The historical structure of the city of Tirana – notes from the fieldwork

Text: Agata Rogos

Architecture never creates a neutral and harmless unity, but rather, produces an integral structure of political symbols, which were used in Albania as mechanisms for the de-Ottomanization of urban space, which in turn, were focused on the process of state-building and symbolic space. In the time of Ahmet Zogu, one might discuss the existence of two parallel city centers, which reflected symbolic changes in the Ottoman city structure. One marker of this iconographic transformation was the oriental clock-tower (Sahaat Kulla) and its surroundings, which in fascist urban planning had been marginalized, as Italian architects focused on new, modern, European city planning. In the successive communist narration another element of the “old” city structure disappeared – the old market place, which along with the clock tower and Et’hem Bey mosque constituted the most important elements of the oriental city structure. With modern city planning, the main emphasis was placed on the city’s main axis and Skënderbeg Square, which became a place for political rituals during the communist period.

The crucial changes of the urban structure came along with the proclamation of Albanian capital that was initiated in 1920, as provisional, and reasserted in 1925 as official decision of National Assembly. Even though other towns such as Shkodra, Durrës, Vlora or Korça were argued by some groups to be more appropriate for the capital, according to their historic, cultural or economic significance, it was Tirana that was eventually chosen as a main center. The choice was made according to two reasons: geographical position of the city – close to the port of Durrës and not immediately on the border and besides it was one of the few Albanian cities without foreign armies stationed there. Another advantage of choosing Tirana, as capital was its open plain surrounding that could meet the needs of new administrative and governmental buildings and common civic space serving for power rituals, manifestations and gatherings.

As in other south-eastern European post-Ottoman cities and capitals, also Tirana in the early 20th century was being transformed from the oriental city into modern and Europeanized city, which was a parallel process to the national movements of the late 19th and beginning of the 20th century and establishment of national states.

A significant change in the urban structure of Tirana was implemented with a development of the master plan by noted Italian architect Armando Brasini (1925) that expected the construction of a new center with administrative institutions, the parliament and the state government and foremost with a major open with a boulevard in a north-south direction dividing the new town from its other historical and spatial layers. Nevertheless Brasini’s plan was ambitious and most of it was never realized, but the north-south axis has remained central to all urban plans of the city.

The main urban development of Tirana came along with the proclamation of Albania as a ‘democratic, constitutional and heritable monarchy’ in 1928. Since the early 1930s the biggest effort of constructing Tirana’s urban structure was on creating the representative space including institutional edifices as it was designed in the project proposed by Brasini with the main north-south axis crowned with a monumental square that was named for Gjergj Katriot Skënderbeg. The references to symbolic continuation of power of Ahmet Zog I, who claimed to be a relative of Albanian prince suggested legitimacy of the Albanian nation-state. However project proposed by Brasini seemed to be far more monumental and failed to accommodate the old (oriental) city structure with Et’hem-bey mosque and the Clock Tower.

The regulatory plan dated on 1929-1930 revised the previous master plan by increasing the north-south boulevard up to the future stadium was expected to be built north of the old bazaar. The northern part of the boulevard up to Skënderbeg Square was named after King Zog I and was 40 meters wide, whereas the southern part was called the New Boulevard (later renamed as after Stalin).

Yet in 1942 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Albania’s independence, a new Freedom monument with a characteristic fascist style was erected in the main city square. In photographs discovered by Valter Gjoni (2012), one can see from a banner slogan “Rroftë Shqipnija e madhe. Rroftë populli” (Long live Great Albania. Long live the nation) that this monument was based on the idea of Great Albania. As a consequence, this image proves that the fascist regime in Albania was supportive of the act of liberation of Albania performed by Ismail Qemaili in Vlora (1912) and the incorporation of the Albanian territories along with Kosovo and Çamëria. Aesthetic transformations, in this case under the pressure of political and ideological changes, included marking characteristics of identity in the context of national ideology, which will be shown based on the example of a statue of Stalin, which stood on the main square of Tirana in 1951–1968.

In a manner parallel to every Soviet city, the capital of Albania and other smaller cities and towns in the country were constructed as artifacts of socialism based on the concentric structure of the main open public space with a symbol of/monument to the leader in its central position. This type of construction was intended to provide a location for political performances and rituals – actions that would consolidate the Party’s or leader’s authority. The space was defined by two important elements: constative (official) and performative (enacted), which in turn led to a distinction between the masses and the political elites.

General features of the new representation system implemented by Socialist-Realist aesthetics will be crucial also in Albanian context and will enable the overall understanding of the construction of New Space. It is essential to say that these systems of representation have reshaped the very nature of the planning profession. The new form of architecture and art was about to transmit or translate states ideas and prioritize the image of the leader and state apparatus. In a way Stalin, as a creator of the New Order, had begun to extend a homogenous structure over all cities, firstly in Soviet Union and later in other socialist republics of the Communist Block, which were being designed in a more or less parallel way. This kind of ideological and aesthetic constructs creating specified system of representation transposed Soviet Union and its fraternal states as a single land, characterized by the spatial unity, defined by aesthetic references and continuity over boundless territory. Thus, the new style clearly served to represent certain ideological model of power that used the landscape as a stage of projection of ideological constructs.

By analyzing different spatial structures of Socialist Realism it might be observed that cities were adopting the same functional model that was based on different societal units defined as residential quarters. Each one of them was designed to provide access for every resident to necessary services of social living. In the central part of the spatial structures – city center was created a kind of administrative, social and political hierarchy embodied with the most important institutions and with a very important element of the political discourse, which was the symbolic component constituted as an artifact (monument).

Another important feature in the new urban planning is openness and exposition to wide-angled light, creating the space for monumental design, with broad streets and a transparent communication system. That kind of planning imposed the images of the bright future that filled the everyday with a sense of socialism.

As can be seen two different city-planning models adjusted in Tirana – Fascist and Soviet – are very similar according to exposition of space and creation of a representative space. The new structure and new indicators of city planning and the perception of public space in general were implemented according to the Stalinist iconographic vision.

The Stalinist city that emerged on Albanian soil was built upon socio-material and political forces and was totally controlled by political actors, both internal and external. This could be easily referred to as a theatrical construct consisting of stage and audience, with state architects and state artists performing the function of deaf script-writers, caught between two different translations: the visuality of the text that was transmitted through the artifacts of socialism and the Soviet narrative of socialism – the constative and performative aspects of the space.

Outdoor partisan Albania environmental museum – researching border monuments

Text: Agata Rogos

“Wherever you cast your glance in Albania you see a stone, marble, bronze landscape. It is the new landscape of the homeland that has a glorious history, which counts hundreds and thousands of exploit feats for freedom, for the people’s power, for their defence. In this landscape there have been engraved names and events which we honour, we recall them with respect because they increase our forces, they add to our pride. And we continue on the road of the monuments. We read in them about the Albanian insurgents who answered in the language of arms to every invader. These commemorative symbols recall us in Albania conventions where oath was taken and decisions were adopted for the good of Albania. We have before us commemorative tablets, busts and lapidaries, which raise high the names and activity of our fighters for National Revival and of their predecessors. Partisan Albania is entirely an environmental museum. We have erected and shall continue to erect such memorials because they promote the revolutionary education of our youth, army and of all our labouring masses”. (From Përmendore të heroizmit shqiptar, photographic album)

The few existing monuments and statues in Albania entering the communist era were either connected with Ottoman tradition or to the Italian influence period that with no doubt played a very important role in the visuality of the public space, also in modern Albania. The significant changes of the city scapes were not only on the aesthetic level or the choice of particular language and forms chosen to represent the new state and power, but most of all it was about constructing the inexistent national narratives that would be ‘ours’ not implemented through invaders, to use the rhetoric of the socialist and nationally-driven Albanian discourse. And it was obvious that the New Albania was to be created from absolutely different tradition, thus it was about to replace not only the model of representation but to replace religious cult objects with secular elements that were about to retrieve the role of the first ones. The process couldn’t be implemented immediately but successively the whole landscape was enriched with new sculptural monuments, architectonic-sculptural ensambles (like national martyrs cemeteries), lapidaries and museums of National Liberation War (Lufta Nacional Çlirimtare) and art galleries in Tirana and other districts. 

I made my fieldwork in Albania mapping some border monuments – remnants of the WW2 partisan movement. The first impression was a feeling of abandonment or to say – unwanted heritage. However  in the collective memory of Albanians as I was told many times during my interviews – these memorials/monuments were referred to as a commemoration of the partisans’ struggle and not as such as socialist monuments in contradiction to non-exiting nowadays monuments of Enver Hoxha – the main figure of communist Albania. I made my fieldwork in the chosen locations where high in the mountains or in the outskirts of the cities are located these artifacts. 

The lapidars (post-war monuments of partisans and heroes of the WW2) present in Albanian landscapes became cultural systems of communication that create a significant part of the post-communist collective memory and elements of common knowledge, common memory, and foremost of a common Albanian identity. Lapidars and other socialist monuments, together with the cultural landscapes they shape, are part of Albania’s cultural memory. Therefore, all cultural landscape-shaping elements from the socialist period automatically become elements of historic cultural landscapes in a post-socialist environment. A historic cultural landscape that mainly consists of or is dominated by a high density of socialist cultural landscape elements might then be called a historic socialist (cultural) landscape[1]. The historic socialist landscape in Albania comprises far more than bunkers, the ruins left by socialist economic policy, such as industrial complexes (kombinati), agricultural cooperatives (kooperativa), socialist urban design and its functional correlations and architecture, or propaganda elements like slogans on factory chimneys, walls, and mountains, are some of its most visible and significant elements. At least equally striking and omnipresent elements in those landscapes are the widely visible socialist monuments such as the lapidars. Thus, lapidars were, for socialist Albania, serving as an instrument to define its territory and to border off its ideology from other dictatorships of the communist block. As an example one might refer to the no-man’s land between the Albanian–Greek border at Kakavij or the Albanian–Kosovo (former Yugoslavian) border at Qafë Prush.

 As my interviews with the artists of the socialist period in Albania show the biggest explosion of the new monuments and in consequence the construction of the new system of national symbols happened from the beginning of 70’s which might be linked to the separation from Soviet Union and a need to strengthen the national narrative. That is also the moment when Enver Hoxha and his circles started to reconstruct the memories of the partisan movement, reinforcing local impact of the communist system.

A very important component of this new symbolic construct was performativity of celebration in the outdoor partisan Albania environmental museum. During the newly established national holidays these monuments have been successively transformed into the pilgrimage places, where school children, students, soldiers and peasants of state-owned kooperativa have been coming for the commemorative ceremonies. 


[1]M. Bickert, Lapidars and Socialist Monuments as Elements of Albania’s Historic Cultural Landscapes, in Lapidari I, Punctum Books 2015, p. 105-114.

The (hidden) face of Macedonia

The (hidden) face of Macedonia

Luca Paggiaro

How does Macedonia want to introduce itself to their visitors? What does the Southeast European country want them to show and to hide? A personal account of my journey(s) around Macedonia

That’s (allegedly) Macedonia, and nothing else

An “model trip” to Macedonia has to start from the magnificent palaces and monuments of Skopje, the capital city. Macedonia Square (see picture 1), the very town centre, tells the tourists the whole national history with a bunch of statues: the ancient Alexander the Great – located in the middle – dominates over all, while the modern Macedonian independence heroes Dame Gruev and Gotse Delchev overlook the entrance of the Stone Bridge over the central river Vardar and the medieval Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria marks the begin of Macedonia Street, the main city pedestrian zone. Philipp II faces his son Alexander from the other side of the Vardar, whose bank is characterized by shiny neoclassical buildings: the biggest among them is the Museum of Archaeology (see picture 2), surrounded by other museums, government palaces and the massive National Theatre. The monumental downtown includes also Skanderbeg Square (see picture 3), a vast place dedicated to the hero of all Albanians, who represent a significant ethnic minority in Macedonia.

The ideal journey throughout the former Yugoslav republic continues to Ohrid, one of the most impressive city of the Balkan: according to the Ottoman globetrotter Evliya Çelebi, who visited it in 17th century, the town used to have 365 churches, one for each day of the year. Not all survived up to the present, but the remaining are still well worth seeing: above all the marvellous Church of Saint John at Kaneo (see picture 4), built on a cliff which offers the tourists a breath-taking view over the lake. Ohrid has been known for its literary school besides,  established in 886 by Saint Clement – a student of Cyril and Methodius – and renowned for having preserved the Glagolitic script until the 12th century.

As already seen on Skanderbeg Square, in Macedonia do not live only Macedonian-speaking Christians, but also Albanian-speaking Muslims. The trip has therefore to include their cultural centre, the city of Tetovo: visitors are here welcomed by the impressive 15th century Šarena Džamija (Macedonian for “Painted Mosque”) (see picture 5), at the same time a symbol of the former Ottoman rule in Macedonia.

The ideal journey could end here, having portrayed by the way an “ideal image” of the small Balkan republic: a shiny capital city adorned with modern Neoclassical palaces, an ancient town displaying the glorious past of the nation and, at last, a symbolic centre for the main ethnic minority of the country. An ideal portrait maybe suitable for a reductive flyer of the National Tourist Board, or for a simplifying Wikipedia article, but definitely not for a research paper, and even not for this modest article. Hence, the ideal journey has to stop, and a real one has to begin.

That is Macedonia (too)

Let’s return to Skopje and follow the same route through the colossal monuments of the city centre, although this time guided by a representative of the NGO “Ploštad Sloboda” (Macedonian for “Freedom Square”). Let’s discover therefore that this gigantic project called “Skopje 2014” has been a scandalous waste of money: over 670 million euros for having redecorated an area of just 1 km2, participation neither of the citizens nor of the national parliament in all decision-making processes, money laundering in the construction works and use of lowest-quality building materials (some facades are even flammable). That should be enough to boycott the entire showy complex and to take refuge in the truly magnificent Old Bazaar (see picture 6) admiring the numerous mosques, hammams and caravanserais, precious legacy of the Ottoman rule.

Then let’s return again to Tetovo, the capital of the Albanians in Macedonia, and reach the western periphery of the town: the very well conserved Arabati Baba Teḱe (see picture 7) would be rarely mentioned in a city’s guidebook, which rather prefers to direct the few tourists to the Painted Mosque. And it is really a pity considering that Dervish Muttalib – the only one serving in this 18th century compound for spiritual retreat –  would like to show the visitors the beautiful flowered lawns and wooden pavilions. The reason for this is the burning dispute over the property of the tekke between the Bektashi order, which founded it 500 years ago, and the Islamic Community of Macedonia, which regards the Bektashis as “heretics”: in August 2002 the situation escalated since a group of armed Wahhabi Muslims seized control of a large part of the complex, reclaiming it as a mosque – although it has never functioned as a such – and harassing its visitors.

Let’s finally abandon any touristic route and get acquainted with the third-largest ethnic minority of Macedonia: the Turks. Actually some Turkish flags have already been visible in Skopje’s Old Bazaar and also in the Baba Teḱe of Tetovo, but in Centar Župa – a small village situated near the city of Debar – Turks constitute a sweeping 80 percent majority: no surprise then that a majestic statue to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (see picture 8) towers on the central square and that the neighbouring village of Kodžadžik is known for having been the birthplace of Atatürk’s parents. And even though the official languages are Turkish, Macedonian and Albanian – all three taught at school – it’s not unusual to hear local people speaking fluently German or Italian, as much of the population emigrated to Western Europe and return only during the summer holidays.

The real journey could still continue, since this small country includes even more ethnic, linguistic and religious communities, disregarding its innumerable natural and cultural treasures. Macedonia is in the heart of the Balkans and reflects in its own territory all the contradictions of the Balkans, but primarily two: the rich ethnic variety and the poor nationalistic temptations. All in a wonderful landscape.

The (hidden) face of Macedonia

The (hidden) face of Macedonia

Luca Paggiaro

How does Macedonia want to introduce itself to their visitors? What does the Southeast European country want them to show and to hide? A personal account of my journey(s) around Macedonia

That’s (allegedly) Macedonia, and nothing else

An “model trip” to Macedonia has to start from the magnificent palaces and monuments of Skopje, the capital city. Macedonia Square (see picture 1), the very town centre, tells the tourists the whole national history with a bunch of statues: the ancient Alexander the Great – located in the middle – dominates over all, while the modern Macedonian independence heroes Dame Gruev and Gotse Delchev overlook the entrance of the Stone Bridge over the central river Vardar and the medieval Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria marks the begin of Macedonia Street, the main city pedestrian zone. Philipp II faces his son Alexander from the other side of the Vardar, whose bank is characterized by shiny neoclassical buildings: the biggest among them is the Museum of Archaeology (see picture 2), surrounded by other museums, government palaces and the massive National Theatre. The monumental downtown includes also Skanderbeg Square (see picture 3), a vast place dedicated to the hero of all Albanians, who represent a significant ethnic minority in Macedonia.

The ideal journey throughout the former Yugoslav republic continues to Ohrid, one of the most impressive city of the Balkan: according to the Ottoman globetrotter Evliya Çelebi, who visited it in 17th century, the town used to have 365 churches, one for each day of the year. Not all survived up to the present, but the remaining are still well worth seeing: above all the marvellous Church of Saint John at Kaneo (see picture 4), built on a cliff which offers the tourists a breath-taking view over the lake. Ohrid has been known for its literary school besides,  established in 886 by Saint Clement – a student of Cyril and Methodius – and renowned for having preserved the Glagolitic script until the 12th century.

As already seen on Skanderbeg Square, in Macedonia do not live only Macedonian-speaking Christians, but also Albanian-speaking Muslims. The trip has therefore to include their cultural centre, the city of Tetovo: visitors are here welcomed by the impressive 15th century Šarena Džamija (Macedonian for “Painted Mosque”) (see picture 5), at the same time a symbol of the former Ottoman rule in Macedonia.

