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Ohrid Lake threatened by lack of care

POGRADEC, Aug. 15 – The Ohrid Lake in eastern Albania is threatened by a series of human illegal interventions like construction and illegal fishing, while water pollution continues to remain a problem. Many construction without following any criteria, or throwing

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Interview: Dritero Agolli, Rethinking the past

Dritero Agolli was born in 1931. By 1950 he had become an established writer in Albania. Of working class background, he completed studies at the University of Leningrad and embarked on his career in journalism and writing when he returned

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The Telephone Invasion of Albania

By Faik Konitza A week or so ago there was an Associated Press dispatch carried by ‘The Times’, to the effect that the telephone was being introduced in Albania and that up to now people have been shouting from hill

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Interview: The Regional Environment Centre: Greening Albania

By Nicola Nixon The Regional Environment Centre (REC) Albania is one of an 18-member regional environmental network in central and eastern Europe that was first established in 1990. The organization, the largest of its kind in the country, provides training

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UNDP set out its goals in Albania

Ms. Turkoz-Cosslett has recently been appointed UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Albania. Prior to this she served as Senior Manager and Team Leader for Central Asia at the Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS in UNDP, New

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Forsaken Albania

By Artan Lame Durr쳬 1915. Execution of the leaders of the 1914 rebellion. Musa Qazimi, the Myfti of Tirana and Haxhi Qamili, illiterate peasant. The anti-national and reaction uprising of the years 1914-15, which seriously endangered the existence of Albania,

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                    [post_content] => POGRADEC, Aug. 15 - The Ohrid Lake in eastern Albania is threatened by a series of human illegal interventions like construction and illegal fishing, while water pollution continues to remain a problem. Many construction without following any criteria, or throwing the rubbish in its waters are a serious threat to this natural property Albanians have, experts say.
The Ohrid Lake has been created some 2-3 million years ago from the quakes. Ohrid has a 87.5 kilometer long coastline and 358.2 square kilometers of surface. Its depth goes to 289 meters. Waters filling it come from the short rivers around like that of Koselsja and the lagoons of Cerrava. Sources from Saint Naum, Drilon and Tushemisht give their contribution together with that from the mountains of Galicica and Dry Mountain. Waters in the lake are changed every 70 years. It has a wide variety of species and other resources helping the surrounding area. Some 200,000 people live around the lake.
It has a wonderful nature with many mountains and hills surrounding it sheltering a considerable number of flora and fauna objects. Experts say that some species exist only at Ohrid waters and are found nowhere else like the koran (trout) fish or other ones. The lake area started to be used as center for people during the 4th and 5th centuries and a castle northeast of Pogradec is believed to belong to that time. Since the 1st century Ohrid was the cultural center for Macedonia. Well known missionaries of the Middle Age like Saint Klement and Saint Naum found Ohrid as their proper shelter to live. Its university, considered among the oldest in Europe, graduated some 3,500 students. Samuel during the 10th century reined a large area from the castle and a considerable number of towns in Albania, Greece and Macedonia.
The population increase has also increased problems to the lake because of their careless construction, fishing and other damage. Experts say that unless proper care is paid the lake will soon suffer from many problems, consequently affecting the people around it.
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                    [post_content] => Dritero Agolli was born in 1931. By 1950 he had become an established writer in Albania. Of working class background, he completed studies at the University of Leningrad and embarked on his career in journalism and writing when he returned to Albania. He began by writing poetry and in 1970 began writing prose too. Although he had feelings of hostility toward the then Soviet Union in the sixties, Agolli was Chairman of the Writers and Artists League from 1972 until 1992.  Both as a member of the communist nomenclatura, and as a public figure, Agolli retained respect even after the collapse of the communist regime. Still a prolific and popular writer, in the 1990's he took a seat in the Albanian Assembly at the outset of the transition of the Socialist Party.

Mr. Agolli, as a writer you are a long standing favourite of the Albanian public and your books have also been published abroad. Your life time has spanned a good part of the socialist phase of the country and these years of radical change. First of all we would be interested to know what values have been important to you in your life? 
It's quite difficult to talk about oneself. For this description to be a little more objective, it should be done by others. Usually when you speak about yourself you are embarrassed to reveal everything, so you leave things unmentioned, or perhaps you are even prone to boasting. 
As a writer and like the rest of my generation, I was formed in a period that is now past history, the period of socialism. All of us have acquired positive and negative features pertaining to that system. You could perhaps say that we are like row boats encrusted with shell fish and seaweed, dragged up onto the sands to be scraped clean. That was a difficult period.  Everything was heavily censured. Of course literature and the institutions and instances of culture and politics were no exception. It goes without saying that this period, the system, and the society left indelible marks behind. 
These things are reflected in my works, particularly from a critical angle. My works are not mere volumes of praise for the system, but more like a critique of it. This is the reason why several volumes I wrote were prohibited or even reduced to pulp. In 1964 my first book of short stories was printed. It was entitled, "The Rustle of Winds of the Past," and was immediately banned from circulation because it allegedly diluted the heroism of the characters. This was the terminology used at that time. The play, "The White Age" and the book, "The Splendour and Downfall of Comrade Zylo" also disappeared from circulation following their first publication. This last book was published again in 1973. It was regarded as being critical of society and it focused on power and the individual and how power transforms the individual. This novel received acclaim in other European countries. 

