Albanology and political claims of the Albanians



20thCentAlbania

The interest of European scholars, primarily German and Austrian, in research on Albanian ethnical origin rose gradually during the second half of the 19th century.[1] Their interest in Albanian and Balkan studies came later in comparison with the study of other ethnic groups and regions in Europe. The reason was that Euro-centrism of the late 19th century and the early 20th century defined the Balkans and its nations as the territory and peoples of obscure identity. In contrast to the  “real Europe”, the Balkans was seen as the “Orient”, not part of Europe at all, and above all it was considered as an “uncivilized” part of the world.[2]

Nonetheless, when the studies of the Albanians began the research was focused on the relationships of  the Albanian language to other European languages. However, the first hypothesis with respect to Albanian ethnic origins was quite indistinct and very soon discarded by the majority of scholars. According to a nebulous hypothesis proposed by A. Schleicher, the Albanians originated from the Pelasgians who were supposed to be the most indigenous Balkan population, settled not only on the entire territory of the Balkan Peninsula, but also inhabited a major portion of the Mediterranean basin in pre-historic times.[3] Moreover, it was erroneously believed that Indo-European languages such as Greek, Latin and “ancient” Albanian (i.e., the Illyrian language) were derived from the ancient Pelasgian language. However, some of Albanian scholars at present still believe that this hypothesis has real scientific foundations regardless of the fact that later 19th century linguists and researchers in comparative philology undermined the “Pelasgian” hypothesis and finally at the beginning of the 20th century overturned it.[4]

The German linguist Franz Bopp was first to claim (in 1854) that the Albanian language had to be considered as separate branch of the Indo-European family of languages. The scientific foundation of the hypothesis that the Albanians derive their ethnic origin from the Balkan Illyrians based on language criteria was laid out by the late 19th century Austrian philologists Gustav Meyer. He claimed that  the contemporary Albanian language was a dialect of the ancient Illyrian language. His claims initially were based on the results of the analysis of a few hundred basic Albanian words, tracable to their Indo-European origin. Later, Albanian national workers transformed Meyer’s hypothesis into the “Illyrian” theory of the Albanian ethnic background. Meyer’s hypothesis was based on the results of his linguistic investigations and comparisons of ancient Illyrian language to contemporary Albanian. Meyer argued that the modern Albanian language had to be considered as the last phase of the evolution of the old Illyrian language. Specifically, according to him, the 19th century Albanian language was a dialect of the ancient Illyrian language.[5] However, the critical problem with Mayer’s methodology was the fact that we do not have any evidence of the ancient Illyrian language as the Illyrians were illiterate. The reconstruction of this ancient language is a matter of the science of fantasy. Nevertheless, G. Meyer, a professor at Graz University from 1880 to 1896 wrote several works in which he opposed A. Schleicher’s Pelasgian theory of Albanian origin. Mayer claimed in his works (Albanesischen Studien, Albanesische Grammatik, Etymologische Wörterbuch der Albanesischen Schprache) that Albanian language was nothing more than a dialect of the ancient Illyrian language.[6]

Meyer’s hypothetical claims were taken up by a majority of Albanian authors, primarily from Italy, who made use of them for the propaganda directed to the realization of Albanian territorial claims, especially by the Albanian nationalist movement in the coming decades. The final aim of this propaganda work was to prove, using the evidence derived from scholarly research, that the Albanians were not members of ethnic Turk, Greek or South Slavic populations, but rather members of a totally different ethnic group, which had its own language. In other words, they fought for international recognition of the existence of separate Albanian nationhood which had certain national rights, including the basic right to create their own national independent (Albanian) state. Such a national state of the Albanians would embrace all Albanian populations of the Balkan Peninsula. For instance, on May 30th, 1878 the Albanian Constantinople Committee proclaimed their desire for  peaceful coexistence between the Albanians and their Slavonic and Greek neighbors, but only under the  condition that the Albanian ethnographic lands would be included into a unified Albanian national state.

The so-called Italo-Albanians, or Arbereshi, whose predecessors emigrated from Albania after the death of Scanderbeg in 1468 to the southern Italian provinces of Puglia, Calabria and Sicily, formulated this political program for the  unification of  Albanians into a united or Greater Albania. The program underlined that the achievement of national unity and the liberation of the Albanians required their territorial unification, joint economy, joint standardized language and a pervasive spirit of patriotism and mutual solidarity. The Albanian national leader from the end of the 19th century, Naïm Frashëri (1846–1900), described what it meant to be Albanian: “All of us are only single tribe, a single family; we are of one blood and one language”.[7] It is obvious that on the question of national unification at the turn of the 20th century Albanian workers would seek an Albanian ethnic and cultural identity primarily in common language since in Albanian case religion was a divisive rather than unifying factor. Additionally, and for the same purpose of national unification, they demanded that Albanian language be written in the Latin alphabet in order to distinguish themselves from the neighboring Greeks, Serbs, Montenegrins and Ottoman lords. This was totally irrelevant to the overwhelming majority of Albanians who could read neither the script.[8] However, the national unification of Albanian people on the basis of language was not completely successful, and even today it is still difficult for the Gheg Albanians to fully understand the Tosk Albanian dialect.[9]

Endnotes:

[1] The question of Albanian ethnogenesis was first examined by Johan Thunmann (1746−1778) in 1774 (Research on history of the East European peoples, Leipzig) and Johan Georg von Hahn (1811−1869) in 1854 (Albanian studies, Jena). Both were of the opinion, but not based on any source, that the Albanians lived in the territories of the ancient Illyrians and they were natives and Illyrian in essence. Hahn thought that ancient names like Dalmatia, Ulcinium, Dardania, etc. were of Illyrian-Albanian origin. This hypothesis is fully accepted by modern Albanian linguists. For example, “The name of Ragusium (present-day Dubrovnik), which in the mouth of the Albanians was Rush Rush, shows that the Adriatic coast was part of the territory inhabited by the ancestors of the Albanians beyond the present ethnic borders. The adoption of this name by the Albanians belongs to the time since 614 B.C… I conclude that there is a continuity of the Albanians in their present territories since ancient times. The old place-names in their present form indicate that this population has continuously inhabited the coasts of the Adriatic from that time until today” [Çabej E., “The problem of the autochthony of Albanians in the light of place-names”,Buletini i Universitetit Shteteror te Tiranes, № 2, 1958, pp. 54–62]. This standpoint is usually unquestionably recognized as truth by Albanian and German researchers like Peter Bartl in his book: Albanian. Vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, Regensburg, Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1995 [Serb language edition: Бартл П., Албанци од средњег века до данас, Београд: CLIO, 2001, p. 15]. However, the Illyrian theory of  Albanian origin (the Albanians were considered even as the oldest European people) was created by German and Austrian scholars for the very political purpose: to unite all ethnic Albanians around the central political ideology and national consciousness [Батаковић Т. Б., Косово и Метохија. Историја и идеологија, Друго допуњено издање, Београд: Чигоја штампа, 2007, pp. 66−67; Екмечић Е., Стварање Југославије 1790−1918, II, Београд, 1989, pp. 450−455]. At that time, like today, the ethnic Albanians were divided into three antagonistic confessions (Islam, Roman-Catholicism and Orthodoxy) and many hostile clans based on the tribal origin. In fact, the German scholars invented for the Albanians both artificial tradition and artificial “imagined community” in order to be more scientifically stronger in their territorial claims against the Serbs, Montenegrins and Greeks. In this context, we cannot forget that the first Albanian state was created and supported exactly by Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1912−1913. In the other words, the Albanians have been the Balkan clients of German political expansionism in the region.   

[2] Mishkova D., “Symbolic Geographies and Visions of Identity: A Balkan Perspective”, European Journal of Social Theory, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2008, pp. 237−256.

[3] On ancient Balkan Pelasgians as the Greek tribes, see [Zorzos G., Greek Pelasgian Tribes Textbook, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2009 (in Greek)].

