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The Struggle for Kosovar Albanian Self-Determination

The Cold War

Project: The Struggle for Kosovar Albanian Self-Determination
Open-Content project managed by mtuck, michael_pollock

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For most of the war, Britain ignores Albania, and does not recognize a government in exile under Ahmet Zog. Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha will later say that Greece would have considered such a move a hostile act by the British. By 1942 at the latest, the British expected a Balkan Federation of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Yugoslavia to be formed after liberation. The War Office sends a memo to an office in Bari, Italy, in 1944 admitting that Britain cannot stop the partisans from winning political power and seeking Soviet assistance, so, “We must therefore aim at strengthening our position with partisans now in order that after the war we may be able to influence the partisan government.” By this point, envoys from the Special Operations Executive division, as well as some American envoys, are with the major Albanian political groups and they are receiving British aid. The envoys to the Partisans accept the War Office’s decision, but those with other groups believe more should have been done, up to a British or American landing in the fall of 1944 as happened in Greece. British army officer Julian Amery will later write: “Firstly, it was wrong to abandon the Albanians to Hoxha’s evil regime and Stalin’s imperial designs. Secondly, [Vlora] and [Sazan Island] control the Strait of Otranto, the entrance to the Adriatic, an important naval gateway.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 67-70]

Entity Tags: Ahmet Zog I, Enver Hoxha, Julian Amery, Yugoslavia, UK Ministry of Defense, United Kingdom, Special Operations Executive

Category Tags: World War II and After, The Cold War

The British envoys to the Partisans oppose the fighting between the Partisans and other groups, and threaten to cut off military aid to the Partisans. A circular from the Central Committee of the CPA to local groups says “the British mission is attempting to revive and reinforce the reactionary movement against the national liberation movement,” and “they should in no way be regarded as arbiters” and will be deported if they interfere in internal affairs. Rumors begin to circulate as early as September that an Allied army will land in Albania, and local communists are told to make sure any Allied force finds the National Liberation Council and Army “as the sole state power.” There are also fears of a government in exile or a government created after a landing. In response, the British and American envoys are watched and not allowed to roam at large. [PLA, 1971, pp. 181 -182; Hoxha, 1974, pp. 193 - 195; Kola, 2003, pp. 69-70]

Entity Tags: Party of Labor of Albania, Albanian Partisans, United States of America, United Kingdom

Category Tags: World War II and After, The Cold War

Enver Hoxha, as Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Democratic Government of Albania, writes to the UK, USSR, and USA seeking formal recognition. In part he says: “Now that Albania is liberated, the Democratic Government of Albania is the sole representative of Albania both at home and abroad.… Today the authority of our government extends over all regions of Albania, and over the entire Albanian people.” He reiterates Albania’s dedication to “the great cause of the anti-fascist bloc,” and the government’s “democratic principles” and defense of “the rights of man.” A few months later Yugoslavia will recognize the Hoxha government, along with the USSR and Poland, but it will be years before the UK and USA do so. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 413-416]

Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, Albania, Enver Hoxha, Poland, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United States of America, United Kingdom

Category Tags: World War II and After, The Cold War

Yugoslavia is the first country to recognize the Albanian Democratic Government. Albania sends envoys to Yugoslavia’s embassies in 16 countries. By May 1946, Albania will begin conducting its foreign relations with other countries through Yugoslavia, with the reported approval of the USSR’s Josef Stalin. [Kola, 2003, pp. 71, 76-77]

Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, Albania, Josef Stalin, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Josip Broz Tito

Category Tags: The Cold War, World War II and After

Velimir Stoinic, Yugoslavia’s envoy to Albania, tells provisional Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito that British envoy General D. E. P. Hodgson has expressed surprise that Enver Hoxha’s Albanian government is silent on Kosova, which Stoinic concludes is an attempt to raise the issue. Britain requests entry for 1,500-1,700 additional personnel of the Military Liaison to distribute aid prior to deployment of the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), but Albania only allows 80 to enter. Albania will later refuse to allow the UNRRA to send officials to distribute $26 million of aid, and expels all UN staff as saboteurs. [PLA, 1971, pp. 248; Hoxha, 1975, pp. 82; Kola, 2003, pp. 72]

