Macedonia: Albanians want more

The situation in Macedonia has been heating up in March. Clashes in Skopje and Tetovo between ethnic Albanians and the Slavic population ended in fights and beatings. On April 12, the day before Easter, near Skopje, on the shore of Lake Smilkovsky, four Slavic Macedonians were killed. Police circulated pictures of the tragedy site clearly depicting an Albanian flag. This was followed by a massive protest in Skopje with anti-Albanian slogans, which resulted in clashes with police.

The government is afraid of a repeat of 2001. In the capital in areas densely populated by Albanians unprecedented military operation "Monster" with the participation of 800 employees of special services was carried out. Police searched 26 structures suspected of extremist activities. 20 people were arrested, and five of them after the trial were detained on suspicion of involvement in the killings. After that, on May 4 and 11 Albanians held massive demonstrations in Skopje. The protesters chanted "Allah Akbar", "Jihad and death to Christians," waved signs of al-Qaeda and looked much more intimidating than their opponents.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with its ethnic Albanian enclave in northern Kosovo after independence became the center of the revitalization of the separatists who dream of creating the so-called "Greater Albania" - a single state within Albania, Kosovo and the Albanian population from the territories of neighboring countries. In the Christian Slavic Macedonia their number is approximately 25 percent. After the military conflict in 2001 under the Ohrid agreements, Macedonian Albanians were granted rights unprecedented for a Russian-speaking population in Baltic. This is the official status of the Albanian language in the enclave, quotas in the police, and guaranteed seats in the parliament and government.

However, inspired by the Kosovo precedent, the Macedonian Albanians want more - separation from Macedonia. To do this, imagine a situation in which their rights are being violated. This is constantly broadcasted, for example, by the leader of the Albanian-American Civic League Joseph Geogvardi, who believes that the arrest of the Albanians on suspicion of murder in the Smilkovsky Lake is a coordinated "conspiracy" of the governments of Macedonia and Serbia. "They have come to some sort of collusion to compromise freedom, religion and Albanian tradition. Albanians are not terrorists, and this is confirmed by history and by our long-standing tradition in Europe," said Geogvardi.

He believes that the purpose of the authorities who organized a provocation is accession to the EU and NATO, necessary to invent the internal enemy. However, the argument is worthless. Neither the EU nor NATO will accept a member who has unregulated relations with neighboring countries. Example is Georgia that was recently denied entry into the alliance.

Macedonia aspires to NATO and it is not surprising that its contingent in Afghanistan is the fifth in number. It also aspires to the EU where all ex-Yugoslav republics aspire to, even Serbia that renounced Kosovo Serbs in Mitrovica. But in the absence of help from the neighbors, Russia and its leaders it has no one to count on. Interior Minister Gordana Zhankulovska of Macedonia reported that some of those arrested were involved in combat operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and are "followers of radical Islam", and their motive was "inciting fear and uncertainty" in the country. She is echoed by Macedonian experts who claim that the killing of five people on the lake Smilkovsky is a classic act of terrorism to destabilize the region.

Thus, the former head of the Yugoslav security service (UDBA) Ivan Babanovski believes that this is the development according to the scenario "Greater Albania". "Violence is an integral part of measures to create conditions for changing the borders in the Balkans, and it will grow in the coming months," Belgrade newspaper "Evening News" quoted Babanovski.

According to Babanovsky, the authorities have responded correctly. "Ultimately, the authorities have to deal with the radical Islamist group" Unic" in Struga organized and funded by Al Qaeda in 1994. The presence in Kumanovo (the third largest Albanian city in Macedonia) of representatives and followers of a radical Islamic leader of the Serbian Mufti Muamer Zukorlich is a symptom as well," Babanovsky told the newspaper SETimes. Zukorlich is head of a Muslim party "Dzhemiyet al-Islami" that brings together Muslims and Albanians of Serbian origin from Sandzak, Kosovo and Macedonia.