[4] However, even today there are many non-Albanian scholars who believe in a theory of Albanian Balkan origin as one of the oldest European nations. See, for instance [Jacques E. E., The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present, Jefferson, N. Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 2009].

[5] Regarding the contemporary scientific results on this question, see [Hamp E. P., “The Position of Albanian”, Proceedings of Conference on Indo-European Linguistics, Los Angeles, 1963].

[6] Батаковић Т. Д., Косово и Метохија. Историја и идеологија, Друго допуњено издање, Београд: Чигоја штампа, 2007, p. 66.

[7] Gut Ch., “Groupe de Travail sur l’Europe Centrale et Orientale”, Bulletin d’Information, № 2, June 1878, Paris, p. 40.

[8] The international political aspect of the Albanian struggle for a pan-Albanian national unification into a Greater Albania is evidenced by the fact that Albanian national workers tried to obtain the support of Western Europeans by claiming that Greater Albania would be the crucial bulwark against Russian penetration to the Balkans via Russian client (Orthodox) nations and states – the Serbs, Montenegrins and Greeks. For instance, Montenegro was presented by the Albanians as “the Russian outpost at the Adriatic Sea”. The Albanian Sami Frashëri published an article in Istanbul newspapers Tercüman-i şark on September 27th, 1878 in which the borders of Greater Albania were defined by the borders of four “Albanian” provinces (vilayets) of the Ottoman Empire – Scodra, Bitola, Ioanina and Kosovo. These four provinces would be united into the so-called “Albanian Vilayet” (see figure 1). The First Prizren League, as the first organized Albanian political organization, accepted this concept in autumn of 1879 as the programe of the organization [Бартл П., Албанци од средњег века до данас, Београд: CLIO, 2001, pp. 96, 100−101].

[9] Hobsbawm E. J., Nations and Nationalism since 1789. Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 52, 115. About the language basis of (non)identification among the Albanians from the beginning of the 20th century see: Durham E., High Albania, London, 1909, p. 17. On Albanian modern history, see [Vickers M., The Albanians: A Modern History, London−New York: I. B. Tauris, 2006].


2. Sotirovic 2013

Prof. Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović

www.global-politics.eu/sotirovic

globalpol@global-politics.eu

© Vladislav B. Sotirović 2017

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Refuting a Greater Albania’s mythomania: The ancient Balkan Dardanians – The Illyro-Albanians, the Daco-Moesians or the Thracians?



Illyrian_Tribes_Visually_impaired_version_(English).svg

One of the claims of Albanian historiography is that the Central Balkan tribe – Dardanians, who settled in the southern portion of the territory of the Roman Province of Moesia Superior and northwestern part of the Roman Province of Macedonia, should be considered as one of the Illyrian tribes and an ancestor of the Albanians. With respect to this point, Albanian historians refer to the German linguist Norbert Jokl who wrote, according to the research of historical toponomastics, that the ancient cradle of the Albanians was Dardania, from where they moved westward to their present territories in late Roman times.[1] Consequently, the northwestern territory of the present-day Republic of Macedonia (the FYROM), Kosovo and Metohija and present-day Southern Serbia (settled by the Dardanians in Antiquity as well as the northeastern portion of the present-day Republic of Albania) are considered as Albanian historical lands and thus had to be included into a united Albanian national state in the future. For Albanian proponents of the theory of the Illyrian-Albanian symbiosis, the most valuable information and evidence that the ancient Dardanians were the Illyrians (and thus Albanian ancestors) comes from the archaeological excavations in the Kukës region in Northeastern Albania which belonged to the western portion of the Dardanian state.[2] What is of extreme importance according to them, is that the traditional Illyrian names like Andinus, Annius, Dassius, Epicadus, Genthiana, Rhedon, Surus, Tata, Tridus can be found in the inscriptions in Dardania. The Yugoslav specialist in Illyrology, Henrik Barić from Sarajevo, also championed the idea that “the Balkan homeland of the Albanian people must have been Dardania-Paeonia, provinces which, judging from the known names of persons, were the Illyrian and not Tracian in Antiquity… Therefore, it can be said that Dardania and Paeonia were the provinces in which the early Albanian-Illyrian symbiosis took place in the interior of the Balkan Peninsula”.[3] Barić, in fact, disagreed with the theory of the Romanian linguist Mateescu who, in his detailed analysis of the epigraphic material, dated the Thracian infiltration into  the province of Dardania  to the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.[4]

The Albanian exponents of the theory of the Illyrian-Albanian continuity and ethnic symbiosis repeatedly quote Arthur Evans that the same coins, pottery and other handcraft products from ancient Dyrrhachium and Apollonia (located on the Albanian littoral) are found in Kosovo and Metohija (in the regions of Peć, Đakovica and Prizren).[5] This fact is, however, only evidence of the Hellenization of the Illyrians as the coins were of the Greek origin. Greek was evidently the language of official inscriptions among the educated class of Illyrian society.[6] The Yugoslav historian Fanula Papazoglu discovered a Dacian-Moesian or Phrygian stratum in the formation of the Dardanians. For that reason, the Dardanians cannot be identified with the Illyrians and thus cannot provide support for the development of Illyrian-Albanian ethnic self-awareness.[7] Finally, modern European ethnographic and historical sciences suggest that the homeland of the Albanian nation lies in what is today Central Albania. The German Illyrologist-Albanologist, Georg Stadtmüller, stresses that the original Albanian native region includes the valley of the Shkumba river, both sides of the Mat river, Kruja, and some neighboring areas.[8]

The highlanders from Albania, however, began to migrate from their mountains in mid-14th century towards the more fertile lowlands of Thessaly, Boeotia, Attica, Euboea and Peloponnese, while from the end of the 17th century they migrated towards the north-east occupying the territories of Kosovo and Metohija (“Old Serbia” or Serbia proper) and the territories of present-day Serbia around the cities of Novi Pazar, Vranje and Niš.[9] Certainly, it was not until the 18th century that throngs of Albanian herdsmen came down from their native country’s highlands to the fertile areas of Kosovo and Metohija, which up to that time were populated almost exclusively by the Eastern Orthodox Serbs, and to the regions of today’s Western Macedonia (from Skopje to Bitola) whose population consisted of a majority of Macedonian Slavs and a minority of Serbs.[10] Practically, most of the territory of the former Roman province of Dardania mainly settled by Dardanian tribe was not affected by the Illyrian-Albanian elements before the migrations of the Albanian tribes from the highlands of Albania at the end of the 17th century.

The supporters of the theory of Illyrian-Albanian ethnic continuity and symbiosis, however, assert that at the time of the Slavic incursions into the Balkans there was no large-scale settling of the Slavs in the territory of Kosovo, Metohija and Montenegro, i.e. in the former Roman Provinces of Dardania and Praevalis. According to E. Dobruna, an Albanian archaeologist from Kosovo, who investigated ancient toponyms in this region, “we find the continuous presence of native Albanians as successors of the Illyrians in the same territory where they live today since ancient times”.[11] “From the banks of the Bojana river, as far as Ioanina, a unified and homogeneous people live. From Ioanina to Bay of Ambrazio, lies the territory denied by the Greek religious and other propaganda to the Albanians, who are predominant there – if not in number, than at least in strength and capacity to resist”.[12] Consequently, the Illyrian-Albanian historical rights to these territories are longer and stronger than Slavic-Serbian-Montenegrin-Macedonian and even Greek ones.[13]

A Question of the “Koman Culture”

The majority of Albanian archaeologists have claimed that the Koman Culture that existed in the 7th and 8th centuries, represents an historical-ethnic continuity of the Illyrian-Albanian ethnogenesis. The Koman Culture, according to them, included an extensive territory from Lake Skadar on the north to Lake Ohrid on the southeast. For them, the Illyrian-Albanian ethnic roots of the Koman Culture are more than obvious (although not scientifically proven).

