Sunday, April 01, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [3]



A maddening section, in that there is the germ of a reasonable analysis here. If only Johnstone weren't so stubbornly one-sided--searching for evidence to support her predetermined point of view rather than examining the facts and developing her interpretation with an open mind--this section might have contained interesting and useful insights.

Essentially, Johnstone focuses on the low level of education and literacy among Albanians, and the related failure of Albanians to develop a national literature (or even an accepted written form of the language) until the early 20th Century.

There is much to ponder here; in spite of herself, Johnstone has brought up an interesting subject. Albanian nationalism is--even by Balkan standards--a recent, immature phenomena, and the separation of the Albanians of Kosovo from their ethnic brethren in Albania proper from the very dawn of this process was all but certain to affect this process. The cultural and social identity of ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia was struggling to define itself in modern, nationalistic terms even as they were a minority in a nation-building project dominated by two national groups with more established and pronounced national identities.

The decision by Tito to allow Albanian-language instruction by teachers and books from Hoxha's country was, in retrospect, a minefield. And Johnstone's point about the decline of bilingualism (or even trilingualism, as Turkish died out) among Kosovar Serbs and Albanians is a serious one. If only it were being raised by a serious individual.

The picture she draws is of a society rapidly becoming segregated by language, the majority being educated as de facto citizens of another nation. Albanians, according to her, were fed a steady diet of crude nationalist self-pity and martyrdom, deficient in science, math, and other useful skills. The Kosovar Albanians became increasingly resentful of the stagnant economic and social conditions in their province, and they placed the blame on the Slavic majority of Yugoslavia.

This isn't an entirely unconvincing argument. But Johnstone consistently peppers her presentation with implicitly derogatory and condescending asides. The strong suggestion that Albanians would have been better off had they been educated in Serbian--a more established written language with a more extensive literature--smacks of patronizing colonialism. This impression is all but inescapable given that, in the previous section, she defended the Serbian conquest of Kosovo on the grounds that Albanian nationalism was too young and undeveloped, and Kosovar Albanian society lacked the social, cultural, and political infrastructure to successfully manage independence.

Her "analysis," as usual, is facetious. Such a shame, too--she comes close, or at least within sight of, a reasonable, even-handed interpretation of events. She seems to have grasped a larger tragedy at work in Kosovo, where the two main ethnic groups were slowly segregated psychologically as well as physically from each other as a byproduct of the larger forces wrenching the Balkans throughout the 20th Century.

But that won't do, for our Miss Johnstone. As we shall see in the next section.

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