Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced the need to unite Albania and Kosovo. His words were criticized in Belgrade and Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the politician’s statement unacceptable. The country has long been suspected of preparing a territorial expansion aimed at creating a “Greater Albania”. About the growth of Albanian nationalism and the possibility of creating a mini-empire in the Balkans – in the material “Izvestia”.
“Become the President of Albania and Kosovo? No, I have no such plans. But to unite Albania with Kosovo – yes, this is my goal, ”Prime Minister Edi Rama said in an interview with the Albanian Klan TV channel. His words provoked the outrage of the Serbian authorities and protest from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Warriors of the Albanian rebel formations during the Balkan Wars
“Promotion of plans to create a“ Greater Albania ”grossly contradicts the provisions of UNSCR 1244 and undermines stability in the region. Such flawed stuffing does not fit into the context of the joint efforts of Belgrade and Tirana to create a single market, which they are undertaking in the framework of the regional initiative “Open Balkans” jointly with Skopje. We are counting on an adequate reaction of the Western guardians of the project of Kosovo “statehood” to this blatant provocation, ”the official representative of the Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova responded, adding that Rama’s statement was“ absolutely unacceptable ”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry considers it “extremely strange for the West to allow such appeals, while the same states criticize Belgrade in connection with its” justified and not contrary to international law “concept of the” Serbian peace “.
The origins of nationalism
Edi Rama has repeatedly stated that for him Kosovo is a part of Albania and the unification of these territories is the number one task. According to the dreams of the ideologues of “Great Albania”, not only Kosovo, but also the northwestern regions of North Macedonia, the southern regions of Montenegro with a predominantly Albanian population and the Serbian communities of Buyanovac and Presevo should be annexed to the modern territory of the country.
The idea itself goes back to the time when the Albanians lived in the Ottoman Empire, under whose rule they were back in the 15th century. They converted to Islam and began to enjoy a rather privileged position, and territories with a predominantly Albanian population grew.
The signing of the San Stefano Peace Treaty. February 19, 1878
The Treaty of San Stefano and the Treaty of Berlin, signed in 1878 as a result of the Russian-Turkish war, provoked the growth of Albanian nationalism. The documents referred to the withdrawal of some territories from the Ottoman Empire and their transfer to Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro and Serbia. They also talked about the territories inhabited by Albanians. They were against this and organized resistance, but under pressure from the Turks, they were forced to abandon the struggle.
The London Peace Treaty, signed in 1913 following the First Balkan War, only exacerbated the situation. On the one hand, the Turks were forced to abandon almost all territories in Europe and a new independent state, Albania, was formed. On the other hand, the drafters of the document did not take into account that part of the Albanian population ended up outside the new borders.
Albania acquired these territories in 1939, while losing its independence. The country became a protectorate of fascist Italy. Albania included all the lands that it had previously claimed – the south of Serbia, the west of Macedonia and Kosovo. Only the north of Greece did not enter. Nazi Germany refused to change borders. After the end of the Second World War, Albania lost all the territories it received from the Nazis.
They started talking about “Greater Albania” again against the background of the conflict over Kosovo at the end of the 20th century. Even then, there was talk that the region could gain partial or complete independence. One of the undesirable options was considered the entry into the game of Albania, which could declare its claims to these territories.
“On the Knife” – painting by Yaroslav Veshin, 1912. Bulgarian infantry hand-to-hand attacking Turkish positions
The West did not want to let this happen. Such a development of events was especially feared in the United States. Washington understood that this could result in a new conflict. During her visit to Albania, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned Tirana against interfering and trying to “redraw the map of Southeast Europe.” “Any attempt to expand boundaries is an invitation to violence” – stated she then.
Eight years later, when Kosovo declared its independence, they started talking about the danger of Albanian expansion. In the region itself, they actively demonstrated their identity with Albania. In 2012, on the occasion of the centenary of the country’s independence, then Prime Minister Sali Berishi said that the holiday was dedicated to everyone “who declared the independence of Albania on November 29, 1912, the independence of all ethnic Albania, the independence of all Albanian regions – from Preveza to Presevo, from Skopje to Podgorica “. In protest, Greece and Macedonia refused to participate in the event. Berishi then tried to justify himself, but it did not work out very well. In one of his speeches, he noted that “the representatives of the Albanian ethnos living in five different countries cannot but be considered a single nation.” Western countries accepted this statement with hostility. In the United States, they accused the Tyrant of “undermining stability and peace”, as well as “provoking violence.”
Have already achieved it
Periodically in the Albanian media there are results of public opinion polls regarding the reconstruction of the “Greater Albania”. Most of the respondents support the idea of uniting, at least, Albania and Kosovo. However, many local political analysts note that since the emergence of independent Albania, the diasporas have become so distant from each other that one can hardly speak of their commonality, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrei Kortunov said in an interview with Izvestia. “There is no consensus on Kosovo. There is a point of view that it would be nice to unite, but there are also opponents of this decision. First, it is wrong to consider Albania only a Muslim country, there are three groups: Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians, between which there is a dynamic balance. An increase in the Islamic community can upset the balance and create a certain instability, ”the expert explained.
According to him, in Albania, some think the Kosovar Albanians are different. “They have a different culture, traditions, and it will be difficult to integrate them. Albania will have more problems from this. Such a statement is a move in the political struggle in the country, the real plan of unification is still very far away, ”the political scientist is sure.
Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama
Фото: Global Look Press/Zhang Liyun
Yekaterina Entina, professor at the Higher School of Economics, Head of the Department of Black Sea and Mediterranean Studies at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview with Izvestia, notes that the idea of ”Greater Albania” in many ways has already been implemented over the past decade. “The Albanians purposefully follow the path of erasing the administrative borders in the Kosovo-Albania-North Macedonia triangle, in part Montenegro joins them. They realized that the issue of state borders in the modern world in relation to sovereignty and the unification of the nation is secondary. They use the same mechanisms as the EU within the framework of their integration processes only within the framework of their internal Albanian space, ”the Balkanist believes.
According to her, this fits well with the idea of European integration. “This includes the Tirana Platform, when customs and transport barriers between North Macedonia and Albania were removed, and the same is happening on the border of Kosovo and Albania. From the point of view of management, efficiency and territorial unification, they have already received their “Greater Albania”. But not as an officially recognized state. The issue of an officially recognized single state will certainly provoke a deepening of intra-Albanian contradictions, which at this stage is unprofitable for any Albanian political elite, ”the expert emphasizes.
Entina notes that “Great Albania” has never left the agenda, since this is the idea of the development of the Albanians as a nation, the logic of the development of their internal economic and political ties. “Territorial division is not an obstacle here. After all, the Albanians are divided not so much on the territorial as on the clan principle. And the clans are not assigned to individual states, ”the political scientist added.
Albanians remember “Greater Albania” when they want to achieve the desired result in the international arena. This rhetoric makes Western countries more negotiable. “In part, this situation suits the West. Albanians are a very young and passionate nation, which is developing in an ascending order, it is difficult to stop them, it can only be regulated. They are trying to do this at the expense of the institutional mechanisms of the EU. How effective it is will largely depend on how the second largest issue in the region – the Serbian one – will be resolved, ”said the head of the Black Sea-Mediterranean Research Department of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences.