Albanian Themes


This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to Albania, its history and culture. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.

“The second great inter-Balkanic problem concerns Albanian origins. This people seems to be the last of the Thracians from Dardania province who managed to escape complete Romanization.”—from The Rise of Comparative History    
 “The Romanian bunget corresponds with the Albanian bunk, the ancient Rom. word brîu to the Alb. bres, the Rom. mazăre to Alb. modhule, and the Rom. pârâu to Alb. prua.
“Instead of great landowners and Ottoman or other oppressors, a local oligarchy was in charge, formed by the Islamized ancient nobility who dominated mostly Bosnia and Albania.”
“This was a militant society, each tribe constituted a quasi-permanent army in which the warriors obeyed their chief, who, in Albania, is called by a name barjaktar, derived from Turkish (bearer of the banner).”
“Albania failed to form a national class of intellectuals. There were fellow countrymen abroad who became rich through trade, but they were indifferent to the ideas of independence and did not contribute in any way to the foundation of a national culture.”

“Compared to the EU average, Albanian public service broadcasting has a very small, almost insignificant market share of the advertising market.”—from Up in the Air?
“Uniquely in the Albanian media landscape, the public service broadcaster does not struggle with financial difficulties and has doubled its incomes in recent years. It is estimated to have 30% more staff than necessary, many who are members of clientelistic networks.”
“More often than not, public service television is a means of money laundering and illicit party funding. The high costs, low audience ratings, and lack of legitimacy suggest that closing down this institution should be considered.”
“Engagement of civil society and media associations has improved with their participation in the consultation processes of media laws. Particularly, the Albanian Media Institute is a major actor in civil society regarding media and public communication, with a large number of publications and studies on media developments in Albania.”

Titles from the backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

“Only through an ironic question do we arrive at the most common Slovenian stereotype about Albanians: What would Slovenians be without bureks and baklava?”
An analysis of the dish and the phenomenon: in Slovenia, burek has become a loaded metaphor for the Balkans and immigrants from the south.
“In colloquial, more or less nationalistically and chauvinistically tinged language the expression ‘burekmajstri’ is used narrowly to denote Albanians, the best-known and most visible producers of bureks, and broadly to denote all other immigrants from the former Yugoslavia.”
“The makers of bureks tried to separate the burek from the semantic associations with the Balkans, the South, and immigrants, and bring it closer to other associations which for Slovenes are more highly valued meanings and elements; this has been the operative strategy of Albanian sweetshop operators for many decades, e.g. bearing the names of ‘sacred’ Slovenian places such as Triglav.”

“Kosovar Albanian historians see the history of Kosovo as part of a national Albanian history. At the moment, one can observe two tendencies, one reproducing the Enverist narrative with minor adaptations to new political circumstances, the other shifting the core of Albanian history from Albania to Kosovo.”
The sixth in the series Civic and Uncivic Values in the Yugoslav Successor States examines the state of transition towards a stable democracy in Kosovo.
When Tito had granted Kosovo the status of a quasi-republic, “they were able to fly the pan-Albanian Skanderbeg banner, next to the federal flag. They had a school and university system, to a degree connected to the system existing in Enver Hoxha’s Albania.”
“The troubles of 1981, in the course of which demands were made for recognition of Kosovo as the seventh republic, were viewed instinctively by Yugoslav leaders as a step towards independence or union with Albania, and led to a situation where it was felt that the Yugoslav federation should keep Kosovo under strict surveillance. A few shouts of ‘Long Live Hoxha’ unleashed the repression of the federal authorities, who feared the nightmare of separatism. The protesters were fired upon. This led to a reawakening of the deep and never-appeased antagonism the Albanians felt in respect of Southern Slavia, where they had never felt they were citizens out of their own choice.”

“By implicating Albanian criminals operating in France, the narrative of Taken titillates and fuels Western anxieties of the other, who is corrupting and endangering its social structures and values.”
From a book on film and media representations of human trafficking in the Balkans.
“The ethnic tensions were also fueled by Western media venues, portraying the expansion of the Albanian Mafia into continental Europe, gaining control over the prostitution business in Italy and with an increased control in London. The film Taken, uncritical of the role of the West, adds to this construction of Albanians as actors in major criminal organizations.”
“The big screen feature, Taken (France, UK, US, 2008), starring Liam Neeson, grossed $145 million in the United States and $77 million in other countries.”
“During the armed conflict in Macedonia between the Macedonian Police Forces and the Albanian rebels, a negative attitude emerged towards the Albanians, perceived as the main organizers and perpetuators of human trafficking.”

“A state delegation was sent from Belgrade to the University of Prishtina to try to convince the demonstrators to accept the agreement. However, according to multiple sources, the visit ended with the delegation having to jump out of the window of the rectorate in order to escape the enraged crowd.” This is how the Serbs in Prishtina reacted to the Milošević-Rugova agreement on the university in 1998.
The book on education policies in former Yugoslavia and some of its successor states tells the whole winding story from the first student unrests in 1968 up to our days, when besides the leading higher education institution of Kosova there exists also a “University of Priština temporarily located in Kosovska Mitrovica.”
A somewhat inverted case is described in Tetovo, where two mainly Albanian language universities live side by side.

“Kadare agreed to an interview at his apartment a block east of Skanderbeg Square. He wanted to talk politics, not literature. He said he supported the Alia campaign ‘against the forces of evil.’ These were ‘not just the security police or bureaucrats, but also people in education, in agriculture, and in literature.’ Kadare also provided an insight into the Hoxha era: “Enverism was never a cult. A cult is in the head not on walls.”
The reporter of the New York Times met Kadare at his first visit in May 1990. “When possible I went back to Albania in later years to observe its halting progress away from a one-party police state and toward a semblance of law and order. Always I was greeted with the generous hospitality of Albanians and always I had the sense that the nation was never far from anarchy. Seventeen years after my initial trips the situation of the Albanians I had first met reflected the situation of the whole nation. A quarter of them had emigrated.”

“In Albania, there was no indus­trial working class to speak of at all. In 1950—six years into communist rule—the share of people employed in industry, mining, and construction amounted to only 7 percent of the workforce in Albania.”—from a book on labor under communism.
“In their pursuit of total autarky, the regime in Albania placed more emphasis on retaining a substantial farming population, and the country refused to take foreign loans to expand its industry.”
“Enver Hoxha called the construction of the Elbasan factory a ‘second liberation’ of the country, after the first one by the communist partisans in World War II.”
“From 1976 to 1982, approximately 70 to 80 percent of the workforce was said to have left the Elbasan steel plant. This forces us to rethink the ‘totalitarian’ nature of the Albanian communist regime, which obviously failed to steer such a salient social process as the re­cruitment of industrial workers.”

“On a clear April morning, a glorious and fraternal army crossed the blue Adriatic and landed on the rough coasts of the Albanian lands, in order to bring new laws and justice, and a praiseworthy fate to our suffering nation. In a folk song, which was created following the events of 7 April, we see expressed a deep and strong belief in the general prosperity that Fascism will bring. Our nation believes in the civilizing spirit that will permeate our long forgotten land.”
The author was punished harshly for propagating ideas like this. Lazër Radi was deprived from freedom for 46 years under communism. The quote is from the last volume of the grand CEU Press undertaking entitled Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe 1770–1945, which presents forty-six texts under the heading of “anti-modernism”. The series is a challenging collection of essential primary sources, accompanied by introductory essays and contextual analyses.

“Irregular units spearheaded uprisings of Albanians, who felt threatened by the irredentist designs of Balkan states on their territory, by the violence of Christian paramilitary units, and by the centralizing tendencies of the Ottoman Young Turk government.”—excerpts from studies over the precommunist period by scholars of the region.
“Haxhi Qamili led a rebellion in 1914 against Prince William of the Netherlands. During the socialist era Qamili was lauded as an example of native resistance to foreign rule, but he became so affiliated with socialist historiography that in 2006 there were protests over a school being named in his honor.”
“Zionist circles were interested in bringing a considerable Jewish community to Albania. The plan to rechannel the Buna and Drini rivers in order to free arable lands reveals plans to establish a permanent Jewish colony. The German government also planned to send a part of these unwanted Jews to Albania. But the Italian occupation in 1939 excluded the possibility of reaching any agreement between Jews and Albanians.”

