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The Post-WWII Albania and Kosovo

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Stalinist “Land of Eagles”

As in neighboring Yugoslavia, the communist revolutionary guerrilla forces, established by the aid and crucially supported by the Yugoslav communists led by local Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha, took over the power in Albania in 1944.[1] From 1945 to 1948 Albania was under the strong influence of Titoist Yugoslavia and both counties being under the hand of J. V. Stalin. Yugoslavia lavishly supplied Albania with deficient material, mainly nutritious ones, like wheat, etc. As testified by the Montenegrin zealot communist and revolutionist Milovan Đilas, one of the leading Yugoslav politicians at the time, and a member of the Yugoslav delegation to Moscow, both J. V. Stalin and V. M. Molotov declared they would approve eventual inclusion of Albania into Yugoslavia, at the utmost astonishment by the Yugoslavs.[2] However, when J. V. Stalin decided to finally get rid of the British man J. B. Tito and try to strengthen his control over Yugoslavia, he initiated the so-called Informbureau Resolution,[3] by which Yugoslavia was excommunicated from the international community of “real socialist” countries and exposed to the strong economic and political pressure.[4] Albania on this occasion quickly joined the Stalinist block and demonstrated explicit hostility towards “treacherous Yugoslavia”. Being formally discarded from the Western Allies as the communist, totalitarian regime, Titoist Yugoslavia found shortly itself in a very bad, even disastrous situation until after several years the West started to deliver all kinds of assistance.

Nevertheless, very soon and especially after the death of J. V. Stalin in 1953, Enver Hoxha’s Albania turned out the most totalitarian and repressive state within the Soviet bloc, what could have been expected, knowing the general backwardness of the “Land of Eagles” (Albania). In 1967, E. Hoxha banished religion and church altogether transforming Albania into the only officially atheistic country in the world.[5] It can be said, that in a sense, E. Hoxha’s Albania was a precursor of the Cambodian Pol Pot’s regime. After the split with Yugoslavia, finding that it was profitable to have a strong patron indeed, communist Albania sought the other “Big Brother partners”. After her idyll with the USSR was terminated in 1961, E. Hoxha’s Albania entered an “asymmetric partnership” with communist China till 1978. Finally, post-Cold War Albania found strong patronage of the USA and NATO, which is still extant and prosperous. In Kosovo-Metochia’s affair, this patronage turned out more than paying-off.

Enver Hoxha’s mushrooms

In the communist era, Albania isolated herself to an extreme degree, displaying xenophobia unknown in modern European history. The whole country was covered with small, personal bunkers, a hundred thousand of them, called ironically Enver Hoxha’s mushrooms. A massive military invasion (from Yugoslavia or Greece) on the proud “Land of Eagles” was expected at any moment, and people had to be prepared for it. Today visitors can watch these remnants of the collective paranoia, abandoned and ruined, starring towards the hostile distant horizon, just like those mysterious Easter Islands figures are starring at the expected (beneficial) gods, whose arrival was imminent.

This paranoid fear from the outlanders was certainly corroborated by the political aims, since it was the common feature of the communist countries to feel threatened by the external “dark forces”, what was found very beneficial to the ruling regimes. However, with the Albanians, there was another effect, that of the strong highlanders’ mentality. As it is known in the Balkan anthropology, the central unit of highlanders’ society was the extended family, fis with Albanians, zadruga with the South Slavic highlanders. In fact, one may hardly speak of society, since that would imply a system. The highlanders’ society is more a collection of semi-isolated fises/zadrugas, mutually weakly interacting, except in case of disputes, like the blood feuds. Perhaps the best representation of such a “society” would be by African lions, which live in small herds, with a dominant male (pater familias), young males (well subordinated), females and cubs. They have their own territory, which they protect by all means from the other herds and eventual single intruders. Albanian fis dwellings resemble small fortresses rather than resident houses. They are protected by high walls, with narrow windows adapted for firing. Every such a house can resist an assault of a brigade or so. It was for this reason that the Ottoman Turks did not border to control the Albanian mountains.[6] In a sense, E. Hoxha’s Albania was a fis surrounded with hostile fises, and the bunkers mentioned above served as loopholes of this gigantic fis-house.[7] This habit of building fortress-houses has been retained even after moving to lowlands, like in Kosovo-Metochia, when considering the demographic situation in this South Serbia’s autonomous province. It would be fair to note, however, that this “agoraphobia” phenomenon appears common for the Muslim society, which is a paradigm of the “closed society”. The high-wall fancies are there to “protect” women from the undesirable “male watching”, even in the urban environments.

