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December 07, 2005

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Oskar L:

Doug,
Thank you for a very good summary of the early history of the KLA. You mentioned the importance of clans in Kosovar politics. For now it seems as if the UCK and the resistance to the Serbs has managed to overcome this.

Do you see a risk that once the province is given independence and international forces leave, that a civil war breaks out between different clan-based (or even organized crime) groups breaks out, as has been the case in Somalia?

Is the new army/police in Kosovo strong enough to withstand clan loyalties?

Francis Burdett

Thanks for the analysis, it was all interesting.

The group has what seems to me to be a rather sinister looking logo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UCK

Of course I realize that most of the logo is just the Albanian national symbol.

Off topic but in the area- How the devil do you pronounce "Shqipris" ?

Jim Parish

Francis, if I recall correctly: "q" in Albanian is a palatalized "k", roughly "ky"; "sh" is as in English; umlaut-e is a schwa; and "i" is as in Spanish or French.

Douglas

Jim has it right. Shkyip a rees a. Almost rhymes with "pizzeria".

Oh, and UCK is of course not pronounced "you see kay". Ha, no. It's much more guttural and sinister than that: "ooh chay kah".

Oskar, I don't think civil war is a real danger... but independent Kosovo will have enough problems anyhow.


Doug M.

John Montague

Interesting stuff, Doug.

People always talk of Ghegs being more tribal than Tosks even at the beginning of the twentieth century - how does that work out in Kosovo?

Albs are a mountain people, from areas where, historically, the law has not had much access. Wherever the state has no effective monopoly of violence, people have to organize around a vendetta ethos to defend their community, or be trampled by neighbours. This honourable tradition does not travel well to cities, in the sense that Kurds, Sicilians, Albanians arrive culturally pre-equipped for criminal and paramilitary activity.

Personally, I fear the criminal groups could dominate an independent Kosovo to the point of deterring the necessary foreign investment. Does support for UCK in the past means relative immunity from the law now?

The thing I'm not clear about is this clan stuff. What is an Albanian clan? Is it based on kinship or mythical kinship, perpetuating antagonisms going way back, is it village based, does it fit in with urban patronage networks, or did urban life in Yugoslavia break down the old networks and allow something new to arise around available opportunities?

Doug M.

John, you probably know more about this than I do. I've been to Albania twice and Kosovo once, for two weeks. I am not an expert on this!

That said, here are a couple of impressions.

-- Northern Albanian clans seem to be extended families linked by a patronym, sort of like the Chinese. Most are linked to a particular region, and sometimes a particular village. Often a village or small town will have a short list of clans... basically, everyone from Village X is either a Smith, Jones, or Johnson.

The clans were traditionally exogamous; you couldn't marry anyone with the same last name. (Marrying a maternal first cousin was OK, though.) The paradigm was for a young man to find a wife from a different clan in a nearby village.

The clan system did not translate well to urban life. This is why everyone in Pristina still has strong links to their home villages. (Of course, the fact that Pristina has tripled its population in 20 years may have something to do with that.) Industrial and commercial development under Communism created new urban elites -- businessmen, bureaucrats, lawyers, Party officals, managers. These people plugged into new webs of obligation that didn't perfectly mesh with the traditional system. This urban-rural social divide happened all over Yugoslavia, indeed all over the postwar Balkans. But it was particularly new and strange in Kosovo, which had been a very rural area for a very long time.

There is a strong urban-rural divide in Kosovo politics today. It would probably be even stronger in the absence of perceived external threats. More on this as time permits.


Doug M.

Mihai

Thanks for this great info on Kosovo and Albania - it's an area that's so interesting yet people know so very little about it.

"Shqipris" is pronounced, using Romanian pronunciation, quite close to "chipris". Albanian has similar sounds to Romanian, since it is highly probable that both languages have a Dacian/Illyrian languages (Romanian is a Romance language, while Albanian isn't, of course, but there are about 200-300 common words which are part of the Paleo-Balkanic substrate,).

Mihai

Thanks for this great info on Kosovo and Albania - it's an area that's so interesting yet people know so very little about it.

"Shqipris" is pronounced, using Romanian pronunciation, quite close to "chipris". Albanian has similar sounds to Romanian, since it is highly probable that both languages have a Dacian/Illyrian languages (Romanian is a Romance language, while Albanian isn't, of course, but there are about 200-300 common words which are part of the Paleo-Balkanic substrate,).

Danny Yee

A great potted history, thanks!

Almost everything I knew about Albania came from reading Ismail Kadare.

Danny Yee

A great potted history, thanks!

Almost everything I knew about Albania came from reading Ismail Kadare.

uros

y dn't knw sht bt hstry f ksv. hstry f ksv s nt 20 yrs ld, hstry f ksv r nt rttn lbnns. t hs lwys bn srbn hstry thr ntl cmnst cm nd lt lbnns pss vr brdrs fr nthng. ll srbn hstry n ksv s bn dstryd. whpd t wth hnds f ths ppl wh dn't hv nt sngl yr f ny schl. bnch f lwlfs, crmnls wh dstryng thrs ntn hstry nstd f mkng thr wn. sldrs wtht mrl r prncpls n bttl. ctng ppls hds, brnng ppl lv, nd s n y nm t. tll m f y knw s mch f n srbn mprlst ntnsns n thr cntry r thr ppl. dd srbn sldrs vr rp. N thy vn hnrd nms smtms. t hs lwys bn n srbn ntr t dfnd hmlnd nd ppl n mtr hw nmy s pwrfll. t gv lf fr n nch f lnd s grt hnr, bt gy lk y cld nvr ndrstnd ths thngs. 'm pryng fr dth n bttl gnst lbnns trrsts nd 'm gnn clbrt dy whn ksv bcms srb gn! y jst kp wrtng bt lbnn bstrds y dd nt dsrv bttr!!

claudia

Uros, someone like you gets his vowels stripped. We don't ignore you, we just deal with you in a fashion that we consider appropriate.

Carlos

Aw, Claudia, that's so TNH (and you saw what happened to her).

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