Tuesday, January 8, 2008

By Anthony Weir


Albania, anciently known as Illyria, and occupying a large part of the Western Balkans, lost its independence in 169 BC, when Gent, king of the Illyrians, was defeated and captured by the Romans at Shkodra.
But in the two thousand years that their land was ruled by foreigners, Albanians lost neither their identity nor their ancient language - more ancient than Latin, and related both to Greek and Etruscan.
The Albanian state which came into being in 1912 was really the remnants of Shqiperisë (Eagle-Realm in Albanian) that the Greeks, Serbs and Bulgarians had by some miracle been unable to lay claim to. It was considered by Western nations to be first a ruritanian, then a totalitarian joke. But Albanian has survived in its truncated form the Italian, Greek and German occupations and incursions of the Second World War - and the rule of its last paranoid war-lord, Enver Hoxha.
Albanians swallowed up by the neighboring countries - especially Greece - were considered rather as the Slavs were considered by the Nazis. Before the First World War, Albanian was spoken as far south as Athens - but a policy of linguistic cleansing more successful than that of Britain or France soon fixed that. Janina, the chief Albanian city under Turkish rule, became the entirely Greek-speaking and Greek-thinking capital of Southern Epirus.
Having seized Southern Epirus, the Greeks (whose national costume is actually Albanian) laid claim, and still lay claim, to "Northern Epirus", which is more or less the southern half of modern Albania.
Given this history, and the collapse both moral and economic of the 'Communist Bloc' after the destruction by East Germans of the notorious Wall in 1990, it is not surprising that Albania has exported a quarter of its population and is in thrall to the insidiously destructive values of American capitalism. Television can in a decade destroy a culture which has survived two thousand years of satrapy, for television has become both God and the manifestation of the sordid culture of capitalism which has choked the planet with its foulness

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