Historical Myths Course in Dubrovnik
Albanian Boarders and Identities
There exists a notion of a greater Serbia which both historically and presently incorporates great proportions of the neighboring states of Serbia and Montenegro. All variations of this notion assert that present-day boundaries of Serbia do not reflect the might of the Serbian nation during that epoch when it ruled a major part of what was the former Yugoslavia. Packaged within this myth is also the notion that a separate Montenegrin ethnicity does not exist; instead the majority of Slavic inhabitants of Montenegro are called “Serb.” Because this ethnic assignment only applies to those individuals who are of Slavic origin, those comprising the population of Montenegro who ethnically define themselves as Albanian are excluded.
In contrast to the Serbian notion of a grander past is the concept of a greater Albania which encapsulated parts of present day Serbia as well as Montenegro, Greece, and Macedonia. This notion of a greater Albania has been internalized by Montenegrin Albanians in order to recall a history that was brighter than the current situation in which they find themselves: politically underrepresented and socially unequal.
In many cases when minorities felt themselves to be persecuted—or their culture to be under siege by foreign influence—they will attempt to find solace in a brighter past that suggests hope for a more prosperous future. For the case of the Albanian-speaking population of Serbia, their hope is found in the historical boundary marker and a greater connection to a past that was much more prosperous—a time in which the Serbs were the subjects of the Albanians. It is important to note that for much of the Albanian-speaking population of Montenegro, there is no difference between the population of Montenegro which believes itself to be Montenegrin and those who define themselves as Serb. For the Albanians and Albanian-speaking population of Montenegro, both Serbs and Montenegrins are both historically and presently aggressors, the results of which are observable both in Kosovo as well as in the time when they colonized Albania and made it a part of Montenegro. Thus, when Albanian-speakers and Montenegrin inhabitants who ethnically define themselves as Albanian reflect upon greater Albanian and the struggle against Serbs, they are simultaneously evoking a struggle against the Montenegrins as well.
There are many similarities between the notions of a greater Serbia and greater Albania, considering the times in which these ideas are evoked. For Serbia—as is very well publicized—the notion of a greater Serbia was evoked equally during the First and Second World Wars, but more recently, and more familiarly, during the 1989 speech made by Milosevic prior to the wars.
Goals for the establishment of a greater Albania, which would encompass parts of present-day Serbia, Montenegro and Greece, first began with the League of Prizen, started in 1878 and continuing until 1881, when the league was dismembered upon the redistribution of Albanian territories to various Balkan territories. Unfortunately, these goals were never realized, and the territories that once comprised Albania became integrated into the various lands of which they were a part. Thus, Albanians were unwillingly transformed from a majority of the population into the minority of the lands of which they were citizens.
The League of Prizen, however, was successful in its endeavors to save the Albanian populations of the various nations of which they were a part. Through their attempts of conjoining the parts of Albania, which was never realized, they established a precedent that advocated Albanians to fight in order to save themselves against their oppressors. Moreover, they were successful in generating an idea that allows those individuals in Montenegro, who in some way identify with the Albanian nation, a way to overcome their oppressive situation as ethnic minorities.
There exists truth in the notion of a greater Albanian, but how it is utilized is what makes it a myth. In present-day Montenegro, those individuals evoke the greater Albania idea when they feel themselves to be oppressed in some way. This idea allows them to recall a better time in which their people controlled the land in which they are now subjects, even if they were not themselves part of the creation of that goal.