In Albania – the National Museum

The National Museum… a good place to get a feeling for Albabian history and pride

All my guide books recommend to visit the National Museum that overlooks the Skanderbeg square. Already the huge mosaic indicates that Albanians connect the roots of the present independent nation back to Ilyrian times. The museum has been built in 1981 and hence the mosaic ends with heroes from communist times.

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Scanning the milestones of emerging Albania

Ben, my Albanian guide, is proud of the museum and of his nation. I quickly understand… this visit will not be about updating details in my history table, but about feeling the milestones of the emergence of the Albanian nation, looked at with the eyes of the Albanians.

We start with the prehistoric times (even some 100’000 years ago). Copper, bronce age and iron age… the raw materials were extracted here, and with that the Illyrian culture emerged. The Early Illyrian kingdoms traded with the Greek towns such as Apolonia. The sea was called “detti ion) which means “our sea” in Albanian. Great exhibit: The mosaic with the Beauty of Durrës. Emperor Augustus eventually overcame the restisting Illyrians and created the Roman province of Illyricum.

Next the maps show the invasion of the peoples, Goths and Slavs. I can see some slavic names on the map from those times and also Albanian names of places in today’s Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece. My guide tells me, how those Albanian places have been renamed today. I can feel his enthusiasm for those places, but also I am happy to notice that Albania does not want to restore old borders.

The times of the changing rules, Byzantine, Serb, Bulgarian and Italian, we almost skip. Important milestone now are the Albanian principalities that sometimes already bear the name “Albania”.

Next important milestone is the invasion of the Ottomans after the battle of the Amselfeld in 1389 (Fushë Kosova in Albanian). What matters now is the resistance, first of Skanderbeg, the leader that deserves admiration, and then all the later uprisings that eventually led to the Rilindja, the emergence of the Latin script, the foundation of schools teaching in Albanian and eventually the proclamation of Albania in 1912, by Ismail Quemal.

What follows now, are the times of more foreign rulers, the reign of mbreti (king) Zog I, the growing influence of the Italians, the colonization in the second World War… I suffer, when I see the SS-flag. The partisans freed Albania which led to the next milestone: Communism under Hoxha. The museum documents, how Hoxha killed every one in his way, the opposition, the religious leaders, his followers… I am horrified by all the evidence on display.

The last station is the emergence of the democratic state with its first bumps, e.g. under Sali Berisha.

Much luck, Albania

My head is full of the Albanian milestones. I hope I understood them all well. I am happy to see the pride of Ben, mixed with pragmatism (we do not fight for the “lost” Albanian areas). I do wish luck to this nation at the verge to their future to … now hopefully… independence, democracy and economic thriving.

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