The term Greater Albania or Great Albania refers to land which is outside the borders of the Republic of Albania that Albanian nationalists claim as their own, because of either present-day or historical presence of Albanian populations in those areas. The term implies a desire for territorial expansion. Albanians themselves mostly use the term ethnic Albania instead.
Albanians under Ottoman Turkey
Prior to the Balkan wars
of the beginning of the 20th century, Albanians were subjects of the Ottoman Empire
The Albanian independence movement emerged in 1878 with the League of Prizren (a council based in Kosovo) whose goal was cultural and political autonomy for ethnic Albanians inside the framework of the Ottoman Empire. However, the Ottomans were not prepared to grant The League's demands. Ottoman opposition to the League's cultural goals eventually helped transform it into an Albanian national movement.
is a term used primarily by Albanian nationalists
to denote the territories claimed as the traditional homeland of the ethnic Albanians. These territories include Albania
, western parts of Republic of Macedonia
and parts of Montenegro
, etc.). Parts of the Epirus
region of Greece
referred to by Albanians as Çamëria
are also sometimes included in this definition.
World War II
- Albania in World War II
During World War II, with the fall of Yugoslavia in 1941, Italians placed the land inhabited by ethnic Albanians under the jurisdiction of an Albanian quisling government. That included the Republic of Kosovo, parts of Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro.
The recent independence of Kosovo could be interpreted as a degree of success in the creation of a Greater Albania (were such territory to be annexed to Albania or federated with the state), although the United Nations
(UN) has stated that if as a result Kosovo becomes independent, annexation to another state would not be possible. In a survey carried out by United Nations Development Programme
, UNDP, and published in March 2007 only 2.5% of the Albanians
thought unification with Albania
is the best solution for Kosovo. 96% said they wanted Kosovo to become independent within its present borders.
- List of Albanian exonyms.
presently has an overwhelmingly Albanian majority, estimated to be around 92%.
also contains sizeable Albanian populations mostly concentrated in areas such as southern Malësia
, the Podgorica
(Ulqini) municipality on the coast, the Tuzi
area near Podgorica
, and parts of the Plav
(Guci) and Rožaje
According to the 1928 census held by the Greek state, there were 18,600-19,600 Muslim Cams in southern Epirus
. They were forced to seek refuge in Albania at the end of WWII after some of them allied and fought together with the Nazis during the 1941-1944 period. In the first post-war census (1951), only 123 Muslim Çams were left in the area. Descendants of the exiled Muslim Çams (they claim that they are now up to 200,000, living in Albania) claim that up to 35,000 Muslim Çams were living in southern Epirus before World War II. Many of them are currently trying to pursue legal ways to claim compensation for the properties seized by Greece. Nowadays, only a small number live in Greece. For Greece the issue does not exist.
Republic of Macedonia
The western part of Republic of Macedonia is an area with a large ethnic Albanian minority. The Albanian population in Republic of Macedonia is variously estimated to make up between 23%-25% of the population. Cities with Albanian majorities or large minorities include Tetovo
(Kumanova) and Skopje
In 1992 Albanian activists in Struga proclaimed also the founding of the Republic of Ilirida with the intention of autonomy or federalization inside the Republic of Macedonia. The declaration had only symbolic meaning and the idea of an autonomous state of Ilirida is not officially accepted by the ethnic Albanian politicians in the Republic of Macedonia. (See also 2001 Macedonia conflict
The municipalities of Preševo
(Bujanovci) and part of the municipality of Medveđa
(Medvegja) also contain Albanian populations. According to the 2002 census, Preševo contained an overwhelming Albanian ethnic majority of over 90%. Bujanovcac around 54.69% and Medveđa 48.17%. Tense relations between ethnic Serbians
and Albanians and also the increased hatred after the Kosovo War
, resulted in military actions after the Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac
(UÇPMB) was formed. One of UÇPMB's roles entails seceding these specific municipalities from Serbia and annex them to the independent Republic of Kosovo.
Political uses of the concept
The Albanian problem in the Balkan peninsula is in part the consequence of the decisions made by Western Powers. One theory posits that the United Kingdom
, and Austro-Hungary
wanted to maintain a brittle balance in Europe in the late 19th century following the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
The degree to which different groups are working towards, and what efforts such groups are undertaking in order to achieve a Greater Albania is disputed. There seems no evidence that anything more than a few unrepresentative extremist groups are working towards this cause; the vast majority of Albanians want to live in peace with their neighbors. However, it must be noted that they also want the human rights of the Albanian ethnic populations in Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Greece to be respected. An excellent example is the friendly relationship between the Republic of Montenegro and the support towards the integration of the Albanian population in Republic of Macedonia - there is Albanian representation in government, the national parliament, local government, and the business sector, and no evidence of systematic discrimination on an ethnic or religious basis against the Albanian (or indeed any other minority) population. In other countries, such as Serbia, Greece, and Republic of Macedonia, politicians and ethnic leaders have often used the idea of a 'Greater Albania' to generate ethnic hatred and fear of Albanian political activities, and to justify policies that undermine political and human rights of Albanian minorities.
International Crisis Group Research
International Crisis Group
researched the issue of Pan-Albanianism and published a report titled "Pan-Albanianism: How Big a Threat to Balkan Stability?" on February 2004. Their report concludes that the "notions of pan-Albanianism are far more layered and complex than the usual broad brush characterisations of ethnic Albanians simply bent on achieving a greater Albania or a greater Kosovo." Furthermore, the report states that amongst Albanians "violence in the cause of a greater Albania, or of any shift of borders, is neither politically popular nor morally justified." International Crisis Group advises the Albanian and Greek governments to endeavour and settle the long-standing issue of the Chams displaced from Greece in 1945, before it gets hijacked and exploited by extreme nationalists, and the Chams' legitimate grievances get lost in the struggle to further other national causes. Moreover, the ICG findings suggest that Albania is more interested in developing cultural and economic ties with Kosovo, whilst maintaining separate statehood.
- Canak, Jovan M. Greater Albania: concepts and possibile [sic] consequences. Belgrade: Institute of Geopolitical Studies, 1998.
- Archivo storico, Ministero degli Affari Esteri (Italy).
- Sottosegretario di Stato per gli Affari Albanesi (State Undersecretary for Albanian Affairs) of Italy (1939-1943).
- Jaksic G. and Vuckovic V. Spoljna politika srbije za vlade. Kneza Mihaila, Belgrade, 1963.
- Dimitrios Triantaphyllou. The Albanian Factor. ELIAMEP, Athens, 2000.