The more ‘humble’ Albanian lapidars

September 1942 - Lec Shkreli

September 1942 – Lec Shkreli

More on Albania …..

The more ‘humble’ Albanian lapidars

To date the majority of the lapidars that have appeared in this blog have been those which have had an artistic or architectural ‘merit’, that is they have been designed by those who have had training in their art and wanted to express meaning via the structure itself rather than have the reason for the monument written on an attached plaque.

However, this is not the basis of the vast majority of the lapidars identified in the almost 700 locations in the Albanian Lapidar Survey. As is described in Evolution of lapidars in Albania – part of the struggle of ideas along the road to Socialism the concept had a very humble beginning, often the simple marking of a grave of a fallen Partisan/s and as time, and prosperity, developed the grave taking on a focal point to celebrate important dates and the lapidar being made more elaborate over time. This story of the lapidars is shown in the short film ‘Lapidari’.

This means that probably more than two thirds of all the lapidars in the country were structures that could have been created by competent bricklayers and others in the building trade. But even in that style they would range from something akin (and the same size as) to a trig point on a mountain to something that comprised of a short wall to the side of which there would rise a pillar, or two. On the pillar would be attached a red star and to the wall a plaque with the names, dates and occasion the lapidar had been constructed at that particular place.

It was towards the latter part of the 1960s that sculptors, artists and architects started to really get involved in the construction of the lapidars. This was the occasion of Albania’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ and this lasted from, roughly, 1966 to 1986. At some time in the future I’ll try to put together a chronological table of the artistic lapidars to illustrate how they developed in both scale and complexity.

That doesn’t mean to say there weren’t public works of art, over and above the simple lapidars, before the 1960s. Andrea Mano’s Monument to the Partisan in Tirana was inaugurated in 1949. Odhise Paskali’s Shoket – Comrades was installed in Përmet Martyrs’ Cemetery in 1964. But both these sculptors were from the pre-liberation, pre-revolutionary era. Their approach was traditional, especially that of Paskali’s creation in Përmet which is very reminiscent of countless images of the deposition of the Christ from the cross to be seen in innumerable art galleries and Catholic churches throughout Europe.

It was only when the sculptors and artists, who had been trained by the likes of Mano and Paskali, reached their maturity as artists, together with the campaign of the Cultural Revolution (which was in essence a campaign to change the mentality of the Albanian workers and peasants) did a uniqueness, an innovativeness, appear in the public monuments that were created throughout the country. This was a twenty year period when sculptors such as Muntaz Dhrami, Hector Dule, Shaban Hadëri, Kristaq Rama and many others created their finest work.

BUT we should not forget the less ‘impressive’ structures that were in virtually every town and village (as well as in isolated locations in the countryside and mountains) in Albania as these were all monuments to the memory of those men and women who had fought against the fascist invaders from Italy and Germany and whose sacrifice made the Liberation of the county on 29th November 1944 at all possible.

On the other hand to talk about all of them would serve no purpose and would be very repetitive. Tragically, many of them have been either damaged by outright political vandalism or have just been allowed to lose the battle against the elements. For those interested in a particular lapidar or area of the country one or two images of all those listed in the Albanian Lapidar Survey can be seen in Volumes 2 and 3 produced at the conclusion of the project.

However, in order to give an idea of these simpler lapidars what follows is a description of those that still exist in Tirana. The fate, condition and respect given to these monuments in the capital is indicative of that in the rest of the country.

Perhaps one thing to stress here is that of the creators of these more ‘humble’ lapidars there is no record of who designed, created or constructed them.

To the victims of Fascism – Tirana market

The first one on the list you won’t be able to see. It existed up until 2016 when a new and very un-Albanian market was created on the site. In place of incorporating the lapidar into the design of the new structures the local/national governments sanctioned the demolition of the monument.

Victims of Fascism - 01

Victims of Fascism – 01

You couldn’t say that the lapidar (and those whom it commemorated) was being treated with a great deal of respect, as it would have been in the days of Socialist Albania, but it was being ‘tolerated’. It consisted of a pillar (about 4 metres high), which was wider at the top that at the bottom and from the lower part of the pillar, at 90 degrees to each other, there extended two short, low walls (again about 4 metres long).

This monument was meant to be seen from the outside of the space created by the walls as it was upon this front there were attached two marble plaques into which had been carved – and then painted in gold the following;

Victims of Fascism - 03

Victims of Fascism – 03

Më 22 tetor 1942 u var në litar Shyqyri Ishmi

meaning

On October 22, 1942, Shyqyri Ishmi was hanged

and

Victims of Fascism - 02

Victims of Fascism – 02

Më 29 shkurt 1944 u var në litar Muhamet Gjollesha

meaning

On February 29, 1944, Muhamet Gjollesha was hanged

This indicates that the reason for the lapidar to these victims of the Nazis being in this location was because they would have been hung in public, as was the norm of first the Italian and then the German fascists in an (in the Albanian context, failed) effort to intimidate the local population. This would seem to indicate that this space (just off what is now called Avni Rustemi Square), therefore, had long been a public market.

This is not exactly the monument that was first constructed here.

