Albanians celebrate 100 years of independence

30/11/2012

Albania's 100th anniversary was observed across the country and in Kosovo.

By Erl Murati and Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Tirana and Pristina -- 30/11/12

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Albanians marked the 100th anniversary of independence from the Ottoman Empire this week. [Harriet Salem/SETimes]

Hundreds of thousands of Albanians took the streets and the squares on Wednesday (November 28th) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of independence. "The Day of Flag" marks the secession of Albania from the Ottoman Empire in 1912 after five centuries of rule.

The highest state leaders gathered in Vlora -- the city where Albanians declared independence a century ago -- in the presence of the politicians from other countries, while President Bujar Nishani symbolically raised the red and black flag.

Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga, Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, Croatia Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, Serbia Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Zoran Vujic as well as the heads of Albanian political parties of Macedonia and Montenegro participated in celebrations in Vlora and Tirana.

"We came here today to celebrate one century of independence. We could have celebrated at home but thanks God, we are no longer separated. Now our dream is an ethnic Albania," Lirim Gradinaj, of Kukes, told SETimes.

"We dedicate this feast to Vlora and to the other men of the nation who declared on November 28th 1912 in this eternal city the independence of Albania, the independence of the ethnic Albania, the independence of all the Albanian regions from Preveza to Presevo, from Skopje to Podgorica," Prime Minister Sali Berisha said during the celebrations in Vlora.

Greece Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos canceled his scheduled visit, objecting to the reference to the Greek city of Preveza in the celebration. That prompted Berisha's office to issue a statement of clarification: "The declaration where Preveza was quoted referred to the historical context of 100 years ago and did not express any territorial pretext against our neighbours in the south, north or east."

Edi Rama, leader of the Socialist Party of Albania, criticised Berisha for marking official celebrations in Tirana rather than focusing the celebration in Vlora, which is a Socialist Party stronghold. Berisha and the other guests from the neighbouring countries attended the morning flag ceremony in Vlora before moving to Tirana for more celebrations.

But not only Tirana and Vlora residents rushed to the streets to celebrate the event. Kosovo saw many Albanian national flags. Vetevendosje MPs raised the Albanian national flag in the Kosovo parliament.

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"A part of Albania won independence, but other parts, Kosovo, Cameria, Presevo, Bujanovac, are all Albania as well. When all Albanians unite, that is Albania," Agron Dragaj, an economist celebrating in Mother Teresa Square in Pristina, told SETimes.

Two groups of people from Kosovo and Albania met at the border between Kosovo and Albania in the Morine border crossing on Wednesday, to symbolise unity. The march was organised by the Red and Black Alliance in Albania and the Front for Unification of Kosovo.

Edon Arifi, a student of international relations, told SETimes that all Albanians should feel proud "for winning their freedom from the occupiers, be they the Turks or from the Balkans, Serbs, Greeks … and the creation of the first Albanian state, internationally recognized."

Valbona Berisha, a doctor from Pristina, said whether in Kosovo or Albania, "we are all Albanians." "One flag, one nation," Berisha told SETimes. "We are one."

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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