Your RDA of Irony

Your RDA of Albania

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.

  1. Bob Kincaid says:

    Well, now you’ve done it, Eugene! The Albanian-American Association For Non-Disdain(a/k/a “Aaand”) will be on your doorstep . . . or not. I hear he only works two days a week and drives a forty year old Trabant.

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Actress Eliza Dushku Gets Tattoo on Trip
      The Associated Press

      PRISTINA, Serbia – Eliza Dushku is taking back a very particular souvenir from her visit to her father’s homeland _ a double-headed eagle, modeled after the one in Albania’s national flag.

      Dushku, who starred in the TV series “Tru Calling,” had the tattoo done on her back during her first visit to Albania and Kosovo.

      The 25-year-old actress said she was impressed by the welcome and the honors she received during the recent trip, which included meeting Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku.

      “I’m flattered and taken aback, and yet it makes me want to be (an) even louder and prouder Albanian,” said Dushku, accompanied by family and friends during her visit to the U.N.-administered province.

      Ms. Dushku had planned to get a tattoo of the cultural highlights of Albania but the tattoo of the eagle was larger.

      Kosovo Prime Minister Ceku proclaimed Ms. Dushku to be Albania’s greatest celebrity. “And counting John and Jim Belushi, we almost have enough for a Jeopardy category.”

  2. Pam Beddard says:

    The Chinese-Albania pact is much celebrated in our household because of the international flavour it adds to our occasional soirees. For reasons he has never fully explained, our friend Ewen studied Mandarin at Unioversity at a time when it was only useful for reading takeaway menus in the original. To gain fluency, he read export editions of the Chinese People’s Daily newspaper which were bi-lingual in Europe then. Unfortunately, the second language was Albanian so Ewen also learned how to read that – by converting the Albanian to Mandarin then to English. If pressed and oiled with alcohol, Ewen will sometimes amuse the gathering with phrases in both. Or, at least, we think that’s what he’s doing. The sounds are much like the ones made when my grandma swallowed her dentures.

  3. Rafferty Barnes says:

    I believe Delaware is a fictional state, made up for tax purposes. I’ve never known anyone from there, and yet my state supposedly borders it.

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