Victims of Fascism - 06

Victims of Fascism – 06

Notice here that the wording on the face of the walls is different from the more modern picture. Although it’s difficult to say from such a poor reproduction (the only I’ve so far been able to acquire) the lettering could well have been made up of individual bronze letters, inset into the concrete. When chaos and anarchy replaced the stability of Socialism in the 1990s anything that wasn’t nailed down, and often that which was, would be stolen by someone desperate enough to gain a few lek.

However, someone at some time in the intervening years had paid for and had had installed two simpler plaques to commemorate the two young people who had died at the hands of the Fascists. It had also been painted white (whereas the original seems to have been just the bare concrete) and the indented star at the top of the pillar – on two sides – had been painted red (the southern facing side slightly more faded than its northerly companion). This indicates that there was some sort of respect for the past. What changed to allow it to be demolished I don’t know.

Victims of Fascism - 04

Victims of Fascism – 04

But in its latter days it provided an anchor point for an electricity cable and a bit of shadow for the goods in the summer. If, as is obviously the case with this one, a lapidar had survived the chaos of the 90s it was more than likely just accepted as part of the environment, few caring especially of its significance but at the same time not doing any conscious damage.

Victims of Fascism - 05

Victims of Fascism – 05

The authorities saw an end to that.ast

Past location

GPS

41.33026198

19.82448704

Altitude

121.2m

Fighters who fell from the bullets of the Nazi occupiers

The next lapidar is a very simple affair, being a tall, narrow, truncated pyramid which commemorates those from the neighbourhood who died in a confrontation with the Nazis at the beginning of 1944.

Fallen fighting the Nazis - 03

Fallen fighting the Nazis – 03

On one of its faces there’s a large marble plaque bearing the date and the names of those who died in the battle.

Fallen fighting the Nazis - 02

Fallen fighting the Nazis – 02

The wording is;

Në shënje kujtimi luftëtarëve që ranë nga plumbat e pushtuesve naziste me 28 shkurt 1944. Gjergj A. Frashëri, Skënder A. Kosturi, Trajan S. Pekmezi, Viktor S. Gjokoreci

meaning

In memory of the fighters who fell from the bullets of the Nazi occupiers on February 28, 1944.

Gjergj A. Frashëri, Skënder A. Kosturi, Trajan S. Pekmezi, Viktor S. Gjokoreci

This looks like the original plaque. Now the letters are filled in with gold paint (not done very professionally) which I don’t think would have been the case originally.

The colouring of the stone work is ‘interesting’. Originally it would have been just the plain, unadorned concrete – or perhaps painted white. The present colouring is to go with the building beside it. Monuments to those killed in the struggle for national liberation from the fascists are now become colour co-ordinated to fit in with the chosen colour scheme of the bar beside which it stands.

Fallen fighting the Nazis - 01

Fallen fighting the Nazis – 01

It will be interesting to see if, in the future, the new (or present) bar owner decides on a different colour scheme the change will be applied to the lapidar as well.

Location

GPS

41.33455703

19.82600098

Altitude

122.9m

Place where Qemal Stafa was killed

Qemal Stafa was one of the founding members of the Albanian Communist Party (later to be called the Party of Labour of Albania) on 8th November 1941 and was the head of its Youth Section until his death, in this location, on 5th May 1942. After Liberation that date was chosen as Martyrs’ Day, to commemorate all those who had fallen in the War for National Liberation against the Italian and German fascists.

Qemal Stafa 03

Qemal Stafa 03

This is a simple structure, with slight embellishments. It consists of a low wall (about 4 metres long) and on the left hand side two rectangular columns rise up to about the same height, that is about 4 metres. These columns are on either side of the wall and the one at the back is slightly taller. On the face of the wall is a plaque with the words;

Këtu më 5 maj 1942 me lufte me fashiste ra Heroi i Popullit Qemal Stafa

meaning

Here on May 5, 1942, during the anti-fascist war, the People’s Hero Qemal Stafa fell

Qemal Stafa 02

Qemal Stafa 02

This is not original as there are signs that there had been other attachments, possibly individual letters, carrying the same message. This plaque is well made and the lettering, which has been coloured in gold paint, is done professionally.

Another point to make is that the whole structure was made of concrete and then faced, on all sides, by white marble. Apart from a missing piece at the top of the front column the monument is generally intact.

I would have thought that in the original design there would have been a red star attached somehow at the top of the columns. There’s no indication of anything being attached to the faces so it might have been a stand alone, metal star attached to the very top.

There’s a little bit of graffiti to the left of the plaque but there are no signs of any substantial damage.

Although originally this would have been standing alone, with little close by. Now it’s right in the middle of a large street market.

However, dying as he did before Liberation Stafa doesn’t have the same enemies as those who survived to fight for the construction of Socialism. There are a number of locations, including the main sports stadium (which was demolished in 2016 and I don’t know if a new one that had been proposed was eventually built, where it might be if built and what it might now be called) and a high school on the Durrës Road in Tirana that bear his name.

I think this element of respect which he still has in Albanian society accounts for the fact that even though getting close no street trader has the nerve to use the space in front of the actual monument (which isn’t the case in other locations I’ve visited in the country), prime though it might be.

Location

GPS

41.34165298

19.82614196

Altitude

106.8m

Monument to Mina Peze

‘Humble’ is not really an appropriate word to describe the lapidar to the honour of Mina Peza. Although not particularly large it’s different from virtually all other lapidars in the country. Unfortunately, I don’t have any information about when it was created as that would say a lot.

