Between Nation and State: Albanian Associations from Ottoman Origins to a Communist Party, 1880 - 1945
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This dissertation addresses the broader antecedents of the Communist Party of Albania (CPA) as one of a number of associations whose experience was central to Albanian political history. This long experience dates back to the informal national associations formed in the Ottoman Empire of the late nineteenth century. The dissertation examines the role of these associations which, pursuing language rights and political representation through imperial state reforms, set a pattern that struggled to connect nation and state, rather than asserting the territorial demands for a nation-state familiar across the region.
Starting out in the Ottoman Empire, but then maturing in the Albanian diaspora in Romania, Bulgaria, Egypt and the United States, this dissertation shows politically significant processes of longer-term adaptation that created informal associations as institutional structures able to channel collective action. It then traces the reframing of these patterns through their destruction in the Balkan Wars and the First World War to the emergence of communist associations in the interwar period and beyond.
This dissertation is a sustained study that traces long-term Ottoman imperial political legacies in the Albanian successor state. The story of the associations, based on hitherto unexamined archival documents, shows that the Albanians possessed a far greater capacity for political mobilization that previously acknowledged by historians. Moreover, the dissertation successfully challenges the conventional wisdom that portrays the Albanians as irreparably divided along sectarian and regional faultlines. It finds that Albanian national activism was civic in character rather than ethnic as elsewhere in the Balkans. The Albanians fought to remain within a multinational framework because this afforded them political security, social advancement and potential economic growth. In the late Ottoman period, this political objective was manifested in the acceptance of the supranational imperial order whereas during the Second World War, in the aspiration to become members of the Comintern internationalist movement. Another important find, is the newly-discovered evidence concerning the founding of the CPA and its wartime conduct as an organization created and led by the Albanians themselves, albeit with Yugoslav ideological assistance under the transnational umbrella of the Comintern.