Entity Tags: Josip Broz Tito, Albania, D.E.P. Hodgson, Velimir Stoinic, Yugoslavia, United Kingdom

Category Tags: The Cold War

Following the new Albanian government’s request for diplomatic recognition, the Soviet Union joins Yugoslavia in formally recognizing the Democratic Government of Albania. Poland, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and France recognize the government soon thereafter. [PLA, 1971, pp. 272]

Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, France, Poland

Category Tags: The Cold War

Albania is allowed to participate in the Paris Peace Conference, regarding the post-war settlements between the Allies and Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Finland, but is not a full participant, instead being classed with Austria. The Albanian government argues that it was a full member of the Allied effort, fielding 70,000 Albanian Partisans, including 6,000 women, against around 100,000 Italians and 70,000 Germans. It says Italy and Germany suffered 53,639 casualties and prisoners and lost 100 armored vehicles, 1,334 artillery pieces, 1,934 trucks, and 2,855 machine guns destroyed or taken in Albania. Out of its population of one million, Albania says 28,000 were killed, 12,600 wounded, 10,000 were political prisoners, and 35,000 were made to do forced labor. Albania says 850 out of 2,500 of its communities were destroyed by the war.
Disputed by Greece - To oppose Albania’s demands, Greece argues that Albania is at war with it. Greece also claims Gjirokastra and Korca, south of the Shkumbin River, and there is some fighting along the border. By 11 votes to seven, with two abstentions, the conference votes to discuss Greece’s territorial claims. Italian King Victor Emmanuel III blames Albania for the invasion of Greece, and Greece points to a declaration of war by the Albanian occupation government after Daut Hoxha was found murdered at the border in summer 1940.
Hoxha's Address - Enver Hoxha addresses the conference. He points to hundreds of Albanians conscripted by Italy who deserted or joined the Greeks, who then treated them as POWs. Many were later sent to Crete and joined British forces who landed there. Others joined the Albanian Partisans or were captured by Italy, court-martialed for “high treason,” and imprisoned in the Shijak concentration camp. There are other cases of attacks on Italian forces by Albanian soldiers. Hoxha also mentions attacks on Albania by Greeks, such as the over 50 homes in Konispol burned by German soldiers guided by a captain under Greek collaborationist General Napoleon Zervas on September 8, 1943. His forces also joined German forces in their winter 1943-44 Albanian offensive. They invaded and burned again in June 1944. Hoxha refutes Greek claims that Albania is treading on the rights of the Greek minority, which Albania numbers at 35,000. There are 79 schools using Greek, one secondary school, autonomous Greek local government, and Greeks in the government and military. Between 1913 and 1923, Hoxha claims there were 60,000 Albanians in Greece, 35,000 of whom were classified as Turks and deported to Turkey in exchange for Turkish Greeks. In June 1944 and March 1945 Zervas’ forces attacked Greek Albanians, and at least 20,000 fled to Albania. Hoxha will later say that what Albania terms the “monarcho-fascist” Greek government commits 683 military provocations against Albania from its founding to October 15, 1948. Hoxha claims the Greek prime minister tells a Yugoslav official at the Peace Conference that he is open to dividing Albania with Yugoslavia, but Yugoslavia refuses. Hoxha tells the conference, “We solemnly declare that within our present borders there is not one square inch of foreign soil, and we will never permit anyone to encroach upon them, for to us they are sacred.” Italy is accused of harboring Albanian and Italian war criminals, including “fascists” who assassinated an Albanian sergeant at the Allied Mediterranean High Command in Bari in March. The Italian politicians are accused of threatening Albania during recent elections. In conclusion, Hoxha asks that the Peace Conference further limit Italy’s post-war military, claims Italy committed 3,544,232,626 gold francs worth of damage in Albania, and Albania wants to be classified as an “associated power.”
US, British Opposition - These requests are opposed by the UK and US. Albania afterward considers its share of the reparations to be too low. The UK and US will later oppose Albanian participation in the Moscow conference on peace with Germany, held in March-April 1947. An American delegate will say: “We are of the opinion that, first, Albania is not a neighbor of Germany, and second, it did not take part in the war against Germany. Only some individual Albanians, perhaps, took part in this war, but apart from this there were also Albanians who fought side by side with the Germans.” [PLA, 1971, pp. 258; Hoxha, 1974, pp. 539-542, 593-614; Hoxha, 1975, pp. 90-91, 99]

