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.

“Whether they liked him or not, Albanians could not deny that in the twentieth century there were only two people who mattered, and Zog was one of them. The other, the formally revered and feared but by then much-despised communist dictator Enver Hoxha.”—Royal Fraud.
“Like Mussolini, Zog was a mama’s boy with a mother he both loved and feared.”
“He got rich by taking bribes from everyone, especially Benito Mussolini. He pocketed the sale of Albania’s assets. After nearly being assassinated in Vienna in 1931, he never left Albania again but largely hid out in his palace until Mussolini’s army forced him into exile.”
“Mussolini got hundreds of letters a day from his adoring citizens while in power. Zog likely got none. Zero. Nobody ever wrote.” 
“Zog stole everything he could carry when he fled on the heels of the Italian invasion in April 1939, but there was only so much one could fit in five cars that were already filled with weapons just in case he had to shoot his way out.”

“The communist partisans rejected the unification of Albania and Kosovo—an idea advocated by fascist Italy and the anti-communist National Front.”—Imperial Designs, Postimperial Extremes.
“While Hoxha did create two ‘museum cities’ (Berat and Gjirokastër) to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage in southern Albania where the communist partisans had enjoyed the strongest support, northern cities were rebuilt in a socialist realist style because Hoxha considered their Catholic and tribal traditions a manifestation of reaction and backwardness.”
“In February 1989, state shops started to sell antennas capable of receiving Italian and Greek broadcasts, which raised popular awareness of the East European transitions. Whenever Alia faced an outbreak of protests, he even­tually opted for making concessions.”
“A fascinating parallel analysis of the apparently unlikely triad of Romania, Albania, and North Korea and their diverging trajectories after the Soviet collapse.”

“By 1997, the country disintegrated into chaos and civil war, which Albania’s weak and corrupt state was unable to contain. Stability was only restored through an international United Nations authorized armed intervention featuring some ten thousand soldiers.”—Globalization, Nationalism, and Imperialism.
“Institutional mimicry and imperial adaptation are at work, as all mainstream political forces do their best to maintain a liberal façade to secure continuous Western aid and approval. Albania’s ‘deep country’ is participating in the processes of Westernization, globalization, and modernization, but the contrast between the country’s liberal façade and deeply illiberal reality remains.”
“Some Albanians became foreign terrorist fighters and left their state to join rebellions in Iraq and Syria. Once they returned home to Albania, there was a concern that they might radicalize the youth of the country. In 2018, the Albanian state police prevented an Iranian attack on its Albanian-located opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq.”

Books with an Albanian focus:

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.—Traveler, Scholar, Political Adventurer.
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.”

“Unlike the bulk of works on the history of the Balkans, which focus on extreme nationalism, genocide, and authoritarianism, this study focuses on global patterns of modernization in the countryside and the industrialization of agriculture.”—Sugarland.
“The Maliq project was, in its essence, an enterprise of internal colonization. The communist power apparatus considered the plain of Maliq as empty and unutilized space. They did not recognize the use that the peasants of the area had made of the swamp.”
“Even Albania, the least open country of the socialist bloc, was connected in many invisible ways to broader trends that were taking place simultaneously on both sides of the ideological divide.”
“In this part of Europe, development remains an elusive target that keeps slipping away, leaving behind amputated projects, unfulfilled expectations, and continuous disillusionment that is often accompanied by fresh dreams.”

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

“Compared to the EU average, Albanian public service broadcasting has a very small, almost insignificant market share of the advertising market.”—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.”

“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.”—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.”