However, who was supposed to attack communist Albania? It was primarily Yugoslavia, the same country which provided logistic help to the Albanian communists during WWII and crucial economic help immediately after the war, not to mention the “ideological contributions”.[8] Of course, you cannot convince your subjects of somebody’s hostility, unless you convince them they are “bad guys’, who hate you. It was this infernal rationale that strengthens and cemented the hatred of the Albanians towards the Slavs, but in particular towards the Serbs. It is usually argued that isolation “from inside” is dictated by the tyrant’s desire to conceal the poverty of his country. The logic appears rather opposite – isolation comes first and poverty turns out the inevitable outcome. This logic will show up in an extreme form with Kosovo-Metochia and its “eternal struggle” with external dark forces. This applies equally to the humiliating position of Muslim women, especially rural-Albanian ones. They are not hidden because they are uneducated, non-attractive, etc. On the contrary, because they are kept isolated, they have attained such a state.

Transition

In 1990/1991, the communist regime was finally overthrown, at least formally (as the case with Serbia and Montenegro was) and multi-party’s political system was implemented. The first post-WWII multi-party elections in Albania were organized on March 31st, 1991[9] and the first “democratic” Albania’s PM was Sali Berisha, from North Albania, that is as healthy Dinariod region of the Balkan highlanders, just as Serbia got Slobodan Milošević, another healthy Dinaric (of the Montenegrin origin) element. Ties with Kosovo-Metochia were strengthened even before the rise of “democracy” in Albania, but with S. Berisha’s and other subsequent Albania’s Governments these ties became particularly strong. The project of a Greater Albania, which, in fact, has never been abandoned since the 1878 First Albanian Prizren League, became acute and passed from the idealistic to the realistic, political stage, especially taking into account American support. 

New political “democratic regime” had to face even more pronounced “difficulties of transition” than the surrounding, less retarded societies. The episode of the “pyramid system” of the banks in the 1990s appears very revealing fort that matter.

When the infamous Iron Curtain was finally (hopefully) lifted, the East-European population was eager to benefit from the newly discovered “Western democracy”. Unfortunately, they soon discovered that along with economic potential prosperity and formal political freedom go some other, much lesser desirable things and practices. One of them was the dirty capitalist trick of how to exploit the natural greediness of human beings. One of the most famous and effective schemes was the so-called “pyramid scheme” of the banks. It is based on the simple trick, which can be summed as the proposition: “How about robbing your neighbor?”. No honest human being can resist such a proposition and the Serbs are surely among the most prominent among them. 

The scheme appears as simple as ingenious one. You found a “bank”, which keeps deposits of your fellow citizens, with the enormous interest, say 10% or even more per month, what is for two or more orders of magnitudes larger than paid by “ordinary banks”. Your commitments might doubt about the “purity” of the business, but as the old saying says: “You do not check the teeth of a gift”.[10] The crucial period is, of course, the very beginning, say the first month or months. When the suspicious customers come to collect their “monthly earning”, they do get the interest they are eligible to. Some of the customers are even so cautious that they take out all their deposits together with the interest. However, after a few months, having experienced no collapse of the “bank”, they usually re-deposit their money. Then the next generation of clients enters the business, taking out regularly their monthly gain and the game goes on indefinitely. Well, not for so long.

