The Internationals: When ‘elite’ arrogance meets ignorance

The Internationals: When ‘elite’ arrogance meets ignorance

Ten years after the successful publication of his satirical novel on the international community in Albania, writer and former diplomat Ylljet Aliçka has had his “Internationals” book published in English. The novel originally published as “Nje rrefenje me nderkombetare” (A

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Books: Albania and China – An Unequal Alliance

Books: Albania and China – An Unequal Alliance

You can also click to read: Book Review: Albania and China – An Unequal Alliance

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Ernest Nasto’s new book ‘One nation under God’ promoted

Ernest Nasto’s new book ‘One nation under God’ promoted

Recently, the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) hosted a promotion event at the Tirana Times bookstore featuring Dr. Ernest Nasto and his newly released book ”One nation under God – faith and politics in the United States”. Ernest Nasto

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Essad pasha Toptani: The Man, the War, the Power

Essad pasha Toptani: The Man, the War, the Power

Journalist-turned-writer Ilir Ikonomi presents a new biography of Essad Pasha, arguably the most controversial power broker in the initial decade of Albania’s existence as a state. After his critically acclaimed books on other Albanian standout figures, Ikonomi is stepping into

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Hugh G. Grant’s ‘I saw it all,’ now available in its entirety

Hugh G. Grant’s ‘I saw it all,’ now available in its entirety

The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) has just published Grant’s account of the Italian invasion in its entirety. By Ilir Ikonomi In the summer of 2010, while doing research at the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland, I

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Kajsiu’s book promoted at Tirana Times Bookstore

TIRANA, Dec. 10 – Researcher Blendi Kajsiu held a lecture this week at the Tirana Times bookstore focusing on his latest book “A Discourse Analysis of Corruption.” Looking at corruption through a post-structuralist discourse analysis perspective, this book argues that

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Albanian books in Romania

TIRANA, Dec. 11 – The 100 anniversary of the Albanian-Romanian relations has been commemorated with an exhibition on Albanian books published in Romania where some of the greatest Albanian renaissance writers lived and worked. The exhibition at the National Library

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Two AIIS books promote the history of Brazil in Albania

TIRANA, April 22 – Brazil is highly popular in Albania for its football, Carnival festivals and Samba dances, but few people have in-depth knowledge of its history, society and culture. Two books on Brazil’s history, “The Roots of Brazil” by

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Books: Blood Feud – between Kanun and State

The blood feud phenomenon often is seen as an exotic feature of a society trapped many years back in time, sometimes is perceived as a strong symptom of self-governing practices beyond the rule of law and rarely is analyzed in

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BOOKS: ALBANIA VENETA- Swiss historian dwells upon Albanian medieval History

By Ardian Klosi* “Albania Veneta 1392-1479″ (Alb. Arb쳩a venedike 1392-1479) was translated into Albanian by the well-known scholar, Ardian Klosi. Swiss born historian Oliver Jens Schmitt, currently working as a professor of the History of Southeastern Europe in the Vienna

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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_130457" align="alignright" width="300"]Ylljet-Alicka Ylljet Aliçka[/caption]

Ten years after the successful publication of his satirical novel on the international community in Albania, writer and former diplomat Ylljet Aliçka has had his "Internationals" book published in English.

The novel originally published as "Nje rrefenje me nderkombetare" (A story with internationals) will come as “Internationals" in an English-language publication by the R&Z Tirana Times publishing house. Initially not-well received by some members of the international community, the novel has also been previously published in French.

In an interview with Europa magazine, a publication of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, the former Albanian ambassador to France says the novel's characters include international officials, who, often anonymous at their home countries, upon arriving to Albania, after “struggling to help this country or tell locals the way to progress," their life takes a new meaning thanks to the "indigenous" taking care and welcoming them. “This is the reason why many of the internationals cannot leave or grow so desperate when they finally leave Albania,” says Aliçka, 65, a university professor who served as Albania’s ambassador to France from 2007 to 2013.

 What is "The Internationals" about? How did you come up with this idea? Is it related with the fact that you worked for a long time with a foreign representation in Tirana?

INTERNATIONALScover-page-001- I came up with the idea from a personal ill feeling: an ill-feeling and preoccupation I didn't know how to get rid of. Engulfed in frame of a novel, it is natural that directly or indirectly, the individual issues take a broader dimension from today's reality, a reality which in my opinion proves to be far more complicated and more detached even compared to the principles of international bodies and that often group principles or universal rules remain unadjusted in specific cases or situations.

In a nutshell, the thing is about a novel focused on the traumatization of many Albanians by racism and discrimination. Faced with an 'elite' arrogance (often mixed with ignorance) many Albanians (office-holding or not, in Albania or abroad) adjusted by subduing.

The novel's characters include international officials, who, often anonymous at their home countries, upon arriving to Albania, after “struggling to help this country or tell locals the way to progress," their life takes a new meaning thanks to the 'indigenous" taking care and welcoming them.

