Balli Kombëtar

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Not to be confused with National Front (Albania).
Balli Kombëtar
Participant in World War II
Balli Kombëtar.jpg
The forces of the Balli Kombëtar
Active 1942–1945
Ideology Albanian nationalism
Republicanism
Leaders Midhat Frashëri
Opponents Albanian Partisans (from late 1943)
Yugoslav Partisans
Battles
and wars
World War II in Yugoslavia
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.[1] It was led by Ali Këlcyra and Midhat Frashëri.[2] The motto of the Balli Kombëtar was: "Shqipëria Shqiptarëve, Vdekje Tradhëtarëvet" (Albania for the Albanians, Death to the Traitors).[3]

History[edit]

The Italian Protectorate of Albania established by Italy in August 1941.

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.[4] Following the Mukje Agreement, the vague mutual tolerance that had existed between the Ballists and Communists quickly evaporated.The Allies too could not guarantee that Kosovo would be a part of Albania,[5] 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.[6] 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.[6] They regarded the Yugoslavs and the Greeks as their real enemies.[6]

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,[7] and Yugoslav Communist leader Milovan Đilas subsequently described the Balli Kombëtar as "Albanian Fascists".[8]

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.[9] 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.[10][11][12][13]

Albania and Chameria[edit]

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.[14] 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."[14] 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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[6] They destroyed a fairly large Communist partisan group southwest of Tirana.[6] 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.[15] The west noted that the Communists could not have won without the supplies and armaments from the British, America and Yugoslavia,[15] and that the LNC were not afraid of murdering their own countrymen.[16]

Kosovo and Macedonia[edit]

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.[17] 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.[17] 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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19]

Montenegro and Sandžak region[edit]

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,[20] Dzemail Konicanin and Ballist forces under Shaban Polluzha successfully repelled Chetnik forces back from Novi Pazar and crushed their stronghold in Banja.[21]

Ideology[edit]

Midhat Frashëri believed that Albanian provinces under the Ottoman Empire were unfairly partitioned during World War I amongst Yugoslavia and Greece.[22] After World War II, Midhat Frashëri began advocating for a Greater Albania. When Midhat Frashëri formed the Balli Kombëtar, it was based on his nationalist ideas and the old ideologies of Abdyl Frashëri, Ymer Prizreni and Isa Boletini. The works of Franz Nopcsa, Johann Georg von Hahn and Milan Šufflay, helped strengthen the nationalists' cause.[23][24] The Balli Kombëtar believed that Albanians were "Aryans of Illyrian heritage".[19] This helped gaining support by the Nazis.[19]

The Ten-Point Program[edit]

The original objectives of Balli Kombëtar were set out in 1942 in the following ten-point program, also known as the “Decalogue”[25]

The Decalogue states:[26]
  1. We are fighting for the red and black flag, for the defence of the rights of the Albanian people
  2. We are fighting for a democratic, ethnic and free Albania with a modern society
  3. We are fighting for an Albania in which freedom of speech and thought will prevail
  4. We are fighting for an Albania with a proper economic and social balance so that there will be no more exploiters and exploited, that is to say, so that no one will live at the expense of his fellow man, so that there will be no farmers without enough land to live on, so that there will be no blue and white collar workers without housing and security, i.e. we are fighting for a stable Albania with a thoroughly reformed economic system in accordance with the wishes and needs of the Albanian people
  5. We are fighting for an Albania in which the suppressed talents of all strata of the population will come to light, be supported and flourish with the help of Albanian schooling
  6. We are fighting for an Albania in which all positive contributions will be properly appreciated, independent of age, region or faith
  7. We are fighting to create an Albania run by people who have not been compromised, by Albanians who have done their utmost at every time and under all conditions for the salvation and welfare of their country, by competent and honest working men
  8. We are fighting for an Albania that, in a strict and exemplary manner, will punish all anti-patriots, traitors, lackeys, troublemakers, speculators and spies; for an Albania in which there will be no place for hypocrites, sycophants, feudal oppressors and anyone who hinders the development and progress of our renascent country
  9. We are fighting to harmonize and unite the creative energies of the nation, to create an intellectual and spiritual union of all Albanians
  10. We are fighting to mobilize all the vital forces of the nation against the occupiers in order to realize the ideals of Balli Kombëtar

Legacy[edit]

Midhat Frashëri was the leader of the Balli Kombëtar.

