Scanderbeg of the Albanians

Scanderbeg of the Albanians

The following text is an abstract from the prepared remarks of Altin Zaloshnja, a scholar and community leader, during the January 2018 symposium, in Michigan, commemorating the 550th anniversary of Scanderbeg’s death.   Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, The reason

Read Full Article
Albania 2019: local elections, European expectations and flag bearing planes in the sky

Albania 2019: local elections, European expectations and flag bearing planes in the sky

The first days of the New Year in Albania will most likely be ushered in by the continuation of the students’ protest that have set the tone for the last days of 2018. Students are determined to shun away the

Read Full Article
Prizren, museum under the open sky

Prizren, museum under the open sky

By Ilda Mara* The city of Prizren is like an open-air museum, still telling the story of centuries despite the great changes it has seen over the years.  Located in the shadow of the Sharr Mountains, the city of Prizren

Read Full Article
Prizren, the cultural capital of Kosovo

Prizren, the cultural capital of Kosovo

By Doris Pack* It is a great pleasure for me to contribute to this issue of the historical  publication  “Art & Trashëgimi” devoted to the old city of Prizren, which I have visited several times and admire its richness  on cultural

Read Full Article
If all else fails use the dreadful PPPs to save babies

If all else fails use the dreadful PPPs to save babies

By Alba Cela A recent BIRN investigation has unveiled a painful truth about Albanian maternity wards. They lack some key equipment for the cases of premature births, equipment that is necessary to save lives. The infant mortality rate has been creeping

Read Full Article
Editorial: Tearing a hole at the heart of the facade

Editorial: Tearing a hole at the heart of the facade

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The student protests have not let up the entire week and in certain days have escalated to street blockages. They are teaching a valuable lesson to the Albanian society which seem curled up under the weight of

Read Full Article
Protests as a Response to the Gap Between the Government and the People

Protests as a Response to the Gap Between the Government and the People

BY Alfoc Rakaj Albania’s sluggish transition to a fully functioning market economy and a consolidated democracy has progress in parallel with the concentration of power and wealth into few urban areas. As a result, politics is increasingly big-city focused while

Read Full Article
Editorial: The ‘peripheries’ revolt

Editorial: The ‘peripheries’ revolt

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL Over three days, what began as “some failing university students’ revolt,” according to the government, speedily turned into a well-synchronized protest of hundreds of students which the country’s opposition has tried many times to ignite, but has

Read Full Article
Reflections on nationalism

Reflections on nationalism

By Bernd Fischer With the hundredth anniversary of the armistice which ended the first world war just behind us, there has been a resurgence of interest in nationalism. This is a welcome development since we also seem to be experiencing

Read Full Article
Editorial: Nationalism- an easy and cheap shelter made of straw

Editorial: Nationalism- an easy and cheap shelter made of straw

Black Friday was almost behind us, however Albanians were treated to some nationalism bonanza at an incredible discount price this Monday when the governments of Albania and Kosovo met in the town of Peja. These meetings are often marked with

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 30
            [paged] => 2
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => op-ed
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 30
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 817
    [max_num_pages] => 82
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 1
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => a0ad0b22f05d2f4fdacc4dc7c0ac86a8
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 30
            [paged] => 2
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (30) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 10, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139920
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-12-29 16:09:26
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-29 15:09:26
                    [post_content] => The following text is an abstract from the prepared remarks of Altin Zaloshnja, a scholar and community leader, during the January 2018 symposium, in Michigan, commemorating the 550th anniversary of Scanderbeg’s death.

 

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The reason for being gathered here today goes beyond the obvious. It surpasses the concept of remembering a hero – brave as he was – fighting against the dreaded superpower of the time. To us, Albanians, the silhouette of this man mounted on his horse with the sword drawn, his distinguished and sharp-cut facial features, the long beard meandering down on his armor, that whole image memorized since our early childhood years; symbolizes one of the most recognizable features of our national identity.

Scanderbeg was the product of his century, but he outran the fourteen hundreds. By that perspective, he cannot be confined merely within the timeframe of the late medieval era. His legacy has lived on, as well as the ideals he valiantly fought for. In Scanderbeg more distinctly than almost everyone else we find both an archetype and a forerunner of the Western civilization, someone who through his life story laid a foundation for things to come. And Europe substantially owes this primordial vision to men such as Scanderbeg.

George Castrioti brilliantly fought against the most fearsome antagonist, the house of Osman, at the peak of its power. This gun-powder empire starting from the beginning of the 14th century was methodically taking over the old dominions of the Byzantine Empire, and making headways into Europe. Scanderbeg had to face the 6th and the 7th sultan, respectively Murad the 2nd and Mehmed the 2nd, both known for their military prowess.

Specifically the later, Mehmed Fatih, “the Conqueror”, who took Constantinople and ultimately ended the Roman Empire of the East, for all his bloodthirsty character and deprived morality, was in fact a very capable and formidable opponent. The list of rulers defeated with their territories routed by Mehmed is expansive and includes Durad Brankovic of Serbia, the despot Palaiologos brothers of Morea, Euboea, Genovese Crimea, emperor David Comnenus of Trebizond, Vlad the III-rd of Wallachia (the future Count Dracula of literature), Stepjan Tomasevic of Bosnia, bey Pir Ahmet of Karaman, khan Uzun Hasan of Ak Koyunlu, Stephen the Great of Moldovia (a mixed result) to name a few.

Considering this appetite for conquest and its usual atrocious outcome, it is easy to fathom how Mehmed’s frightful reputation would precede him and mentally weaken the opposition during his campaigns. To be perfectly clear, Fatih is not the only savage of this era and could possibly be considered an understudy in the department of cruelty, when compared with Vlad the Impaler-Dracula, for instance. But by all means, the adversary Scanderbeg was facing was sinister, cunning, and possessed with a complete sense of ruthlessness. To even entertain the idea of resisting the onslaught of unforgiving Army of the Ottoman was bravery in itself. Let alone standing against it on the battlefield, and extracting victories, while outnumbered tenfold.

Faced with such a stark reality, Scanderbeg manifested what we can really call today “a profile in courage”. The man-Scanderbeg was determined to protect his land and his countrymen and showed his military brilliance by choosing the type of resistance visibly displayed when the enemy surrounded Croia (Kruje). It is a textbook guerrilla warfare that was most effective under the circumstances. During those trying times in Scanderbeg we see a leader who is not fighting for grandstanding, but one who manifests a keen understanding of his own means and capabilities.

The experience gained during the years fighting for the Sultan and his wars served George Castrioti immensely. He was well-versed in the ways the Ottoman army conducted battle and had come to the conclusion, that under the circumstances it would be next to impossible to upstage a frontal resistance. The decision to leave inside the castle walls a brave garrison of fighters, while attacking behind the enemy lines with the rest of his soldiers, proved to be masterful. He basically used the same warfare tactic in both initial sieges of Croia, while in the third he faced the enemy to protect the population from getting massacred and then speedily retreated toward the coast, while the enemy surrendered Croia for the third time. Ultimately, he came through victorious in all three sieges.

Certainly, Scanderbeg was more than just a military leader. He was a statesman, a diplomat, and we might say a politician when he needed to be. The very idea of calling the League of Lezha, in itself, comprises the initial attempt in forging a national coherence that goes above and beyond tribal lines. It’s a watershed moment because from this time on, and regardless how successful the League proved to be, it gave the Albanians the sense they could call and potentially (potentially) count on each-other, in spite of their broad differences. Unfortunately, 500 years and many decades later, we still need to figure how that works out. Scanderbeg understood the importance of this coming-together, and you cannot blame him for trying to use it, in his principality’s benefit. After all, he was the clear leader of the anti-Ottoman movement in the Albanian inhabited lands and needed help the most in view of the certain, upcoming revenge.

In the foreign affairs’ dealings, one can see Scanderbeg exhibit not only the acute skills of a diplomat for maneuvering, but also the quality of a man who follows and respects the tenets of a treaty. The case with the kingdom of Naples shows Castrioti being a keeper of promises across the generational line (from Alfonso V to Ferdinand I/from father to son), even when the circumstances were difficult for both sides. On the contrary, when he experienced betrayal in the past or sensed the other party was not dealing in good faith as we see in the case of the despot of Serbia who prevented Janos Hunyadi forces to join with those of Scanderbeg, or his complicated relationship with the Republic of Venice, he would act accordingly. However, a conclusion could be drawn that his style of interaction in the international affairs was built around a foundation of trust and merits. To the parties who had proved themselves trustworthy, trust was paid back. For others who were shady in their conduct, the strict attitude of reciprocity was applied in turn.

Scanderbeg passed away in Lezha, on January 1468. After his death (and expressing accolades) Fatih was able to finally realize his all-consuming dream of capturing Croia, on his fourth attempt (June 1478), 10 years after Scanderbeg’s passing. Yet, the memory of his armies forfeited by the Albanian warrior should have been a source of constant mental annoyance for Mehmed, since he barbarically killed the surrendered defenders, inspite of promising free passage beforehand. Once the Croia’s fate was sealed, the sultan ventured on towards the citadel of Shkodra (July 1478), one the last fortresses he personally laid siege upon. At the end, the city of Rozafa was given to him on a golden plate by the Venetians, in the treaty of Constantinople (January 1479), which effectively placed one of the last bastions of the Albanian resistance, under the Ottoman’s control.