The importance of this culture for the Albanian albanologists is of an extreme value as they are trying to prove that the Koman Culture is the direct continuation of the local Illyrian-Albanian culture of late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. In other words, according to them, the Koman Culture shows that at the time of Slavic migration to the Balkans the native Illyrian-Albanian territories were characterized by stability and vitality. They further claim that the material evidences of the Koman Culture, which lasted during the period of transition from the late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages, share a commonality with all Illyrian-Albanian regions including those of Kosovo and Metohija, Eastern Montenegro and Western Macedonia.

Albanian archaeologists disagree with the views of their Yugoslav colleagues on the Slavic or Roman-Byzantine character of the Koman Culture.[14] Thus, for Albanian scientists, the data archaeologists have discovered in many localities from the 7th and 8th centuries, clearly fill the gap of the Illyrian-Albanian cultural-ethnic continuity, the gap which could not be filled completely from written historical (primarily Byzantine) sources.  Thus, for the Albanian albanology, the Koman Culture is the crucial link in the chain of the unbroken Illyrian-Albanian ethnogenesis from the early Antique to the present. For them, it must serve as the pivotal proof of allegedly Albanian origins on the Balkan Peninsula.

However, it is  a matter of fact, that large Slavic settlements and toponyms existed in the area that came to be known as present-day Albania. After the first Albanian state was created in 1912, and especially during the rule of the Albanian communist dictator, Enver Hoxha (1945–1985), however, a great part of the non-Albanian (especially Slavic) population and toponyms were Albanized.[15] Simultaneously, “Albanian national soil” was (and continues to be) gradually cleansed of both the Slavs and the Greeks[16] and their national-cultural traces. In this respect, the province of Kosovo and Metohija experienced the most serious ethnic and cultural cleansing in the post-1945 Europe (together with the territory of former Republic of Serbian Krayina in present-day Croatia which was ethnically cleansed by the Croat military and police forces in August 1995).[17] This southern Serbia’s province, known (for the Serbs) as “Old/Ancient Serbia”, or “Serbia proper”, became almost totally ethnically and culturally cleansed by the local ethnic Albanians after the province was occupied by NATO troops in June 1999. Today, there is less than 3% non-Albanian population in the province (compared to 13% in 1998), the Slavic-Serb toponyms have been renamed to Albanian ones, the Serb cultural property, as the physical proof of Serbian national existence in the province from a historical perspective, has been largely destroyed (see figure 3) or officially called as the “Byzantine” one and the rest of the non-Albanian population (together with the local Serbs) has been expelled from the province which proclaimed its state independence in February 2008.[18]

It is in this way that Kosovo and Metohija have become an exclusively Albanian populated and culturally inherited land – a part of a united national state of ethnic Illyro-Albanians in the form of the Greater Albania. Nevertheless, from the perspective of relevant historical sources (the first Ottoman census in Kosovo and Metohija done in 1455), there was only a 2% Albanian population in the province in the mid-15th century.[19] One of the most famous South Slavic philologists in the 20th century, Pavle Ivić came to the conclusion after an in depth investigation of the case-study of Kosovo and Metohija that “the factual material clearly shows that there was no linguistic continuity between the ancient population of the present province of Kosovo’s population, and those who now inhabit the area”.[20] This is one of the most serious scientific refutations of the Albanian hypothesis of the Illyrian-Albanian ethnogenesis. In addition, even today, an overwhelming majority (if not all) of the toponyms in Kosovo and Metohija are of Slavic (Serb) origin.[21] The present-day Albanian practice of Albanizing them is quite understandable from the perspective of the political aims of the proponents of the hypothesis of the Illyrian-Albanian ethnogenesis.

Endnotes:

[1] Jokl N., Eberts Reallexicon der Vorgeschichte, I, 1924, p. 91.

[2] Anamali S., “The Illyrians and the Albanians”, Prifti K., Nasi L., Omari L., Xhufi P., Pulaha S., Pollo S., Shtylla Z. (eds.), The Truth on Kosova, Tirana, 1993, p. 7; Jubani B., “Features of Illyrian Culture in the Territory of Dardania”, Illyria, 2, 1985, pp. 211−220; Islami S., The Illyrian State – Its Place and Role in the Mediterranean World, I, Tirana, 1974, pp. 85–105.

[3] Taken from [Hymje ne historine e gjuhes shqipe, Prishtinë, 1955, pp. 49–50].

[4] Mateescu N., “Granita de apur a Tracilor”, Annuarul Institutului de Istoria nationale, III, Cluj, 1923, pp. 377–492.

[5] Evans A., “Antiquarian Researches in Illyricum”, Archeologia, XLIX, Westminster, 1883, p. 62.

[6] Papazoglu F., “Les royaumes d’Illyrie et de Dardanie, Origines et development, structures, hellenisation et romanization”, Iliri i Albanci, Beograd, 1988, p. 194; Ceka N., “Survay of the Development of Urban Life Among Southern Illyrians”, Illyria, 2, 1985, pp. 119–136. Compare with [Toçi V., “New Data About the Illyrian Onomastics in Durrhachium”, Illyria, 1, 1986, pp. 123–135].

[7] Regarding the problem of the Illyrian origin of the very important Central Balkan tribe Dardanians, see in [Garašanin M., “Considerations finales”, Iliri i Albanci, Beograd, 1988, pp. 370–372; Garašanin M., “Razmatranja o makedonskom halštatu-Materijalna kultura, hronologija, etnički problem”, Starinar, V−VI, 1954–1955, pp. 37–40; Garašanin M., “Istočna granica Ilira prema arheološkim spomenicima”, Simpozijum o teritorijalnom i hronološkom razgraničenju Ilira u praistorijsko doba, Sarajevo, 1964, pp. 138–141; Mack R., Grenzmarken und Nachbarn Makedonien in Norden und Western, Gottingen, 1951, pp. 170–173; Vulpe R., Gli Illiri dell’Italia Imperiale Romana, III, 1925, p. 163; Cerskov E., Rimljani na Kosovu i Metohiji, Beograd, 1969, p. 106; Mirdita Z., “Dardanian Studies”, Rilindja, Prishtina, 1979, p. 49; Papazoglu F., Srednjobalkanska plemena u predrimsko doba, Sarajevo, 1969, p. 402; Papazoglu F., “Dardanska onomastika”, Zbornik Filozofskog fakulteta, 8–1, Beograd, 1964; Papazoglu F., “Les royaumes d’Illyrie et de Dardanie, Origines et development, structures, hellenisation et romanization”, Iliri i Albanci, Beograd, 1988, p. 174; Jubani B., “Features of Illyrian Culture in the Territory of Dardania”, Illyria, 2, 1985, pp. 211−222; Вулић Н., “Дарданци, Илири и Далмати“, Глас Српске Академије Наука, CLV, Београд, 1933]. While the Yugoslav historian Novak claimed that the Dardanians were not of the Illyrian origin his compatriot Budimir claimed that they were one of the Illyrian tribes [Новак Г., “La nazionalità dei Dardani”, Архив за арбанашку старину, IV, Београд, pp. 72–89; Будимир М., “O etničkom odnosu Dardanaca prema Ilirima”, Jugoslovenski istorijski časopis, III, Beograd, 1937, pp. 1–29; Будимир М., Грци и Пеласти, Београд, 1950].

[8] Stadtmüller G., “Forschungen zur albanischen fruhgeschichte, zweite erweiterte auflage”, Albanische Forschungen, 2, Wiesbaden, 1966, pp. 167, 173.