The ideal journey could end here, having portrayed by the way an “ideal image” of the small Balkan republic: a shiny capital city adorned with modern Neoclassical palaces, an ancient town displaying the glorious past of the nation and, at last, a symbolic centre for the main ethnic minority of the country. An ideal portrait maybe suitable for a reductive flyer of the National Tourist Board, or for a simplifying Wikipedia article, but definitely not for a research paper, and even not for this modest article. Hence, the ideal journey has to stop, and a real one has to begin.

That is Macedonia (too)

Let’s return to Skopje and follow the same route through the colossal monuments of the city centre, although this time guided by a representative of the NGO “Ploštad Sloboda” (Macedonian for “Freedom Square”). Let’s discover therefore that this gigantic project called “Skopje 2014” has been a scandalous waste of money: over 670 million euros for having redecorated an area of just 1 km2, participation neither of the citizens nor of the national parliament in all decision-making processes, money laundering in the construction works and use of lowest-quality building materials (some facades are even flammable). That should be enough to boycott the entire showy complex and to take refuge in the truly magnificent Old Bazaar (see picture 6) admiring the numerous mosques, hammams and caravanserais, precious legacy of the Ottoman rule.

Then let’s return again to Tetovo, the capital of the Albanians in Macedonia, and reach the western periphery of the town: the very well conserved Arabati Baba Teḱe (see picture 7) would be rarely mentioned in a city’s guidebook, which rather prefers to direct the few tourists to the Painted Mosque. And it is really a pity considering that Dervish Muttalib – the only one serving in this 18th century compound for spiritual retreat –  would like to show the visitors the beautiful flowered lawns and wooden pavilions. The reason for this is the burning dispute over the property of the tekke between the Bektashi order, which founded it 500 years ago, and the Islamic Community of Macedonia, which regards the Bektashis as “heretics”: in August 2002 the situation escalated since a group of armed Wahhabi Muslims seized control of a large part of the complex, reclaiming it as a mosque – although it has never functioned as a such – and harassing its visitors.

Let’s finally abandon any touristic route and get acquainted with the third-largest ethnic minority of Macedonia: the Turks. Actually some Turkish flags have already been visible in Skopje’s Old Bazaar and also in the Baba Teḱe of Tetovo, but in Centar Župa – a small village situated near the city of Debar – Turks constitute a sweeping 80 percent majority: no surprise then that a majestic statue to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (see picture 8) towers on the central square and that the neighbouring village of Kodžadžik is known for having been the birthplace of Atatürk’s parents. And even though the official languages are Turkish, Macedonian and Albanian – all three taught at school – it’s not unusual to hear local people speaking fluently German or Italian, as much of the population emigrated to Western Europe and return only during the summer holidays.

The real journey could still continue, since this small country includes even more ethnic, linguistic and religious communities, disregarding its innumerable natural and cultural treasures. Macedonia is in the heart of the Balkans and reflects in its own territory all the contradictions of the Balkans, but primarily two: the rich ethnic variety and the poor nationalistic temptations. All in a wonderful landscape.

The inevitability of nationalism – The case of the Bektashi

The inevitability of nationalism – The case of the Bektashi

Slađan Rankić

Nationalism is a fickle concept, defined so many times in so many way, yet its true potential still escapes us. When one thinks of nationalism, the minds eyes conjures up images of flag waving young men, eager to seek glory in battle (or on the football stadium) for their nation. However, its manifestations are far subtler and much more widespread than what is commonly believed. To start off I will present a working definition of nationalism, from the pen of one of the greatest scholars of nationalism, Eric Hobsbawn. He defines nationalism as: “primarily a principle which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent.”[1] He continues on: “I would add that this principle also implies the political duty of Ruritanians to the polity which encompasses and represents the Ruritanian nation, overrides all other public obligations, and in extreme cases (such as wars) all other obligations of whatever kind.”[2] Now we should define the nation itself. For this I will utilize two complementary visions of the nation, from his book Imagined communities. Firstly, “the nation is an imagined political community and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.”[3] Secondly, “the nation is a solid community moving up (down) history.”[4] Both these definitions were extremely important for me to better comprehend the profound experience of our journey and reflect on the implications of intercommunal dynamics in Macedonia and Albania. Lastly, I must add a few more observations by Iver B Neumann. He claimed that every single ethnic group maintains itself by maintaining its boundaries with other neighboring groups.[5] The neighbors will do the same and thus, through discourse boundaries are maintained and the groups become “solid”. It is critical that the Other acknowledges the narrative of the collective Self, if the Other doesn’t acknowledge the Self, then the cohesiveness of the community is jeopardized. To put it bluntly, using the example from our research, the negotiations between Greece and Macedonia, with Greece being the Macedonian Other, are endangering the “solidity” of the Macedonian nation by not acknowledging its national narrative. The Other is necessary for Us, so that we can define Ourselves against it, yet it is also necessary for the Other to acknowledge Us as being different from it. The case of Germans and Austrians comes to mind vividly.

Even though both nations acknowledge that they both speak the same German language, nevertheless, Austrians fight tooth and nail to maintain their boundary with Germans symbolically(linguistically).  When Austria joined the EU it produced a list of 23 words which are different in High German and Austrian German. Thus, when an EU document regulating, say the trade of potatoes, is drafted, in its German version it must contain two words which mean the same, potato: Kartoffel (High German) and Erdapfel (Austrian). This may seem petty, but this list of 23 words serves a basic function. It acknowledges that there are two distinct political communities within the EU who use the German language. Symbolically and linguistically, Austria has entered into a union with other European nations, while protecting its boundaries with them, particularly with the most similar Other, Germany. Furthermore, Germany and Germans have accepted this symbolical border. This little story serves to illustrate that the logic of maintaining petty differences isn’t endemic to the Balkans. Rather it is necessary succor for any and all social groups which seek to endure and to move up (down history). Now, onto the meat of the matter.

During our trip we have visited many locations which piqued my interest, but for the interest of time I will focus on the most fascinating part of our journey, the visit to the Tekija in Tetovo and the seat of Baba Mondi in Tirana. When we entered the Tekija I was shocked by the stark contrast of this Muslim place of worship from the one in Tetovo proper. The Sunni mosque in the city was beautiful in an ascetic and austere way. The patterns on the walls were intricate and riveting, yet typical of any mosque. When we entered the Tekija however, we were greeted with the pictures of Mohamed and Ali, a taboo for mainstream Islam. Furthermore, although this may be an entirely subjective observation, the Prophets were painted in an effeminate way, with lush red lips and deep dark eyes, adding insult to injury for any adherent of Sunni Islam, let alone Wahhabism. The Tekija was modest, reminiscent of orthodox monasteries of my homeland, however on its outer walls lay flags of many nations, with the flags of: Kosovo, Albania and USA in the most prominent place. The Dervish greeted us and proceeded to tell us the story of his community, going up(down) history, all the while drawing bridges and borders with Catholics, Sunnis and Orthodox. Thus, a solid Sufi community emerged in our minds, distinct from Christians and Muslims, yet similar to both. The Dervish defined his community as being a bridge between radical Christianity and radical Islam. The metaphor of the bridge is omnipresent in the Balkans and I will get to it in a moment. During our talk the Dervish put forward his own hierarchy of collective Selves: 1. Nation, 2. Family, 3. Faith. His thought mirrors the words of one of the creators of Albanian nationalism Pashko Vasa: “The religion of Albanians is albanianism.”

However, it seemed that the Dervish was torn between his Sufi and Albanian Self. He told us that the greatest problem of Sufism is that it doesn’t have a state. Orthodoxy has Russia, Sunni Islam has Saudi Arabia and Sufis have no state to call their own. The Dervish said: “Kad imaš svoju državu možeš da imaš I svoju religiju.” Which I will loosely translate into: “You cannot have a religion without a nation state.” Later on, while the group was slowly entering the bus I stayed behind to speak some more with the Dervish, despite Kristoff’s strong protests. It is here that I learned about the conflict with the local Sunni Albanian population and it is here that I found out that the bullet holes in the Tekija Walls were not from some distant war. There was a constant threat that the Tekija might be stormed and it was shot at multiple times. The Dervish seamed happy to lay down his life as a martyr for his faith, as a true believer always is. He claimed that the Sufis were not men of violence and that no killer can ever be a Sufi. He placed his fate in the will of God, as a true ascetic believer.

The visit to the seat of Baba Mondi was a wake-up call. The humble lodgings of the Dervish and an ascetic spiritual environment was supplanted by an opulent seat of power and a plump religious head garbed in fine silk robes. The Sufi community, like any other human group couldn’t escape a hierarchical structuring of its members. We were escorted to the museum where we could see the history of the Sufi community visualized and presented to onlookers in all its glory. The picture of the prophet Ali, weeping after the battle of Karbala and washing his bloody hands in a river, caught my eye. The picture was breathtaking and inscribed with a poem in his name, written by one of the Frasheri brothers. Our guide was espousing the merits of multiculturalism, claiming that Sufism doesn’t distinguish between nations and that his religion abhors violence. He reiterated the metaphor of the bridge, which the Dervish used before. When I confronted him with the issue of how can a religious community which does not distinguish between nations and holds pacifism in high regard give birth to a nationalist movement and prominent intellectuals who crafted the concept of Greater Albania, the fell silent for a moment. He than answered: “There is no religion without a nation-state.”, and he shifted the topic down history, to the Ottoman era. Our guide proudly claimed that most of the Janissaries were Sufi. I asked: “Isn’t it contradictory that a pacifist religion is dominant within an elite military unit, made up of forced Christian converts to Islam?” Our guide fell silent again. I was challenging the basic premises of his collective Self, challenging the narrative of his community and he became defensive, as I would have in his place.

Now we return to the metaphor of the bridge. Samuel Huntington succinctly defined the problem of the bridge. “A bridge, however, is an artificial creation connecting two solid entities but is a part of neither.”[6] A bridge eases the transition from one shore to another, from one solid entity to another, it is not meant to be a place where one settles. We did hear as much from the Sufis themselves. Christian converts were more agreeable to converting to Sufi Islam than Sunni Islam, since it was not so radically different from their world view. However, we learned later on, from our trip in Skadar that the bridge is now fostering movement in a different direction. Many Sufis are converting to Protestantism, since they are already on the margins of mainstream Islam, they are more receptive to the evangelizing protestant missionaries.

Our guide in Skadar was an Albanian Catholic, who acknowledged that Islam was the delineating factor which helped the Albanian nation to form, juxtaposed to orthodox Serbs and Greeks. Our guide took us on a tour of the catholic churches and Venetian monuments, proud of the mark which Catholicism left on his country. He did not take us to the local mosque, despite the insistences of some of the members of our group. Here I saw yet another display of the inescapable realities of ingroup bias, or quite simply nationalism, and the need to maintain boundaries with Others. In brief, outwardly Albanians do seem like one nation, however the divides between their religious communities run deep. What I saw was, to be melodramatic, a battle for the soul of Albania. To use Huntington again: “the destiny of each linguistically and unified community depends ultimately upon the survival of primary structuring ideas, around which successive generations have coalesced, and which symbolize the society’s continuity.”[7]These primary structuring ideas then become a basis for institutionalization and the competition between these basis produces conflict. There is no religion without a nation state. The Sufi religious heads told us. They wish to enshrine their own principle into the institution which is the Albanian state, to ensure their community ensure its survival. Other religious/ideological communities will do the same, creating further ground for conflict. How would this dynamic play out could be an interesting question to ponder and I would love to discuss it further with all you.

[1] Eric Hosbabwm Nations and Nationalism since 1780- second edition, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016 (23d print), p. 9

[2] ibid

[3] Benedict Anderson Imagined Communities, Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London UK: Verso 2016, p. 6

[4] Ibid p. 26

[5] Iver B Nojman, Upotreba drugog: Istok u formiranju evrpskog identiteta, Beograd: Službeni glasnik, 2011, pp 24-25

[6] Samuel P. Huntington Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order, New York US: Free Press, 2002, p. 149

[7] Samuel P. Huntington Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order, New York US: Free Press, 2002, pp 43-44

The (post)Yugoslav legacy and everyday life in Macedonia and Albania

The (post)Yugoslav legacy and everyday life in Macedonia and Albania – a view from 2017

Marko Kovačević

Context and many questions: political scientist as amateur anthropologist

The Balkans is usually represented as being in-between, one has just to pick a certain end point or two coordinates, and will usually get a perspective that speaks about continuous and seemingly unending travelling. This voyage is different for its states, countries, and societies. Its histories are relative and are interpreted to offer a sort of stability in the narrative, but this “stability” speaks a lot more about the lack of continuity and disruptions that have been felt strongly in the everyday lives of its people. Spanning across borders, people stay, move and leave, trying to get their different individual ways in this uncertain and often unpredictable collective voyage.

But let’s first determine some “posts” and “goals” before moving to the understanding of those in the field, and among the people and cultures. I have had a chance to be part of the study trip to Albania and Macedonia together with the colleagues from Berlin in summer 2017. We have had a chance to talk to people in those countries and see how they see life and the world around them in person. This has helped me to inform my theoretical observations and connect some concepts with the views of the people in the field. I have got a chance to be an amateur anthropologist who gets into discussion political science and his philosophical worldviews to the table. What has come from this is interesting – at the same time confirming some theoretical positions, while potentially offering new insights and testifying about the enduring and puzzling resilience of the Balkans and its peoples.

What seemed as a challenge worth taking for me is trying to understand how political scientist can get his observations from the level of institutions and processes to the level of communities and representations of various theoretical concepts in daily life. How, for example, we can understand socioeconomic transition through observation of concrete materiality and ideas among people who tell us their life stories? But let’s first expose some concepts and related puzzles. This shall enable us to reconnect the many impressions from the field again into a more coherent larger picture. I am not sure if it can be enough to generalize, probably not – but I am interested in how this process works. So, let’s start, and be prepared to answer some of the questions at least tentatively, for I don’t have all the answers myself (caveat lector: it is a complex endeavor, we are in this together)

Problematic identities or problematic frames?

The frames of reference can be individual, collective, national, regional, global. Geography and time are intertwined. Spaces and places are mixed and many. And in global terms, post- (pick your adjective) ‘transition’ is the process that marks this socio-economic and political transition in a region that is filled with its continuous way of life as a creativity and struggle with the challenges of its semiperipherial status in Europe.

This difficult process has lasted for two decades, and it has no end. The questions is, what is the relevance of this divergence between the similar processes outside this region and its peculiarities and lack of true and efficient transformation that we now have to understand and deal with as “reality”. In other words, how is this transitional, and post-Yugoslav reality understood quarter century after the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, and after the legacy of conflict and authoritarianism, that has left its visible imprint in the lives of its people. Alas, the questions are many, and the ways to address them are complicated. This short reflection is, firstly, an attempt to use the everyday and the position of an outsider to these communities to get a sort of a snapshot into how some of these multinational and multireligious communities understand their past experiences of life in a different country of where they are now.

Living in the field

Questions

Theory tells us that identity is based on the difference, on the notions of self and other. It is about the perception of the other, as well as of trying to understand their ability to communicate and live with the other. It is not impossible as the dominant nationalist discourses would like us to think. And now we get to more questions.

To what extent are the emotions important for their understanding of their present state and life. How are those emotions connected to the notions of Yugoslavia, and what it means today? Is it a sheer nostalgia that has some emotional content and meaning, or it forms a meaning that is productive for the life and progress of those communities in a manner that fosters intercultural and transcultural cooperation that overcomes the imposed top-down rhetoric of divides and nationalism? These are some of the questions that I try to address here and provide a brief illustration by offering some examples and impressions from the field and encounter with some people and communities.

Some impressions

The impressions are very favorable to counter the media framed understanding and discourse of the political elites. People are largely aware of the tremendous changes in their societies, and they remember the “good old days” when they were young and were able to live in a different and bigger country that offered them more opportunities for social and economic development. They bring up positive emotions and memories of their friends and colleagues, and speak the language that we understand each other. We are not divided by this common language, we are connected, and are able to discover the points of joint culture, references and hope for further re-establishment of the lives and stories that have been discontinued by force and conflict. We are aware of our burdensome “nationalities”, but that is not the key element in our discussions. We can laugh off any political connotations that are given by the official discourses, and understand that our common denominator and problems are the same. So, can we look for similar solutions? Can we learn from each other? We were able to agree in our perceptions of Yugoslavia as something that was in itself good for its people, and that the situation today is different, it is relatively worse off. But this is the fact of life which the present generation can reframe and we can cooperate. Using our similarities and our differences as a way to again get to know each other and build our own views of common future. Living with each other, not by each other. Building stronger societies.

Reflection and some lessons

Despite numerous challenges, impressions speak about resilient societies that speak about their potential and human strength that lives through its cultural diversity. As to the references to Yugoslav, it is mostly socio-economic, memory of good life, freedom of movement and positive outlook for the future. The question is can, and how, this can be more than a point of personal memory and nostalgia, and translated into the present moment in the lives of that and the new generation. Those people are aware of their common heritage, diversity and a history of convivial. However, the young generation yearns for more communication. Opportunities are ample, and it is easier to travel and connect with people. The question remains how the quality of that relations can be raised to a higher level. How it can be intensified and given a boost in the official discourse as well.

People take as a fact that we are similar, show greater understanding for our challenges and problems, both past and present, and seeking a point of reference where to start from. On a level of sheer impression and communication, ‘Yugoslavia’ brings us together immediately, and helps span generational divides. This positive legacy is relatively easy to get mobilized in conversations, and is the immediate ice breaker and sets the tone in reality, as well as helping open the horizon in a different, „regional“ or a broader „European“ frame today. However, people note that frames have been changed. They see ‘Europe’ as a reference for their future. They acknowledge the need to start talking, and then how people can achieve more if they can freely travel and exchange ideas and do business together. Cultures bring us together.

