Ο Ελληνοαμερικανός καθηγητής πολιτικών επιστημών στο Πανεπιστήμιο Χάουαρντ της Ουάσιγκτον, Νικόλαος Σταύρου, έφυγε σήμερα από τη ζωή, σε ηλικία 76 ετών. Ο γνωστός ακαδημαϊκός, ο οποίος ήταν μια από τις λίγες «μαχητικές φωνές» του Ελληνισμού στον αμερικανικό πανεπιστημιακό χώρο, απεβίωσε μετά από καρδιακό πρόβλημα, σε νοσοκομείο της πολιτείας Μέριλαντ των ΗΠΑ.
Ο αποθανών είχε γεννηθεί στη Γριάσδανη της Βορείου Ηπείρου και έγραψε βιβλία και μελέτες για σειρά θεμάτων που αφορούν τη χώρα μας, αλλά κυρίως αρκετά άρθρα σε αμερικανικά ΜΜΕ για τα «δικαιώματα των Ελλήνων της Βορείου Ηπείρου, που καταπατήθηκαν βάναυσα από τις αλβανικές αρχές», όπως υπογράμμιζε χαρακτηριστικά.
Συγκινητική θεωρήθηκε η πολύχρονη προσπάθειά του να βρει τα οστά του αδελφού του Γρηγόρη στην Αλβανία και να τα ενταφιάσει στον τάφο του πατέρα τους. Ο αδελφός του είχε καταδικαστεί σε θάνατο και εκτελέστηκε από το καθεστώς του Χότζα στις 3 Σεπτεμβρίου 1953. Η Ελληνική Πολιτεία τον τίμησε μετά θάνατο το 1991.
Ο καθηγητής Σταύρου είχε ιδρύσει και διεύθυνε το περιοδικό «Mediterranean Quarterly», το οποίο θεωρείτο ένα από τα πιο αξιόλογα έντυπα πολιτικού περιεχομένου στην αμερικανική πρωτεύουσα, μέσω του οποίου αναδεικνύονταν και προβάλλονταν θέματα που αφορούσαν την Ελλάδα, την Κύπρο και την ευρύτερη περιοχή.
Nikolaos A. Stavrou was professor of international affairs at Howard University and editor of Mediterranean Quarterly.Died in 30 December 2011
On 7 April 1939, Good Friday, an armada of Italian warships and troop carriers surprised the inhabitants of three Albanian ports, Durres, Vlore, and Sarande. Benito Mussolini had had enough of His Majesty King Zog I of Albania and decided to rid himself of a perennial annoyance . The king was always in need of "loans" that Mussolini knew would never be repaid and was increasingly behaving as an impediment to the Duce's Balkan schemes. Money was an essential commodity in this primitive kingdom where the Ottoman rushfet (bribery) was a way of life. Zog needed it to keep his entourage happy and hopefully loyal, and the only source he could get it from was his patron across the Adriatic.
For some Albanian patriots, among them the Harvard-educated bishop Fan S. Noli, the Italian invasion seemed inevitable. Many of them had objected to the Albanian-Italian Fascist Defense Treaty (1927), which had de facto reduced Albania to an Italian protectorate. But the Zog regime faced a dilemma that has yet to be resolved by subsequent Albanian governments: whether to befriend its neighbors and maintain the de facto cultural unity of the Balkan nation or shield itself behind a powerful patron and pursue the elusive dream of a "Greater Albania."  To this date, Albania's history affirms the premise that when the choice is between extraregional protectors or good neighborly relations, its leaders have always opted for the former. Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Bolshevik Russia, and Maoist China all figured prominently in shaping Albania's foreign policy. They have all been loved, used, and discarded when circumstances warranted it or when a better replacement became available. Apparently now is the turn of the United States to be loved, used, and saddled with the task of defending the perennial Balkan underdog.
By the mid-1920s the founding fathers of the first Albanian state had realized that their truncated creation was incrementally losing its sovereignty. But they could not complain too loudly. They had miscalculated events during the Balkan wars and sided with the collapsing Ottoman Empire instead of joining the revolt of their Christian neighbors. In fact, it was an Albanian general, Esat Bey Toptani, who commanded Sultan Hamid's II troops in Kosovo and western Macedonia. Toptani was soundly defeated by the Montenegrin general Boshko Boshkovic and in a humiliating ceremony signed the surrender instruments for both provinces.
Matters got far worse for Albanian rulers in the interwar period. Within a few years following Albania's conditional admission to the League of Nations in 1920,  its rancorous governments came to believe that Italy rather than Albania's traditional ally, Turkey, offered better prospects to regain what had been lost during the Balkan wars. Though new in the game of power politics, Albanian leaders had mastered the rudimentary intricacies of Machiavellianism as played by post-Napoleonic rulers.
