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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2009, Vol.1, No.1 .

The Search for Greater Albania
Paulin Kola

(C. Hurst & Co., London, 2003) 416 pp., PB 16.50
ISBN 1 85065 6649

This is one of those books whose title does not do it justice. Yes, The Search for Greater Albania provides unique insight on the development of political and cultural support for an Albanian political entity that includes ethnic Albanians living outside Albania proper. Yet this is just one piece of the story and it is a richer, more engaging work for it.

Paulin Kola statesman, journalist has also written a political and diplomatic history of Albania the country. In doing so, he has aptly covered the evolving question of what objectives Albania should pursue in consideration of ethnic Albanians living in the Balkans. This question of nation and nation-state is the theme that has shaped Kola?s inquiry, and that informs some of his most intriguing conclusions for instance the lack of a ?greater Albanianism? akin to phenomena that existed in Serbian and Bulgarian thinking may be attributable to the lack of a central religious authority that might ?establish the psycho-social prerequisites for a nation-state? (383).

Indeed, Kola may short-change himself when he describes his historical inquiry as merely a tool of his theoretical study. For example, his examination of the deterioration of Albania?s relations with Yugoslavia, of the break with Moscow, and the rise and fall of links with China have broader application and are some of the most compelling aspects of this book. Surely, Kola?s conclusion that if Albanian nationalism ever existed it did so outside of Albania does not diminish the quality of his work.

Kola?s chronological approach is an effective tool to show the evolution of political and diplomatic responses to questions of how the Albanian state has thought about Albanians outside its border. It draws out acute observations: that Enver Hoxha?s refusal to sign the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 also rejected human rights provisions that might have been favourable to ethnic Albanians living outside of Albania (154); that Albania first sought to internationalise the issue of conditions for Albanians in Kosovo when Slobodan Milosevic began to politically exploit and foster Kosovar Serb discontent (189).

There is no lack of detail. Sometimes descriptions of diplomatic dealings and multi-national conferences include perhaps more procedural detail than most readers require. But it?s just a minor complaint overall, this is a well-written and engaging narrative, and indeed many will find the detail of great use. This is a workhorse of a book, not a polemic. That is a true asset; it gives any reader a strong base of understanding of just how ethnic questions are engaged in a political arena. That is always a difficult standpoint from which to extrapolate, but there is no shortage of insight worth considering in any theoretical or comparative approach. One suggestion for readers without a deep basis in Albanian political history is to read the conclusion first; it provides a strong analytical roadmap for the read, and won?t spoil the appetite.

Jon Levy

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