Entity Tags: Turkey, Greece, Germany, Enver Hoxha, Daut Hoxha, Albanian Partisans, Albania, Italy, Napoleon Zervas, Victor Emmanuel III, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia, United States of America, United Kingdom

Category Tags: The Cold War, Albanian-Greek Relations

In what Albania considers another Anglo-American plot to prepare the way for intervention, about 450 counterrevolutionaries organized in three forces again assault the city of Shkodra in northwest Albania. The attack is defeated by the military within hours, killing 33 rebels. Eight leaders are tried in a military court and shot, and 200 others are tried, but some are later released. The government also links the attack to an anti-government group in the legislature. [Hoxha, 1975, pp. 83, 103]

Entity Tags: Albania, United States of America, United Kingdom

Category Tags: World War II and After, The Cold War

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

Category Tags: World War II and After, The Cold War

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

Category Tags: The Cold War, Albanian-Greek Relations

A press conference in Paris announces the formation of a National Unity Committee, which includes the Balli Kombetar (National Front), represented by Mit’hat Frasheri, the Legaliteti (Legality), represented by Abaz Kupi, and former King Zog. There is more counter-revolutionary guerilla activity in Yugoslavia than in Albania, which the Yugoslavs attribute to Ballists. After Albania’s break with Yugoslavia the year before, the British and American governments decide to focus on Albania in their plans to use nationalism to end Soviet influence in eastern Europe. They want to do this without revealing their involvement and avoiding another Greek invasion of Albania. Therefore they deny involvement in the formation of the National Unity Committee and the US government says the National Unity Committee is a subcommittee of the Committee for Free Europe. [Kola, 2003, pp. 97-99]

Entity Tags: Committee for Free Europe, Abaz Kupi, Balli Kombetar, Greece, Ahmet Zog I, Legaliteti, National Unity Committee, Yugoslavia, Mit’hat Frasheri, United States of America, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom

Category Tags: The Cold War

The Party of Labor of Albania’s newspaper, Zeri i Popullit, prints an article on April 8, condemning Yugoslavia’s police actions and the treatment of Yugoslav Albanians, and supporting the protest demands. It also says, “The London and Versailles Treaties, which settled the frontiers between Yugoslavia and Albania, can no longer be imposed to the detriment of the Albanian people.” PLA First Secretary Enver Hoxha may be the anonymous author of the article. A Zeri i Popullit article two weeks later says hundreds were killed, wounded, missing, or arrested, and that it is Albania’s right to condemn Yugoslavia’s repeated actions, which it has not done officially. Zeri i Popullit points to Yugoslavia’s charges about the treatment of Croats and Slovenes across its border in Carinthia, which the article compares to Albanian concerns about Kosovar Albanians. Albania denies seeking to annex Kosova. The Yugoslav government sees these articles as evidence that Albania is behind the demonstrations, after initially blaming domestic and Western sources. As a result, previously increasing economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries will be reduced. On April 29, Lazar Kolisevski, a member of the Yugoslav Presidency, presents a report to a meeting of the Presidency and the Federal Council for the Protection of the Constitutional Order, charging that the PLA caused the demonstrations, which were “hostile and counter-revolutionary,” and sought unification with Albania. Kolisevski calls nationalism the greatest threat to Yugoslavia and says “economic nationalism,” economic divisions between groups in Yugoslavia, is the main cause of friction, which a Zeri i Popullit article also pointed out.
Allegedly PLA-Linked Kosovar Groups - Several allegedly PLA-linked organizations will be blamed for the protests: the Revolutionary Movement of Albanian Unification (whose leader, Adam Demaci, has been in jail since 1975), the Red Popular Front (considered closer to the PLA), eight “irredentist” groups arrested before the events, and the Albanian Communist Marxist-Leninist Party in Yugoslavia (represented at the 8th Congress of the PLA, in September 1981, and having almost the same program as the PLA). Besides these “extremists,” Kosovo President Xhavid Nimami blames “Ballists” led by Abaz Ermeni and “Zogists” led by Leka Zog, Zog I’s son, and equates calls for “united Albanians” to “United Serbs,” etc., saying they would destroy Yugoslavia. In 1997 an anonymous high-ranking official will allege that a meeting of officials and professors was held in Tirana to propose inciting Kosovars to seek more rights. Albanian anti-communist scholar Paulin Kola will suggest that this was done to distract Albanians from economic problems caused by the break in relations with China in the late ‘70s. Others will allege that Albania’s Sigurimi security agency organized the demonstrations, through ties with Albanians in Western Europe, especially Switzerland. Some Kosovars will say they received support from Albanians, but not from the Albanian government. Kola will point to the alleged role of the ex-communist Socialist Party of Albania in the formation of the KLA in the ‘90s as evidence that Albania was behind the 1981 events. In 1992-1993 and 2001 interviews, Xhafer Shatri will tell Kola that he thought the March 1981 demonstrations were unplanned. On the other hand, Albania benefits from trade with Yugoslavia and Yugoslavia acts as a buffer against the USSR. Albania will repatriate 249 Kosovar Albanian asylum seekers back to Yugoslavia from 1981 to 1983.
Alleged Soviet Involvement - In late April, Yugoslavia’s Fadil Hoxha says “Greater Albanian nationalism” would destabilize the Balkans as much as other nationalisms, and implies that the USSR wants to destabilize the Balkans to undermine the Non-Aligned Movement. In June, Zeri i Popullit will accuse the USSR of trying to use Serbia’s crackdown to cause problems in the Balkans and NATO. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 202-207, 211-212; Kola, 2003, pp. 158-160, 163]