You mentioned that censorship made things difficult for literature and politics in socialist Albania. What sort of a relationship did you have with politics at that time?
I am not a professional politician. I am a writer who dabbles in politics - inasmuch as any other citizen does when he goes to the polls to vote. When a citizen casts his vote he also dabbles in politics; when he doesn't vote, he doesn't dabble in politics, that's the extent of it. Aristotle was right when he said that, "man is a political animal".  
I am a kind of political animal, seeing I am also a writer, I have worked this ability to perfection, because every writer is the mirror of the society he lives in. Therefore I was a member of the Party of Labour, I was a communist, and even a member of the Central Committee of the Party. But I was also Chairman of the Writers' and Artists' League for a long time. Subsequently I could do far more, as I did, like Ismail Kadare and others.1 Irrespective of the conditions of the time, we did reflect that reality. When the time came and the regimes changed I joined the Socialist Party, which emerged from the Party of Labour, changing in name only. In the first years it carried over many dyed-in-the-wool communists, but slowly these elements dropped out of its ranks. I also changed and shed a lot of useless deadweight, although some things still remain.  

You speak about a kind of purging, which the country, your party, and also you yourself have undergone. Did this occur without problems? Was this cleansing process obstructed by certain issues?  
I remember a verse by the Greek poet Seferis2, about an island where there was a Church and a Saint. One day many serpents appeared on the island. The Saint called the cats on the island and the cats devoured the serpents.  The island was purged of all the serpents, but at the same time all the cats died too. Why? Well, because they had consumed so much venom. In our society today too, people have consumed a great deal of venom. With this venom you could eliminate an opponent, occasionally even an old friend who has become your opponent. But this venom has also done its work on you, I mean one's self as well. 
This is precisely the kind of society I come from too. I was admitted into the Socialist Party, I was elected to its forums, first to the Executive and then to its Steering Committee. Then I wanted to leave the Party. This Party now is more modern, which means it has offloaded a lot of the past dogmas of the period of socialism. It has drawn closer to other European parties in kind. There have been a great deal of polemics and debates, and in the time when I was involved fully in politics, I was always ready to talk about the flaws of the Socialist Party. Over the last eight years I have frequently raised my voice in criticism, writing articles and in interviews, perhaps even more than its own political opponents. Anyway, I did not drop out of the SP and no one made the slightest effort to have me expelled. I have always been a writer and their firm supporter.

This means that you joined them, and you have sought confrontation in a party sensitive towards changes-which in the meantime you even thought of leaving, as you just mentioned. Does this differ from the stand you had towards the communist Party of Labour?
What I would like to explain is the fact that one should always speak up about the good and bad even when referring to a political party you are a member of. A contemporary French philosopher Bachelard3 once said, "Before you get to know a person you must first quarrel; you must oppose the person so the truth emerges; without quarrelling or without debate you can never get to know anyone, because the truth is not the daughter of sympathy, it is the daughter of discourse." I always bear this in mind. 
When the Chairman of the Socialist Party stated, "The Party resembles a marshland," I opposed that and said he himself was bloated like a swamp toad. I was never shy to speak out when it came to the truth and within my limitations I have done a great deal of criticising. However, I have always been in support of the party. Like everyone else, I too have my pet foibles, I have my good sides but also my weaknesses. Perhaps I should have criticised somewhat more in the past system, but the conditions were suchơnd not only that, but you create a family and you certainly don't want anything bad to befall them. One piece of verse says that in the time of Galilee, there were also other Galileans who could have come out and said the truth, but they had families. They also knew that the Earth was round, but if they had said this in public they would have been burnt alive at the stake. This is also the case with writers who lived during that system, they knew so much, they also knew the Earth was round, but they also had families. I am one of those individuals.  

What ideals do you regard as being fundamental in the field of politics and society? Although you do not consider yourself a politician, are there any foreign or local politicians who have had such a special impact as you have?
I grew up and was moulded in a socialist society, and at that time we had communist ideals. We were sincere in these ideals and like many other intellectuals in the world, talented writers such as Aragon4, Paul ʬuard5 or even Picasso and Majakowskij6, embraced this idea of communism. We also believed that the world could be changed. We believed that there could be more equality between people; that poverty could be eliminated; that there could be greater solidarity, and a more complete freedom. These were the ideals we had and which influenced our formation. Philosophical figures like Marx, as well as political figures like Enver Hoxha did have an influence on me. This was our ideal, and our generation cannot deny this. For some time it was the same ideal, but as the years went by the enthusiasm began to wane, because we could see  there were so many flaws in our society.
As a writer I idealised Naim Frasheri,7 because he was a poet inspired by the West and in particular by the French Revolution. He was very humane, he loved freedom, he worked for equality between people but also fraternity. His work helped me a great deal to create my own opinion on the development of society. From this angle, Frasheri became my idol in my creativity and other political issues. He was my idol, not only as a writer because he was also a distinguished politician, but especially regarding his approaches to issues of the country and how he fought the evils perpetrated against our country. He also wrote in Greek and one of his most famous poems is entitled, "The Albanians and the Greeks." So there is also an international side to his spirit. Another idol I had was Fan Noli8, one of the finest socialists. I believe so because he headed the June Revolution. Although he only governed for six months, he jump started development in Albania, bringing it closer to Europe. That is what the people wanted and what I wanted for my country. From outside of my country, Marx and Lenin and later on Willy Brandt were figures I respected. I thought highly of Brandt as a socialist and as a person with his own views. By this time I was an adult so I was not greatly influenced by Brandt, but I thought he had charisma at the time. The same went for other socialists of the epoch such as Mitterand.  Naim Frasheri, Fan Noli and Enver Hoxha were the individuals whose work influenced me the most.

