Posts Tagged ‘November 28’

Your RDA of Albania

Posted in General, On This Day on November 28th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 4 Comments

November 28, 1912:  T.E. Lawrence Lost His Chance to Be Lawrence of Albania

Today is Independence Day in Albania. Let’s celebrate its sovereign obscurity.

Albania, like Bulgaria, is generally regarded as a fictional country because no one ever seems to be from there. This anonymity is actually encouraged by the Albanians to avoid conquest. Unfortunately for the Albanians, it is only the second worst place in the Balkans, so invaders do show up–even if it is never worth the effort.

(By the way, Montenegro has the distinction of being the worst. The Turks did not bother to invade.)

Among Albania’s conquerors were the Romans, the Byzantines, the Slavs, the Byzantines again, the French (after the 4th Crusade pillage extravaganza) the Serbs (Slavs with Byzantine culture), and the Ottomans. In a gesture of sycophany that surpasses even the French, the Albanians converted to Islam. It spared the Albanians the infidel tax, but the Turks weren’t particularly impressed. Albania would remain the Mississippi of the Ottoman Empire.

Defeated in the Balkan War of 1912, the Turks were forced to cede–on this day in 1912– Northern Greece, Macedonia and (as if they cared) Albania, Now independent, it took Albania almost a decade to form a government; that is say, find a willing and reasonably competent dictator. The resultant leader was that great trivia question: King Zog.

Zog’s glorious reign ended in 1939, when Fascist Italy invaded Albania. Yes, that was Albania’s ultimate humiliation. Being conquered by Mussolini’s “Iron Legions” is like punched out by a Quaker.

After World War II, Albanian Communists seized the country. (No one else probably cared.) It must have been considerable solace to Stalin that, even if he lost Yugoslavia, he still had Albania. It was isolated from the rest of the Soviet bloc, however. Indeed, the British and CIA attempted covert operations to overthrow the Albanian communists. Unfortunately, the British Secret Service was also the Cambridge branch of the KGB, so those covert operations always failed. With Stalin’s death and the Kremlin’s subsequent denunciation of him, Albania felt even more isolated. The Soviet Union was now too liberal for Albania. So, Albania offered to be Communist China’s ally in Europe. In a rare demonstration of Chinese humor, Mao agreed. So, for over three decades, an impoverished, Slavic/Moslem enclave would broadcast (where there was electricity) the quotations of Mao. During this period, Albania lived in xenophobic isolation from the rest of Europe. It is probable that Europe never noticed.

Today, however, Albania is an impoverished Slavic/Moslem enclave that welcomes tourists. Gypsies flee there to avoid extradition to Italy.