Unlike the other lapidars in this post the one in the street that still bears her name has obviously been designed. There are four distinct, component parts.

First it sits on a small platform that’s three steps up from street level. This platform and steps are all faced with red (steps) and cream (platform) marble. There’s a bit of careless damage to one corner of the steps but that’s about all.

Then there’s a tall, rectangular column, perhaps three metres high. This is faced in white marble. This stands separate from the rest of the monument, a metre or so in front.

Then we have a huge piece of stone where the rough edges are clear to seen but the top has been levelled off to take the final part of the structure which is a curved piece of concrete that has been faced with white speckled, red marble. Towards the top left corner of this curved marble a white marble plaque takes the place of the red slabs, thereby maintaining a smooth surface.

On this plaque are the words;

Këtu në 17 shtator 1942 u vra ne krye të demostratës së grave nëna patriote Mine Peza

which translates as

Here on September 17, 1942, the patriotic mother Mine Peza was killed at the head of the women’s demonstration

The stand-alone column has indications of some small holes towards the top and this is where a star might have been placed. (As I’ve written elsewhere the stars were the first target of the reactionary, counter-revolutionary hoards when the breakdown of order in the 1990s provided them with the opportunity to carry out their vandalism.) Also someone has painted a red and black (anarchist) sash from just below the base, diagonally, to just below the top. This has now faded somewhat.

This wouldn’t look out of place in a minimalist art collection, very much out of character to all other Albanian lapidars. But who designed it or when is still a mystery. It all feels very locked in now, there being bars and fast food outlets very close (there are a lot of bars and fast food places in Tirana). I assume originally it would have stood on the corner of the street with very little close by and with a much greater opportunity to appreciate the design.

The story of the demonstration

In the summer of 1942 the National Liberation Movement had assumed broad proportions. The prisons were full of patriots. To ease the situation, the fascists exiled some of them to the desolate islands of Italy. In conformity with the instructions of the Albanian Communist Party the secret anti-fascist organizations of the prisoners which operated inside the prisons organized protests and resistance to the fascist measures. Protests were held in February 1942, in the prison of Elbasan, in May and August in the prison of Tirana, and later, in Vlora. The biggest demonstration was the one held by the prisoners of Tirana, which took place in the afternoon of the 17th of September, 1942, just one day after the opening of the National Liberation Conference at Peza. This demonstration was of particular importance because it was coordinated with a demonstration held by the anti-fascist women of Tirana, in support of their imprisoned sons and brothers.

The events took place as follows: the prisoners refused to give up their comrades who were to be deported. Fighting with the carabinieri broke out in the prison. The prefect of Tirana was called to the scene. Meanwhile, about 100 women began a demonstration outside, in front of the prison. The fascists were in a critical situation. The order was given to break up the demonstration of the women by force. From their fortified posts, the guards opened fire on the women. Several were wounded, while one of them, the Heroine of the People, Mine Peza, was mortally wounded. Her comrades lifted her and carried her through the city streets. Mine Peza died while the demonstration was still going on. The people have dedicated a song to the heroism of Mine Peza and her comrades: Down with the terror, oust the occupier, we Mothers can no longer bear it! Let us smash the cruel iron bars!

New Albania, No 5, 1977

Location

On the corner of Rruga Mina Peze and Rruga e Bogdanëve.

GPS

41.331718

19.81121102

Altitude

99.3m

National Anti-Fascist Liberation War Headquarters

This is a squat, square monolith about 2 metres high sitting on a platform, twice as wide as the monolith, which is four steps up from pavement level. Each corner is inset to break the monotony of the square and at each changing angle there is a strip decoration of light brown marble. At the base there is the effect of three thin layers, the middle inset from the other two, which replicates the decoration of the sides of the block. On the left side of the platform there is a thin border with small, low, circular laurel bushes. At each end of this border there’s a small, low level light to illuminate the area at night.

On the side facing the road there’s a white marble plaque with the words;

Këtu ka qenë baza më e rëndësishme e L.A.N.Ç. (Lufta Antifashiste Nacional Çlirimtare) me emrin Baraka e Nushajve nga këtu jepeshin orientime për luftën e qarkut të Tiranës dhe mbarë vendit

which translates as

Here was located the L.A.N.C’s (National Anti-Fascist Liberation War) most important base by the name of Baraka i Nushajve. From here were sent out orders for the Tirana district and the whole country

This plaque looks original and although there are some marks on the marble it is in a generally good condition.

This is a strange one in that although given its own space it is so hemmed in with the surrounding trees (much more substantial than when the lapidar was erected) it seems to be made invisible, especially in the day time when I’m sure that many people pass by without even knowing it’s there.

Location

In Rruga Sami Freshëri, just a short distance on the Lana River side from the new police station.

GPS

41.32364597

19.81337003

DMS

41° 19′ 25.1255” N

19° 48′ 48.1321” E

Altitude

111.5m

More on Albania …..

The problem of the origin of the Albanian People and their language

Obelisk to the pioneers of the Albanian language

Obelisk to the pioneers of the Albanian language

More on Albania …..

