Peja (or Pejë when in a sentence with a preposition as in "to", "in" or "from Peja") is the second largest city of Kosovo, with a population of around 114,000. The Serbian name is Пећ (Peć). Peja city is located in a strategic position on the Lumbardhi i Pejës (Pećka Bistrica) river, a tributary of the White Drin to the east of the Alpet Shqiptare (Albanian Alps) or Prokletije mountains.
The city was known as Pescium during the Roman era. Under Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan, it became a major religious centre of medieval Serbia: in 1346 it became the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church; the town and its surrounding area is still sacred ground for adherents of the Serbian Orthodox Church: Pećka Patriaršija, the Patriarchal monastery, is just west of the town.
Peć was captured by the Ottomans in the late 14th century; they named it İpek and made major changes. The town was settled by a large number of Turks, many of whose descendants still live in the area, and took on a distinctly oriental character with narrow streets and old-style Turkish houses. It also gained an Islamic character with the construction of a number of mosques, many of which still survive. One of these is the Bajrakli ("Flag") Mosque, built by the Ottomans in the 15th century and located in the centre of the city.
The five centuries of Ottoman rule came to an end in the First Balkan War of 1912-1913, when Montenegro took control of the town. In the late 1915, during World War I, Austria-Hungary took the city. Peć was retaken in October 1918 and after World War I the city became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later Yugoslavia. During World War II the town was occupied by Italian-controlled Albania but in 1944 it once more became part of Yugoslavia and eventually the second largest town in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo-Metohija, part of the People's Republic of Serbia.
Peja has always been a mixed city, with the vast majority of the inhabitants Kosovo Albanians, but there was also a large minority community. In 1967 and 1969, when the early photos were taken, life seemed peaceful. Traditional attire was common and an easy way to distinguish between the different population groups. The market place was especially interesting to see a variety of people. However, relations between Serbs and the majority Albanians were often tense during the 20th century; this came again to a head in the Kosovo War of 1999, during which the city suffered heavy damage and mass killings. There was further damage in violent inter-ethnic unrest in 2004. Most Kosovo Serbs have now left the town and live in a village nearby, but there is a large Bosniak community in town while significant Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities reside in urban and rural areas.