Metohija (Rrafshi i Dukagjinit; Serbian: Метохија, transliterated Metohija or, infrequently, Metohia), is a large basin and the name of the region covering the southwestern part of Kosovo. It encompasses three of the seven districts of Kosovo, namely:
The area of the region is 3340 km². The population in 2002 was 790272, or 40 percent of the province total of 1956194.
The name Metohija derives from the Greek word μετόχια (metókhia), meaning "monastic estates" - a reference to the large number of villages and estates in the region that were owned by the Orthodox monasteries of Serbia and Mount Athos during the Middle Ages.
The full Serbian name "Kosovo i Metohija" was in official use until 1974, when the constitutional status of Kosovo underwent major changes in a newly established constitution for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The 1974 constitution dropped the term "Metohija" and "Kosovo" became the official term for the province as a whole. The change was not accepted by many Serbian nationalists, who continued to use the old name (notably in the famous Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1986). In 1989, the then Serbian President Slobodan Milošević promulgated a new constitution for Serbia that greatly reduced the province's autonomy and restored the old name, thus symbolically undoing the earlier reforms.
Metohija is 23 kilometers wide at its broadest point and about 60 kilometers long, at an average altitude of 450 meters above sea level. Its principal river is the White Drin. It is bordered by the mountain ranges Mokra Gora in the north and northwest, the North Albanian Alps in the west, Paštrik in the southwest, the Šar Mountains in the south and southeast, and Drenica, which distinguishes it from the rest of Kosovo in the east and northeast.
The geographic division between Metohija and Kosovo causes differences between the two areas' flora and fauna. Metohija has the characteristic influence of the Mediterranean, thus being the region with the highest number of Mediterranean species of flora and fauna in Serbia, while Kosovo's ecology does not differ from that of the rest of Serbia.
Metohija consists of fertile arable land with many small rivers which provide water for irrigation and, in combination with the Mediterranean climate, give excellent fields except for cereals. This area is well known for its high quality vineyards, fruit orchards and for the growing of chestnut and almond trees.
The largest cities of Metohija are (with population figures for 2006):
The region of Metohija received waves of Slavic migrations in the 6th-7th centuries. In the 630s, it became a part of the newly formed Serbian Principality, Grand Principality since the middle of the 9th century) of Rascia under the Byzantine Empire, with Dostinik as its capital, ruled by the House of Vlastimirović.
At the dawn of the 10th century, Metohija was conquered by the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon. Although Serbian rule would be briefly restored in the early 10th, Byzantine rule was restored after its fall in 960.
Control over the region of Metohija was slowly restored by the House of Vojislavljević Princes and Grand Princes of Rascia throughout the 11th and 12th centuries. They were replaced by the new House of Nemanjić subsequently. The Kingdom of the Serbs was created in 1217, and an Empire in 1345.
Metohija was conquered by the Ottomans and incorporated into the Empire's Vilayet of Kosovo after the fall of Serbia in 1459. Metohija witnessed very intense migrations of Albanians, who would replace the Serbs as the dominant ethnic group of Metohija and Islam replace the previously dominant Orthodox Christianity.
The area was taken by the Kingdom of Montenegro in the 1912 First Balkan War. During the First World War, Montenegro was conquered by the Austro-Hungarian forces in 1915. The Central Powers were pushed out of Metohija by the Serbian Army in 1918. Montenegro subsequently joined the Kingdom of Serbia, which was followed by the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The Kingdom was reformed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. The Kingdom suffered an Axis invasion during World War II in 1941, and the region of Metohija was incorporated into the Italian-controlled Albania. After Italy's treaty with the Allies in 1943, the Germans took direct control over the region. After numerous rebellions of Serbian Chetniks and Yugoslav Partisans, Metohija was liberated after 1944 and became a part of Serbia's Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija - inside the transitional Democratic Federal Yugoslavia.
On 17 February 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. However, Serbia still considers it as a part of its sovereign territory as an autonomous province.
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