[9] Оболенски Д., Византијски Комонвелт, Београд, 1996, p. 12, p. 245; Острогорски Г., Историја Византије, Београд, 1959, p. 464, p. 505; Lemerle P., “Invasions et migrations dans les Balkans depuis la fin de l’époque Romaine jusqu’au VIIIe siècle”, Revue historique, 78, 1954, p. 294; Lemerle P., Les plus anciens recueils des miracles de Saint Demétrius, II, Paris, 1981, p. 67; Јиречек К., Историја Срба. Политичка историја до 1537. gод., Књига I, Београд, 1978 (original written in German and published in Wien, 1911), pp. 85–86, 216; Јиречек К., Радонић Ј., Историја Срба. Културна историја, Књига II, Bеоград, 1978 (unfinished original by K. Jirechek in German, printed in Wien, 1911. Completed by J. Radonjić), pp. 33, 34, 101, 105, 145, 153. On the Albanian residents in South-East Serbia in the districts of Niš, Leskovac, Prokupjle and Kuršumlija in 1878, see [Protest of 6200 Albanian emigrants… (Priština, June 26, 1878), Politisches Archiv des Auswartigen Amtes, Bonn, Fund of the Acts of the Congress of Brlin, 2, 1878, doc. № 110 (telegram)].

[10] The Roman Catholic bishop in Skopje, Matija Masarek wrote in 1764 a report to Vatican in which he noted brand-new colonies of the Albanians who had just abandoned high Albania and settled themselves in the lowland of Metohija around the city of Đakovica [Radonić J., Rimska kurija i južnoslovenske zemlje od XVI do XIX veka, Beograd, 1950, p. 654]. On religious and ethnic situation in Albania, Kosovo and Metohija in the mid-17th century, see [Jačov M., Le Missioni cattoliche nel Balcani durante la guerra di Candia (1645–1669), vol. I–II, Città del Vaticana, 1992], in the mid-19th century in [Müller J., Albanien, Rumelien und die österreichisch-montenegrinische Granze, Prag, 1844], and in the years from 1804 to 1912 in [Стојанчевић В., Срби и Албанци 1804–1912, Нови Сад, 1994].  According to the Serbian historian Jevrem Damnjanović, the members of the following Albanian tribes (fisses) settled Kosovo and Metohija during the Ottoman rule: Kriezi, Tsaci, Shop, Dukadjini, Berisha, Bitiqi, Krasniqi, Gashi, Shkrele, Kastrati, Gruda, Shala, Hoti, and Kelmendi [Дамњановић Ј., “Мучеништво Косова”, Интервју, специјално издање, октобар, Београд, 1988, p. 5].

[11] Dobruna E., “On some ancient toponyms in Kosova”, Onomastika e Kosoves”, Prishtina, 1979, p. 46.

[12] Stulli B., Albansko pitanje, JAZU, Zagreb, Vol. 318, 1959, p. 325.

[13] Çabej E., “The problem of the autochthony of Albanians in the light of place-names”, Buletini i Universitetit Shteteror te Tiranes, № 2, 1958, pp. 54–62.

[14] Anamali S., “La nécropole de Kruje et la civilisation du Haut Moyen Age en Albanie du Nord”, Studia Albanica, 1, 1964, pp. 149–164; Anamali S., “The Question of the Albanian Early Mediaeval Culture in the Light of New Archaeological Discoveries”, Studime Historike, 2, 1967, pp. 22–40; Spahiu H., “The Arber graveyard at the Dalmaca Castle”, Illyria, 9–10, 1979–1980, pp. 23–45; Komata D., “The Arber grave-yard of Shurdhah”, Illyria, 9–10, 1979–1980, pp. 105–121; Prendi F., “A grave-yard of the Arber culture in Lezha”, Illyria, 9–10, 1979–1980, pp. 123–170; Doda N., “The Arber Graves of Prosek in Mirdita Region”, Illyria, 1, 1989, p. 113; Spahiu H., Komata D., “Shurdhah-Sarda, a Mediaeval Fortified Town”, Illyria, 3, 1975, p. 249; Popović V., Byzantins, Slaves et autochthones dans les provinces de Prévalitane et Nouvelle Epire, Ecole française de Rome, 1984, pp. 181−243; Popović V., “Albanija u kasnoj antici”, Ilirci i Albanci, Beograd, 1988, pp. 202–283.        

[15] Hrabak B., “Širenje arbanaških stočara po ravnicama i slovenski ratari srednjovekovne Albanije”, Stanovništvo slovenskog porijekla u Albaniji, Titograd, 1991, p. 115. Regarding the Slavic toponyms in Albania, see [Popović V., “Albanija u kasnoj Antici”, Ilirci i Albanci, Beograd, 1988; Selischev A. M., Славианское население в Албании, София, 1931]. A Serb historian Sima Ćirković claimed that the Albanian toponyms in the present-day Albania can be found only in her central regions between the Shkumba and Mat rivers while the southern regions of Albania is covered by the Slavic toponyms. About this issue see more in the works on Albanian toponyms by the Austrian Byzantologist Johannes Koder.

[16] Gersin K., Altserbien und die albanische Frage, Wien, 1912, p. 29; Vlora B. E., Lebenserinnerungen, Band I (1885 bis 1912), München, 1968, p. 275; Vlora B. E., Die Wahrheit über das Vorgehen der Jungtürken in Albanien, Wien, 1911, p. 43. According to the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, from April 1941 until August 1942, the Albanians killed around 10.000 Serbs and Montenegrins in the areas of Kosovo and Metohija which were incorporated into Italian Greater Albania [Krizman S., Maps of Yugoslavia at War. Massacre of the Innocent Serbian Population, Committed in Yugoslavia by the Axis and its Satellites from April 1941 to August 1942, Washington, 1943].

[17] Operation “Storm” (“Oluja”).

[18] March Pogrom in Kosovo and Metohija, March 17−19, 2004, with a survey of destroyed and endangered Christian cultural heritage, Belgrade: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia−Museum in Priština (displaced), 2004; http://crucified-kosovo.webs.com; http://www.kosovo.net; http://www.kosovo.lt

[19] Šabanović H. (ed.), Hadžibegić H., Handžić A., Kovačević E. (prepared by), Oblast Brankovića. Opširni katastarski popis iz 1455. godine (original title: Defter-I, Mufassal-I, Vilayet-I, VLK, sene 859), Monumenta Turcica. Historiam Slavorum Meridionalium Illustrantia, Tomus tertius, serija III, Defteri, knjiga 2, sv. 1, Sarajevo: Orijentalni institut u Sarajevu, 1972.

[20] Ивић П., О језику некадашњем и садашњем, Београд: БИГЗ−Јединство, 1990, p. 141.

[21] In the charter (muniment) to the monastery of SS Arhangels in Metohija by the Serbian Emperor Stefan Dushan from the mid-14th century is written that at that time the Albanians lived on the Mt. Prokletije (on the present-day Albania’s border with Montenegro and Metohija) and that Metohija itself was populated by the Serbs [Светоарханђелска повеља цара Стефана Душана, Збирка рукописа Народне библиотеке Србије: http://scc.digital.bkp.nb.rs/document/RS-759].


2. Sotirovic 2013

Prof. Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović

www.global-politics.eu/sotirovic

globalpol@global-politics.eu

© Vladislav B. Sotirović 2017

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Understanding Albanian nationality and regional political-security consequences



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The Albanian nationhood as understood in the 19th century was part of a romanticist notion of nationality, i.e., the Albanians were the Balkan people whose mother tongue was Albanian regardless of any confessional division of Albanian people into three denominations (Moslem, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox). Within the north Albanian tribes, especially among the Miriditi, the Roman Catholic Church was very influential. The Roman Catholic Church became the main protector of the Albanian language and cultural heritage and the main protagonist of the national identity of the Albanians in the Northern Albania.[1] The expression of common notions of the Albanian nationhood were expressed by the Albanian political leadership in the years of the Balkan Wars 1912–1913 in slogans such as: “Neve Shqiptar nuk jemi Greke, Sllav, or Teerk, neve jemi Shqiptar” (“We Albanians are not the Greeks, Slavs, or Turks, we are the Albanians”).