On the other hand, I have often been urged by the dilemma if there is any measure to assess the cultural differences among transition countries such as Albania and as a result shift to inequality and discrimination, at a time when it is accepted that every culture bearing values implies their hierarchy.

You have been an "international" yourself in France representing Albania as ambassador. What is the difference of being an international in France as ambassador of Albania and being an international in Albania as ambassador?

They are diametrically the opposite. In addition to my invaluable work, living experience, contacts in one of the global metropolis of culture, diplomacy and not only, being an international in France helped me understand better, although rather late, that we are neither better nor worse compared to other people, that the unconditional glorification of everything that comes from abroad and the servile submission toward it, promotes disgust and makes the submission position worse.

Has any of the internationals you have worked with read your book? What were their impressions?

There were impressions of all kinds, but mostly negative ones, and for a certain period of time causing personal trouble or serious concerns: somebody threatened to sue me (he was later held back by his superiors), while somebody else filed an official complaint with the highest Albanian institutions to "ban the book and punish the author." I learned that the senior Albanian hierarchy turned down this proposal, defending the author. Of course I remain grateful to them.

Lastly, I would like to recall that at that time, I received the most meaningful protection by the senior international authorities, by the headquarters of the international representation office I worked with, apparently respecting the holy principle of the European culture they belonged to, i.e. protecting freedom of expression.

What's your own opinion of the role played by representatives of the international community in Albania?

There is no doubt that after the collapse of the [communist] regime, Albania’s survival would be at huge threat without the international community's assistance, mainly coming from two of its strategic allies, the U.S. and the European Union. But, on the other hand, the negative image on Albania and Albanians that has been dominating (despite improvements) internationally is really alarming. The perception, in addition to individual disappointments and disillusions, has turned into a serious barrier both politically and institutionally.

Without leaving aside the negative phenomena generated by part of the Albanian society at home and abroad, i.e. the values and the counter-values that the Albanian society currently inherits and carries through, and at the same time without neglecting the value and priceless international support to Albania, I think that a considerable part of the responsibility or blame on the clichés on the negative image of Albania and Albanians is also held by the "outsiders."

Among the prevailing thoughts, quite important ones favoring this image and often circulating individually (among foreigners), is related to the fact that the more you artificially darken the reality of a country (in our case that of Albania) where members of a foreign institution or representation live and work, the more this "coincidence coincides” with privileges and financial advantages economically and beyond.

Spiritually, this trend favors the internationals' narcissistic thoughts and testifies (self-testifies) of "the courage and heroism" to work and "risk one's own life in this wilderness."

I have the impression that many foreigners, anonymous in their countries, upon arriving to Albania, after “struggling to help this country or tell locals the way to progress," their life takes a new meaning thanks to the 'indigenous" taking care and welcoming them. This is the reason why many of the internationals cannot leave or grow so desperate when they finally leave Albania.

 

 

 
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                    [post_content] => You can also click to read: Book Review: Albania and China – An Unequal Alliancebiberaj
                    [post_title] => Books: Albania and China - An Unequal Alliance 
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                    [post_content] => nasto 2Recently, the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) hosted a promotion event at the Tirana Times bookstore featuring Dr. Ernest Nasto and his newly released book ''One nation under God – faith and politics in the United States''.

Ernest Nasto started his career as a lecturer of International Economics and Finance at the Faculty of Economics, University of Tirana, and later pursued doctoral studies at the University of Aix-Marseille France. For several years he also taught courses in Economic Policy at the Institute of Political Studies in Aix-en-Provence. After moving to Michigan, United States, in 1997 he joined the private sector, but always maintained a keen interest and passion for the study of American history, economics and politics. He has specialized in the role of religious faith throughout American history, as well as in shaping the policies of the world superpower. Dr Nasto has introduced this aspect of American society in the recent years through a number of open lectures in universities of Albania and Kosova, as the field is almost unknown to the Albanian public.

Opening the event, Mr. Jorgji Qirjako, deputy director of AIIS, presented the author to the numerous participants and emphasized the fact that this book is the first one in Albanian to describe this very important aspect of American politics. Dr. Klejd Këlliçi and Dr. Nikolin Pano also gave special remarks on the subject of the book, and praised the author for offering this ''special key'' to a better understanding of the inner workings of the American society in general.