Returning from the field: Identities that connect the Balkans

We are as peoples and individuals much closer to each other than to some other nations. That has to be utilized. And Yugoslavia is still a big „motivational“ factor despite its state discontinuity. It is an idea and societal fact that lives through legacy, memory, and experience of life. The question is how to build on this positive experiences to initiate greater communication among people and communities – as a way of bridging the conflict-inflicted divides. The importance of the positive legacies for the future ones.

We all share understanding of the real problems in our societies. Unemployment, health, environment, sociopolitical cohesion, participation. Economic development seen as key. Importance of diasporas. Democratization and political accountability. More cooperation seen as the key aspect of progress for the region as a whole. The examples from Tetovo and Skopje speak at great length about this. Libofshe offers a kind of warm, human story of hospitality and acceptance in an unexpected multicultural environment. Zupa evokes the undertones of the Yugoslav times and some new environment and understanding of the shared challenges for the young generation in the region. A discussion in Tirana about Albanian-Serbian relations shows optimism for future dialogues.

All these communities demonstrate hope and show resilience living against the difficulties. That is how life wins, and what keeps and elevates this discourse of multicultural and tolerant societies in the Balkans – it is just a matter of priority which stories we want to tell in the public. It is a miracle of discovery through communication and going beyond the news headlines. Let’s share more of these voices and  tell stories about identities that underpin amity in ‘the region,’ and farther to our common world. As individuals we maybe cannot do much to change the world, but in our capacity as reflexive beings and zoon politikon we should at least try.

Women on the Balkans

Women on the Balkans

Nasiba Abbasova, Translation: Megan Nagel

During our DAAD field trip to Macedonia and Albania with the aim of exploring the Balkan Muslims it was also interesting to observe the women both in cities and villages. Here the question is not only about the division of the role of men and women in the family or society but also about the influence of religion on the lives of the women. In our case Islam. According to the 2002 census 30% of the Macedonian population identify as Muslim, in Albania 50% according to their last census in 2011. From 1968 until the 1990s Albania was an atheist state under communist rule.

Tirana, Albania. Source: S. Stankovic

Tirana, Albania. Source: S. Stankovic

Women in cities and villages

Muslim women are represented everywhere in cities; on the street, at the markets and in other public spaces, whether with headscarf or not. To be out on the street at midnight as a woman is not dangerous. Smoking and drinking alcohol in public is also no problem.

Skopje Old Bazaar, mainly Albanian and Muslim part

The women in the villages are very friendly but not always visible. Public squares such as cafés or teahouses are mainly frequented by men. In the villages usually old ladies live in big and beautiful villas, either alone or with their men. One of these women is Afrodita whom we met in a village. She lives alone in a two-storeyed villa throughout the whole year. Her children and grandchildren live in Germany and she visits them a few times a year. She prepares different jams made with the fruit from her own garden and other specialities which she takes along to Germany when she visits. She welcomed us like her own grandchildren and hugged and kissed us when parting, presenting us with her tasty apples.

Women of the Bektashi community

During our field trip we visited the Bektashi community in the Macedonian town of Tetovo. During the conversation with the friendly man who is going to be the Dervish the coming years it appeared that the women of this faith are well educated, mostly with university degrees. They do not have to wear a headscarf or chador. The Bektashi community in Tetovo has had a woman as the Baba, the highest position in this society.

Women as entrepreneurs

In Zogaj, a beautiful village on Lake Skadar on the Montenegrin-Albanian border a workshop was founded a few years ago by a young woman where they produce carpets and bags etc in different sizes. It is a small and friendly team of women working here.

The owner of the workshop

Zogaj, Workshop. Source: Darinka Antić

Good future perspectives abroad

During the conversation with the women it became clear that they hope for a good and safe future for their children. Many want to send their children to Western Europe, especially Germany, for a good university degree and hope for a good perspective for staying there. A saleswoman in a shopping centre in Tirana talked about how she came to Germany with her two children during the refugee wave and was deported half a year later. She wants to do her best for her children to receive good higher education in Germany. “Good studies” and a “good life” in Germany/abroad are the most important desires for these women.

Forgotten Spaces

Forgotten Spaces in border regions

Michał Piasek, Translation Megan Nagel

The DAAD field trip led the group to regions where borders have been shifted over the past centuries and new borders have been drawn. In a visible and an invisible way. The Ottoman Empire shaped the region in a special way so that not only new political borders developed but also religious. Many of these borders are invisible and four chosen locations marked on the map will be presented.

This article is a portrait of the so-called “bordercrossing” shown in four chosen locations: Debar, Dolna Gorica, Zogaj and Rreth-Libofshe. All places are located along the political border of Macedonia and Albania and Montenegro and Albania, except Rreth-Libofshe. Rreth-Libofshe represents an own special place which will be explained later. All places but Debar which is mainly Albanian speaking are located in Albania. The presented locations are all connected by the same long Ottoman history as well as many political changes in the 20th century. New political systems, migrations and regimes which had a big impact on these places. Another communality is the fact that these four places are inhabited by groups that are linguistic minorities.

Sal markja memorial park

An old graveyard on the Macedonian-Albanian border close to Debar. This place is invisible from outside but after entering the forest old Ottoman traces appear. The region was  conquered by the Ottomans in 1395 and represented an important border between the League of Lezha under Gjergi Kastrioti and the Ottomans in the 15th century. It stayed under Ottoman rule until the Balkan Wars in 1912/13. Presently more than 90% of Debar’s population is Albanian speaking. Islam has the most members due to historic reasons. The members in this region are Albanians, Torbesh and Turks.

Dolna Gorica

After Enver Hoxha changed the original Slavic toponyms to Albanian in the 1970s  the Macedonian speaking village known as Goricë e Vogel located on Lake Prespa changed its name again in 2013, like all other places in this community. Together with eight more villages Dolna Gorica forms the only officially recognised community of a Macedonian speaking group. After numerous shifts of borders it is now located on the Albanian side of Lake Prespa. It distinguishes itself through the Macedonian speaking school and the small Orthodox church and graveyard.

Ottoman gravestones next to the mosque in Zogaj at lake Prespa

The village is located about one kilometre from the Montenegrin border. Zogaj was also under Ottoman rule after the siege of Shkodër 1578/79 until the Balkan Wars 1912/13. The traces are still visible today, as this gravestone shows. Today a small group of people speaking Serbian/Montenegrin is living in this region.

Graveyard next to the monastery “Manastiri i Shën Kozmait“ close to Rreth-Libofshe

Self-declared Serbians of Muslim faith  are living in this village. They came from the region around Novi Pazar in the first third of the 20th century. This is an isolated space because the other Serbian/Bosnian speaking groups in the region Fier declare themselves as Bosniaks.

This was only a selection of the so called Forgotten Spaces along the national borders of today. There are many more churches, monasteries, graveyards etc that make the old borders from the Ottoman Era visible. These spaces (graveyards and religious buildings) also show different historic events. The questions is whether these spaces will stay forgotten or play a role in the development of these regions. At least they enrich the cultural landscape and represent material for further research.

State Identities and Architecture in Albania and Macedonia: Ontological Security Perspective

State Identities and Architecture in Albania and Macedonia: Ontological Security Perspective

Milan Krstić

This outline aims to investigated whether the ontological security theory could be used to explain the linkage between certain public architecture policies and practices in Macedonia and Albania and (foreign policy) identities of these states. Public landscapes in Macedonia and Albania have undergone significant changes since the beginning of their political transition in 1990s. The gigantic project “Skopje 2014” is probably the most important example of such fundamental architectural changes. While various theoretical approaches could serve the explanation of different urban planning policies in Macedonia and Albania, the ontological security theory has so far not been applied to these two cases (to the best of our knowledge). The aim of this outline is, therefore, to quickly test whether the application of the ontological security theory to these two cases seems justified and promising.

Ontological security theory

Ontological security could be defined as a “confidence that most human beings have in the continuity of their self-identity and in the constancy of the surrounding social and material environments of action” (Giddens 1991, 92). This originally sociological theory soon spread into the scientific field of International Relations and International Security, starting from the 2000s (see for example: Mitzen 2006). The key aspect of this theory is the claim that certain elements of states’ behavior in international relations cannot be explained neither by the mere cost-benefit logic (rational behavior/ theory of rational choice), nor by the logic of appropriateness (normative behavior/social constructivist theory), but can be instead best explained through the states’ desire to protect their self-identity. In other words, states sometimes behave opposite of their cost-benefit rational, or even opposite of the norms accepted in the international society, all with an aim to protect what they consider essential for the continuity and consistency of their identity.

However, the existing literature has been mostly focused on the behavior (habitus) of states in their contacts (communication) with foreign audience, but not on the “material environment” and the ways in which material space could be influenced by the factor of ontological security, even though the spatial dimension of ontological security has been very important in the sociology studies. This gap was, however, recently addressed by Ejdus (2017) in his study on the way in which Serbia’s search for ontological security influenced the destiny of certain buildings in Belgrade, such as the Military Chief of Staff building, which was purposefully left ruined as a symbol of causalities caused by NATO bombing in 1999.

Macedonia

At the end of the 2000s, Macedonia started the gigantic project “Skopje 2014”, aimed at constructing numerous buildings in city center of Skopje – the majority of which in antic style. While this extremely expensive project was publicly justified with the cost-benefit logic (potential profits from tourism in future etc.), it was rather obvious from the very beginning that in a state like Macedonia, whose GDP is much below the continental average, the cost-benefit calculation for such a project was more than suspicious. On the other hand, projects based on the construction of “antic” objects in the city center, like this one, do not definitely represent any kind of a norm followed by other European cities (such things are common only to certain entertaining places in the world, such as Las Vegas).

It therefore seems that both cost-benefit logic and normative logic are quite flawed in the explanation of this case, which leaves plenty of space for the application of the ontological security theory. The main ontological security argument seems very plausible and intuitive: faced with attacks on its identity which are coming from Greece, as well as with widespread perception of Macedonians as “newcomers” to these territories in comparison to Greeks and Albanians (who perceive themselves as heirs of Ilirs), Macedonians decided to spend money on a project which would symbolize their runaway from the Slavic heritage and “antic” identity, in order to prove their historical continuity in the Balkans.

However, is it actually possible to talk about “security” and continuity of the identity in this case? It seems that there are significant obstacles to such a claim. First of all, the fundaments of such (antic) identity are not solid among the majority of Macedonians since mostly perceive themselves as Slavs, not as ancient Macedonians. Therefore, it seems that we cannot talk about “security” or “continuity” of the existing identity in the case in which this identity is not firm enough.

Moreover, when we look at the consequences of the insistence on such an identity, we can see that it has done nothing but caused ontological insecurity and turbulences, instead of strengthening ontological security in Macedonia! Skopje 2014 became a point of conflict between government and opposition and between different segments of Macedonian society, causing a massive civil society reaction (such as the organization Plostad Sloboda). Eventually, the government which supported this project lost the general and local elections in 2017 from those who opposed these identity building projects.

Albania

Albania has not suffered radical changes in the public space similar to those in Skopje. On the contrary – on the very first sight there is a feeling of continuity with earlier public spaces from the communist period. Buildings from this period dominate the landscape in Tirana and other Albanian towns, while communist bunkers could be seen almost everywhere. If one takes these facts into account, he could easily assume that there is no space for the application of ontological security theory. Unlike in Skopje, in Tirana we cannot find such a project which would be hard to explain using the cost-benefit or normative logics, and which would be based on the construction of antic-Ilir-Ottoman or any other retro-style buildings.

However, similar to the case of Macedonia, where we offered two counterarguments which might lead us to a completely counterintuitive conclusion – there are certain elements which might show us that the Albanian urban planning was also to a certain extent influenced by the ontological security. First of all, the decision to preserve and adopt communist spaces (through coloring their facades with warm colors or through turning them into museums, such as BunkArt) was perhaps motivated not solely or even not primarily by material reasons, but by the desire to keep the continuity even with some aspects of the communist heritage. The most important one is secularism (which was radical in its form of state atheism during communism), whose moderate form guarantees equality of different religions and unity of the nation. Parallel revival of Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox religious spaces proves that the equal presence of different religions in public spaces is indeed very important. The second reason why communist architecture is preserved and modified might be its usefulness for the construction of the “constitutive other” in public space for modern Albanian state. A good example in this regard is the mentioned BunkArt museum, where communist facilities present its hidden and autocratic history in order to send the message that Albania should never again be as isolated as then.

Conclusion

This brief outline has shown that there are sufficient elements calling for the application of the ontological security theory in the very different cases of Macedonia and Albania. Despite the fact that arguments against the applicability of this theory seem to solid as well, the very existence of the abovementioned evidence is enough for the conclusion that further investigation in this direction would be both theoretically and empirically justified. Nevertheless, if to be conducted properly, such a challenging research needs to include extensive field work, numerous structured and semi-structured interviews with relevant actors, as well as a thorough desk analysis of the relevant documents. Even if the analysis provides strong evidences in favor of the ontological security theory   explanation of certain urban planning practices in Macedonia and Albania, all alternative explanations (not only rationalistic and constructivist approaches, but as well those focusing on leaders, corruption and their private interests which might be the actual variable) is necessary.

State Identities and Architecture in Albania and Macedonia: Ontological Security Perspective

State Identities and Architecture in Albania and Macedonia: Ontological Security Perspective

Milan Krstić

This outline aims to investigated whether the ontological security theory could be used to explain the linkage between certain public architecture policies and practices in Macedonia and Albania and (foreign policy) identities of these states. Public landscapes in Macedonia and Albania have undergone significant changes since the beginning of their political transition in 1990s. The gigantic project “Skopje 2014” is probably the most important example of such fundamental architectural changes. While various theoretical approaches could serve the explanation of different urban planning policies in Macedonia and Albania, the ontological security theory has so far not been applied to these two cases (to the best of our knowledge). The aim of this outline is, therefore, to quickly test whether the application of the ontological security theory to these two cases seems justified and promising.

Ontological security theory

Ontological security could be defined as a “confidence that most human beings have in the continuity of their self-identity and in the constancy of the surrounding social and material environments of action” (Giddens 1991, 92). This originally sociological theory soon spread into the scientific field of International Relations and International Security, starting from the 2000s (see for example: Mitzen 2006). The key aspect of this theory is the claim that certain elements of states’ behavior in international relations cannot be explained neither by the mere cost-benefit logic (rational behavior/ theory of rational choice), nor by the logic of appropriateness (normative behavior/social constructivist theory), but can be instead best explained through the states’ desire to protect their self-identity. In other words, states sometimes behave opposite of their cost-benefit rational, or even opposite of the norms accepted in the international society, all with an aim to protect what they consider essential for the continuity and consistency of their identity.

However, the existing literature has been mostly focused on the behavior (habitus) of states in their contacts (communication) with foreign audience, but not on the “material environment” and the ways in which material space could be influenced by the factor of ontological security, even though the spatial dimension of ontological security has been very important in the sociology studies. This gap was, however, recently addressed by Ejdus (2017) in his study on the way in which Serbia’s search for ontological security influenced the destiny of certain buildings in Belgrade, such as the Military Chief of Staff building, which was purposefully left ruined as a symbol of causalities caused by NATO bombing in 1999.

Macedonia

At the end of the 2000s, Macedonia started the gigantic project “Skopje 2014”, aimed at constructing numerous buildings in city center of Skopje – the majority of which in antic style. While this extremely expensive project was publicly justified with the cost-benefit logic (potential profits from tourism in future etc.), it was rather obvious from the very beginning that in a state like Macedonia, whose GDP is much below the continental average, the cost-benefit calculation for such a project was more than suspicious. On the other hand, projects based on the construction of “antic” objects in the city center, like this one, do not definitely represent any kind of a norm followed by other European cities (such things are common only to certain entertaining places in the world, such as Las Vegas).

It therefore seems that both cost-benefit logic and normative logic are quite flawed in the explanation of this case, which leaves plenty of space for the application of the ontological security theory. The main ontological security argument seems very plausible and intuitive: faced with attacks on its identity which are coming from Greece, as well as with widespread perception of Macedonians as “newcomers” to these territories in comparison to Greeks and Albanians (who perceive themselves as heirs of Ilirs), Macedonians decided to spend money on a project which would symbolize their runaway from the Slavic heritage and “antic” identity, in order to prove their historical continuity in the Balkans.

However, is it actually possible to talk about “security” and continuity of the identity in this case? It seems that there are significant obstacles to such a claim. First of all, the fundaments of such (antic) identity are not solid among the majority of Macedonians since mostly perceive themselves as Slavs, not as ancient Macedonians. Therefore, it seems that we cannot talk about “security” or “continuity” of the existing identity in the case in which this identity is not firm enough.

Moreover, when we look at the consequences of the insistence on such an identity, we can see that it has done nothing but caused ontological insecurity and turbulences, instead of strengthening ontological security in Macedonia! Skopje 2014 became a point of conflict between government and opposition and between different segments of Macedonian society, causing a massive civil society reaction (such as the organization Plostad Sloboda). Eventually, the government which supported this project lost the general and local elections in 2017 from those who opposed these identity building projects.

Albania

Albania has not suffered radical changes in the public space similar to those in Skopje. On the contrary – on the very first sight there is a feeling of continuity with earlier public spaces from the communist period. Buildings from this period dominate the landscape in Tirana and other Albanian towns, while communist bunkers could be seen almost everywhere. If one takes these facts into account, he could easily assume that there is no space for the application of ontological security theory. Unlike in Skopje, in Tirana we cannot find such a project which would be hard to explain using the cost-benefit or normative logics, and which would be based on the construction of antic-Ilir-Ottoman or any other retro-style buildings.

