ICG Europe Report N°153, 25 February 2004
distantly related to Greek and to the Slavic languages spoken by their Balkan neighbours. There are grammatical differences between the Gheg and Tosk dialects, though they are mutually comprehensible. The Tosk-based literary language was promulgated by the Tosk-dominated Communist government. Ghegs argued that their dialect had been sacrificed in favour of the then Stalinist regime's desire to dominate the Ghegs both politically and culturally - during the Second World War, the Ghegs in both Albania and Yugoslavia were overwhelmingly anti-communist. Since the collapse of communism in Albania in 1991, there have been numerous academic initiatives aimed at officially re-instating the Gheg dialect on a par with standard Albanian. This has resulted in a revival of literary Gheg, with the publication of numerous works by hitherto suppressed Gheg writers.
7 Platform for the Solution of the National Albanian Question, Albanian Academy of Sciences, Tirana, 1998, p. 5. Albanians have always been very weak”.8 Others see pan-Albanian cultural or economic initiatives not as a step toward a greater Albania or greater Kosovo, but simply as part of the growing European trend toward encouraging integration across national borders.
Albanian nationalism is rather different from the traditions of Serbian, Croatian or even Greek expansionism, in that the ideology is not driven from the capital of the Albanian state. Although all Albanians are now familiar with the terms “pan-Albanianism”, “Greater Kosovo” and “Greater Albania”, it is rare to hear them use such terms themselves. Albanians tend to view the issue from more of a holistic perspective, and see their political agenda as a collective effort to strengthen the Albanian position in the southern Balkans by freeing themselves from Slav oppression. From the perspective of outside observers, this may appear to be consistent with a strategic plan to link their separate territories. For the Albanians, however, these territories are not separate – they are all Albania – albeit divided into different political units by the demarcation of Albania’s borders in 1913 and 1921 and the subsequent break-up of Yugoslavia, and very few advocate the redrawing or abolition of borders
Platform For The Resolution Of The Albanian National Question
ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF ALBANIA
Platform For The Solution Of The National Albanian Question.
Among Europian peoples, the Albanians are the ones who have suffered the biggest territorial partitioning. Albanians are currently divided among five states of the Balkan Peninsula with only half of them living within the borders of their national state. Outside these borders, the greatest part of the ethnic Albanian land is under the Serbian rule. The province of Kosova is part of partitioned lands where Albanians represent about 90% of the over 2 million popullation. The rest of Albanian lands are within the states of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece.
Territorial truncation has been a constant source of concern for the entire Albanian nation, within and outside the borders of the Albanian state. Due to increasing police Serb repression, unrest in the province of Kosova has already taken dramatic proportions. The Belgrade stubbornnes to refuse to the Albanians their universally accepted national rights, has created the danger of the conflict spilling over the borders - in the Balkan Peninsula and even beyond. The atrocities of the Serbian police over the Albanians in Kosova and the danger of the conflict spreading over the borders has alerted not only the big chancelleries, but the major international oragizations, as well. World diplomacy and journalistic circles have worked out various options on the solution of the Kosova question. The substance of the efforts of the international community is to prevent the armed conflict in Kosova from spreading in the neighborig countries. Part of these efforts are also the alternatives to grant Kosova an undefined autonomy - according to some under Serbia, according to others under the remaining Federal Republics of Yugoslavia.
However, these options have not been endorsed by the Albanian public opinion and the Albanian political forces within and outside the borders of Albania. The efforts of the Albanian political forces, also, focus on a solution for the status of Kosova and not on the resolution of the Albanian national question as a whole.
The Academy of Sciences of Albania, deeply cencerned, not just over the resolution of the status of Kosova, but over the future of the entire Albanian nation has worked out and submits this paltform for the resolution of the Albanian question in its entirely. This platform contains historical, political, diplomatic and legal arguments concerning the national Albanian drama. It also unfolds the international background where this drama is being developed and it, lastly, puts forward options towards a gradual solution in view of the present-day international conditions and of the political processes that are leading the Balkans towards integration with the Europian Community.
