“Brought to Life by the Idealists, Preserved by Blind Circumstance, Killed by Politicians”: Dilemmas of Nation-Building in Albanian Political Thought, 1920–1928*

In: East Central Europe
Lea Ypi Government Department, London School of Economics and Political Science

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The purpose of this article is to explore the tension between the celebration and critique of the nation in Albanian political thought through an analysis of key texts produced during the critical years 1920–1928. The discussion is placed in the context of a distinctive nation-building project, one which sought to consolidate the Rilindje kombëtare (National Renaissance) whilst also having to critically interrogate it. These intellectual efforts can be understood as an attempt to shift from an ethnic form of nationalism to a political one, seeking to replace or integrate the kin-based categories on which the previous nation-building discourse had relied with an emphasis on civic allegiances based on shared social and political interests. This involved a revised analysis of issues that had been central to the Rilindje narrative, including new arguments on the status of a shared ethos within modern state structures and integrating the question of religious diversity through an analysis of faith in the public sphere. It progressively developed into a collective effort to reinvent more abstract moral categories under which to conceptualize emerging political allegiances, with important repercussions for the way the newly shaped, allegedly liberal, political institutions figured in the nation-building discourse.

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