Then Dr. Nasto described more in detail the content of the book, explaining first the impact of Christian faith in American history and its role in bringing forth some foundational ideas of the American national conscience, which are analyzed in the first part. For example, the ideas of the ''chosen nation'', of the ''nature's nation'' and later of the ''Christian nation'' were very prominent during colonial America, throughout the American Revolution, and well into the 19th - 20th centuries. The author explained how the self-understanding on the part of the newly created nation is reflected on the Great Seal of the United States on the back of the one-dollar bill (the eye, the unfinished pyramid on a barren desert terrain, etc). Moving to the object of the second part of the book, Mr. Nasto pointed out the influence of religious faith in modern American policies as exemplified by the political-religious group known as the Religious Right. According to the author, the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004, in the midst of great confusion caused by the Iraqi crisis, was clearly attributable to this group, which succeeded in presenting the issue of gay marriage as the greatest danger for the American civilization. He also described their role in the 2016 campaign and how the support of most of its leaders for Donald Trump was exactly the opposite of all their preaching on ''character matters'' during Bill Clinton's scandals 20 years ago. Dr. Nasto also insisted that this group in no way speaks for all Christian believers in America, much less for the Christian faith in general. They are first and foremost a political group, despite their pretensions of the religious faith being their main concern.

A lively session of questions and answers ensued, with the author interacting with several participants and addressing their questions on the issues at hand. Mr. Nasto also stated that as the Albanian public becomes more familiar with these important factors in American policy-making, it can only contribute to a better understanding of the United States, of their society and culture in general. As such the book should be helpful not only for students and scholars of international relations, but also for diplomats and foreign policy experts in Albania, Kosova and Macedonia.

At the end Dr. Nasto also signed books for the participants before the event was wrapped up over wine and appetizers.
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Journalist-turned-writer Ilir Ikonomi presents a new biography of Essad Pasha, arguably the most controversial power broker in the initial decade of Albania’s existence as a state. After his critically acclaimed books on other Albanian standout figures, Ikonomi is stepping into a terrain where success is scarce, given the elusive and complex nature of the character he deals with.

Essad pasha Toptani, a deputy of the Turkish parliament during the Balkan Wars (1912-13), defended Shkodra from the Montenegrin and Serbian armies then was forced to turn it over when hunger and bombardment made any further resistance impossible. Essad was praised as a heroic defender but his detractors insist he was a sellout.

In the wake of Albania’s independence, Essad faced off with its founder Ismail Kemal and a power struggle of sorts followed. Essad set up a parallel government and was blamed with undermining Kemal’s effort of uniting the new nation. He fought back, belittling Kemal’s achievement and praising the efficiency of his own government.

Essad claimed Albania should be dominated by a strong and independent local leader like himself. He first rejected the Great Powers idea of imposing an International Control Commission and a German prince on Albania then welcomed the prince, promising cooperation.

In the Spring of 1914, barely two months after Prince Wied’s arrival, a rebellion gripped Albania and the monarch ordered the house of Essad shelled on suspicion of treason. A drama followed: Essad was arrested and deported to Italy.

As the First World War began and the country descended further into chaos the Powers lost interest in Albania and the Prince was forced to leave the troubled new nation in September of the same year.

A restless Essad returned to Durrës aided by Serbia but his government soon found itself besieged by an islamist uprising. Essad, who ruled with a strong hand, unsuccessfully fought back with the help of Italy which propped him up with money and other support.

In June 1915 Serbia intervened and crushed the Albanian rebellion on Essad’s behalf. When the Bulgarian and Austrian armies invaded Serbia in late 1915, Essad returned the favor saving the Serbian army from complete debacle and humiliation during its forced march through the northern Albanian mountains. What was left of the Serbian army was allowed free passage to Corfu.

Essad spent the war period fighting in Salonika for the Entente allies while most of his political foes supported the losing Austrian block. In 1919, when the war ended and a peace conference opened in Paris, Essad’s war contribution was not duly recognized by the Powers because Italy wanted to turn Albania into its own backyard and impose leaders of its choice, which excluded Essad.

In early 1920, while Essad remained in Paris, a new government with ties to Italy was formed in Albania. Essad’s armed groups on the ground fought against the government paving the way for an Essad takeover. The attempt failed because Essad was assassinated by an Albanian while exiting his Paris hotel on June 13, 1920.

The author gives a realistic and impartial account of the events mincing no words when it comes to the moral equivocations and other less-than-admirable qualities of Essad. He acknowledges however that Essad was a courageous personality and a fighter, who used shrewd diplomacy to dominate Albania free of any foreign influence.

What made Essad controversial was his close friendship with Serbia. This fueled anger among many Albanians who reminded Essad the atrocities by the Serbs against the Albanians during the Balkan Wars. Essad believed that Albania had no choice but to accept the borders established by the Great Powers in 1913, a notion which was contradicted by many of his contemporaries who aspired to liberate at least some of the Kosovo towns with a purely ethnic Albanian population.

Ilir Ikonomi takes no sides in evaluating Essad, a nearly impossible task for any Albanian history writer. Perhaps this is his strongest point in the face of his main character’s many critics.

The book has 571 pages and contains a sizeable collection of good quality photographs, a bibliography and a name index.

 

(Title in Albanian: Esat pashë Toptani: Njeriu, Lufta, Pushteti)

A biography by Ilir Ikonomi

UETPress, 571 pages, Tirana 2016
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                    [post_content] => The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) has just published Grant’s account of the Italian invasion in its entirety.

