; maybe, the rest of Kosovo is settled in diverse ways and going to develop time by time, but Mitrovica is a place where “time is stopped”. This is the meaning of Mitrovica, and you can feel time seems not passing and everything seems not going to change in any way.
Mitrovica represents, for certain extents, “all the world”: it is something which is in the heart and you cannot live without. Earlier, Mitrovica was recognized for many different reasons, industry, museums, cinema, sports and rock, and it was like the first place in the entire Kosovo to have a Sport Centre, such as the “Minatori Sport Center”, where K.B. Trepça used to play, and one of the most active musical stage and rock scene in the entire Yugoslavia, and those were a salient part of the everyday life in the city. Historically, Mitrovica is rich in traditions and cultures and hosts one of the most important archaeological sites of the region, one of the most important of the whole Balkans. From all those things, coming from the “memory of the past”, the city does not preserve quite anything now – after the war.