Saturday, May 25, 2024


Writer: Xhelal Neziri

A few days ago, when Albanian Minister, Olta Xhaçka, had gathered the search and rescue units from different places to thank them for their contribution, she had not put the Kosovo’s flag among the state flags that helped Albania after the earthquake. This has caused severe outrage in Kosovo, accusing her of “pathological hatred towards Kosovo”. The Facebook debates also burst. “Where is our (Kosovo) flag?” Asked one Kosovo’s citizen. “There he is, you don’t see it,” the other replied, referring to the ethnic and Albanian flag.

For a long time there is an identity chaos caused by symbols and notions used haphazardly and stubbornly in the public sphere. It is in no way possible to distinguish between “nation” as a state or constitutional construct, and “ethnicity” as a product of culture. Apart from being mistaken in definitions, the worst is that most are not even aware of their mistake. Therefore, even the few public-sector participants who dare to explain these notions are nailed to the charge.

Before taking part in the debate on the Kosovar or Albanian nation, the circumstances and purposes of the birth of nations must be bared in mind. Nations began to emerge after the French Revolution of 1879, when state ownership of the church and kingdom was passed to all citizens. Until then, religious ideology had kept the whole society uniquely even it had lots of differences, and the royal family had been imposed as the undisputed authority in running the monarchy.

With the creation of modern states, the church lost its role in the public sphere, and the kingdom was stripped of power. This also risked the unity of societies with class, geographical, ethnic, or racial diversity, which were united by the same church where even the kingdom went, from which they were being ruled. To replace the religious ideology or monarchy held by different people, the nation is promoted as a family composed of all those who have the citizenship of the same state.

Many authors of identity theories have clearly defined what a nation means and why it is built, but below I will mention only seven of them:

  1. Anderson Anderson says that the nation is a socially constructed community imagined by people to perceive themselves as part of this group (state).
  2. Gellner Gellner says that the nation is the product of the state to keep citizens together. According to him, nations are the result of the pressures created by the demands of the industrial revolution. Gellner says that once people of very different backgrounds began moving to cities, it was necessary to create a form of common identity for them.
  3. According to Eriksen, Eriksen ethnicity indicates a person’s ethnic identity, on the basis of the attributes of ancestry and cultural heritage. On the other hand, he says that nationality is the membership of the person into the nation, which reveals the individual’s relationship with the state.
  4. Smith says that the nation is a group of named people, sharing a historical territory, a common economy, and common law rights and duties for all members. Nationalism is an ideological movement for achieving and maintaining autonomy, unity and identity in the name of a population that is considered to constitute an actual or potential ‘nation’.
  5. Poggi evaluates that the modern state represents a historical reality, deliberately constructed to serve as a specific functional machine. According to him, to make people closer to the state, to love and die in defense of the state, a national identity is built.
  6. The nation, according to Giddens, Giddens, is like a frame with limited space. He says that a nation exists only when a state has unified administrative reach over the territory, which its sovereignty is claimed.
  7. Greenfeld says that identity as self-perception, whether it exists or not, cannot be in a sleep and then be awakened. Identity, according to her, is self-determination that defines a person’s position in his or her social world and carries within himself the person’s expectations from the social circle, and thus stimulates his or her action. While the essence of people, according to Greenfeld, is defined by different identities throughout history and in different societies such as religion, ethnicity, wealth or caste, it is the national identity that defines the essence of people in the modern world and is thus “the most powerful one”.

Now who are the ethnic Albanians? They are just like the ethnic Germans who have another state named Austria and a part in a state named Switzerland. An ethnicity that lies in three nations: German, Austrian and Swiss. A German language as the main pillar of ethnic identity, which is official in the three states that have built up different identities. The German-speaking Austrian and Swiss are just as ethnic German as the German citizen in Germany. 

Has anyone tried to create ethnic Germany? Yes. It was Otto von Bismark who in the nineteenth century united the provinces of Prussia into a state called Germany, where he was his first chancellor. At the last moment, Austria rejected this union because, unlike ethnic Germany, it was a multiethnic empire. So did the Germans of Switzerland on the grounds “better a factor in the small Hellenic federation than a suburb and irrelevant in Greater Germany”.

Today there are many political factors that manipulate projects of union in ethnic states. With this case, we reject the nation – as a unified ideology built by the modern secular and functional state – is thus interpreted as leaving a room for the return of religious ideology as a unifying identity.


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