It is obvious that drawing closer to Europe has always had significance for you. Today, Europe is no longer merely a geographic and cultural notion; on the contrary, this now means social-economic and political structures. Do you believe that Albania has the maturity needed to become part of these structures? 
No, I don't believe it has. First of all, to be able to approach the more developed countries, we must have a developed economy. That goes for the social side of the coin, including cultural and educational levels. 
People must show greater tolerance with one another, and also towards politics. A political debate should not automatically lead to a fight and to hostility, as if every change of government resembles the installation of a new invader. What I mean by this is that we lack a developed democratic and political culture. If, hand in hand with economic development, democratic culture also increases, and if tolerance is predominant in the debates on issues, then dogmatism and intolerance are avoided. If there is no longer any revenge in society, then yes we will be mature enough to enter Europe. This hideous ulcer of our society, revenge, must be eradicated.

How can the International Community assist Albania? What do the Albanians themselves have to do to be included in the process of becoming part of the EU?
Representatives of the EU who come to Albania should carefully study the conditions of this country. They should not all come and go with the same approach they have had towards other countries. On the contrary, they should have studied and know the nature of Albanian society. They should know what customs and traditions there are, and what the positive sides of the Albanians are. They should know the country's spiritual constitution. It is worthless if intelligent people come and go who do their work well in Bulgaria or Rumania, because even though we have many things in common with other Balkan countries, we are also different in many ways.

Where do the differences lie? From a socio-psychological angle, is there any such thing as an individual type of Albanian?
Albanians are very intelligent and they are people with a great deal of imagination. But they are also very impatient and lose interest in their work very quickly. If a job takes ten years to do, they want to do it in one year; they want to complete in one hour something that takes five months to do. If someone who would know the psychology of Albanian society well came to work in Albania, this person would do a great service to the country.
However, first of all the Albanians must build their own country themselves. Unfortunately, we are used to others doing our work for us - but this is a very bad lesson. It depends on our psychology: when others direct us, we appear to be very clever. For example, in Turkey there were thirty Prime Ministers and who knows how many commanders, soldiers and statesmen who were remarkable individuals of Albanian origin. Or Take Greece as another example - how many heroes of the Greek Revolution were Albanian? 
The Albanians are exceptionally resourceful if they are led by others, but if they are the ones at the helm they are forever at loggerheads. Only the Albanians themselves can change this psyche. First of all they must fight to do their own chores themselves and not perpetually depend on others on the journey to Europe.

So, the Albanians must work themselves to reach Europe. At the same time they are resourceful, but impatient and badly coordinated. Is this the gist of what you said?
Within a very short period of time, the Albanians have made major changes, particularly in the cities. They have the energy and limitless imagination in all fields. But they are also very masterly at being the Mafia - on this point they have even surpassed the Russians and the Italians. In the case of the Mafia, they make their way to the top very quickly. So they are not only very capable in just the one direction, but on many planes. This is why they need skilful leaders. A leader should never shirk work. Here people develop rapidly and well and they pick up things better and quicker than the leader, who understands very little or pretends he does. This means that the people are more advanced and skilful than the leaders.
The political future hinges a great deal on the future politicians. How do you conceive the young people of today? It seems that during these last few years, the youth are being left out of politics and its commitment is decreasing.
Previously, young people were active in politics. Young men and women  wanted to make change and progress. But it is as if the youth of the country has shifted to slow motion mode because the party leaders have failed to encourage younger people to join; only the senior membership remained, who never really understood the youth properly. This very weak policy became obvious when the Socialist Party split and all the young people went with the Socialist Movement for Integration. Only if party leaders offer qualified young men and women leading posts in society, in the economy, in the party and in culture and education, will they get the chance to come in and make their contribution. And in the final account, these are the young people who have studied and know how to operate so they should be activated and not left idle.

Do you consider the epoch of communism in Albania as time wasted?
No, I don't. Irrespective of the enormous flaws of the socialist camp and in that system, there were very positive sides too. I would mention here, in the moral-political field, the solidarity, which was extensive, because people lived in collectives. The emancipation of women also proved a huge help. Women were isolated in the Balkans and their emancipation helped in developing schooling, culture and similar fields. In the time of Ahmed Zogu9 and up until 1944, there were only seven secondary schools in Albania. During the years of socialism 370 secondary schools were opened and 12 Universities. There were no universities at all previously. We even had a Ballet and Opera Theatre, a People's Theatre, and Film Studios that produced 14 features films per year and many other institutions. 
To this day, Albania is fed by electric power generated by the same hydropower stations of that period. Music and literature benefited the most in cultural development. Prior to the socialist period, not a single one of the works by our authors was ever translated into any foreign language, so the world could come into contact with them. But in this time, our translations and literature became known in countries like Germany. This reveals a high level. Books from the beginnings of literature in the Middle Ages or of the time of Ahmed Zog up until the epoch of socialism were translated. This played a very important role.

According to what you have said above, the socialist period was therefore a phase of development of the country in the direction of modernization. But at the same time it was also a time of isolation, to a far greater degree in comparison with the other countries of East Europe. Could Albanians communicate with the rest of the world seeing that this was so restricted and irrespective of the fact that this could only be realized through the works by Albanian authors?
You are quite right regarding Albania after 1960. Isolation was exceptionally stringent. However, there was trade with other countries in the West as well as the Eastern Bloc. Although through mediation of a third party, there was communication with the world. Our artistic ensembles, such as the State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble all performed overseas. Archaeological exhibitions were opened in Paris and Rome. In other words, there was a level of communication. 
Unfortunately we are used to thinking only in back and white and the rest we discard. Some even ask whether people fell in love in the years of socialism. If people had not loved, there would not have been children. We were so sick of such questions about those times. The only question that was not asked was whether or not there were children in socialism?

In other words, you keep on differentiating about the period of socialism. Does that mean that this period produced values that are of importance to you?
Yes, socialism also had its good aspects. The backward customs of the Middle Ages were eliminated and there was no longer any fratricidal killing. People were not confined behind the four walls of their homes for fear of being tracked down and killed; these things do not exist in a dictatorship. 
Families were more consolidated than today. There was greater equality between people and the huge ratios of differences between incomes did not exist. Without doubt this led to a level of backwardness when you look at the levels the rest of the world enjoys today, because the ratios are hugely different in pay scales in capitalism. 
At that time the solidarity between people was something positive and led to a situation where everyone worked together. In the time of socialism, the communists tried to play on the positive sides of our people, like solidarity, which was demonstrated in certain moments of our history. Today, we harshly criticise that system because of the existence of a dictatorship and Enver Hoxha. 
At the founding congress of the Socialist Party, where the name changed from the PLA, I was the first to stand up and attack the system, Enver Hoxha and the dictatorship. All the delegates turned on me. Naturally, this was painful for me to do. Why did it have to happen this way, why were so many things so futile?  But not the entire period of socialism was futile. The Middle Ages were not a waste either. In every system you can find positive elements. In the Middle Ages, there would not have been a Cervantes, but he emerged with Don Quixote. There were the Niebelungen of the Germans; artists of genius emerged from that time and not from today's modern times.  Socialism was a system that was established over half of Europe. Similar things occurred in the time of Charles the Great. Did Charles the Great bring Europe together through war?

1  Ismail Kadare (*1936), writer of renown in and outside of Albania. 1990-1999 Kadare lived in Paris seeing that whilst in Albania he had written about the collapse of the communist regime and because, in general, he was a person who could not abide by the rules of the regime; he returned to live in Tirana in 1999.
2 Giorgios Seferis (1900-1971), Greek Poet who won Nobel Award for Literature in 1963.
3 Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962), French philosopher and critic, professor in Dijon and at the Sorbonne(Paris). 
4 Louis Aragon (1897-1982), French writer, co-founder of the Surrealist Movement and later on a member of the French Communist Party.
5 Paul ʬuard (1895-1952), French poet, active during the Resistance and a member of the French Communist Party  
6 Wladimir Majakowskij (1893-1930), Russian writer, co-founder and chiefly the representative of Russian Futurism; Bolshevist since 1908.
7 Naim Frasheri (1846-1900),, Albanian writer, first and foremost, a poet, wrote in Albanian for early on, fighter for the liberation of the country.
8 Theophan (Fan) Stylian Noli (1882-1965) Albanian orthodox priest and politician, committed to the independence of Albania and its recognition whilst being a resident in the USA. In 1924, after the downfall of Ahmed Zog, Noli became Prime Minister, but he was brought down during the same year and he fought the self proclaimed King Zog from abroad. During WWII Noli was in contact with the Albanian communists of Enver Hoxha.
9 Ahmed Zogu(1895-1961), known as Zog, the Sovereign of the Albanians, as he was from 1928-1939 up until the invasion of Albania by the Italians. He officially abdicated in 1946; he was PM 1923-24 and President of Albania 1925-1928, before proclaiming himself King. 

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                    [post_content] => By Faik Konitza
A week or so ago there was an Associated Press dispatch carried by 'The Times', to the effect that the telephone was being introduced in Albania and that up to now people have been shouting from hill to hill to spread news or carryon a conversation. There is a good deal of truth in this piece of news. The telephone has been in use in Albania for very many years, but only for military and police purposes. As a favor, and free of charge, people would be allowed now and then to send a supervised message, but that was all.
Albanians have relied for their communications on the telegraph, and sometimes two persons in different towns would sit by the side of the telegraph operators and conduct a conversation. The famous English correspondent Bourchier, known as 'the Ambassador of the Times in the Balkans', used to say that in Albania the one efficient service, and amazingly so, was the telegraph. He was delighted to find again and again that his long dispatches in 1913 and 1914 from Albania reached always promptly and faultlessly the London office of his paper.
***
It is possible that the telephone may also become popular in Albania, though perhaps at the expense of public security. Seventeen months ago, an insurrection burst out in Albania and was crushed in less than twentyΦour hours, mainly because the police and armed forces had telephones at their disposal, while the would-be insurgents had no such means of communication. I imagine the police will have to perfect a wire-tapping technique in order not to be caught napping.
I, for one, though from a selfish point of view, regret the telephone invasion of Albania. The telephone is a useful but irritatingly intrusive instrument. To have a telephone in your room is equivalent to giving freedom to anybody to jump up loudly in front of you and box your ears at any time of day or night. And you do not have the possibility of escape by switching off, as you do with the radio and the electric light.
A few weeks ago, one evening I was busy working on a book on Albania, when a telephone call persistently interrupted me. I unhooked it at last and a tiny voice, with a babbling of similar voices around, asked me a question. Obviously it was a party of children. The little voice said: "Please will you tell us just where is Bilbao." The children doubtless had looked up the embassies and legations in the telephone book and innocently had picked out the first name in the alphabetical list.
* * *
Concerning the "shouting" from hill to hill, as the A.P. dispatch puts it, it is true that even now it is practiced in some out-of-the-way mountains of Albania. This curious habit is of great antiquity. The English scholar, William Martin Leake, who traveled extensively in Albania and Greece at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries and published the results of his studies in several volumes, mostly in diary form, writes under the date of August 4, 1804:
"On the southern side, by which we approached the town, the position terminates in a tremendous precipice, the summit of which is so near to the church of St. George, on the opposite ridge, that words may be heard fi'om one place to the other; and the first intelligence is constantly communicated in this manner, on the arrival of passengers or caravans, which in winter are sometimes arrested there by a sudden fall of snow for several days. It is curious to remark with how much ease this telolalia or distant conversation is carried on. It is an art, which, as well as that of teloscopia, or of distinguishing distant objects, is possessed by the Albanians and mountaineers of Greece in a degree which seems wonderful to those who have never been required to exercise their ears, eyes, and voices to the same extent. The same qualities were among the accomplishments of the heroic ages of Greece, the manners and peculiarities of which have never been extinct in the mountainous and more independent districts of this country. "
This antique means of communication has been perfected enough for travellers to order their dinner two or three hours in advance and to find on their arrival at the inn chickens or a baby lamb on the spit, or whatever else they had commanded.
(New York Times, 1938 / reprinted by permission)
                    [post_title] =>  The Telephone Invasion of Albania 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-08-18 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Nicola Nixon
The  Regional Environment Centre (REC) Albania is one of an 18-member regional environmental network in central and eastern Europe that was first established in 1990. The organization, the largest of its kind in the country, provides training and education, carries out research, and implements projects aimed at improving the environmental conditions in Albania.  
REC was originally initiated by the U.S. government with the aim of providing the post-communist region with a politically neutral body for regional cooperation. Albania's REC office was opened in 1993 at which time it began by providing grants to NGOs in the environmental field and training in environmental issues. The first activities of the organization, according to its country director Mihallaq Qirjo, were aimed at assisting the development of civil society networks that had not previously existed in the country. As this sector developed, REC was able to extend its services to numerous other stakeholders. Since 2000, REC is also the secretariat for regional environmental cooperation in the Balkan region, a political initiative undertaken at the conclusion of the Balkan crises. REC therefore works closely with various ministries of the environment in the region, including in Albania, and supports those ministries in terms of institution building and the implementation of international conventions and other mechanisms.
One only has to look out one's window - through the dust and past the rubbish - to appreciate the scale of the task ahead of REC as it attempts to change the beliefs and practices that have contributed to the overwhelming degradation of Albania's natural environment. Indeed, it is one of the most striking contradictions of this country to an outsider: the combination of awesome natural beauty accompanied by the sludge and filth of everyday refuse. Yet while the urban waste is the most obvious form of the environmental problems that face Albania, Mihallaq explains that it is by no means the most significant and that there are more troubling and potentially more permanent problems that need urgent attention. 
Mihallaq spoke this week with The Tirana Times about the major environmental issues Albania is currently facing and the ways in which REC is working to try and rectify them.

TT: Firstly, could you tell us about your own background and how you became involved in environmental issues?
I am trained as a biologist. I finished university in Tirana in the 1990s received a PhD in ecology in 1996. My specialization was on the impact of pollution on soil fauna. Since that time I've also taught ecology at the university. So after I finished university studies I specialized in applied ecology. I became involved in REC in 1994. I still teach at the university in ecology and also work at REC. The university brings to REC a link with methodology and students while REC brings to the university more the practical and implementation side of policies. That's why I still keep up with both of them. 

TT: So REC works in a number of different areas of Albanian society. Can you tell us a bit about the areas you work in?
REC is not simply an NGO but is a semi-international organization and doesn't have to compete in the same way for funding that NGOs do. From 2002 REC much more involved in the implementation of projects on concrete improvement the environmental conditions around the country. At the moment, 60% of REC projects are country based, focusing on Albania and around 40% are in cooperation with other countries in the region. REC is involved in supporting small local NGOs on projects such as greening a particular area. In the last few years, REC has increasingly focused on working with local authorities because it is at that level that environmental management seems to be the biggest problem. Local authorities are more willing to take more initiative, but they do not have the capacities to implement and effectively run environmental management. So this is one of our main target areas. The organization is currently supporting some 55 local NGOs around the country to work directly with local authorities. The biggest of these projects is in Korce where there are six municipalities working together on local strategies to increase their abilities to manage environmental policies and implement local environmental action plans. 
We also work a lot with schools. We consider education, especially in Albania, as a tool to improve the environment, particularly with children and young people. Of course environmental education does not solve the problem, but it helps, particularly for the future. Enforcement of the law will enable change to happen and then environmental education will support this movement of the society. Schools are now more and more eager to acquire knowledge of the environmental situation and we consider it our contribution to the development of a citizenship culture. Another major initiative that we have almost completed is the publication of the "Green Pack"; a cross-curricula environmental educational resource for teachers that will be launched in Tirana in September. 
We also work with the media by providing up to date information on environmental issues in the country and in the region. The least developed of our targets is business because at the stage Albania is at now, business is not considered to be that sensitive to environmental issues. Yet we do hope to have some future projects with business.
Lastly, we have several cross-border projects with neighbouring countries like Macedonia and Montenegro. The unique position of REC being present in all of the countries of the region allows us to collaborate and offer the same standards on projects etc. As the countries in our region enter the European processes there will be a clear need for transferring know-how from the new member states such as Romania and Bulgaria to the other countries in terms of legislation and environmental standards.

TT: That suggests that the environment will be a significant issue in Albania's process of European integration? 
Yes, the environmental situation in the country is one of the key points for action and improvement especially the 'hotspots' around the country and environmental monitoring capacities. Environment is the second priority in the volume of acquis communitaire for the whole of the European Union, after agriculture. So definitely it will be one of the biggest challenges for the country. At the moment, the country is getting some support from Brussels in terms of the creation of a National Environmental Strategy.

TT: Can you explain these environmental 'hotspots'? 
Hotspots are areas that are identified as having a very high level of pollution, much higher than the standard. They present a risk for host populations, biodiversity and other potential environmental damage. They have either been inherited from the past, such as old industrial sites which are shut down now, or they are generated by the development of the country. Among them you can see Porto Romano, where the government is also taking some action by isolating the site from polluting nearby areas, or packing chemicals and removing them out of the country. The second major one is the metallurgical factory in Vlora. Then there is the landfill in Tirana and the metallurgical complex in Elbasan where the air quality is bad. So there is a list of identifiable spots. Most of them are inherited but the country is also facing new hotspots. The air quality in Tirana is making it one of the new, recently developed hotspots. 
The question of the hotspots is a complex one. With the ones that are inherited there is an obvious cost, which the government should take care of, in particular the socio-economic costs those sites are having. For example, there are families who have moved from northern or southern parts of the country and are building their homes on those spots. The government should organize their relocation out of the polluted area.  Hotspots are areas which need big investments and they present an enormous challenge to the country. 

TT: In addition to the 'hotspots', what do you see as the biggest environmental issues facing Albania at the moment?
I would divide the major environmental problems into two main groups: the first are the inherited problems and the second are the ones that have developed during the transition period. The ones that are inherited are very problematic as no-one takes ownership of them and sites are left abandoned or with people left living on them. They are considered too costly for the country to deal with. 
The newer problems are developing on an increasing basis because of the uncontrolled development of the urban areas, transport, traffic etc. There are new industrial sites; not just big ones but even the small ones can cause big problems of pollution, such as fish factories and leather factories that discharge without much control. So this is the part of the dynamic, active movement of the country which is not being controlled.
Another series of problems are those regarding the exploitation of natural resources and the pollution. In terms of the exploitation of natural resources people tend to speak about forests and deforestation. For a long time now, especially since the democratic changes in the country, there is some control in places where forests are part of the natural living settlements. Indeed, some of the forests have been cut down to the point that they simply can't be exploited anymore. But there is some revitalization in the forest coverage. 
The most problematic thing we see is the land use, especially the arable land use, where arable land is being used for settlement and the building of houses. People tend to think of ownership in a fairly narrow point of view. They think it is their own land so they can build wherever they want to. So, for example, they go into the middle of a field and build their houses there, especially the newcomers, where previously people would have built their houses on the hillsides. Arable land destruction combined with erosion is one of the biggest problems in the country because such a large amount of the land is hilly and mountainous. The arable land that sustains the agricultural production and standards of living of many families in the rural areas - which is half of the population - if this land goes or deteriorates in quality, then we destroy the ground for the development of that strata of the population, which is also the less developed part of the country. 
So I do see this as one of the biggest problems. The policies related to land use are still immature and not enforced at the right level. It has a lot to do with unsolved land property rights which leaves many areas abandoned as legal issues are sorted out. At the same time, there is still little control of fauna-use, like fishing in the lakes. Although there are some cooperatives that have been established to control some of the fishing or the hunting, they are still not efficient enough to develop sustainable practices regarding the fish stock or the game stock. 
Then there are problems of water-use. Albania is rich with water but the quantity that reaches people is still scarce because of problems of transmission and also because people tend to misuse it because they think of it as a gift from god; an unlimited resource, like so many other things. They consider what they consume but not what they throw away. Water is not yet considered as a resource. Therefore you might see people who are watering or irrigating fields with drinking water, or exploiting the ground water in one area where it is extracted to the degree that it changes the water table and leaves another community without drinking water. This is a problem where there is not effective regulation of a natural resource. Water-use associations or forest-use associations are new phenomena in the Albanian community and they are not yet powerful enough to control the local community in terms of the management of those resources.
Another area is of course the pollution and in this group are those problems that people face and observe on a daily basis from the urban waste to the air quality, drinking water quality, even swimming water quality, and noise pollution in the big city. There were problems with the air quality before, during the communist regime, but they were mainly due to burning bad quality coal. So the air had a percentage of dust in it. But now the bad air quality is coming mainly from construction in process in the cities which makes the dust levels very high. 
People tend to observe the dust - and say that it is very polluted because of the dust - but not the non-visible pollution that comes out of the car engines etc. The dust will go when they finish the construction but by then we will have more transport so the quality of the air isn't going to be much better, particularly where the urban infrastructure doesn't allow a normal flow of transport. In fact, it will even decrease. But the types of pollutants will change their frequency in the pollution source. In some areas there is also industrial pollution; mainly cement factories and metallurgical factories still causing pollution, as well as stone production activities.
Urban waste seems to be a major problem in the country but it's actually not as drastic as it seems, certainly not in comparison to loss of habitat or loss of biodiversity. It is more easily solvable if you have a system in place. Yet there is not yet a scheme in the country to segregate waste at the collection point. While the cities do have waste collection, rural areas mostly do not, so they just dump it outside the houses. Even in the cities, transport of waste is organized by private companies with money that does not really cover the costs of cleaning the city and the services needed. So people tend to have to pay an additional small tariff for cleaning and therefore it is a chicken and egg situation so the service is also poor.
And finally we have to deal with the disposal of the waste and the landfill issue. Again, we don't have a formal standardized land fill in the country, so we cannot really say the small landfills that people have created themselves are illegal since there is no formal one. Most of those are along the rivers so they cause not only ground water pollution but also river pollution that you can see also at the sea coast. Due to this really poor scheme of collection, transport and no proper land fill the whole country suffers. You have to have a scheme in place, without which there is a lack of initiative such as in recycling. 
We did actually have one before. During the communist regime there was a scheme for collecting paper, whilst everything that was recyclable was recycled. Of course there were economic incentives, which were significant for people with such a poor standard of living. And people kept and used everything they could so the volume of waste was mainly made up of organic things. Now the composition of waste is much different. It has the same typology as the big consuming societies; where packaging is more important than the product itself. So although this is another environmental problem in the country, as I said, it is not that big a problem as at least the city may be cleaned with some more money and with good environmental management. We can have a landfill somewhere and some money for transporting the rubbish properly. And there are some initiatives in the country where recycling of aluminum cans and paper has started, although not yet with glass. 

TT: So there is some improvement?
Yes, there is now some sensitivity that recycling should start. But that is the last stage. I mean, it is better to reduce it and then what cannot be reduced can be reused and what cannot be reused can be recycled. Recycling is sometimes promoted as the thing that solves all the problems but it is has a high energy cost. It is better to reduce the waste than recycle it. 
                    [post_title] =>  Interview: The Regional Environment Centre: Greening Albania 
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                    [post_content] => Ms. Turkoz-Cosslett has recently been appointed UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Albania. 
Prior to this she served as Senior Manager and Team Leader for Central Asia at the Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS in UNDP, New York. 
She has also been a Program Specialist to the UNDP Administrator in New York, Portfolio Manager at United Nations Office for Project Services in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; UNDP's Liaison Officer for Habitat II Conference in Istanbul, Turkey and Assistant Resident Representative with UNDP Algeria 
Ms. Turkoz-Cosslett holds Master's degree in International Affairs with a concentration on development economics from Columbia University in New York.

You have just been accredited as UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Albania. What will be the focus of your work and how will it relate to the development needs of the country?

UNDP opened its office in Albania in 1991 and currently provides approximately USD 9 million a year in development and technical assistance grant funding to the country.  As in other parts of the world, UNDP's programs in Albania are identified based on national priorities and plans following consultations with a variety of stakeholders including members of Government, civil society, academia and private sector.  
As UNDP Resident Representative, together with our team, I plan to build on the positive experiences of UNDP's program across Albania, from Beautiful Gjirokast철to programs such as the Area Based Development in the Kuk쳠region. We will begin a new UNDP country program covering the period 2006 to 2010. The overall objective of this new country program is to contribute to a more effective government at both the central and local levels through support to capacity building for implementation of effective national policies, increased participation in policy and decision-making, support to decentralization and implementation of regional and local development strategies. This program derives from the collective UN business plan for Albania prepared by the UN Agencies referred to as the UN Development Assistant Framework 2006-2010. In order to respond to the needs of the new Albanian Government in a number of priority areas, UNDP has also just signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide assistance in four new areas:

i. Combating Extra-Legality and Tax Reform
UNDP will contribute to national efforts in addressing extra-legality through the provision of high-level international expertise.  

ii. Internet for Schools
UNDP has begun to work with the Government to assist in the preparation of an "E-School Partnership Initiative" that would involve contributions from the business community, UN agencies and international partners. The aim is to provide internet access to schools all over Albania.

iii. 'Brain Gain' Initiative 
As you know Albania has had in the past decade one of the highest emigration rates in the world. The government is now keen to attract qualified Albanians to return back to participate in the development efforts of the country. In response to this request UNDP is preparing an umbrella program to facilitate the return of Albanian Diaspora to contribute expertise for academia, public sector and private sector. 

iv. Environment and Tourism 
UNDP assistance will focus on supporting the drafting of a national strategy for cultural and eco-tourism to provide new means for economic growth, income generation and jobs.

UNDP is deeply involved in helping the country reach the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015. Do you think Albania is on track in terms of reaching the Goals and what comes next following the completion of the MDG Regional Development Strategies?

UNDP and UN agencies in Albania have supported national efforts to analyse and raise awareness on the MDGs in support of Albania's goal of European Union integration. During the past three years efforts were made to bring the MDGs closer to the people and to generate discussion and debate around development issues in Albania. 
I would like to highlight that Albania is one of the few countries in the world which has undertaken a full fledged sub-national localization of the MDGs through the completion twelve MDG regional development strategies and reports. These reports aim to empower local governments, streamline local development efforts and identify gaps where both national and international investment can be made according to needs at sub-national level.  However I must stress that reports alone are not enough נand the follow up by stakeholders is key. For example in Kuk쳬 the implementation of the Regional Development Strategy is supported by an area-based development program with support from the European Commission. It is also important for these regional reports and strategies to have strong links to the central level plans and priorities such as the Integrated Planning System (IPS), the EC stabilization and association process (Sap), the National Strategy for Social and Economic Development (NSSED). 
In July 2003, the National Parliament of Albania approved a resolution on the Millennium Development Goals, which stipulates the obligations of the Government of Albania to regularly report on progress made towards the achievement of the MDGs. 
At the 2005 World Summit in September, developing countries agreed to adopt and implement comprehensive national development strategies to achieve the MDGs, and developed countries have resolved to support developing country efforts through increased development assistance, wider and deeper debt relief and promoting development-orientated trade as an engine for development.
The UN system has an important role to play in supporting this global partnership for development. On whether Albania is on track to reach the goals: In Albania there is poverty and disparity which continue to undermine equality and inclusiveness; however this is combined with progress in many fronts today and I have tremendous hope that if the right human and domestic resources are mobilized, together with civil society and an enabling environment for private initiatives, there is no reason why the MDGs could not be met by 2015.

Do you think UNDP will be involved in specific projects which help establish a healthy environment for business development in Albania and how?

Investors around the world look for stability and a good investment climate. In our own way we have been contributing to support a more secure environment through the Security Sector Reform program. This program initially started through support to the Government in the collection of illegal weapons from the population and has now moved to more of a community based policing efforts towards crime prevention. 
I would also mention a few other initiatives such as our work with the Ministry of Economy to support trade promotion and trade liberalization as well as promotion of foreign direct investment that directly impact the business sector in Albania. 
Global experience demonstrates that private sector has tremendous potential to contribute to development efforts through knowledge, expertise and resources. In Albania we have entered into partnership with Albanian Mobile Communication (AMC), Vodafone, ALB Design, Edil-AI-IT, United Bank of Albania and Malev Airlines to support the Millennium Development Goals agenda. We work with Western Union together to assist the poorest commune (Zapod) of the poorest region (Kuk쳩. The partnership agreement includes USD 100,000 towards the construction of a new school in Zapod. 
With regard to future plans, I'd like to mention our work to set up a Business Incubator in Kuk쳠in the context of our on-going Area Based Development Program to promote small and medium enterprise development in the region. In addition we have the facility of the Global Compact which we hope to draw upon to support our partnership with the private sector including the chambers of commerce operating in Albania.  

