New soothing ideology: ‘United States of Albania’

His name is Arban, and he hails from a village near Lake Ohrid. Ten years ago, the population in his village was 65 percent Slavic-speaking and 25 percent Turkish- and Albanian-speaking. Today that distribution has been reversed. Arban was standing in line outside the Greek Consulate in Bitola waiting to apply for a very expensive and highly prized visa. He carried a passport that had a red plastic cover bearing the words «United States of Albania» an ethnic kitsch accessory that is selling like hot cakes in Kosovo. «Do you believe that?» we asked him. «Of course. Kosovo and Macedonia are places that belong to Albania,» he replied. Arban is a member of the «Kodaks,» idle young men who can be seen sitting around for hours in Balkan towns. They simply have nothing to do, live from hand to mouth, work now and again, and find it very difficult to build anything. They don’t have the means, and don’t know who is to blame. Arban wants a «Greater Albania,» he dreams about it. «It will be a rich country, with jobs for everyone. We will do it, even with a war if necessary. After all, we have nothing to lose,» he said. That is true. Just a hundred years ago, nationalism was born of European romanticism and a tiny Balkan elite, not of the majority of villagers. Today the opposite is true – it now serves as an ideological anti-depressant for an unemployed, unskilled army.