By Ilir Ikonomi

ikonomiIn the summer of 2010, while doing research at the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland, I came across a large file with a wealth of information about the occupation of Albania by Italy on April 7, 1939. It contained a long report by Hugh G. Grant, Chief of the American Mission in Tirana and a firsthand witness to that fateful event.

Wandering through the treasure trove I quickly realized that the account qualified as an important addition to the numerous books and articles written about the subject over many years. Adding to my surprise, I soon discovered a long follow up report, in which Minister Grant documented the meltdown of the Albanian independence in the weeks and months following the occupation.

The Albanian Institute of International Studies is now publishing Grant’s account of the Italian invasion in their entirety. We opted to divide them in smaller sections for the benefit of the general reader.

In the trying days of 1939, when the rise of Hitler and Mussolini as two brigands seeking to conquer Europe and the world was sounding alarms everywhere, Mr. Grant believed his reports “had little value” to the officers of the State Department who were shaping policies on a grander scale to cope with the international tension.

He nevertheless realized the great importance of archives and was convinced that his reports could in the future help shed more light on the history of this part of Europe. Perhaps, he modestly wrote, his account will one day “provide a few sidelights for some old foggy historian digging into the story of the rise and fall of a Kingdom.”

Minister Grant had arrived in Albania in 1935, when the small Balkan nation was enjoying a period of relative peace under a ruler who was seeking modernization chiefly with Italy’s assistance. Grant represented the U.S. government in a nation that had won its independence a little more than two decades ago during which period was faced with problems that were very different from its neighbors. One was the lack of internal cohesion, marked by three competing religions and strong regionalism. The other was the looming danger of partition amongst its neighbors, who tried to take advantage of the chronic weaknesses displayed by the Albanians in organizing themselves as a nation.

On the eve of the 1939 occupation, Albania was head over heels in debt to Italy and Mussolini employed that circumstance to impose on King Zog humiliating conditions that were impossible for him to accept. As a frequent visitor of the King, Grant had firsthand knowledge of the workings inside Zog’s monarchy and profoundly understood the root causes that led to the tightening of Italy’s stranglehold on the country.

Invivid detail, Grant depicts a long audience he had with the King the day preceding the invasion, in which Albania’s ruler asked him to convey the following message to U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt: “the great democracies should either decide to strengthen themselves to the point where they may successfully meet the aggressors of the totalitarian powers or else be prepared to see the smaller nations swallowed up one by one.”

The occupation drama that unfolded was initiated by Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister and Mussolini’s son in law, who had visited Albania the year before as a witness to the King’s wedding. It was subsequently revealed in the infamous Ciano’s Diaries that his visit was merely an occasion to draft Italy’s sinister plans of overrunning Albania and turning it into a bridgehead for other Italian forays in the Balkans.

King Zog was acutely aware of the great risks for his policy of indebtedness to Italy. According to Grant, “he always predicted a world war… hoping that the day of liquidation would never arrive as the result of general war in which Italy would be defeated.” The King’s dream never materialized. The Italians were quicker to throw him out and put the country under their fascist rule, which didn’t last very long anyway.

Minister Grant speaks from the unique perspective of a U.S. diplomat who, unlike most of his European colleagues accredited in Tirana at that time, was not engaged in a particularly active role in the tiny country. As such, he can be considered a fairly objective and impartial observer of the happenings that brought about the occupation and the subsequent events. Therefore it is fair to say that his compelling account is a must read for history scholars and politicians.
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                    [post_date] => 2014-12-19 09:00:00
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 10 - Researcher Blendi Kajsiu held a lecture this week at the Tirana Times bookstore focusing on his latest book "A Discourse Analysis of Corruption." 
Looking at corruption through a post-structuralist discourse analysis perspective, this book argues that the dominant corruption discourse in Albania served primarily to institute the neoliberal order rather than eliminate corruption. 
"Anti-corruption discourses have long been at the centre of both academic debates and policy proposals in the Western Balkans. Focusing on the case of Albania, Kajsiu's excellent book offers a lucidly argued and sophisticated critique of the way in which such discourses have served to legitimise a neo-liberal order detrimental to an authentic renewal of the democratic public spirit," says Lea Ypi from London School of Economics and Political Science in the book review. 
Blendi Kajsiu holds a Ph.D. in Ideology and Discourse Analysis from the University of Essex, United Kingdom. 

                    [post_title] =>  Kajsiu's book promoted at Tirana Times Bookstore  
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                    [post_date] => 2013-12-13 09:00:00
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 11 - The 100 anniversary of the Albanian-Romanian relations has been commemorated with an exhibition on Albanian books published in Romania where some of the greatest Albanian renaissance writers lived and worked. The exhibition at the National Library in Tirana brought the history of Albanian books published in Romania from 1844 to 1993, just after Albania had declared its independence. 
"Few people know that Romania was historically the first country to diplomatically recognize the new Albanian state of 1913 for already known political, historical and cultural reasons," says Aurel Plasari, the director of the National Library.
The exhibition, which opened on December 9 at the National Library, featured, rare collections, and original publications during the Albanian Renaissance period. The collection includes the first Albanian ABC book by Naum Veqilharxhi in 1844 to continue with dozens of publications by national poet Naim Frash쳩, writers Jani Vreto, Mihal Grameno, Luigj Gurakuqi etc. A similar exhibition is also scheduled to open in Bucharest in the next few days.

