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Context of 'August 1949: Limited Greek Invasion of Albania Begins'

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1913: Albanian State Created by Great Powers

At a conference of their ambassadors, the six Great Powers (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom) decide to create an independent and neutral Albanian kingdom, with no ties to the Ottomans. Under a July 29 agreement, the Great Powers nominate the prince of Albania, run the government and budget of Albania for a renewable term of 10 years, and create an Albanian gendarmerie, under Swedish Army officers. The conference also decides Albania’s borders. In addition to demanding a commercial port on the Adriatic Sea, which the conference quickly accepts, Serbia wants its border to extend from Lake Ohri, along the Black Drin River to the White Drin River, which excludes Kosova and parts of Macedonia with an Albanian population. Montenegro wants its border to be on the Mat River, or at least the Drin River, giving it parts of northern Albania. Greece wants its border to begin at the city of Vlora and include Gjirokastra and Korca in southern Albania. The Albanian government in Vlora wants Albania to unite all Albanian populated areas, including Kosova, parts of Macedonia and Montenegro, and the Greek region of Cameria. Austria and Italy support the Albanian position, but lose to Russia, which supports Serbia. Instead of giving Shkodra to Montenegro, the conference leaves it in Albania, Montenegro keeps what it was given by the Berlin Congress in the summer of 1878, and Kosova is given to Serbia. Sir Edward Grey makes a five-part proposal to settle the border with Greece. A commission is empowered to go to the area and settle the border, and recommends that Korca and Sazan, an island near Vlora, be given to Albania. The occupation forces, especially the Greeks, hamper the commission. The Florence Protocol in December 1913 gives Cameria, which Greece calls Northern Epirus, to Greece. At the other end of Albania, a commission attempts to implement an agreement from March 22, and modified April 14. Serbia continues to occupy northern Albania, leading to an Albanian backlash there in September and October. Serbia says there is a need for its occupation forces in the region, but Austria-Hungary threatens military force if Serb forces do not leave within eight days. The commission leaves the issue there because of winter and then the start of World War I the next summer. [Kola, 2003, pp. 13-16]

Entity Tags: United Kingdom, Austria-Hungary, Albania, Edward Grey, France, Germany, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, Macedonia, Italy, Greece

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

In a letter dated January 26, 1948, and delivered by Yugoslav General Milan Kupresanin, Tito tells Albanian leader Enver Hoxha that Greece, aided by the British and Americans, is about to invade Albania, so Yugoslavia wants to quietly station a division and supporting soldiers in the Korca region. Academic Paulin Kola will later claim that Albania proposes that the Albanian and Yugoslav soldiers should be under a unified command, as a step towards military unification. In his memoir, The Titoites, Hoxha will say that he tells Kupresanin that the request has to be discussed by the leadership and that he personally is against it. Kristo Themelko and Chief of the Albanian General Staff Beqir Balluku, who replaced Hoxha ally Mehmet Shehu, previously met with Tito and said Albania would accept the military assistance. Kupresanin comes with a team to survey the area. Hoxha replies that Albania can defend itself, the Greek government forces are wrapped up in an offensive against the Greek Democratic Army, the plan should not be hidden from the Albanian public, and that hosting the division would destabilize the region. Hoxha says to Kupresanin that “the worst thing would be if, from such a precipitate action, enemies or friends were to accuse us that Albania has been occupied by the Yugoslav troops!” and says Kupresanin briefly blanched. Xoci Xoxe is also at the meeting and supports the Yugoslav request, and says action should be taken quickly. Kupresanin is insulted when Hoxha says Yugoslavia should reinforce its own border with Greece if war is so imminent. Privately, Hoxha believes that “the urgent dispatch of Yugoslav to our territory would serve as an open blackmail to ensure that matters in the [Eighth] Plenum would go in the way that suited the Yugoslavs.” In a report to the Tirana party organization on October 4, 1948, Hoxha will say Yugoslavia was seeking to create “a phobia of imminent war” and divide Albania from the Soviets by “the stationing of a Yugoslav division in Korca and the dispatch of other divisions.” Since he cannot stop the Plenum from being held in February, he tries to stop the division from being approved, by requesting advice from the Soviets. The Soviet government subsequently says it does not expect a Greek invasion and that it agrees with Hoxha. In With Stalin, Hoxha will say that Stalin will tell him in spring 1949 that the USSR was not aware of the situation, though Yugoslavia claimed to be acting with Soviet approval.
Yugoslav Accounts - Subsequent memoirs by Yugoslav leaders Milovan Djilas, Edvard Kardelj, and Vladimir Dedjier will say that Albania was already hosting a Yugoslav air force regiment, and that Yugoslavia wanted to station two army divisions, at Albania’s request. Dedjier says that Stalin wanted Hoxha to make the request, and Jon Holliday will later outline several interpretations, based on the various possibly inaccurate accounts.
The Yugoslav Reaction - According to Hoxha’s report to the Tirana party organization, after Albania rejects the division, the Yugoslav envoy, presumably Kupresanin, calls for reorganization of the Albanian military, new roads and bridges to accommodate Yugoslav tanks, stringing new telegraph wires, and the mobilization of 10,000 soldiers and mules for transport, over two to three months. The Yugoslav also says Albania should tell the Soviets that it wants the Yugoslav division and ask why the Soviets oppose it. He asserts that Albania would only be able to defend itself for 10 days, while it would take 15 days for Yugoslav forces to reach southern Albania, and the UN would get involved, preventing Yugoslav intervention, which would be Hoxha’s fault. Albania agrees to make improvements and mobilize the soldiers and mules, on Yugoslav credits. Hoxha says the Yugoslavs are working through Kristo Themelko, who two or three times tells the Political Bureau that Albania needs to unify with Yugoslavia to carry out these measures. After March 30, Yugoslavia will reduce its involvement with Albania after a critical letter from the Central Committee of the CPSU(B) to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 763 - 767; Hoxha, 1979, pp. 92-93; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 439-446; Halliday and Hoxha, 1986, pp. 106-108; Kola, 2003, pp. 93]

Entity Tags: Milovan Djilas, Paulin Kola, Greece, Milan Kupresanin, Mehmet Shehu, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Soviet Communist Party, Josip Broz Tito, Kristo Themelko, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom, United Nations, Albania, Beqir Balluku, Eduard Kardelj, Enver Hoxha, Yugoslavia, Jon Halliday, United States of America, Vladimir Dedijer, Greek Democratic Army

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Greek forces enter Albania before being pushed back across the border. The Albanian government views the invasion as an attempt to claim southern Albania. A few days afterward the UN special committee on the Greek civil war will excuse the action, saying that Greece cannot allow a neighbor to try to overthrow its government. Previously, the committee had accused Albania of giving the most aid to the Greek communist army of any country bordering Greece. [Kola, 2003, pp. 97-98]

Entity Tags: United Nations, Albania, Greece

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

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