The Albanian political “methodology” from the time of the First Prizren League in 1878 until the Balkan Wars was applied in preparation for unification of all “ethnically Albanian territories” in the Balkans into (a “Greater”) Albania – a single national state of all Albanians, i.e., within the ethnic borders demanded by the League in the years of its existence from 1878 to 1881. Essentially similar national-state concepts were also included in the political programs of the Albanian Peja (Pejë) League, from 1899, the Greater Albanian Kosovo Committee, from 1920, and the Second Prizren League, from 1943. This included preservation of the traditional, common law and local community[2] as the organizational basis of the national movement followed by the demand for unification of all territories populated by the Albanians became Albanian primary national interest from 1878 onward.

Clearly, the process of creation of Albanian nationality was not yet completed at the end of the 19th century. The Albanian nation was not considered a political reality in Europe by many politicians at that time. The Albanian people were among the last ones in Europe to build up their own national identity and national community.[3] When during the sessions of the Congress of Berlin in 1878 the question of Albania and the Albanians was put on the agenda, the German Chancellor (Kanzzelar) Otto von Bismarck decisively rejected discussing it with the explanation that there was no Albanian nationality.[4] For him, the Albanians were the Turks. At the same time, the Serbs (either from Serbia or from Montenegro) and the Greeks considered themselves as a nation (i.e., ethnic groups which had their own state organizations), and as such were understood by Europe, while the Albanians were understood as the Balkan ethnic group (i.e., the group of people who did not have its own state). Consequently, the ethnic group of Albanians could live only as an ethnic minority included into some of the Balkan national state(s) and could not expect more than the right to autonomy within it (them). At the turn of the 20th century many politicians in Serbia, Montenegro and Greece shared the opinion that the ethnic group of the Albanians was culturally and politically incapable of a modern national development and above all unable and  insufficiently competent to establish and rule their own national state.[5] The backwardness of the development of Albanian society at the beginning of the 20th century was evidenced by the fact that the initiation of a  process of modernization shook the Albanian tribal society, but failed to replace it with a modern industrial, parliamentary and civil society. The Albanian national movement was seen as an archaic social movement that could not reach a level of national cohesion in modern terms. This movement produced among the Serbs, Montenegrins and Greeks a feeling of jeopardization of the political and territorial integrity of Serbia, Montenegro and Greece.[6] For them, the theory of the Illyrian-Albanian continuity was in essence a nationalistic ideological construction which became a driving politically-ideological force for Albanian politicians to create, from the Albanian point of view, their ethnic borders according to Albanian acquired rights.[7] Geopolitically, this project, from 1878 to the present, demands not only the territories which ethnically and historically belong to the Albanians, but goes beyond them and encompasses the entire Illyrian-Albanian ethnic population, dispersed in different areas over the neighboring Balkan regions: Kosovo and Metohija, southern parts of Central Serbia, Çameria (Greek Epirus and Greek Western Macedonia), the western portion of the Republic of Macedonia (the FYROM) and the Eastern Montenegro.[8]

Albania ISIL flag

However, contrary to the theory of the backwardness of Albanian social development, the Albanian political and intellectual leadership from the turn of the 20th century has argued that the Albanians met all conditions required by contemporary political science to be recognized as a nation: 1) they have their separate ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity; 2) the Albanian settlements in the Balkans are compact; 3) the Albanians have a very precisely defined national program; and 4) they possess the abilities to build up a community and their own independent state which would be self-governed.[9]

The Albanian political and intellectual leadership often stressed that the Albanian people with their own national idea would never be successfully integrated either into Serbian, Montenegrin or Greek societies and states. That is, in addition to numerous and diverse causes, also due to the fact that the Albanians do not belong to the Slavic or Greek linguistic and cultural groups. There is also significant divergence of national development of the Serbs, Montenegrins, Greeks, on the one hand, and the Albanians, on the other. These nations had a different kind of national movements and distinctly different political elite and national ideology. However, the Albanian national ideology of the Illyrian-Albanian ethnogenesis was created and still exists as a pure myth in the form of a quasi-scientific political propaganda for the sake of the creation of a “Greater” Albania.

Finally, the Albanians surely were among the very few Balkan peoples who managed to find an internal balance between three faiths and to build up the national identity associated with each one as Islam is followed by 70% of Albanian population (primarily from Albania proper, Kosovo and Metohija, the Western Macedonia and the Eastern Montenegro), Eastern Orthodoxy is professed by 20% of the Albanians (chiefly from the Southern Albania and the Greek Northern Epirus) and Roman Catholicism is adhered by 10% of the Albanians (mainly from the Northern Albania proper and Kosovo and Metohija).[10] In one word, the Illyrian theory of the Albanian ethnogenesis played a crucial role in forming a common Albanian identity regardless on confessional division of the Albanians.

The 19th century movement of the Albanian national awakening started half a century later in contrast to a similar process of other Balkan nations and an entire century after similar movements in Central Europe. The cause of this delay was a general national-cultural underdevelopment of the Albanian people who lived under the Ottoman Empire for centuries without cultural and ideological connections to Western Europe where the ideology and movement of nationalism emerged and spread throughout the European continent. Subsequently, the ideas of national identification, national statehood and the concept of historical-ethnic territorial boundaries was realized by Albania’s neighbors (the Greeks, Serbs and Montenegrins) well in advance of the Albanian people. When Albanian intellectuals during and after the Great Eastern Crisis 1875–1878 theoretically shaped the thought and concept of the Albanian national idea related to the question of fixing Albanian national territories and creating an Albanian national state, they faced, and had to struggle with, Serbian, Montenegrin and Greek national aspirations towards the realization of their own national statehood. This ideological, political and military fight was focused primarily on the question upon certain “national” soils on the Balkans which would be included either into a united Serbia, united Montenegro, united Greece or united Albania: Kosovo and Metohija, Northern Epirus, Western Macedonia, Skadar (Skutari) region in the Northwest Albania and the territories around the city of Ulcinj and the Bojana river in the Eastern Montenegro.

The national program of the First League of Prizren set up the following two ultimate national goals of the Albanians: 1) the national liberation of all Albanians, of whom a majority lived within the Ottoman Empire and a minority in the independent states of Serbia and Montenegro; and 2) the creation of a national state of the Albanians in which the entire Albanian historical and ethnic territories would be incorporated into Greater Albania. This second requirement led the Albanians in subsequent decades into open conflict with the neighboring Christian states: Serbia, Montenegro and Greece. The national awakening of the Albanian people in the years of 1878–1912 resulted in the establishment of an ideology of nationhood and statehood that was, to a greater or lesser extent, challenged and opposed by all  of Albania’s neighbors today – the Serbs, Greeks, Montenegrins and the Macedonian Slavs.

Endnotes:

[1] Draškić S., “Nadmetanje Austro-Ugarske i Italije koncem XIX i početkom XX veka u Albaniji”, Albansko pitanje u novoj istoriji, III, Beograd: Marksistička misao, 2-1986, pp. 129–132. See also: [Starova G., “The Religion of the Albanians in the Balkan European Context”, Balkan Forum, Skopje, vol. 1, № 4, 1993, pp. 201–204].

[2] On Albanian traditional common law, see [The Code of Lekë Dukagjini, New York: Gjonlekaj Publishing Company, 1989; Salihu V., Qerimi I., Social Organization and Self-Government of Albanians According to the Costumary Law, GRIN Verlag, 2013 (in German); Gjeçovi Sh., Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014].

[3] On this issue, see more in [Schwandner-Sievers S., Fischer J. B., Albanian Identities: Myth and History, Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2002].

[4] Logoreci A., The Albanians. Europe’s Forgotten Survivors, Colorado, 1977, p. 41.

[5] Such approach can be understood as an old theory, which was used during the Balkan Wars 1912–1913 to justify Serbian conquest of the Northern Albania, Greek occupation of Southern Albania and Montenegrin military taking of the city of Skadar/Scutari [Туцовић Д., Србија и Албанија, један прилог критици завојевачке политике српске буржоазије, Београд, 1913, pp. 177–118].