The timeframe from Scanderbeg’s return to Croia from the battle of Nish (November 1443), until January of 1968, approximately a century’s quarter in total (24 years and 2 months to be precise), is a crucial time in Albanian history. These are years that initiated the conceiving of a national coherence, and were venerably remembered by the later generations, regardless of the fact that by that time the Ottomans had been successful in their attempt to bring the country under their rule. And even that the memory of the hero fighting against the invader, would be heavily suppressed by the upcoming invaders, it actually waited for its ripe moment to be displayed again strongly among Albanians.

It is obvious; Scanderbeg and his lifework will undoubtedly be assaulted by all kinds of naysayers. Recently, quite a few number of pseudo theories have spread and circulated around by individuals yearning for a name in a world attracted to conspiracy and confusion. Prone to imported and misused ideas, for them this has become a pastime exercise and a way to keep relevant, so to speak.

The aforementioned diminish Scanderbeg’s formative importance on our national identity, dispute his origins, rebuke the wars he fought against the Ottoman Empire, and outright reject his legacy. The common denominator of all these attacks is the intention to discredit Scanderbeg’s fundamental position in the Albanian history, by portraying him as a vague, non-consequential, and peripheral figure in it.

As with any challenge that calls into question established conclusions the best way to deal with it, is comparing with the facts. Those clearly show that Scanderbeg enjoys the status of a prominent figure in the history of the European continent and should in Albania as well, by default. The logical deduction is an individual cannot be a major figure in the history of a continent, by being a minor figure in the history of the nation -part of that very continent- he spends his life protecting. That would violate the physical/geographical/astronomical notions of spatial inclusion. To use an eighties song as an analogy, if you are big in Japan, you’ll certainly be big in Tokyo as well.

Moreover, there is a massive body of works (in the high hundreds, by a conservative count) written about Scanderbeg or referring to him in more than 20 languages of the world. Many of the world’s noted historians, poets, philosophers, writers, composers, painters etc. who lived on or after Castrioti’s earthly years, dedicated works and recognized him as a personality of substantial historical consequence. These works include biographies by Moore, Duponcet, and Paganel operas by Vivaldi and Francoeur, tragedies by Havard, Lillo, and Whincop, poems by Ronsard, Sarrochi, and Longfellow, dramas by Marlowe and De la Vega, opinions by Voltaire, Holberg, and W. Temple, paintings by Bellini, Vitalibus, and Caussin and the list goes on. All those offer ample evidence that Scanderbeg, at the very least, was a noteworthy figure for advanced European and Western thinkers. To reach such wide-spread recognition you might be anything, but peripheral and non-consequential you are not.

Another disclaimer heard about Scanderbeg is his position within the Albanian history and that his myth was mostly invented by the ideologues of the Albanian National Renaissance. This argument further goes to say that in the Albanian national memory prior to its Renaissance, Scanderbeg was neither important nor a significant figure. This whole misconception is construed by purposely forgetting the reality of the times in question. During their four and half centuries rule of the Albanian territories, the High Porte did its outmost to eradicate any connection between Albanians and their pre-occupation past. Ironically enough, the biggest form of warfare the Ottomans ever committed against the Albanians was not militaristic but cultural.

The Ottoman’s strategy as the occupying power in Albania heavily consisted in suffocating and/or preventing the most important factor of the Albanians’ identity, their language, from being freely used and having the chance to develop further. Their end purpose once the occupation completed, was the turfikication (with all it entailed) of the population and as consequence of it, the pacification of the Albanian inhabited lands would follow. The very existence of the Albanian language posed a considerable threat in achieving those goals and as a result, it had to be banned. In this concerted effort as times go by, we witness the formation of the unholy alliance (under and over the ground) of the Ottoman state apparatus with men of robe under the tutelage of the Greek Patriarchate. It’s a well-developed scheme of a cultural genocide in action.

Albanians themselves are not faultless in all this and need to look deep inside and announce their mea culpa, since by the time they met the Ottomans on the battlefields, they had not developed a clear standard and a unifying alphabet for their language as the other nations around them had. This unpreparedness cost them immensely, but it’s should not have served as a carte blanche for the Ottomans, to justify the harm they inflicted upon Albanians and their culture.

This brings us to the next logical point, which is what could be the probability of Scanderbeg’s story being culturally promoted under the Ottoman mastership when that empire was profoundly interested in eradicating any memory of him? Way, way less than Villefort’s letting Edmond Dantes go free after learning he was carrying a letter for his father that could bury the prosecutor, an avid reader of French literature might say. For the Truth that shakes certain unworthy human’s equilibrium (read empire) it always risks ending up inside the walls of the Chateau D’If. It was in the existential interest of the Ottomans in regards to the Albanian lands, to hear less and not more of Scanderbeg because his remembrance could inherently serve as a call to arms for the populace to overthrow their occupation. Therefore, they were less interested in any way, shape or form to promote him, freely.

The fallacy of those declaring Scanderbeg’s figure was created by the Albanian National Awakening becomes clear, when compared with the evidence showing his memory strongly existed in the Albanian folklore before the beginning of the National Renaissance (prior to 1830-s). His persona was mightily featured and present in songs, recitals, anecdotes, narratives, legends, pretty much in everything that could be transmitted by the word of mouth, from one generation to another. There was also a Scanderbeg’s canon law in existence, somewhat contemporaneous with that of Leke Dukagjini. It predates the Albanian Renaissance by far. And as much as the limited form of transmitting culture from one generation to another without the luxury of a codified written language and alphabet allowed, Scanderbeg was always a main topic in it. No one applying some form of intellectual honesty can eventually deny that.

Continuing further, Scanderbeg and his aura was very vivid in the Albanian areas where Ottomans where not able to rule, such as Himara or Malesia. It’s evidently clear that in the territories Ottomans had control they would suppress the memory of his name and deeds, while in places free from their rule, they were not able to do so.

Finally, the Arberesh population provides us with the noblest example of Albanians who were not living under the terms of the Ottoman invading system and were free to express their national feelings. For them Scanderbeg became a cornerstone of their cultural identity. After 550 years George Castrioti still remains, in earthly terms, the most important historical figure of their community. And the last time I checked, the Arberesh living in Italy, were doing so centuries before the Albanian Renaissance.

All these aspects of the matter are conducive and self-explanatory. In conclusion, the theory that the Albanian national hero was a creation of the Albanian National Awakening is patently false. Furthermore, Scanderbeg is not a product of the beautiful verse of Naim bey Frasheri but on contrary an inspiration to the poet himself.

Another topic artificially inflated lately is Scanderbeg’s maternal ancestry. The two most obvious, near-in-time historians who have kind of discussed Voisava’s origin are Marin Barleti and Gjon Muzaka. Both offer some discrepancies when the matter is attested. Barleti describes her father as a noble from “Triballda”, Muzaka seems to confirm, but using different letters “Tripalda”. Barleti, in a later chapter of his book, is not clear about the inhabitants of the Upper Diber who were protecting Sfetigrad, stating they are “Bulgarians or Triballdi”. Muzaka also makes another allegation about a “Marquis of Tripalda” who was related to him on his mother’s side (Muzaka was Albanian).

To say the entire matter has the potential to confuse is a huge understatement. Yet, there is nothing to fear when it comes to Scanderbeg’s mother origin. The custom for families of royal or nobility stock was to marry on par. For all the applicable reasons this was a way to form alliances and extremely common, hence the so-called-problem of Scanderbeg’s belonging is non-existent and there is nothing out of ordinary on this matter.

What really makes it disingenuous is the attempt by some to use it as a weapon of division, by casting a shadow over Scanderbeg’s persona, indicating he was not fully or Albanian at all, as their “erudition” might suggest. It’s futile and laughable, but for the sake of the argument let’s bring an example similar to the topic. Almost every single sultan who has ever reigned had a non-Turkish mother (Valide Sultan) and the Turkishness of the sultan would get diluted from one to another, going from 50%, to 25%, to 12.5%, to 6.25%, to 3.125%, to 1.5625%, and so on continuing in the downtrend. At the end of the counting, 623 years and 36 sultans later, we would have somebody that was way less than 0.00000001% Turkish, sitting on the Ottoman throne.

To a similar or lesser extent this can ring true for many dynasties. I don’t personally believe in framing the story upon this pattern, but brought it as a reminder for those who are willing to create a storm in a teapot for all the wrongs reasons. To them in the words of the Man that surpassed the ages we can simply say: “Don’t look at the speck in the other’s eye but fail to notice the log in your own”.

Ultimately, the most important thing on this matter is what Scanderbeg said and felt he was. Sadly, in the ancient peninsula where Albanians live under the sun, from the very beginning exists this tendency of willingly misappropriating distinguished men and women of one ethnicity, to another group who claims them, whether their name is Alexander (the Great), Pyrrhus, or Gonxhe. In the case of Mother Teresa for instance, who has specifically lived later than the rest and has declared verbatim that “by blood, I am Albanian”, we still see other nationalities trying to paternalize her, as a figure of their own. If this happens with someone who was living almost 20 years ago, what could happen to someone who was born six centuries ago? And, what about another one, who died 24 centuries ago?