The money does not go out of this circulus viciosus, it does not serve as a capital for doing real business. It is the closed system, which enlarges both the principal of the deposited money and the amount of money redistributed to the customers. The point is that the latter is part of their own deposit, not a surplus of the self-breeding capital, as in real banks. When the “mutual understanding” breaks and the commitments try to draw their savings, the pyramid scheme collapses and the fraud is revealed.

The Balkan “bankers”

Serbia witnessed two pyramid banks, Dafiment Bank owned by Mrs. Dafina Milanović, who used to call herself „Serb mother“ and Mr. Jezdimir Vasiljević (popular gazda-Jezda) – an owner of Yugoscandic Bank.[11] As an illustration of the intellectual level of the customers engaged in this affair is the explanation of the “banks” as to the mechanism which provides such a fantastic gain. They are said that their money is used for drug smuggling and weaponry trade and it is known to be very profitable “business”, indeed.[12]

When the fraud was detected, they fled the country (with money, of course) for Israel. The good commitments were very disappointed, but took no action by themselves, expecting the Government to take care of their lost money.[13] Their expectations came true and the Government decided in 2005 to pay back the money which customers lost in gambling.[14]

The case of Mr. Željko Ražnatović Arkan deserves, however, special attention. The „greatest“ gangster in Europe in his time, who led his own paramilitary forces in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo-Metochia, the principal figure of Serbian organized crime of S. Milošević’s time, broke Dafiment Bank just before Mrs. D. Milanović left Serbia (with money) and took an amount of money he allegedly deposited there.[15]  

We now pass to the Albanian counterpart of this business and shall see that the blaming Serbia is but an interest as compared with the principal in neighboring Albania. Namely, the same pyramidal system was set up in Albania in the 1990s and after a sufficiently long time (and a sufficiently large amount of money robbed), the fraud was discovered. Of course, the swindlers fled the country and the deceived gamblers left alone. However, at least it was so interpreted by the authorities of Mr. Sali Berisha’s Government in Tirana. Up to this point, it went the same as in Serbia, but here the parallel stops for the very reason. Deceived gamblers in Albania took the whole game seriously and got angry indeed. The riots started in Albania’s capital Tirana in 1997 and other larger Albania’s towns.[16] It has to be recalled that Albania has no proper state since her citizens are almost all armed (the Balkan Cowboyland). Hence, these riots were not innocent street demonstrations, but a threat to the authorities, which was not to be ignored. The Government was about to collapse and resorted to the ultimate measure – it opened the army weaponry warehouses and magazines and the furious losers grabbed everything they reached. It has been estimated that approximately 700.000 rifles, shotguns, etc were taken away. In Albania, the arms are precious tools and also money. Since at the time Kosovo-Metochia was already in turmoil, the majority of this weaponry found their way to this Serbia’s province. The principal market for these arms was at Tropoja, in North Albania and as well as near the border with Serbia, which happened to be the birthplace of Sali Berisha himself. However, in fact, it was a well-organized requisition of weaponry from Albanian state, dedicated to arming the newly established Kosovo-Metochia’s Albanian guerilla UÇK terrorist forces, i.e. the so-called „Kosovo Liberation Army“ or the KLA.[17] When the unrest in Albania started, Western journalists, flooded the country. One of them, from Le Mond interviewed citizens of Shkodër. One of the latter uttered angrily these remarkable words: „Nous ne voulons plus de montagnards ignores a la tete du pays“, alluding to Sali Berisha and his (highlanders’) Government. Le Mond editors estimated this declaration significant enough to put this as the title of the report.[18] The significance of this response of the urban environment to the „Dinarization“ of contemporary Albania can not be overestimated.  