“During the interwar period Belgrade and Ankara entered agreements that provided for ‘transfer’ of Turks from Yugoslavia to Turkey. The majority of such ‘Turks’ were Albanians who, despite Tirana’s protests, were expelled to Turkey rather than to Albania.”—Words in Space and Time.
“In 1952 Egypt was made into a republic. The last king of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty was expelled, together with his predominantly Albanian court. The 4,000 families found refuge in Western Europe and the United States.”
“After the Stalin-Tito rift in 1948, Yugoslavia invested in creating a Kosovan Albanian language based on the Gheg (northern) dialect.”“In 1972, the Albanian Orthography Congress held at Tirana wrapped up the standardization of the Tosk-based Albanian language. Two years later, this standard was adopted as official in Kosovo and finally replaced Kosovan.”
“In Athens’ official view, Greece’s Albanian-speakers are non-Greek-speaking Greeks who speak the Greek language of Arvanatika.”

“In the autumn of 1946, reports indicated that conditions of near famine reigned in some of these areas. Children were seriously underweight. In Albania, there was ‘terrifying distress.’”—Ireland's Helping Hand to Europe.
“The Balkans were almost like a terra incognita for Ireland, and the converse was equally true.”
“Photographs showed grateful and smiling people, queuing up and receiving Irish supplies. On the walls in the background were inscriptions with Hoxha’s name and one slogan: ‘Vetem ai qe punon eshte i denje te jete antar i frontit demokratik’. The inscriptions did not mention the words ‘irlandez’ or ‘Irlande.’"
“The children from Tirana and Shkodra perfectly knew where their condensed milk, sugar, and blankets came from. ‘We feel much obliged to thank the Irish youth for having taken care of us, Albanian schoolchildren, in such a friendly manner by sending us a good quantity of sugar.’”

“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.”—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.”

“In a series of newspaper articles published in the summer of 1912, Brailsford described possible future scenarios for the central Balkan region. He considered three developments both feasible and acceptable: first, ‘some qualified form of Home Rule,’ or in other words territorial autonomy for Macedonia and Albania within the Ottoman Empire.”—Philanthropy, Conflict Management, and International Law.
“The Carnegie Commission Report condemned the actions of Serbia’s army and auxiliary, irregular Chetnik detachments: the ill treatment of Bulgarian prisoners, the cruel and repressive occupational tactics employed in Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo, wanton looting, destruction of property, and scourging of entire villages, as well as the ethnic cleansing of Muslim communities in Serb-occupied territories.”
“In a new edition of his Serbia and Albania published in 1946, the author Tucović characterized Serbia’s claims to Albanian territory as imperialist, signaling a profound change in the direction of the regime’s interpretation of the Balkan Wars.”

“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.”

“Sami Frasheri was equally important for Ottoman cultural life. He wrote a series of vital literary and historical works that were infused with the spirit of Hamidian Pan-Islamism.”—Byzantium after the Nation.
“Sami sought to ‘occupy’ a vacuum left by Greek historiography: the Albanians’ relationship of origin with the Pelasgians.”
“Sami Frasheri was trying to settle the boundaries of Albanian irredentism even before the establishment of an Albanian state. In his view, the Albanians did not simply speak one of the most ancient tongues but also one that remained alive and was spoken even today in the same way as in the Pelasgians’ day.”
“According to Sami, in all the lands they conquered, the Macedonians spread the Greek language and culture and not their own, that is, Albanian."
“In contrast to their neighbors the Albanian nation had powerful friends: all the European powers, without exception, and including Russia.”

“Dragutin Seljan incorporated Albania into the ideal of a ‘Great Illyria.’ Originally Ljudevit Gaj had not included the Albanian regions in his desired homeland.”—Imagined Empires.
“The leaders of the Albanian national awakening movement who had been intellectually nourished in Turkish or Greek schools felt the urge to break with their educational and intellectual roots and to demonize Turks and Greeks alike as ‘enemies.’”
“Albanian aggression or irredentist claims were initially grounded on the theory of the Pelasgian origin of the Albanians. These claims were not confirmed by any archaeological, epigraphic or historical evidence.”
“Strategies to dehumanize Greeks as enemies were further fostered by the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, in spite of his popular writings about two friendly peoples, as evidenced by the multitude of bunkers aimed at countering a potential invasion from Greece.”

“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.”—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.”

“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.