Global Experiments on Balkan Backs
Commencing with the French Revolution, major European powers had used the Balkans as a testing ground for their global schemes. Besides being an attractive piece of real estate, this region was useful for territorial trade-offs whenever the European balance of power required adjustment. Because the hierarchy of continental powers changed often, so did the competition for ethnic clients. It was not difficult to find them in the Balkans. The same powers that offered protection to preselected "victims" had also been instrumental in delineating the Balkan borders at the Bucharest and London conferences of 1913. They had seen to it that boundaries were carved in such a way that a state of permanent irredentism was assured. Thus, after the second Balkan war, the borders of no Balkan state approximated its ethnic boundaries, and all sought powerful patrons in order to settle scores with their neighbors and thereby correct the ubiquitous "historical injustices." Few scholars have captured this reality better than Rebecca West in her classic book Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Though she wrote it on the eve of World War II, it remains the best description of the roots of Balkanization and the role of Western powers in causing it. If we substitute "Americans" for "English," West's observations aptly describe the post-Cold War Balkans:
English persons of humanitarian and reformist disposition constantly went out to the Balkan Peninsula to see who was in fact ill-treating whom, and, being by the very nature of their perfectionist faith unable to accept the horrid hypothesis that everybody was ill-treating everybody else, all came back with a pet Balkan people established in their hearts as suffering and innocent, eternally the masacree, and never the masacrer .
For centuries, Muslim Albanians were the favorite nation of the Ottoman Empire. They provided the sultans with faithful governors, efficient tax collectors, brutal policemen, hordes of Janizaries, and oppressive landlords. But upon the demise of the empire, yesterday's lords defined themselves as victims and fine-tuned the art of dragging exogenous powers into the Balkan quagmire. In so doing, Albanian elites assured the perpetuation of regional instability.
King Zog and all Albanian governments to date have chosen their patrons on the basis of three criteria: they had to be strong enough to fend off greedy neighbors, wealthy enough to take care of elite needs, and far enough removed to be readily replaced if circumstances warranted it. Zog's mistake was to consider Italy "far enough" simply because the Adriatic Sea separated the two countries.
After the Balkan wars, the successor of the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey, had lost its value as Albania's patron, even though it could still be counted on to checkmate Greek demands in Northern Epirus. Yugoslavia, on the other hand, served a purpose. In 1924 the Belgrade government restored Zog to power in Albania. In the process they rid Albania of the regime of Noli--a bishop who fashioned himself a "Balkan Lenin." The Serbs had armed Kosovars for the task and, in a twist of irony, also made available to Zog units of Baron Pyotr Wrangel's White Army that had drifted to the Balkans following their defeat in the Russian Civil War. Zog's return to Tirana on Christmas Eve 1924 had the added benefit of putting an end to a premature attempt by the Comintern and Leon Trotsky to convert Albania into an Adriatic Bolshevik outpost with a bishop in charge . Despite their expectations, the Serbs failed to convert Zog into an errand boy and were unable to use him effectively to pacify the restless Kosovars. The Greeks, too, underestimated his horse-trading skills. A few years after his restoration to power by the Serbs and fresh from a trip to Greece where he was decorated by General Theodoros Pangalos, Zog proceeded to Italy where he signed a mutual defense pact with Mussolini .
The 1927 Italian-Albanian Defense Treaty and successive economic agreements converted Albania into a dependency . All oil, chrome, and copper concessions were granted to Rome. Mussolini, on the other hand, was expected to financially help the king maintain a royal lifestyle, even though the latter was reduced to a puppet and his kingdom to a tourist curiosity. Royalty or not, Albanians remained impoverished and often died without ever knowing the name of their disease.
Attempts to Change Horses
By 1936 the king had realized the implications of Rome's intentions and attempted to wiggle out of its embrace. Belatedly he sought to replace Italy with Great Britain, a bigger, more powerful, and also a more distant patron. It was not an easy task. Under the terms of the Italian-Albanian Defense Treaty, Zog's army had come under Rome's firm control. The only distinction between an Italian and an Albanian soldier was the "Z" (for Zog) that adorned the latter's Italian-made hats.
Under the pretense of a need for law and order, Zog asked Great Britain to provide experts to train his gendarmerie. London was happy to comply and dispatched to Tirana Sir Reginald Sterling (a flamboyant colonel and comrade in arms of Lawrence of Arabia) to help the king build the gendarmerie into a paramilitary force that could counterbalance the Italian-controlled army. The move was too little, too late--and certainly offensive to the Duce. As far as the latter was concerned, Albania was Italian strategic space, and he could do what he pleased with it. To make the point, Mussolini encouraged his cronies to build their summer villas and hunting lodges in Albania. His son-in-law, Count Galeazo Ciano, built his in Kruje, the birthplace of Albania's national hero, Georgios Kastriotis-Skenderbeg. More importantly, Mussolini knew quite well the psychology and the historical grievances of the Muslim Albanian elites. Because they were deeply resented by their Orthodox Christian neighbors for collaborating with the Ottomans, he expected them to cast their lot with Catholic Italy and play a role similar to the one they had played during the Ottoman Empire: that is, to be his surrogates and hands-on rulers over their Orthodox neighbors. Moreover, Mussolini also expected the Albanians to provide manpower for his planned invasion of Greece. When the time came, they did not disappoint him.
Like Mussolini's Abyssinian adventure, the invasion of Albania was preceded by academic debates about a "new world and European order"--an order that would redress the injustices of the two Balkan wars and World War I--three conflicts in which the Albanians had joined the losing side. Anti-Zog tribal leaders living in Rome on Mussolini's handouts saw Italy and Nazi Germany as their best hope to settle scores with both Yugoslavia and Greece; they could not imagine the possibility that a Berlin-Rome axis could be defeated. [End Page 70]
Major Powers Caught Napping
The Italian invasion of Albania caught the diplomatic legations of two major powers, Great Britain and the United States, by surprise. The American minister in Tirana was Hugh G. Grant from Alabama, a personal friend of Senator Hugo Black (later justice of the Supreme Court) from the days of their membership in the Ku Klux Klan. When Black was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Grant had to be placed beyond the reaches of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Albania was as good a place as any for a splendid exile, and it also had a king. The minister was in awe of kings, including self-appointed ones.
Sir Andrew Ryan, ambassador of Great Britain, had decided not to set up shop in Tirana, the capital. Instead, he kept the British mission in Durres, a port that was accessible to the British navy if circumstances required a quick rescue. But more importantly, Lady Ryan could not stand the muddy roads of the capital or the level of entertainment available there. The sole movie house in Tirana, with its outdoor extension, was often the scene of armed spectators firing at the screen in mid-show. Gegh tradition required manly action when a damsel was in distress. Watching movies from the vantage of horse saddles, Geghs would take aim at the fast talking-city slicks who by deceitful means tried to seduce innocent young ladies--never mind it was only a movie.
Durres was the main port of entry for the Italian troops, which in the early hours of 7 April 1939 unleashed an intimidating bombardment to soften the soul of anyone inclined to resist. A few shells landed in the backyard of the British legation, shattering the usual bucolic peace the diplomatic couple had become accustomed to. On that morning the couple were alone. Sir Ryan had given generous Easter leave to his two staff members--a butterfly specialist and a "lonely youth." The latter was in Rome in search of sexual adventures, according to Cyrus L. Sulzberger (the late publisher of the New York Times). The entomologist, who was doubling as cryptographer, was climbing Albanian mountains in search of butterfly specimens. In the meantime, piles of urgent messages were awaiting his return. London was frantically trying to warn Sir Ryan of the impending invasion, to no avail. When shells exploded in his backyard, the ambassador attempted to call Grant in Tirana--miles away. The telephone line was dead.
The confusion on 7 April was indicative of the state of affairs in the diplomatic community in Albania and of the level of international attention given to a country that was about to be obliterated from the world map. Sulzberger aptly describes the scene:
[Sir Ryan] called Grant on the tenuous telephone and, when this proved dead, Lady Ryan climbed into the ancient Rolls and drove to Tirana to discover what was happening. While Grant and Lady Ryan were conferring, they noticed a caravan of cars driving eastward. It contained much of the gold reserves and the Royal family. A few Albanian units pretended scattered resistance to the Italians, gaining sufficient time for Zog to cross into Greece before his country subsided into occupation. Grant insisted on staying on for months, although Washington did not recognize the Italian conquest. One of his last tasks was to regain for the American school at Kavaje two cows stolen by the fence builder of Abdurahman Mati .
The minimal resistance to the Italian invasion was coordinated by Abaz Kupi, a loyal Zog chieftain. In 1942 Kupi would be fetched out of Istanbul by British intelligence and propped up to lead a pro-Zog resistance group, Legalliteti (Legitimacy). Kupi's resistance to the Italian forces proved adequate for Zog to flee into Greece with Queen Geraldine and the newborn Prince Leka. The Albanian communists were conspicuously absent during these critical hours. Fragmentary information shows them busy in coffee shops seeking ways to explain the Italian occupation in terms of historical determinism and the global class struggle.