„Political rights“

Another important conclusion may be drawn from those riots in Albania in 1997 when already Albanian terrorists started their actions in Kosovo-Metochia.[19] It is mentioned above the concept of the pyramidal system as a sort of gambling game. A bit of explanation seems in order here. Who are the partners in the game? Clients are well aware that the system will inevitably collapse and they are going to be losers. But what keeps them in the game is the hope (if not expectation) that they will be able to foresee the moment and thus withdraw their „savings“ in time. Of course, they are equally well aware that those who will not do it in time will lose all their money. But, loose to whom? To those who happen to take out their deposits in time and to the very owners of the „banks“. And it was exactly like that happened in both Serbia and Albania in the 1990s.[20] We saw what happened in Serbia when the „banks“ collapsed and the swindlers fled the country. But, however, in contrast, the Albanians went to streets (and to army magazines) and threatened to devastate the country. The point is that they were sincerely angry, though they realized they simply lost the gambling game. This kind of reaction speaks tellingly about their behavior in the neighboring countries (Kosovo-Metochia or North Macedonia), where the ethnic Albanians are fighting for their „political rights“. The crux of the matter has been captured by North Macedonian journalist, commenting the ethnic Albanian riots in the western portion of North Macedonia (at that time the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), stressing the rationale for the Albanian demands:

„They have taken their political aims for their political rights“.

That the emotional energy can be converted into a political program and become thus the decisive factor on a political scene has been masterly demonstrated by Adolf Hitler, indeed. What made him convincing, at least for the „ordinary people“, was not the content of his speeches, apart from its demagogy and gesticulation, but the shouting which they took for the proof he was sincere.[21]

 

Prof. Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović

www.global-politics.eu/sotirovic

sotirovic@global-politics.eu

© Vladislav B. Sotirović 2020

 

Endnotes:

[1] Enver Hoxha (1908−1985) was a founder and leader of the Albanian Communist Party and Albania’s head of state (1944–1985). In 1940, he became the founder and leader of the Albanian Communist Party, serving at the same time as editor of the party’s newspaper. During WWII, E. Hoxha created a revolutionary guerrilla force of some 70,000 men that fought the occupying Italian army and then the Germans who arrived to assist their ally. In 1944, the occupants withdrew their forces from Albania and soon thereafter, the Albanian communists established a provisional Albanian Government in October 1944 with E. Hoxha as PM and Defence Minister. The communist country’s leaders proclaimed a People’s Republic of Albania in January 1946.

The Yugoslav communists had crucially assisted their Albanian comrades during WWII, and the two states engaged in a monetary and customs union after 1945. Suspicious of his neighbour’s desires to make Albania a province of Yugoslavia as a separate (seventh) socialist republic but with Kosovo-Metochia to be transferred from Serbia to Albania, however, E. Hoxha cut all ties with Yugoslavia in 1948 following, therefore, anti-Titoist policy of J. V. Stalin and Informbureau. He renamed the Albanian Communist Party into the Workers’ Party in 1948. In 1961, E. Hoxha cut Albania’s ties with the Soviet Union in response to the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s (1894–1971) de-Stalinization campaign. E. Hoxha then began relying on China (the PRC) for economic support, viewing the Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976) as the only true Stalinist remaining in power. Shortly after Mao’s death in 1976, relations between China and Albania began to cool as E. Hoxha criticized the new Chinese leadership. The PRC ended all assistance programs to Albania in 1978. E. Hoxha died in Tirana on April 11, 1985. During his leadership, Albania was most cut off from the outside world in all Europe. See more in [Jon Halliday (ed.), The Artful Albanian: Memoirs of Enver Hoxha, London: Chatto and Windus, 1986; Riccardo Orizio, Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators, New York: Walker, 2002; Bernd J. Fišer, „Enver Hodža i staljinistička diktatura u Albaniji“, Bernd J. Fišer (priredio), Balkanski diktatori: Diktatori i autoritarni vladari Jugoistočne Evrope, Beograd: IPS−IP Prosveta, 2009, 273−304].

[2] In the retrospect of the following Soviet Balkan politics, those unprovoked declarations may have well-been provocations by J. V. Stalin [Politika, Beograd, December 31st, 2008, 41].