However, similar to the case of Macedonia, where we offered two counterarguments which might lead us to a completely counterintuitive conclusion – there are certain elements which might show us that the Albanian urban planning was also to a certain extent influenced by the ontological security. First of all, the decision to preserve and adopt communist spaces (through coloring their facades with warm colors or through turning them into museums, such as BunkArt) was perhaps motivated not solely or even not primarily by material reasons, but by the desire to keep the continuity even with some aspects of the communist heritage. The most important one is secularism (which was radical in its form of state atheism during communism), whose moderate form guarantees equality of different religions and unity of the nation. Parallel revival of Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox religious spaces proves that the equal presence of different religions in public spaces is indeed very important. The second reason why communist architecture is preserved and modified might be its usefulness for the construction of the “constitutive other” in public space for modern Albanian state. A good example in this regard is the mentioned BunkArt museum, where communist facilities present its hidden and autocratic history in order to send the message that Albania should never again be as isolated as then.

Conclusion

This brief outline has shown that there are sufficient elements calling for the application of the ontological security theory in the very different cases of Macedonia and Albania. Despite the fact that arguments against the applicability of this theory seem to solid as well, the very existence of the abovementioned evidence is enough for the conclusion that further investigation in this direction would be both theoretically and empirically justified. Nevertheless, if to be conducted properly, such a challenging research needs to include extensive field work, numerous structured and semi-structured interviews with relevant actors, as well as a thorough desk analysis of the relevant documents. Even if the analysis provides strong evidences in favor of the ontological security theory   explanation of certain urban planning practices in Macedonia and Albania, all alternative explanations (not only rationalistic and constructivist approaches, but as well those focusing on leaders, corruption and their private interests which might be the actual variable) is necessary.

Multilingualism

About multilingualism within the population of Macedonia and Albania

Darinka Antić und Luca Paggiaro, Translation: Megan Nagel

The question about national identity can be a difficult one in the Balkans. Therefore the question about language skills was less “problematic” and easier to answer. Furthermore it enabled a better access to the people and lead to insightful replies.

During the field trip to Macedonia and Albania our group was often confronted with multilingualism, initially visual through diverse linguistic landscapes and the presence of at least two languages. We encountered this especially in towns, e.g. road signs and sign postings of government buildings in Skopje. These signs from above bear both Macedonian and Albanian. To the signs from below such as the name plates of shops and restaurants, menus etc. other languages are added e.g. Turkish, English and Arabic. The presence of many different languages in a linguistic landscape can give information about the ethnic composition of a town and visualise multilingualism clearly. However, the centre of our fieldwork was made up by the protagonists of this multilingualism, that is the inhabitants of the visited villages and towns.

Luca, participant of the field trip, with construction worker Agron in a café in Centar Župa

As part of our fieldwork we were able to meet locals of different religions, ages and environments and conduct conversations, e.g. with shop vendors at the Basar in Skopje, pensioners in small Albanian villages and a Macedonian who emigrated to Western Europe of Turkish nationality. In these interviews we asked them what languages they know, in which situations they use and how they had learned them. Our group tried to define the native language(s) of the interviewees which was not always easy as some of them were only allowed to speak it/them with their closest family members. Furthermore we asked them about their biographies so as to find out more about the socio-historic background and development of multilingualism within the local population of Macedonia and Albania. This is how we learned that the language use of some interviewees had undercome special changes during their life. For example during communist times some languages were not used as much or even suppressed in public while others were acquired because of migration. The following short profiles illustrate this.

Darinka, a participant of the field trip, drinking tea with Mendur, owner of an Antique shop


Fadil

Owner of a market stand in Skopje

Language: Albanian (native language)
Acquisition: parents (father from Kosovo)
Use: family, friends, customers

Language: Macedonian (second native language)
Acquisition: school (born in Skopje)
Use: friends, customers, authorities

Language: Englisch (good proficiency)
Acquisition: TV series
Use: customers

Language: Serbo Croatian (very basic proficiency)
Acquisition: school
Use: customers

Fadil’s family planned to emigrate to Turkey in 1955 from their homeland Kosovo. Their journey first brought them to Macedonia which had only been planned as a stopover. However the family could not continue their journey and stayed in Skopje, where Fadil was born. Today he is married, has a son and dreams of the same thing his father did decades before: emigrating to Turkey with his family. He is especially worried about the economic situation which is bad for every Albanian in Macedonia, he says. Emigrating to Turkey would mean changing this and being able to lead a better life.

We talked to Fadil in English.


Mendur

Owner of an antique shop, topic Yugo-nostalgia

„Nema veze na kom jeziku govoris, svi smo naši!“

(It doesn’t matter what language you speak, we are all the same!)

Language: Albanian (native language)
Acquisition: parents (family from Kosovo)
Use: family, friends, customers

Language: Macedonian (second native language)
Acquisition: school
Use: family, customers, authorities

Language: Serbo Croatian (very good proficiency)
Acquisition: school
Use: customers

Language: Arabic
Acquisition: mosque, Koran school
Use: customers, mosque

Mendur talked less about his family’s reasons to leave their home country or why they stayed in Macedonia. But he talked about the “good old days” with enthusiasm. Back then, when he was living in Yugoslavia, in his opinion the population under Tito wasn’t lacking anything. He concludes: „Umreo Tito, umrelo sve!“ (It all came to an end when Tito died!)

Mendur is from a very faithful Muslim family. He prays five times a day and goes to the mosque regularly. He proudly talks about his brother who works as a Khawaja in Cairo. He repeats several times that origin, nationality, language and religion do not play a role as long as one is diligent, honest, educated and treats fellow human beings with respect.

We talked to Mendur in Serbo Croatian.


Adnan

Owner of a carpet shop in Skopje

„Svaki jezik je bogadstvo, nema veze koji!“

(Every language is a treasure, no matter wich!)

Language: Albanian (native language)
Acquisition: parents (he is from Peć, Kosovo)
Use: family, friends, customers

Language: Macedonian (second native language)
Acquisition: school (he came to Skopje as a child)
Use: acquaintances, customers, authorities

Language: Serbo Croatian (very good proficiency)
Acquisition: school
Use: customers

Language: Turkish (basic proficiency)
Acquisition: school (the plan was to emigrate to Turkey)
Use: customers

Adnan’s family wanted to emigrate to Turkey from their hometown Peć. When they were already on their way new laws under Ranković prohibited this and the family dismissed their plan. At school he learned Turkish for 12 years. He is not content in Macedonia but thinks that his family would be worse off in Kosovo or Albania. He notes that multilingualism is a widely spread matter of course in the Balkans.

We talked to Adnan in Serbo Croatian.


Vlade

Pensioner from Dolna Gorica, Albania

Language: Macedonian (native language)
Acquisition: school
Use: family, villagers

Language: Albanian (second native language)
Acquisition: school
Use: inhabitants from other towns such as Tirana or Korça

The Macedonian ethnic minority in the region at Prespa Lake and Golloborda was recognised officially by the communist regime after the Second World War, therefore the inhabitants were allowed to learn Macedonian at school and use it officially. Vlade used to work for an Agricultural cooperative and was able to speak Macedonian at work as well, but when a representative from Korça visited he had to switch to Albanian.

Nowadays both languages are spoken. After the fall of communism Vlade was able to travel to Macedonia and work there, furthermore he had free access to Macedonian newspapers and TV.

We talked to Vlade in Albanian and the conversation was later translated by a friend.


Agron

Construction worker from Centar Župa, Macedonia

„Ako ne znaš svoj majčin jezik, ne možes da živiš.“

(If you do not know your mother tongue you cannot live!)

Language: Turkish (native language)
Acquisition: school
Use: Turkish speaking villagers and inhabitants from neighbouring villages

Language: Macedonian
Acquisition: school
Use: Macedonian speaking villagers and inhabitants of other towns in Macedonia, family

Language: Albanian
Acquisition: parents (father lived in Albania), school
Use: villagers, inhabitants of Debar (mainly Albanian speaking population), family (some relatives live in Albania)

Language: Italian
Acquisition: work stay in Italy
Use: everyday life, family (sons and daughters were educated in Italy)

Language: German
Acquisition: short term work stay in Austria
Use: sometimes in everyday life in South Tyrol (German and Italian speaking region in Italy)

Language: Serbo Croatian and Slovenian
Acquisition: service as an officer in the Yugoslav People’s Army in Serbia and Slovenia
Use: today rarely

In socialist Yugoslavia mostly Macedonian was spoken even though it was not forbidden to teach and use Turkish and Albanian. Nevertheless many Turkish speaking villagers had to flee to Turkey during the communist regime.

After the fall of communism many former villagers of Turkish nationality were able to return to the village, therefore the number of Turkish speaking population has risen. In school lessons are mainly held in Turkish but also in Macedonian and Albanian.

We talked to Agron in Italian and Serbo Croatian..


Isuf

Pensioner from Zogaj, Albania

Language: Serbo Croatian (native language)
Acquisition: parents (of Montenegrin origin)
Use: parents, relatives from Montenegro

Language: Albanian (second native language)
Acquisition: school
Use: family (wife is Albanian), everyday life

Isuf was born in Shkodra (Albania), however his parents are from Podgorica (Montenegro) and emigrated to Albania before the Second World War. Under Hoxha’s regime it was officially forbidden to speak Serbo Croatian. Only he learned the language from his parents while his three sisters only spoke Albanian. He was also never allowed to speak Serbo Croatian with other people of Yugoslav origin in Shkodra.

After the opening of the border in 1989 Isuf was permitted to visit his relatives in Podgorica for the first time. He worked for the arms manufacturer “Yugoimport” in the Montenegrin capital in the 90s. Nowadays all inhabitants of Serbian origin are free to communicate in their native language.

We talked to Isuf in Serbo Croatian.


The biographies of the interviewees helped us to understand how the widespread multilingualism within the population came about.

In addition we heard of more details from the local inhabitants, e.g. how the use of a language changed during their life. They reported that some languages retreated into the background and lost their prestige. In consequence their use and presence also declined. This was influenced by political and historical events as well as personal decisions that were one of the main reasons for the acquisition of new languages, e.g. emigration.


MORE TOPICS

Die Bektashi in Albanien und ihre Geschichte

Die Watchdog-Organisation Eco Guerilla

Fieldwork Šipkovica: Perceptions and group dynamics

Forgotten Spaces in border regions

Interkulturalität und Mehrsprachigkeit in Albanien und Mazedonien

Mehrsprachigkeit innerhalb der einheimischen Bevölkerung Mazedoniens und Albaniens

The representation of multilingualism in the linguistic landscape of Macedonia

Skopje 2014

State Identities and Architecture in Albania and Macedonia

The (hidden) face of Macedonia

The inevitability of nationalism

The (post)Yugoslav legacy and everyday life in Macedonia and Albania

Women on the Balkans

State Identities and Architecture in Albania and Macedonia

State Identities and Architecture in Albania and Macedonia: Ontological Security Perspective

Milan Krstić

This outline aims to investigated whether the ontological security theory could be used to explain the linkage between certain public architecture policies and practices in Macedonia and Albania and (foreign policy) identities of these states. Public landscapes in Macedonia and Albania have undergone significant changes since the beginning of their political transition in 1990s. The gigantic project “Skopje 2014” is probably the most important example of such fundamental architectural changes. While various theoretical approaches could serve the explanation of different urban planning policies in Macedonia and Albania, the ontological security theory has so far not been applied to these two cases (to the best of our knowledge). The aim of this outline is, therefore, to quickly test whether the application of the ontological security theory to these two cases seems justified and promising.

Ontological security theory

Ontological security could be defined as a “confidence that most human beings have in the continuity of their self-identity and in the constancy of the surrounding social and material environments of action” (Giddens 1991, 92). This originally sociological theory soon spread into the scientific field of International Relations and International Security, starting from the 2000s (see for example: Mitzen 2006). The key aspect of this theory is the claim that certain elements of states’ behavior in international relations cannot be explained neither by the mere cost-benefit logic (rational behavior/ theory of rational choice), nor by the logic of appropriateness (normative behavior/social constructivist theory), but can be instead best explained through the states’ desire to protect their self-identity. In other words, states sometimes behave opposite of their cost-benefit rational, or even opposite of the norms accepted in the international society, all with an aim to protect what they consider essential for the continuity and consistency of their identity.

However, the existing literature has been mostly focused on the behavior (habitus) of states in their contacts (communication) with foreign audience, but not on the “material environment” and the ways in which material space could be influenced by the factor of ontological security, even though the spatial dimension of ontological security has been very important in the sociology studies. This gap was, however, recently addressed by Ejdus (2017) in his study on the way in which Serbia’s search for ontological security influenced the destiny of certain buildings in Belgrade, such as the Military Chief of Staff building, which was purposefully left ruined as a symbol of causalities caused by NATO bombing in 1999.

Macedonia

At the end of the 2000s, Macedonia started the gigantic project “Skopje 2014”, aimed at constructing numerous buildings in city center of Skopje – the majority of which in antic style. While this extremely expensive project was publicly justified with the cost-benefit logic (potential profits from tourism in future etc.), it was rather obvious from the very beginning that in a state like Macedonia, whose GDP is much below the continental average, the cost-benefit calculation for such a project was more than suspicious. On the other hand, projects based on the construction of “antic” objects in the city center, like this one, do not definitely represent any kind of a norm followed by other European cities (such things are common only to certain entertaining places in the world, such as Las Vegas).

It therefore seems that both cost-benefit logic and normative logic are quite flawed in the explanation of this case, which leaves plenty of space for the application of the ontological security theory. The main ontological security argument seems very plausible and intuitive: faced with attacks on its identity which are coming from Greece, as well as with widespread perception of Macedonians as “newcomers” to these territories in comparison to Greeks and Albanians (who perceive themselves as heirs of Ilirs), Macedonians decided to spend money on a project which would symbolize their runaway from the Slavic heritage and “antic” identity, in order to prove their historical continuity in the Balkans.

However, is it actually possible to talk about “security” and continuity of the identity in this case? It seems that there are significant obstacles to such a claim. First of all, the fundaments of such (antic) identity are not solid among the majority of Macedonians since mostly perceive themselves as Slavs, not as ancient Macedonians. Therefore, it seems that we cannot talk about “security” or “continuity” of the existing identity in the case in which this identity is not firm enough.

Moreover, when we look at the consequences of the insistence on such an identity, we can see that it has done nothing but caused ontological insecurity and turbulences, instead of strengthening ontological security in Macedonia! Skopje 2014 became a point of conflict between government and opposition and between different segments of Macedonian society, causing a massive civil society reaction (such as the organization Plostad Sloboda). Eventually, the government which supported this project lost the general and local elections in 2017 from those who opposed these identity building projects.

Albania

Albania has not suffered radical changes in the public space similar to those in Skopje. On the contrary – on the very first sight there is a feeling of continuity with earlier public spaces from the communist period. Buildings from this period dominate the landscape in Tirana and other Albanian towns, while communist bunkers could be seen almost everywhere. If one takes these facts into account, he could easily assume that there is no space for the application of ontological security theory. Unlike in Skopje, in Tirana we cannot find such a project which would be hard to explain using the cost-benefit or normative logics, and which would be based on the construction of antic-Ilir-Ottoman or any other retro-style buildings.

However, similar to the case of Macedonia, where we offered two counterarguments which might lead us to a completely counterintuitive conclusion – there are certain elements which might show us that the Albanian urban planning was also to a certain extent influenced by the ontological security. First of all, the decision to preserve and adopt communist spaces (through coloring their facades with warm colors or through turning them into museums, such as BunkArt) was perhaps motivated not solely or even not primarily by material reasons, but by the desire to keep the continuity even with some aspects of the communist heritage. The most important one is secularism (which was radical in its form of state atheism during communism), whose moderate form guarantees equality of different religions and unity of the nation. Parallel revival of Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox religious spaces proves that the equal presence of different religions in public spaces is indeed very important. The second reason why communist architecture is preserved and modified might be its usefulness for the construction of the “constitutive other” in public space for modern Albanian state. A good example in this regard is the mentioned BunkArt museum, where communist facilities present its hidden and autocratic history in order to send the message that Albania should never again be as isolated as then.

Conclusion

This brief outline has shown that there are sufficient elements calling for the application of the ontological security theory in the very different cases of Macedonia and Albania. Despite the fact that arguments against the applicability of this theory seem to solid as well, the very existence of the abovementioned evidence is enough for the conclusion that further investigation in this direction would be both theoretically and empirically justified. Nevertheless, if to be conducted properly, such a challenging research needs to include extensive field work, numerous structured and semi-structured interviews with relevant actors, as well as a thorough desk analysis of the relevant documents. Even if the analysis provides strong evidences in favor of the ontological security theory   explanation of certain urban planning practices in Macedonia and Albania, all alternative explanations (not only rationalistic and constructivist approaches, but as well those focusing on leaders, corruption and their private interests which might be the actual variable) is necessary.

Forgotten spaces

Forgotten Spaces in border regions

Michał Piasek, Translation Megan Nagel

The DAAD field trip led the group to regions where borders have been shifted over the past centuries and new borders have been drawn. In a visible and an invisible way. The Ottoman Empire shaped the region in a special way so that not only new political borders developed but also religious. Many of these borders are invisible and four chosen locations marked on the map will be presented.