                    [post_title] =>  Albanian books in Romania 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 22 - Brazil is highly popular in Albania for its football, Carnival festivals and Samba dances, but few people have in-depth knowledge of its history, society and culture. 
Two books on Brazil's history, "The Roots of Brazil" by Sergio Buarque de Holanda and "A Concise History of Brazil" by Boris Fausto are now available also in Albanian providing readers with two of Brazil's best historical books translated into several languages. Promoted in launch ceremony at the Albanian Ministry of Culture on April 10, 2013, the publications by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) were supported by Brazilian Embassy in Tirana, open since 2010. 
Speaking at the promotion ceremony, Anthony W. Pereira, professor of Brazilian Studies and director of the King's Brazil Institute in the UK elaborated on the books' lively descriptions and key moments in the history of Brazil through analytical comments.
"In A Concise History of Brazil, Professor Fausto combines vivid description of some of Brazil's key historical periods and moments with analytical commentary on debates about Brazilian history. The book's organization clearly shows the reader the seven principal periods of Brazilian political history: colonial rule; the Empire; the first republic; the period dominated by President Vargas; the second republic; the military dictatorship, and the democratic period that began with the foundation of the "new republic" in 1985," said Pereira.
Angꭩca Madeira, the author of the preface to the "Roots of Brazil" in the Albanian version said that In Ras do Brasil, interested in studying the Brazilian's stance vis ࡶis his political institutions, S곧io Buarque constructs a dense and articulate summary of the decisive facts in the history of Brazil, a topic he mastered in terms of both depth and breadth. "Although it does not follow a chronological order, this narrative covers the colonial (1500-1822), monarchic (1822-1889) and republican (1889) periods, up until the actual historical moment in which Buarque de Holanda lived and wrote, the 1930s, a time of crucial political definitions for Brazil's destiny."
Culture Minister Visar Zhiti hailed the iconic publications by the renowned Brazilian authors saying that the books bring the message that European culture managed to develop also in Brasil. "Albanians are very curious of Brasil, especially in sport because they know its football icons such as Pele quite well," said the Minister.
Brazilian Ambassador to Albania Ruda Gonzales Seferin and AIIS director Albert Rakipi also praised the publication of the two historical books in Albanian as a novelty being offered to the public in Albania ahead of the World Book and Copyright Day on April 23.

Understanding the soul of Brazil

Prof. Gjergj Sinani of the Department of Philosophy of the University of Tirana says "The Roots of Brazil" by S곧io Buarque de Holanda is a book which makes you think and at the same time, makes you notice that many problems raised by the author have a universal value. "Taking into consideration that he wrote this book when he was 34 years old, sympathy and respect grow fonder. If we used a more philosophical language, the book makes you understand the existence of Brazil's being, so it makes you understand the soul of this nation and also understand the road to freedom on which Brazil passed by Holande's work, complies entirely with what Dilthey, the German philosopher, said that the task of history is not only to explain, but to understand. And this book makes you understand the soul of Brazil.  
Three centuries of colonial rule, four centuries of slavery, independence and the road to republic make the chronology of history and the cultural social political development of Brazil," says Sinani.  
 
Roots of Brazil by Sergio Buarque de Holanda

S곧io Buarque de Holanda's Roots of Brazil is one of the iconic books on Brazilian history, society, and culture. Originally published in 1936, it appears here for the first time in an English language translation with a foreword, "Why Read Roots of Brazil Today?" by Pedro Meira Monteiro, one of the world's leading experts on Buarque de Holanda.
Roots of Brazil focuses on the multiple cultural influences that forged twentieth-century Brazil, especially those of the Portuguese, the Spanish, other European colonists, Native Americans, and Africans. Buarque de Holanda argues that all of these originary influences were transformed into a unique Brazilian culture and societyء "transition zone." The book presents an understanding of why and how European culture flourished in a large, tropical environment that was totally foreign to its traditions, and the manner and consequences of this development. Buarque de Holanda uses Max Weber's typological criteria to establish pairs of "ideal types" as a means of stressing particular characteristics of Brazilians, while also trying to understand and explain the local historical process. Along with other early twentieth-century works such as The Masters and the Slaves by Gilberto Freyre and The Colonial Background of Modern Brazil by Caio Prado J
                    [post_title] =>  Two AIIS books promote the history of Brazil in Albania 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-06-01 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => The blood feud phenomenon often is seen as an exotic feature of a society trapped many years back in time, sometimes is perceived as a strong symptom of self-governing practices beyond the rule of law and rarely is analyzed in its historical and sociological depth. 
"Blood Feud: between Kanun and State", the most recent publication of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, addresses the question of defining and analyzing the problem of blood feud as well as cautiously proposing some recommendations to tackle it. The book goes beyond the superficial probing techniques by making use of multiple research techniques and a lot of field work. 
Coming both in its English and Albanian version, the publication is easy to read and a true academic asset for any serious scholar of Albania and for any person wishing to know the truth about a phenomenon that is often obscured behind exotic tales. 