[6] The Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonian Slavs and Greeks accuse Albanian intellectuals and politicians of using the theory of the Illyrian-Albanian ethnic, linguistic and cultural continuity for the sake of realizing the political concept of a “Greater Albania” in the Balkans (see figure 2). This concept cannot be realized without a radical change of the borders of the Balkan states established in 1912–1913, following two Balkan Wars. Such a change in the borders would violate the territorial integrity of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. In conclusion, the concept of a “Greater” Albania, based among other ideological constructions and on the theory of the Illyrian-Albanian ethnogenesis, may serve as a prelude to a Third Balkan War. Regarding the concept and consequences of creation of a “Greater” Albania at the Balkans, see [Čanak J. (ed.), “Greater Albania”. Concept and possible Consequences, Belgrade: the Institute of Geopolitical Studies, Belgrade, 1998; Borozan Đ., “Greater Albania”-Origins, Ideas, Practice, Belgrade: the Institute of Military History of the Yugoslav Army, Belgrade, 1995]. It should be stressed that in addition to Orthodoxy and the so-called St. Sava’s spiritual legacy, the province of Kosovo and Metohija (i.e., Serbia proper) is the third pillar of Serbian national identity. Contrary to the Serbian case, Kosovo and Metohija are not of any significance for Albanian national identity. Regarding the (crucial) importance of Kosovo and Metohija for the Serbs from historical perspective, see: [Самарџић Р. и други, Косово и Метохија у српској историји, Београд: Српска књижевна задруга, 1989].

[7] See more in: [Илири и Албанци, Научни скупови, књ. XXXIX, Београд: САНУ, 1988].

[8] According to the map of United Albania, composed by Ali Fehmi Kosturi and distributed since 1938. Historically, there were two attempts to create a “Greater” Albania: first in 1912 supported by Austria-Hungary, and second in 1941 with the direct intervention of fascist Italy and the logistic support of the Third Reich. In both cases the concept of “Greater” Albania reasserted the demands of the 1878–1881 Albanian First League of Prizren to create an Albanian state inside alleged Illyrian-Albanian historical-ethnic borders.

[9] Similar arguments referring to Kosovo and Metohija were presented by the Albanian Kosovo intelligentsia in the 1990s during the Kosovo crisis and the war. See, for example: [Maliqi S., “Strah od novih ratnih uspeha”, Borba, Beograd, September 16th, 1993].

[10] To date, the Albanian Muslims are the main corps of the Albanian national movement and nationalism. The concept of “United”, or “Greater”, Albania, in its original form (from 1878), was under the strong influence of conservative, political Islam.

2. Sotirovic 2013

Prof. Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović

www.global-politics.eu/sotirovic

globalpol@global-politics.eu

© Vladislav B. Sotirović 2017

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Albanian terrorists as official NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo members – photo evidence



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Remember watching ancient Orthodox Christian monasteries in flames in Kosovo dozen times.
Old, noble constructions, spiritual and historical testimonies of past times.
I also remember that majority of Orthodox Christian monasteries, churches and relics has been attacked and destroyed after NATO forces (officially: KFOR) took full control of the Serbian province.
It amazed me to see how Western soldiers, under full equipment and heavy armament, often didn’t make a single move to stop Albanian violence; over 200 000 Serbs had to flee, in order to save their bare lives, bearing whole their lives in few suitcases if they were lucky enough. 264960_193007560748613_8317034_n
Photo: NATO peacekeepers calmly observe Albanians destroying Christian heritage

It turned out that indeed, Albanian terrorists WERE  (stil are?) part of NATO, so called peacekeeping forces in the province of Kosovo and the evidences are here. There’s the Albanian nationalist guy, wrapped in Greater Albania flag, certain Lami, who is at the same time – a Swiss peacekeeper!
Incredible.
Lami Lami KLami KF Lami KFOLami Kfor
So this opens more questions: How many ISIS members have been deployed in Iraq as peacekeepers?
ISIS in morning, anti ISIS in the afternoon?
I
SIS uses the same method Albanians applied in the province of Kosovo Metohija – destroying and removing every trace of Christianity (the picture below are from Kosovo province): 

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KFOR / NATO in Kosovo observed all, allowing it to happen. When Serbs tried to complain, addressing both international community and global media, nothing ever happen.
I was told that that there were the KLA terrorist wearing KFOR uniforms, and that people often heard the ‘peacekeepers’ speaking -Albanian language.
I heard that there are plenty of KLA terrorists under the USA, Belgian, German, Danish flag operating as part of their peacekeeping forces.

LON50D:YUGOSLAVIA-NATO-DEPLOYMENT:KACANIK,YUGOSLAVIA,14JUN99 - Capt. Vicki Wentworth from Swansea, in the United Kingdom, views the site of a possible mass grave of nearly 100 ethnic Albanians in southern Kosovo June 14. If confirmed, it would be the first uncovering of such a grave since NATO forces entered the province two days ago it is reported. The site is located near the graveyard in Kacanik village some 50km (30 miles) south of Pristina. jb/Photo by Russell Boyce REUTERS

Reuters says: A young (Albanian !?) captain from the British KFOR contingent pays her respects at the site of a possible mass grave of Kosovar Albanians in the village of Kacanik, Kosovo, on 14 June 1999. 
(Reuters photo – 32Kb)

The same Reuters have never apologized since SIXTEEN years we know that there was no  Albanian mass grave in Kacanik area.
(meanwhile there are still over 3000 Serbs missing; but who is going to investigate and search for them, Albanian nationalists disguised as peacekeepers?)
Who is going to take responsibilities for all the consequences of such lies (i.e. mass grave, over hundreds of thousands dead Albanians, etc) ?
I can’t even imagine what kind of stories have been served to real and honest peacekeepers by Albanian Trojans among them.

And here we got, In August anno domini 2015 (16 – 17 years later) repetition of the same Albanian propaganda. The Telegraph, in article titled  Inside Kacanik, Kosovo’s jihadist capital  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/kosovo/11818659/Inside-Kacanik-Kosovos-jihadist-capital.html)  speaks about Kosovo Albanian terrorist groups, (what a surprise. We have been writing about the Albanian terrorism here in TMJ for years) but pushes the old proven to be false, stories.

The caption of the photo bellow says (quote):
Captain Andy Phipps from the British Army holds his head in hands as he looks over the site of a possible mass grave of nearly 100 ethnic Albanians in southern Kosovo  Photo: Reuters

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Even though Kosovo Metohija province has been under NATO and Albanian rule since 1999, and, despite all their investigations and research – no mass graves containing murdered Albanians have been discovered ( at the same time no serious search for still missing 3000 Serbs ever occurred; no officials mourns near and around Klecka, or Radonjicko lake, no Reuters to target these locations as places of mass murder of Serbs!)  – we go it in British Telegraph!
There must be a place in hell for corrupted journalists, for sure.

Whenever Serbs civilians complained about the alliance between Albanian nationals and NATO forces,  local HQ -es ignored the complains.

Meanwhile over one hundred Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries has been completely destroyed (That’s the same method ISIS implements nowadays in Syria).
Another interesting question rises, after so called Kosovo PM, Hasim Taci, attempts to list all the  Serbian Orthodox heritage, bulid and raised by medieval Serbian kings and emperors, as ‘Kosovo’ heritage; could we expect similar request from Albanian Middle eastern alter ego, ISIS. the same request concerning Malaua and Palmyra, just to mention the two?
crkve-kim-c-vDestroyed Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches by Albanians in Kosovo in March 2004

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Obama ignorance exposed: States Kosovo left Serbia only after referendum, but there was NO referendum at all!



 

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Barack Obama’s speech on Ukrainian crisis seems to have left the public confused as he claimed that Kosovo broke away from Serbia “after a referendum”. But attentive listeners quickly pointed Obama’s gaps in history – there was no referendum in Kosovo. Video here.