This article is a portrait of the so-called “bordercrossing” shown in four chosen locations: Debar, Dolna Gorica, Zogaj and Rreth-Libofshe. All places are located along the political border of Macedonia and Albania and Montenegro and Albania, except Rreth-Libofshe. Rreth-Libofshe represents an own special place which will be explained later. All places but Debar which is mainly Albanian speaking are located in Albania. The presented locations are all connected by the same long Ottoman history as well as many political changes in the 20th century. New political systems, migrations and regimes which had a big impact on these places. Another communality is the fact that these four places are inhabited by groups that are linguistic minorities.

Sal markja memorial park

An old graveyard on the Macedonian-Albanian border close to Debar. This place is invisible from outside but after entering the forest old Ottoman traces appear. The region was  conquered by the Ottomans in 1395 and represented an important border between the League of Lezha under Gjergi Kastrioti and the Ottomans in the 15th century. It stayed under Ottoman rule until the Balkan Wars in 1912/13. Presently more than 90% of Debar’s population is Albanian speaking. Islam has the most members due to historic reasons. The members in this region are Albanians, Torbesh and Turks.

Dolna Gorica

After Enver Hoxha changed the original Slavic toponyms to Albanian in the 1970s  the Macedonian speaking village known as Goricë e Vogel located on Lake Prespa changed its name again in 2013, like all other places in this community. Together with eight more villages Dolna Gorica forms the only officially recognised community of a Macedonian speaking group. After numerous shifts of borders it is now located on the Albanian side of Lake Prespa. It distinguishes itself through the Macedonian speaking school and the small Orthodox church and graveyard.

Ottoman gravestones next to the mosque in Zogaj at lake Prespa

The village is located about one kilometre from the Montenegrin border. Zogaj was also under Ottoman rule after the siege of Shkodër 1578/79 until the Balkan Wars 1912/13. The traces are still visible today, as this gravestone shows. Today a small group of people speaking Serbian/Montenegrin is living in this region.

Graveyard next to the monastery “Manastiri i Shën Kozmait“ close to Rreth-Libofshe

Self-declared Serbians of Muslim faith  are living in this village. They came from the region around Novi Pazar in the first third of the 20th century. This is an isolated space because the other Serbian/Bosnian speaking groups in the region Fier declare themselves as Bosniaks.

This was only a selection of the so called Forgotten Spaces along the national borders of today. There are many more churches, monasteries, graveyards etc that make the old borders from the Ottoman Era visible. These spaces (graveyards and religious buildings) also show different historic events. The questions is whether these spaces will stay forgotten or play a role in the development of these regions. At least they enrich the cultural landscape and represent material for further research.

Women on the Balkans

Women on the Balkans

Nasiba Abbasova, Translation: Megan Nagel

During our DAAD field trip to Macedonia and Albania with the aim of exploring the Balkan Muslims it was also interesting to observe the women both in cities and villages. Here the question is not only about the division of the role of men and women in the family or society but also about the influence of religion on the lives of the women. In our case Islam. According to the 2002 census 30% of the Macedonian population identify as Muslim, in Albania 50% according to their last census in 2011. From 1968 until the 1990s Albania was an atheist state under communist rule.

Tirana, Albania. Source: S. Stankovic

Tirana, Albania. Source: S. Stankovic

Women in cities and villages

Muslim women are represented everywhere in cities; on the street, at the markets and in other public spaces, whether with headscarf or not. To be out on the street at midnight as a woman is not dangerous. Smoking and drinking alcohol in public is also no problem.

Skopje Old Bazaar, mainly Albanian and Muslim part

The women in the villages are very friendly but not always visible. Public squares such as cafés or teahouses are mainly frequented by men. In the villages usually old ladies live in big and beautiful villas, either alone or with their men. One of these women is Afrodita whom we met in a village. She lives alone in a two-storeyed villa throughout the whole year. Her children and grandchildren live in Germany and she visits them a few times a year. She prepares different jams made with the fruit from her own garden and other specialities which she takes along to Germany when she visits. She welcomed us like her own grandchildren and hugged and kissed us when parting, presenting us with her tasty apples.

Women of the Bektashi community

During our field trip we visited the Bektashi community in the Macedonian town of Tetovo. During the conversation with the friendly man who is going to be the Dervish the coming years it appeared that the women of this faith are well educated, mostly with university degrees. They do not have to wear a headscarf or chador. The Bektashi community in Tetovo has had a woman as the Baba, the highest position in this society.

Women as entrepreneurs

In Zogaj, a beautiful village on Lake Skadar on the Montenegrin-Albanian border a workshop was founded a few years ago by a young woman where they produce carpets and bags etc in different sizes. It is a small and friendly team of women working here.

The owner of the workshop

Zogaj, Workshop. Source: Darinka Antić

Good future perspectives abroad

During the conversation with the women it became clear that they hope for a good and safe future for their children. Many want to send their children to Western Europe, especially Germany, for a good university degree and hope for a good perspective for staying there. A saleswoman in a shopping centre in Tirana talked about how she came to Germany with her two children during the refugee wave and was deported half a year later. She wants to do her best for her children to receive good higher education in Germany. “Good studies” and a “good life” in Germany/abroad are the most important desires for these women.

The (post)Yugoslav legacy and everyday life in Macedonia and Albania

The (post)Yugoslav legacy and everyday life in Macedonia and Albania – a view from 2017

Marko Kovačević

Context and many questions: political scientist as amateur anthropologist

The Balkans is usually represented as being in-between, one has just to pick a certain end point or two coordinates, and will usually get a perspective that speaks about continuous and seemingly unending travelling. This voyage is different for its states, countries, and societies. Its histories are relative and are interpreted to offer a sort of stability in the narrative, but this “stability” speaks a lot more about the lack of continuity and disruptions that have been felt strongly in the everyday lives of its people. Spanning across borders, people stay, move and leave, trying to get their different individual ways in this uncertain and often unpredictable collective voyage.

But let’s first determine some “posts” and “goals” before moving to the understanding of those in the field, and among the people and cultures. I have had a chance to be part of the study trip to Albania and Macedonia together with the colleagues from Berlin in summer 2017. We have had a chance to talk to people in those countries and see how they see life and the world around them in person. This has helped me to inform my theoretical observations and connect some concepts with the views of the people in the field. I have got a chance to be an amateur anthropologist who gets into discussion political science and his philosophical worldviews to the table. What has come from this is interesting – at the same time confirming some theoretical positions, while potentially offering new insights and testifying about the enduring and puzzling resilience of the Balkans and its peoples.

What seemed as a challenge worth taking for me is trying to understand how political scientist can get his observations from the level of institutions and processes to the level of communities and representations of various theoretical concepts in daily life. How, for example, we can understand socioeconomic transition through observation of concrete materiality and ideas among people who tell us their life stories? But let’s first expose some concepts and related puzzles. This shall enable us to reconnect the many impressions from the field again into a more coherent larger picture. I am not sure if it can be enough to generalize, probably not – but I am interested in how this process works. So, let’s start, and be prepared to answer some of the questions at least tentatively, for I don’t have all the answers myself (caveat lector: it is a complex endeavor, we are in this together)

Problematic identities or problematic frames?

The frames of reference can be individual, collective, national, regional, global. Geography and time are intertwined. Spaces and places are mixed and many. And in global terms, post- (pick your adjective) ‘transition’ is the process that marks this socio-economic and political transition in a region that is filled with its continuous way of life as a creativity and struggle with the challenges of its semiperipherial status in Europe.

This difficult process has lasted for two decades, and it has no end. The questions is, what is the relevance of this divergence between the similar processes outside this region and its peculiarities and lack of true and efficient transformation that we now have to understand and deal with as “reality”. In other words, how is this transitional, and post-Yugoslav reality understood quarter century after the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, and after the legacy of conflict and authoritarianism, that has left its visible imprint in the lives of its people. Alas, the questions are many, and the ways to address them are complicated. This short reflection is, firstly, an attempt to use the everyday and the position of an outsider to these communities to get a sort of a snapshot into how some of these multinational and multireligious communities understand their past experiences of life in a different country of where they are now.

Living in the field

Questions

Theory tells us that identity is based on the difference, on the notions of self and other. It is about the perception of the other, as well as of trying to understand their ability to communicate and live with the other. It is not impossible as the dominant nationalist discourses would like us to think. And now we get to more questions.

To what extent are the emotions important for their understanding of their present state and life. How are those emotions connected to the notions of Yugoslavia, and what it means today? Is it a sheer nostalgia that has some emotional content and meaning, or it forms a meaning that is productive for the life and progress of those communities in a manner that fosters intercultural and transcultural cooperation that overcomes the imposed top-down rhetoric of divides and nationalism? These are some of the questions that I try to address here and provide a brief illustration by offering some examples and impressions from the field and encounter with some people and communities.

Some impressions

The impressions are very favorable to counter the media framed understanding and discourse of the political elites. People are largely aware of the tremendous changes in their societies, and they remember the “good old days” when they were young and were able to live in a different and bigger country that offered them more opportunities for social and economic development. They bring up positive emotions and memories of their friends and colleagues, and speak the language that we understand each other. We are not divided by this common language, we are connected, and are able to discover the points of joint culture, references and hope for further re-establishment of the lives and stories that have been discontinued by force and conflict. We are aware of our burdensome “nationalities”, but that is not the key element in our discussions. We can laugh off any political connotations that are given by the official discourses, and understand that our common denominator and problems are the same. So, can we look for similar solutions? Can we learn from each other? We were able to agree in our perceptions of Yugoslavia as something that was in itself good for its people, and that the situation today is different, it is relatively worse off. But this is the fact of life which the present generation can reframe and we can cooperate. Using our similarities and our differences as a way to again get to know each other and build our own views of common future. Living with each other, not by each other. Building stronger societies.

Reflection and some lessons

Despite numerous challenges, impressions speak about resilient societies that speak about their potential and human strength that lives through its cultural diversity. As to the references to Yugoslav, it is mostly socio-economic, memory of good life, freedom of movement and positive outlook for the future. The question is can, and how, this can be more than a point of personal memory and nostalgia, and translated into the present moment in the lives of that and the new generation. Those people are aware of their common heritage, diversity and a history of convivial. However, the young generation yearns for more communication. Opportunities are ample, and it is easier to travel and connect with people. The question remains how the quality of that relations can be raised to a higher level. How it can be intensified and given a boost in the official discourse as well.

People take as a fact that we are similar, show greater understanding for our challenges and problems, both past and present, and seeking a point of reference where to start from. On a level of sheer impression and communication, ‘Yugoslavia’ brings us together immediately, and helps span generational divides. This positive legacy is relatively easy to get mobilized in conversations, and is the immediate ice breaker and sets the tone in reality, as well as helping open the horizon in a different, „regional“ or a broader „European“ frame today. However, people note that frames have been changed. They see ‘Europe’ as a reference for their future. They acknowledge the need to start talking, and then how people can achieve more if they can freely travel and exchange ideas and do business together. Cultures bring us together.

Returning from the field: Identities that connect the Balkans

We are as peoples and individuals much closer to each other than to some other nations. That has to be utilized. And Yugoslavia is still a big „motivational“ factor despite its state discontinuity. It is an idea and societal fact that lives through legacy, memory, and experience of life. The question is how to build on this positive experiences to initiate greater communication among people and communities – as a way of bridging the conflict-inflicted divides. The importance of the positive legacies for the future ones.

We all share understanding of the real problems in our societies. Unemployment, health, environment, sociopolitical cohesion, participation. Economic development seen as key. Importance of diasporas. Democratization and political accountability. More cooperation seen as the key aspect of progress for the region as a whole. The examples from Tetovo and Skopje speak at great length about this. Libofshe offers a kind of warm, human story of hospitality and acceptance in an unexpected multicultural environment. Zupa evokes the undertones of the Yugoslav times and some new environment and understanding of the shared challenges for the young generation in the region. A discussion in Tirana about Albanian-Serbian relations shows optimism for future dialogues.

All these communities demonstrate hope and show resilience living against the difficulties. That is how life wins, and what keeps and elevates this discourse of multicultural and tolerant societies in the Balkans – it is just a matter of priority which stories we want to tell in the public. It is a miracle of discovery through communication and going beyond the news headlines. Let’s share more of these voices and  tell stories about identities that underpin amity in ‘the region,’ and farther to our common world. As individuals we maybe cannot do much to change the world, but in our capacity as reflexive beings and zoon politikon we should at least try.

The inevitability of nationalism

The inevitability of nationalism – The case of the Bektashi

Slađan Rankić

Nationalism is a fickle concept, defined so many times in so many way, yet its true potential still escapes us. When one thinks of nationalism, the minds eyes conjures up images of flag waving young men, eager to seek glory in battle (or on the football stadium) for their nation. However, its manifestations are far subtler and much more widespread than what is commonly believed. To start off I will present a working definition of nationalism, from the pen of one of the greatest scholars of nationalism, Eric Hobsbawn. He defines nationalism as: “primarily a principle which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent.”[1] He continues on: “I would add that this principle also implies the political duty of Ruritanians to the polity which encompasses and represents the Ruritanian nation, overrides all other public obligations, and in extreme cases (such as wars) all other obligations of whatever kind.”[2] Now we should define the nation itself. For this I will utilize two complementary visions of the nation, from his book Imagined communities. Firstly, “the nation is an imagined political community and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.”[3] Secondly, “the nation is a solid community moving up (down) history.”[4] Both these definitions were extremely important for me to better comprehend the profound experience of our journey and reflect on the implications of intercommunal dynamics in Macedonia and Albania. Lastly, I must add a few more observations by Iver B Neumann. He claimed that every single ethnic group maintains itself by maintaining its boundaries with other neighboring groups.[5] The neighbors will do the same and thus, through discourse boundaries are maintained and the groups become “solid”. It is critical that the Other acknowledges the narrative of the collective Self, if the Other doesn’t acknowledge the Self, then the cohesiveness of the community is jeopardized. To put it bluntly, using the example from our research, the negotiations between Greece and Macedonia, with Greece being the Macedonian Other, are endangering the “solidity” of the Macedonian nation by not acknowledging its national narrative. The Other is necessary for Us, so that we can define Ourselves against it, yet it is also necessary for the Other to acknowledge Us as being different from it. The case of Germans and Austrians comes to mind vividly.

Even though both nations acknowledge that they both speak the same German language, nevertheless, Austrians fight tooth and nail to maintain their boundary with Germans symbolically(linguistically).  When Austria joined the EU it produced a list of 23 words which are different in High German and Austrian German. Thus, when an EU document regulating, say the trade of potatoes, is drafted, in its German version it must contain two words which mean the same, potato: Kartoffel (High German) and Erdapfel (Austrian). This may seem petty, but this list of 23 words serves a basic function. It acknowledges that there are two distinct political communities within the EU who use the German language. Symbolically and linguistically, Austria has entered into a union with other European nations, while protecting its boundaries with them, particularly with the most similar Other, Germany. Furthermore, Germany and Germans have accepted this symbolical border. This little story serves to illustrate that the logic of maintaining petty differences isn’t endemic to the Balkans. Rather it is necessary succor for any and all social groups which seek to endure and to move up (down history). Now, onto the meat of the matter.

During our trip we have visited many locations which piqued my interest, but for the interest of time I will focus on the most fascinating part of our journey, the visit to the Tekija in Tetovo and the seat of Baba Mondi in Tirana. When we entered the Tekija I was shocked by the stark contrast of this Muslim place of worship from the one in Tetovo proper. The Sunni mosque in the city was beautiful in an ascetic and austere way. The patterns on the walls were intricate and riveting, yet typical of any mosque. When we entered the Tekija however, we were greeted with the pictures of Mohamed and Ali, a taboo for mainstream Islam. Furthermore, although this may be an entirely subjective observation, the Prophets were painted in an effeminate way, with lush red lips and deep dark eyes, adding insult to injury for any adherent of Sunni Islam, let alone Wahhabism. The Tekija was modest, reminiscent of orthodox monasteries of my homeland, however on its outer walls lay flags of many nations, with the flags of: Kosovo, Albania and USA in the most prominent place. The Dervish greeted us and proceeded to tell us the story of his community, going up(down) history, all the while drawing bridges and borders with Catholics, Sunnis and Orthodox. Thus, a solid Sufi community emerged in our minds, distinct from Christians and Muslims, yet similar to both. The Dervish defined his community as being a bridge between radical Christianity and radical Islam. The metaphor of the bridge is omnipresent in the Balkans and I will get to it in a moment. During our talk the Dervish put forward his own hierarchy of collective Selves: 1. Nation, 2. Family, 3. Faith. His thought mirrors the words of one of the creators of Albanian nationalism Pashko Vasa: “The religion of Albanians is albanianism.”

However, it seemed that the Dervish was torn between his Sufi and Albanian Self. He told us that the greatest problem of Sufism is that it doesn’t have a state. Orthodoxy has Russia, Sunni Islam has Saudi Arabia and Sufis have no state to call their own. The Dervish said: “Kad imaš svoju državu možeš da imaš I svoju religiju.” Which I will loosely translate into: “You cannot have a religion without a nation state.” Later on, while the group was slowly entering the bus I stayed behind to speak some more with the Dervish, despite Kristoff’s strong protests. It is here that I learned about the conflict with the local Sunni Albanian population and it is here that I found out that the bullet holes in the Tekija Walls were not from some distant war. There was a constant threat that the Tekija might be stormed and it was shot at multiple times. The Dervish seamed happy to lay down his life as a martyr for his faith, as a true believer always is. He claimed that the Sufis were not men of violence and that no killer can ever be a Sufi. He placed his fate in the will of God, as a true ascetic believer.

