The Balkan Region through the Eyes of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Albania in Russia
The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Albania in Russia, Mr Sokol Gjoka delivered a lecture to the students and teachers of HSE on the 11th of February in the university.
The event was organized by the university department of World and Russian history as part of the optional courses on the history and international relations in the Balkan Peninsula. The historical and political issues raised at the meeting present important material for further discussion at department seminars.
At our request, Ambassador Gjoka gave the official position and expressed his personal views on the key issues concerning the past and present of the Balkan region.
The audience showed a lively interest in the Ambassador’s general outline of the history of the Albanian people. Mr Gjoka explained in detail the principle of continuity and succession of Albanian ethnic history in the territory now inhabited by Albanian nationals from the ancient Illyrian state to the early XXI century. Describing the varying character of the historical periods when Albanians were subject to foreign invasions and empires (Roman, Byzantium, Ottoman), Ambassador Gjoka underlined the importance of Gjergj Kastrioti’s (Skanderbeg’s) rule in the mid XVth century who united the Albanian territories, in order to oppose Ottoman expansion. Special attention was devoted to the events of 1912-1913 which led to the emergence of the independent state of Albania on the European map.
The Ambassador asserted that the Albanian people have always strived to coexist in a peaceful and mutually beneficial way with other Balkan nations, as well as with the ethnic minorities in the territory of Albania itself. Mr Gjoka touched upon the life of the Jewish community during Italian-German occupation in World War II. He marked the exceptional religious tolerance of the Albanians, who are divided into 4 main groups (Sunni Muslim, Bektashi, Catholic and Orthodox). Even the total prohibition of religion in the Communist era did not undermine the tradition of mutual tolerance.
Mr Gjoka also gave a detailed account of Albania’s position on recognizing Kosovo’s independence and encouraged other countries, including Russia and Serbia, to take this step. At the same time, he emphasised the fact that both Albania and Russia support the ongoing negotiation process between Belgrade and Pristina in every way.
Professor Alexay Ryabinin, head of the department of World and Russian history, asked Mr Ambassador to comment on the burning question of the significant reduction of the Serbian community in Kosovo and the destruction of Orthodox churches that took place after the military conflict of 1999. Mr Gjoka stated that the Serb-Albanian relationship was difficult in Kosovo under Slobodan Milošević, and is still an obstacle to the return of those Serbs who took an active part in suppressing the Albanian national movement in the 1990s. However, Serb representation in the Parliament and other Kosovo government bodies demonstrates that Serb-Albanian relations are improving. Any hostile actions towards Orthodox churches have been strongly criticized by the international community and the government of Kosovo, which has made every effort to punish those guilty and reconstruct cultural monuments.
In conclusion, the Ambassador invited the listeners to visit Albania and spoke about the expanding collaboration between Albania and Russia in academic and cultural spheres. Mr Gjoka answered the students’ questions regarding educational resources for studying the Albanian language and culture in Russia and ways of improving the academic mobility of students between the two countries”.
Alexander Safonov, specially for the HSE News Service
Photos by Nikita Benzoruk
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