[3] The shorthand for the Bureau of Information, actually a political organ for transmitting J. V. Stalin’s orders.

[4] It was the issue of the Yugoslav-Albanian unification that provided the catalyst for J. V. Stalin’s move against J. B. Tito in June 1948 [Noel Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History, New York: HarpelPerennial, 1999, 320]. 

[5] Hugh Poulton, The Balkans: Minorities and States in Conflict, London: Minority Rights Publications, 1994, 196.

[6] A similar situation was with the entire Yugoslav Dinaric region of high mountains, in particular Montenegro, whose inhabitants never miss the opportunity to boast with their “eternal freedom and independence”.

[7] The shape and color (white) of these bunkers resemble closely that of the traditional Albanian caps, ketche, what makes the whole affair, even more, a sign of the national autism, than a political need.

[8] Yugoslavia and Albania signed in summer 1946 an agreement on the friendship which presupposed the creation of monetary and customs union. For some short period, Albania’s national currency lek was replaced by Yugoslav dinar as a matter of the preparation for Albanian joining Yugoslavia [Hannes Hofbauer, Eksperiment Kosovo: Povratak kolonijalizma, Beograd: Albatros Plus, 2009, 64].

[9] Петер Бартл, Албанци од Средњег века до данас, Београд: CLIO, 2001, 269.

[10] It refers to the old habit of testing the age of a horse, by checking how much its teeth are worn out.

[11] Gazda – an old term for a boss or owner.

[12] About this issue, see more in [Tim Judah, The Serbs: History, Myth & the Destruction of Yugoslavia, New Haven−London: Yale University Press, 1997, 262−267]

[13] Both swindlers returned to Serbia after a number of years (and a number of millions presumably spent for bribery) and are free now.

[14] Serbia’s PM Zoran Đinđić (born in Bosnia) refused to meet their demands, but he was a statesman, not politician.

[15] You can be sure, of course, he did not take a penny more than he had invested. About Arkan, see in [Vojin Raznatovic, Stories about my Father: An Intimate Portrayal of Europe’s Most Controversial Paramilitary Commander, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014].

[16] Christopher J. Jarvis, The Rise and Fall of the Pyramid Schemes in Albania, IMF Working Paper, IMF European Department, 1999.

[17] About the crimes by the KLA, see in [Пјер Пеан, Косово: „Праведни“ рат за стварање мафијашке државе, Београд: Службени гласник, 2013, 161−174]. The first public appearance of the Albanian terrorists as members of the KLA was in June 1995 [Мирко Чупић, Отета земља: Косово и Метохија (злочини, прогони, отпори …), Београд: Нолит, 2006, 256].

[18] “We want no longer ignorant Montagnards at the head of the country“!

[19] About terrorism of the KLA, see in [Др Радослав Гаћиновић, Насиље у Југославији, Београд: Евро, 2002, 289−347].

[20] Concerning Serbia’s case, see in [Robert Thomas, The Politics of Serbia in the 1990s, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999, 52−106].

[21] About A. Hitler’s speeches, see in [Adolf Hitler, The Speeches od Adolf Hitler, 1921−1945, Independently published, 2017; Frank Diepp (ed.), Hitler Speaks on the Jews: Selected Speeches and Writings of Adolf Hitler, 1919−1945, Ostara Publications, 2019].

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The escalation of tensions between the United States, Britain and France, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other, should not surprise anyone. In the last few years, the US leadership and mainstream British media have presented Russia as a major threat to global peace and the international order. Russian president Vladimir Putin in particular has been demonised as a ‘war-monger,’ an ‘aggressor,’ an ‘unscrupulous politician’ hell-bent on restoring Russia’s past glory’ at whatever cost. This projection of Russia as a threat to world peace has intensified in recent days partly because of Putin’s unveiling of Russia’s cutting edge military ...
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The Geopolitics of Targeting Russia
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