The visit to the seat of Baba Mondi was a wake-up call. The humble lodgings of the Dervish and an ascetic spiritual environment was supplanted by an opulent seat of power and a plump religious head garbed in fine silk robes. The Sufi community, like any other human group couldn’t escape a hierarchical structuring of its members. We were escorted to the museum where we could see the history of the Sufi community visualized and presented to onlookers in all its glory. The picture of the prophet Ali, weeping after the battle of Karbala and washing his bloody hands in a river, caught my eye. The picture was breathtaking and inscribed with a poem in his name, written by one of the Frasheri brothers. Our guide was espousing the merits of multiculturalism, claiming that Sufism doesn’t distinguish between nations and that his religion abhors violence. He reiterated the metaphor of the bridge, which the Dervish used before. When I confronted him with the issue of how can a religious community which does not distinguish between nations and holds pacifism in high regard give birth to a nationalist movement and prominent intellectuals who crafted the concept of Greater Albania, the fell silent for a moment. He than answered: “There is no religion without a nation-state.”, and he shifted the topic down history, to the Ottoman era. Our guide proudly claimed that most of the Janissaries were Sufi. I asked: “Isn’t it contradictory that a pacifist religion is dominant within an elite military unit, made up of forced Christian converts to Islam?” Our guide fell silent again. I was challenging the basic premises of his collective Self, challenging the narrative of his community and he became defensive, as I would have in his place.

Now we return to the metaphor of the bridge. Samuel Huntington succinctly defined the problem of the bridge. “A bridge, however, is an artificial creation connecting two solid entities but is a part of neither.”[6] A bridge eases the transition from one shore to another, from one solid entity to another, it is not meant to be a place where one settles. We did hear as much from the Sufis themselves. Christian converts were more agreeable to converting to Sufi Islam than Sunni Islam, since it was not so radically different from their world view. However, we learned later on, from our trip in Skadar that the bridge is now fostering movement in a different direction. Many Sufis are converting to Protestantism, since they are already on the margins of mainstream Islam, they are more receptive to the evangelizing protestant missionaries.

Our guide in Skadar was an Albanian Catholic, who acknowledged that Islam was the delineating factor which helped the Albanian nation to form, juxtaposed to orthodox Serbs and Greeks. Our guide took us on a tour of the catholic churches and Venetian monuments, proud of the mark which Catholicism left on his country. He did not take us to the local mosque, despite the insistences of some of the members of our group. Here I saw yet another display of the inescapable realities of ingroup bias, or quite simply nationalism, and the need to maintain boundaries with Others. In brief, outwardly Albanians do seem like one nation, however the divides between their religious communities run deep. What I saw was, to be melodramatic, a battle for the soul of Albania. To use Huntington again: “the destiny of each linguistically and unified community depends ultimately upon the survival of primary structuring ideas, around which successive generations have coalesced, and which symbolize the society’s continuity.”[7]These primary structuring ideas then become a basis for institutionalization and the competition between these basis produces conflict. There is no religion without a nation state. The Sufi religious heads told us. They wish to enshrine their own principle into the institution which is the Albanian state, to ensure their community ensure its survival. Other religious/ideological communities will do the same, creating further ground for conflict. How would this dynamic play out could be an interesting question to ponder and I would love to discuss it further with all you.

[1] Eric Hosbabwm Nations and Nationalism since 1780- second edition, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016 (23d print), p. 9

[2] ibid

[3] Benedict Anderson Imagined Communities, Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London UK: Verso 2016, p. 6

[4] Ibid p. 26

[5] Iver B Nojman, Upotreba drugog: Istok u formiranju evrpskog identiteta, Beograd: Službeni glasnik, 2011, pp 24-25

[6] Samuel P. Huntington Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order, New York US: Free Press, 2002, p. 149

[7] Samuel P. Huntington Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order, New York US: Free Press, 2002, pp 43-44

The (hidden) face of Macedonia

The (hidden) face of Macedonia

Luca Paggiaro

How does Macedonia want to introduce itself to their visitors? What does the Southeast European country want them to show and to hide? A personal account of my journey(s) around Macedonia

That’s (allegedly) Macedonia, and nothing else

An “model trip” to Macedonia has to start from the magnificent palaces and monuments of Skopje, the capital city. Macedonia Square (see picture 1), the very town centre, tells the tourists the whole national history with a bunch of statues: the ancient Alexander the Great – located in the middle – dominates over all, while the modern Macedonian independence heroes Dame Gruev and Gotse Delchev overlook the entrance of the Stone Bridge over the central river Vardar and the medieval Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria marks the begin of Macedonia Street, the main city pedestrian zone. Philipp II faces his son Alexander from the other side of the Vardar, whose bank is characterized by shiny neoclassical buildings: the biggest among them is the Museum of Archaeology (see picture 2), surrounded by other museums, government palaces and the massive National Theatre. The monumental downtown includes also Skanderbeg Square (see picture 3), a vast place dedicated to the hero of all Albanians, who represent a significant ethnic minority in Macedonia.

The ideal journey throughout the former Yugoslav republic continues to Ohrid, one of the most impressive city of the Balkan: according to the Ottoman globetrotter Evliya Çelebi, who visited it in 17th century, the town used to have 365 churches, one for each day of the year. Not all survived up to the present, but the remaining are still well worth seeing: above all the marvellous Church of Saint John at Kaneo (see picture 4), built on a cliff which offers the tourists a breath-taking view over the lake. Ohrid has been known for its literary school besides,  established in 886 by Saint Clement – a student of Cyril and Methodius – and renowned for having preserved the Glagolitic script until the 12th century.

As already seen on Skanderbeg Square, in Macedonia do not live only Macedonian-speaking Christians, but also Albanian-speaking Muslims. The trip has therefore to include their cultural centre, the city of Tetovo: visitors are here welcomed by the impressive 15th century Šarena Džamija (Macedonian for “Painted Mosque”) (see picture 5), at the same time a symbol of the former Ottoman rule in Macedonia.

The ideal journey could end here, having portrayed by the way an “ideal image” of the small Balkan republic: a shiny capital city adorned with modern Neoclassical palaces, an ancient town displaying the glorious past of the nation and, at last, a symbolic centre for the main ethnic minority of the country. An ideal portrait maybe suitable for a reductive flyer of the National Tourist Board, or for a simplifying Wikipedia article, but definitely not for a research paper, and even not for this modest article. Hence, the ideal journey has to stop, and a real one has to begin.

That is Macedonia (too)

Let’s return to Skopje and follow the same route through the colossal monuments of the city centre, although this time guided by a representative of the NGO “Ploštad Sloboda” (Macedonian for “Freedom Square”). Let’s discover therefore that this gigantic project called “Skopje 2014” has been a scandalous waste of money: over 670 million euros for having redecorated an area of just 1 km2, participation neither of the citizens nor of the national parliament in all decision-making processes, money laundering in the construction works and use of lowest-quality building materials (some facades are even flammable). That should be enough to boycott the entire showy complex and to take refuge in the truly magnificent Old Bazaar (see picture 6) admiring the numerous mosques, hammams and caravanserais, precious legacy of the Ottoman rule.

Then let’s return again to Tetovo, the capital of the Albanians in Macedonia, and reach the western periphery of the town: the very well conserved Arabati Baba Teḱe (see picture 7) would be rarely mentioned in a city’s guidebook, which rather prefers to direct the few tourists to the Painted Mosque. And it is really a pity considering that Dervish Muttalib – the only one serving in this 18th century compound for spiritual retreat –  would like to show the visitors the beautiful flowered lawns and wooden pavilions. The reason for this is the burning dispute over the property of the tekke between the Bektashi order, which founded it 500 years ago, and the Islamic Community of Macedonia, which regards the Bektashis as “heretics”: in August 2002 the situation escalated since a group of armed Wahhabi Muslims seized control of a large part of the complex, reclaiming it as a mosque – although it has never functioned as a such – and harassing its visitors.

Let’s finally abandon any touristic route and get acquainted with the third-largest ethnic minority of Macedonia: the Turks. Actually some Turkish flags have already been visible in Skopje’s Old Bazaar and also in the Baba Teḱe of Tetovo, but in Centar Župa – a small village situated near the city of Debar – Turks constitute a sweeping 80 percent majority: no surprise then that a majestic statue to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (see picture 8) towers on the central square and that the neighbouring village of Kodžadžik is known for having been the birthplace of Atatürk’s parents. And even though the official languages are Turkish, Macedonian and Albanian – all three taught at school – it’s not unusual to hear local people speaking fluently German or Italian, as much of the population emigrated to Western Europe and return only during the summer holidays.

The real journey could still continue, since this small country includes even more ethnic, linguistic and religious communities, disregarding its innumerable natural and cultural treasures. Macedonia is in the heart of the Balkans and reflects in its own territory all the contradictions of the Balkans, but primarily two: the rich ethnic variety and the poor nationalistic temptations. All in a wonderful landscape.

Frauen auf dem Balkan

Frauen auf dem Balkan

Nasiba Abbasova

Während unserer DAAD-Exkursion nach Mazedonien und Albanien, derer Ziel war, die Balkanmuslime zu untersuchen, war es unter anderem interessant die Frauen sowohl in Großstädten als auch in den Dörfern zu beobachten. Es geht hier nicht nur um die Aufteilung der Männer- und Frauenrolle in der Familie oder in der Gesellschaft, sondern auch um den Einfluss der Religion aufs Leben der Frauen. Im unserem Fall des Islams. Laut der letzten Volkszählung von 2002 bekennt sich in Mazedonien über 30% zum Islam. Nach der Volkszählung von 2011 sind in Albanien mehr als 50% muslimischen Glaubens. In den 1968-90er Jahren war  Albanien  ein atheistischer Staat unter kommunistischer Herrschaft.

Tirana, Albanien. Bildquelle: S. Stankovic

Tirana, Albanien. Bildquelle: S. Stankovic

Frauen in den Städten und Dörfern

Die muslimischen Frauen in Großstädten sind überall vertreten: auf den Straßen, in den Märkten und in anderen öffentlichen Räumen, sei es mit oder ohne Kopftuch. In Mitternacht alleine als Frau in der Stadt zu laufen ist nicht gefährlich. Öffentlich Rauchen oder Alkohol trinken ist hier auch kein Problem.

Skopje Old Bazar, mehrheitlich albanischer und türkischer Teil. Bildquelle: S. Stankovic

Die Frauen auf den Dörfern sind sehr nett, aber nicht immer zu sehen. Die öffentlichen Räume wie Cafés oder Teehäuser sind hauptsächlich männlich vertreten. Auf den Dörfern sind meistens Omas  zu beobachten, die in großen, wunderschönen Villas entweder alleine oder mit ihren Männern zusammenleben. Eine von diesen Frauen ist Afrodita, die wir im Dorf kennen lernten. Sie lebt das ganze Jahr alleine in einer zweistöckigen Villa. Ihre Kinder und Enkelkinder leben in Deutschland, die sie ein paar Mal im Jahr besucht. Sie bereitet für sie verschiedene Konfitüre aus ihrem eigenen Obstgarten und andere Spezialitäten vor und nimmt sie jedes Mal  bei ihrem Besuch nach Deutschland mit. Uns hat sie wie ihre eigenen Enkelkinder empfangen und beim Abschied umarmt, geküsst und mit ihren leckeren Äpfeln besorgt.

Frauen der Bektashi Community

Während unserer Exkursion besuchten wir in der mazedonischen Stadt Tetovo  die muslimische Bektashi Community. Während des Gesprächs mit dem netten Herren, der in nächsten Jahren Dervish sein wird, stellte sich heraus, dass die Frauen  Bektashi – Glaubens gut ausgebildet sind. Größtenteils universitäre Abschlüsse. Für die Frauen gibt’s kein Muss in Bezug auf Kopftuch oder Tschador.  Die Bektaschi Community Tetovos hat bis jetzt einmal eine Frau als Baba in  der leitender Position, die höchste Position innerhalb Gesellschaft ist, gehabt.

Frauen als Unternehmerinnen

In Zogaj, einem schönen Dorf am Shkodra See an der montenegrinischen-albanischen Grenze ist seit einigen Jahren von einer jungen Dame eine Werkstatt gegründet worden, wo Teppiche unterschiedlichen Größe, Taschen etc. hergestellt werden. Das ist ein kleines, nettes Team von Frauen, die hier arbeiten.

Zogaj, Inhaberin der Werkstatt. Bildquelle: Darinka Antic

Zogaj, Werkstatt. Bildquelle: Darinka Antic

Gute Zukunftsperspektiven im Ausland

In Gesprächen mit den Frauen war es deutlich klar, dass sie sich die gute und sichere Zukunft ihrer Kinder wünschen und dafür Mühe geben. Viele wollen ihre Kinder für gutes Studium nach Westeuropa und vor allem nach Deutschland schicken und hoffen damit auf gute Bleibeperspektiven. Eine Verkäuferin im Einkaufszentrum in Tirana beim Gespräch sagte, dass sie während der Flüchtlingswelle mit ihrer zwei Kindern nach Deutschland kam und nach einem halben Jahr abgeschoben wurde. Die Frau will ihr bestens tun, damit ihre Kinder gutes Studium in Deutschland bekommen. „Gute Ausbildung“ und „gutes Leben“ in Deutschland/im Ausland sind die größten Wünsche dieser Frauen.

Mehrsprachigkeit

Zur Mehrsprachigkeit innerhalb der einheimischen Bevölkerung Mazedoniens und Albaniens – Kurzprofile lokaler Bewohner

Fotos und Text: Darinka Antić und Luca Paggiaro

Die Frage nach der nationalen Zugehörigkeit kann sich auf dem Balkan als schwierig erweisen. Somit war die Frage nach den Sprachkenntnissen weniger „problematisch“ und einfacher zu beantworten. Außerdem ermöglichte sie uns einen besseren Zugang zu den Menschen und führte zu aufschlussreichen Antworten.

Während der Exkursion nach Mazedonien und Albanien ist unsere Reisegruppe oft mit dem Thema der Mehrsprachigkeit in Berührung gekommen, was zunächst visuell durch die vielfältigen Linguistic landscapes geschah und die damit verbundene Präsenz von mindestens zwei Sprachen. Dies begegnete uns vor allem in Städten, wie zum Beispiel bei Straßenschildern und Beschilderungen von Regierungsgebäuden in Skopje. Diese von oben gesetzten Zeichen tragen sowohl das mazedonische als auch das albanische Äquivalent. Bei den von unten gesetzten Zeichen, unter anderem die Namensschilder an Geschäften, Restaurantnamen, Speisekarten etc., kommen noch weitere Sprachen, wie das Türkische, Englische und Arabische hinzu. Das Vorhandensein der vielen verschiedenen Sprachen in der Linguistic landscape kann Aufschluss über die ethnische Zusammensetzung einer Stadt geben und macht die Mehrsprachigkeit deutlich sichtbar. Im Mittelpunkt unserer Feldforschung standen jedoch die „Protagonisten“ dieser visuellen Mehrsprachigkeit, d.h. die lokalen Einwohner der bereisten Dörfer und Städte.

Exkursionsteilnehmer Luca im Gespräch mit Bauarbeiter Agron in einem Cafe in Centar Župa

Im Rahmen unserer Feldforschung, konnten wir mit Einheimischen unterschiedlicher Volkszugehörigkeit und unterschiedlichen Alters und Milieus in Kontakt treten und Gespräche führen, unter anderen mit Verkäufern auf dem Basar in Skopje, Rentnern in kleinen albanischen Dörfern und einem nach Westeuropa emigrierten Mazedonier türkischer Nationalität. In diesen Interviews fragten wir die Hiesigen, welche Sprachen sie noch beherrschen, in welcher Situation diese Sprachen zum Einsatz kommen und wie der Spracherwerb erfolgte. Unsere Gruppe versuchte die Muttersprache(n) unserer Gesprächspartner zu definieren, was allerdings nicht immer leicht war, denn einige durften beispielsweise die eigene Muttersprache nur im Verborgenen, d.h. im engsten Familienkreis benutzen. Darüber hinaus erkundigten wir uns nach ihren Biografien, um die soziohistorischen Hintergründe und Entwicklungen der Mehrsprachigkeit innerhalb der lokalen Bevölkerung Mazedoniens und Albaniens zu erforschen. So konnten wir erfahren, dass der Sprachgebrauch bei einigen Interviewpartnern im Lauf ihres Lebens bedeutenden Änderungen unterlaufen ist. In der kommunistischen Zeit zum Beispiel, wurden einige Sprachen nicht so oft verwendet oder in der Öffentlichkeit sogar unterdrückt, während andere Sprachen durch die Auswanderung erworben wurden. Die nachfolgenden Kurzprofile verdeutlichen dies.

Exkursionsteilnehmerin Darinka beim Tee mit Antikshopbesitzer Mendur; Foto: S. Stankovic


Fadil

Besitzer eines Marktstandes in Skopje

Sprache: Albanisch (Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Eltern (Sein Vater ist aus dem Kosovo)
Nutzung: Familie, Freunde, Kunden

Sprache: Mazedonisch (2. Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Schule (Er wurde in Skopje geboren)
Nutzung: Freunde, Kunden, Behörden

Sprache: Englisch (gute Kenntnisse)
Erwerb: Über Serien
Nutzung: Kunden

Sprache: Türkisch (sehr einfache Kenntnisse)
Erwerb: Schule, Eltern (Ziel war es, in die Türkei auszuwandern)
Nutzung: keine (Daher sind keine guten Sprachkenntnisse mehr vorhanden)

Sprache: Serbokroatisch (sehr einfache Kenntnisse)
Erwerb: Schule
Nutzung: sporadisch mit Kunden

Im Jahre 1955 plante Fadils Familie aus Ihrer Heimat, dem Kosovo, in die Türkei zu emigrieren. Ihre Reise führte sie zunächst nach Mazedonien, wo lediglich ein Zwischenstopp geplant war. Die Familie konnte ihre Reise jedoch nicht fortsetzten und blieb in Skopje, wo Fadil später geboren wurde. Heute ist er verheiratet und hat einen Sohn und hegt denselben Traum, wie ihn sein Vater Jahrzehnte zuvor hatte, eines Tages mit seiner Familie in die Türkei auszuwandern. Vor allem besorgt ihn seine wirtschaftliche Lage, die ihm zufolge für alle Albaner in Mazedonien ähnlich schlecht sei. In die Türkei auszuwandern bedeutet für ihn dies zu ändern und ein besseres Leben führen zu können.