The Duce made an impressive use of force on his entry into Albania, even though the prevailing climate in the country assured success to the operation. Fascism had been a flourishing ideology in Albania since 1927, but it reached new highs prior to and following the landing of Mussolini's troops in the Balkans. [End Page 72]
Changing of Emblems, Waiting for Orders
Italy moved swiftly to consolidate its power in Albania and paved the way for the invasion of Greece a year later. On 9 April a provisional administration was formed in Tirana under Xhafer Ypi, a Zog foe, who until then had been living on handouts in Rome. Three days later a Constituent Assembly consisting of 159 members hand-picked by the Albanian Fascist Party got down to business: by voice vote it entrusted the government to Shefqet Verlaci, a landlord who had also sought refuge in Italy to evade Zog's assassins . The choice was not accidental. A blood feud was in effect between Zog and Verlaci for reasons that had nothing to do with national interests. Prior to crowning himself as king, Zog I was engaged to marry one of Verlaci's sisters. However, when he assumed a royal title, his image makers (among them the British historian Joseph Swire) advised Zog to find a noble spouse instead and thus improve his stature among European royalty. He married a Hungarian museum usher, Geraldine, from the "impoverished branch of the Apponyis," whose mother was born in Brooklyn. Zog picked her from a photograph provided by his confidant, Kol Koci, who had traveled to European capitals in search of a royal spouse. The broken engagement and Zog's subsequent marriage to a spouse of dubious nobility violated Verlaci's family honor and ensured his clan's wrath against Zog.
On 16 April 1939, Verlaci dispatched a delegation to Rome with the crown of Skenderbeg to be handed to Victor Immanuel III, who would be proclaimed king of Italy and Albania and emperor of Ethiopia . The "emperor" was vested with legislative powers that in Albania were exercised by his regent, the Italian ambassador, Count Francesco Jakomoni. This meant the reign of Zog I was over, but the trappings of monarchy were retained, and Albanian chieftains were once again at the service of an emperor.
The king had barely crossed into Greece when his soldiers proceeded to remove their insignia from their hats and uniforms and patiently waited for a new assignment. Sulzberger describes the scenes at Greek-Albanian borders: [End Page 73]
To inquire into Albania's fate I went up to the border north of Janina [sic] where everyone was discussing what they would do to the "macaronades" (macaroni eaters). . . . I managed to cross into Albania through a frontier post called Perati. There I found pathetically seedy Albanian troops still wearing hand-me-down Italian uniforms once furnished at cut-rate to Zog by a munificent Rome. They had ripped Zog's "Z" emblem from their caps; that was the only difference, and they appeared not more ferocious on Mussolini's behalf than they had proven in the name of their former ruler. The Italian officers with whom I spoke were disconsolate. "Those Greeks," said a captain from Bari. "They are so provocative. They keep pointing guns at us and making derogatory remarks." 
National Agendas under Imperial Umbrellas
Within days after the transfer of the crown, a new map of Albania made its appearance in Tirana. It replaced the old one drawn by major powers in the Bucharest conference of 1913 and affirmed at the ambassadors' conference in London the same year. It was the map of Greater Albania, which at least on paper incorporated, besides Kosovo, parts of Greece, western Macedonia, a segment of Montenegro, and a piece of Serbia. It is identical to the map that currently adorns the logo of the Albanian-American Civic League and the shoulder patches of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). With Mussolini's help Shqiperia Ethnik would become a reality when Greece and Yugoslavia had been pulverized by Hitler's air force.
On 3 May 1941, six days after Nazi forces entered Athens, the Verlaci government dispatched another "special delegation" to Rome. It formally presented to the Italian foreign ministry "Albania's minimal demands" for adjustments of borders vis-a-vis Yugoslavia and Greece. Concerning Greece, besides Chamerija where approximately twenty thousand Muslim Albanians lived, Verlaci demanded the incorporation into Albania the cities of Ioannina and Preveza, "together with their regions as well as certain other Greek regions, primarily in Western Macedonia." Mussolini delivered on his promise of Greater Albania, but it would last only a few years. Understandably, neither Greece nor Yugoslavia would soon forget the quick fix to Albanian national aspirations . But as long as it lasted, Greater Albania muted all claims by the communists that only the Comintern and Joseph Stalin could secure the liberation of Kosovo and self-determination for all Balkan ethnic groups.
