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Is there a European Islam?

Mark Mardell | 22:25 UK time, Monday, 21 January 2008

This is my first visit to Albania and it is a fascinating, beautiful country: Tirana much more impressive than I had been led to believe; the run-down Durres tower blocks and shanties more in keeping with my preconceptions.

Teke in Albania
I am here to report on Albania’s reaction to the looming independence of Kosovo and my report will be on Radio Four and the World Service next week and I will link to it when it is ready.

But that is for another day.

Today, religion.

On the way up into the town of Kruja, perched on the side of a mountain, we stop at a small road side shrine, a Teke, a green-domed, white walled, small building.

Down a few stone steps is a neat little room, covered with small, Turkish-style rugs. But a little area of the floor is bare, and what looks like limestone.

Footprint in the Teke
There’s a hole, about eight inches deep and it doesn’t take much imagination to see it as a footprint.

The shrine’s guardian, 79 year-old Masmut Subashi, tells me this is the footprint of Sari Saltik .

Holy man

The holy man’s portrait hangs on one wall, robed, with long dark hair, his hands apparently resting on the hilt of a sword. Masmut tells me how he was taken to the shrine by his father as a small boy and now he tends to it. Then he tells me the story of the saint.

A nearby village was terrorised by a monster who demanded a human life every day. Sari Saltik cut off the monster’s seven heads and for 25 years lived in the large cave which the beast had inhabited.

When he left, he first stepped on this mountainside. His next foot print was a hundred miles away and his next in Crete .

He tells us that the legend is that Sari Saltik had a brother who was a Christian, St Anthony, who had his own cave not far from here.

Please don’t hold me to the highest standards of BBC accuracy on this one.
Sari Saltik

A Muslim saint, a Muslim portrait, acknowledging a Christian brother?

Well, yes, Albania is the headquarters of the Bektashi, a Sufi group.

Sunni Muslim

Muslims are said to make up 70% of the population in Albania, and most of them are not Bektashi, who are Shia, but Sunni.

It’s mildly curious to me that while some people argue Turkey shouldn’t join the European Union because most of its population is Muslim, I have never heard the same argument applied to Kosovo or Albania.

Perhaps it’s because they are so small. Perhaps it’s because, for many, the religion is only nominal. As I write this, in Albania’s capital Tirana , I can hear the call to prayer but the approach to religion seems much more European than the more profound attachments one may find in other parts of the world.

I hasten to add I am not just talking about Islam and the Middle East: America’s devoutness seems very shocking to many worldly Europeans.

Anyway while some websites warn that Albania could be a base for “extremism ” or “fundamentalists” there seems little sign of even moderate conservatism or devotion on the streets or indeed in the villages.

Not a headscarf in sight, let alone a hijab or burkha. Is there a European Islam that is as different from Wahhabism as the Church of England is from Baptists of the Bible Belt?

Is it to be found in these lands?

Rock-and-roll poet

Ervin Hatibi is a poet and intellectual, a Sunni Muslim, who became serious about his religion after living a rather rock-and-roll lifestyle.

While some, like the historian Bernard Lewis, argue that secularism is a specifically Christian phenomenon, Ervin says Islam has its own secularism and should not be seen as a monolithic whole.

“Everywhere Islam is different,” he says.

“As an everyday experience in the Balkans, for centuries it has created unique features. I consider Islam as part of the European landscape. It was for centuries. It kept changing, especially in Europe, the continent of continuous change.

“As a believer I may have fantasies about a society that moves towards certain values, and so will an Albanian Orthodox, or an atheist from a Muslim background or one of the new Protestant Christians, but we all have to live within an Albanian space.

“We have to live in harmony with the will of the majority and this is our culture, a more and more European and Western culture. It has something special that is not only Islam, but Ottoman and from the communist regime, so we have our special flavour that gives more beauty to the European experience and is not something dangerous.”

Is he right ? Could the much derided Ottoman Empire ,multi-ethnic and relatively religiously tolerant, have got something right in the Balkans?

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 10:52 PM on 21 Jan 2008,
  • andrew kinsey wrote:

First of all, I am amazed that you are amazed Mark, because I have been to Turkey many times and they don't have wahhabism,too. Actually, what we europeans do to Turks push them more towards the Arabs. If there is a European Islam, I bet it is the Turkish way of Islam rather than the Arabian way.

The Ottomans were pretty much ahead of their time in tolerance if you call American or British way of tolerance is the modern, civilized way. Our empire and neither the American's did and will last 700 years, but these dudes lasted that long, and encompassed hundreds of different ethnic and tens of different religions/sects etc. I think we have something to learn from the Ottomans, if only every historian was more like Bernard. Europe, get over with the Barbarian rhetoric already. Isn't is us, the europeans, invented nationalism, nazism, facism and Hitler, Mussolini, Spanish Inquisition?

  • 2.
  • At 11:06 PM on 21 Jan 2008,
  • JulianR wrote:

A very intersting analysis of the difference between Albania and Turkey. Personally, I have always welcomed the idea of Albania joining (eventually), but been scepitical about Turkey, and have never really understand why I felt this way.

Europe is and (at least in my opinion should remain) a largely secular Continent, where religious dogma takes second place to a desire for peace, and economic and cultural development.

It is fundamentalists of all religions, including Christianity as well as Islam, who pose the biggest threat to our unique European way of life and the freedoms that go with it.

Bicycling through the balkans a few years ago, I found Albania, and the Albanian part of Macedonia, to be the most reliously tolerant parts of that tour, which started in Turkey and ended in Germany.

I agree with the author that Albania, perhaps because of its long suffering suffering under "the dictator", is a peaceful, religiously tolerant, place.

  • 4.
  • At 11:58 PM on 21 Jan 2008,
  • Mospyt wrote:

Very interesting piece, Mark, as usual.

  • 5.
  • At 12:10 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Jonathan wrote:

I think all religions should be welcome and accepted everywhere.

A european islam is beautiful.

So would a Middle Eastern Christianity.

We must teach our children to accept and not to be ignorant.

There is only ONE creator, whatever you want to call him/her...

God / Allah / Jah / Yahweh ect...

and we will all be judged by that ONE at the end of the day....

the west needs to stop winding up the east so that they can use there reaction as an excuse to make more war.

its not fair on our children

  • 6.
  • At 12:11 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • agatha wrote:

I don't know what Albania is like, but I don't think the Ottomans were ahead of their times - if you include demoralising, attacking, conquering with the sword and heavier taxing groups of different religious inclinations as "progressive". That's not even bringing up the Armenian genocide nor any other massacres.
The Ottomans also were often using "blood tax" where they used to demand and were known to kidnap children reared as trained servants to the sultans in their infamous genisaries. This is why
Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Armenia and struggled, in Kurdish instance still struggle, for their independent nations.
Sure europe had their share of ethnic rebellions and dictators aswell.

  • 7.
  • At 01:27 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Hysen Lici wrote:

It is something enthusiasming when reading articles like this that unfortunately are rare. This is something like the famous exclamation “eureka” of Archimedes. The phenomenon, of water level raise, of course was a reality noticed before, but he was the first one that did accentuate it.
If we admit and pretend that US is the freest country in the world, we may not be right to admit that when it comes to religion. Indeed, Albania is the ideal country, is the model country, where people of all religious live in harmony. One more time; when it comes to religion, not politics, race, sex and age.
That doesn’t mean they don’t have religious believe. The main characteristic is the RESPECT for the other’s belief that comes from the axiom: There is only one God.

  • 8.
  • At 02:06 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Anonymous wrote:

It's funny that this article is about Albania and the religion, and not once in your post (for the comment posted before me) was Albania even mentioned.

Albania is a very tolerant country when it comes to religion; religion just doesn't matter to us.

  • 9.
  • At 02:26 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • ILIA wrote:

The Ottomans were pretty much advanced with their religious tolerance. The clearest expression of it are several waves of Armenian, Greek and Christian Genocides. Death seems poetic after a year. Genocides too may seem romantic after some time. I wish I wasn't there.
Albanian religious tolerance? Tell it to me. I am an Albanian Christian Orthodox and I wish we were Russia or at least Greece. Albanian Muslims are so sorry that Turkey is far away.
All what this talk is about is that UK want Turkey in and Russia out. So they can destroy EU. Russia in and Turkey out, EU should become too strong and UK marginal. That's why UK and BBC always become, as they say in Italy, devil's lawyer.