Wir unterhielten uns mit ihm auf Englisch.


Mendur

Besitzer eines Antikshops, zum Thema Jugonostalgija

„Nema veze na kom jeziku govoris, svi smo naši!“

Sprache: Albanisch (Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Eltern (Seine Familie ist aus dem Kosovo)
Nutzung: Familie, Freunde, Kunden

Sprache: Mazedonisch (2. Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Schule
Nutzung: Freunde, Kunden, Behörden

Sprache: Serbokroatisch (sehr gute Kenntnisse)
Erwerb: Schule
Nutzung: Kunden

Sprache: Arabisch
Erwerb: Moschee/ Koranschule
Nutzung: Kunden/ Moschee

Mendur erzählte uns weniger über die Beweggründe seiner Familie ihre Heimat zu verlassen oder warum sie in Mazedonien blieben. Er erzählte jedoch mit Begeisterung von den „alten Zeiten“. Damals, als er in Jugoslawien lebte, fehlte es seiner Meinung nach, der Bevölkerung unter Tito an nichts und die Arbeiterklasse hatte ein ausreichend gutes Einkommen. Er kommt zu dem Schluss: „Umreo titio, umrelo sve!“ („Alles nahm sein Ende als Tito starb.“). Mendur kommt aus einer sehr gläubigen muslimischen Familie. Er betet 5-mal am Tag und geht sehr regelmäßig in die Moschee. Er berichtet stolz von seinem Bruder, der als Hodscha in Kairo arbeitet. Er wiederholt einige Male, dass die Herkunft, Nationalität, Sprache und der Glaube keine Rolle spiele, sondern es lediglich darum ginge fleißig, ehrlich gebildet und fair seinen Mitmenschen gegenüber zu sein.

Wir führten unsere Unterhaltung auf Serbokroatisch.


Adnan

Besitzer eines Teppichgeschäftes in Skopje

„Svaki jezik je bogadstvo, nema veze koji!“

Sprache: Albanisch (Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Eltern (Er kommt aus Peć, Kosovo)
Nutzung: Familie, Freunde, Kunden

Sprache: Mazedonisch (2. Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Schule (Er kam als Kind nach Skopje)
Nutzung: Bekannte, Kunden, Behörden

Sprache: Serbokroatisch (sehr gute Kenntnisse)
Erwerb: Schule
Nutzung: Kunden

Sprache: Türkisch (einfache Kenntnisse)
Erwerb: Schule (Ziel war es in die Türkei auszuwandern)
Nutzung: Kunden (sporadisch)

Adnans Familie wollte aus ihrer Heimatstadt Peć in die Türkei auswandern. Nachdem sie sich bereits auf den Weg gemacht hatten, verhinderten neue Gesetzte unter Ranković dies und die Familie verwarf ihre Pläne. Er lernte 12 Jahre lang Türkisch in der Schule. Er ist zwar nicht zufrieden in Mazedonien, denkt aber, dass es seiner Familie und ihm im Kosovo und Albanien noch schlechter erginge. Er merkt an, dass die auf dem Balkan weit verbreitete Mehrsprachigkeit eine Selbstverständlichkeit sei.
Unser Gespräch führten wir auf Serbokroatisch.


Vlade

Rentner aus Dolna Gorica, Albanien

Sprache: Mazedonisch (Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Schule
Nutzung: Familie, Dorfbewohner

Sprache: Albanisch (2.Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Schule
Nutzung: Bewohner aus anderen albanischen Städten (beispielsweise Tirana oder Korça)

Die mazedonische ethnische Minderheit aus dem Gebiet am Prespasee und Golloborda wurde nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg vom kommunistischen Regime offiziell anerkannt, daher durften die Einwohner die mazedonische Sprache in der Schule lernen und öffentlich verwenden. Vlade arbeitete in einer landwirtschaftlichen Genossenschaft und konnte Mazedonisch auch auf der Arbeit nutzen, falls jedoch ein Vertreter aus Korça kam, dann mussten sie auf Albanisch sprechen.

Heutzutage werden weiterhin beide Sprachen gesprochen. Nach dem Fall des Kommunismus konnte Vlade nach Mazedonien reisen und dort arbeiten, außerdem hat er freien Zugriff auf Zeitungen und Fernsehen in mazedonischer Sprache. Mit Vlade unterhielten wir uns auf Albanisch und das Gespräch wurde später von einem Freund übersetzt.


Agron

Bauarbeiter aus Centar Župa, Mazedonien

„Ako ne znaš svoj majčin jezik, ne možes da živiš.“

Sprache: Türkisch (Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Schule
Nutzung: türkischsprechende Dorfbewohner und Bewohner aus den Nachbardörfern

Sprache: Mazedonisch
Erwerb: Schule
Nutzung: mazedonisch sprechende Dorfbewohner und Bewohner aus anderen Städten Mazedoniens, Familie

Sprache: Albanisch
Erwerb: Eltern (der Vater von Agron lebte in Albanien), Schule
Nutzung: Dorfbewohner, Einwohner aus Debar (mehrheitlich albanisch sprechende Bevölkerung), Familie (einige Verwanden Agrons wohnen in Albanien)

Sprache: Italienisch
Erwerb: Arbeitsaufenthalt in Italien
Nutzung: Alltagsleben, Familie (Söhne und Töchter sind in Italien eingeschult worden)

Sprache: Deutsch
Erwerb: Kurzzeitige Arbeitsaufenthalt in Österreich
Nutzung: manchmal im Alltagsleben in Südtirol (deutsch- und italienischsprachige Region Italiens)

Sprache: Serbokroatisch und Slowenisch
Erwerb: Dienst als Offizier in der Jugoslawischen Volksarmee in Serbien und Slowenien
Nutzung: heute kaum noch

Im sozialistischen Jugoslawien wurde hauptsächlich Mazedonisch gesprochen, obwohl es nicht verboten war, Türkisch und Albanisch in der Schule zu lehren und im Alltagsleben zu verwenden. Nichtdestotrotz mussten unter dem kommunistischen Regime viele türkischsprechende Dorfbewohner in die Türkei fliehen. Nach dem Fall des Kommunismus, konnten viele ehemalige Einwohner türkischer Nationalität in das Dorf zurückkehren, daher ist die Anzahl der türkisch sprechenden Bevölkerung gestiegen. Außerdem konnten die albanischen Verwandten Agrons ausreisen und ihn besuchen. In der Schule wird hauptsächlich auf Türkisch gelehrt, aber weiterhin auch auf Mazedonisch und Albanisch.

Das Gespräch führten wir auf Italienisch und Serbokroatisch.


Isuf

Rentner aus Zogaj, Albanien

Sprache: Serbokroatisch (Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Eltern (montenegrinische Abstammung)
Nutzung: Eltern, Verwandte aus Montenegro

Sprache: Albanisch (2. Muttersprache)
Erwerb: Schule
Nutzung: Familie (seine Frau ist Albanerin), Alltagsleben

Isuf wurde in Shkodra (Albanien) geboren, jedoch stammten seine Eltern aus Podgorica (Montenegro) und wanderten vor dem Zweiten Weltkrieg nach Albanien aus. Unter dem Regime von Hoxha war es in Albanien offiziell verboten, auf Serbokroatisch zu sprechen. Nur er lernte die Sprache von seinen Eltern, während seine drei Schwestern nur Albanisch beherrschten. Auch mit anderen Einwohnern jugoslawischer Abstammung in Shkodra durfte er niemals auf Serbokroatisch sprechen. Nach der Öffnung der Grenzen 1989 durfte Isuf zum ersten Mal seine Verwandten in Podgorica besuchen. In den 90er Jahren arbeitete er in der montenegrinischen Hauptstadt bei der Rüstungsfirma „Yugoimport“. Heutzutage dürfen alle Bewohner serbischer Nationalität in ihrer Muttersprache kommunizieren.

Das Gespräch führten wir auf Serbokroatisch.


Die Biographien der befragten Personen halfen uns zu verstehen, wie der weit verbreitete Multilingualismus innerhalb der Bevölkerung zustande kam.

Darüber hinaus erfuhren wir von den lokalen Bewohnern weitere Details, wie zum Beispiel, wie sich der Gebrauch bestimmter Sprachen im Lauf ihres Lebens änderte. Sie berichteten davon, dass einige Sprachen in den Hintergrund traten und an Prestige verloren. In Folge dessen, nahm ihr Gebrauch und ebenso ihre Präsenz ab. Beeinflusst wurde dies durch politische und historische Ereignisse und persönliche Entscheidungen wie z.B. der Auswanderung, die einen der Hautfaktoren für den Erwerb neuer Sprachen bildete.

Die Bektaschi in Albanien und ihre Geschichte

Die Bektaschi in Albanien und ihre Geschichte

Justina Matošin

Im September 2017 hatten wir, einige Studenten und Dozenten der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, der Universität Wien und der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena die Freude an einer Exkursion nach Mazedonien und Albanien teilnehmen zu dürfen um die Balkan-Muslime näher kennenzulernen.

Am 9. September 2017 haben wir zunächst die Arabati Baba Tekke in Tetovo, Mazedonien, besucht wo uns vom örtlichen Derwisch, dem Vorstehenden der Tekke, viel zu den Ritualen der Bektaschi erzählt wurde. Da sich die deutliche Mehrheit der Bektaschi aber im Nachbarland Albanien befindet machten wir uns wenige Tage später auf die Reise nach Albanien (Der Bektaschi-Orden zählt in Mazedonien etwa 50.000 Mitglieder, die vom Staat der islamischen Glaubensgemeinschaft zugeordnet werden. Deutscher Bundestag, 18. Wahlperiode, Antwort des Bundesregierung auf die menschenrechtliche Lage in Mazedonien, 4. November 2016, S.13. ).

So haben wir am 15. September das Bektashi World Center oder Kryegjyshata, östlich des Stadtzentrums von Tirana besucht. Im unteren Geschoss befindet sich ein Museum dass die Entwicklung der Bektaschi im Verlauf der Geschichte darstellt und einige Büroräume in den MitarbeiterInnen sich um die Belange der Gemeinde kümmern. Das imposante und vollständig mit Marmor verkleidete Gebäude zeichnet die Glaubenssäulen der Bektaschi ab: die Zwölfer-Schia laut derer es zwölf Imame gibt. Sie ist Teil des Schia, des Schiitentums, zu dem die Bektaschi ebenfalls gehören.

Bektashi World Center, Decke mit zwölf Sonnen und Fenstern für die zwölf Imame

Wie wir also im September erst durch die Geschichte im Inneren des World Centers bis in die Gegenwart hinaufgestiegen sind möchte ich nun mit Ihnen eine solche Reise unternehmen auf der ich auch einige Begriffe näher erklären möchte. Die Aleviten leiten ihren Namen aus ihrer Verehrung Alis (Abū l-Hasan ʿAlī ibn Abī Tālib) ab, dem Schwiegersohn und Vetter von Mohammed den sie sich nach dessen Tod anstatt Abu Bakr (Abū Bakr), dem Schwiegervater Mohammeds, als Nachfolger des Propheten wünschten. Beide Männer spalteten den Islam in zwei Glaubensgemeinschaften: Die Sunniten und die Schiiten.

Zur zweiten Gruppe gehören die Aleviten, deren Angehörige heute außer in der Türkei auch in Syrien, Iranschi-Kurdistan und Aserbaidschan siedeln, aber auch die Bektaschi.

Diese differenzieren sich von den Aleviten durch ihre Bezugnahme auf ihren hazret, ihren als heilig verehrten Haci Bektaş Veli, der im 13. Jahrhundert aus dem Nordosten Irans nach Anatolien auswanderte und dort zum Begründer eines sogenannten Sufi-Ordens wurde und maßgeblich zur Namensgebung der neuen Glaubensgemeinschaft beitrug. Ein solcher Orden zeichnet sich vor allem dadurch aus, dass er im Gegensatz zum sunnitischen Islam asketische Tendenzen und gewisse spirituelle Orientierungen aufweist. Durch verschiedene Glaubenskämpfe, unter anderem auch mit den Mongolen, nahmen die Bektaschi im Laufe der Zeit verschiedene Religionseinflüsse in ihr Gedankengut auf, wie etwa christliche, vor-islamische, buddhistische und schamanistische Elemente. Als Beispiel für christliche Einflüsse ist an dieser Stelle die alevitische Vorstellung von Ali, Mohammed und Allah als heilige Dreieinigkeit zu nennen.

Wie in vielen religiösen Gemeinden verfügt auch der Bektaschi-Orden über eine Hierarchie die aus den Talip oder Mühip als Novizen, den Derviş oder Babas und zuoberst aus den Halifen oder Dedes besteht. Das Oberhaupt der gesamten Religionsgemeinschaft ist der Dedebaba, dessen Amt zur Zeit Edmond Brahimaj innehat und auch Baba Mondi genannt wird (s. Abb.).

Edmond Brahimaj, Dedebaba seit 2011

Im Verlgeich zu den Sunniten begehen die Bektaschi keinen richtigen Ramadan – hier wird nur an drei Tagen gefastet – denn sie widmen sich dem Fasten in ihrem Trauermonat Muharrem, der nach dem islamischen Kalender unserem Januar entspricht. In diesem Monat wird an zehn bis zwölf Tagen gefastet und im Anschluss eine Süßspeise aus zwölf Zutaten, die symbolisch für die zwölf Imame der Zwölfer-Schia stehen, zu sich genommen.

Ähnlich den zwölf Geboten gibt es in der Glaubensgemeinschaft der Bektaschi Grundwerte die als Verbot von Mord, Körperverletzung, Diebstahl, übler Nachrede und nichtehelichen Beziehungen interpretiert werden können: ,,eline, beline, diline sahip ol’’ was die Bedeutung ,,Beherrsche deine Hände, deine Lenden und beherrsche deine Zunge’’ trägt und für das negative Potential steht, dass im Menschen ruht.

Die Bektaschi vertreten einen deutlich liberaleren Islam, so sollen Frauen unbedingt an Zeremonien wie dem Cem teilnehmen, gleichberechtig sein und vor allem Zugang zur Schulbildung in jeder Form erhalten. Sie tragen keine Kopfbedeckung und sind den Männern im Orden ebenbürtig. Bei dem Cem und dem Muhabet handelt es sich um gemeinschaftliche Zeremonien und gemeinsame Mähler, bei denen Raki, dem Weinbrand des Balkans, getrunken, diskutiert und getanzt wird.

Eindeutig ist zwar, woher die Bektaschi ihren Namen beziehen, doch ist man sich bis heute streitig, wer der wahre Begründer des Glaubensordens war. Inzwischen geht man jedoch davon aus, dass es sich dabei nicht um Haci Bektaş Veli, sondern vielmehr um Balim Sultan handelt, einem aus Griechenland stammenden Derwisch.

Während des 16. Jahrhunderts war das heutige albanische Territorialgebiet schon völlig in das Osmanische Reich aufgenommen, nachdem der Widerstand durch Gjergj Kastrioti, bekannt als der albanische Nationalheld Skanderbeg, und dessen Truppen entgültig niedergeschlagen wurde.

Es gibt keine verwertbaren Spuren die zeigen könnten, dass es schon vor dem 15. Jahrhundert in Albanien viele Muslime gegeben hätte und erst ab dem 17. Jahrhundert sollte die Mehrheit des albanischen Volkes beginngen, zum Islam zu konvertieren.

Die Bektaschi indess etablierten sich schon im 14. Und 15. Jahrhundert und verbreiteten sich vor allem auf dem Balkan. Eine große Rolle haben sie möglicherweise bei der Gründung des Janitscharen-Korps gespielt, da Legenden zufolge sogar der Namensgeber des Ordens Haci Bektaş Veli die ersten Truppen aufgestellt haben soll. Es ist jedoch wahrscheinlicher dass die Janitscharen, die Eliteeinheit der Armee der Osmanischen Sultane, von Murad I., der bis 1389 das Osmanische Reich regierte, gegründet wurden. Es werden ferner auch andere Bektaschi-Derwische als Gründer benannt, was die Vermutung zulässt, dass die Bektaschi eng an die Janitscharen gebunden waren. Belege für Existenz von Gemeindehäusern der Tariqa, der Sufi-Orden, existieren allerdings erst für das 17. Jahrhundert.