In your capacity as UN Resident Coordinator, what do you expect to achieve in the joint work with other UN agencies in Albania?

I have a dual function in Albania. One is UNDP Resident Representative and the other is the UN Resident Coordinator. As part of the UN reform agenda at the country level, around the world the UN works much closer as a team to develop the best strategy to respond to national needs and plans. National ownership and a focus on shared results is key. The UN program in Albania is focused on building the capacity of national partners to manage their own development effectively. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues from UN agencies in Albania in a spirit of partnership and with a focus on supporting government strategy to better serve Albania and its people.

And last but not least, what do you make of the country and its people so far?

I have only been in the country for two weeks. I am very impressed with the rich human resources and talent of the country and the tremendous potential this country has. I traveled to Vlora last week and was also impressed with the beauty and the great potential for tourism of this specific region. I am very pleased to be here and very much hope that my work and that of the UN will help Albania and its people to meet their development challenges.  

(This interview first appeared on the AmCham Advantage Magazine, a trade publication of the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania. Reprinted by permission) 
                    [post_title] =>  UNDP set out its goals in Albania 
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                    [post_content] => By Artan Lame

Durr쳬 1915. Execution of the leaders of the 1914 rebellion. Musa Qazimi, the Myfti of Tirana and Haxhi Qamili, illiterate peasant.  The anti-national and reaction uprising of the years 1914-15, which seriously endangered the existence of Albania, as an independent state, remains one of the darkest and, on the other hand, one of the most distorted episodes of our recent history.  In the sixties, for ideologial purposes, this rebellion was distorted and was transformed into a "progressive movement," of the peasants led by the "courageous and intelligent peasant," Haxhi Qamili, who rose up against a foreign monarch and the big land owners, for freedom and social justice!! In fact, not one of our writers or patriots of the time mention this rebellion positively, but merely note it as a reactionary movement, pro- the Sultan by his fanatical followers in Tirana, Kruja, Shijak and Kavaja, peasants who supported the Sultan, as ignorant as they were, bandits, and who, under the obscurantist slogan, "We love the Father," pillaged, looted and imprisoned, and in many cases, killed, many patriots and schooled individuals they came across. The escalation of the rebellion and the lack of any possibility of reaching an agreement with them, due to their intransigency, was one of the important reasons thar led to the departure of Prince Vid from the country, who, in despair, failed to find the logic in such an absurd movement of these socalled insurgents, who fought against the interests of their own country for a power that had surpressed them for four hundred years. The rebellion was put down in June-July 1915, its leaders were captured by Esat Pascha Toptani, they were tried, condemned and executed by hanging.
The first corpse hanged, in the photo is that of Haxhi Qamili, the third is of Musa Qazimi. They had instilled such profound terror in people that to acknowledge their deaths, this photograph of their hanging was produced as a postcard. This one for example was sent from Fieri to Vlora. Today, this gesture probably seems babaric, but if you go back in time to those years, you would perhaps change your mind.  Five years later, after he had hanged Haxhi Qamili, Esat Pascha Toptani was also assassinated, this time by Avni Rustemi, who himself was assassinated five years later by Ahmet Zog, a nephew of Esat Pascha Toptani.... Europe hd been through stories like this in the Middle Ages, and Shakespeare about four hundred years earlier, to which he devoted tragidies. In Albania, these stories happened in the time of electric power, and even today they do not make all that much of an impression on us. Is it our fault is that we are outside of the times, outside of Europe that is galloping ahead? 
                    [post_title] =>  Forsaken Albania 
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            [post_date] => 2006-08-18 02:00:00
            [post_date_gmt] => 2006-08-18 02:00:00
            [post_content] => POGRADEC, Aug. 15 - The Ohrid Lake in eastern Albania is threatened by a series of human illegal interventions like construction and illegal fishing, while water pollution continues to remain a problem. Many construction without following any criteria, or throwing the rubbish in its waters are a serious threat to this natural property Albanians have, experts say.
The Ohrid Lake has been created some 2-3 million years ago from the quakes. Ohrid has a 87.5 kilometer long coastline and 358.2 square kilometers of surface. Its depth goes to 289 meters. Waters filling it come from the short rivers around like that of Koselsja and the lagoons of Cerrava. Sources from Saint Naum, Drilon and Tushemisht give their contribution together with that from the mountains of Galicica and Dry Mountain. Waters in the lake are changed every 70 years. It has a wide variety of species and other resources helping the surrounding area. Some 200,000 people live around the lake.
It has a wonderful nature with many mountains and hills surrounding it sheltering a considerable number of flora and fauna objects. Experts say that some species exist only at Ohrid waters and are found nowhere else like the koran (trout) fish or other ones. The lake area started to be used as center for people during the 4th and 5th centuries and a castle northeast of Pogradec is believed to belong to that time. Since the 1st century Ohrid was the cultural center for Macedonia. Well known missionaries of the Middle Age like Saint Klement and Saint Naum found Ohrid as their proper shelter to live. Its university, considered among the oldest in Europe, graduated some 3,500 students. Samuel during the 10th century reined a large area from the castle and a considerable number of towns in Albania, Greece and Macedonia.
The population increase has also increased problems to the lake because of their careless construction, fishing and other damage. Experts say that unless proper care is paid the lake will soon suffer from many problems, consequently affecting the people around it.
            [post_title] =>  Ohrid Lake threatened by lack of care 
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