“Kosovo was only significant for Tirana in the aftermath of the First World War, during and after the Second World War and after the collapse of Albanian Communism. The years between these episodes were marked by disinterest in the fate of Kosovo.”
These four critical junctures in Albania’s relationship with Kosovo are observed with the help of documents in the collective volume on ideologies and national identities. (This CEU Press title has been adopted for courses at a number of American universities.)

“The British attitude worried Mussolini, who began to suspect that London had no intention of sharing Albanian oil with Italy.”—big powers interfering into middle Europe.
“The littleBalkan state was facing two specific problems, namely a deep economic crisis and the unceasing Yugoslav-Greek threats to its territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
“Despite its significant efforts, Rome was defeated in the long conflict for the Albanian oilfields. The British diplomatic perseverance and dexterity secured the Anglo-Persian Oil Company success.”
“Between 1920 and 1925 Albania, as Iraq, Persia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Romania during the period, was a victim of the battle to build up oil reserves, and its case fully illustrates how World War I transformed the search for petroleum into an all-out fight among the Great Powers.”
“The Fascist regime had to wait for more than a decade and for a wholly different international context before proclaiming a renewed Italian hegemony over Albania.”

“During the course of the 19th century and early 20th century, Albanian national activists succeeded in creating an ethnonational identity based on language and, by stages in the second half of the 20th century, also succeeded in positioning Albania as the land to which Albanian speakers outside Albania turn for linguistic authority.”
By exploring the development of ethnic diversity and national tensions, the contributors to this volume challenge the readers to engage in a new way of thinking about the region and Balkan studies.
“Some saw the League of Prizren as a Muslim organization that shared interests with Muslims in Bosnia, others moved it in the direction of being an Albanian national organization, which is how it is remembered today.”
“The overall sense that Albanianness trumps religion still seems strong. In Kosovo Catholic nuns and Bektashi babas continue their civilities peacefully and unhindered, explicitly happy to be free Albanians.”
“In Epirus, the local Albanian dialects have been driven to the brink of extinction. The Cams were expelled in the wake of the Civil War of the late 1940s, and Albanian speakers in Christian villages are hellenized. In 2012, however, there was a campaign in Albania directed at raising consciousness of the fact that Epirus, known in Albanian as Cameria, had been home to a large Albanian-speaking population.”

Wandering the roads of the Skopje and Shkodra vilajets from 1905 onwards, Baron Nopcsa learned the language, took photos, collected material for his scholarly work in Palaeontology, Geology and Ethnography, sent articles to leading European political newspapers, and got involved in the local power tussles. Nopcsa’s memoirs are peppered with prejudiced remarks that give captivating insight to the fermenting years leading to Albanian independence.
“Abdul Hamid was the last of the great sultans. It was his destiny to solve the titanic and virtually unsolvable dilemma of protecting a barbaric people from culture and civilization. For quite a while, he managed this impossible task, though by incredible means. The way he succeeded in playing the Great Powers and hostile neighboring countries off against one another without even leaving the Yildiz Palace is an incomparable work of art. Romanian ships in Piraeus were plundered by Greek mobs; the Greeks in Philippopolis (Plovdiv) were slaughtered by the Bulgarians; Serbs and Bulgarians murdered one another in Macedonia, while the Albanians harassed the Serbs and Bulgarians; and all the time, Abdul Hamid sat back like a spider in the corner of its web.”
“There is an Arab saying about the Ottomans: ‘Wherever the Turk treads, even the grass withers.’ Perhaps Franz Ferdinand adhered to such thinking. It does seem, at any rate, that he not only hated the Hungarian Jews, but showed preferences for certain other ethnic groups.”

“And then started a series of sporadic and short attacks by Albanians, an Illyrian and peasant nation; they are nomadic and miserable people, with no town or fortress, village, land or vineyard, they live wandering across the mountains and fields.”
From the very beginning till the end, the one and a half century that five generations of the Tocco family ruled much of the Greek lands, featured struggles with Albanians.
Alliances kept changing on every side, the Toccos and the Albanians aligned with Greeks, Venetians, Hospitallers or various Ottoman forces at turns. In Epiros and on the islands the Toccos had to count with Karl Topia, Peter Losha of Arta, Gjin Zenebishi who controlled Argyrokastro, and with members of the Spata /Shpata clan like Gjin Bua Spata of Angelokastro or Muriki Spata.
By the time of final Ottoman conquest of Albania in 1479, the Toccos had retreated to their native Naples.