Entity Tags: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Non-Aligned Movement, Leka Zog, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Lazar Kolisevski, Kosovo Liberation Army, Adem Demaci, Enver Hoxha, Fadil Hoxha, Party of Labor of Albania, Red Popular Front, Revolutionary Movement of Albanian Unification, Yugoslavia, Zeri i Popullit, Abaz Ermeni, Albania, Xhavid Nimami, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Xhafer Shatri, Sigurimi, Socialist Party of Albania, Ahmet Zog I

Category Tags: The Cold War, Kosovo Liberation Army, Yugoslav policies in Kosova

Two explosive devices are allegedly hurled onto a terrace at Yugoslavia’s embassy in Tirana, Albania, and damage the building while a reception is being held to commemorate Yugoslavia’s Youth Day. Yugoslavia says this is a violation of diplomatic immunity and undermines relations between the two countries. Albania says its forensic analysis finds that the explosives were not bombs and had to have been placed by someone inside the embassy. Subsequently, neither country makes a big deal of the attack. The incident follows Albanian protests throughout Yugoslavia earlier this spring and Albania’s first public advocacy for making the Kosovo a republic of Yugoslavia. [Kola, 2003, pp. 164]

Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, Albania

Category Tags: The Cold War

Jusuf Gervalla, founder of the Movement for the National Liberation of Kosova (MNLK), his brother Bardhosh Gervalla, and Kadri Zeka, leader of the Group of Marxist-Leninists of Kosova (GMLK), are shot to death following a meeting near Stuttgart, which some say is about finalizing an alliance between the groups. The MNLK and GMLK are the primary pro-Hoxha communist dissident groups in Kosovo province, and were discovered and hunted for by the police following the unrest in 1981. Subsequently those behind the assassination will remain unidentified; Albania will blame the Yugoslavs and the Yugoslavs will say Albania did it, to gain control and ideological dominance in the Kosovar struggle. On the other hand, Albania at this time sees Yugoslavia as a buffer against the USSR and a valuable trade partner, following the break in relations with China. Albania returns Kosovars seeking asylum to Yugoslavia. The MNLK and GMLK are not destroyed by the killings and will subsequently be involved in the Movement for an Albanian Socialist Republic in Yugoslavia, whose leader will also fall to assassination. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 203-205; Kola, 2003, pp. 317-318]

Entity Tags: Group of Marxist-Leninists of Kosova, China, Bardhosh Gervalla, Albania, Enver Hoxha, Federal Republic of Germany, Jusuf Gervalla, Movement for the National Liberation of Kosova, Yugoslavia, Movement for an Albanian Socialist Republic in Yugoslavia, Kadri Zeka, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Category Tags: The Cold War

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