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.[citation needed]

Tetovo was once the largest Balli Kombëtar 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.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robert Elsie (30 March 2010). Historical Dictionary of Albania. Scarecrow Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-8108-6188-6. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Jelavich, Barbara (1983). History of the Balkans, Vol. 2: Twentieth Century. Cambridge University Press. p. 274. ISBN 0-521-27459-1. 
  3. ^ Albania in Occupation and War: From Fascism to Communism 1940-1945 by Owen Pearson [1]
  4. ^ Fischer, Bernd Jürgen (1999). Albania at War, 1939-1945. Purdue University Press. pp. 132–133. ISBN 1-55753-141-2. 
  5. ^ Between Serb and Albanian: a history of Kosovo by Miranda Vickers
  6. ^ a b c d e Owen Pearson. Albania in Occupation and War: From Fascism to Communism 1940-1945. Retrieved 4 August 2011. 
  7. ^ Albania in the twentieth century: a history, Volume 2 by Owen Pearson
  8. ^ Albania at war, 1939-1945
  9. ^ Tito, Mihailović, and the allies, 1941-1945 By Walter R. Roberts
  10. ^ Richard Morrock The Psychology of Genocide and Violent Oppression: A Study of Mass Cruelty
  11. ^ Philip J. Cohen, David Riesman. Serbia's Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History. Texas A&M University Press, 1996 ISBN 978-0-89096-760-7, p. 100.
  12. ^ Nigel Thomas, Peter Abbott. Partisan warfare 1941-45. Osprey Publishing, 1983, ISBN 978-0-85045-513-7, p. 27: "Balli Kombetar, however, preferred German rule to Italian and, believing that only the Germans would allow Kosovo to remain Albanian after the war, began to collaborate.".
  13. ^ Tom Winnifrith. Badlands, borderlands: a history of Northern Epirus/Southern Albania "Balle Kombetar, strongly Albanian nationalist, Muslim and at times pro-German". Duckworth, 2002, ISBN 978-0-7156-3201-7, p. 26:
  14. ^ a b c Dezhgiu, Muharrem (28 May 2006). "Safet Butka, Luftetar per Mbrojtjen e Idealit Kombetar". Lajmi Shqip (in Albanian). Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  15. ^ a b c Frances Trix. The Sufi journey of Baba Rexheb. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  16. ^ Irene Grünbaum, Katherine Morris. Escape Through the Balkans: The Autobiography of Irene Grünbaum. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  17. ^ a b c Sabrina P. Ramet. The three Yugoslavias: state-building and legitimation, 1918-2005. Retrieved 4 August 2011. 
  18. ^ former ballist Safet Hyseni. "Safet Hyseni: Mefail Shehu (Zajazi) alias Mefaili i Madh, një strateg ushtarak". Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  19. ^ a b c Cyprian Blamires. World fascism: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 1. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  20. ^ International Crisis Group. "SERBIA'S SANDZAK: STILL FORGOTTEN". Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  21. ^ "Nezavisna revija Sandzak". Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  22. ^ Robert Elsie. "Balli Kombëtar: The Ten-Point Programme". Retrieved 17 February 2011. 
  23. ^ Robert Elsie. "Milan von Šufflay: Mediaeval Albania". Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  24. ^ Robert Elsie. "Baron Franz Nopcsa". Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  25. ^ Robert Elsie. "Mid’hat bey Frashëri:The Epirus Question - the Martyrdom of a People". Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  26. ^ Robert Elsie. "Balli Kombëtar: The Ten-Point Programme". Retrieved 17 February 2011. 
  27. ^ Filip Zdraveski. "Shkendija fined, their fans can't go to away games". Retrieved 16 June 2011.