Quite often, when it comes to the development of the situation on the Balkan Peninsula, one can hear that in it an increasingly prominent role is played by the Albanian factor, an integral part of which is the idea of creating a Greater Albania. Interestingly, this idea is often speculated not so much by the aspirations for "greatness" of the Balkan ethnic group as by Russian and Serbian propaganda, which continue to repeat that the realization of this idea threatens war throughout the Balkan Peninsula and, accordingly, Europe, since the Balkans themselves call it "powder keg". But is the "Greater Albanian" demon as scary as it is portrayed? Those who are exploring the Albanian issue and knowing the situation from within, have great doubts about it…
The biggest threat in the Balkans ...
What is generally known about Greater Albania? - The idea is that all the territories in which the Albanian ethnic group prevails over the state-building are united.
As the idea implies, the northwestern regions of the Republic of Northern Macedonia, the southern regions of Serbia, including Kosovo and the Presevo Valley, populated by Albanians, the southern regions of Montenegro, as well as the northern regions of Greece, but almost all of Greece, to which Albania is to be annexed no Albanian population left.
During the Second World War, the idea of Greater Albania was realized with the help of the Third Reich and Italy. Since then, much has not been heard about Greater Albania, until the 2008 year, when Kosovo proclaimed its independence, reincarnated in Russian and Serbian propaganda and has become an important tool that has been actively used by them for over 10 years. Here is what Russian propaganda writes on Greater Albania:
- the Greater Albania project implies ethnically pure Albania and the expulsion of non-Albanian populations - Serbs and other Slavs, and the creation of an ethnically homogeneous Albanian state in the central regions of the Balkan Peninsula.
- Undoubtedly, the process of establishing Greater Albania is unfolding before our eyes. Who needs it? First of all, the West, that is, NATO and those who govern politics within the Western Military Alliance. Geopolitical and military-strategic goals of this policy, Western propagandists and Albanians are cleverly masking calls to combat the Serbian or Russian threat.
- as Europeans elect parliament, painlessly part with the UK, argue about the Nord Stream and, in general, plan for the future, a decades-long conflict is brewing in the Balkans that will engulf Europe. It will be provoked by the course of Pristina and Tirana to embody the idea of Greater Albania.
In turn, Serbian Defense Minister Alexander Vulin recently stated that Greater Albania is the biggest security threat to Serbia and the Balkan region.
The interests of Belgrade and Moscow in the promotion of the theme of Greater Albania are quite clear. For the former, it is an opportunity to further demonize Kosovo's separatism with its negative effects. For Russia, to divert attention from its interests in the Balkans.
... only in propaganda?
On whether the idea of Greater Albania is currently being implemented in the Balkans, and whether it carries those threats that Belgrade and Moscow keep repeating, CDACR-Balkans talked to the associate professor of the Balkan Studies Department at St. Sofia University. Clement of Ohrid »by Anton Panchev. He immediately noted that using a force scenario to unite Albanians is unlikely: Albania itself is not strong enough to do so, and there will be no external support for the issue. In addition, Albania's neighbors simply will not allow it: Greece, Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, which are even more powerful than Albanians. Especially - Greeks and Serbs. Albania itself, as a NATO member, will find it difficult to implement and explain to its partners such steps.
As for the non-violent way of realizing the idea of Greater Albania, here are some important factors that, in fact, do not exist today.
First, geographical. It turns out that Greater Albania is not really that big. Combining all the lands in the Balkans inhabited by the Albanian population will occupy no more than 50 thousand km².
Secondly, the demographic.Today, there are no more than 4,7 million ethnic Albanians living in the compact Albanian population - Albania, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and some part of Serbia. And this number is shrinking, primarily because of emigration to Western Europe. In addition, in the vast majority, young Albanian families have only one child. That is, the "demographic weapon" of Albanians, which was strong in the twentieth century, has weakened significantly over the last 20 years.
Third, religious. The Albanians are very religiously divided. Among them are Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics, Bektashi ... For the majority of the population, this does not affect their coexistence as much as they are not religious. But there is a part - most among Muslims and Catholics - who is highly religious and at the same time uses religion for political purposes. Often one can observe the verbal burning of radicalized Catholics against Muslims.
Fourth, economic. The Albanian economy is not strong enough to carry out the Greater Albania project on its own. Albania has good natural resources, including chromium, oil (although not of very good quality), but this is still not enough to carry out such a project.
Fifth, the lack of outside support. Russian and Serbian propaganda claim that the United States is interested in Greater Albania. In fact, this view is untrue, since Albanians cannot offer Americans anything but devotion. Even Serbia is, to some extent, more important to the United States than Albania. In addition, Americans cannot support Greater Albania, as this will automatically mean a deterioration in relations with Greece. In turn, Turkey, which has parties in northern Macedonia and parties, and the media, and research centers and banks, will not allow this, since it is interested in preserving northern Macedonia as opposed to Greece.
And lastly, the political situation in Albania itself, today, does not contribute to its leadership and political elites focusing on the implementation of the great Albanian idea. Albania is experiencing a deep political crisis today. The main opposing parties - Prime Minister E. Rama's pro-governmental Socialist Party of Albania and the opposition Democratic Party of Albania and the Socialist Movement for the Integration of President I.Meta, are not ready to make concessions to each other to overcome the current situation. Today, the Albanian parliament is effectively blocked, and after the June 30 local elections, local government activities are blocked. Complicating the political crisis is the fact that the judicial system of the country, which could arbitrate and adjudicate the opposing parties, is not actually functioning today… And there is little chance that Tirana will be able to deal with this on its own in the near future.
For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that the reasons for pouring oil into the "great Albanian fire" by Russian and Serbian propaganda are given by Kosovo and Albanian politicians themselves, who periodically make statements that are readily picked up and developed by propaganda machines. However, in reality these statements are made solely for the sake of raising their rank among the local population. Yes, work is now under way on the rapprochement of Albania and Kosovo: customs obstacles are being eliminated, various infrastructure, cultural and educational projects are being implemented, and so on. However, this is not happening too fast. On the other hand, Albanian and Kosovo Albanians are different in terms of mentality and thinking. In addition, Kosovo's elites are unlikely to want to "lie" under Tirana and get rid of all the full power they currently have.
Therefore, not to mention propaganda, Greater Albania has little chance of becoming a reality today. Instead, Russia's efforts, under the guise of good intentions, in particular to protect the brotherly Balkan peoples from Albanian nationalism, to strengthen their influence over Europe's "powder keg" are more real. And here is really nothing new. Similarly, Russia acted in Ukraine when, in the wake of the “popularization” of Greater Romania, we were preparing to liquidate Ukrainian statehood. As a result, Greater Romania remained in the imagination of its ideologues and "popularisers," and Ukraine received from the fraternal annexation of the Crimea and the occupation of the Donbas.