Crises in the Balkans: Views from the Participants

By Constantine P. Danopoulos; Kostas G. Messas | Go to book overview
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9
Albanian Nationalism and Prospects for Greater Albania

Constantine P. Danopoulos and Adem Chopani

The demise of Albania's Stalinist regime in the early 1990s, combined with the bloody dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the Balkan crisis that followed, bequeathed the new and democratically elected authorities in Tirana with a plethora of serious economic, social, political, and psychological problems, but also opportunities. Following almost four decades of hermetic isolation imposed by Enver Hoxha and his Albanian Party of Labor (APL) and virulent anti Americanism, Albania rejoined the world and forged a close relationship with the United States and NATO. Tirana emerged as Washington's closest ally in the Balkans and hoped to become one of the first former communist countries to join the Atlantic Alliance. Until the recent and ongoing social unrest, following the collapse in early 1997 of the failed pyramid investment schemes, Albania resembled a blind man who managed to regain his vision; suddenly, the world seems more complex than imagined, ripe with opportunities but full of obligations and responsibilities.

As far as Albania is concerned, two key issues hold center stage in the Balkan context: the future of ethnic Albanians living outside the country's borders, and relations with Greece regarding the status and future of the Greek minority in southern Albania. Both issues have deep historical roots. Centuries of foreign occupation, competition from neighbouring Balkan states for land, parochial attitudes, and weaknesses within the ranks of Albania's nationalist movement all help to account for the fact that about half of those who consider themselves ethnic Albanians live outside the borders of the Albanian state, mainly in Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

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