Greater Albania is an irredentist concept of lands that are considered to form the national homeland by many Albanians, based on claims on the present-day or historical presence of Albanian populations in those areas. In addition to the existing Republic of Albania, the term incorporates claims to regions in the neighbouring states, the areas include Kosovo and the Preševo Valley of Serbia, territories in southern Montenegro, northwestern Greece (the Greek regional units of Thesprotia and Preveza, referred to by Albanians as Chameria, and other territories that were part of the Vilayet of Yanina during the Ottoman Empire), and a part of western Republic of Macedonia.
The unification of an even larger area into a unique territory under Albanian authority had been theoretically conceived by the League of Prizren, an organization of the 19th century whose goal was to unify the Albanian inhabited lands (and other regions, mostly from the region of Macedonia, Epirus and Montenegro) into a single autonomous Albanian Vilayet within the Ottoman Empire. However, the concept of a Greater Albania, as in greater than Albania within its 1913 borders, was implemented only under the Italian and Nazi German occupation of the Balkans during World War II.
The idea of unification, has roots in the events of the Treaty of London in 1913, when roughly half of the predominantly Albanian territories and 40% of the population were left outside the new country's borders, something that Albanians have tended to regard as an injustice imposed by the Great Powers.
According to the Gallup Balkan Monitor 2010 report, the idea of a Greater Albania is supported by the majority of Albanians in Albania (62%), Kosovo (81%) and the Republic of Macedonia (52%), although the same report noted that most Albanians thought this unlikely to happen.
In a survey carried out by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), published in 2005, only 6% of the Albanians in Kosovo thought unification with Albania is the best solution for Kosovo. 93% said they wanted Kosovo to become independent within its present borders.
Greater Albania is a term used mainly by the Western scholars, politicians, etc. Ethnic Albania (Albanian: Shqipëria Etnike) is a term used primarily by Albanian nationalists to denote the territories claimed as the traditional homeland of ethnic Albanians, despite these lands also being inhabited by many non-Albanians. Another term used by Albanians, is "Albanian national reunification" (Albanian: Ribashkimi kombëtar shqiptar).
Under the Ottoman Empire
Prior to the Balkan wars of the beginning of the 20th century, Albanians were subjects of the Ottoman Empire. The Albanian independence movement emerged in 1878 with the League of Prizren (a council based in Kosovo) whose goal was cultural and political autonomy for ethnic Albanians inside the framework of the Ottoman Empire. However, the Ottomans were not prepared to grant The League's demands. Ottoman opposition to the League's cultural goals eventually helped transform it into an Albanian national movement.
World War II
The Albanian Fascist Party became the ruling party of the Italian Protectorate of Albania in 1939 and the prime minister Shefqet Verlaci approved the possible administrative union of Albania and Italy, because he wanted the Italian support in order to get the union of Kosovo, Chameria and other "Albanian irredentism" into Greater Albania. Indeed, this unification was realized after the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece from spring 1941. The Albanian fascists claimed in May 1941 that nearly all the Albanian populated territories were united to Albania.
Between May 1941 and September 1943, Benito Mussolini placed nearly all the land inhabited by ethnic Albanians under the jurisdiction of an Albanian quisling government. That included the region of Kosovo, parts of the Republic of Macedonia and some small border areas of Montenegro. In Chameria an Albanian high commissioner, Xhemil Dino, was appointed by the Italians; but the area remained under the control of the Italian military command in Athens and so technically remained a region of Greece.
When the Germans occupied the area and substituted the Italians, they maintained the borders created by Mussolini, but after World War II the Albanian borders were returned by the Allies to the pre-war status.