Cabinets of Musical Chairs and Theoreticians of Fascism
Several cabinets succeeded one another in Tirana under both Fascist and Nazi tutelage, but when Mussolini was overthrown by Marshal Pietro Badoglio in September 1943, Albania switched its primary allegiance and dutifully offered men and services to the Nazis. In Kosovo, the Albanians formed the SS Skenderbeg division, while in Albania proper the nationalist movement, Ball Kombetar, joined the Nazis in their butchery of innocent civilians. The Tirana mini-operettas parading as governments ruled over Greater Albania with the same finesse that the Nazis ruled Greeks and Slavs. For Albanian elites, the acquisition of Kosovo was more important than the characteristics of friends. Even Albania's leading intellectual and most highly regarded statesman, Mehdi Bey Frasheri, was impressed by Germany's territorial "generosity" and agreed to replace (or be the replacement for) Jakomoni as regent, under the watchful eye of Hermann Nuebacher, Hitler's Balkan envoy. Frasheri, like others, believed that only Nazi Germany guaranteed the permanent union of Kosovo with Albania, and he was not about to reject help for ideological reasons .
Frasheri was guided by the same principles as those espoused by another prominent Albanian intellectual, Omer Nishani. Nishani was not only a card-carrying member of the Albanian Fascist Party (PFSh) but had also fashioned himself as its theoretician. Ironically, in 1946 he would be rewarded by Hoxha with the presidency of the Peoples Republic of Albania. Like dozens of Fascists turned Communist Party leaders, Nishani viewed [End Page 75] fascism as a "system of discipline" that would ensure Albania's development and, toward that end, he used his "intellectual skills" to educate the masses on the importance of the Italian-Albanian alliance. In diatribes published in 1940 on the anniversary of Zog's overthrow, he denounced that "goat-thief" and declared fascism to be a system "fully compatible with the mentality of Albanians." On the same occasion, Nishani endorsed the transfer of the crown of Skenderbeg to Victor Immanuel, "a real king who would uphold its value." Moreover, Nishani argued, Skenderbeg's crown on Victor Immanuel's head would symbolize the permanence of the "union of Albania with Fascist Italy," under which Albania would eventually come out much stronger and certainly greater in area:
Today is a historic day for Albania. On this day, a year ago, the Constituent Assembly in Tirana unanimously decided to deliver the Crown of Skenderbeg to the king and Emperor of Italy, Victor Immanuel III. From that day on, Albania has linked her destiny to that of Fascist Italy and the Albanian people have placed themselves under a genuine monarch, in whose hands the Crown of Skenderbeg will retain its historic value. . . . On this occasion I should also like to point out several things about the fascist regime. It is most suitable for our backward country. The national identity and independence can be preserved through good organization and discipline as the fascist doctrine preaches. We have a need to organize and discipline ourselves according to the dogma of Albanian fascism, which will strengthen our nationality under the Roman Empire. Only in this way will we achieve our heart's desire of expanding Albania to its ethnic borders .
Historical Amnesia and Kosovo Adventures
Incorporation of Kosovo into Albania was the foremost item on the agenda of Albanian elites in the 1940s. The same agenda is pursued with the help of different patrons today. Those who read the Albanian history of that period find little surprise in the events of the 1990s. They are nothing but perverse repetitions of the 1940s and products of historical amnesia with Orwellian overtones.
Post-World War II historical accounts perpetuate the myth that Albania was an innocent victim of fascism and ignore its participation in a war against its neighbors . Everything is possible when the "end of history" has been solemnly declared by Francis Fukuyama and anachronistic imperial thinkers (among them Samuel Huntington and Zbigniew Brzezinski) long for a hierarchical system that resembles the Holy Roman Empire with financiers and celebrities replacing popes and cardinals.
When policy makers operate in a historical vacuum, mythology and history acquire equal value, as the current Western approach to the Balkans affirms. Not so paradoxically, nationalists and communists alike have made claims and counterclaims that have distorted the nature of Balkan events to the point that yesterday's brutal communists are treated as victims and those who lost millions fighting on democracy's side--Serbs and Greeks--are treated as enemies. Claims and myths recorded in the Hoxha-era historiography form the basis of Western analyses and assert the following: (a) Albania ceased to exist as a sovereign state in 1939 and, therefore, played no role in implementing Rome's (and its own) grand schemes in the Balkans; (b) from the onset of the war, the majority of the Albanian people resisted the occupation; (c) only the quisling government of Tirana with a few collaborators were criminally involved in acts of brutality against neighboring states; and (d) the communists commenced resistance soon after the invasions and, therefore, they could not have been held responsible for what transpired between 1939 and 1944 .
While it is true that Albania functioned under limited sovereignty after 1939, Albanian nationalism operated in full throttle under Mussolini's and Hitler's umbrella. Even prominent communists had joined the bandwagon of Greater Albania and saw no harm in joining both the Communist and Fascist Parties. But when the fortunes of war changed, many Fascists flocked to the Communist Party ranks while others drifted to the West, where they donned the cloak of anticommunism and joined whatever agency provided the highest level of obscurity and the best opportunities for mercenary adventures . As far as communist resistance is concerned, the record is clear: it started in earnest after the battle of Stalingrad and intensified when Julian Amery (chief of British intelligence in Albania) showed up with sufficient quantities of gold coins . Communist resistance was hardly in evidence when Greeks and Serbs were fighting fascism.