He is referring to the data of Iranian intelligence, and claims that Macedonia, in connection with the participation of its soldiers in peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, was the target of the Islamist terrorist attacks timed to Christmas. However, the operation was moved to Easter, because preference was given to the attacks in Egypt at Coptic Churches. Babanovski explained that "Al-Qaeda" network in Macedonia, in addition to Kosovo and Albania, is one of the three main centers of international terrorism, Islamic extremism and jihad in the Balkans.

The theory of the Macedonians is confirmed by pro-Albanian portal, specializing in coverage of the relevant events in the Balkans. The site published a plan for "Balkan Spring" that began in Macedonia in the authorship of some Ali Shukri blacklisted in the EU because of the opposition to the Ohrid peace agreement. The plan consists of seven items. First, as in the "Arab spring", the main role is given to the media and social networks that should explain and call to action. Second, Shukri urges to organize protests in the cities of Macedonia and block the decisions of the Macedonian government.

Third, young people "not infected with Slavic influence" should lead the movement. Fourth - to prevent the leadership in the government or parliamentary parties of those who are responsible for the crimes committed against Albanian Muslims. In the fifth, sixth and seventh paragraphs Shukri openly called for insurrection. "To solve the multi-century old problem of the Muslims, men should be inspired by Arabic and Balkan spring beginning in Macedonia," said Shukri, who in 2005 personally took part in the beating and murder of moderate imams and attacks on police stations.

In addition to the Albanians, Macedonia is divided into parts by its "brothers" the Slavs and "friends" the Greeks. Various forces in Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia for two hundred years have had doubt about the existence of such a nation as the Macedonians, and offer to divide the country into several national autonomies: Bulgarian, Greek, Serbian and mixed Greek-Slavic, giving each nation its part. Therefore, none of these neighbors will be particularly upset when the country ceases to exist.

This is stated, for example, by the director of the Department of Eastern Europian Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington Janusz Bugajski, as quoted by Al-Jazeera in the Balkans. He wrote that suspicion may fall on the Bulgarian radical nationalists - in Bulgaria and Macedonia that do not take seriously the Macedonian state, and consider the neighborhood as part of the Bulgarian nation. Of course, they would welcome the collapse of Macedonia that may rejoin Bulgaria without the Albanian areas.

Greece, offended by the appropriation of the name of their country's historical area, has similar claims to Macedonia. In Greece, the country was referred to as Slavomakedoniya. Greek officials claim that the DNA analysis of slavomakedonians shows that they are only 30 percent Slavs, and the rest is the DNA of the peoples who lived in Macedonia before their arrival. Macedonians believe these claims to be nothing more than genocide of their people.

Great Serbian politician Nikola Pasic said: "He who owns Macedonia, owns the Balkans." While Slavs are arguing with Greeks about Macedonians, it has to be regretfully admitted that Macedonia is now owned by the U.S. that has the biggest Balkan military ground in Krivolak and that built the largest U.S. military base outside of America - Camp Bondsteel - in neighboring Kosovo.

What about Russia? The famous turn of Primakov's aircraft over the Atlantic and no less famous march of Russian paratroopers from Bosnia to Pristina in 1999 did not turn its policy in the Balkans.

An indicator of the relations between Russia and the Balkans was the withdrawal from Bosnia and Kosovo of a few Russian peacekeepers in the summer of 2003. There was hope for the consequences of Putin's Munich speech, but time has shown that it was emotional rather than deliberate. Russia has not returned to the Balkans, and took an uncertain position. A good example would be cowardly humanitarian assistance in response to a desperate call for help of the Kosovo Serbs.

Russia had always had its interests in the Balkans since, continuing the thought of Pasic, the one who owns the Balkans controls the Black Sea and Caspian regions, and hence the Caucasus, and Russian energy supplies. When Moscow's position is firm, the West is always ready to compromise. This is demonstrated by the events in South Ossetia. Russia could become a defender of Macedonia - the small but strategically important country, but, as elsewhere, the Russian Foreign Ministry does not work there.

Lyuba Lulko


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov