An end to Balkan national states
What borders for Albania?
(c) Le Monde diplomatique
By Jean-Arnault Dérens
Ismail Qemal proclaimed a first, and ephemeral, Albanian republic at Vlora in 1912. But a year later the London Peace Conference created the Kingdom of Albania over only half of the regions with Albanian populations. The treaty also split Kosovo (predominantly Albanian) between Serbia and Montenegro. The Albanians have never accepted the prejudice to their people, and today its nationalists are intent on “rectifying” the “historical injustice”.
It is true that there was little guarantee of a future for the state of Albania at the time. It almost disappeared in the first world war, and there was no real settlement on its borders until the treaty of 1926, which was based on doubtful logic. The town of Gjakovë/Gjakova, for example, became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, despite the small size of its Serbian population.
Similarly, territory that had always been part of the important municipality of Debar/Dibra was shared between the kingdom and Albania; today the city is part of the Republic of Macedonia, although its traditional hinterland lies in Albania (around the town of Peshkopi).
There are two issues intertwined here. The delicate balance between Albania’s neighbours (Montenegro, Serbia and Greece) and their powerful protectors had an influence on the definition of Albanian territoriality, as did Italy’s historical claims over the Albanian coastline. Also there are the problematic notions of an “Albanian region” or “Albanian cultural area”.
Albanians have always lived in the midst of other national communities in these areas. Can we say that this or that town is part of the Albanian world because 50%, 60% or 80% of its inhabitants are Albanian? What percentage do we take and, more particularly, what scale of settlement do we include?