Introduction

The article below was first published in New Albania, No 4, 1977. It addresses the somewhat complex issue of the origin of the Albanian people and the roots of the Albanian language – a language very different from all others in the surrounding area. It is included here to give some background to the obelisk to this topic in Gjirokastra, which was posted some time ago. That post looked at the images and what they signified, this article puts more flesh on the bones of that explanation and answers some of the questions that might arise from the particular images.

The problem of the origin of the Albanian People and their language

by Professor Eqrem Çabej

When the problem of the origin of a people is raised, it will be examined and solved more readily from the aspect of the perseveration and continuity of its language than from the ethnic viewpoint, because language, more than other elements, is the characteristic which distinguishes one people from the others. However for any people of any country or period, such a problem is complex and in the Albanian conditions it is especially complicated. It is complex because, as we know, in the formation of a people as an independent entity with its individual features which distinguish it from other peoples, various circumstances of a geographic nature and multiple historical, ethnical, economical, cultural and linguistic processes, play a part. It is complicated because in this field of Albanian Studies the lack of historical sources and documents is keenly felt. However, despite this poverty of sources, with the constant care of the Party of Labour of Albania and comrade Enver Hoxha, the new Albanian science is striving to get to the solution of this problem with the means at its disposal. And in this field it has achieved lasting results which have taken their place in the field of international science. Because of the complex nature of the problem the method to be applied must also be complex. A number of scientific disciplines must collaborate on it. In particular historical geography, history, linguistics, ethnography and prehistoric archaeology are involved in this. The results in any one of these fields should be taken into account and duly appreciated by the other disciplines, should be combined with their results so that wide range of facts can be gathered together into a few general principles, into a few more reliable facts, in order to arrive at some sort of synthesis.

The Albanians are autochthonous or native to the Balkan Peninsula since they have been living there since early prehistoric times. Together with the Greeks, they are the most ancient people in this region; they are heirs to the ethnical situation of the period of antiquity in this part of South-eastern Europe. Under these circumstances, the question as to where the Albanian people originated can be put in other words: Under what name were the forefathers of the Albanians, that people which has spoken the language from which the present Albanian is derived, known in the Balkans in ancient times? Hence, from which ancient people of this Peninsula do the present Albanians descend?

During the last century the hypothesis was very widespread that the Albanians were the descendants of the Pellasgians. This hypothesis or theory, founded by foreign scholars, was re-echoed far and wide among the Albanian poets and writers in Albania and Italy. It found fertile soil in the ideas of romanticism which spread later in South-eastern Europe, at a time when other literary trends had emerged in the West. Subsequently the Pellasgian theory was refuted. In Greek and Roman documents, the Pellasgians are mentioned as a pre-Greek ethnical stratum no longer in existence during the ancient period. Authors like Herodotus and Strabo speak of them as of a more ancient period and describe them as barbarians, that is, not Greeks, and having a language different from the Greek language. They place them in the zone of the Aegean Sea, principally in Thessaly spreading on one side towards Epirus and on the other side towards Asia Minor, towards Crete and other islands of the Aegean zone. Meanwhile, they are presented everywhere as a legendary people, shrouded in the mists of mythology, a people without concrete historical consistency. Although in later periods there has been some acceptance of their connection with the Illyrians and Thracians, it must be said that such ethnic and linguistic element as may, with considerable reserve, be called Pellasgian, for many reasons, including those of a geographical character, is in no way sufficient to provide any scientific basis for accepting a Pellasgian origin of the Albanian people.

Proceeding from a more realistic basis, in order to clear up the problem of the origin of the Albanians, we shall turn, first of all, to history as the continuation of the prehistoric situation in the Balkan Peninsula. In the period of antiquity, this part of Southern Europe was inhabited by a number of peoples, different from the present ones and differing from one another. It is known that the western regions of the Peninsula were inhabited by the Illyrians, the eastern regions by the Thracians, the southern regions by the Greeks, and the centre by the Macedonians, who were different from the Greeks and spoke a language of their own, according to Herodotus a ‘barbarian language’, that is, not Greek. Leaving aside some minor populations, like the Iranic tribes in the eastern part of the Peninsula and certain Celtic tribes in the north-western and central regions, this was the ethnic situation during the Greco-Roman epoch. Hence the question arises: from which of these peoples do the Albanians descend, from which of these languages does the Albanian language descend? In this problem, the Greeks, or the Hellenes as they were called at that time, are automatically excluded as a different people from the Albanians. Likewise excluded are the ancient Macedonians, as a relatively small people and geographically more remote from the Albanian language region, although, because of the territorial affinity, some links cannot be completely denied. Under these circumstances, there are two peoples, the Illyrians and Thracians, who can be considered as the ancestors of the Albanians.

