A GREEK VIEW ON THE ALBANIANS IN FYROM Theofanis Malkidis and Theo Perilis
Although the Albanian population composed an important demographic and political size in ex-Yugoslavia after the war, as well as reasons of unity of the multinational state were keeping this issue in the fridge. In Kosovo and in the “Federal Socialist Republic of Macedonia” now ex-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in the “Federal Socialist Republic of Serbia” (Presevo) and in Montenegro, the Albanians were a big part of the population, where the leader of the country Josef Brose Tito managed them quite carefully. The way the Albanians handled the situation during the Second World War and their cooperation with the Axis Powers having as a final aim the creation of the idea of “Greater Albania” was the main reason for the negative attitude of the Yugoslav leader and the regime which was represented mainly by Alexander Rankovic, the leader of national security. However this wasn’t the only fact. The Albanian demographic explosion pressured the situation to the direction of the Serbia presence in Kosovo and the Slavo-Macedonians in FYROM because the Albanian leadership was trying to find a role and position in the medley of the ethnic groups of the country. Although after the end of the war (WWII), the Albanian groups were recognized as minorities in FYROM and a peculiar regime in Kosovo, substantially the Albanians had neither wider rights, as for example the Hungarians in Vojvodina, nor their own democracy, as the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In FYROM the Albanian groups faced two facts. The first one concerned the creation of this “state” called “Macedonia”, “Macedonian language” , “Macedonian culture and nation” oppressed the distinct and large Albanian community which locally composed the overwhelming majority. The propaganda of the regime for the state of “Macedonia”, which was the major priority, pushed aside the Albanian purpose and expectations.
The second one concerned the Albanian group. The cooperation between the Yugoslav Communist Party and the Albanian Work Party was buried for a small period, the expectations of the Albanian groups. The Tito-Stalin rupture and as a consequence, the rupture between Tito and the leader of the Albanian Work Party Enver Hoxha, made the attitude of the Yugoslav regime even tougher. On the other hand the Albanian leadership, for reasons of the internal cohesion and identification with USSR, considered that it was the right time to defend the rights of the Albanians in FYROM. However the nature of the Albanian Work Party wasn’t strong enough to give the right results. At the same time the Albanians of FYROM realized that the «motherland » was unable to defend them. The resumption of relations between Yugoslavia and the USSR and the rupture between Hoxha and Kruschev seemed to have very important negative implications for the issue of the Albanian groups. Meanwhile Yugoslavia had the chance to resort to vanishing measures (obligatory immigration to Turkey) and also some small important benefits. The Albanian community couldn’t react, resulting in the isolation of the Albanians in Istanbul and in the villages of Tetovo and other towns of FYROM. The process of the issue later on is connected with Kosovo proving once more the theory of communicating vessels. The Albanians of FYROM “sailed together” with the Albanians of Kosovo, when at the same time their “mother-land” followed the Chinese experiment and the international isolation.
The collapse of Yugoslavia caused the Albanian factor to mobilize politically. The rise of Sali Berisha in the leadership of Albania strengthened the state’s support for the requests of the institutions and the government. The Dayton Agreement for the peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the establishment of the new state was a great disappointment to the Albanians in and outside Yugoslavia. However the International Community’s priorities accelerated the process. The military troops in Kosovo also appeared in FYROM in a move to stop illegal activities (drug dealing, trafficking, gunrunning from the plunder of supply depots in Albania, illegal immigration). The Albanian activities were also assisted by the remittance of the Albanians who lived abroad. After the NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and the internal crisis in FYROM, the Albanians abroad acted more organized and methodically. The conflict between Albanians and governmental powers and the pressure of the west on the FYROM government to sign the 2001 Ohrid Peace that signalized a new situation in this country, and foretold great re-arrangements and realignments. The European perspective of FYROM would be an interesting process for Greece and the whole area, however the internal facts until now indicate a negative prospect.
The Albanian issue in FYROM is not a fantastic story, but has to do with the reality. An independent Kosovo will be the start for the achievement of the Albanians’ demands in FYROM (recent comment of Arben Jaferi leader of the DPA) for the unity of the western area of FYROM with Kosovo and Albania.