  • 10.
  • At 02:28 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • odi wrote:

I just wanted to point out that, the reason of such a secular community in Europe are continous wars that have happened in the Albanian territories and the resistance from the Albanian side in order to protect what was and still is their National Identity which has always been at stake from Greek, Slavic, Turkish, Italian, Bulgarian German invasions etc..

  • 11.
  • At 02:30 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Fieldhouse wrote:

If Mr. Mardell is to ask "Please don’t hold me to the highest standards of BBC accuracy on this one." when discussing a mythological character, should we also take this to be implied when he uses Wikipedia as a source for how "America’s devoutness seems very shocking to many worldly Europeans."

Speaking purely as a worldly European who happens to live in the American Heartland, and doesn't know anyone who'd fit a description of devout, natch.

  • 12.
  • At 02:39 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • AC wrote:

Mark, please stop propagating the 70% Muslim figure. It's not accurate, especially if you consider what being a muslim mean (is it something more than your last name?). Try and find some facts backing that figure, if you can't find any post 1990, I'd appreciate it if you'd stop propagating it.

  • 13.
  • At 04:00 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Bernard Szirnik wrote:

@andrew kinsey
I dare say you're right about the "well-known tolerance" of the Ottomans especially shown from 1915 till 1917 in the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide. And if you are talking about nationalism, please do not forget the Grey Wolves (Turkish: Bozkurtlar). I do not know a stronger nationalism movement in these days, than in Turkey. But please, go ahead seeing things through rose-coloured glasses. It is so much easier as to accept the reality!

Just my two pennies worth.

  • 14.
  • At 04:17 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Erind wrote:

Dear Mark,

I am Albanian and while my father's name is Ali and mother's Pranvera (it means Spring), I have never considered myself Muslim, nor my father Ali who is 65, nor my uncle Shaban (another Muslim name), or my neighbor Hasan (75 years old), neither does Hasan's brother Rakip, who lives in a village in the mountains. The history of Albania and Albanians is kind of twisted and strange in this issue and sometimes hard to understand for other "pure" Christian or Muslim nations. The saying: "The religion of Albanians is Albanianism" has a lot of meaning to us Albanians. Let me give you a glimpse of it with some simple facts. I am not a historian, so forgive me all of you other Albanians out there, if I miss something.

Albanians were one of the first populations converted to Christianity since Paul preached in our lands during his journeys.

Our National Hero, (whose big statue ironically enough stands in the center of Tirane right across from an ancient mosque), Gjergj Kastrioti Skernderbe (George Castriot Scanderbeg) was a devoted Christian and famously titled by the Pope Paul II "Athleta Christi" - Champion of Christ.

After the fall of Scanderbeg's rule, Ottomans started a detailed plan of conversion of Albanians from Christianity to Islam, this because Albanians owned a lot of land but with a sparse population and so it would had been an easier task, and after the death of Scanderbeg, Albanians were left without a leader or King. The alternative to the conversion was sure death. Many thousands left for Italy, the rest tried to resist conversion and many did, but most of them converted sometimes even for materialistic gains, but for the most part to survive. Since that time around 1500 and until 1900, Albania and Albanians fell under the spell of Ottoman Empire. Albanian language was declared officially forbidden and anyone writing it would be punished with death. Ottomans, even though they had many Albanians in their midst in Istanbul during the years as scientists, architects, ministers, never trusted them and always considered them a separate entity, not really Muslim, not really Christian. Many Albanians during that time had changed their names to Muslim names, but still performed Christian ceremonies in secrecy.

After the independence of Albania in 1912, Albanians were left a bit confused about their heritage and identity. King Zog came to power and immediately introduced reforms to Westernize Albania as fast as possible. His closest ally and economic trader was Italy, but then the WWII started, Italy invaded Albania, then Germans, then Communists.

When Communists came into power, they revolutionized the life of Albanians like never before. I am talking here about the education, health and law reforms, not the killings that followed. Albanians still saw religion as something not very important to their lives. Yes, I know I will jeopardize many with my words, but this is the truth. All religions were outlawed in the 1960-s (Ouuuuu...some might say, I know), but interestingly enough the only ones that really opposed this move were Catholic Albanians (remember Scanderbeg?). The reason for that being that others didn't really feel or behave like Muslims at all. Being Muslim was a "fake plate" they had used for hundreds of years to escape death. Better without it than with it.

After the fall of Communism, the religious freedoms were reestablished and many Worldly religious foundations, Christian or Muslim flooded Albania with their plans to reintroduce whatever they had in mind. Well, Albanians are still Albanians, and they (foundations) are still looking to fill with crowds whatever they built. Are there any religious people in Albania at all you might ask? Yes, there are devoted Muslims and Christians but all of them are in the lower single digits of the whole population. The rest of the population is something between atheists and agnostics. You might as well call them Progressive...yes, that's how they have really been for the last 2000 years. That's the reason that Albanians have protected anyone who asked them for help and protection, be those Bektashi sect members(who escaped Sultan's anger) or Jews. Be those Greeks (escaping dictatorship) or invading Italian soldiers deserting service.

In Albania it would be hard for you to find a person older than 30 who has a Muslim name, only Illyrian or Dardanian names. If you ask my dad if he is Muslim, he would say yes, only because of his name, but he would add that he is Albanian and that is all that matters. Yes, undoubted Albanian identity, respect and love over "tags" and "fake plates".

  • 15.
  • At 04:29 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • MaryJ wrote:

THe Ottomans were tolerant? Well if you weren't a Christian who had to give up your son as a slave to the Sultan as part of the devshirme ("boy levy"). Or a girl from the Caucasus captured by raiders on horseback for a life of sex slavery in the harem. Or a Shiite Muslim during the reign of Selim the Grim, who ordered all Shiites within his realm to be exterminated. Or one of the 900 Serbian rebels who were beheaded and then had their skulls used to create the infamous Tower of Nis, built by the ottomans as a warning to others. (Google it for the lovely photos.) Please. They were huge slave raiders and traders. Christians and Jews were second-class citizens living under Jim Crow-like dhimmi laws.

Hi Mark, I read your blog regularly and often. I am an Albanian living in California and I use the BBC/Europe page to keep informed about things happening in my old continent.

I don't think we should idealize the Ottomans. They were indeed tolerant, but the different groups inside the empire were not equal. For instance, Serb and Greek Orthodox churches enjoyed a privileged position relative to the Catholic church. And while Christian religions were clearly tolerated, things like Albanian language education and schools were not.

In any case, I am immensely proud that we Albanians place religion in its rightful place (in the backburner). You only need look at our Slav neighbors to see what happens when religion is taken too seriously. Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians speak one and the same language, are essentially the same people, but they have fought and killed each other as recently as 1995 because they belong to different religions.

  • 17.
  • At 06:57 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Sencer wrote:

Ottomans were right in Balkans? Yes, but not only there, also in Middle East where all people of different religions lived in peace before British came.

  • 18.
  • At 06:59 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • joh wrote:

one thing you didnt mention was that albania has a unique experiance of being in the front line of every major releagious empire or recent times. when the roman emire collapsed and the byzentine empire rose the dividing line was albania north roman catholic south orthodox and when the ottoman empire rose to power again albania was the front line and dont forget if it wasnt for the 29 years albania resisted the ottoman empire all of europe might be muslim then after that we endoured communism and lets not forget that we were the only occupied territory or the third reich that protected all the jews that lived there and ones that were able to make it there. a majority muslim country protecting the jews. it is something that i am proud of about the people there. i wish them the best becouse we need more tolerance and albania is a role model for that....peace

  • 19.
  • At 07:00 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Kevin wrote:

Sir, you have chosen the wrong nation to hopefully "symbolize" and "suggest" as a form of Eastern religious experience that some might want to "follow" in the future. As a blitz news to you, Albanians are probably the least religious people on this planet. Been there many times, many places. Their Muslim names mean just that, names and nothing else, an old tradition that has not been repeated since 50 years. Between sex, church or a mosque, I'm pretty sure most Albanians would go for an orgy. You get the idea. So, nice idea, wrong plot. You've got to change the actors a little, then we see.

  • 20.
  • At 07:40 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • John Brown wrote:

Albania and Kosova are two countries that will join EU some time after 2015. The muslim culture of these two countries will enrichen further the cultural diversity of EU.
Albanian and Kosovar muslim religion is unique. People are believers but there is not a single sign of extremism in religion. Islam in these two countries is moderate and very different from what people who did not visit the two countries might think. Everyone has its own way of believing, which is moderate and European. I truly believe that this culture represents the European Islam and I think that many could learn from it.

  • 21.
  • At 07:43 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"Could the much derided Ottoman Empire ,multi-ethnic and relatively religiously tolerant, have got something right in the Balkans?"

Well, it managed to prevent Balkan Slavs from slaughtering each others for almost half a millenium. Just as in Middle East, where the only long period of peace in the region's history was the one in which Ottomans prevented Arabs from chopping each others' heads. Yes, they were almost as ruthless in tax collection as IRS is, but if you paid taxes they basically let you live, and didn't even force you to convert to Islam. And the best proof of the Ottoman tolerance is a survival of not only local languages and religions, but also Balkan culture, including rich Bulgarian and Serbian folk music which mightily benefitted -incredible aksak rythms-from Turkish influence.

BTW. I have 2 Albanian friends who are also friends with each other.
He is a Sufi Muslim, she - an Orthodox Christian. But I found about it only when I recently wished them Merry Christmas, to which he replied that in his case it would be Eid, and she - that in her religion Christmas was coming couple of weeks later than in mine.

So if any EU citizens are concerned about a threat of Islamist terrorism in the heart of Europe they should look for Muslim fanatics not in Albania, but in Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and UK. There's an ample evidence that they are not only alive&well there, but also quite active in their jihad against indigenous infidels who brought them there in the first place from Algeria, Egypt, Moroco, Pakistan, Tunesia, Yemen, etc.

["Romans! What have they ever done for us (besides building aqueducts, schools, roads, and so on)?!

- Well... they brough us... peace."
(Monty Python's "Life of Brian")]

  • 22.
  • At 07:56 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • A.Dimitriou wrote:

The Ottoman empire having been religiously tolerant? Are you serious?
Things like head tax(the tax non-moslems must pay to keep their head -no guarantees though) and geni-tsari(ottoman troops going to Christian villages, take the fittest boys with them, convert them into an elite islamic army corps and send them back against their parents and brothers?
Sure, very tolerant. How ungrateful of all these crazy nationalist balkan nations to revolt and demand freedom -with the help of some left-wing European nutcakes like Lord Byron
who upset the order of the times.
Pity the Ottoman empire is no longer-you could go live there and see how tolerant this was!

BTW: The vast majority of Albanians I know are not religious at all.

  • 23.
  • At 08:03 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Doni wrote:

Mark, your facts are not accurate enough, you have talked just to few brainwashed people and determine that they are religious.
Where are the non-relegious here, and they are the majority, which makes the country tolerant.

  • 24.
  • At 08:03 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • C Pappas wrote:

After being under the iron curtain for so many years, and not being able to practice religion, Albanians are mainly atheists.

Religious beliefs come from being brainwashed. This generation of Albanians didn't grow up in a religious environment. To Albanians Islam is part of their distant past. Their hearts aren't in in.

Many Albanians switch to Christianity, but living in a nonreligious Europe, I don't think they feel the need to find a religious identity.

Albanians living in Greece seem embarrassed by it, and keep it well hidden - happily taking part in Christian scripture in schools.

Islam is a thing of the past. Some tried to revive it - unsuccessfully.

  • 25.
  • At 08:08 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Doni wrote:

Hey, Mark.
Don't misslead the European people by picturing Albania as majority muslims, and conecting it to ottoman turkey, only by asking one or two brainwashed religious people.
Albania's majority are Albanians over 95%. And there is no connection whatsoever, with what your intentions are.
When people understand that religion brought us only wars, and divisions, its a foreign influence, as well as a made-up story with no logic.

  • 26.
  • At 08:08 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • JohaM wrote:

I do not think Italians behave very different towards Albanians than the Dutch to towards Turks or Moroccans.

  • 27.
  • At 08:35 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Osman Ertegun wrote:

Andrew, are you ready to be labeled as a traitor? This is what people are called everywhere in the world when they only talk about dialogue and unity. Unfortunately many people in Turkey are now against EU because of the arrogant behaviors of figures like Sarkozy or Merkel. But they only ignore the good people like you. Europe, now lives in harmony without the sectarian or nationalist wars. Just like Ottomans did for 700 years. Don't we just have a lot in common. Isn't it the time we unite to be an example to the rest of the Western and the Islamic civilizations?

  • 28.
  • At 08:38 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Milan wrote:

@ andrew (1)

Your admiration to ottomanis is disgusting. Its easy to you, sitting somwhere in western Europe, i early 21st century, to judge about turks and their subjects. If we Serbs and albanians and every other balkan nation have something incommon, thats our view on ottomans. Have you never heard for something like devshirme? Go to city of Nis, here in Serbia (ancient roman Naissus), to see sculltower- thats vivid exemple of ottoman civilisation. Shame on you

  • 29.
  • At 08:51 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Andy wrote:

Perhaps you should ask some Armenians about the "tolerance" of the Ottoman empire.

  • 30.
  • At 08:57 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Enita Shala wrote:

Albania and Kosovo, you could say, are secular for decades now, and for people in both countries national identity is much more important than religious identity. In fact, religion have always been played down in order to avoid religious conflicts because Albanians are Catholics and Orthodox and there has always been mutual respect.

As for the Ottoman Empire, I think, it did great damage to the Eastern Europe in general, you only have to look at the attitudes of people, in terms of their approach to work, corruption, etc. However, in terms of religion, fortunately Ottomans didn't impose some extreme form of Islam.

  • 31.
  • At 09:42 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Claire wrote:

If you were to ask an ordinary Albanian citizen about the nature of the relationship between religion and national Albanian identity, they would probably give you this quote from a poem by the Albanian poet Pashko Vasa: "Oh Albanians, look not upon mosques and churches; the religion of Albanians is Albanianism." My husband's family is full of people with Muslim names, and yet none of them have set foot inside a mosque!

  • 32.
  • At 09:44 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Mim wrote:

A few words about misleading statistics

The last census on religious affiliation in Albania was held in 1937 or 38. At that time Albania barely numbered one million inhabitants. Then the communists took over and imposed a ban on religion for almost thirty years. In the meantime the population grew up to 3,5 million inhabitans in the beginning of '90.

In light of drastic demographic growth, radical political social and economic changes that started 17 years ago and the fact that a vast number of Albanian immigrants working and and living mainly in Western Europe, USA and Canada. it is hard to believe that 70-year old statistics can still be relied upon for an accurate reflection of the religious reality in Albania today.

The only thing one can affirm with absolute certainty is that nobody can offer a set of reliable data concerning the religious affiliations in the country

I personally believe that a significant number of Albanians are atheists. Even some of those who claim to be religious, are non-practising

  • 33.
  • At 09:48 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

While I agree that 'Albanian Islam' is not in itself a danger to anyone, I am concerned that it will be radicalised by militant Islamists from outside Albania who will offer their 'support' to Albanian nationalist agitating for a 'Greater Albania'.

  • 34.
  • At 09:59 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Martin wrote:

To my best understanding the Albanians were in some respects the henchmen of the Ottomans due to having converted to Islam prior to the Ottoman incursions. They were employed as overseers of the Ottoman's Balkan enslaved population and given land - including Kosova, stolen from Serbs as a reward. Hence we find Kosavans today claiming to be ethnic Albanians. As the Serb spiritual heartland it was deliberately ethnically cleansed and colonised in an attempt to break Serb spirit - but that failed and 500 years later ... . Similar tribes of ethnic Albanians are found all over the Balkans today for the same reason, unwanted by Albania herself and pretty much unwanted by their other Balkan host countries - as they serve as a reminder of that terrible period. Today, those ethnic Albanians are largely guiltless and are the victims of the evil ethnic cleansing and social control engineering of their ancestors and the Ottomans - Northern Ireland on a much grander scale. Given the scale of the evil perpetrated on this region by the Ottomans and the resulting mess that still exists today, it is hard to credit the Ottomans with anything at all. Harder yet to feel anything but sympathy for all those, including Albanians, still living the result of those deeds.

  • 35.
  • At 10:08 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Dawid wrote:

Poland has a small Muslim minority living mostly in the eastern part of the country. They are descendants of Tartar tribes that had lived and fought in the region for centuries before the modern age. They do have mosques and they do practice their faith, but at the same time they are completely assimilated into the mainstream Polish culture. The example of Polish Tartars and Albanian Muslims proves one essential thing - that the West does not have to yield to demands of extreme Muslim groups. There is no reason to accept headscarves, special treatment at work, oppression of women etc. If Polish and Albanian Muslims can be both Muslim and Western at the same time, why not demand the same from all Muslims living in the West?

  • 36.
  • At 10:36 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Dawid wrote:

Poland has a small Muslim minority living in the eastern part of the country. They are mostly descendants of Tartar tribes that had lived and fought in the region for centuries before the modern age. They do have mosques and they do practice their faith, but at the same time they are completely assimilated into the mainstream Polish culture. The example of Polish Tartars and Albanian Muslims proves one essential thing - that the West does not have to yield to demands of extreme Muslim groups. There is no reason to accept headscarves, special treatment at work, oppression of women etc. If Polish and Albanian Muslims can be both Muslim and Western at the same time, why not demand the same from all Muslims living in the West?

  • 37.
  • At 11:06 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Pierre wrote:

Dear Mr. M,

Your article seems interesting, but in many cases there are two sides. I have been to Tirana 2 years ago. I went there on a business trip. I have a few friends there that are French and that work for a humanitarian agency there. While their post is in Albania, they have been many times to Kosovo and to Macedonia. I heard many stories from them, and unfortunately they don’t share your optimism. In fact they said that from their personal experience they have a very bad image of the tolerance towards non Muslim people. In fact they say that Albanians in Kosovo are very much unfriendly towards other ethnicities and that they lack very much in tolerance. They told me about all the Christian churches that were burned down in Kosovo by the local Albanians. They told me how even there was a photo on the internet of a man urinating on a Christian orthodox church while it was on fire (I can’t even imagine what will happen if the province of Kosovo gets independent). From my perspective, I can’t say much, I was only 3 days in Tirana. The people seemed nice, and I didn’t have any problems.
It is very interesting, in fact, as mentioned before, that people say that Turks are Muslim and that they shouldn’t enter the EU, and that there is no word on Albania/Kosovo/Bosnia. Maybe the people think that Turkey, with it’s 70 million people is too ‘big’ to enter a Christian EU (having in mind the small population of other Muslim countries in Europe), maybe it is just because people don’t know that (the majority of) Albanians are, in fact, Muslim … I do not know.
Good luck!


  • 38.
  • At 11:26 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Atakan wrote:

I have always been confused with Albanians and their view on religion. It seems to me that due their history of being invaded by various empires, they have kind of 'seen it all' therefore every person has a different background. However, communism came and killed all, or if any, real belief and commitment. Yes, small numbers do remain in Albania who practice religion or at least believe in it. However, the portrayal of a 'peaceful' Albania is rather wrong in my opinion. I tend to come across many agnostic Albanians who are not very fond of Muslims in Albania. In my opinion, the Churches, Mosques and other worship places are highly symbolic in this country.
Kosova, on the other hand, is more religious than Albania (Muslim).
Final word to the Armenians and Greeks here questioning Ottoman tolerance. Well you are correct up to a point, however, taking a RELATIVE approach, Ottoman Empire was indeed against nationalism and was tolerant. Those who ignited killings, which affected both sides, were triggered by games played by external powers to cripple the region and devour Ottoman Empire, which at the end led to Turkish nationalism.

  • 39.
  • At 11:43 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • J. Thomas wrote:

"Is he right ? Could the much derided Ottoman Empire ,multi-ethnic and relatively religiously tolerant, have got something right in the Balkans?"

No, why one may say? Well due to all the genocides, the Janisarries or "Yeni Tscheri", the forced conversions to Islam... etc that occured during this tolerant empire.
The Albalians are different due to other reasons (look at comment 14 by Enrind) not due to the Turks.
Mark... please no more propaganda.

  • 40.
  • At 11:55 AM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"Pity the Ottoman empire is no longer-you could go live there and see how tolerant this was" [#22]

Indeed a pity, although Ottomans could be very ruthless, indeed. Only imagine: no Iraq, no Syria, no Lebanon, no Egypt, no Libya, no Algeria, no Palestine.

And of course not only no Balkan wars but no Great War (WWI) either.

[Gavrilo Princip and other similar terrorists would have been dead soon after their first conspiratorial meeting, just as the then Osamas, Zawahiris and Zarkawis would have]

Of course I intentionally play a role of advocatus diaboli here, but if Vatican thought that such a character was necessary to restore some balance...

  • 41.
  • At 12:04 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • geriald wrote:

I`m Albanian that I have finished 5 years college in Turkey.From beginning Albanians were Christian until 1644 than otoman started to change with force people to muslim.Because of Albania suffered a lot on wars did not have time to think what kind of religion they have,but we do have a religion and our religion is"SHQIPTARIA" that mean Albania.We are not muslim as turkish or any other country,we are not christian and protestant thats why we respekt the religion but is not important for us,the most important is Albania and people who live there.Its only politics that do not want to join Albania in EU because they have to benefit from Albania smuggling goods for themselves that why they do not to see Albania as Switzerland.As i said above Turkish culture left behind Albania and we are suffering from that.We are Europian more than lethuanian,latvian,Greece,Poland,Bulgaria and Romania.

  • 42.
  • At 12:09 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • vonheath wrote:

Whilst it is surprising to read that the Ottoman state was 'tolerant' it's even more amazing to read that somehow the British and Americans are/were beacons of virtue. The English have been busy with genocidal wars for centuries..though most were conducted long enough ago for most commentators to conveniently forget.

It's important to welcome both Albania & Turkey into the EU. It is sad however that the current Turkish state cannot accept that the Ottoman Empire supervised and conducted the Armenian genocide.

  • 43.
  • At 12:12 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • James wrote:

To be honest I think most peoples objection to Turkey being in the EU is that it isn't in Europe, except for the small bit around Istanbul in Thrace. Mainland Turkey (Anatolia/Asia Minor) is in Asia and borders Iraq, Armenia and Syria... not really Europe. I don't think faith has anything to do with it.

Also people making comment about the janniseries as intolerant should recall that in the 15th century when Byzantium ended and the Ottomans took over, at the same time Spain was forcing all muslims to either convert or leave Iberia following the conquest of Granada. While in the Ottoman Empire the structure of the Orthodox patriarchs was maintained, and even extended from the much eroded Byzantine Empire. The Ottomans were, as was much of the Medieval Islamic world infinetly more tolerant than the Christian one, even if by modern eyes they would appear intolerant.

  • 44.
  • At 12:17 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Nicholas Xenakis wrote:

The answer to the article's title has to be yes of course. As expatriate Greek of the diaspora like some many others, I was born in Egypt, had my secondary education in Greece and higher education in England.
Hundreds of thousands of contemporary 'Greeks' are of course of Albanian origin as are some of that country's Greatest heroes in the 'nationalist'revolt of 1821 against the 'Sick Man of Europe-The Ottoman Empire' which wasbacked among others by the UK. Many Greeks converted to Islam following the fall of Konstantinoupolis to the Turks in 1453 to this day [remember the popular singer here Cat Stevens now Yusuf Islam]including members of the Imperial Byzantine family the Palaiologi, some out of expediency, one of them marrying the Sultan. So did Albanians to this day re-converting to Christianity; this is just how it happens. As we see in current affairs, religion is a potent political power tool under certain certain circumstances of which we must all beware if wish to avoid conflict; if not it an excellent tool for butchering each other at the drop of a hat, as Northern Ireland, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afganistan to name but a few theatres of war.

  • 45.
  • At 12:18 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • lillia wrote:

Actually, there is no something called 'europen islam' if it is meant islam in the period of communism, according to constitution in the period of communism 'albania has no religion but atheism'..yes unfortunately under the rule of dictatorial regime people could not live the way of their religion neither islam nor the sons and daughters of that regime are not realy aware of any religion. besides that they do not care aboout religion. Therefore we cannot talk about 'europen islam' in Albania because there is no islam in Albania.

  • 46.
  • At 12:27 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Tony Robinson wrote:

I want to be able to comment on every "EU"-related story. There is a story on the BBC website about Barrosso and carbon-related import duties. I wanted to comment on that. I don't just want to be able to comment on some stories so that the BBC can continue its pro-"EU" bias whilst pretending to allow comment.

  • 47.
  • At 12:28 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • David wrote:

A lot of people missing the point here:

- atrocities may well have been carried out in the name of the Ottoman Empire, but Mark means 'relatively' tolerant. European countries carried out equivalent or worse atrocities before, during and after the existence of the Ottomans.

- of course secularism is not specific to Christian societies, plenty of secular jewish, hindu and buddhist people out there too

- and with regards to secular Muslim societies, well they already exist in Albania, Kosovo and Turkey. The fact that many people are not religious, while some are, and some are pracitising rather than 'believing' muslims, simply means these places are secular - this is what secularism means.

  • 48.
  • At 12:55 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • A.Dimitriou wrote:

Atakan wrote:
"Those who ignited killings, which affected both sides, were triggered by games played by external powers to cripple the region and devour Ottoman Empire, which at the end led to Turkish nationalism."

Those who ignited killings were the occupiers. The Balkan nations wanted
freedom, they paid an extremely heavy price for it and eventually achieved it. I do not see how
the Ottoman empire was a RELATIVELY tolerant occupier: Compared with Germans and Italians who also occupied Yugoslavia and Greece during WWII, the Germans were more tolerant
-at least they did not collect children and brainwash them into Nazis.

Foreign powers were for the most part happy doing business with the Ottoman empire(Austria's Metternich for example
would extradite revolutionaries to the sultan for the usual "tolerant" treatment-does this sound familiar?
The main point is and was that the Balkan nations were subject to every whim of the sultan or even the local
pasah or vezir.
Even the Turks eventually got rid of the Sultan and its corrupt
regime in the 1920s with Kemal and the Neo-turks.
The sultan also did treat its own
representatives harshly(for instance Ali Pasah in Ioannina was beheaded) but not because he was cruel to his subjects, but because he was powerful enough to question the Sultan's authority. Of course the Sultan could do anything he wanted anyway.

There are many examples of the humiliations occupied nations had to endure at the hands of the Ottomans, only don't look for them in turkish history books. Some have been mentioned above. Another rather minor one was that people used to walk in pairs, so that if they saw a Turk, one would climb on the other one's shoulder, so that they would not have to carry the Turk on their shoulders.

I am born Catholic from Albania. All my relatives are Catholics and I so many friends who are Muslims. Even though they call themselves Muslim they never go to mosque or follow their religion. Yet again if you were to ask them what religion they belong to they called themselves Muslim. Having lived in London for the past 9 years. And becoming similar with what happens in middle east countries where Christians are unable to practice their religion as free as Catholics of Albania are. I feel very proud to be Albanian even though I come from small minority. Albanians were Muslims until Turkey invaded our country. It was than that they were forced to convert to Islam. Still whether Muslim or Christian Alcohol is served in every household. Ladies don't dress they way Muslim ladies in other countries do. Once again I feel sick and tired when I hear people Serbia accusing Muslims of Kosovo being Muslim extremists. Serbs wish they could be as tolerant as Albanians are. Serbs have nothing else inside of them just hate towards Albanians.

P.S My Albanian brothers and sisters just ignore them.

  • 50.
  • At 01:28 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Tung wrote:

1. Obviously the stats about religious background of Albanians are wrong, and I will not repeat what has been said above. It is no ones fault if there is no stats. The few comments who argue that Albanian are religious have either never been to Albania/ have been there for 3 days/ or have heard it from a friend. Sorry, we should not accept facts from these cases, though we should welcome their comments, because outsiders might see what “we insiders” don’t. Since there are no statistics in the last 70 years, could you please take my word that all people that I know and have meet in Albania during the 24 years I lived there were not religious. So at least it is more accurate to say that there are 69.5% Muslims and Bektashi in Albania :).

2. Are there European Muslims? The definition of Muslims is very wide, and taking the case of Albania the answer is YES. What do we mean by European? If the premise is religious tolerance, then we can find examples of intolerance for religious and non religious reasons in every country already member of the European Union.

3. Should intolerance for any reason (religion is just the fashionable one at the moment) be acceptable within or outside Europe? The answer is NO.

4. If the requirement for joining the EU is respecting Human Rights, and some countries don’t respect that, they should not be allowed in. Those who do not give up war criminals, those who don’t respect minorities etc. On that basis, countries already members who do not respect the above should be excluded from the EU. Who are these countries? Look at the UN reports on Human Rights on each country.

  • 51.
  • At 01:45 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Romer wrote:

As several posters before me have noticed "the religion of Albanians is Albanianism". Many have the feeling that the conversions ages ago were forced and they don't feel committed to it. But try to speak about "Slavs" or Serbs and you will see that the Albanian tolerance has its limits too. Maybe you can find out what happened with the Serb minority that once lived in the north of Albania.

In contrast to ILIA I encountered an orthodox priest in Albania who did not want to be Greek. On the contrary, he complained that the Greek church tried to use their economic support as a tool to control the Albanian Ortodox church.

Also recommended: read the books of Edith Durham (like "High Albania"). She travelled the Balkans around 1900 and is very popular in Albania. In her books she pays much attention to the position of the Christians at that time.

Finally: you were impresed by Tirana. But I heared people complain that many of those nice new buildings were financed with criminal money.

Hi Mark. Having lived in Tirana for two years and kept a blog throughout that time which touched on some of these subjects, I got a warm nostalgic feeling reading the comments. You can find it at

Regarding religion in Albania, as the response to your comments demonstrate, the famous tolerance is a little more complicated than at first appears. The blog postings that received the largest and most vociferous reactions were those on religion.

I think the great majority of Albanians are not so much tolerant of as indifferent to religion. The problem for Albania is that this leaves the country vulnerable to religious extremists of all sorts. Tolerance may be a virtue that people are willing to defend, indifference is just indifference.

Enjoy your time in Albania. I did. And while you are in Tirana I can highly recommend a little restaurant called Amor.

  • 53.
  • At 01:57 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Dubya, Netherlands wrote:

I've no doubt that Islam is a vital part of Europe and ik will be in the future. I've read once an article about the relationship between Islam and Christianity. Some scientists claimed that in the far future (let's say 700 years) both religions will mix. When I read this article I wonder if that mix would be like Albania.

  • 54.
  • At 01:59 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Kreshnik wrote:

To Pierre

You quite rightly say that there are two sides to a story and you further refer to Orthodox churches burned down in Kosovo, and about a man urinating on a church.

Well, Pierre the other side of the storuy which is missing in your messagge is that you don't know that dozens and dozens of mosques were burned down among other things in Kosova by Serb paramilitary, military and police forces. This was part of a systematic campaign to expel Albanians of Kosova from their homes and this was the reason that the Yugoslav head of face stood trial in The Hague for crimes commited in Kosova, Croatia and Bosnia

The clash in Kosova was not about religion, but about ethnicity. The bigger, more powerful, ethnic grup supported by the state tried to ethnically cleanse a smaller non-slavic ethnic group that struggled to survive.

As for the lack of tolerance in Kosova, it is quite understandable. Only 10 years have passed and people have traumatic memories of what happened to them and their families. They were massacred simply because they were Albanians.

Ask French people how tolerant they were towards Germans right after the World War II.

  • 55.
  • At 02:11 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Hodge wrote:

I lived and worked in Albania between 1997 and 2005 as a missionary, English teacher and aid worker. The one thing that was very obvious was the strong dislike there is for the religion of Islam among the average Albanian. As far as they are concerned, the Ottomans (Muslims) were an occupying force that imposed Islam on them.

True, Islam is stronger in Kosova than in Albania, but even there it is not of the kind that would cause a problem to Europe. In 1999 we worked among the refugees that came to the central Albanian city of Elbasan. We got to know many of them and it was obvious that even to them Islam was a tradition.

Turkey is a much bigger problem when it comes to the spread of Islam into Europe. Whilst it does claim to be a 'secular' country, Islam has a strong hold on the people, and it would not take much to bring in a raqdical Islamic government.

Actually, the biggest threat to the West from Islam comes from within Britain, wher political correctness preventts any stand against the spread of fundamentalist Islam. There is a sdtrong liklihood that Britain will be an Islamic country under Shariah law within a generation.

Very interesting post, Mark. I appreciate the analysis of Albania. I don't know very much about the country at all.

  • 57.
  • At 02:15 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • brunilda wrote:

i am an albanian living in london,my family is muslim,but this doesnt mean anything to us,it is smth more to believe in god,we albanians say that our religion is albanian,so i am married to albanian catholic,and albania is one of the first places that has been converted to christianity,and i think we have survived during all the history which is written with blood,and is not true that 70%is muslim cause is less than that.otoman empire did not any good to us,and many land is toren apart from us,from greece,and serbia,for example my grandad has come from chameria,parts of which are held from greece and they have sufered the most criminal killing and were dissmissed from their land during 1900-1940by killing children and families, the same as the separatism of serbs in 1998,you have to be albanian to understand what it is to be like, and often we are misrepresended from media,with things that are not true at have to read byron and to understand the character of us,we are family people and put family first in our hearts,if it wasnt for our hero scanderbeg europe could be all muslim by now,people had to be converted in islam because they didnt like to be converted in the orthodox religion that greeks were converted cause albanian hated greeks and serbs so it was like smth new for them which could save them from its enemies for decades,so islam was smth they had to survive in order to save our authenticity so this is the reason we live in harmony and will till now,and we have a lot in our history that you media dont know about,

  • 58.
  • At 02:22 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Nine wrote:

Mark did specify that the Ottoman's WERE RELATIVELY tolerant. Relative, I would imagine to the Christian states of the same time.

I have studied Medieval Europe, and during its lowest points, (essentially from the Christianisation of Rome untill the Enlightenment), the civilisation of the Muslims was vastly superior in almost all respects. People point out the Ottomans had laws that discrimated against minorities - at least they HAD laws, in Dark Ages Europe, non-Christians were nothing, if you weren't a Christian, you would be murdered. End of story.

Sure, the Ottoman Empire had its low points, but the modern EU should not hold that against modern Turkey today, not after our own depravities were so very, very much worse.

  • 59.
  • At 02:22 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Fatos wrote:

Hi Mark,

Another regular reader of your blogs, I am a Kosovar, now living in the West i see that people have written more about Ottoman Empire then Albania it self. I have never been Albania or meet one until I moved to the U.K.
One thing I'd like to mention is that i hate the fact we were occupied by the Turks for 400-500 years, now as a result of that many poeple were forced to change their religion, but some still didnt or even moved to Italy (calabria and sicily) where my dad (muslim) visited them in the 80's where he slept for 2 weeks in a church ru by a priest whose roots were from albania.
My surname is catholic by i am muslim, i present myself as Kosovan, religion come furthre down to my rankings. Some may say why not change religion? why should i as if am going to go ever to church or mosque.

  • 60.
  • At 02:29 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • brunilda wrote:

well done to ERIND comment 14 is all we albanians are and our children will be

  • 61.
  • At 02:40 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • brian wrote:

One might with equal justice wonder if Enver Hoxha got it right- two generations of ruthlessly enforced offical aetheism and massive repression resulting in a largely secularised society whose surviving relgious believers are mostly peaceable folk more concerned with religion as cultural tradition and source of personal morality than with trying to impose their views on wider society.

It's an uncomfortable thought......

  • 62.
  • At 02:48 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • K. Tyson wrote:

The Ottomans were NOT tolerant. Yes, you had to pay the tax...but it was not like you went to a tax office. You had to crawl on your knees, pay your money, then the tax person would strike you on the back of the neck to remind you that at any moment you could lose your head.

When the Ottomans came into Greece, the women linked arms and threw themselves down the cliffs rather than submit to the "tolerant" invaders. To this day, there is a song that commemorates these women.

  • 63.
  • At 03:05 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Scott wrote:

The Ottomans had tolerant and intolerant moments .... the world tolerate can be read in many ways for Albania I believe it has a very large Christian population still too - unlike modern Turkey and has just had a very serious dose of Atheiesm....

Whilst the argument that Turkey isn`t European enough to be the biggest country in the EU - something that gets very little coverage here in Turkey -is legitimate, I feel Turkey is a lot more Balkan than middle eastern. As the European Union digests Bulgarian and Romanian membership and starts looking towards places like Albania and fyroMacedonia Turkey will start to seem a lot less "foreign" but we are talking 10 years plus.

  • 64.
  • At 03:15 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Petrit Se wrote:

Excellent blog Mark. I was reading your EU blogs, but was plasantly surprised with the latest Balkan postings.

Ottomans were definately more liberal in early years then, say, Spanish christians, but they definately became unruly genocidal bunch as we approached modernity. But Ottopmans were definately not antisemitic to the level that Christians were. As for massacres and geniocides,each of Balkan statelets were as eager to "drink blood" of neighbours as their formar Ottoman ruler. Greeks killed and massacred thousands of Cham Albanians from Epir after WW2, Bulgarians massacred hundreds of thousands of Serbs and others in Balkan wars, while Serbia ethnically cleansed "Old Serbia" of Turks and Albanians in several waves after 1912. Greece is still one of the most religiously intolerant couuntries in EU (no mosque is allowed yet for muslims).

Since Albanians are of three faiths (Orthodox - the founder of Autonomous Albanian Orthodox CHurch was Fan Noli, an Albanian PM and translator of Shakespeare), Catholic (at least one Pope and several princes of ALbanian origin) and Muslim.

Pitty you didnt visit more of Kosovo. Im sure you would have been thrilled with the new prishtinates in the midst of nationbuilding process.

  • 65.
  • At 03:23 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Klaus wrote:

Mark, Albanians are not religious people, so, giving them this huge task of "example of moderates" is unfounded and undeserved and I am pretty sure it would make them all mad. Please don't try to paint over an already finished picture. Albanians are overwhelmingly either atheists or agnostics, and those religious ones are mostly Christian. What about the 70% figure? Are you still in the 1800-s? Very, very wrong perception...I suggest you spend more time with those people next time.

  • 66.
  • At 03:24 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

A comment found on HYS:

"I think it's a high time to give them tit for tat and allow Russians to install their nuclear warheads in Serbia and unite Republika Srpska with Serbia as a response to Kosovo secession and US anti-missile shield in Poland and Czech Republic.
Marko, Petrovic"

Wow! Those Albanian Muslim fanatics sound pretty scary, don't you think?
Not exactly an EU material.

  • 67.
  • At 03:45 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Mehmet wrote:

At Maria Amadei Ashot, #31
To the person with a Greek name writing about Ottoman intolerance against the Christians;

May I remind you that even after centuries of Ottoman rule, the churches that had been built in Turkey today stand proudly still, whereas somehow the mosques in Greece were "vanished" after Greek independence.

As the ancient/medieval churches are being restored and new ones are being opened in modern Turkey, the people of modern Greece has still been debating vehemently whether to open the first mosque in their capital. One mosque in Athens will not islamize the city- just in the vicinity of my small hometown (in Turkey), there are four churches, which, with their presence, demonstrate my citizens' hospitality.

The intolerance, with which you're accusing the Ottomans, might be quite accurate; however, next time please direct a constructive criticism to your side as well before you start bashing the other side.

At Erind, #14

I am not a Muslim, nor is my name, Mehmet- it's a Turkish name. The same goes with the names you mentioned: Ali, Hasan, Rakip, etc. If a Turkish person meets with someone called Ali, s/he would most probably assume that Ali is Turkish; however, s/he would not make any assumptions about Ali's religious background. Living in a secular country, the Albanians, too, should not add any religious connotations to names.

  • 68.
  • At 03:49 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Al wrote:

I think too much importance is being put on the role of ottoman empire.

The fact that albanians arent so religious is due to historical event or as someone put we albanians have seen it all.As a nation we are pragmatist people and islam was imposed on us rather than embraced from us.

More importantly albanians dont see east they see west.Someone said that he is afraid that muslim fanatics might go to albania and radicalise it.Well has been 15 years of democracy and none of this has happened.As for greater albania is others who talk about it not albanians.

Kosovo wants indipendence not joining with albania and as for other albanians living in their territories in neighbouring countries it is their right to insight that their human rights are respected.

  • 69.
  • At 04:58 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Arben A. wrote:

Dear Sir,

Originally I am from Kosovo, and there are few things that, if I may say, upset me in your article.

Are you trying to say that Europe, and European Union is (or should be) stricly Christian? Yes, most of the popullation in Kosovo and Albania are Muslim (over 70% in both countries), but these two countries are in the heart of Europe. Which brings me to my second issue... Turkey. As you probably know only a small percentage of Turkey is actually in the Old Continent.

I dont want to be misunderstood here, I have got nothing against Turkey joining the EU, on the contrary! Furthermore, I agree with one of the comments here that it is better to turn Turkey towards Europe rather then Arabia. But I am saying this to prove my point, and "protest" on your argument of Islam as religion as a bareer to join the EU.

You said it yourself that Islam in Albania (and Kosovo) differs from the classical way that certain people and newspapers present nowadays. And before anyone else judges any country, or any individual for that matter based on theis religion, I ask you please do that after you are only well informed.

  • 70.
  • At 05:06 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Tung wrote:

1. Obviously the stats about religious background of Albanians are wrong, and I will not repeat what has been said above. However it is a mistake that everyone makes, and as there are no official stats from the Albanian government, this will be a continuous issue. The few comments which argue that Albanian are religious have either never been to Albania/ have been there for 3 days/ or have heard it from a friend. Sorry, we should not accept facts from these cases, though we should welcome their comments, because outsiders might see what “we insiders” don’t. Since there are no statistics in the last 70 years, could you please take my word that all people that I know and have meet in Albania during the 24 years I lived there were not religious. So at least it is more accurate to say that there are 69.5% Muslims and Bektashi in Albania :).

2. Are there European Muslims? The definition of Muslims is very wide, and taking the case of Albania the answer is YES. What do we mean by European? If the premise is religious tolerance, then we can find examples of intolerance for religious and non religious reasons in every country already member of the European Union.

3. Should intolerance for any reason (religion is just the fashionable one at the moment: England/Northern, Bosnia/Croatia/Serbia) be acceptable within or outside Europe? The answer is NO.

4. If the requirement for joining the EU is respecting Human Rights, and some countries don’t respect that, they should not be allowed in. Those who do not give up war criminals, those who don’t respect minorities etc. On that basis, countries already members who do not respect the above should be excluded from the EU. Who are these countries? Look at the UN reports on Human Rights on each country.

  • 71.
  • At 05:22 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Ilir wrote:

Dear Sir,

Your case is typical of western journalist visiting Tirana.
They all come expecting some kind of third word country and for some bizarre reason they waiting to be overcome by “Muslim fanatics”. They get feed with the most bizarre claims about the Albanian people.
I have notice that they fill embarrassed with themselves when they visit our streets and somehow they find it strange that Tirana is much better than they ever predicted.
And yes, you will read the next day about how nice Albanian’s are and mention about the well-known Albania’s generosity. And then the foreign journalist will talk about the Muslim religion and somehow they come with different theories about what religion mean to us Albanian’s.
It’s just typical of the foreign media hysteria about Muslim religion.
Bottom line the Albanian’s never seen religion as a tool to identify them self in contrary to their Slavs or Greek neighbourhoods.
My mother is Roman Catholic and my father supposes to be a Muslim?
What does that makes me? Well an Albanian of course...
As for religious conviction matter I think as every other Albanian ether in Kosovo or Albania itself: “It’s not a big deal!!!!”
You not going to be the last foreign journalist to visit Tirana and be surprised by our rich culture and tradition.
And sadly you are not going to be the last journalist to be seemed to know the answer to our religion’s beliefs.
Have a great time in Tirana and may I recommend the bars and pubs in centre Tirana for a nice pint of local beer.

  • 72.
  • At 05:33 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • losttext wrote:

The claims posted here by Martin are ludicrous, false, misleading; they reek of propaganda. He asserts that albanians were henchmen of the Ottoman Empire PRIOR to the latter's incursions in the Balkans (!)when apart from being illogical, this is entirely ridiculous; not one albanian prince, count or duke ever served the ottomans in this time period.
Later, with the spread of ottoman occupation, many albanians served in that army, but they were not the only one; a great number of Balkan princes saw fit to do so. Kosova was not given to any albanian leader as a gift, albanians lived there before any slavic horde rolled down from the steppes of asia. Kosova as a serbian spiritual hearth is a myth propagated for so long now, that even its town-criers have grown tired of perpetuating and believing. For an impartial view on Kosova's history, the interested can read Noel Malcolm's voluminous study on Kosova's history.
Martin conveniently forgets or does not know how the albanian national hero Scanderbeg fought off successfully, together with Hungary's national hero, the advancement of ottoman's army into the heart of Europe for more than two decades. Albania is the only country in the Balkans that borders its own lands and its own people, the result of the Great Powers dividing its lands among the philistine neighbors of that time. That's why you got albanians all over the place, mister, and not as a result of Albania's not wanting them (!).
As for the issue at hand discussed by Mr.Mardell, I don't think Albania's tolerance toward religion is so much a result of the Ottoman Empire getting it right, as it is a conglomerate of different factors which have pushed and pulled albanians on all sides, leaving them not much to hang on but their simply being albanian.
The decades under communist dictatorship, stripped bare the albanians' spirituality in regard to organized religion, but marriages accross religious lines have always been present in albanian life. There is no fundamentalism, or risk of such, among albanian muslims. There have been some attempts to hijack the albanian way of islam toward fundamentalism, but they have been unsuccsessful. On the other side, albanian orthodox church is hijacked by the greek element (even though this church has been autocephalous and its canons do not allow a leader of nationality other than albanian), which works continously to propagate the dividing innuendo among albanians and abroad, that whomever is orthodox is greek, and so on.

  • 73.
  • At 06:17 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Jon Antoy wrote:

I don't think that it is so difficult to understand why Turkey might be rejected on the matter of religion by some while Albania and Kosovo are not. Generally when I read of news on Kosovo or Albania I find it in the European section, while I primarily find Turkey in the Middle Eastern section. I would say that it is a matter of long-term opinions throughout much of the West.

  • 74.
  • At 06:21 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Dr J A Tipu wrote:

it is rather a ridiculous piece of a very partial mind, im really sorry to say!
Well, if the honorable writer thinks that "no hijab or burkha" is a moderate Islam, which would be better tolerable to Europe, then he is utterly wrong!
Today,s world is far free than before. It is sad though that we still have people who just reflect their very own selfish pictures than reality. The truth is that all people in the worlkd have a right to wear what they want or live the way they want. It is just patheitc that still many from the west keep igniting undue sparks of so called fundamentalism or extremism.
If I want to wear shorts, Im acceptable but if I prefer covering my body, im unacceptable.
Id say vow, only a sick mind can appreciate this baseless thought.
Grow up humans, we are all free, and fre in the way we want, not what Europe wants!!!

  • 75.
  • At 06:32 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Dalip wrote:

Mr. Mardell,

Thanks for the article, Albania is truly a land of contradictions in every sense of the word. We have been occupied by Romans, Greeks, Slavs, Turks, etc.. throughout history and yet we somehow maintain our own sense of identity regardless of the religious or cultural affiliation of our previous occupiers.

"Where there is the sword there is religion" I think is a fairly accurate assesment of how we have had to adapt given the cards we have been dealt historically.

Thank you.


  • 76.
  • At 06:35 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Ari wrote:

Dear Mark,

Albanians were the first to accept Christianity in Europe. Now they are the least religious people in the world. This is due to they having to fight aganist various invaders with different religious background. Their religioun is, as they say: albanianism. Only a person who is ignorant and naive in historical education will say that this religious tolerance was somehow influenced by the ottoman empire. Any history book will tell you that albanians were the fierciest fighters against the ottomans. At the peak of the ottoman empire, when all other balkan nations had accepted the soveregnity of sultan, the albanians were for 25 years under their prince and national hero Scanderbeg the only free and undefeated country in the region! A small country against a super power (even in theatres in London at that time there were plays dedicated to the Prince of Christianity - Scanderbeg). Please, it is so frustrating for us albanians when they portray us as a muslim nation. WE ARE NOT! A highly esteemed and experienced BBC journalist like yourself should do their research rightly and objectively before making up such claims and figures.

  • 77.
  • At 07:16 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Gjergji wrote:

Mark a relativly good article about something I'm sure you and most of your countrymen had no idea about before.