The Illyrians were one of the major peoples of ancient Europe. Leaving aside their distribution in prehistoric times, during the historical period they extended from Istria near Triest in the north-west and from the regions near the banks of the Danube in the north, to the Gulf of Arta in Gameria in the south to a city which at that time, was called Ambria. Thus, the Illyrian tribes inhabited the present regions of Albania together with Qameria, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dalmatia and Croatia, hence, all the eastern seaboard of the Adriatic with its respective hinterland. The Messapians and Iapygians of Apulia in Southern Italy are, by all indications, Illyrian tribes as well. In the east the Illyrian tribes extended up to the banks of the Vardar and Morava rivers in Northern Macedonia, to Kosova, a region which in ancient times was called Dardania, and to a part of present Serbia. In those regions the Illyrians bordered the Thracian tribes and here and there were mixed with them. The Thracians, too, were one of the major peoples of ancient Europe. Herodotus calls them the greatest people next to the Indes. They extended from the borders of the Illyrians in the west up to the shores of the Black Sea in the east, from the Aegean in the south to the Carpathian mountains in the north. Thus they included part of present-day Greece and European Turkey, Bulgaria, Rumania and part of Hungary and Poland. Because of the lack of source material, mentioned above, we are able to discover very little about the fate of these peoples and their component tribes, and the further back we probe into antiquity the more this obscurity deepens. We know, for instance that the concept and name Illyrian came and was spread only after some time, emerging from a population of this name and including tribes with ethnic and linguistic affinity. In Homer’s epics this name does not appear. The names of individual peoples, like those of the Dardanians and the Peonians, who in historical times lived to the north of the Macedonians, appear on the historical scene much earlier than the general name, Illyrians. It is known, also, that under the influence of the Greco-Roman civilization and, especially, during the long period of the domination of the Roman Empire, these ancient peoples of the Balkans were eventually partly hellenized and many of them romanized. In other words, without being wiped out as peoples, they were assimilated, gave up their own language and in some regions adopted the Greek language and even more of them, the Latin language. This took place especially in cities, in administrative and military centres where the Romans had established their garrisons. However in mountain regions this assimilation was not carried out completely. The local population preserved its ethnic character and mother tongue for a longer time. Some of these peoples entirely escaped romanization. Living evidence of this is the Albanian people, who must be the descendant of one of these unromanized peoples or tribes.

The question of the paternity or line of descent of a present-day people from an ancient people, of a known modern language from an extinct ancient language, is quite simple when we have relatively accurate knowledge of the ancient people and their language. But, as we have said, in connection with the Albanians and the Albanian language this problem remains specially difficult. Because of the lack of written documents, the ancient languages of the Balkans are little known or entirely unknown. From the language of the Thracians there are a few inscriptions, from the language of the Illyrians of the Balkans up till now not a single inscription has been found. The inscriptions of the Messapians of Southern Italy can be read but up till now the interpretation of them remains uncertain. From both these languages, Illyrian and Thracian, certain so-called glossa remain, that is, few words quoted by Greek and Roman authors, together with their meanings, given in Greek and Latin. There are also quite a large number of names of places and persons engraved on stone or quoted in texts by classical authors, the majority of them of unclear linguistic significance and meaning, among which modern scholars have found a free field for what are often arbitrary judgements. Thus the two languages in question remain almost unknown by us. We do not know their linguistic structure, grammatical system, or their vocabulary. Under these circumstances the means for comparison are missing. We lack the key to compare the material of the Albanian language with that of the two languages in question.

This being the case, the criterion of the language must be considered together with the geographical and historical situation. From the standpoint of historical geography it is known that the present Albanians inhabit those regions where the Illyrian tribes used to live in ancient times. From the historical point of view, it has been rightly pointed out. as far back as two centuries ago, that there is no fact, no historical reference, to show that the Albanians come from somewhere else, that they settled on this territory at a given historical period, for instance, towards the end of antiquity or during the early mediaeval period. Under these circumstances, common sense urges acceptance of the idea that the Albanian people is native, autochthonous, in these regions, if not as far back as the dawn of prehistoric times, at least since the period of antiquity. These two reasons, that of their inhabiting the former Illyrian territory and that of autochthony, automatically give rise to the idea that the present Albanians are the descendants of the Illyrian tribes of the south and that the Albanian language is the continuation of one of the ancient Illyrian dialects. Indeed it can be said that the burden of the argument falls more heavily on those who deny the Illyrian origin of the Albanians and of their language rather than on those who accept it. In this connection, it cannot be accidental that the name of the Illyrian tribe, the Albanoi, which the astronomer and geographer Ptolemy of Alexandria in Egypt, mentions during the second century of our era in the region between Durres and the Candavia mountains in Central Albania continues to exist in the form of Arbër, Arbën, Arbëresh, Arbënesh, the name by which Albania and the Albanians were known in the Middle Ages, is alive to this day. From the linguistic viewpoint, to these circumstances must be added the fact that the continuity of the names of cities, mountains and rivers of the Albanian territory of the ancient days in their present forms has developed in conformity with the phonetic rules of the Albanian language. These include such comparisons as Scardus – Shar, Scodra – Shkodra, Drivastum – Drisht, Pirustae – Qafa e Prushit, Lissu – Lesh, Isammus – Ishëm, Ishm, Dyrrachium – Durrës, Aulon – Vlonë, Vlorë, Thyamis – Çam and others. This also is evidence of the Illyrian autochthony of the Albanian people, because this development from the ancient forms of these names to the present forms cannot be explained except by means of the Albanian language. It cannot be explained either by means of the Roman or Slav languages or by any other language of the Balkan region. There are also other data from the field of linguistics of the Illyrian continuity, such as the identity between a number of names of early Illyrians and present-day Albanians. Apart from this, those few words which are known from the Illyrian language can be clearly explained by the Albanian language. And many words in Messapian inscriptions can be explained by our language. In this way the date of historical geography and of the language supplement each other. There are also a number of parallels of an ethnographic character which we shall not go into here. From the field of archaeology it is worth mentioning that in certain prehistoric settlements on the Albanian territory a continuity of the material culture can be seen, a continuity from ancient epochs to the early mediaeval period. This fact adds weight to the geographical, historical and linguistic arguments already mentioned.

