|Participant in World War II|
The forces of the Balli Kombëtar
|Opponents||Albanian Partisans (from late 1943)
Albanian Resistance of World War II
The Balli Kombëtar (literally National Front) was an Albanian nationalist, anti-communist and anti-monarchist organization established in November 1942. It was led by Ali Këlcyra and Mit’hat Frashëri. The motto of the Balli Kombetar was: "Shqipëria Shqiptarëve, Vdekje Tradhëtarëvet" (Albania for the Albanians, Death to the Traitors).
With Italy on the brink of defeat in 1942, the Albanian National Liberation Movement (LNC) and the Balli Kombëtar organized a meeting in the village of Mukje. The Balli Kombëtar entered into a fragile alliance with the communist-led LNC, and acted as a resistance group against the Italians. Following the Mukje Agreement, the vague mutual tolerance that had existed between the Ballists and Communists quickly evaporated. The refusal of the Communists to argue for the return of Kosovo to Albania made it all but impossible for the Ballists to cooperate with the LNC in the resistance movement. The Allies too could not guarantee that Kosovo would be a part of Albania, because they stood for the restoration of occupied nations under their borders as they existed prior to World War II.
Despite their hatred of the occupiers, the Ballists feared that an Allied victory in the war might well result in Communist control of Albania. Their lukewarm attitude towards the British was also fostered by their desire to preserve the accomplished fact of ethnic frontiers of the Albanian State restored by the Italians in 1941, for they bitterly opposed and dreaded the loss of Kosovo and Debar to Yugoslavia once again, and feared that the Allies in their support of the Greeks might prevent them from claiming Chameria and deprive them of their southern provinces of Korçe and Gjirokaster, the heartland of their liberation movement. They regarded the Yugoslavs and the Greeks as their real enemies.
The Mukje Agreement immediately triggered a hostile reaction from the Yugoslav representative in Albania, Svetozar Vukmanoviċ. He denounced the agreement and put pressure on the LNC to repute it immediately, and Yugoslav Communist leader Milovan Đilas subsequently described the Balli Kombëtar as "Albanian Fascists".
The Balli Kombëtar, which had fought against the Italians, were threatened by the superior forces of the LNC and the Yugoslav Partisans, who were backed by the Allies. In the autumn of 1943, Nazi Germany occupied all of Albania after Italy was defeated. Fearing reprisals from larger forces, the Balli Kombëtar made a deal with the Germans and formed a "neutral government" in Tirana which continued its war with the LNC and the Yugoslav Partisans.
Albania and Chameria
Safet Butka, a hardline Albanian nationalist, tried at various times to cooperate with the Communist-dominated Liberation Front. In February 1943, he organized a meeting with Communist representatives and an agreement for cooperation was reached in March 1943. He also made another local agreement in August 1943 and was one of the initiators and supporters of the Mukje agreement. After the denouncement of the Mukje agreement by Albanian communists, he feared a civil war between Albanians and when asked on the matter, always stated that "the only Albanian that I will kill will be myself." On his way home, he was informed of the first clashes between Albanian partisans and the Balli Kombëtar. Upon hearing such news, he killed himself on 19 September 1943 in the village of Melçan, faithful to his word. In the south of Albania, the rivalry between the Communists and the Balli Kombëtar heated up. The Communists almost immediately repudiated the Mukaj agreement, and fearing the British might open a second front in the Balkans and lend their support to the Ballists, they issued orders that the Balli Kombëtar be eliminated wherever it was found. These factors contributed to members of the Balli Kombëtar forming a strong hatred for the Communists.
After forming the Neutral government, the Ballists pressed hard against the Communists. They destroyed a fairly large Communist partisan group southwest of Tirana. With the Grand Alliance established, the Germans began losing the war. This also affected the situation in Albania as the Germans could not supply the Ballists. With the current situation favouring the Communists, the partisans began a full-scale attack on the Balli Kombëtar. British liaison officers in Albania noted that the Communists were using the arms they received to fight fellow Albanians far more than to harass the Germans. The west noted that the Communists could not have won without the supplies and armaments from the British, America and Yugoslavia, and that the LNC were not afraid of murdering their own countrymen.
Kosovo and Macedonia
Large number of Serbs were killed across Kosovo or deported to camps in Albania starting from 1942. The Ballists attacked the Serbs and burning as many as 30,000 houses belonging to Serb and Montenegrins. A large number of Serbs and Macedonians were also killed across western Macedonia as Ballist forces and the SS Skanderbeg division fought the Yugoslav Partisans. The main centres of the Balli Kombëtar in these regions were Kosovska Mitrovica, Drenica and Tetovo. It was noted that the Balli Kombëtar in these regions were more aggressive than the Ballists of Albania. With the Germans driven out by the Yugoslav Partisans, and the Albanian communists claiming victory in Albania, Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito ordered the collection of weapons in Kosovo and the arrest of prominent Albanians. The order was not well-received and, combined with the passions felt about Kosovo, inflamed an insurrection. On 2 December 1944, Ballists from the Drenica region attacked the Trepča mining complex and other targets. Numbering at most 2,000 men, these anti-communists held off a partisan force of about 30,000 troops for two months. Similarly in Kičevo, Gostivar and Tetovo, the remaining Ballists tried to remain in control of the region after the Yugoslav Partisans announced victory. After the war, most Balli Kombëtar leaders were either imprisoned, executed, or tortured due to their role in World War II. Although the insurrection was crushed, it was not until 1947 that Kosovo was fully reintegrated into Yugoslavia.
Montenegro and Sandžak region
Parts of Montenegro and the Sandžak were incorporated into Albania in 1941. The cities included Bijelo Polje, Pljevlja, Tutin, Plav, Gusinje, Rozaje and Ulcinj. Some of the Yugoslav Muslims that lived in these regions sided with the Albanians. Akif Blyta, former mayor of Novi Pazar and member of Nexhip Draga's party, Dzemail Konicanin and Ballist forces under Shaban Polluzha successfully repelled Chetnik forces back from Novi Pazar and crushed their stronghold in Banja.
Mit'hat Frasheri believed that Albanian provinces under the Ottoman Empire were unfairly partitioned during World War I amongst Yugoslavia and Greece. After world war two, Mit'hat Frasheri began advocating for a Greater Albania. When Mit'hat Frasheri formed the Balli Kombetar, it was based on his nationalist ideas and the old ideologies of Abdyl Frasheri, Ymer Prizreni and Isa Boletini. The works of Franz Nopcsa, Johann Georg von Hahn and Milan Šufflay, helped strengthen the nationalists' cause. The Balli Kombëtar believed that Albanians were "Aryans of Illyrian heritage". This helped gaining support by the Nazis.
The Ten-Point Program
The original objectives of Balli Kombëtar were set out in 1942 in the following ten-point program, also known as the “Decalogue”
|“||The Decalogue states:
After World War II ended, the Balli Kombëtar were defeated by Yugoslav and Albanian communists. Balli Kombëtar fighters fled the Balkans to Austria, the United States, Australia, Switzerland and South America. The Ballists who did not escape were executed. In Macedonia the most notable leader of the movement was Xhem Hasa of Gostivar, where a statue dedicated to him was placed after the overthrow of the Communist regime.
Tetovo was once the largest Balli Kombetar base in Macedonia and still has strong ties with the name. The Tetovo-based football club KF Shkendija has a large support firm called the Ballistët. They are known in the Macedonian media for their use of hardline nationalistic rhetorics in football matches.
- 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian)
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