Studies
ALBANIAN IDENTITIES
by Antonina Zhelyazkova
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The survival of the Albanian identities under Enver Hoxha. The role of the isolationist policy of the regime in Tirana... (3)

Between the 1960s and the 1980s, the aspiration to put the Albanians in isolation developed into forms unheard of, when foreigners in mixed marriages were offered the alternative of either leaving the country, abandoning spouse and children, or staying, but cutting any contacts with their native country.100 On this subject, scholars collecting oral accounts can put down striking dramas of mothers who stayed with their children doomed to persecution and suspicions in a paranoiac country, while their relatives outside Albania had not known for over 20 years whether they were alive or not. Of course, also accounts of reverse cases, when they left the tyrannical regime in Albania, abandoning their families too, and only after 20 or 30 years fathers met for the first time their sons and grandsons.101  The proportions of the evil deeds committed by a hypertrophied dictatorship and a maniacal cult of personality are sometimes beyond the grasp of even as prophetic talents as George Orwell's. 

Today Albanians are faced with an alternative of infinite complexity. On the one hand, very strong are the feeling of freedom and the desire to revive the old traditions, which have been forcefully uprooted from the public mind. The country is now open and the contacts with the Albanian Diaspora help to restore collective memory. The renewal of the differences and rivalry between the North and the South is felt in the political life, and the blood feud law compels people to emigrate and children to be hidden in basements. It is better for this reversal to the past and revival of the ancient customs to be made by scholars alone, because it is important for historical and cultural identity, but their introduction into the present-day realities would take the Albanian society back to the remote age of pre-modern times. On the other hand, Albanians long for affiliating themselves with the modern European values and fulfilling themselves in a peaceful and democratic social climate, like all other post-Communist societies in Central and South-Eastern Europe. 

The problem of the maturity and consolidation of the Albanian national identity is yet to happen in the Balkans region. For it is obvious that the nation-formation and ethnocultural processes experienced by some nations in the late 18th and the 19th century, or by others like Macedonians - in the first half of the 20th century, have been taking place for the last ten or twenty years for the Albanians in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. The fall of the Berlin wall happened to the three ethnic Albanian communities in a most literal way. For several decades they have been forming an entirely mystified, verbal, and fanciful perception of each other. The democratic changes, as well as the dramatic events attending the break-up of the Yugoslavian empire, gave the Albanians an opportunity to meet, and gain an intimate knowledge of one another. In order to understand that, although they have been separated by only a frontier within the narrow Balkan stretch, they have become too different in terms of education, religion, culture and mentality, and maybe only language, ethnic memory, as well as kinship ties are what links them with one another. 

Perhaps what we are to see happen in the Balkans in the first decade of the 21st century is nothing but this maturation and consolidation of the Albanian national, cultural and civil identity, as well as the difficult personal, family and social choice between tradition and postmodern European values.



100
101 Ibid.
 
Historical background. Ethnogenesis
The Albanian identity and the geographical environment.
George Kastrioti - Skanderbeg's resistance to the Ottomans. Heroicity as part of the Albanian individuality.
Ottoman colonisation and establishment of the new administration.
The Islamisation of the Albanians and its impact on the Albanian religious identity.
The Balkans Revival in the 19th century and the Albanian patriotic ideas
The two world wars, the occupation periods and the frustration of the Albanian national strivings and anticipations for independence.
The survival of the Albanian identities under Enver Hoxha. The role of the isolationist policy of the regime in Tirana.

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