As regards the Thracians and their language, on the evidence of certain historical and linguistic data (place names with Thracian features), the presence of Thracian elements in the north-western part of the Balkan Peninsula and especially along the southern Adriatic coastal regions was pointed out long ago. They must have long been mixed with Illyrian elements, but we are unable to tell from the Illyrians and the Thracians who were natives and who newcomers. In conclusion, for historical reasons also, one can say that the Illyrian element lies at the basis of the formation of the Albanian ethnos, although there may have been a Thracian component also, but certainly of smaller dimensions. At the present stage of knowledge it is difficult to determine how the process of this ethnic and linguistic formation took place and in what territorial and historical circumstances it took place. The result of the process, which is the Albanian people and their language, can be seen more clearly than the course of development which was traversed until the present situation was brought about.

Eqrem Çabej (1908-1980) was a linguist and academic specialising in the origin of the Albanian language. His name was given to the University of Gjirokastra when it was declared as such at the end of 1991.

More on Albania …..

The Socialist Cultural Revolution and the People’s National Culture

Myrteza Fushekati - Before the demonstration

Myrteza Fushekati – Before the demonstration

More on Albania ……

The reproduction of this article is part of an ongoing, occasional series of arguments in support of the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania from the late 1960s through the 1970s. A previous article was an excerpt from a report by Enver Hoxha.

The Socialist Cultural Revolution and the People’s National Culture

by Professor Zija Xholi

The creation of a new culture, the spreading of it among the broad masses, the revolutionary ideological formation of the working people, is one of the most fundamental tasks of the construction of socialism and, at the same time, one of the greatest achievements following the people’s revolution.

More than three decades have passed since the day when our people, led by the Party of Labour of Albania, embarked on the road of the cultural revolution – sufficient time to draw up some conclusions and to discover some of its distinctive characteristics.

The first characteristic of our cultural revolution, that which immediately strikes the eye from analysis of the factors which have conditioned its success, is that it began and developed as a consequence of the socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat led by the Communist Party.

Second, a characteristic of the cultural revolution, one brilliant result of it, is the free participation, in ever growing proportions of the broad masses of the people in the frontal progress of technology, science, art and culture in general. The creative capacities, the talents of the people, once hampered and stifled, are now able to express themselves and develop freely. Through their efforts and talent, the masses have become the decisive factor of the cultural revolution which is taking place in our country.

The ultimate reason for the unprecedented extension of the decisive role of the masses in the development of culture too, should be sought in the elimination of oppression and the exploitation of man by man, as well as in the place the masses occupy in the system of socialist material production, where they are not only the decisive productive force but also the decisive responsible, organizing and directing force as well. Socialism stripped work of its drudgery once and for all and restored to it all its intrinsic moral and intellectual values. The creative activity in the most varied fields of art, in song, dance, theatre, variety, in which thousands of workers and peasants, young men and young women take part, most of them without training in art schools is evidence of the great art latent in the bosom of the people, of the marvellous artistic talents of our people which were waiting for the moment when they could burst free and pour out in a torrent.

At all times our people have been creative and they continue to create today, but in the conditions of the socialist construction, their creative works are radically different from those of the past. Freed from oppression and exploitation, today, our people enjoy ever increasing well-being, have more free time at their disposal, and this allows them to concern themselves more and more with the problems of culture. The principle that before you can philosophize you must have food and drink, is of special importance in this field. Besides this, the participation of the masses in cultural work enjoys the aid, support and organization of many specialized institutions and of the whole society in general. And finally, our culture is no longer created by masses who had never been inside a school but by masses who have an ever higher educational and cultural’ level. This brings about that, with the transition to socialism, the decisive creative role of the masses in the field of culture increases and manifests itself in broad proportions. This means that in socialism the people’s culture is raised to new, high levels never seen before.

Third, another characteristic of the cultural revolution, another of its brilliant results, is the elimination of the cultural monopoly of the feudal-bourgeoisie, the changing of culture from the monopoly of a select minority, a limited elite, into the property of the broad masses. It is a fact that in antagonistic society the working masses have developed themselves intellectually mainly through their work and productive activity, while they have received just as much schooling, theory and science as the exploiting ruling classes have needed to exploit them more thoroughly. The socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat put an end to this situation once and for all. Education, theory and science have been returned to the working masses, to those who, with their efforts and talents, keep socialist society alive and carry it forward in all directions.

The years of our People’s State Power have been years of a real offensive by an entire people, young and old, men and women to master technology, to conquer the bastions of knowledge, of arts and science, to turn our whole life into culture. The stages of the ceaseless march towards culture, expressions of its successes are the total elimination of illiteracy, the compulsory eight-year schooling, the abolition of religious teaching, the creation of higher education, the flowering of art in all its variety, song and dance, painting and sculpture, comedy and drama. The educational and cultural reality of our society is expressed by the following significant figures: whereas in 1938, the total number of pupils and students attending school was 56,000, today that number has risen to 700,000 which means that one-third of the population attend school.