"...One is usually astonished that the Code has managed to outlast time, political, economic and technological development and arrive almost in its original form in the XXI century. How could it be that a Code originating from time immemorial is still accepted as a valuable behavioural guidance? How can one explain the fact that blood feud, as part of the Code, has endured for so long as a suitable solution for certain conflicts, while other alternative solutions (especially those proposed by the state) have not been preferred? 
We believe that several factors internal to the legal system have contributed to this. Despite their differences, these factors have one thing in common: they hindered reflexive communication. This is the kind of communication that allows for raising questions about what has been communicated, therefore opening up the possibility of modification and/or correction. Viewed this way, reflexive communication forms the basis of all critical thinking. 
The first factor precluding reflexive communication was the fact that the Code was unwritten. It circulated orally among the highlanders, while utterance and speech fused into an effective unity, compensating for the lack of information with persuasion, and synchronising speaking, hearing and accepting of communication in a rhythmic and rhapsodic way, leaving literally no time for doubt. Communication is the synthesis of three selections; it is the unity of information, utterance, and understanding. In other words, in every communication always is implied a selection of the source and content of information, a selection of the form and manner in which the information is expressed, and a selection of understanding that has excluded all other possibilities of making sense about the way the information has been expressed through utterance. It is precisely the difference between information and utterance that is very difficult to distinguish in the spoken language. On the other hand, in writing there is a clear distinction between information and utterance. Moreover, via printing (as an extension in time and space of writing)  the suspicion increases that the utterance (the form in which information is expressed) is specially prepared for producing certain effects, that it follows its own motives and that it is not merely a servant of information. Only writing and printing suggest reaction to and consideration of communication not as a unity but as a difference of utterance and information: for example, processes for controlling truth and articulating suspicion. The oral tradition of Albanian highlanders reflected in the Code reduced the probabilities of raising doubt about the real value and suitability of the Code's laws and customs and made it practically impossible to think about better alternatives. This should not be misunderstood. We are not claiming that spoken language impedes reflection about communication (i.e. tradition); but only that tradition, precisely because it was communicated orally, entered the discussions in a form vague enough to disallow for critique and modification. Moreover, unlike modern Civil or Criminal Codes, the language of the Code of Lek롄ukagjini was highly metaphorical, which contributed to increase the level of vagueness. " 

Excerpt from ""Blood Feud: between Kanun and State",  Albanian Institute for International Studies (Tirana: 2007)
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                    [post_content] => By Ardian Klosi*

