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Contested Borders

Territorialization, National Identity and «Imagined Geographies» in Albania

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Ilir Kalemaj

This book argues that power struggles between internal and diasporic elites play a central role in the development of political agendas that have the potential to shift national borders. The author uses Albania as the primary case study, examining how the understanding of the Albanian nation has taken on varying geographical borders over time and why different Albanian communities have often had differing perceptions of the borders of the nation.
On the basis of this case study, the author constructs a theoretical model that captures the dynamic of domestic versus international constraints on elite choices and analyses how this leads to the (re)construction of borders. The book explores the way in which competing elites manipulate national symbols to create the necessary environment for personal political gain, using both expansionist and contractionist versions of «virtual» borders that may or may not be congruent with internationally recognized borders.
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Chapter 4: The Interwar Period and the Shifting of Virtual Borders at Elite and Mass Level in Albania and Abroad: From Contractionary to Expansionary and Vice-Versa

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CHAPTER 4

The Interwar Period and the Shifting of Virtual Borders at Elite and Mass Level in Albania and Abroad: From Contractionary to Expansionary and Vice-Versa

The existence of neighbors is the only guarantee a nation has against perpetual civil war.

— PAUL VALÉRY

This chapter shows that the main drivers of shifts in mental mapping during the interwar period were the competing elites, who, through various projects that suited their political calculations, dictated the expansionary/contractionary maps of the Albanian nation. As is shown here, the first political demands for full sovereignty started relatively late (around the beginning of 1912) and the best causal explanation for this, based on empirical analysis, is the presence of competing elites struggling to secure political power. The “external” elites, including overseas diasporas who were mostly individuals serving the Ottoman Empire at high levels of power (including such positions as foreign minister, governor and deputy of the Parliament), saw the existing structures of power suddenly collapsing and tried to embark on a new venture, leading the process of nation-building that culminated in the new Albanian state. These efforts paid off for these elites, since they succeeded in securing their former positions, albeit in a different context. Thus it seems that the main driver of the elite has been the assumption of political power through a particular mapping of the nation, as is argued in detail below. ← 111 | 112 →

4.1 External Constraints on...

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