Fourth, the cultural revolution does not aim at the educational and intellectual development or at the rejuvenation and progress of the life of only a minority of the population, of only one social stratum, to the detriment of the broad masses, or of only the cities to the detriment of the countryside. Its task is to ensure that education becomes the property of all, that the cultured life is taken up by everybody and enters every household, not only in the cities but also in the countryside, without creating special positions and privileges for any individual or stratum, a task which it is accomplishing better and better every day.

But the most fundamental characteristic of our cultural revolution, that which sets the tone for our education and culture and which marks a real revolution in them is their socialist content, their frankly Marxist- Leninist socialist tendentiousness.

Our socialist culture, like every other culture closely linked with classes and in the service of their struggle, cannot stand aloof from ideology and not be inspired by ideology. There is not, and never can be, any culture standing aloof from or above ideology. Culture for culture’s sake, pure culture, is simply a fraud which the bourgeoisie and the revisionists perpetrate in order to create that culture which best serves their selfish class interests. Therefore, the whole problem is not that culture should be divorced from ideology, for this is impossible, but that it must be based on the revolutionary ideology of the proletariat in opposition to the reactionary ideology of the bourgeoisie.

The Party of Labour of Albania strives to have no culture which is divorced from the mission of developing and perfecting the revolutionary ideological outlook of the working people and, on the other hand, to have no revolutionary ideological formation which is not based on the broadest and most accurate knowledge. This makes the cultural revolution part and parcel of the ideological revolution, makes them two sides of a single process, the process of the revolutionary education and re-education of the working people, the process of the formation of the new man of socialist society.

Naturally, the creation of the new socialist culture, the revolutionary ideological formation, immediately raised the problem of what to do about classical culture, the world culture heritage and, first and foremost, the culture of our own people, with their customs and traditions.

In the cultural revolution, the Party of Labour of Albania has faithfully followed the teachings of Lenin, who stressed that one can emerge from darkness only by utilizing the whole treasury of world culture, all the valuable achievements which mankind has created under the yoke of capitalist society, of the society of landlords and of bureaucrats. From its very first steps, our culture has striven consistently to take from world culture whatever is revolutionary and scientifically sound, whatever responds best to the requirements of the stage of development of our country. Consistently adhering to this orientation, our culture has maintained and continues to maintain a critical, stand towards world culture, taking from it only its scientific, materialist, democratic and popular ideas, and discarding its clerical, mystical idealist ideas, and any others which implant lack of confidence in life and man, which look down upon work and the working masses, which justify oppression, exploitation and obscurantism.

No matter how valuable the world cultural heritage may be, it is insufficient for the education and formation of the man of our society. In this, the first place is, and should be, occupied by the cultural heritage and traditions of our own people. In culture, too, the communists combine, the most consistent internationalism (they prize the progressive culture created by every people) with the purest of patriotism (they are the most ardent champions of the culture and traditions of their own people).

In place of the nihilist policy of denigration towards the culture and tradition of our people pursued by the reactionary ruling classes of the old, overthrown feudal-bourgeois order, the working class and its Marxist-Leninist Party have worked out a new policy, the policy of defending, preserving, and further enriching the popular culture and the first traditions of our people. At the foundation of this policy and the rich experience of our people in this field, are the Marxist-Leninist ideas of comrade Enver Hoxha, that our people have created a culture and art of a clear national character which constitutes a priceless heritage which must be kept pure and developed further; that the new socialist culture is linked with a thousand threads with the culture of the people; that the revolutionary content of the new socialist culture has not dropped like manna from heaven, nor has it been brought in a suitcase from abroad, but it has been inherited from our forefathers, its foundations are deep in the people; that the study of the cultural traditions of our people is not done simply for the purpose of knowing the past of our people but also for the purpose of learning from the experience of our forefathers in conformity with the new conditions and requirements of our socialist society; and finally, that a critical class attitude should be maintained towards the culture and traditions of our people from the past, on the basis of the idea that every creative work of every epoch has been tendentious, is inspired by the ideas of the time, bears the brand of the class struggle and of the ideology of its own time, therefore, it cannot be taken as a whole and inserted into the new life and culture just as it is.

Socialist culture is not something in itself, created apart from the people and handed to them from outside, but a culture indissolubly linked with them, which responds to their requirements, their spirit, and their traditions. There is no socialist culture in general, no culture created by someone which can be served up ready to any nation which is building socialism, but a socialist culture of a given nation which gives it its richness and this does not consist simply of its form, but enters deep into the content of this culture. Socialist culture, taken in its broadest sense, has emerged and developed in close collaboration with the culture of the people. In its essence it is a socialist and a national culture.

Guided by the teachings of comrade Enver Hoxha, our socialist culture is proving in practice that proletarian partisanship, which requires that every cultural manifestation must be viewed from the angle of the interests of the working class and analyzed from the standpoint of Marxist-Leninist ideology, and the national tradition, which requires that everything good and valuable, everything close to the aspirations of the workers, created by the people in the past, must be preserved, far from opposing each other, are, on the contrary complementary arid dialectically linked with each other. Our socialist culture is enriched by the great artistic, ideo-philosophic values which our people have brought to culture, while through the socialist culture, the rational tradition is cleansed of negative elements which may have penetrated it under the influence of negative economic and social factors of the past, and is further enriched with the new experience which has emerged under socialism.