President Obama was speaking Wednesday at The Center for Fine Arts in the heart of Brussels, Belgium, and was telling the youth crowd mostly about Russian-Ukrainian conflict over the strategic Crimean Peninsula.

He lashed out at Russia for “violation of international law, its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Obama recalled the conflict around Kosovo and NATO’s involvement, making a counter-argument to Russia officials’ statements, in which they cited Kosovo independence from Serbia in 2008 as the precedent.

He said: “And Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbors. None of that even came close to happening in Crimea.”

In fact, “none of that even came close to happening” in Kosovo either.

What DID happen in Kosovo

Following a three-month NATO bombing of former Yugoslavia in June, 1999, Kosovo was placed under administration of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and a NATO-led peacekeeping force, KFOR, were authorized to enter the province.

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Two years after UNMIK and KFOR arrived there, in May, 14, 2001, the UN approved a “constitutional framework for a provisional Self-Government in Kosovo.”

It called for a 120-seat Parliament, which would elect a president and a prime minister.

In November that year Kosovo held its first parliamentary elections that the UN hailed as a huge “success”.

The year of 2005 also became no less significant for Kosovo as the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Martti Ahtisaari to lead the Kosovo status process, thus, giving the province “a green light” to fight for its independence.

After numerous talks with both Serbia and Kosovo officials, in 2007 Ahtisaari came up with the plan that included “ten guiding principles,” which outlined the broad governing authority and structure of the Kosovo government.

The so-called “Ahtisaari plan” represented a compromise between both sides. It gave broad provisions for Kosovo autonomy, including the ability to enter into international agreements and become a member of international organizations.

Kosovo children wave Kosovo and British flags during celebrations marking the 6th anniversary of Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia, in Pristina on February 17, 2014. (AFP Photo / Armend Nimani)

Backed by the Contact Group (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia) and by Kosovo, the plan still lacked Serbian agreement. Russia eventually rejected the plan along with Serbia and, as a result, negotiations reached a deadlock.

However, despite the stalemate within the Contact Group, Kosovo’s authorities still decided to declare independence in February, 2008.

On February 17, 2008, the Kosovo assembly adopted a declaration of independence “in full accordance with the recommendations of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari.” On the same day, the US and four European states recognized Kosovo as an independent country.

‘You can’t just make up facts’

“I honestly don’t know what President Obama is talking about,” Serbian historian Nebojsa Malic told RT. “There was never such a referendum. It never took place. It did not exist. I am completely baffled.”

Meanwhile, on Twitter Obama’s faux-pas also did not pass unnoticed.

People accused the US President of “lying about the referendum”.

Obama further claims there was referendum in Kosovo. I dnt remember that happening. I remember the US bombing frm yugoslavia for 2 months

– Tefo O Kelobonye (@TKelobonye) March 27, 2014

Dear Obama, where was the universal mandate for Kosovo secession? If it doesn’t exist then why support it and not Crimea referendum? Bye.

– Q (@Qpalestine) March 27, 2014

Some have pointed out that the US media chose just to “ignore” Obama’s mistake.

American News Media Ignores “Bogus Information” Given by Obama in Speech on Crimea & Kosovo http://t.co/rsPNlWaiHx #gapol@BreitbartNews

– gaunfiltered (@gaunfiltered) March 27, 2014

Speaking to RT, Nebojsa Malic suggested that it could be the case that Obama’s speechwriter just “mistook the non-existent referendum in Kosovo with the referendum in Montenegro that took place in 2006.”

“If that is the referendum they were referring to, first of all, it is just baffling that they can’t tell apart Kosovo and Montenegro. Secondly, that is not exactly a paragon of democracy in international laws either,” Malic said, stressing that that referendum was held under “very murky circumstances when people were being bought openly.”

“I am really not sure what sort of point they were trying to make, but you can’t just make up your own facts to boost your own argument. That is ridiculous,” he concluded.

Were there absolutely no independence referendums in Kosovo? Well, there was one in 1991 – its results were recognized by just one UN member, Albania.


 

Source: https://www.sott.net/article/276401-Obama-ignorance-exposed-states-Kosovo-left-Serbia-only-after-referendum-but-there-was-NO-referendum-at-all

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Albanian jihadist’s easy passage to Syria’s brutal war



ISIL Army

A former Islamist fighter in Syria recalls why he went to Syria, how easy it was to get there – and why he would go again, if he could.

Aleksandra Bogdani, Flamur Vezaj BIRN Tirana

90 Albanians went to Syria between 2012 and 2014 to take part in what they believed was a holy war. Photo: BIRN

On his first trip abroad, he left with 400 euros in his pocket, a printed map from the internet and the belief that he was fulfilling his destiny in eyes of Allah. The destination was the frontline of the war in Syria, but his jihad ended faster than it started.

Two years later, in a bar full of people in his hometown in northern Albania, Ebu Merjem stands out with his long beard and his trousers cut short above the ankle.

He does not like the attention he attracts and chooses a half-empty corner of the bar to explain what that pushed him towards a far-away war.

 “If I had the chance, I would go even today and fight in Syria,” Ebu Merjem says. “It was God that created jihad and you have to love something that God loves,” he added.

The 37-year-old unemployed father-of-two has been a practicing Muslim for 17 years.

He is one of 90 Albanians who went to Syria between 2012 and 2014 to take part in what they believed was a holy war.

Since the Syrian conflict began, ten Albanian jihadists have lost their lives there. Thirty others returned home before the adoption of a law that criminalizes participation in conflicts abroad.

According to documents obtained by BIRN, nearly 50 Albanian jihadists identified by the security services are still fighting in Syria.

Albania is a Muslim majority country with a long tradition of interfaith coexistence, and few understand why local Muslims like Ebu Merjem have traveled to fight in Syria.

Merjem has lived all his life in Albania, but believes his homeland is wherever there are Muslim believers. If his Muslim brothers are being attacked, even if they are thousands of kilometers away, he feels it his duty to protect them.

 “My brother is the American, Syrian or French Muslim. My enemy may even be my brethren,” he says.  “This has nothing to do with nationality or blood. I went there for my faith and my biggest regret is that I couldn’t experience war,” he added.

The road to Syria

The majority of the Albanian jihadists became part of the Jabhat al-Nusra front, a branch of Al-Qaeda. Photo: BETA/AP

Syria was the last country in the Middle East to be engulfed by the wave of anti-government protests in spring 2011 known as the Arab Spring. The conflict there soon took the nuances of a civil war.

The involvement of militant Islamic organizations in this war and its geographical proximity to Europe soon turned Syria into a hub for jihadists from all over the world.

The use of the internet and social networks directly from the battlefield popularized calls for jihad, especially in Europe where a considerable number of second-generation immigrants from the Middle East have embraced religious extremism.

From the beginning of the conflict until now, over 12,000 foreigners from 81 countries have joined militant organizations fighting in Syria. Nearly 3,000 are believed to have come from Western countries.

Ninety of these fighters are Albanian followers of the Salafist brand of Islam, preached on the fringe by imams, often in isolated mosques whose legal standing the official Muslim Community of Albania questions.

These believers started to show up in force at Tirana airport in the autumn of 2012, where they declared they were travelling to Turkey for health reasons. From Turkey, the jihadists jumped the border illegally into Syria and landed in the war.

The head of Albanian League of Imams, Justinian Topulli, lists several reasons for the involvement of Albanian Muslims in the war in Syria.

He says they felt a form of religious solidarity with the Syrian Muslims in their struggle against Bashar al Assad’s dictatorship, but it was also a way of escaping the Albanian reality, in which many Muslims do not feel comfortable.

Another no less important reason, according to Topulli, is the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of religious texts about the Apocalypse, which some preachers mistakenly tie with current events in Syria.

In contrast to Topulli, Ebu Merjem believes that a Muslim’s highest purpose is the sacrifice of jihad.

“A man must seek the eternal. One day we will all die, but to die as a Muslim martyr is the highest death of all,” says Ebu, sounding very convinced.

