Comment 06 Dec 12

What’s to Celebrate on Independence Day?

Unlike the situation a hundred years ago, Albanians cannot blame external forces any longer for their country’s failure to progress.

Idro Seferi
Ethnic Albanian men and children with Albanian flags cross a street in Skopje, Macedonia Sunday, Nov. 25 | AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski

It’s always good to have a party. It does not matter what kind of celebration it is, who it belongs to, be it a religious festivity or a secular one.

As tradition goes in the Balkans, revellers often stand in line to honour the person or entity that is being celebrated, even if they don’t have much motive for doing so.

A popular Balkan saying is that when there is celebration, let it be so. But after the party is over and photos are published on Facebook, there is room for debate.

Albania last week marked the 100th anniversary of its independence with three days of open-air concerts, a giant independence cake, new statues and monuments.

Both the capital and the city of Vlora, for where independence was proclaimed in 1912, were decked out with Albanian flags.   

At the beginning of the Nineties, when I was a kid in Kosovo, we secretly watched Albanian Radio and Television on Independence Day on November 28.

At the time, we would organize a secret literary hour, hiding from Serbian police to discuss the Albanian flag, with its double-headed eagle and red, blood-coloured background.

We promised ourselves that one day our day would come and we would be free to proudly hold aloft the symbols of national identity that we were born and bred with.

In the evening at home, Albanian TV each year would broadcast “The Second November”, a film about the struggle of Ismail Qemali, Albania’s founding father, to declare independence from the Ottoman Empire. 

Tears of joy flowed in those days, but there is no point at crying anymore each time the movie is rebroadcast.

What’s to celebrate today if Albania is at the same developmental stage and regional importance as it was when the flag was raised in Vlora a century ago?

Albania is now the most prosaic country in the Western Balkans, and this simple truth cannot be disguised by flags hanging from lamp posts in Tirana.

Albania today is a state that denies its history and its sufferings - past and present. And its politicians are more primitive than those who preceded them a century ago.

It is a not a country whose people are sovereign, but a country of bureaucratic robots, used as a cover for political power.

Albania now is a land of constant improvisation, ruled by shady political clans and where people are employed only with the blessing of the political parties. 

Nationalism is usually fake, a deception. The nationalism celebrated in the streets of Tirana these days is blind and senseless.

If the break-up of Yugoslavia holds any wider lessons, it is that nationalism is not the means to a better life. 

It is terrible that so many Albanians, no matter where they are, feel such rancour about their situation but that so few speak out. They look on in silence at the celebrations for the centennial anniversary. 

What Albania needs is people who can see reality in the eye and understand it profoundly. There is no point in finding solace in such terms as “charming nationalism”.

Today, unlike a century ago, there is no force in the region that can impede Albania from developing and taking its place among the free and democratic peoples of Europe.

Albanians are no longer minority in the countries where most of them live.

Ultimately, if they don’t makes strides toward a better society have only themselves to blame. 

Idro Seferi is a correspondent for Albania’s Top-Channel TV based in Belgrade. This comment was produced as part of the Tirana Art Lab project, “100 years of self-dependence”

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