Als die Elitetruppe nach jahrelangen Aufständen 1826 gewaltsam aufgelöst wurde, erfuhren die Bektaschi eine Verdrängung aus der Gesellschaft durch Sultan Mahmud II der die Religionsgemeinschaft verbot. Tekken (teqe), die Zentren der Derwisch-Orden wo die Bektaschi ihre Zeremonien durchführen, wurden geschlossen und die Bektaschis gewaltsam vertrieben. Bald, in etwa ab der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts schafften sie es jedoch sich neu aufzustellen, begannen sich wieder anzusiedeln und ihre Tekken zu öffnen. Als jedoch schließlich Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 1925 die neue türkische Republik ausrief, ließ er erneut alle Tekken schließen, konfiszierte Grund und Boden der Bektaschi-Gemeinden und viele Bektaschi sahen sich gezwungen ins Exil auszuwandern. So verlegten sie sich ab diesem Zeitpunkt nach Albanien um dort ihren Hauptsitz zu eröffnen, wo sie zunächst auf religiöse Toleranz und einen weit verbreiteten Synkretismus stießen. Bis 1945 blieben sie den sunnitischen Moslems unterstellt und konnten sich erst ab dann als unabhängige Religionsgemeinschaft etablieren. Als im zweiten Weltkrieg nationalsozialistische deutsche Truppen und Teile der Armee des Mussolini-Regimes Albanien besetzten, kämpften viele Bektaschi in Widerstandsgruppen, unter anderem unter Enver Hoxha. Bis dahin befand sich Albanien in einer besondern Position: es war, bis zur späteren Unabhängigkeit Bosnien-Herzegowinas, das einzige europäische Land mit muslimischer Mehrheit. Als Enver Hoxha 1967 schließlich den Atheismus als Staatsdoktrin verkündete war Albanien der einzige Staat weltweit der jegliche Konfessionen verbot und aus dem öffentlichen Leben verbannte. Auch die Bektaschi litten unter diesem öffentlichen Verbot und trafen sich daraufhin nur noch im Untergrund oder siedelten in die Vereingten Staaten, vornehmlich nach Detroit, über.

Nachdem das Hoxha-Regime und der Kommunsimus 1991 schließlich zusammenbrach, wagten sich die Bektaschi wieder an die Öffentlichkeit und bauten ihre Glaubenszentren, die Tekken/Teqen, wieder auf. Seitdem stehen sie jedoch zwischen westlichen und östlichen Integratiosnbestrebungen, durch die Europäische Union aber auch durch die Organisation Islamischer Staaten, wie etwa den Wahhabiten, den traditionalistischen Islamisten.

Die Bektaschi besitzen heute einen Zwischenstatus aus Gemeinde und Gesellschaft und pendeln irgendwo zwischen den drei offiziellen Religionen und anderen religiösen Minderheiten. De facto erkennt der Staat die Bektaschi an, jedoch haben sie kein Recht auf einen eigenen Repräsentanten im Staatssekretariat der Religionen und sind weiterhin in der Ausübung ihres Glaubens den Sunniten unterstellt.

Heute ist die Lage der Bektaschi in Albanien relativ schwierig: auch wenn der Islam und auch die Bektaschi wesentlich zur Prägung Albaniens wie es heute ist, beigetragen haben, fehlt vielen Bürgern das Interesse an der Religion, möglicherweise auch wegen der Einflüsse von Westen und Osten. Viele Bürger wünschen sich Teil der Europäischen Union zu werden und lehnen deshalb gegebenfalls die Zugehörigkeit zum Islam ab, wenn auch die Bektaschi einen deutlich liberaleren Zweig repräsentieren.

Inzwischen ist des den Bektaschi gelungen die Mehrheit ihrer Besitztümer vom Staat zurückzuerlangen und mittlerweile werden sogar die Zeremonien der Bektaschi im öffentlichrechtlichen Fernsehen übertragen. Die Bektaschi scheinen nun optimistisch in die Zukunft zu blicken in der zu hoffen bleibt, dass sie keine Unterdrückung und Vertreibung mehr erfahren werden.

Forgotten Spaces

Forgotten Spaces in border regions

Michał Piasek

Die DAAD-Reise nach Mazedonien und Albanien führte die Gruppe in Regionen, wo sich die Grenzen über Jahrhunderte verschoben haben und neue Grenzen gezogen wurden. Und das sowohl Sichtbare als auch Unsichtbare. Das Osmanische Reich prägte die Region besonders, sodass nicht nur neue politische Grenzen entstanden, sondern auch religiöse. Viele der Grenzen sind größtenteils unsichtbar, sodass hier nur vier ausgewählte Orte, die auf der folgenden Karte eingezeichnet sind, vorgestellt werden.

In diesem Beitrag soll die Erfahrung der vermeintlichen „Grenzüberschreitung“ dargestellt werden. Das geschieht anhand vier ausgewählter Orte: Debar, Dolna Gorica, Zogaj und Rreth-Libofshe (Die Orte wurden nach ihrem Besuchsdatum geordnet und können der Karte entnommen werden). Bis auf Rreth-Libofshe, liegen die Orte an den politischen Grenzen Mazedoniens/Albaniens bzw. Montenegros/Albaniens. Rreth-Libofshe hingegen bildet einen eigenen spezifischen Raum, der später erläutert wird. Bis auf Debar, das größtenteils albanischsprachig ist, liegen die anderen drei Orte im heutigen Albanien. Die vorgestellten Räume verbindet dieselbe jahrhunderte andauernde osmanische Geschichte, sowie die etlichen politischen Veränderungen im 20. Jahrhundert. Neue politische Systeme, Migrationen und Regime, die diese Räume stark prägten. Eine weitere Gemeinsamkeit ist, dass die Orte jeweils von Gruppen bewohnt werden, die in der Minderheit zur Staatssprache stehen.

Sal markja memorial park

Alter osmanischer Friedhof an der Mazedonisch-Albanischen Grenze in der Nähe von Debar. Von außen ist dieser Ort unsichtbar, doch sobald das Waldstück betreten wird, werden alte osmanische Spuren sichtbar. Im Jahre 1395 wurde die Region von den Osmanen erobert und markierte im 15. Jh. eine wichtige Grenze zwischen der Liga von Lezha unter Gjergj Kastrioti und den Osmanen. Die Region blieb bis zu den Balkankriegen 1912/13 unter osmanischer Herrschaft. Gegenwärtig wird Debar zu über 90% von Albanischsprachigen Personen bewohnt. Der Islam hat in dieser Region historisch bedingt die meisten Angehörigen. Die Angehörigen in dem Gebiet sind Albaner, Torbeschen und Türken.

Dolna Gorica

Nachdem Enver Hoxha in den 1970er Jahren die ursprünglichen slawischen Toponyme in albanisierte tauschte, wurde im Jahre 2013 die als Goricë e Vogël bekannte und mazedonischsprachige Ortschaft am Prespa See wieder umbenannt, sowie alle weiteren Orte in der Gemeinde. Der Ort bildet mit acht weiteren Ortschaften am Prespa See die einzige offiziell anerkannte Gemeinde einer mazedonischsprachigen Gruppe. Nach etlichen Grenzverschiebungen befindet sie sich nun auf albanischer Seite des Prespa Sees. Sie zeichnet sich durch die mazedonischsprachige Schule und eine kleine orthodoxe Kirche mit Friedhof aus.

Osmanische Grabsteine neben der Moschee in Zogaj am Shkodra See.

Der Ort befindet sich etwa einen Kilometer von der montenegrinischen Grenze. Nach der Belagerung von Shkodra 1478/79 war Zogaj ebenfalls bis zu den Balkankriegen 1912/13 unter Osmanischer Herrschaft. Die Reste, wie dieser Grabstein zeigt, sind heute noch sichtbar. Heute lebt in dieser Region eine kleine Gruppe von Sprechern des Serbischen/Montenegrinischen (Der letzte Zensus von 2011 wurde von nicht-Albanischsprechern größtenteils boykottiert und kann deshalb nicht als repräsentativ gelten).

Friedhof am Kloster „Manastiri i Shën Kozmait“ in der Nähe von Rreth-Libofshe.

In der Ortschaft leben sich selbst deklarierende Serben, die muslimischen Glaubens sind. Sie kamen im ersten Drittel des 20. Jahrhunderts aus der Gegend um Novi Pazar. Es handelt sich hier um einen isolierten Raum, da sich die anderen Serbisch-/Bosnischsprachigen Gruppen in der Region Fier als Bosniaken deklarieren.

Es handelt es sich nur um eine Auswahl dieser sog. „Forgotten Spaces“ entlang der heutigen Staatsgrenzen. Es existieren noch unzählige weitere Glaubenshäuser, Klöster, Friedhöfe etc., die alte Grenzen, vor allem aus der osmanischen Zeit wieder sichtbar werden lassen. Die Räume (Friedhöfe und religiöse Bauten) zeigen auch unterschiedliche geschichtliche Ereignisse. Die Frage letzten Endes bleibt, ob die Räume weiter vergessen bleiben oder sie doch eine Rolle spielen werden bei der Weiterentwicklung dieser Regionen. Sie bereichern zumindest die kulturelle Landschaft und geben Material für weitere Untersuchungen.

Dolna Gorica

Dolna Gorica

Dolna Gorica is one of the nine Macedonian villages of the Mala Prespa, southern of the Lake Prespa. The area is the only one in Albania enjoying the status and rights of a minority. In the school, lessons are given in Macedonian and they learn Albanian as a foreign language. Some of the villages have Macedonian and some – Bulgarian consciousness. Many of the inhabitants have Macedonian passports along with their Albanian ones, but because of the deepening crisis faced by the Macedonian state, an increasing number of people in the area have become aware of their Bulgarian origins. Bulgarian passports became more attractive because with them one will be able to travel visa-free to the EU countries.

prelepo selo, najlepše od posećenih, kao da je zamrznuto u vremenu. Očekivala sam i takve međuljudske odnose, i čvrsto ustaljene porodične običaje. Zatekli smo poluprazno selo i mnogi njegovi stanovnici su emigrirali u Evropu…
Sanja, M.A. Student U Belgrade

… sehr ländlich und einfach geprägt, aber schöne Häuser und gepflgte Gärten, verlassenes Dorf

Libofshe

Libofshë

Rreth Libofshë is a village in the Municipality of Fier, located in southwest Albania, where the inhabitants declare as Serbs of Islamic faith. In the town works the Association of Serbs “Jedinstvo”, which in 2010 opened a Serbian language school.

I could see the split in generations. The grandfather was enthusiastically Serbian, being proud that he could express his identity after decades of communist rule. The father was more pragmatic it seems and generally a hot tempered man. The daughter and son didn‘t seem too enthusiastic, I couldn‘t help but feel that the Serbian language was being forced on them if not Serbian identity itself. The villagers all all Muslim, however they did try to present themselves as syncretic, honoring the orthodox saints and claiming that they pray both at the local church and mosque.
By far this seemed the most confused and incoherent identity group we have visited.
Slađan, M.A. Student U Belgrade

Since I‘d heard that it was a Serbian community living in this village I expected everyone to talk Serbian – this was not the case. Serbian people came here in the 1920s but the language is dying out with every generation, even though they are teaching it at school.
Megan, B.A. Student HU Berlin

BUNK’ART

BUNK’ART – entering the dark past

Megan Nagel, Goranka Ćejvanović

Der Bunker des albanischen Diktators Enver Hoxha

In den 70ern ließ Enver Hoxha am Stadtrand Tiranas eine fünfstöckige  Bunkeranlage erbauen, bestehend aus etwa 100 Räumen, zum Schutz seiner selbst gegen nukleare Angriff. Zur Anzahl der massiven Pilzköpfe in der Sozialistischen Republik Albaniens existieren lediglich Schätzungen. Nach offiellen Angaben von BUNK’ART soll es etwa 221.143 gegeben haben, die zum Schutz der Bevölkerung dienen sollten. Nach Enver Hoxhas Tod (1985) und bis zum Zerfall des Kommunismus (1990) wurde das isolierte Albanien von Ramiz Alia regiert.

I have had just a basic information about the Dervish community before the journey, and their religious plurality and inclusivity is something that can be of greater interest and relevance for the Balkans.
Marko, PhD Student U Belgrade

Bunker wird BUNK’ART

Erst 24 Jahre später wird der Bunker Hoxhas als Museum BUNK’ART eröffet. Die künstlerische Umgestaltung wird von zwei Journalisten realisiert, dem  italienischen Carlo Bollino und der albanischen Admirina Peçi, mit Unterstützung der albanischen Regierung sowie der NGO „Qendra Ura“. Aktuell sind 24 Räume, nach Themen gegliedert, für die Museumsbesucher zugänglich. Ausgehend von der Invasion der Italiener, über die Okkupation durch die Deutschen und bis zum Ende des propagandistischen Regimes, wird eine Chronologie der Geschichte und des alltäglichen Lebens der Bevölkerung  aufgezeigt. Durch diverse Gegenstände, Fotografin, Dokumente wie Briefe, Karten aber auch Videoinstallationen wird dies visualisiert.

Ovo je jedna od najzanimljivijih poseta u Albaniji. Oduševljena sam time što su bunker koji je bio značajan za vreme vladavine Envera Hodže pretvoren u muzej koji slikovito dočarava taj vremenski period.
Dunja, M.A. Student U Belgrade

Wir betreten BUNK’ART

Erst durch einen langen, kalten und dunklen Tunnel erreicht man den Eingang zum Bunker, dessen schwere Betontür schon offensteht. Eine miefende  Feuchtigkeit empfängt uns. Ratten oder Fledermäuse gibt es hier keine mehr. Von Raum zum Raum betreten wir das Labyrinth des Selbst-Experiments. Und es erklingt die Stimme des Diktators. Wir drücken auf den Knopf. Sirenen ertönen, wir stehen in einem rauchgefüllten Raum. Wir spüren die Kultur der Angst. Nur der Künstler entreißt uns mit seinem Spiel des bunten Lichts aus der gruseligen Vergangenheit.
Doch das Selbstexperiment dauert bis zum Ende. Der Nachhall der schweren, sich verselbständigenden Beton-Toilettentür hinterlässt einen bitteren Nachgeschmack. Als die Tür zuknallt, weckt sie die Angst und das Gefühl des Eingesperrtseins. BUNK’ART ist nicht nur ein Zeugnis des propagandistischen Regimes, sondern ebenso ein Dokumentationszentrum, das zur Aufarbeitung der Geschichte und der Vergangenheitsbewältigung dient.

Prijatno sam iznenađena … Nisam očekivala njihovo potpuno otvaranje najmračnijih perioda polovine 20og veka i veoma sam pozitivno iznenađena tim iskorakom (Srbija još uvek nije napravila taj iskorak prema najtežim praksama koje je sprovodila Komunističa partija Jugoslavije). Upadljiv je otvoreni odnos Bunk‘Art muzeja prema novijoj istoriji i Nacionalnog muzeja istorije u Tirani koji propagira snažan nacionalistički diskurs i revizionističku istoriju
Sanja, M.A. Student U Belgrade


 

WEITERE THEMEN

Die Bektashi in Albanien und ihre Geschichte

Die Watchdog-Organisation Eco Guerilla

Fieldwork Šipkovica: Perceptions and group dynamics

Forgotten Spaces in border regions

Frauen auf dem Balkan

Interkulturalität und Mehrsprachigkeit in Albanien und Mazedonien

Mehrsprachigkeit innerhalb der einheimischen Bevölkerung Mazedoniens und Albaniens

Repräsentation von Mehrsprachigkeit in der Linguistic Landscape Mazedoniens

Skopje 2014

State Identities and Architecture in Albania and Macedonia

The (hidden) face of Macedonia

The inevitability of nationalism

The (post)Yugoslav legacy and everyday life in Macedonia and Albania


MEHR ORTE

FieldTrip de Placeholder
FieldTrip de

BUNK’ART

BUNK’ART – entering the dark past

Megan Nagel, Goranka Ćejvanović

Albanian Dicator Enver Hoxha’s bunker

Enver Hoxha had a five-storeyed bunker built consisting of 100 rooms on the outskirts of Tirana in the 1970s for his own protection against a nuclear attack. The number of massive bunkers in the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania can only be estimated. Official statements say 221.143 bunkers were built to protect the population. After Enver Hoxhas death in 1985 and until the disintegration of communism in 1990 isolated Albania was ruled by Ramiz Alia.

I have had just a basic information about the Dervish community before the journey, and their religious plurality and inclusivity is something that can be of greater interest and relevance for the Balkans.
Marko, PhD Student U Belgrade

A bunker becomes BUNK’ART

The museum BUNK’ART was only opened 24 years later. The artistic presentation is realised by two journalists, the Italian Carlo Bollino and Albanian Admirina Peçi, with support from the Albanian government as well as the NGO Qendra Una. Currently 24 rooms are open to the public, subdivided into different topics. One part is a chronology of the history and the life of the population:  the invasion of the Italians, the occupation by the Germans and the end of the propagandistic regime. This is visualised by different kinds of objects, photos, documents such as letters and maps as well as video installations.

Ovo je jedna od najzanimljivijih poseta u Albaniji. Oduševljena sam time što su bunker koji je bio značajan za vreme vladavine Envera Hodže pretvoren u muzej koji slikovito dočarava taj vremenski period.
Dunja, M.A. Student U Belgrade

We enter BUNK’ART

The entry to the bunker is reached through a long, cold and dark tunnel, the concrete door is already open. We are greeted by an unpleasant moisture. Rats or bats no longer live here.  We walk from room to room of this labyrinth of self-experimentation. And we can hear the dictator’s voice. We push the button. Sirens ring out, we are standing in a room filled with smoke. We can feel the culture of fear. Only the artist himself can pull us out of the creepy past with his play of colourful light. But the self-experiment lasts until the end. The echo of the concrete toilet door leaves a bitter taste as it slams shut and evokes the feeling of being imprisoned.

BUNK’ART is not only a testimonial to the propagandistic regime, it’s also a documentation centre serving for the rehabilitation of history and the process of coming to terms with the past.

Prijatno sam iznenađena … Nisam očekivala njihovo potpuno otvaranje najmračnijih perioda polovine 20og veka i veoma sam pozitivno iznenađena tim iskorakom (Srbija još uvek nije napravila taj iskorak prema najtežim praksama koje je sprovodila Komunističa partija Jugoslavije). Upadljiv je otvoreni odnos Bunk‘Art muzeja prema novijoj istoriji i Nacionalnog muzeja istorije u Tirani koji propagira snažan nacionalistički diskurs i revizionističku istoriju
Sanja, M.A. Student U Belgrade