Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, after years of strained relations between its Serb and mainly Albanian inhabitants.
It has been recognised by the United States and major European Union countries, but Serbia, backed by its powerful ally Russia, refuses to do so, as do most ethnic Serbs inside Kosovo.
After the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Serbia responded to separatist pressure from Kosovo by launching a brutal crackdown on the territory's Albanian population, which was only brought to an end by Nato military intervention in 1999.
Until 2008 the province was administered by the UN. Reconciliation between the majority Albanians, most of whom support independence, and the Serb minority remains elusive.
President: Hashim Thaci
Hashim Thaci was elected by parliament to the largely ceremonial role in February 2016, at the end of a day marked by violent protests by the opposition which did not want him to be president.
Mr Thaci was a guerrilla leader during a conflict that led to Kosovo's independence. He has played an important role in Kosovo's politics for nearly two decades, most recently as foreign minister from 2014 until his election as president. He served two terms as prime minister, from 2008 until 2010 and from 2011 until December 2014.
He also served as prime minister of the provisional government of Kosovo between 1999 and 2001 and oversaw Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008. He has been the chairman of the Democratic Party of Kosovo since May 2000.
Mr Thaci fell out with many opposition groups after helping to negotiate with Serbia a deal that gave more autonomy to Kosovo's minority Serbs.
Television is the most popular medium. Most households have cable, meaning that domestic stations face strong competition from popular channels based in Albania.
Public broadcaster RTK was set up as an editorially independent service.
News websites are becoming key information sources, while the printed newspaper market is in decline.
Some key dates in Kosovo's history:
1st century AD - The Romans gain control of the area, populated by a people known as Dardani, who are thought to be either Illyrian or Thracian in origin.
6th century - Slavs begin to settle in the area, which slips from Roman/Byzantine control and becomes a disputed border area.
12th century - Serbia gains control of Kosovo, which goes on to become the heart of the Serbian empire. The period sees the building of many Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries.
1389 - Epic Battle of Kosovo heralds 500 years of Turkish Ottoman rule. Over the centuries the religious and ethnic balance tips in favour of Muslims and Albanians.
1912 - Balkan Wars: Serbia regains control of Kosovo from the Turks.
1946 - Kosovo is absorbed into the Yugoslav federation.
1974 - Yugoslav constitution recognises the autonomous status of Kosovo, giving the province de facto self-government.
1990 - Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic strips Kosovo of its autonomy and imposes Serbian administration on the territory, prompting Albanian protests.
1991 - Start of the violent break-up of Yugoslavia. Kosovar Albanians launch a passive resistance movement, but fail to secure independence.
1996 - The rebel Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) steps up attacks on Serbian authorities in Kosovo. Their campaign grows, along with a Serbian crackdown.
1999 - After international efforts fail to stop the Kosovo conflict, Nato begins aerial bombardment of Serb targets. Yugoslav and Serbian forces respond with a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Albanians, prompting an exodus. Following a peace agreement, Yugoslav and Serbian forces withdraw from Kosovo and a UN sponsored administration takes over.
2008 - Kosovo unilaterally declares independence.
2012 - Group of countries overseeing Kosovo since 2008 ends its supervisory role. Nato-led peacekeepers and EU rule-of-law monitors remain.
2013 - Kosovo and Serbia reach a landmark agreement on normalising relations that grants a high degree of autonomy to Serb-majority areas in northern, while both sides agree not to block each other's efforts to seek EU membership.