Albanian Loyalties in the 20th Century

AHA Session 15
Thursday, January 3, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Stevens C-4 (Hilton Chicago, Lower Level)
Victor Friedman, University of Chicago
Victor Friedman, University of Chicago

Session Abstract

Albanian Loyalties in the Twentieth Century

Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, in which religious, social, and local identities prevailed, Albanian-speaking populations in the Balkan peninsula underwent great social transformations in the newly-constituted modernizing nation-states, be this in the Republic of Albania or the neighboring Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (from 1928, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia).

During the course of the twentieth century, such factors as the rise of nationalism, war, partition of territories, the advent of communist rule, and education, all contributed to shifts in world view in this region. This session will investigate changes in loyalties over time, including the loyalties demanded of Albanians, as well as the loyalties Albanians had. These range from conflicts between loyalty to religion and to state, to the loyalty required of Albanians by a state in which they were a minority, to loyalty to a wider imagined ethnic community. All these cases involve populations making important choices among different loyalties and identities. They all indicate, even in the earliest case, how the ways in which Albanians in the Balkans understood their loyalties would ultimately contribute to fissures in the body politic, fissures which continue today.

The session will include three papers. In the first, Nevila Pahumi will examine conflicting loyalties between religion and nation in late Ottoman Albania, through the prism of Albanian Protestant missionary education and its effects on the agency and activity of local power players in a period of change.

The second paper, by Isabel Ströhle, moves forward to Kosovo in the 1960s, which was at that time a region within socialist Yugoslavia. The paper will examine competition among state authorities with varying ideas about how a minority – Kosovo Albanians – should be loyal to it. This process naturally created tensions, in particular because these authorities enforced their ideology through repression, making it more difficult for minority communities to feel loyalty to the state.

In the third paper, Justin Elliott takes up these themes of nation-building and ideological loyalty by looking at the other side of the coin in the later 1960s. His study examines the adoption by Yugoslav Albanians of a standard form of the language developed by and designed for a neighboring state, the People’s Republic of Albania. While Ströhle describes claims to loyalty which ultimately discouraged development of emotional ties to Yugoslavia, Elliott will discuss the development of an identification with Albania. Through this, Albanians in Yugoslavia were no longer perceived themselves to be a minority, but asserted their position as part of a greater (though imagined) Albanian whole.

Through these three papers, the panel will help to demonstrate how cultural and power relationships both changed and endured over the course of a turbulent century, while also contributing to the ultimate breakup of Yugoslavia. The session will conclude with a comment by Prof. Victor Friedman.

This panel will appeal to those interested in the topics of southeastern Europe, nationalism, identity, international relations, history of religion, and history of language management.

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