Coming back to Scanderbeg, the majority of the correspondence conducted by him was signed with the description Dominus Albaniae (lord of Albania). Since this correspondence was conducted in a known language of the era (in a lingua franca) one could think, it could be beneficial for him, to go global and add something else (other titles he possessed), spicing it up as a trendy prince, once in a while. But Scanderbeg kept and continued signing in the same way, almost all the time. This alone would provide an irrefutable proof to the extent of what he thought of himself. Alas, if we want to dig further, we’ll find that Gjon Castrioti (father) was lord of Mati, while Pal Castrioti (grandfather) was signor of Sinja (in Diber). In short, we have three generations of Albanians in a row and that’s more than enough to substantiate Scanderbeg’s lineage. And he’s still today, for all possible purposes, Scanderbeg of the Albanians.

 

Epilogue

Scanderbeg is one of the most impressive figures of the late medieval times. What is special and striking about him transpires from his willingness to fight for what he believed was right. Scanderbeg could have led a somewhat comfortable life, suitable for his rank, had he decided to continue serving the sultan. Yet, he chose the hard path and the road less traveled. By all descriptions, Scanderbeg was a real and unpretentious man. When he visited Rome in 1466, to an eye witness, the ambassador of Mantua to the Holy See, he gave the impression of “a poor man, coming in with a few horses”.

But more than any titles, domains, or possessions he left behind himself a bright legacy. He left to a nation, in its cradling stages, his symbols to use. The most recognizable one, the double-headed black eagle flag, personifies very strongly the Albanian unum. Second only to the Albanian language, in the importance row, that banner is a focal point and a rallying force for Albanians all around the globe.

For a man who fought to protect and not to occupy, for a human who was a warrior and not a saint, George Castrioti is as good of a national hero, as they can ever come. By his example he offers to his compatriots, a blueprint for unifying around something meaningful and bigger than themselves. In a greater sense Scanderbeg has the capacity of being an Abrahamic figure to all Albanians willing to embrace him, from every walk of life and confessional background. And I hope someday, his descendants will be open-minded enough to leave behind their childish bickerings and recognize the vision he laid out for them, in the land he so valiantly fought to preserve. Want to close here with a stanza from a poem, I wrote a few years ago. I modified it to speak directly to Scanderbeg’s legacy, so we can remind ourselves what he can still teach us, in this day and age. It’s in Albanian and goes like this:

Dhe kur rruga e shqiptareve, prape ne udhekryq te kete mberritur
E nga Lart kerkojne nje shenje: vizionare, qarte-skalitur,
Kur Asqeret e gjithe sulltaneve, nxijne ne cep te horizontit
Drejtim jep –permes epokash- testament’i Kastriotit.

I thank you.
                    [post_title] => Scanderbeg of the Albanians
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => scanderbeg-of-the-albanians
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-12-29 16:09:26
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-29 15:09:26
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139920
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139896
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-12-28 08:14:31
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-28 07:14:31
                    [post_content] => The first days of the New Year in Albania will most likely be ushered in by the continuation of the students’ protest that have set the tone for the last days of 2018. Students are determined to shun away the political dialogue desired by the administration and seek the fulfillment of their 8 demands, mostly lowering tuition fees and improving their access to decision making process in the university.

However major developments are also expected to happen especially in the first half of 2019. Tiran Times breaks down some of the key political events and various scenarios on the eve of 2019:

-Municipal elections: more than just a local struggle

In the last day of next June, Albanians will head to the polls to choose the mayors and council members for 61 local government entities. As always the main focus will be on the large and important key municipality of Tirana. The incumbent mayor Erion Veliaj will run again on behalf of the ruling Socialist Party whereas the opposition has not come up with a candidate yet. Veliaj comes with formidable resources and popularity which will make the race very difficult for the opponent. However the dynamics is not conclusive as the DP and SMI have declared a coalition. If the numbers of displeased SP supporters, which are well grouped into one neighborhood in Tirana and have loyalties of former Interior Minister Tahiri, are factored in then the race is up for grabs.

An interesting race will also unveil the key municipalities of Durres and Elbasan where incumbent mayors running on their third term already have been under intense media pressure for alleged corruption and ties with organized crime. The overall quality of the electoral process will also matter a lot in a year when the perspective of negotiations is to be decided.

-European integration process: are we going to have a date for the negotiations?

The European Union will have a lot on its plate next year. The painful and complex process of Brexit is expected to be finalized in March however the developments in UK politics have put everything into question. Furthermore there will be elections for the new European Parliament in May of next year that will alter the configuration of most EU institutions.  In this framework decisions about enlargement no matter how small and symbolic they might be are very difficult. Both Albania and Macedonia have been left waiting for next June when the Council will reconsider the previous decision and might open the process of negotiations for accession. However the skeptical countries of last year are likely to remain skeptical. Albania might benefit given the positive accolades it has received for the justice reform, the satisfactory results of the vetting. Being coupled with Macedonia for this specific milestone is also beneficial as the latter has a showpiece of an agreement with Greece to offer in the bargain.

The outcome of this Council meeting will decide not just a procedural step but the future of the European perspective for these two countries. It will heavily influence public opinion which has already some levels of fatigue combined with specific expectations given the brunt of domestic reforms.

-Inauguration of grand Namazgjah Mosque in Tirana and potential visit of president Erdogan  

The project of the grand Namazgjah mosque in the center of Tirana is almost complete and final touches are being made. The building in a distinct late Ottoman architectural style, reminiscent of traditional mosques all over Turkey is quite impressive as far as size and decoration is concerned. The considerable funds for this project have been allocated by DIYANET, the state institution in Turkey which regulates relations with religion and manages religious institutions. The inauguration of the mosque is expected to be next year and the plan is for the Turkish president Erdogan to attend the first prayers. However there are tensions with the Albanian Muslim Community leadership which is perceived by Turkey as composed by people under the influence of the Gulen movement.  Allegedly Turkey will not send official representation to the inauguration if the leadership does not change. The AMC will have changes in its structure due to internal elections in the spring so the dynamics is to be followed closely.

-Air Albania: flying or stillborn?

The re-launch of the Albanian carrier Air Albania was done with the maximum fanfare by the Prime Minister himself after the company was allegedly mentored by Turkish Airlines, one of the most influential companies in the world. Edi Rama went as far as to name each plane himself with the names of famous and beloved Albanian writers and then hosted various groups on promotional trips to Turkey: journalists, excellent students and pensioners. However scandals marred even the beginning of this enterprise with media exposing one single individual shareholder with dubious business profile as having as much as 40 percent of the stock. The talk about Air Albania has waned recently however the public declarations have been that flights are to commence in 2019 first to Istanbul and then all over Europe.

If this project does not succeed it will be a huge blow to both the reputation of this administration and to the expectations of the consumers which are already fed up by the exorbitant prices of the air travel in Albania.
                    [post_title] => Albania 2019: local elections, European expectations and flag bearing planes in the sky 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albania-2019-local-elections-european-expectations-and-flag-bearing-planes-in-the-sky
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-05 22:47:54
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-05 21:47:54
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139896
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139910
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-12-28 08:01:22
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-28 07:01:22
                    [post_content] => prizren-couv-Nr8By Ilda Mara*

The city of Prizren is like an open-air museum, still telling the story of centuries despite the great changes it has seen over the years.  Located in the shadow of the Sharr Mountains, the city of Prizren has been a strategic site since ancient antiquity. In Prizren, anyone who contemplates the traces of time can get lost in the intertwining of history and mythology, where, before he knows it, he can pass from ancient Illyrian, Byzantine worlds, through the Ottoman times, to the recent communist legacy.

Prizren is a city at the crossroads of civilizations. In ancient times, the road known as the "Via de Zenta" used to link Lezha to Nis.  Thus the city was transformed into an important communication point between East and West. Under the Roman empire, the city was known as Theranda.  Later, it became the capital of Byzantium known as Prizdrijana, and in the XIX century under the Ottoman Empire it turned into one of the most important economic and trade centers in the region.

As you climb up to the Castle of Prizren, situated on a hill that dominates the city, you are dazzled with a wonderful panorama of the city and the crown of mountains that surrounds it. The old town lies down along the Lumëbardh river, under the picturesque slopes of the Sharr Mountains, forming an impressive landscape. In Prizren, from every window, from every balcony, wherever you go you will be inspired by its rich beauty and heritage.

There are countless traces of antiquity that Prizren carries in its basin.  Names and histories roll off the tongue like jewels: the Korisha fortress, the multifaceted residence of Vlashnjes, the Roman settlement of Poslisht, the Castle of Prizren, the Church of St. Nights, the Sinan Pasha Mosque, the Bad Church, the Church of St. Koll, the Mosque of Namazjjah, Marashi, the Church of St. Savior, Prizren League Square, the Stone Bridge, and many more.

Likewise, Prizren’s cultural and natural heritage is a treasure trove that mirrors our historical memory.

The world is turning more and more towards technologies and globalization, but I think that people will always be proud of their cultural heritage. Protecting cultural heritage and transmitting it from generation to generation is a testimony of our life, of all the epic of a people with its values, its monuments and its patrimony.

In this issue of the magazine Art & Heritage, we have tried to draft a historical, cultural and artistic portrait of the city Prizren. We have tried to bring to the reader the outline of the historical capital, including its origins, its antiquity, how it was built, the role it has had since ancient times as the crossroads between east and west, the evolution of the city as it passed under the umbrella of various empires, as it became a cultural, economic and diplomatic center.

Prizren can be considered as a second Constantinople, where the various religious communities, the minorities, have lived throughout the centuries, despite the bloody wars it has endured. This publication is an invitation to understand the play of light and shadow, throughout the centuries, over this open sky museum, where the past belongs to the future.

*Ilda Mara is the director of the publication Art & Trashëgimi (Art & Heritage) whose 8th edition is available in bookshops across Albania and Kosovo

 
                    [post_title] => Prizren, museum under the open sky 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => prizren-museum-under-the-open-sky
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-12-28 09:32:14
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-28 08:32:14
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139910
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139905
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-12-28 08:00:57
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-28 07:00:57
                    [post_content] => doris-packBy Doris Pack*

It is a great pleasure for me to contribute to this issue of the historical  publication  “Art & Trashëgimi” devoted to the old city of Prizren, which I have visited several times and admire its richness  on cultural heritage.

Prizren , in Kosovo, is a charming city of monasteries and churches dating back to the 12th century, with beautiful mosques inherited from ottoman time, spared from the communist regime during the early years of their rule in Yugoslavia, as well as the ethnic and religious atrocities that plagued the region in the last decade of the 20th century.  Prizren has the best-preserved old town conjure up the Ottoman past like no other city on the Balkans, and is often referred to as the cultural capital of Kosovo.

A city of a rich diversified heritage, a commercial crossroad of the time of the Ottomans, the population maintains its tradition of tolerance and have always mixed,  whether they  are Turkish, Serbian, Albanian or Roma, despite the events that have rocked Kosovo in recent years.

The rich cultural heritage of the city must be considered as a potent symbol of the identity of peoples and as a factor of reconciliation. The large Serbian-Orthodox cathedral of Prizren was built and decorated between 1856 and 1887. Its construction alongside major the richly painted Sinan Pasha  Mosque and a Catholic Cathedral , all within a few blocks of each other,  testifies an ethnic and religious mix that characterized Prizren on a continuous basis since the Middle Ages.

On the streets along the Lumbardhi  River the ottoman culture have left their footprints, to start with, the  15th century stone bridge, and then the Medieval /Ottoman Kalaja Fortress.  The newly restored  14th-century Saint Savior Church a testimony to the architecture of the Byzantine period, the Orthodox Cathedral Church of the Holy Virgin of Leviska, a world heritage site built in the 12th to 14th centuries, it brims with fresco masterpieces.

The primary actors in the safeguarding of this legacy are the inhabitants of Prizren, but United Mission in Kosovo   have played a crucial role as well  in the safeguarding  of cultural heritage in Kosovo after the Kosovo crisis of 1999.

Prizren was a cultural, economic  and diplomatic center since Roman times, and has experienced changes of domination and wars.  Prizren is faced with the challenge of developing, while remaining true to its roots and preserving its heritage.  DokuFest , the International Documentary and Short Film Festival is the best example to this regard, by putting  the old city on the world cultural map. DokuFest is one of the top film and music event in South East Europe.  The festival l fills the cinemas and improvised screening venues around historic city center of Prizren,  with a selection of more than 200 handpicked films from around the world, while at the same time bringing top international and local music acts to perform at DokuNights music festival.

Recalling the spirit of the Ohrid Declaration in August 2003, in which all Heads of State of the South East Europe stressed the role that cultural heritage could play as a potent symbol of the identity of peoples and as a factor of reconciliation, Kosovo must keep the culture and its heritage as a passport for the European Union integration.

I wish very much,that the spirit of Prizren could influence political actors in Kosovo and  its neighbouring country  that respect for each other rises and leads to reconciliation.

Such wonderful  examples of living together should be strong part of education  curricula and with this having an impact on the young generation.

I hope that “Art & Heritage” publication “ Prizren, the jewel of Balkans” will be a valuable input for the  protection and  promotion of the Kosovar historical  heritage and values.

 

Doris Pack*

Member German Bundestag 1974-1989

Member European Parliament 1989-2014

Chair of EP South East Delegation

Chair of EP Cult Committee
                    [post_title] => Prizren, the cultural capital of Kosovo
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => prizren-the-cultural-capital-of-kosovo
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-12-28 09:19:32
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-28 08:19:32
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139905
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139833
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-12-21 11:06:24
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-21 10:06:24
                    [post_content] => 
By Alba Cela
A recent BIRN investigation has unveiled a painful truth about Albanian maternity wards. They lack some key equipment for the cases of premature births, equipment that is necessary to save lives. The infant mortality rate has been creeping up in Albania for the last 2 years with more than 200 babies not being able to make it each year. Truth is that some of these cases are hopeless, they involve extreme prematurity or unresolvable health problems. However it is also true that doctors and nurses claim that the absence of incubators, oxygen masks and some medicine makes it very hard for them to revive or/and keep small babies alive in extreme cases.
How ironic that this government has approved and will start allocating generous financial benefits for people who have babies but in the same time cannot meet the basic needs of the wards where they come to life in the first place.
However this news is not about numbers, but about human lives at their fragile first steps. It is heart wrenching information, a dark abyss that engulfs everyone who hears it with deep dread and even a feeling of terror. None can be left indifferent to this. The budget necessary to keep the maternity wards well supplied is considerable and might present a small challenge but is surely is not exorbitant.
Doctors and hospital administration have compiled detailed reports about their needs and presented them more than once to the authorities. Minister Ogerta Manastirliu is directly responsible to solve this situation or at least acknowledge it and ask for help.  
Additionally the lack of necessary equipment is major reason for medical staff when they decide to leave Albania. And they are doing so in droves. Motivating doctors and nurses to stay is not just about their salaries. It is even more so about giving them all the right tools to do their job, to fulfil their mission which is to save lives. Particularly lives that just come to light.
If the ministry of healthcare and welfare needs suggestions on where to find this money they should look into their financially and otherwise destructive concessions, starting with that of the checkup and annul it. They should not give any more money to one of the country’s well-known oligarchs, Vilma Nushi, whose company does not specialize in healthcare services but on the contrary, selling cigarettes.  They should redistribute the money to fill in these gaps in the capacities of Albanian hospitals instead.
If this government is unable to do that and that is the case, God forbid someone touch their precious PPPs, then there is still a way to keep them accountable and serve the public interest. All over the world large companies have active corporate responsibility departments which engage in charity. This company which has hemorrhaged billions with their cheap check-ups should reflect that is has a responsibility to the well-being of the citizens and invest in equipping the maternity wards to save its soul. It the least they can do.
[post_title] => If all else fails use the dreadful PPPs to save babies [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => if-all-else-fails-use-the-dreadful-ppps-to-save-babies [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-21 11:06:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-21 10:06:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139833 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139830 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-12-21 10:37:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-21 09:37:44 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The student protests have not let up the entire week and in certain days have escalated to street blockages. They are teaching a valuable lesson to the Albanian society which seem curled up under the weight of the endless transition. They constitute the most vital segment of this nation, despite the fact that everyday their peers try to migrate. However students are teaching perhaps the most valuable lesson to the Prime Minister and his small entourage of arrogance practitioners. The lesson of what happens when you extra a big hole right at the heart of the façade. The Prime Minister might have been used to mellow village offering him lunch in his propaganda tours all over the country. It must have come as a harsh surprise to him to face the turned backs of students refusing to meet him, refusing to listen to him, to his lengthy humorous, smoke and mirror shows. Even more so the harsh and decisive voices of those confronting him in the university meeting have shown that this generation does not fear of exposing lies. Young people have stood up and told the prime Minister about their problems, about the problems of a non- meritocratic, corrupted and politicized system. For lack of capacity or lack of will that remains a separate issue. The same students refuse to buckle down when he gives them the usual sarcastic treatment of jokes, irony and under the belt jabs about their IPhones. In that sense the protest is a form of catharsis that cleans the entire public opinion.  A simple example will illustrate this point better. When wealthy and influential TV talk show moderators from warm comfortable studios ask Rama about the source of his wealth and affording a luxurious eccentric villa, the audience understand the limits of this ‘journalist’ grilling. It is an entirely different dynamics when a student who complains about lack of heating in his auditorium does this with his genuine revolted voice and shaking lips. He forces the Prime Minister to retreat into the most ridiculous answers: that he has saved up money during his time as an emigrant just like all other Albanians. Doing what? The future of the student protest is now at a crossroads. There are several political interest which are interested to hijack at least parts of it. There are the upcoming festive season days when most of the students will travel back to their towns. They have announced that they will return stronger and ever demanding in January. Until then they have had a few lessons to teach all the rest of us and they have done so very effectively. Without the need for any façade. [post_title] => Editorial: Tearing a hole at the heart of the facade [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-tearing-a-hole-at-the-heart-of-the-facade [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-24 11:37:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-24 10:37:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139830 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139596 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-12-07 20:23:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-07 19:23:02 [post_content] => BY Alfoc Rakaj Albania's sluggish transition to a fully functioning market economy and a consolidated democracy has progress in parallel with the concentration of power and wealth into few urban areas. As a result, politics is increasingly big-city focused while local media, blinded by its full attention to daily political quarrels, has failed to sufficiently cover the rising tensions emerging away from the power center. Citizens outside of the ruling circle have become disillusioned with party affiliation, as they increasingly perceive politicians as self-serving, and the institutions they represent as incapable of delivering. Most of them remain voiceless and their issues unheard. Some find solace in taking their cases to the media, especially investigative channels who exert pressure on authorities. Others exhausted by the governments blinding arrogance toward their concerns have embraced protests as a last resort. Demographically Unrepresentative Albania underwent deep demographic changes following the political changes of the 1990s. Most notably, a significant number of people from rural areas move to urban areas in pursuit of a better life. This shift led to economic and political power concentration in urban areas, most notably Tirana, which is now home to 30 percent of the country’s population. Tirana is a power-player in Albania politics, not least because it is the largest voting district in the country with 34 MPs. In addition, 70 percent of the Members of the Parliament resident in the capital, further fostering its disproportionate political and economic weight. Meanwhile, in the national spectrum, the country’s 140 parliamentarians live in only 17 municipalities. This physical detachment from the electorate hampers institutional trust and democracy consolidation. It’s worth noting that the distance created is not merely physical. The gap is not filled by regular visits to constituencies, reflective journalism or by effective constituency offices. As a result, constituents, bar those that have personal connections with their local MP, are denied the opportunity to voice their concerns. Ultimately, this undermines the effectiveness of the parliament.   Politically Unrepresented Discussions in the parliament have increasingly mirrored this narrowing gap in representativeness In a study published by ISP, a local NGO. In line with the popular perception, the parliament produced great theatrics, but little of substance related to major socio-economic issues. Consequently, in the given period, 399 of the speeches held in the parliament focused narrowly on daily or weekly news items, whereas 391 of the speeches were mere accusations aimed at rival political factions. In contrast, key issues such as education, infrastructure, corruption and poverty were only discussed in 74, 103, 123 and 164 speeches respectively. In the same vein, media produces great spectacles, and noisy talks shows where daily political developments are discussed, but little space is dedicated to public concerns such as employment, poverty and corruption. When asked, the public does not hesitate to point out the diagnosis. Annual surveys such as “Trust in Governance,” a UNDP sponsored project, illustrate the increasing distrust in institutions, political parties and the media. Feeling without representation, people's choices are exponentially diminished. This is the reason why locally organized protests have increasingly become a platform through which they express their grievances. Protests as a Response Protests are growingly gaining ground as a tangible platform to exercise public pressure on institutions. The public has reason to believe in their effectiveness when they are non-political, cause-specific and persistent. This year’s examples are a testament to this claim. The much-politicized protests in Kukes, after the introduction of a road toll on the highway connecting Albania with Kosovo is a case in point. Following the introduction of a hefty fee for residents, protests ensued. The government seemed determined on its objective to implement the toll, even though the municipality council itself had objected the fee. As the institutional response remained unchanged, protests violently broke the installed toll facilities, leading to the arrest and the controversial trial of several protesters. It took half a year for the government retracted its position and considerably reduced the fee for local-residents. In similar vein, the protest organized by the Ballsh oil refinery workers’ falls in a similar pattern. Subsequent to a lengthy institutional approach seeking compensation, protesters concerns went into deaf ears. Left without options, they travelled to Tirana on foot to take their protest closer to the power circle. Unable to ignore their demands, the government budged, offering them not only space to express their concerns with central government representatives, but also to meet some of their demands. Other promising attempts include the Alliance for Theatre protests against the demolition of the national theatre, and the protests of activists against environmental degradation through unsolicited government projects that threaten Albania’s natural treasures such as Valbona and Vjosa rivers. The way forward The current government is no stranger to protests. Months after returning to power in 2013, the socialist led government, unexpectedly faced a massive popular protest resisting the plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons in the country. Confronted with the challenge, the government gave in, leaving analysts and democracy hopefuls awestruck. Succeeding protests have not matched it in size and approach. Yet, they provide a ray of hope at a time when the political fragmentation is reaching a dangerous level. The current student protest is especially promising if it manages to avoid being hijacked by political parties. Otherwise, it risks fueling the government propaganda to dismiss the movement and its demands as politically orchestrated by the opposition, as it is the case of the ring road protest. Instead, it is up to the young people to continue pressuring beyond current grievances. The government would do well to notice that it takes more than pleasing allies demands to successfully govern. Similarly, the opposition could benefit from a platform that fosters sustainable solutions rather than resolving to short-sighted approaches. Combined, they must realize that the Albanian people living outside their power circle need tangible results. The next election provides a unique opportunity for them to demonstrate that credible candidates who offer viable solutions. Anything less than that, and we are likely to see more protests against the government outside of the institutional spectrum.   [post_title] => Protests as a Response to the Gap Between the Government and the People [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => protests-as-a-response-to-the-gap-between-the-government-and-the-people [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-07 20:23:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-07 19:23:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139596 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139593 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-12-07 20:18:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-07 19:18:51 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL Over three days, what began as “some failing university students’ revolt,” according to the government, speedily turned into a well-synchronized protest of hundreds of students which the country’s opposition has tried many times to ignite, but has lacked the spark to do so.   Tirana’s Polytechnic University students headed to the Education Ministry on Wednesday demanding that a 670 Albanian Lek tariff on each credit of each failing class be removed and that the university payment deadlines be changed.During their march to the ministry, capital students from other universities joined them and Elbasan University students boycotted classes too, showing solidarity with the protest even over distance. As the student protest grew considerably big on Thursday, blocking one of Tirana’s main roads completely, the list of demands put forward by students also expanded, including improvement of dorm facilities, equal representation between students and officials at the university discussion board and reduction of university fees. Meanwhile, in Tirana’s peripheries, the protests of Astir residents who will be affected by the government’s Great Ring project by losing their houses in exchange of under-the-market-value compensations have been protesting for more than a month now, despite arrests and injuries among protesters and police. Whenever such situations arise, the government employs a very specific self-defense mechanism - it did so with the highway toll protesters and it is doing so with Astir residents and students - it de-legitimizes their right to protest, by calling them names and pulling fun at their cause. The Kukes residents who protested by force and fire the government’s highway tolls with Kosovo, a main trading partner, were arrested. Prime Minister Edi Rama called on Astir residents to stop hypocritically looking for their rights where they don’t belong, saying it is their fault for building their houses illegitimately and that they don’t deserve any sort of compensation. However, truth of the matter is most of those people’s properties’ legalization processes have been promised and postponed by governments from left to right for many years, before unexpectedly informing them they’ll be living in social homes indefinitely. On Wednesday, Rama told a Facebook commenter he did not believe taxpayers money should pay for failing students classes and credits, undermining the complexity of the students’ demands and frustration. The Socialist government, which has done a good job at building a shiny capital centre and displaying smiling faces as its campaign poster, might think that whoever belongs in the peripheries - be those geographical or metaphorical - will withstand whatever plan the government has without second thinking. After all, the Great Project Ring will only heavily affect those living in Tirana’s peripheries and don’t enjoy its shiny centre, while the student tariffs will affect those who are, according to Rama,  “peripheral” to the corruption-filled education system due to their low results. What the government forgets is that while the Albanians who are living in the shiny centre are packing their bags in search of content over appearances in other countries, the “peripheral parts of society” are becoming the vast majority which is increasingly difficult to silence, fiasco after fiasco. Moreover, if recent examples from France have taught anything of value is that it’s the most vulnerable, peripheral, and affected parts of society that raise for their rights when they have nothing else to lose. It is nice to believe that the government took a lesson from the civil protest the students put forward, after Minister of Education Lindita Nikolla came out on Thursday evening to inform students their initial request to remove fees per credit was heard and would be granted. However, chances are slim, considering the government’s strategy of putting off fires by initially backing off and then going forward with plans. The only thing one can hope for is for this generation of student to keep the spirit of protesting against what is wrong and demanding one’s right alive, in a country losing its middle class via the Rinas airport and delegitimizing its majority into “peripheral” parts of the society.   [post_title] => Editorial: The 'peripheries' revolt [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-the-peripheries-revolt [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-07 20:18:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-07 19:18:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139593 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139493 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-11-30 13:40:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-30 12:40:31 [post_content] => By Bernd Fischer With the hundredth anniversary of the armistice which ended the first world war just behind us, there has been a resurgence of interest in nationalism. This is a welcome development since we also seem to be experiencing something of a resurgence of the concept itself, particularly in areas of the world where its hold had weakened. In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the nationalist deputy prime minister, has turned away migrant boats and called for the expulsion of Roma people. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks of a "Muslim take-over" and proudly flaunts his version of "illiberal democracy." In Germany, the far right has become the main voice of opposition in parliament, and in the United States President Donald Trump is now a self-described proud nationalist. These developments have alarmed many, including President Macron of France who recently described nationalism as a betrayal of patriotism, as the exact opposite of patriotism. He may very well be right. There is no simple definition of nationalism. It rose in Europe, in part, as an unexpected reaction to the Napoleonic Wars. Much of the theory was worked out it Germany where, arguable, we have seen its greatest successes and it greatest excesses. The theoretical foundations were principally laid by Johann Herder and J. G. Fichte. Herder wrote about what he called the Volksgeist, or spirit of the people, arguing that each nation had its own creative genius, an inspiration for early romantic, cultural and liberal nationalism. While Herder stayed away from value judgments, Fichte added racial overtones, suggesting that the Germans had a special political and national destiny. This latter version anticipated the aggressive, conservative, political nationalism of Bismarck. In a general sense, from a psychological standpoint nationalism was rooted in ethnic identity, a common language, common history and traditions, and common aspirations for the future. Socially and economically it was rooted in the growth of an urban population and a middle class secularization of culture. In a way, it required literacy since you really cannot be an effective nationalist if you are unable to read. Politically it was harnessed to promote national self-interest and the principle of the nation-state, or political boundaries which encompass one ethnic unit. There was much positive about the concept. It encouraged the development of cultural awareness as well as the beginnings of a national economy. But in my estimation, the negative aspects far outweigh the positive. Nationalism spawned aggressive chauvinism, imperialistic tendencies, militarism and war. It contributed to the outbreak of the first world war and more recently, the wars of the destruction of Yugoslavia. But what of patriotism? The term is loosely described a love of country, rather than of nation. Nationalism is not like patriotism, principally because it is based on ethnic exclusivity, whereas patriotism, is based on ethnic inclusivity. In other words, it is possible to become American, Canadian or French, while it is not possible to become a Serb or a Croat. You either are or you aren't. Patriotism tended to replace nationalism in much of the West in part because of the moderating influences of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution. In those areas of eastern Europe which were less effected by the above movements, social cohesion continued to be based on ethnicity and religion. Nationalists gain adherents through vilifying the "other", and through historicism, or cherry-picking or outright distorting of history. In others words, they attract support through fear and lies, similar perhaps to President Trump's closing arguments in the run-up to the recent mid-term elections in the United States. While it is certainly likely that Trump does not fully understand nationalism, he seems to have adopted some of its uglier attributes. Nationalism is of course alive in Albania as well but the Albanian variant, I would argue, is much less virulent than the Serb or Greek version - some of which we saw displayed just recently in Bularat. So why the difference? There are, I believe, many reasons. Albania was the last of the Balkan nations to achieve independence, and the last to develop a modern national consciousness. Why was nationalist development in Albania delayed?  While this question is complex, it can be understood in terms of both conscious Ottoman policy and the nature of the Albanians themselves.  The Ottomans, who ruled the Albanians for some four centuries, instituted policies that effectively inhibited the development of a national consciousness.  Some of these policies were applied to the Balkan peoples in general while others were applied only to the Albanians.  As an example of the former, the Ottomans divided their subjects into administrative units without regard to nationality with Albanians being divided into four separate vilayets, or administrative regions.  As an example of the latter, since religion was not associated with nationality in Albania, as it was in much of the rest of the Balkans, the Ottomans correctly concluded that language, education, and culture were the critical elements in the development of Albanian nationalism.  Severe restrictions were placed on teaching the Albanian language since a common written language could lead to a common literature, the discovery of a common past and the growth of modern nationalism. But not all the obstacles that the Ottomans placed in the way of the development of Albanian nationalism were oppressive.  The Albanians found themselves in a favored position in the Ottoman Empire and therefore did not share the level of discontent with foreign rule felt by most of the other Balkan peoples.  Quite the contrary, the Albanians often saw the Turks as protectors against the often hostile Greeks and Serbs.  For many Albanians the Ottoman Empire provided a career, and the opportunity for advancement in the army or in the administration, where they served in disproportionate numbers. But the Turks were not responsible for all of the obstacles in the way of the growth of Albanian nationalism.  The nature of Albanian civilization and heritage provided important indigenous obstacles.  The divisions and various levels of development within the Albanian community encouraged clanism and localism and inhibited thinking in national terms.  The existence of three, or four including Bektashi Muslims, religious groups prevented churches from playing the unifying role that they played in many other areas of Eastern Europe.  Much more importantly, the nature of Albanian society provided a powerful block to unity.  Apart from the religious differences, the Albanians were also divided linguistically, culturally, socially, and economically.  This disunity was fostered by the co-existence of three conflicting stages of civilization: the fiercely independent mountain clans in the North, the feudal Beys in the South, who ruled over a generally docile Muslim Tosk peasantry, and the more educated and urbanized population of the Hellenic and Catholic fringes.  The Turks took advantage of the disunity and lack of development by instigating discord between and within these stages of civilization, often assuming the role of arbiter. Despite continuing pressure from some traditional Albanian nationalist elites, aided by repressive policies carried out by some of Albania’s neighbors, the type of virulent nationalism we see elsewhere in the Balkans has not developed among the overwhelming majority of Albanians. Irredentism, the key to traditional nationalism, seems to be the goal of only a few. As with everything else in the Balkans, however, this is not set in stone. If it is the aim of the West to help mitigate the development of strong traditional nationalism among Albanians, I believe there are strategies available that could facilitate this process. These strategies include the full implementation of the Ohrid accords in Macedonia, extending real autonomy to ethnic Albanians there, and perhaps more importantly, fully recognizing and accepting the independence of Kosovo. And finally, as we all learned from a study of the Balkans during the interwar period – attempting to solve the political problem with no attention to economics will likely be unsuccessful. My venerable Serbian mentor, Professor Dimitrije Djordjevic, was fond of repeating the old Balkan adage that – an empty belly burns a hole in the flag. This may likely be the ultimate key to effectively discouraging the development of virulent, traditional, Albanian nationalism. As it is, I believe the Albanians have much to teach the rest of eastern Europe. They have avoided many of the more negative aspects of nationalism, those aspects that Trump, Orban and Salvini seem to be encouraging. Most Albanians seem to have embraced the concept of Patriotism. I believe this to be a very positive development and one which enhances Balkan stability.   Bernd J. Fischer is Professor Emeritus of History at Indiana University, Fort Wayne. He is the author of a number of books, translated into Albanian and other languages, among them King Zog and the Struggle for Stability in Albania (1984, reprint 2012), Albania at War, 1939–1945 (1999), Albanian Identities, History and Myth (co-editor and co-author, 2002), Balkan Strongmen: Dictators and Authoritarian Rulers of Southeastern Europe (editor and co-author, 2007) and Albania 1943-1945, A View Through Western Documents (2012), The Struggle with Rome (2017). [post_title] => Reflections on nationalism [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => reflections-on-nationalism [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-30 13:40:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-30 12:40:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139493 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139490 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-11-30 13:32:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-30 12:32:43 [post_content] => Black Friday was almost behind us, however Albanians were treated to some nationalism bonanza at an incredible discount price this Monday when the governments of Albania and Kosovo met in the town of Peja. These meetings are often marked with fanfare and lavish décor that combines the Albanian ‘red and black’ with European yellow stars.  This time though the rhetoric and actions were at a whole other scale when it comes to nationalistic political behavior. Prime Minister Rama delivered an arsenal of well-curated nationalistic tricks and jabs. He expressed deep disappointment with the European Union and member states for both not advancing Albania’s perspective through the opening of negotiations and for leaving Kosovo isolated under the visa regime. Additionally he called for a strategy to realize national unification and even gave it some concrete date: 2025. Ironically the same date given to Serbia and Montenegro as a viable one for integration by the EU Commission. Nationalism is the ultimate easy shelter. It’s cheap, it’s a lot like straw. Those qualities precisely make it vulnerable and easy to pick apart. It’s see-through in that if one really wants it can peak in it and see what is hidden, what are the real motives for its use.  Second this straw hut doesn’t hold much pressure. The confrontation with reality is always strong and it collapses. Indeed the confrontation of this nationalistic spectacle with the lack of real content in the economic, cultural and social cooperation between the two countries has blown away this cover time and time again. But then you can build it up again in almost no time… Rama did not refrain from bold and even derogatory comments for the international community and its behavior towards Kosovo while simultaneously backing the tariffs that Kosovo has imposed on trade with Serbia. Apart from declarations there were a lot of pretty pictures as well: the ones signing the flag and the iconic image of the cabinet of ministers making the eagle sign with their hands.  Rama was on the forefront of all these. To be fair the Kosovars seemed dazzled and confused, following the moves of the Albanian PM with some visible awkwardness. Edi Rama has in fact mastered the art of using sudden bouts of nationalism despite it being so ill -fitted to his other well-crafted profile of the cosmopolitan artist that wears snickers in summits. Not that this is a particularly unique art to excel at. Political leaders across the world use it with alarming frequency when the ride gets tough. The confrontation of these two distinct styles within one single political figure makes for some interesting and often even ridiculous displays such as that of the Prime Minister showing up in the solemn flag ceremony on the National Day of Independence wearing his beloved baggy trousers and rain boots. So much for recognizing the seriousness of the most important date in the Albanian national history! Explanations as to what the government is trying to take attention from vary. The domestic situation with the ongoing Ring Road protest in Tirana and the parliamentary boycott of the opposition is one thing. A likely negative result about the opening of negotiations next year is another. And these are only the short term issues. In the long term systemic problems loom large: massive migration and frightening brain drain due to economic decline and pervasive corruption. That’s a lot to try and hide within a hut. Not that some of this frustration and even anger is entirely unjustified. There are definite and genuine kernels of truth in what the Prime Minister articulated in the meeting. The integration process is increasingly resembling an unrealistic target with the shifting internal dynamics of the EU. And the isolation imposed towards Kosovo, left as a small isolated islet around countries with visa-free regime is absurd. The EU should have learned by now from the experience of other countries in this region that visas only hinder the good guys: students, families, conference speakers. The bad guys always but always will get through. However the timing, style and of Rama’s proclamations and gestures mix these kernels with lots of chaotic propaganda mud. With a few words and within a single day he has almost erased the progress achieved in the cooperation between Albania and Serbia, provided ample fodder for the usual whiners about the so called risk of ‘Greater Albania’ and trolled the European officials which have been supporting him so far. Building a solid, functioning market economy with a vital trade between the two countries is the form of cooperation that is good for citizens of both states, Albania and Kosovo. This can then be complemented by organized partnership and unified cultural and educational agendas. Economy and culture need functional states, rule of law, fair competition and proper encouragement through priority funding. In that climate they can thrive and become real castles of unity. All other talk is nothing but cheap easy shelters from the problems of the day. [post_title] => Editorial: Nationalism- an easy and cheap shelter made of straw [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-nationalism-an-easy-and-cheap-shelter-made-of-straw [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-30 13:32:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-30 12:32:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139490 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139920 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-12-29 16:09:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-29 15:09:26 [post_content] => The following text is an abstract from the prepared remarks of Altin Zaloshnja, a scholar and community leader, during the January 2018 symposium, in Michigan, commemorating the 550th anniversary of Scanderbeg’s death.   Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, The reason for being gathered here today goes beyond the obvious. It surpasses the concept of remembering a hero – brave as he was – fighting against the dreaded superpower of the time. To us, Albanians, the silhouette of this man mounted on his horse with the sword drawn, his distinguished and sharp-cut facial features, the long beard meandering down on his armor, that whole image memorized since our early childhood years; symbolizes one of the most recognizable features of our national identity. Scanderbeg was the product of his century, but he outran the fourteen hundreds. By that perspective, he cannot be confined merely within the timeframe of the late medieval era. His legacy has lived on, as well as the ideals he valiantly fought for. In Scanderbeg more distinctly than almost everyone else we find both an archetype and a forerunner of the Western civilization, someone who through his life story laid a foundation for things to come. And Europe substantially owes this primordial vision to men such as Scanderbeg. George Castrioti brilliantly fought against the most fearsome antagonist, the house of Osman, at the peak of its power. This gun-powder empire starting from the beginning of the 14th century was methodically taking over the old dominions of the Byzantine Empire, and making headways into Europe. Scanderbeg had to face the 6th and the 7th sultan, respectively Murad the 2nd and Mehmed the 2nd, both known for their military prowess. Specifically the later, Mehmed Fatih, “the Conqueror”, who took Constantinople and ultimately ended the Roman Empire of the East, for all his bloodthirsty character and deprived morality, was in fact a very capable and formidable opponent. The list of rulers defeated with their territories routed by Mehmed is expansive and includes Durad Brankovic of Serbia, the despot Palaiologos brothers of Morea, Euboea, Genovese Crimea, emperor David Comnenus of Trebizond, Vlad the III-rd of Wallachia (the future Count Dracula of literature), Stepjan Tomasevic of Bosnia, bey Pir Ahmet of Karaman, khan Uzun Hasan of Ak Koyunlu, Stephen the Great of Moldovia (a mixed result) to name a few. Considering this appetite for conquest and its usual atrocious outcome, it is easy to fathom how Mehmed’s frightful reputation would precede him and mentally weaken the opposition during his campaigns. To be perfectly clear, Fatih is not the only savage of this era and could possibly be considered an understudy in the department of cruelty, when compared with Vlad the Impaler-Dracula, for instance. But by all means, the adversary Scanderbeg was facing was sinister, cunning, and possessed with a complete sense of ruthlessness. To even entertain the idea of resisting the onslaught of unforgiving Army of the Ottoman was bravery in itself. Let alone standing against it on the battlefield, and extracting victories, while outnumbered tenfold. Faced with such a stark reality, Scanderbeg manifested what we can really call today “a profile in courage”. The man-Scanderbeg was determined to protect his land and his countrymen and showed his military brilliance by choosing the type of resistance visibly displayed when the enemy surrounded Croia (Kruje). It is a textbook guerrilla warfare that was most effective under the circumstances. During those trying times in Scanderbeg we see a leader who is not fighting for grandstanding, but one who manifests a keen understanding of his own means and capabilities. The experience gained during the years fighting for the Sultan and his wars served George Castrioti immensely. He was well-versed in the ways the Ottoman army conducted battle and had come to the conclusion, that under the circumstances it would be next to impossible to upstage a frontal resistance. The decision to leave inside the castle walls a brave garrison of fighters, while attacking behind the enemy lines with the rest of his soldiers, proved to be masterful. He basically used the same warfare tactic in both initial sieges of Croia, while in the third he faced the enemy to protect the population from getting massacred and then speedily retreated toward the coast, while the enemy surrendered Croia for the third time. Ultimately, he came through victorious in all three sieges. Certainly, Scanderbeg was more than just a military leader. He was a statesman, a diplomat, and we might say a politician when he needed to be. The very idea of calling the League of Lezha, in itself, comprises the initial attempt in forging a national coherence that goes above and beyond tribal lines. It’s a watershed moment because from this time on, and regardless how successful the League proved to be, it gave the Albanians the sense they could call and potentially (potentially) count on each-other, in spite of their broad differences. Unfortunately, 500 years and many decades later, we still need to figure how that works out. Scanderbeg understood the importance of this coming-together, and you cannot blame him for trying to use it, in his principality’s benefit. After all, he was the clear leader of the anti-Ottoman movement in the Albanian inhabited lands and needed help the most in view of the certain, upcoming revenge. In the foreign affairs’ dealings, one can see Scanderbeg exhibit not only the acute skills of a diplomat for maneuvering, but also the quality of a man who follows and respects the tenets of a treaty. The case with the kingdom of Naples shows Castrioti being a keeper of promises across the generational line (from Alfonso V to Ferdinand I/from father to son), even when the circumstances were difficult for both sides. On the contrary, when he experienced betrayal in the past or sensed the other party was not dealing in good faith as we see in the case of the despot of Serbia who prevented Janos Hunyadi forces to join with those of Scanderbeg, or his complicated relationship with the Republic of Venice, he would act accordingly. However, a conclusion could be drawn that his style of interaction in the international affairs was built around a foundation of trust and merits. To the parties who had proved themselves trustworthy, trust was paid back. For others who were shady in their conduct, the strict attitude of reciprocity was applied in turn. Scanderbeg passed away in Lezha, on January 1468. After his death (and expressing accolades) Fatih was able to finally realize his all-consuming dream of capturing Croia, on his fourth attempt (June 1478), 10 years after Scanderbeg’s passing. Yet, the memory of his armies forfeited by the Albanian warrior should have been a source of constant mental annoyance for Mehmed, since he barbarically killed the surrendered defenders, inspite of promising free passage beforehand. Once the Croia’s fate was sealed, the sultan ventured on towards the citadel of Shkodra (July 1478), one the last fortresses he personally laid siege upon. At the end, the city of Rozafa was given to him on a golden plate by the Venetians, in the treaty of Constantinople (January 1479), which effectively placed one of the last bastions of the Albanian resistance, under the Ottoman’s control. The timeframe from Scanderbeg’s return to Croia from the battle of Nish (November 1443), until January of 1968, approximately a century’s quarter in total (24 years and 2 months to be precise), is a crucial time in Albanian history. These are years that initiated the conceiving of a national coherence, and were venerably remembered by the later generations, regardless of the fact that by that time the Ottomans had been successful in their attempt to bring the country under their rule. And even that the memory of the hero fighting against the invader, would be heavily suppressed by the upcoming invaders, it actually waited for its ripe moment to be displayed again strongly among Albanians. It is obvious; Scanderbeg and his lifework will undoubtedly be assaulted by all kinds of naysayers. Recently, quite a few number of pseudo theories have spread and circulated around by individuals yearning for a name in a world attracted to conspiracy and confusion. Prone to imported and misused ideas, for them this has become a pastime exercise and a way to keep relevant, so to speak. The aforementioned diminish Scanderbeg’s formative importance on our national identity, dispute his origins, rebuke the wars he fought against the Ottoman Empire, and outright reject his legacy. The common denominator of all these attacks is the intention to discredit Scanderbeg’s fundamental position in the Albanian history, by portraying him as a vague, non-consequential, and peripheral figure in it. As with any challenge that calls into question established conclusions the best way to deal with it, is comparing with the facts. Those clearly show that Scanderbeg enjoys the status of a prominent figure in the history of the European continent and should in Albania as well, by default. The logical deduction is an individual cannot be a major figure in the history of a continent, by being a minor figure in the history of the nation -part of that very continent- he spends his life protecting. That would violate the physical/geographical/astronomical notions of spatial inclusion. To use an eighties song as an analogy, if you are big in Japan, you’ll certainly be big in Tokyo as well. Moreover, there is a massive body of works (in the high hundreds, by a conservative count) written about Scanderbeg or referring to him in more than 20 languages of the world. Many of the world’s noted historians, poets, philosophers, writers, composers, painters etc. who lived on or after Castrioti’s earthly years, dedicated works and recognized him as a personality of substantial historical consequence. These works include biographies by Moore, Duponcet, and Paganel operas by Vivaldi and Francoeur, tragedies by Havard, Lillo, and Whincop, poems by Ronsard, Sarrochi, and Longfellow, dramas by Marlowe and De la Vega, opinions by Voltaire, Holberg, and W. Temple, paintings by Bellini, Vitalibus, and Caussin and the list goes on. All those offer ample evidence that Scanderbeg, at the very least, was a noteworthy figure for advanced European and Western thinkers. To reach such wide-spread recognition you might be anything, but peripheral and non-consequential you are not. Another disclaimer heard about Scanderbeg is his position within the Albanian history and that his myth was mostly invented by the ideologues of the Albanian National Renaissance. This argument further goes to say that in the Albanian national memory prior to its Renaissance, Scanderbeg was neither important nor a significant figure. This whole misconception is construed by purposely forgetting the reality of the times in question. During their four and half centuries rule of the Albanian territories, the High Porte did its outmost to eradicate any connection between Albanians and their pre-occupation past. Ironically enough, the biggest form of warfare the Ottomans ever committed against the Albanians was not militaristic but cultural. The Ottoman’s strategy as the occupying power in Albania heavily consisted in suffocating and/or preventing the most important factor of the Albanians’ identity, their language, from being freely used and having the chance to develop further. Their end purpose once the occupation completed, was the turfikication (with all it entailed) of the population and as consequence of it, the pacification of the Albanian inhabited lands would follow. The very existence of the Albanian language posed a considerable threat in achieving those goals and as a result, it had to be banned. In this concerted effort as times go by, we witness the formation of the unholy alliance (under and over the ground) of the Ottoman state apparatus with men of robe under the tutelage of the Greek Patriarchate. It’s a well-developed scheme of a cultural genocide in action. Albanians themselves are not faultless in all this and need to look deep inside and announce their mea culpa, since by the time they met the Ottomans on the battlefields, they had not developed a clear standard and a unifying alphabet for their language as the other nations around them had. This unpreparedness cost them immensely, but it’s should not have served as a carte blanche for the Ottomans, to justify the harm they inflicted upon Albanians and their culture. This brings us to the next logical point, which is what could be the probability of Scanderbeg’s story being culturally promoted under the Ottoman mastership when that empire was profoundly interested in eradicating any memory of him? Way, way less than Villefort’s letting Edmond Dantes go free after learning he was carrying a letter for his father that could bury the prosecutor, an avid reader of French literature might say. For the Truth that shakes certain unworthy human’s equilibrium (read empire) it always risks ending up inside the walls of the Chateau D’If. It was in the existential interest of the Ottomans in regards to the Albanian lands, to hear less and not more of Scanderbeg because his remembrance could inherently serve as a call to arms for the populace to overthrow their occupation. Therefore, they were less interested in any way, shape or form to promote him, freely. The fallacy of those declaring Scanderbeg’s figure was created by the Albanian National Awakening becomes clear, when compared with the evidence showing his memory strongly existed in the Albanian folklore before the beginning of the National Renaissance (prior to 1830-s). His persona was mightily featured and present in songs, recitals, anecdotes, narratives, legends, pretty much in everything that could be transmitted by the word of mouth, from one generation to another. There was also a Scanderbeg’s canon law in existence, somewhat contemporaneous with that of Leke Dukagjini. It predates the Albanian Renaissance by far. And as much as the limited form of transmitting culture from one generation to another without the luxury of a codified written language and alphabet allowed, Scanderbeg was always a main topic in it. No one applying some form of intellectual honesty can eventually deny that. Continuing further, Scanderbeg and his aura was very vivid in the Albanian areas where Ottomans where not able to rule, such as Himara or Malesia. It’s evidently clear that in the territories Ottomans had control they would suppress the memory of his name and deeds, while in places free from their rule, they were not able to do so. Finally, the Arberesh population provides us with the noblest example of Albanians who were not living under the terms of the Ottoman invading system and were free to express their national feelings. For them Scanderbeg became a cornerstone of their cultural identity. After 550 years George Castrioti still remains, in earthly terms, the most important historical figure of their community. And the last time I checked, the Arberesh living in Italy, were doing so centuries before the Albanian Renaissance. All these aspects of the matter are conducive and self-explanatory. In conclusion, the theory that the Albanian national hero was a creation of the Albanian National Awakening is patently false. Furthermore, Scanderbeg is not a product of the beautiful verse of Naim bey Frasheri but on contrary an inspiration to the poet himself. Another topic artificially inflated lately is Scanderbeg’s maternal ancestry. The two most obvious, near-in-time historians who have kind of discussed Voisava’s origin are Marin Barleti and Gjon Muzaka. Both offer some discrepancies when the matter is attested. Barleti describes her father as a noble from “Triballda”, Muzaka seems to confirm, but using different letters “Tripalda”. Barleti, in a later chapter of his book, is not clear about the inhabitants of the Upper Diber who were protecting Sfetigrad, stating they are “Bulgarians or Triballdi”. Muzaka also makes another allegation about a “Marquis of Tripalda” who was related to him on his mother’s side (Muzaka was Albanian). To say the entire matter has the potential to confuse is a huge understatement. Yet, there is nothing to fear when it comes to Scanderbeg’s mother origin. The custom for families of royal or nobility stock was to marry on par. For all the applicable reasons this was a way to form alliances and extremely common, hence the so-called-problem of Scanderbeg’s belonging is non-existent and there is nothing out of ordinary on this matter. What really makes it disingenuous is the attempt by some to use it as a weapon of division, by casting a shadow over Scanderbeg’s persona, indicating he was not fully or Albanian at all, as their “erudition” might suggest. It’s futile and laughable, but for the sake of the argument let’s bring an example similar to the topic. Almost every single sultan who has ever reigned had a non-Turkish mother (Valide Sultan) and the Turkishness of the sultan would get diluted from one to another, going from 50%, to 25%, to 12.5%, to 6.25%, to 3.125%, to 1.5625%, and so on continuing in the downtrend. At the end of the counting, 623 years and 36 sultans later, we would have somebody that was way less than 0.00000001% Turkish, sitting on the Ottoman throne. To a similar or lesser extent this can ring true for many dynasties. I don’t personally believe in framing the story upon this pattern, but brought it as a reminder for those who are willing to create a storm in a teapot for all the wrongs reasons. To them in the words of the Man that surpassed the ages we can simply say: “Don’t look at the speck in the other’s eye but fail to notice the log in your own”. Ultimately, the most important thing on this matter is what Scanderbeg said and felt he was. Sadly, in the ancient peninsula where Albanians live under the sun, from the very beginning exists this tendency of willingly misappropriating distinguished men and women of one ethnicity, to another group who claims them, whether their name is Alexander (the Great), Pyrrhus, or Gonxhe. In the case of Mother Teresa for instance, who has specifically lived later than the rest and has declared verbatim that “by blood, I am Albanian”, we still see other nationalities trying to paternalize her, as a figure of their own. If this happens with someone who was living almost 20 years ago, what could happen to someone who was born six centuries ago? And, what about another one, who died 24 centuries ago? Coming back to Scanderbeg, the majority of the correspondence conducted by him was signed with the description Dominus Albaniae (lord of Albania). Since this correspondence was conducted in a known language of the era (in a lingua franca) one could think, it could be beneficial for him, to go global and add something else (other titles he possessed), spicing it up as a trendy prince, once in a while. But Scanderbeg kept and continued signing in the same way, almost all the time. This alone would provide an irrefutable proof to the extent of what he thought of himself. Alas, if we want to dig further, we’ll find that Gjon Castrioti (father) was lord of Mati, while Pal Castrioti (grandfather) was signor of Sinja (in Diber). In short, we have three generations of Albanians in a row and that’s more than enough to substantiate Scanderbeg’s lineage. And he’s still today, for all possible purposes, Scanderbeg of the Albanians.   Epilogue Scanderbeg is one of the most impressive figures of the late medieval times. What is special and striking about him transpires from his willingness to fight for what he believed was right. Scanderbeg could have led a somewhat comfortable life, suitable for his rank, had he decided to continue serving the sultan. Yet, he chose the hard path and the road less traveled. By all descriptions, Scanderbeg was a real and unpretentious man. When he visited Rome in 1466, to an eye witness, the ambassador of Mantua to the Holy See, he gave the impression of “a poor man, coming in with a few horses”. But more than any titles, domains, or possessions he left behind himself a bright legacy. He left to a nation, in its cradling stages, his symbols to use. The most recognizable one, the double-headed black eagle flag, personifies very strongly the Albanian unum. Second only to the Albanian language, in the importance row, that banner is a focal point and a rallying force for Albanians all around the globe. For a man who fought to protect and not to occupy, for a human who was a warrior and not a saint, George Castrioti is as good of a national hero, as they can ever come. By his example he offers to his compatriots, a blueprint for unifying around something meaningful and bigger than themselves. In a greater sense Scanderbeg has the capacity of being an Abrahamic figure to all Albanians willing to embrace him, from every walk of life and confessional background. And I hope someday, his descendants will be open-minded enough to leave behind their childish bickerings and recognize the vision he laid out for them, in the land he so valiantly fought to preserve. Want to close here with a stanza from a poem, I wrote a few years ago. I modified it to speak directly to Scanderbeg’s legacy, so we can remind ourselves what he can still teach us, in this day and age. It’s in Albanian and goes like this: Dhe kur rruga e shqiptareve, prape ne udhekryq te kete mberritur E nga Lart kerkojne nje shenje: vizionare, qarte-skalitur, Kur Asqeret e gjithe sulltaneve, nxijne ne cep te horizontit Drejtim jep –permes epokash- testament’i Kastriotit. I thank you. [post_title] => Scanderbeg of the Albanians [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => scanderbeg-of-the-albanians [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-29 16:09:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-29 15:09:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139920 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 30 [name] => Op-Ed [slug] => op-ed [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 30 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 817 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 30 [category_count] => 817 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Op-Ed [category_nicename] => op-ed [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 30 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

Latest News

Read More