The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was an ethnic-Albanian paramilitary organisation which sought the separation of Kosovo from Yugoslavia during the 1990s and the eventual creation of a Greater Albania, encompassing Kosovo, Albania, and the ethnic Albanian minority of neighbouring Republic of Macedonia. The KLA found great moral and financial support among the Albanian diaspora.
|“||There is de facto Albanian nation. The tragedy is that European powers after World War I decided to divide that nation between several Balkan states. We are now fighting to unify the nation, to liberate all Albanians, including those in Macedonia, Montenegro, and other parts of Serbia. We are not just a liberation army for Kosovo.||”|
By 1998 the KLA’s operations had evolved into a significant armed insurrection. According to the report of the USCRI, the "Kosovo Liberation Army ... attacks aimed at trying to 'cleanse' Kosovo of its ethnic Serb population." The UNHCR estimated the figure at 55,000 refugees who had fled to Montenegro and Central Serbia, most of whom were Kosovo Serbs.
Its campaign against Yugoslav security forces, police, government officers and ethnic Serb villages precipitated a major Yugoslav military crackdown which led to the Kosovo War of 1998–1999. Military intervention by Yugoslav security forces led by Slobodan Milošević and Serb paramilitaries within Kosovo prompted an exodus of Kosovar Albanians and a refugee crisis that eventually caused NATO to intervene militarily in order to stop what was widely identified as an ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing.
The war ended with the Kumanovo Treaty, with Yugoslav forces agreeing to withdraw from Kosovo to make way for an international presence. The Kosovo Liberation Army disbanded soon after this, with some of its members going on to fight for the UÇPMB in the Preševo Valley and others joining the National Liberation Army (NLA) and Albanian National Army (ANA) during the armed ethnic conflict in Macedonia.
Political uses of the concept
The Albanian question in the Balkan peninsula is in part the consequence of the decisions made by Western powers in late 19th and early 20th century. The Treaty of San Stefano and the 1878 Treaty of Berlin assigned Albanian inhabited territories to other States, hence the reaction of the League of Prizren. One theory posits that the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Austro-Hungary wanted to maintain a brittle balance in Europe in the late 19th century.
The degree to which different groups are working towards.and what efforts such groups are undertaking in order to achieve a Greater Albania is disputed. There seems no evidence that anything more than a few unrepresentative extremist groups are working towards this cause; the vast majority of Albanians want to live in peace with their neighbors. However, they also want the human rights of the Albanian ethnic populations in Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Greece to be respected. An excellent example is the friendly relationship between the Republic of Montenegro and the support towards the integration of the Albanian population in Republic of Macedonia. There is Albanian representation in government, the national parliament, local government, and the business sector, and no evidence of systematic discrimination on an ethnic or religious basis against the Albanian (or indeed any other minority) population.
In 2004, the Vetëvendosje movement was formed in Kosovo, which opposes foreign involvement in Kosovar affairs and campaigns instead for the sovereignty the people, as part of the right of self-determination. Vetëvendosje obtained 12.66% of the votes in an election in December 2010, and the party manifesto calls for a referendum on union with Albania.
In 2012, the Red and Black Alliance (Albanian: Aleanca Kuq e Zi) was established as a political party in Albania, the core of its program is national unification of all Albanians in their native lands.
In 2012, as part of the celebrations for 100th Anniversary of the Independence of Albania, Prime Minister Sali Berisha spoke of "Albanian lands" stretching from Preveza in Greece to Presevo in Serbia, and from the Macedonian capital of Skopje to the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica, angering Albania's neighbors. The comments were also inscribed on a parchment that will be displayed at a museum in the city of Vlore, where the country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire was declared in 1912.