The platform was initially put forth for descussion in the Asambly of the Academy of Sciences. At a second stage, the plaform drew on the opinions and suggestions of Albanian intellectuals dealing with the national Albanian question from Albania, Kosova, and Macedonia. After the best of the opinions and recommendations were incorporated, the Platform in its present condition was endorsed by the Assembly of the Academy of Sciences of Albania.
In submitting this Platform, the Academy of Sciences of Albania plans to call a National Convention with the participation of intellectuals from all ethnic lands and the Albanian Diaspora in the hope to have the Platform widely accepted. Afterwards, Albanians should one and all work towards its practical implementation.
FOR THE RESOLUTION
OF THE ALBANIAN NATIONAL QUESTION
History of the national question
The Albanian national question in the sence of the movement for the libaration of the Albanian lands from foreign occupation and their unification into one single national state, was born almost simultaneously with the national movements of the peoples of the Balkan Peninsula. As elsewhere in Southeastern Europe, in Albania, too, it was born under the century-long Ottoman occupation. It gained new impetuses especially under the influence of ideas emanating from the French Revolution of the year 1789 on freedom, equality and fraternity of peoples, which could only be attained if every nation was to create its own independent, democratic and illumininist state.
But the Albanian national movement from its very start was faced with opposition not only by the centennial Ottoman ruler, but also by the chauvinistic circles of the neighboring countries. On top of it all, came the indifference of the Big Powers.
Immediately after having established their national states, the governmental Serbian and Greek circles were seized by chauvinism and encroaching tendencies towards Albanian lands, which were still under Turkish occupation. The attainment of their ambitions, openly proclaimed in 1844 by the Blegrade rulers in a programme under the name of "Nacertania" and by the rulers of Athens in the platform named "Megali Idea", did not allow for the creation of an Albanian state. In the context of their nationalistic ambitions, Belgrade and Athens soon found a common language on political and military issues, which meant division between the two of the Albanians lands, to say nothing of Montenegro's hunger for these lands. This common language was first materialized in the secret talks held between Serb and Greek diplomats in Istambul in 1862 and further augmented by the secret alliance concluded between these two states in 1867 in Veslau, Austria on the separation of Albanian lands as per the length of the river Shkumbin and via Egnatia.
In the mid 19th century when such annexionist plans were being conceived, the Albanians, descendants of the ancient illyrians, in spite of the constant territorial shrinking effectuated by century-long pressure of the external forces, were still dwelling in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula where they had been dwelling ever since the dawn of history. Approximately exact data on the streaching of ethnic Albanian lands by the middle of last century have been given by a number of objective Europian observers, who knew the Balkan's human geography from a close personal experience. Among them, mention should be made of the French erudite scholar Ami Boue (1840), the keen British observer E.Spencer (1847) and the renowned Austrian scientist J.Hahn (1853). According to them, the Albanians were an autochthonous population spreading as far North as Nish, Leskovac, and Vranje; as far East as Kumanova, Perlep and Manastir; as far South as Konica, Janina and Preveza. They did not, however, negate that within this vast space there were also inhabitants from the neighboring Balkan nationalities (Greeks, Vlachs, Macedonians, Serbs, Montenegrins, Turks) which were like islands of minorities in the open Albanian sea. By this time, these lands were separated from the Ottoman Empire, and constituted four vilayets - the vilayet of Kosova, Shkodra, Manastiri and Janina. The vilayet of Kosova with Shkup as its principal center was the biggest of all. The geographical streaching of Kosova vilayet was overwhelmingly inhabited by Albanians, hence it is not casual coincidence that is concurred almost fully with the antic Illyrian province of Dardania, whose principal center, like Kosova's, was also Shkup. The second biggest vilayet was that of Janina which streached South from the Bay of Arta up to the river Seman in the North, thus embracing within its reach also the antique province of Epir which, not accidentally, like in Antiquity, in the mid 19th century was again mostly inhabited by Albanians than by Greeks.
The Greek official circles based their nationalistic appetites on three so-called historical, in fact groundless, arguments: on the Hellenic colonies which in Antiquity sprung up on the Albanian costal line as they did on many of the Mediterranean shores; on the violent rule of Byzantium over these lands and the dependance of the orthodox church in these areas from the Istambul Patriarchate. According to the "reasoning" supporting the platform of "Megali Idea", the entire Epir up to the Shkumbini River and the entire Macedonia up to Korca should have been part of Greece. The official circles in Athens did not take count of the fact that the greatest part of these areas were completely free of ethnic greek populations. In view of their complete absence, they counted as members of the Greek nationality every orthodox Albanian simply because from the ecclesiastic point of view they had links with the Patriarchate in Istambul. However, their efforts to artificially increase the number of Greek inhabitants did not have any success. Orthodox Albanians, although they kept their church rites in Greek, with few exceptions, preserved intact their national Albanain conscience. Moreover, this population gave birth to a number of Renaisance writers and thinkers of the national Albanian movement like Naum Veqilharxhi, Kostandin Kristoforidhi, Thimi Mitko, Jani Vreto, Nikolla Naco, etc.
Neither Serbia did have any supportive evidence for its ambitions towards the Albanian lands. It hoped to attain its territorial aspirations with the help of its big sister, Czarist Russia. The thrust of the Serbian "Nacertania" was on Kosova and its headcenter Shkup and on the Serb Expansionist dream to have access to the Adriatic sea. Given the fact that Serb inhabitants in these areas are a small minority, the Belgrade nationalistic circles cooked up additional, equally baseless, arguments: that Albanians are not the descendants of the Illyrians and still less are the ancient inhabitants of Kosova the descendants of the Dardanians; that they were populations who had settled in Kosova from the Eastern part of the Peninsula after the Serbs had already settled; that the Kosova land is the cradle of the Medieval Serb state, therefore, the memories, legends and monuments of their national conscience are connected with Kosova. Shortly, at the time of the Slav influx, Kosova was un unpopulated land, as a conscience the Albanians of Kosova are not indigenous, but migrants who settled after the year 1689, forcing the Serb population of the area to move North after the defeat in the same year of the Austrian army by the Ottoman army. The Serb historians have no historical evidence to ground their assertions on. Their advantage is that, simply for political gains and not out of genuineness, the Serb Albanians have closed their eyes on such thesis. They also have been privileged by the delayed development of the Albanian scientific historiography in face of the increasingly two century old Serbian historiography. Nevertheless, the researches of the last decades, allow the Albanian historians to provide convincing historical proofs to the effect that the thesis of the Serb historians have always been groundless.
The Serb historians have accused the Muslim Albanians of Kosova for collaboratin the Ottoman Power in this latter's repression of the Serbian population in the relevant areas. But the charges are absolutely baseless. The Albanians have always been free from religions bias and animosities. That the Orthodox Serbian Churches and monasteries in Kosova were saved from destruction for over 400 years, this goes unquestionably to the credit of the Muslim Albanians in Kosova. By contrast, the medieval Serbian officials, the moment they occupied Kosova, tore down every monument and ancient religious cult built by the Albanians before their take over. Besides, the Albanains, all through the centuries of the Ottoman occupation stood up in uprisings against Istambul. So much so that independent historical sources testify that the Albanians of the province participated massively in the Kosova uprising of 1689. The same sources indicate that not only Christian Albanians, but a considerable part of the muslim population of Kosov took part in the uprising under the leadership of the catholic Albanain Archbishop Pjeter Bogdani. Moreover, when after the year1689, the liberating movement of the Serbs in Kosova subsided, the Albanians of the province continued with their uprising against Istambul. Some of these uprising were extremely forceful, like the one of the year1844 led by Dervish Cara which so deeply shook the Sublime Port that is dispatched its army around to Rumelia to suppress it. Further, during the Eastern crisis of the seventies in the 19th century, when Southeastern Europe was swept into the storm of the Russian-Turkish War, the main event on the Balkan scale was the creation of the Albanian League of Prizren, which had led the Albanian movement on the brink of obtaining independence, was violently crushed by the Ottoman armies. The land of Kosova was made red with the blood of thousands of its children. The terror of the Sublime Port did not lessen the resistance. On the contrary, the Albanians of Kosova continued to rise up against Istambul by seriously shaking in a number of cases the Sublime Porte, as for example in 1899, 1908 and in 1910. In spring 1912 Kosova was the first to set free the flags of the liberation uprisings. Within weeks, the uprising spread in all Albanian regions to result ultimately in throwing away the Ottoman rule which had lasted for ceturies. The turkish armies were either defeated, or surrendered, or shut themselves up in the army barracks. In the summer, the cities of Kosova liberated themselves one after the other. on 12 August 1912 the Albanian fighters liberated Shkup, the head-center of the Kosova vilayet. However, as it is widely known, when the general uprising was on the threshhold of victory, the events changed their direction to the detriment of Albanians. Alerted by the quick rolling of the situation, the Balkan monarchies joined hastily to declare war on the same front to the Ottoman Empire, which, embattled as it was by the Albanain's blows, suffer deafeat after deafeat. As it is wide-known, in the complicated situation of the Balkan conflict, representatives from all Albanian reagions, including Kosova, Macedonia, and Cameria gathered in the National Convention of Vlora which, on 28 November 1912, proclaimed the National Independance of Albania and the inclusion of all ethnic regions they were representing in one unified national state.
