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I vjetėr 29.3.2008, 06:38   1

Shkrim i cituar The Albanian question and Montenegro - by D.Popovic

As seen from the viewpoint of a Montenegrin author:

The Albanian Question and Montenegro
Dragutin Papovic / Friday, 28 March, 2008

Comment on Montenegro's experience of 'the Albanian question', translated from the independent Podgorica weekly Monitor

When the German chancellor Bismarck arrogantly remarked at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 that since Albania did not exist the Albanians did not exist either, few of the European diplomats present there believed that the Albanians would achieve their national emancipation and create a state of their own. The great powers paid no heed to Albanian demands that were identical with the demands of other Balkan nations, and postponed the Albanian question to the twentieth century. This proved to be a bad strategy, because it ensured that the Albanian question would persist throughout the twentieth century. From the angle of European history, Albanian nationalism is a late phenomenon, which is why the crisis linked to this question continues to the present day. But with Albania’s pro-European option, the solution of the Albanian question in Macedonia, and the emergence of an independent Kosovo, one may say that the problems of Albanian nationalism and the realisation of civic rights for Albanians will henceforth be solved by peaceful means. The situation in Montenegro is part of this pattern, since the Albanians’ civic and national rights are being dealt with through the country’s institutions. This presents a good example to the region, even though the reality is far from ideal.

The traditionally good relations between Albanians and Montenegrins, and Montenegro’s tolerant attitude in the past towards its Albanian citizens, created the basis for the existing friendly relations. But there were negative moments too, especially after 1948 when, due to the Informbiro conflict, enmity prevailed along the Albanian-Montenegrin border. The antagonism between the Hoxha regime in Albania and that of Yugoslavia, and more specifically the Montenegrin authorities, lasted for forty years, causing mistrust towards Albanians living in Montenegro. The roots of the contemporary intolerance towards Albanians revealed by public-opinion surveys derive from that period.

This fostered among the Albanians a sense of isolation and civic inequality, which expressed itself in the growth of Albanian nationalism and its manifestations during Yugoslav crises. Thus the crisis that erupted in Kosovo in 1981 had an impact also on Montenegro, especially in the municipality of Ulcinj (Ulqini). The Albanians at that time put forward national demands - in the ‘Brotherhood and Unity’ school centre in Ulcinj, in the ‘Bedri Elezaga’ primary school in Vladimir, and in the municipal community of Sukobin - that the government characterised as Great Albanian nationalism and irredentism, and ‘subversive activity against the political system of socialist self-management’.

The crisis in Ulcinj culminated in September 1981, when a group of Albanian teachers turned a seminar for teachers working in the Albanian-language school into a political demonstration centred on Albanian national demands. They insisted that Albanian school curricula should contain only Albanian literature, and pointed to the inequality of the Albanian language in the municipal government. During a celebration of the centenary of the ‘Mirko Srzentić’ library and the opening of its branch in Vladimir, the songs performed had for the most part been broadcast on Albanian television, and not a single performance was in Serbo-Croat.

During those days in Sukobin, songs celebrating the Albanian Workers’ Party and Enver Hoxha were played at a mass rally. The situation was made more complicated by the propaganda from Albania itself, which after the nationalist conclusions adopted by the eighth congress of the Albanian Workers’ Party, encouraged the growth of nationalism in Ulcinj through radio and television. Albanian irredentist slogans appeared in public places in Ulcinj, and some Albanians took to wearing white caps, black shirts and red trousers instead of their usual suits.

The Montenegrin government instituted political and repressive measures against these acts. The municipal conference of the League of Communists in Ulcinj, backed by the presidency of the central committee of the League of Communists of Montenegro, reacted strongly in December 1981. Disciplinary and other actions were taken against over forty Albanian Communist League members, and the basic party organisation in Sukobin was dissolved. The leaders of the activities in Ulcinj were arrested and put on trial.

The government suppressed the protests, and demanded that [party] members fight ‘against all Great Albanian and other anti-socialist and anti-self-management beliefs and behaviour’. The party at the same time insisted that: ‘Communists should resolutely oppose every attempt to act from the position of Montenegrin nationalism, every instance of distrust towards members of the Albanian people, and every attempt to undermine national equality or brotherhood and unity.’ It saw the Albanian demands as anti-state, supported and aligned with events in Kosovo and with nationalist propaganda coming from Albania. It also believed that Ulcinj had achieved a high level of economic and cultural development; that the proportion of Albanians working in Ulcinj’s local bodies reflected their proportion in the population of the municipality as a whole; that the same policy had been applied also to the schools; and that the Albanian language was equal with Serbo-Croat in schools, industry and local government bodies.

The party believed that the Albanians had no reason to be dissatisfied, and that the protests were a Great-Albanian caprice directed against the Montenegrin state. These views were a reflection more of the authorities’ self-satisfaction and self-delusion than of reality, because the Albanians’ demands did derive from their subordinate position, even though they unfortunately came to be expressed in nationalist terms.

Montenegro lacked the wisdom to offer greater rights to the Albanians, as a result of the overall state policy but also of bad relations with Albania. In the general atmosphere of mistrust, it was difficult to do more. Yet every responsible Montenegrin government should know that stubborn insistence on the claim that Albanians enjoy all national and civic rights - something which the latter deny - is a perilous strategy that only feeds Albanian nationalism, and that such a policy creates conditions for crises to erupt. This is encouraged by insufficiently developed diplomacy and economic exchange with neighbouring Albania. That is why the implementation of European standards in the area of minority rights is the best barrier against nationalism and internal crises. It is unfortunate that many believe that failure to meet these standards represents a clever state policy, and that stubbornness is the best method for achieving the desired relations. Examples from the region show just how wrong that approach is.

Translated from a longer text in Monitor (Podgorica), 14 March 2008

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