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Pelasgic Encounters in the Greek-Albanian Borderland

Border Dynamics and Reversion to Ancient Past in Southern Albania

Gilles de Rapper

In the last ten years, many books and articles dedicated to Pelasgians have been published in Albania, mostly by amateur historians and linguists. These works question the official discourse on the Illyrian origin of Albanians inherited from the socialist era. They also question the relationship of Albanians with Greeks, both in ancient times and in the present. Considering the fact that a significant number of those authors originate from southern Albania and that their books are widely read and appreciated in this Albanian borderland, this article argues that the recent success of Pelasgic theories can be partially explained by the new uses of the border in the post-1991 context and by the state of relations between Albanians and Greeks as experienced at the local level. Imagining the Pelasgians as prestigious ancestors appears as an answer to feelings of inequality and marginality related to new practices of the border.

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Denis Vuka

This article explores history teaching in Albania, with particular emphasis on educational and methodological aspects of new history textbooks published after the liberalization of the school textbook market in 2008. National history textbooks serve as a basis for the assessment of changing educational principles and methodologies in history teaching in terms of five qualitative factors: educational aims, teaching techniques and methodologies, historical narratives, visual materials, and sources. The article thus assesses the degree to which textbooks fulfill their educational function and help to put learning theories into practice. The author also places the revision and reevaluation of national history textbooks in Albania in context by comparing them to the progress of Kosovo's recently established educational system.

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Enis Sulstarova

This article investigates the role of Islam in representations of the self and the other in the contemporary Albanian national discourse, on the basis of an analysis of history textbooks published in postcommunist Albania between 1990 and 2013, focusing specifically on texts used in pre-university education. Even after the dissolution of the Socialist Republic of Albania in 1991, Islam in Albania continued to be associated with concepts derived from the socialist era, including the primacy of the nation as well as Eurocentrism and secularism, which were seen as the pinnacle of modernity.

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Denis Vuka

This article examines the visual construction of the myth of the Albanian national leader in history textbooks. By applying visual social semiotics, it explores the function and usefulness of this myth during the critical years of Albania’s self-isolation from 1978 to 1990. Depicted in recurring episodes that were decisive for the existence of the national community, a capable leader emerges as its savior. His figure is perceived as a symbol of unity and as the only actor able to pave the way toward a bright future. This article argues that this myth served to legitimize power and secure social cohesion.