June 16, 2007: Albania is still a pretty unique place, especially in the hills, where
clans still run the show. At one time blood feuds were the bane of Albania.
These were usually family honor feuds that would continue through
generations. Modern Albania has added a
new wrinkle: the professional murderer conducting the honor killing "on
contract." Most of the continuing feuds are found the outlying areas. The
Albanian government is concerned enough to have directed that the police
identify families involved in blood feuds and to try to end the fighting. The
police identified 78 "blood feud" murders in 2006. In the past the old Albanian
clan laws (the "Kanun", the "Code") governed how feuds
would be conducted. The clan laws didn't
disappear with Communism, though Enver Hoxha's government tried to suppress
them. It isn't clear how much weight the Kanun still has. Typically the clan
elders interpreted it. Individual action to kill someone was sanctioned. It's
doubtful that the Kanun allows for contract killers. A larger element in this
story is the Albanian government's attempt to impose democratic laws in the
mountains. Old traditions do fade, but sometimes they mutate. Albanian 21st
century blood feuds look like one of those dangerous mutations.
June 12, 2007: A group of Bosnian Serbs is
demanding that it have the right to vote in Serbian elections. The group says
that the Bosnian Serb "statelet," the Republika Srpska, has a "special
relationship" with Serbia. This looks a bit like secession without secession.
The Bosnian Serbs definitely want a say in Serbian policy making and voting is
a way to have a say. The demand also is something of a "mirror" image of
autonomy and "relationship" demands by ethnic Albanians living in Serbia's
June 11, 2007: Serbian police found a weapons cache in south Serbia. The
police arrested "three suspected Islamic terrorists" who later told them about
the weapons cache (several thousand weapons and 33 pounds of explosives). The
number of weapons sounds like an exaggeration, unless the men arrested were
also involved in a weapons smuggling operation - which is possible. Police
thought the weapons came from Kosovo.
June 10, 2007: The Albanian view of recent history
portrays the United States as both rescuer and champion. Albanians remember
that it was American diplomats that stood up for Albanian independence after
World War I, and have supported democracy in Albania ever since. It was
American armed forces that drove the Serbs out of Kosovo in 1999, and U.S. peacekeepers
who have protected Albanians ever since. American economic aid to Albania over
the last decade has created vigorous GDP growth and visible prosperity. On the down side, Serbia, the dominant
minority in the Balkans, sees the United States as pro-Albanian (true) and
anti-Serbian (not true). While Albanians are good friends to have, the Serbs
are the most important friends to have.
June 7, 2007: Serbian sources report that ethnic
Albanians living in Serbia's Presevo Valley region (which lies next to Kosovo)
are "split" by appeals from militants to join with Kosovo. The "secessionist
movement" has not gained traction. The Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA),
which is a Serbian party made of up Albanians (obviously) rejected the idea, as
did a Presevo Valley political group.