"Albania Veneta 1392-1479" (Alb. Arb쳩a venedike 1392-1479) was translated into Albanian by the well-known scholar, Ardian Klosi. Swiss born historian Oliver Jens Schmitt, currently working as a professor of the History of Southeastern Europe in the Vienna University comes thus to the Albanian reader with an impressive, well-researched scholarly work. The book examines the history of Albanian lands in the late medieval period covering sources reporting on places as far as Tivar in the north and Epirus in the south. Schmitt's work tries to follow the path on neutral scholars who challenge nationalistic historiography such as Sufflay, Jirecek, Ippen, etc. Preparatory work for the book has included archive research as well as a comprehensive literature review of Albanian, Slavic, French and German sources.
Oliver Schmitt was born in Basel in 1973. He started his work on Albanian history as a dissertation tutored by the well known scholar of albanology,  Peter Bartl in Munich. His work developed into a 700 page transcript of diverse aspects of life in Albanian territories at the time. The German edition of the book came out in 2001.
Currently the department for which Schmitt is working has in its possession the archive called "Albanien-Bibliothek", which automatically makes it a center for studies related to Albanian history. The author is researching his new project for a monograph of the Albanian national hero, Gjergj Kastriot - Sk쯤erbeu. He visited Albania last week in order to promote his book in the cities of Tirana and Shkodra. He was interviewed about his books and plans for upcoming ones by his translator Ardian Klosi. In his interview Schmitt reveals interesting information about the work needed to complete his book and tells about plans regarding his future works.  
The author claims it took him three years of work, mainly in the state archives in Venice. He started in 1997 with the cursory examination of all published works he could lay his hands on. This took one complete year. He started writing in July 1999. One of the hardest parts, as with every historio-graphical work, was to compile the index. 
Asked about the interest he took about such a specific topic, Schmitt recollects a similar interest since his high school times when he read the works of Milan von Sufflay and Konstantin Jirecek. In his first semester in the University of Vienna he attended a seminar by Max Demeter Peyfuss, who had previously researched and published material about the area of Voskopoja and its rich historical account. Another foundation of his work was to study Byzantine history with Johannes Koder, a co-author of a book on medieval southern Arberia. Schmitt was lucky to have unlimited access to the library of Bavaria and other unique sources made available after the publication of the Shkodra statuses in collaboration with Lucia Nadin, Gherardo Ortalli and P쭬umb Xhufi.
Scmitt used also many Albanian works such as Luan Malltezi's 1988 edition of an extensive history of urban centers under the Venetian rule. He looked for material in the archives of Dubrovnik and Kotor. The real factual basis of the book is the 25 volumes of Acta Albaniae Veneta, from the Jesuit father Giuseppe Valentini. The thousands documents and manuscripts had to be classified thematically. 
Schmitt argues that such work needs passion. The first book is very crucial. He realized the fact when he started working on his second book on Istanbul and Izmir of the nineteenth century.
Schmitt does not claim that he has extinguished all the material regarding the history of the Venetian rule in Albania. Historical work is always subject to interpretation, criticism and there is always room for elaboration and improvement. New material becomes available with time and more work is needed especially for the period just before the siege of Shkodra in 1479. Other archives also are said to contain important information as the author discovered later with the documents belonging to Gjergj Strazimirovic Balsha (end of 14th century) which he found in Zadar in 2006. While extensive research has been made in the north Italian archives more work is needed in the small parochial sources in the south of the Apennines. Sometimes casual discoveries of documents are the most interesting ones. Schmitt brings the example of finding by chance a document that proved Skenderbej had a house in the Croatian island of Hvar. Other new material becomes available also with archeological discoveries. In this context the work being done in Lezha is very systematic and thus promising. 
According to Schmitt it is important that young scholars of history undertake projects of research. He mentions in this context a program of research grants near the University of Vienna which usually employs historians from Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia.   
Asked about the novelties that his work on Skenderbej might bring given the vast existing scholarship on the issue, Schmitt reveals that he is trying to go beyond the narrative chronological structure that is overwhelming in the previous work. He is trying to continue his work based on the examination of multiple sources and especially archive materials from Italian and Austrian fonts. The book tries to bring in a new topical analysis of features such as the accompanying group of the hero, the importance of social aspects such as loyalty and treason, the projected image of the leader, etc. It will pose serious questions over the importance of the Lezha Agreement; taken for granted up until now to be the foundation of Skenderbej's political power. The book will also concentrate on economic issues, the financial transactions and deals made by Skenderbej, the customs policies, the import of war technology form the West, the help received form the papal power and the Venetians in their anti-Ottoman alliance. 
Sometimes one can ask very simple yet unanswered questions such as what was the real value of one dukat (Venetian coin) for an ordinary Albanian mountaineer living by animal farming in the highlands. Even if primary data is not available one can get an educated guess by comparative analysis with areas that displayed a similar economic and social composure such as the Dalmatian cost in that period. Data from there show that one shepherd could earn as much as one ducat in his entire work year. Thus if Skenderbej received 1400 dukats to pay his army this meant a considerable assistance. It would cover the annual salary for a lot of his soldiers. 
Another interesting topic to explore is the account of Marin Barleti which has proven to be quite reliable as he used narrative models without many exaggeration patterns, relying thus on 15th century Italian renaissance literary tradition. However, he does combine some heroic idealized images from the Epirus epical tradition. All these combined factors shed some light on the popularity that Skenderbej had throughout the Balkans.
Finally Klosi asks an opinion about contemporary Albanian historians and overcoming settled patterns of nationalistic history. It is a very relevant topic in the discussions of academia and its role in perpetuating given models of historical analysis. According to Schmitt, the tradition of nationalistic history in communist scholarship is similar in several countries and by no means unique to Albania. 
Contemporary conditions for academic work are not that easy. An important dialogue series is being coordinated by the History Institution of Tirana, the Science and Arts academy in Prishtina, the Balkans commissions of Austria and the University of Vienna, regarding proper historical investigation and scholarship. A preparatory conference preceded the series in Vienna in December of last year where famous foreign scholars of Albanian history such as Nathalie Clayer, Peter Bartl, Noel Malcolm, Conrad Clewing, Bernd Fischer summarized the actual situation of studies and gave a list of topics to be kept under the limelight of upcoming projects. Their contribution was recently made available in Albanian and given to Albanian scholars so that as a second phase they get a chance to respond. A large congress of historians will dwell upon the summary of the results. For that Schmitt expressed his gratitude to the supportive representative of the History Institution of Tirana Marenglen Verli and the Science and Arts academy of Kosova representative Rexhep Ismajli. 
Schmitt's book on Albanian medieval history is available to students of history and all Albanian readers curious to shed some light into one of the least researched and definitely most interesting periods. 
* Edited by TT Staff
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            [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_130457" align="alignright" width="300"]Ylljet-Alicka Ylljet Aliçka[/caption]

Ten years after the successful publication of his satirical novel on the international community in Albania, writer and former diplomat Ylljet Aliçka has had his "Internationals" book published in English.

