Multiple Albanian Crises the Problems in Albania Proper and in Kosovo Are Distinct

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Kosovo is not Albania. Numerous commentators have warned that today's conflict in Albania could spread tomorrow to Kosovo, the troubled ethnic-Albanian populated land in the south of what remains of Yugoslavia. Yes, the battle in Albania dangerously increases the chance of intensified conflict in Kosovo. But no, the conflict in Albania will not "spread" to Kosovo.

The analogy of a fire spreading out of control, from the hinterlands of Albania across the border into Kosovo, dangerously misdiagnoses the connection between the two lands and prescribes the wrong course of cures.

The troubles in Albania and Kosovo differ tremendously. First, the protagonists are not the same. Albania's struggle pits Albanian against Albanian. Kosovo's struggle sets Kosovar Albanians against Serbs. Not only are the pairs of protagonists different, but each actor stands in distinction. Albanians in Albania are not interchangeable with Kosovar Albanians. Although they do share relatives across the borders and a real and imagined history, their lives have been defined most recently by distinct struggles. Albanians are struggling to form a democratic state in the wake of a Stalinist leader and in the midst of a nonfunctioning economy; Kosovar Albanians are contending for autonomy after the collapse of Yugoslavia and the rise of Serbian state-sanctioned violence. Second, the protagonists are not likely to cross lines. An ironclad, heavily militarized border keeps them physically apart, and their own self-interest divides as well. Kosovar Albanians' hope that a democratic Albania would become a megaphone for the interests of their struggle has been crushed by the reality of the new Albanian state, a land too consumed with its own problems to offer much of a hand to kinfolk elsewhere. Although they would surely attempt to aid Kosovo's Albanians should a war erupt there, Albanians have little interest in seeing that happen - at least not now. So too, while watching the battles in Albania with great consternation, and with sympathies leaning heavily toward the north and the preservation of a democratic state, Kosovar Albanians have not neatly taken sides. Different reasons for battle Third, the nature of the problems have little in common. Ask Albanians the reason for the conflagration in Albania and hear a confused mix of responses: anarchy and mob rule following economic collapse; an attack on President Sali Berisha; an attack on democracy by the socialists; a struggle for democracy by the people; renewal of the struggle of south versus north. Ask Kosovar Albanians the reason for their impending conflict and hear a unified response: years of Serbian oppression against Kosovar Albanians. Kosovar Albanians would fight a battle laced with the rhetoric of liberation; the liberatory nature of the bloodshed in Albania remains fuzzy. The notion that each Albanian conflict must be about uniting Albanians in a great Albanian state is simply wrong. …