Our concern to discover, uphold and evaluate the best traditions of one’s own people’s culture also stems from a political demand, from the demand to ensure the free development of the people, which is the first premise of any genuine socialist construction. The attempts, which the two super-powers are making today in one way or another, to impose their own language, as allegedly the best language, their own culture, as allegedly the richest culture, their pretensions that culture today is moving towards its ‘internationalization’, towards the disappearance of specific cultures, implying the Americanization or Russification of the cultures of the other peoples, are in essence, expressions of the national egotism and great state chauvinism of the two super-powers, their favorite means for the conquest of the peoples and establishing their hegemony. Therefore, under these circumstances, faced with the imperialist designs of the two superpowers, the revolutionary Leninist principle must be stressed and applied that for the life and existence of each nation, political vigilance and ensuring its defence from any armed aggression and the preservation of its cultural identity and mother tongue are equally important. If a people loses its cultural physiognomy, if it does not hold on to its traditions, if it allows its mother tongue to be forgotten, it has ceased to be a nation in itself.

If we oppose the ideological and cultural aggression of the bourgeois-revisionist world, we do this in the name of freedom and independence, in the name of the correct and rapid development of our socialist culture, but by no means in the name of national exclusiveness. National narrowness and xenophobia are alien to our revolutionary ideology and our new culture. Our socialist culture has utilized and continues to utilize the progressive culture of all peoples, but not by sacrificing our mother tongue, the best traditions, and the cultural heritage of our own people, but while emphasizing and prizing them. With this heritage our people will take their place in world culture. Any other assimilation of the culture of one people by another, made to the detriment of the national language and finest national traditions, under whatever name it is called, is, in reality, a chauvinist design to impose the domination and hegemony of one nation over other nations, whether they live within a multi-national state or are separated by national boundaries.

What does the traditional culture of the people, with which the new socialist culture is linked, represent? What has our nation contributed in the field of culture?

Our people came to power and to real freedom with a rich material, social and spiritual cultural heritage. In it are expressed the people’s capacity to live on, indomitable in any circumstances, no matter how difficult, their talent and inextinguishable desire for a free and independent life without oppression and exploitation. But the extremely difficult historical circumstances under which they had to fight for their very existence, the anti-national and anti-popular ideological pressure and influence of the invaders and the reactionary classes, on the background of the great backwardness and poverty, are also expressed in it. These circumstances make the culture we have inherited from the past a mixture of progressive and reactionary elements, with light and darkness. However, the progressive values exceed the non-progressive ones in force and breadth, the elements of light greatly predominate over those of darkness. It is the progressive values which give the culture of our people its characteristic tone. This distinctive characteristic of the culture of our people has its own explanation which is, as comrade Enver Hoxha stresses, ‘through the centuries, the people of our small country have always been guided by the progressive ideas of liberty and the defence of liberty, by the ideas of just wars against oppressors, against the rapacious imperialist ideologies of foreigners’.

Our people have been obliged to lead an intensive life in their struggle for existence and self-defense, have had to face up all sorts of events. Naturally they have had to act and think, to create a definite concept about many phenomena of nature and life, about griefs and joys. For well-known reasons they have not done this in writing, have not fixed it in books or treatises, but have formulated it by word of mouth, transmitting and enriching it from one district to another, from one generation to another for centuries on end. This has made up our wealth of folklore, which is our unwritten encyclopedia, a living testimony of the talent and wisdom of our people. The historian and philosopher, the anonymous writer and artist, speak collectively through hundreds of legends and songs of heroes, through thousands of aphorisms and proverbs, through thousands upon thousands of songs of valour and love, of work and exile, of weddings and deaths. This remains an immortal monument of the culture of our people, a source of learning and inspiration for the artist and the writer, for the philosopher and thinker of our own days, for the new socialist culture as a whole.

At the present time, when anti-communist ideology has swamped the book market and audiences in the bourgeois-revisionist world, when hideous fashions and decadent trends in art and literature are assailing the tastes of the youth and the masses from all sides, the reality of the new culture of our people assumes a special value and significance. By its existence and flowering it is showing that the present decadent and degenerate culture is not an inevitable evil from which no one can escape. Meanwhile, in its practice, our culture shows how the bourgeois revisionist ideological aggression can be coped with, how a culture in the service of the liberation of the working people from oppression and exploitation, a culture which will preserve the real values of the people and raise them to a higher level and oppose everything which degrades man morally, aesthetically and philosophically, can be created.

The national features, the national background of socialist culture, the appreciation of the cultural heritage created by our people, are that force which in culture facilitates and accelerates the cultural revolution, while in politics it helps the people get a better appreciation of their own value and strength, to cope better with any aggression from whatever direction it may come. Indeed, this is the most important function and the most profound meaning of every genuine culture – to help the people to recognise their own worth, to multiply their efforts in their struggle for a better and more just life, in their struggle for socialism and communism.

This article is reproduced from New Albania, No 3, 1977.

All emphasis is from the original.

Zija Xholi, Albanian philosopher. Member Academy of Science, Albanian Trade Union (member General Council 1967-1972, member Presidium 1972-1976, Chairman Culture Department 1977-1990), Albanian Philosophical Association (Chairman 1991).

More on Albania ……