The novel originally published as "Nje rrefenje me nderkombetare" (A story with internationals) will come as “Internationals" in an English-language publication by the R&Z Tirana Times publishing house. Initially not-well received by some members of the international community, the novel has also been previously published in French.

In an interview with Europa magazine, a publication of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, the former Albanian ambassador to France says the novel's characters include international officials, who, often anonymous at their home countries, upon arriving to Albania, after “struggling to help this country or tell locals the way to progress," their life takes a new meaning thanks to the "indigenous" taking care and welcoming them. “This is the reason why many of the internationals cannot leave or grow so desperate when they finally leave Albania,” says Aliçka, 65, a university professor who served as Albania’s ambassador to France from 2007 to 2013.

 What is "The Internationals" about? How did you come up with this idea? Is it related with the fact that you worked for a long time with a foreign representation in Tirana?

INTERNATIONALScover-page-001- I came up with the idea from a personal ill feeling: an ill-feeling and preoccupation I didn't know how to get rid of. Engulfed in frame of a novel, it is natural that directly or indirectly, the individual issues take a broader dimension from today's reality, a reality which in my opinion proves to be far more complicated and more detached even compared to the principles of international bodies and that often group principles or universal rules remain unadjusted in specific cases or situations.

In a nutshell, the thing is about a novel focused on the traumatization of many Albanians by racism and discrimination. Faced with an 'elite' arrogance (often mixed with ignorance) many Albanians (office-holding or not, in Albania or abroad) adjusted by subduing.

The novel's characters include international officials, who, often anonymous at their home countries, upon arriving to Albania, after “struggling to help this country or tell locals the way to progress," their life takes a new meaning thanks to the 'indigenous" taking care and welcoming them.

On the other hand, I have often been urged by the dilemma if there is any measure to assess the cultural differences among transition countries such as Albania and as a result shift to inequality and discrimination, at a time when it is accepted that every culture bearing values implies their hierarchy.

You have been an "international" yourself in France representing Albania as ambassador. What is the difference of being an international in France as ambassador of Albania and being an international in Albania as ambassador?

They are diametrically the opposite. In addition to my invaluable work, living experience, contacts in one of the global metropolis of culture, diplomacy and not only, being an international in France helped me understand better, although rather late, that we are neither better nor worse compared to other people, that the unconditional glorification of everything that comes from abroad and the servile submission toward it, promotes disgust and makes the submission position worse.

Has any of the internationals you have worked with read your book? What were their impressions?

There were impressions of all kinds, but mostly negative ones, and for a certain period of time causing personal trouble or serious concerns: somebody threatened to sue me (he was later held back by his superiors), while somebody else filed an official complaint with the highest Albanian institutions to "ban the book and punish the author." I learned that the senior Albanian hierarchy turned down this proposal, defending the author. Of course I remain grateful to them.

Lastly, I would like to recall that at that time, I received the most meaningful protection by the senior international authorities, by the headquarters of the international representation office I worked with, apparently respecting the holy principle of the European culture they belonged to, i.e. protecting freedom of expression.

What's your own opinion of the role played by representatives of the international community in Albania?

There is no doubt that after the collapse of the [communist] regime, Albania’s survival would be at huge threat without the international community's assistance, mainly coming from two of its strategic allies, the U.S. and the European Union. But, on the other hand, the negative image on Albania and Albanians that has been dominating (despite improvements) internationally is really alarming. The perception, in addition to individual disappointments and disillusions, has turned into a serious barrier both politically and institutionally.

Without leaving aside the negative phenomena generated by part of the Albanian society at home and abroad, i.e. the values and the counter-values that the Albanian society currently inherits and carries through, and at the same time without neglecting the value and priceless international support to Albania, I think that a considerable part of the responsibility or blame on the clichés on the negative image of Albania and Albanians is also held by the "outsiders."

Among the prevailing thoughts, quite important ones favoring this image and often circulating individually (among foreigners), is related to the fact that the more you artificially darken the reality of a country (in our case that of Albania) where members of a foreign institution or representation live and work, the more this "coincidence coincides” with privileges and financial advantages economically and beyond.

Spiritually, this trend favors the internationals' narcissistic thoughts and testifies (self-testifies) of "the courage and heroism" to work and "risk one's own life in this wilderness."

I have the impression that many foreigners, anonymous in their countries, upon arriving to Albania, after “struggling to help this country or tell locals the way to progress," their life takes a new meaning thanks to the 'indigenous" taking care and welcoming them. This is the reason why many of the internationals cannot leave or grow so desperate when they finally leave Albania.

 

 

 
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