chapter  1
23 Pages

Albanian educational battles: From the Ottomans to the Communists

The struggle for Albanian-language education in the Ottoman Empire became a chief promoter of nascent Albanian national identity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The quest for Albanian schools also became the rallying point of all Albanians under Ottoman rule, superseding their religious division into Muslims, both of Suni and Bektashi extraction, Orthodox or Catholic Christians, the cultural divide into northern Gegs and southern Tosks with their respective dialects, and the separation into several administrative units, vilayets, shown on Map 1.1. In the process, a symbolic equality was established between national school and national state. Albanians’ movement for national education and for national liberation fed off each other, eventually becoming one. The Albanianlanguage school became a reality after the creation of an independent Albanian state in 1912. However, Albanians in Kosovo were incorporated first into Serbia and then the inter-war Yugoslavia, continuing the battle for national schooling. In Kosovo, the pattern of domination of one national group over the other was also reflected in education. This pattern was broken, although not completely, in the Communist period. Education in the mother tongue became available to all citizens of Kosovo. Yet, it fell short of being a national education. Rather, it was education in and for the officially sanctioned ideological outlook, captured by the slogan ‘brotherhood and unity’. By attempting to simultaneously encourage and constrain the expression of nationhood, it undermined its own mission. The education system emerged as a focal point of the Kosovo Albanians’ national struggle and resistance in Communist Yugoslavia. This background chapter examines the Albanians’ efforts to establish Albanian-language education while under Ottoman rule. It then explores the Kosovo Albanian educational experience in Yugoslavia, including both the pre-Communist and Communist period.