The Return of the Albanian National Question

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Room 1219 International Affairs Building

Please join the Harriman Institute for a talk by Shinasi Rama of New York University.

The Albanian national question is coming back. What is more interesting, it is coming back in very unexpected ways, against European designs and the expressed will of Albanian political elites.

While the Slavic groups of the former Yugoslavia are finding ways to interact with one-another, Albanians in the Balkans do not seem too keen to get involved in these processes, and the reason is simple: they do not share with their Slavic neighbors any of the core elements of identity such as language, ethnicity or religion. Memories of the recent conflict are very fresh. On the other hand, relations among Albanians in Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are becoming increasingly complex. All Albanian societies are gravitating more and more towards each other. Their interactions are intensifying in so many different ways that it is impossible not to take notice.

While economic exchanges among these various Albanian communities are negligible, some of the most interesting developments are taking place at the level of the elites, political organization, infrastructure, cultural exchanges, the reorganization of cultural spaces, increasing awareness of belonging to the same ethnic group, education, history, mutual assistance, models to follow, diaspora, social and family life, entertainment, media and press, analysts, crisis support, citizenship status, the underground world, pan-Albanian nationalistic organizations, and more. The thesis that Albanians are a nation apart from others is gaining ground. The pressure on politicians is mounting and the commonly voiced position is that there is an Albanian national question, but that this would be solved when all Albanians are admitted to the EU; in short, Albanians are adjusting to the new circumstances. While all of their elites claim to pursue European integration, the unexpected outcome has been the return of the Albanian national question.