|Area||Part of||Area (km²)||Population||Albanians||% Albanian||Largest city|
|Albania||Republic of Albania||28,748||2,821,977||2,680,878||95||Tirana|
|Kosovo||Republic of Kosovo (de facto) / Serbia (de jure)||10,908||1,733,842||1,595,135||93||Pristina|
|Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa||Serbia (Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa municipalities)||1249||61,000 (2002)||2,904 (2011; most boycotted that year's census)||68||Preševo|
|Western/Northwestern Macedonia||Republic of Macedonia||5,000-7,000 (approx)||1,200,000 (approx)||450,000 (the total polulation of Albanians in Macedonia)||30% (approx)||Tetovo|
|South-Eastern Montenegro||Malesija (Malësi) in Podgorica Municipality, Ulcinj (Ulqin), Krajina (Kraja), and Plav||1,000||30,260||22,150||73.2||Ulcinj|
|Chameria and other parts of Northwestern Greece||Epirus (region), and other parts of Vilayet of Janina||9,203||336,856||N/A||N/A||Ioannina|
|Total||Greater Albania||56,108-58,108 (approx)||6,007,935+||4,868,163+||N/A%||Tirana|
Kosovo has an overwhelmingly Albanian majority, estimated to be around 93%.
Montenegro also contains sizeable Albanian populations mostly concentrated in areas such as southern Malësia, the Ulcinj (Ulqini) municipality on the coast, the Tuzi area near Podgorica, and parts of the Plav (Plava) and Rožaje (Rozhajë) municipalities.
The coastal region of Thesprotia in northwestern Greece referred to by Albanians as Çamëria is sometimes included in Greater Albania. According to the 1928 census held by the Greek state, there were around 20,000 Muslim Cams in Thesprotia prefecture. They were forced to seek refuge in Albania at the end of World War II after a large part of them collaborated and committed a number of war crimes together with the Nazis during the 1941–1944 period. In the first post-war census (1951), only 123 Muslim Çams were left in the area. Descendants of the exiled Muslim Chams (they claim that they are now up to 170,000 now living in Albania) claim that up to 35,000 Muslim Çams were living in southern Epirus before World War II. Many of them are currently trying to pursue legal ways to claim compensation for the properties seized by Greece. For Greece the issue "does not exist".
Republic of Macedonia
The western part of the Republic of Macedonia is an area with a large ethnic Albanian minority. The Albanian population in Republic of Macedonia make up 25% of the population. Cities with Albanian majorities or large minorities include Tetovo (Tetova), Gostivar (Gostivari), Struga (Struga) and Debar (Diber) . In 1992, Albanian activists in Struga proclaimed also the founding of the Republic of Ilirida (Albanian: Republika e Iliridës) with the intention of autonomy or federalization inside the Republic of Macedonia. The declaration had only a symbolic meaning and the idea of an autonomous State of Ilirida is not officially accepted by the ethnic Albanian politicians in the Republic of Macedonia.
In Central Serbia the municipalities of Preševo (Albanian: Preshevë), Bujanovac (Albanian: Bujanoc) and part of the municipality of Medveđa (Albanian: Medvegjë) include an Albanian population. According to the 2002 census, Preševo contained an overwhelming Albanian ethnic majority of over 90%. Bujanovac around 54.69% and Medveđa 26.17%. Tense relations between ethnic Serbians and Albanians and also the increased hatred after the Kosovo War, resulted in military actions after the Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac (Albanian: Ushtria Çlirimtare e Preshevës, Medvegjës dhe Bujanocit, UÇPMB) was formed. One of UÇPMB's roles entails seceding these specific municipalities from Serbia and annex them to the independent Republic of Kosovo.
International Crisis Group research
International Crisis Group researched the issue of Pan-Albanianism and published a report titled "Pan-Albanianism: How Big a Threat to Balkan Stability?" in February 2004. The report advised the Albanian and Greek governments to endeavour and settle the longstanding issue of the Chams displaced from Greece in 1945, before it gets hijacked and exploited by extreme nationalists, and the Chams' legitimate grievances get lost in the struggle to further other national causes. Moreover, the ICG findings suggest that Albania is more interested in developing cultural and economic ties with Kosovo and maintaining separate statehood.
- Albanian nationalism
- Albanian National Awakening
- History of Albania
- History of the Balkans
- Kosovo independence precedent
- League of Prizren
- Unification of Albania and Kosovo
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