Copyright 1981 The New York Times Company   
                                      The New York Times 

                             April 19, 1981, Sunday, Late City Final Edition 

SECTION: Section 4; Page 4, Column 1; Week in Review Desk 

LENGTH: 1134 words 




Josip Broz Tito has not been dead a year, but the Yugoslav ''brotherhood and unity'' he nurtured for 35 years has already developed fissures on a sensitive flank, the mostly Albanian province of Kosovo.

What started March 11 as an isolated, seemingly insignificant protest - a student at the University of Pristina dumped his tray of cafeteria food on the floor - escalated by April 2 into riots involving 20,000 people in six cities. Nine people died and more than 50 were injured. Only last week did authorities relax a state of emergency in the province, lifting a curfew and reopening schools.

There are other multi-ethnic countries with sizable minorities. But none equals Yugoslavia for ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity and is so vulnerable to centrifugal forces. Hence the concern of Marshal Tito's successors over the explosion of resentment among Yugoslavia's predominantly Moslem Albanian minority of 1.4 million, most of whom live in Kosovo. After the riots, Stane Dolanc, a member of the Communist Party Presidium, warned of ''the danger of the growth of other kinds of nationalisms'' in Yugoslavia - a thinly veiled allusion to the traditional and still virulent rivalry between the dominant Serbs and Croats.

The Kosovo rebellion was bad enough news for the Belgrade leadership; it coincided with setbacks that have put Yugoslavia's economy in its worst straits in decades. Industrial production dropped 0.6 percent from February 1980 to February 1981 (Kosovo's dropped 2 percent), while the cost of living rose 40.5 percent, according to official figures. Exports now constitute only 10 percent of the gross national product - the lowest proportion in Europe - and are sinking. The Yugoslavs also spent $1.2 billion more in 1980 for oil imports, despite such conservation measures as gasoline rationing. The foreign debt stands at $17 billion.

''Evidently our economy does not function well,'' acknowledged Milos Minic, a member of the collective party leadership, in a speech to party activists in Zagreb last month. ''Stop the uncontrolled rise of prices!'' demanded

Cvijetin Mijatovic, the current President in the revolving succession to Tito, in another grim assessment of the economy before a gathering in Nis.

The Government, having just authorized sharp price increases for alcohol and tobacco products, declared that price rises would have to be held this year to 30 percent at the producer level and 32 percent at the retail level. Belgrade is also looking to revitalize Tito's vaunted system of factory self-management, which has ''deteriorated'' under the pressure of inflation, according to Mr. Mijatovic. He and other leaders have described cases of economic anarchy arising when worker councils have raised prices for their products without considering the common good.

The collective leadership, created by Tito partly because he did not want to be succeeded by one prominent figure, has functioned adequately despite its Rube Goldberg construction. Yet its very dispersal of authority has deprived it of the charisma required to persuade a nation of independent spirits that it is really leading Yugoslavia.

Of course, Tito is a hard act to follow. According to Belgrade officials, the leadership took pains after his death last May to maintain a low profile, but this soon may change. One official said he expected the next Prime Minister, to be elected next year, to play a more prominent role. He also noted that all but one of the eight members of the collective presidency will be replaced in 1983 and he suggested that this might encourage the current leaders to ''become more inspirational because they have nothing to lose.''

Serbs, Turks and Albanians

Outsiders sometimes forget that socialist Yugoslavia was born not only of the war against Hitler, but also of a raging civil war that pitted nationality against nationality and church against church, at a cost of 1.7 million lives.

The nationality problems of the Kosovo region, desperately poor despite considerable mineral wealth, are centuries old and were exacerbated in both world wars. Originally the home of Serbia's founding dynasty in the 12th century, Kosovo lost most of its remaining Serbian population in the 17th century when the Serbs, Orthodox Christians, fled northward to distance themselves from the Ottoman Turks. Albanian tribesmen filled the vacuum; they now constitute more than four-fifths of the province's population.

When the great powers agreed in 1913 to make Albania independent more or less within its present borders, they ceded Kosovo to the Serbian monarchy. It was a blow the Albanians have never forgotten, the more so because their own independence movement had begun in the Kosovo town of Prizren in 1878. World War II brought more upheavals when Kosovo was handed to Mussolini's Italy by Germany and some Albanians enlisted out of gratitude on the Italian side. Retribution came when Tito's partisans entered the area, massacring suspected collaborators before the horrified eyes of their own Albanian Communist comrades in arms.

Tito Partisans Once Ruled Albania

For a time, Tito's dominant forces ruled Albania and a permanent Yugoslav-Albanian federation was even contemplated. One holdout was Enver Hoxha, who had earlier called for a plebiscite in Kosovo. In 1948, the reversals caused by Tito's ouster from the Cominform lofted Mr. Hoxha into the Albanian leadership he still holds today.

For two succeeding decades, Tito's Yugoslavia held down the Albanians of Kosovo, denying them proper schooling and arresting or killing outspoken Albanian teachers. The repression ended in 1966 with the fall of the Serb leader who was Tito's number two, Aleksandr Rankovic. Since then, federal money has poured into Kosovo at a higher rate than into any other part of the country. Pristina University has grown to become one of the country's largest with 48,000 students. Most of the region's administrators, and its police, are ethnic Albanians. The Kosovars are even allowed to fly the Albanian flag, a black eagle on a red field.

Yet this ''tremendous dynamic of development,'' as Mr. Dolanc described it, ironically has fed unrest. There were riots in 1968 and again in 1975. This time the youths of Kosovo shouted ''We want a republic'' (their semi-autonomous province has almost all rights of a Yugoslav republic except the right to secede) and some even demanded annexation by Mr. Hoxha's Albanian fatherland.

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