British intelligence agents dispatched to the Balkans at the start of the Greek-Italian war disputed claims of popular Albanian resistance against the Italian invaders. On the contrary, between 1939 and 1943 communists and nationalists alike were riding on the same bandwagon and vociferously spouted Greater Albania slogans. "The Korce [communist] group," wrote Reginald Hibbert, "began to agitate against the Greeks" (not against Italians) and seemed pleased that the invasion ended Zog's rule, something they had failed to achieve themselves, even with the Comintern's help . The nationalists, on the other hand, were happy with their role as Mussolini's committed allies and ignored Zog's calls for passive or active resistance. [End Page 78] Thus, when the king pleaded with his compatriots to piggy back an Albanian revolt "on the victory of the Greek army," his pleas fell on deaf ears. The British thought that the idea had merit, but when they presented it to the Greek government, it was dismissed as an illusion. Field Marshal Alexander Papagos bluntly asked the British emissaries "who was going to lead the revolt when most of the Zogist officers in Albania had joined the Italian Fascist offensive against Greece?"  The Albanian government noted sporadic actions taken against the Italians' supply lines and denounced them as "unpatriotic," although it seemed these involved ordinary looting and had nothing to do with opposition to fascism . But after Hitler invaded the "motherland of socialism," Albanian communists, under the tutelage of two Montenegrin agents, Miladin Popovic and Dusan Mugosa, heeded Moscow's call and commenced harassment of German forces. Their resistance was dwarfed in scope by Albanians who fought on the Axis side under the banner of Ball Kombetar. A random scanning of Albanian publications covering the period 1939 to 1944 reveals an organized nationalist orgy that has left indelible memories on its victims in Greece, Kosovo, and Albania proper.
The newspapers Tomori, Bashkimi i Kombit, and The Fashist (organ of the PFSh) vociferously praised the Axis grand designs. The motley succession of Albanian cabinets implored Albanian troops to fight for "glories in the battlefields" and for Shqiperia Ethnik. Tomori routinely adorned its pages with photographs of activities and military formations of the Fascist Party and its youth counterpart--the Albanian Youth of the Lictor. In an unrestrained display of solidarity with fascism, Tomori had altered its masthead with an elaborate printing of Emperor Victor Immanuel's promise: "the fortunes [End Page 79] of Albania are forever linked to that of Italy."  Occasionally, nationalist fanaticism would reach levels of outright hilarity. Both Tomori and Bashkimi i Kombit had made it a habit to present all air and naval operations by the Axis as "glorious victories of our forces"--never mind that Albania did not posses a single aircraft or warship. Thus, on 2 September 1940, Tomori heralded the successes of "our forces" in the Atlantic with the headline: "British ships seriously damaged by our airplanes: One hundred million of British shipping tonnage annihilated in three days." 
Aggressors, Liberators, and Victims
For the duration of the war the Tirana governments considered themselves sovereign allies of Mussolini and Hitler, not their victims. Like their patrons, they had grievances with the post-Versailles world order. Under the protective umbrella of the Rome-Berlin Axis, the Tirana quisling regimes relentlessly pursued the dream of Greater Albania. To them, distinctions between aggression and liberation were meaningless. To underscore Albania's sovereign status, and position itself for the spoils of war against Greece, the Albanian National Assembly had prudently enacted Decree 194 on 16 September 1940, whose operative clause stated, "The Albanian Kingdom considers itself in a state of war with those countries that the Kingdom of Italy is at war with."  Furthermore, in close coordination with the Italian general staff, the Albanian government made military preparations for war against its neighbors and for effective control of territories it expected to acquire.
Between April 1939 and October 1940, the Italian general staff organized fourteen Albanian regiments (sixty-two-thousand troops) to be used against Greece and Yugoslavia. These units operated as integral parts of the army of the empire and, by and large, followed the international law governing war. But the Albanian government also asked and was allowed to create parallel [End Page 80] irregular units, which would operate beyond the constraints of international law. Their mission was to create "facts on the ground" by terrorizing Greeks in southern Albania and to expel Serbs from their ancestral homes in Kosovo. Military documents captured by the Greek forces in the Italian garrison of Korce (document no. 122, 29 June 1939) give the details of an understanding the Albanian and Italian governments shared concerning the importance of independent action by the irregulars. Though the Albanian government insisted that the fourteen regiments would "fight under national colors," the irregular units needed neither "national colors" nor uniforms; only weapons, which the Italians supplied in abundance.
However, there was a direct linkage between regulars and irregulars and a tacit division of labor. The former were partners in the creation of a new European order, while the latter would do the dirty business of ethnically cleansing Kosovo of Serbs and southern Albania of Greeks. By war's end, the irregulars and Ball Kombetar forces had reduced the Serbian population of Kosovo by three hundred thousand. For the first time in its long history, Albanians became the majority in the province. As in today's Kosovo, all atrocities against Greeks and Serbs were conveniently attributed to irregulars over whom the central command supposedly had no control .
Though Albanian governments functioned under limited constraints during World War II, these "limitations" hardly prevented them from pursuing nationalist goals, pretty much as the KLA operated under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's nose. For the past half century the modus operandi of Albanian elites--irrespective of ideology--has remained the same: national aspirations are masterfully woven into the grand schemes of superpowers, whenever the latter get the urge to craft a new world order. But while their patrons and protectors are busy remaking the world, the Albanians volunteer to "police" territories that external powers had secured for them. They did so when Rome and Berlin were at the apex of their game and are repeating the same pattern in the post-Cold War era when only one superpower is left--the United States of America.
Flashback and Fast Forward
By the end of Easter week 1939, Italian troops had reached every corner of the country, unopposed and often cheered by the Albanian Fascist Party. In anticipation of their future role, Albanians adjusted rather quickly. They remained armed and seedy in appearance, removed the Zogist epaulets and insignia from their uniforms, and waited for assignments from the new rulers of Albania. Their officers had long ago converted to fascism and stood ready to march into Greece and Yugoslavia in lock step with Mussolini's Black Shirts.
In 1999 the KLA, too, waited for an assignment during NATO's air war against a sovereign state. Having ruled out ground forces for Kosovo, NATO was looking for a local substitute and found it in the KLA. No questions asked. When the campaign was over, the KLA's commander, General Agim Geku, negotiated the conversion of the KLA into a "legitimate police force" under Albanian "national colors" but shirked all responsibility for the actions of "irregular units." While NATO seems saddled with the role of managing a protectorate on behalf of the United Nations, the Albanian irregulars have succeeded in making Kosovo Europe's most monoethnic piece of real estate. Now with the help of CNN and Washington-based public relations firms, all terrorist actions by Kosovars are explained as "understandable acts of revenge" attributable to "uncontrollable elements," while Yugoslav reaction to brutalities against innocent civilians are branded "genocide." History repeats itself in the Balkans, always as farce.
Nikolaos A. Stavrou is professor of international affairs at Howard University and editor of Mediterranean Quarterly.
1. Ahmet Zogu was proclaimed King of Albania in 1928 and reigned as Zog I, thus the different (and often confusing) spellings of his name.
2. Ethnic Albanian (Shqiperia Ethnik) was a concept formally pursued by Albanian Fascists during World War II. It was revived by Enver Hoxha on 10 November 1982. See Hoxha's Logos Mprosta Stous Eklogeis: Noemvris, 1982 (Speech before the electorate, 10 November 1982) [Greek translation] (Tirana: 8 Nendori, 1982), 36-7.
3. The condition that Albania had to accept was adherence to principles of the Corfu Protocol, signed in 1914 between the governments of Albania and the Autonomous Northern Epirus, guaranteeing full autonomy for the Greek minority in southern Albania.
4. Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey through Yugoslavia (New York: Penguin, 1969), 10.
5. Nikolaos A. Stavrou, "Albanian Communism and the Red Bishop," Mediterranean Quarterly 7, no. 2 (1996). Trotsky spent time in the region during the Balkan wars as a correspondent for Kievskaya Mysl (Kiev thought). Writing under the pseudonym Antid Oto, Trotsky employed a single journalistic principle: he would support whichever ethnic group was the loser in the Balkan wars. See Dmitri Volkogonov, Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary (New York: Free Press, 1996), 53.
6. General Theodoros Pangalos, a caricature of a dictator, is best known in Greek history for equipping his police force with tape measures to check the length of women's skirts--all in the name of morality.
7. By 1930, even the Albanian National Bank had become de facto a branch of the Bank of Italy. Having been the target of repeated robberies, it prudently moved its headquarters. They were transferred to Rome.
8. Cyrus L. Sulzberger, A Long Row of Candles: Memoirs and Diaries, 1934-1954 (New York: Macmillan, 1969), 55. Abdurahman Mati, a.k.a. Krosi, was a chieftain from Zog's birthplace (Mati) and served as the latter's ruffian in residence.
9. Stefanaq Pollo et al., Historia e Shqiperise. Vellimi i Trete 1912-1944 (History of Albania, vol. 3, 1912-24) (Tirana: Akademia e Shkencave NRPS te Shqiperise. Instituti i Historise, 1984), 480-1.
10. Ibid., 481.
11. Sulzberger, 70-1.
12. Dimitris Mihalopoulos, Scheseis Elladhas Kai Alvanias, 1923-1928 (Greek-Albanian relations, 1923-1928) (Athens: Paratiritis, 1986), 162.
13. Similar goals are now articulated by the Albanian opposition party headed by Sali Berisha, whose roots are traceable to Kosovo.
14. Stavro Skendi, ed., Albania (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1956), 96-7.
15. Omer Nishani: "Bashkimi i Shqiperise Dhe Itali Fashist" (The Union of Albania and Fascist Italy) Tomori, 12 April 1940, 1. This article caused serious embarrassment to the Albanian and Yugoslav delegations at the Paris Peace Conference. The Greek prime minister, Constantine Tsaldaris, produced a copy of Tomori and made the argument that the Communist Party regime of Hoxha had absorbed quisling elements in its ranks, one of them being the then president of the republic, Omer Nishani. The Yugoslav foreign minister, Edvard Kardelj (Albania's advocate at the peace conference), was caught by surprise and demanded, through his embassy in Tirana, a copy of the article and an explanation by Nishani. They were duly transmitted on 3 September 1946. See Ljubo Osterc, "Letter of Transmission"[Serbo-Croatian], document no. 85, Yugoslav Foreign Ministry Archives. See also Elias B. Constas, To Vorioepirotiko Zetema: Istoriki kai Ethniki Topothetisi (The Northern Epirus Issue: historical and ethnic framework) (Athens: Vivliotheki Panepirotikis Adelphotetos, 1951), 38-9.
16. Julian Amery, Sons of the Eagle (London: Macmillan and Co., 1948), 40-1; Reginald Hibbert, Albania's National Liberation Struggle: The Bitter Victory (London and New York: Pinter, 1991), 15.
17. This contention was challenged at the Paris Peace Conference by Prime Minister Constantine Tsaldaris of Greece, who referred to sovereign actions by the Albanian government toward Greece. See
U.S. Department of State, "Paris Peace Conference: Proceedings," in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1970), 101-2. The Greek position was vindicated by the U.S. Senate, which on 19 July 1946 adopted Senate Resolution no. 92. Taking under consideration Albania's behavior in World War II, it expressed the sense of the Senate "that Northern Epirus (including Corytsa) and the twelve islands of the Aegean, known as Dodecanese Islands, where a strong Greek population predominates, should be awarded by the Peace Conference to Greece and become incorporated to the territory of Greece." See Congressional Record, vol. 92, part 8, 10336.
18. In 1950 some of these defectors would be recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to overthrow Hoxha. The whole operation was betrayed by Kim Philby and turned into a fiasco. For an account of this affair, see Nicholas Bethell, The Great Betrayal: The Untold Story of Kim Philby's Biggest Coup (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984).
19. Sarcastically, Hoxha would call the monthly handouts by the British agents "St. George's cavalry," in reference to King George's bust on the gold coins.
20. Hibbert, 15.
21. Among former members of the Fascist Party who turned Communist and played a significant role in the Communist regime were General Bedri Spahiu, Admiral Teme Seiko, and Tahir Demi. Demi reached the rank of Alternate Politburo member and Albanian ambassador to COMECON. All three were executed by Hoxha. Demi and Seiko were born in Filiates, Greece. The first was commander of an Albanian brigade that consisted of Albanians from Chamerija who joined the Italian forces in failed attempts to capture Ioannina; the second became Hoxha's chief of the navy. Spahiu was described as "a dour character" by David Smiley (a British agent): "In 1940 he had joined the Fascist Party, but a year later had transferred his sympathies and joined the Albanian Communist Party." David Smiley, Albanian Assignment (London: Hogarth, 1984), 29.
22. "Anti-Fascist Dogs in the Greek Front," Tomori, 3 March 1940, 1.
23. See "Marhsimi i Rinise Fashist" (Marching of the Fascist Youth), Tomori, 1 September 1940, 3. Similarly, the issue of 2 September carried a picture of Albanian youth sporting rifles and black shirts, ready for war. The picture was taken in Shkoder, home town of Ramiz Alia, successor of Hoxha and a member of the Fascist Youth.
24. See "Nga Front in Ljuftes" (From the war front), Tomori, 2 September 1940, 1.
25. Angelos N. Papacostas, He Alytrotos Ipiros (The enslaved Epirus) (Athens: Vivliotheki Panepirotikis Adelphotetos, 1951), 34.
26. Christos Papastavrou, He Ellas kai He Voreios Epiros (Greece and Northern Epirus) (Athens: 1946), 17; Papacostas, 35.