The project was carried out at the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research –
Member of the Leibniz Association between 2013-2015

History Textbooks and Teaching in Albanian Language Areas

The Georg Eckert Institute has been studying south-east Europe in a range of projects since the 1990s. These tended to concentrate on Bosnia, although some touched on events in Kosovo, Serbia and other ex-Yugoslavian countries. Since 2013 a transfer project has shifted this focus in order to study the “Albanian-speaking region”, where the name of the region alone already carries the potential for conflict. The region in question is not occupied only by Albanians but also by Macedonians, Serbs and Montenegrins as the titular nations of the respective countries, in addition to Roma, Egyptians, Ashkali, Aromanians, Turks, Croats, Bosniaks, Gorani, Macedonian Muslims and other ethnic groups.

From the length of this list we can appreciate the difficulties associated with establishing nation states in the region, an issue which has persisted since the days of the Ottoman Empire. The former Yugoslavia did endorse processes of national identification post-1945: as a result of which Montenegro was born as a nation shortly after the Second World War, and in the 1960s Muslims formed an independent nation, meaning they were no longer Serbs or Croats of Muslim denomination but able to stand as an equal constitutive nation alongside Serbs and Croats, as the Republic of Bosnia. The question of nationality intensified, however, after the break-up of Yugoslavia and the wars of the 1990s; with each national group seeking to establish an ethnically pure nation state, which in such a diverse multi-ethnic region lead, inevitably, to conflict.

What is particular to the Albanian-speaking population of south-east Europe is that, despite the existence of a state in which members of the titular nation reside (Albania), there are as many Albanians again living outside its borders: in Kosovo as the majority population (approx. 90%) but still only one of eight ethnic groups; in Macedonia as a group with comprehensive minority rights (such as school lessons in Albanian and Albanian political representatives) as they represent 25-30% of the population; and in Serbia and Montenegro as a minority entitled to Albanian-language lessons and media. In Greece there are a small number of Albanians, not recognised as a minority group, the majority having been dispelled to southern Albania after the Second World War. Joining them latterly are Albanians who have migrated to Greece from Albania since 1991 although Greece does not yet offer Albanian-language lessons.

Albanian nation building differs in many aspects from that of its neighbours: the nation is not bound to any particular religious denomination as Albanians are Muslim, Catholic (in northern Albania and western Kosovo) or Orthodox (in southern Albania). During the Ottoman Empire Albanian Muslims belonged to the elite, for which reason any movement towards nationalism came very late in their history. Although the language is divided into two main dialects: Gheg (spoken in northern Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia) and Tosk (in southern Albania); in 1972 a standard language, based on Tosk, was officially agreed upon. The language therefore acts as a uniting force for all Albanians, although at the same time also leads to Macedonian and Kosovar Albanians being viewed by Albanians from Albania as lower class (or less-educated) citizens due to their dialect.

The settlement on a standard language has led to lessons being given in standard Albanian not only in Albania and Kosovo, but also in Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, even though the Albanian spoken in those areas differs somewhat from the standard. The curricula that govern this teaching differ from country to country. In Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia each recognised ethnic group is entitled to 30% of lesson-time to be allocated to their “own history”. Clearly history is viewed in the region as being predominantly categorised along ethnic lines; “own history” carries obvious ethnic and national connotations and embraces those who live outside the country formed by the titular nation to which they belong. Since 1990 therefore the “History of Albania” has no longer been taught in Albania, having been replaced by “The history of the Albanian people”, which also incorporates Albanians living in neighbouring countries and implies that their territories should also be a part of the Albanian nation state. This is however, at odds with the Serbian and Macedonian national historiographies, which likewise portray their respective nation states (Serbia or Macedonia) as only occupying a portion of the natural and historic territory of their nations. A perception that, understandably, conflicts with the historiographies of neighbouring countries. History books, which teach ethnic-nationalistic history, pour oil on the fire of ethnic conflict in the region .

One of the initial products of the project “History books and lessons in Albanian-speaking regions” has been a comprehensive study of history lessons in the countries discussed, conducted between 2010 and 2013. The second, and current, phase of the project examines the dialogue and exchange of views between representatives from academia and schools and of educational policies, related to questions surrounding history lessons and the curriculum. To this end three conferences and several seminars will take place between 2013 and 2015. The first conference, in Prishtina (Kosovo), took place in November 2013. It addressed Albanian-language history books and how they are produced in the individual countries, as well as their narratives. The event was very well-attended and provided the first opportunity for representatives of the Albanian-speaking populations from seven countries to meet and discuss this theme in an academic sphere.

For more information on seminars, workshops and conference, please have a look at ‚activities‘.

Several of the participants received fellowships in 2014 for four- to six-week stays at the GEI in order to conduct research in the extensive textbook collection of the research library or to find inspiration for new projects related to history textbooks. So far, fellows from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, Serbia and Italy studied textbooks of the region and the image of others in the textbooks. For applications for scholarship, please apply till 15 September of each year with the following documents: http://www.gei.de/en/fellowships/fellowship-programme.html


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