This is what he was looking for when he went to Syria on November 17, 2012, with three other believers from Albania.

For three months he went from one camp to another, but he never got the opportunity to go to the front even for a day, which disappointed him deeply.

He returned on February 2, 2012, a few days after two of his other comrades also returned home. The fourth member of the group, Denis Jangulli, was killed on the first day he went to fight against the government forces of Assad.

Many things have changed since then, both in Albania and Syria. The Albanian police have either arrested the religious leaders of the Albanian fighters in Syria or they are on the run.

After turning a blind eye to the Albanian jihadists traveling to Syria for a long time, the authorities opened an investigation in December 2013.

On March 11,a joint operation by the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office, the National Intelligence Service and the police resulted in eight arrests and warrants being issued for five others.

On August 19, Albania passed a law that mandates jail sentences of up to 15 years for anyone who gets involved in the Syrian conflict or who recruits people to take part in the war.

Two of the suspects detained in the joint operation were imams, accused of organizing the recruitment of the jihadists.

Genci Balla and Bujar Hysa used to preach jihad in two mosques; one located in a suburb of Tirana and the other in the village of Mezez, a few kilometres from the capital. Some more isolated cells were identified in Leshnicë, near Pogradec, the city of Elbasan, the town of Cerrik and the village of Dragostunje, near Librazhd.

The third organizer was Gerti Pashaj, a student radicalized in Turkey, who is thought to have acted as a guide for the Albanian jihadists seeking to reach the war front.

Ebu Merjem denies having been recruited or paid by any of them. He says he went to Syria of his own free will and adds that Denis Jangulli helped him only with the details of the trip.

He describes Jangulli, who was killed, as a brother and as a devoted believer who spoke four foreign languages and had strong connections in Kosovo and Macedonia.

Ebu Merjem cannot speak any foreign language and only embraced Islam after getting in touch with two Albanian students who had studied religion in Saudi Arabia.

The cleric Justinian Topulli says a lack of understanding of Islamic text is the main reason why so many Albanians that have gone to fight in Syria, believing they are engaging in holy war.

Topulli explains that while a good Muslim must fulfill the commandments of the Koran, armed jihad is not one of them.

“Armed jihad is not an individual obligation either for Albanians or for the others, but for communities and countries if they have the possibility to do something in this case,” he said. “Our jihad is to help our country and family to deal with the problems of our common home, called Albania,” Topulli added.

Forced oath of allegiance

The journey to Syria for jihadists is a simple one. Photo: BETA/AP

According to Ebu Merjem, the journey to Syria for jihadists is a simple one. They travel to Istanbul, buy a bus ticket worth 80 euro to the border town of Rehanlia and find a man there to jump the border.

He describes the region between Turkey and Syria as easy terrain for would-be jihadists; dozens of young people from France, Sweden, America or Belgium go in and out from a fence, which is the only barrier between the two countries.

Smuggling jihadists from one side of the border to the other is no different from the other kinds of human smuggling.

Ebu Merjem says he gave a Turkish shepherd a few euros to help him cross the border mostly because he was afraid he would spy on him rather than show him the way.

After they crossed the border, Ebu Merjem and his comrades sought the city of Aleppo, which has been the scene fierce fighting between government forces and rebels since the start of the conflict.

However, the Albanians got stuck for a long time in the camps in Tal Rifat, a town in the Aleppo region controlled by the Al-Nusra front, a branch of al-Qaeda.

The Albanian jihadist were eager to reach the front but underwent a series of background checks by leaders of the foreign jihadists. “They looked at as with suspicion and gathered our passports in order to verify us. We didn’t like this but they were afraid of infiltration,” Merjem says.

The Albanian jihadists stayed for the first 10 days in a house and were then sent to a real training camp. The camp was also in the region of Tal Rifat. This time, they stayed in a luxury home occupied by the radical Islamic group, a phenomenon that the media call the “5-star jihad”.

They spent their days studying the Koran and were trained to use Kalashnikovs or snipers. “We also used to run a little but it was no big deal. The lack of weapons was the main problem and none of us had 1,500 dollars to buy a Kalashnikov,” he said.

According to the Albanian prosecution file obtained by BIRN, the majority of the Albanian jihadists became part of the Jabhat al-Nusra front, a branch of Al-Qaeda. Some arrived there as part of a Turkish extremist group, Murat Gezenler, while the Albanians from Macedonia fought under Chechen fighters.

However, in a chaotic civil war this configuration changed over time. By 2013, most of the Albanians had gathered in a brigade of 45 to 50 persons on the outskirts of Aleppo led by Numan Demolli, from Kosovo, and, after he was killed, by Lavdrim Muhaxheri.

Until ISIS emerged, they stayed under the protection of Al-Nusra. Today, most of the 50 Albanians remaining in Syria are fighting with Islamic State.

In his interview for BIRN, Merjem says they couldn’t stay in the camp unless they swore an oath to Al-Nusra. If they had not done so, their presence there would have become even more suspicious and unwanted.

“The people from Jabhat al-Nusra came and asked us to swear an oath to them but we didn’t do that,” he says.  “We told them that we were sworn to Allah and were there to help the Syrian people,” he added.

During his three months stay in Syria, Merjem had another problem. He had not got his mother’s permission to engage in holy war. This is a big concern for believers, because jihad is seen as invalid if it is undertaken without a parent’s permission.

After his mother refused to give her permission, Ebu Merjem decided to return to Albania. During this period, his fellow Albanian jihadist, Jangulli, was killed in an attack outside Aleppo.

“I was saddened because I would miss a friend; at the same time I was also happy because God received him as a martyr,” Merjem recalled.

Merjem returned to Albania on February 2, 2013. Since then, the authorities have not allowed him to leave the country.

He keeps informed about everything happening in Syria and now question some of the actions of the Islamic State.

Merjem says that the war is causing death on all sides, endless atrocities, including the crimes that “the Muslim brothers” of ISIS are displaying with pride in social media. But still he does not like it when their crimes are judged by non-believers.

“They are shedding a lot of blood in the name of religious misunderstandings and misinterpretation of the Koran,” he says. “Even scholars have talked about this. But we don’t want their mistakes being judged by anyone else except Muslims,” Merjem added.

European Union countries and Europol suspect that former jihadists like Merjem pose a threat to European security.

In the West, the de-radicalization of the jihadists is often compared to the rehabilitation of alcoholics or drug addicts.

Albania’s authorities are uncertain how to best respond to this threat. Since adopting the law that penalizes involvement in the war in Syria, the government has set up a massive antiterrorism structure to monitor its citizens that have returned home.

But Prime Minister Edi Rama believes that Albania is no more exposed to Islamic radicalism than other countries. “This risk is everywhere, just like Ebola,” said Rama in an interview.

The Albanian police told BIRN that jihadist returning from Syria do not pose a particular threat to the country, although their social isolation may become problematic in the future.

Topulli, from the League of Imams, agrees, arguing that the integration of these people back into society is the challenge lying ahead. He urges the authorities to show caution and avoid using repressive measures that could add to tensions.

“The people who returned from Syria are part of us and must be treated like all normal people so that they do not feel like strangers in this society,” Topulli said.

Merjem confirms that he doesn’t quite fit into Albanian society. Because of his faith, he has had to quit one job after another and he often finds it difficult to support his family.

He does not believe in the Muslim Community, the state or the international community. He thinks they collaborate all to interfere with his Muslim brothers in Albania and the world.

He would rather live in a remote land than Albania, if he could find spiritual peace there. “If they established a good Islamic state in future, I would choose to live there. People like us feel despised here,” he concluded.


Ebu Merjem is the religious name of the interviewee after he returned from Syria. Mejrem agreed to give this interview to BIRN in November 2014, without revealing his real identity.

Original Source of the article: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albanian-jihadist-s-easy-passage-to-syria-s-brutal-war-11-25-2015

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