Truncation of the ethnic lands
After the decision made by the Historic Convention of Vlora, the Albanains hoped that their century long stuggle against the Ottoman rule and with their legitimate and lawful rights over their ethnic lands, the six Great Powers, which were jointly dictating the destiny of the peoples of the continent, would recognize the creation of their independent states and would include within its borders all ethnic Albanain lands. But the London Conference, assigned by the Great Powers to design the new map of the Balkan Peninsula after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, recognized in 1913, after a series of hesitations, the Act of the Creation of the independent Albanian state, alone, while the other decision of the Vlora Convention, the unification of of ethnic Albanian lands within independent Albania, was ignored. The borders of the newly created state included only less than half of the ethnic Albanian lands. The other half was divided among the three neighboring Balkan monarchies. Serbia took over the whole of historical Kosova with it's capital Shkup. Greece annexed the regions of Follorina and Kosturi along with Cameria, which the Great Powers hesitated to grant to it at the time of the Berlin Congress because the Albanian League of Prizren warning an armed conflict with Athens. Likewise, the Conference confirmed the cession to Montenegro of Plava, Gucia, Hoti dhe Gruda which the Prizreni League had defended with blood at the time of the Eastern crises of the seventies.
The truncation of the Albanian lands and the annexation of more than their half by the neighboring monarchies, was an injustice at the expense of an ancient nation who had survived the continuous storms of history. Moreover, the annexed lands, instead of gaining their freedom for which they had fought for centuries on end, simply passed from one foreign occupation under another. The Serb, Greek and Montenegrin officials rejected every right to the annexed Albanians, even the right to education in their mother tongue. In addition, since the fall of 1913, immediately after the signing of the decision of the London Conference of Ambassadors (29 July 1913), the goverments of Belgrade, Athens and Cetinje started to deport Albanians from their ethnic homes and forced them to emigrate to Turkey, as far as possible from their homelands. With the massive deportation that Greece carried out in the decades following the annexation of the Albanian lands, especially with the biblical exodus of the Cams which it effectuated at the end of World War ||, it was assumed that its borders were purged of ethnic Albanians. But, as will be shown, ethnic Albanians are still there. Serbia, too, even though it started ethnic cleansing since the time of the Turkish-Russian war of the years 1877-1878 and although after the year 1918 Yugoslavia continued for decades on end the campaign of forced deportations of Albanians from Kosova, Macedonia and Montenegro, it never succeeded in cleansing the annexed lands from ethnic Albanians. The Albanians are where they have been throughout the past millennia, with the exception of the peripheral belt.
From the year 1913 the World has seen two big wars. Both wars were won by powers which had promised to give freedom to the oppressed peoples and respect their national rights. But the injustice of the Big Powers at the Conference of Ambassadors in 1913 was not redressed. Albanian ethnic lands continued to be divided, with the difference that the regions outside the borders of Albania 1913, in the beginning were partitioned among three neighboring monarchies (Serbia, Greece, Montenegro), while from the year 1918 until the year 1991 they stood divided between Yugoslavia and Greece. The Albanians were greatly disappointed both by the Treaty of Versailles (1920) and the Paris Conference (1946). The greatest disappointment was yet to come with the disintegration of the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia at the beginning of the years 90'.
ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF ALBANIA
Tirana, 20 October 1998