Albanians are mostly atheistic/agbostic, even the ones who proclaim themselves as belonging to one faith or another. Churches are empty, and mosques even emptier. There is not the slightest bit of intolerante towards other religions. In fact, intermarriage is very common. My own family is mixed on just about every level. I myself identify as an Albanian Orthodox, but my mother is "muslim". I mysef have never been to a church.

The above poster who criticised the so-called intolerance of Kosovar Albanians towards Serbian churches, clearly does not understand that this is a nationalistic matter, not the slightest bit of religion in it. Those are Serbian churches, and in return there are hundreds of Albanian churches in Kosovo that function just fine. the best example of Albanian religious tolerance is in Kosovo when Catholic christmas comes, the main square is full of people celebrating, most of them, Albanian muslims!

As for the Ottoman empire, to some degree you got it right. You were specifically speaking about religious tolerance either way. The ottoman empire gave more religious freedom to other religions than ANY other empire has even done in history. This is undeniable. People replying to your article with little snips of popular terms of the day like "Armenian gencoide", "Serbian heros" and so forth, don't seem to have the necessary historical knoweldge to judge such events. They certainly don't seem to be taking into accoun the historical prespective. 500 years ago the Ottomans may not have been very tolerant. Then again, 500 years ago any muslim that may have fallen in the hands of any European empire, well we know what would have happened. The Ottomans, like any good empire, manipulated religions for their own use. So for example, the Greek Orthodox churh enjoyed great privilages in the Ottoman empire, regardless the complaining they may do today about it. For example, to prevent the spread of Albanian schools in Albania, the Ottomans send Greek priests to open Greek orthodox schools and monastaries in Albania. The Ottomans, muslims, encouraging Chritisn orthodox expansion. Strange. The Catholic subjects of the Ottomans, enjoyed privilages of being under the protection and financing of the Vatican and Austria. Yet another strange thing, something quite unimaginable in the west of THOSE DAYS (people seem to forget the times we'r talking about). In fact, there was never the slightest bit of intolerance towards the practicing of any of the Balkan christian religions and sects. The Ottomans simply didn't care, as long as the church paid its taxes. Those tales of "Serbian heros" whose heads are now in a tower, well, that has to do with war and not religion. Ottomans wouldn't have thought twice about filling the tower with muslim heads, if the population that resisted was muslim. They were an empire, they cared about power. What religion you practiced, as your own business. And in that respect, they were far ahead of ther times. The same goes for the Armenians. The Ottomans didn't do anything to them because they were Christian. In fact that is the mentality created by Christian religious intolerance that predominates in these areas of the world. They did what they did because the Armenians sided with Russians, nothing more. It was war.

Someone above said something too truthful. What the Ottomans did was prevent the Slavic people of the Balkans from killing each other for 500 years. How true and unfortunate. The same people who today criticise the Ottomans for not allowing them religious freedom (which they certainly did), the first thing they did when they came out of it, they massacred everyone not of their church. And this not 500 years ago or 100 years ago, when the Ottomans were around. Try 12 years ago.

So I think the criticisms here are coming from the wrong side, or for the wrong reasons. The criticisms seem to be mainly complaining about Ottomans not allowing religious freedom to Greeks and Serbs an Armenians, when the reality is quite the opposite. The reality was that the first thing these "European christians" did with their freedom, was massacre anyone who wasn't of their particular sect. Of course Europeans forget these things very quickly, even things that happened 12 years ago or even 8 years ago. Because, and this is where the wrong reasons comes in, being Christian is automatically 'European", even though christianity came from the same middle eastern place as Islam. Certainly this is mainly due to the lack of religious tolerance in Europe, which is certainly there. They automatically associate being Turkish for example, and a turkish muslim, with the same brand of Islam they have encountered in the Middle East or Pakistan.

There's no reason to speak of Albania at all, we'r certainly the least religious people on the planet, but for Turkey for example, what sets them appart is their secularism. Just as Christian secularism is progressive and democratic, so is muslim secularism. And just as Christian extremism is dangerous and deadly, so is islmaic one. So the answer isn't to be ignorant and shut our eyes and tell ourselves fairy tales of 500 years ago of jataghans and bashi-buzuki stealing little girls in the middle of the night (to which I would say, were you never told about British soldiers of Winston Chruchill no more than 80 years ago massaring Kurds in Iraq in equal fashion?). Its not to respond to extremist islam in the middle east or pakistan with Christian extremism, which drives people even further away, but to be more tolerant yourselves and more educated.

  • 78.
  • At 07:23 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Holger wrote:

One issue that is never raised when discussing Islam in Albania, or for that matter in Europe, including Turkey (Istambul and its environs in particular), in post-communist era is the negative image of Islam in the West and how that has affected Albanians and European Muslims in their identity as Muslims. From the pope to western media have contributed to this negative perception, and it is no wonder then that many Albanians like to keep Islam in the "backburner" as someone in this forum has commented. If the image of Islam would have been more "positive", would Albanians have embraced Islam more openly and more piously in the way that Poles embraced Catholicism after the fall of communism?

  • 79.
  • At 07:42 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • mark wrote:

i must say that those were some interesting comments. i happen to be albanian (catholic) from the mountainous terrain of northern albania. let me start off by saying that anyone foolish enough to believe that the ottomans were tolerant is either turkish themselves or simply naive. the stories are well recorded in the annals of history and in early 20th century media outlets.

erind or poster #14, i agree w/everything you mentioned. you hit the nail on head.
albanians do have a very unique history and religion in albania is fine and dandy so long as it stays "albanian" in context. our albanian identity is what bonds us together.
i'm not a devout catholic but i make my way to the local albanian catholic cathedral a few times a year. ever since i was a boy, i can recall learning prayers in albanian and our mass being held in our native albanian tongue. i understand that nowadays in other albanian lands in the balkans, albanian (muslims) have started praying in albanian and discarding the arabic version.
in my opinion, this is most welcome and will only help tighten our already strong bond.

one more thing, albania needs to conduct a recent census because those earlier numbers are surely antiquated.

  • 80.
  • At 08:02 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Harry the agnostic wrote:

Since when have Europeans been tolerant? They are the most intolerant race on the planet, just a bunch of racist criminals who are responsible for the worst atrocities in human history.
They make the Ottomans look like amateurs. The less white the planet gets, the more peaceful it will become.

  • 81.
  • At 08:26 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Bashkim wrote:

I come from a very small village in North Albania. If I was to tell you lot that my village is 100 percent Catholic none of you would probably believe me. In city of my village there is a mosque orthodox church and a catholic Church of course. Having lived in London for the past nine years and becoming familiar to how Christians are treated in some none European countries especially in the countries with Muslim majority. I feel very proud to live in Albania where Muslims are very tolerant and they respect other religions. The thing that always amazes me is that Muslims of Albania drink alcohol their ladies dress normal and a very small minority have recognized Muslim names. I love my Muslims Brothers and sisters of Albania. I hope that we continue to live with each other as peacefully as we have done for the past hundred years. F.A.O My Albanians brothers and sisters ignore the comments of those people who love to spread hatred comments about us. In fact we should love as Jesus love your enemies more love yourself.

  • 82.
  • At 08:32 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Gentrit wrote:

Mark dont you have something else to do than write about religions.
Religion is a thing of past for people who want to move forward.
Actually religions where invented to make people behave the right way the same as the purpose of laws today.
No religion whatsoever has brought the world in this level of technological advance today. Galilei was burned alive because of religion.
To my opinion religion today is waste of time - living with the past.

  • 83.
  • At 08:37 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • elona wrote:

Well, being an Albanian my self I find it amazing that some people can not see why we have to like or dislike people based on their religion background.
Our religion is Albanianism. As we have been invaded and thrown into so may wars and fights this makes it even more simple that the one thing that brings us Albanians together is: we speak one language and belong to one nation Albania. What more can you ask for. We have our own ways of respecting and tolerating the other religions. Isn’t that how it should be?
Life should not revolve all around religion; after all we are all human and belong to the same planet… don’t we?
Isn’t that what we need to concentrate on… ?

  • 84.
  • At 10:02 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Claudia wrote:

I don’t agree with this report about Albania being a country in Europe with Muslim majority.
My boyfriend is Albanian and he has a muslim name but for him doesn't mean nothing just a name.
As for the fact there never been any statistic in this issue plus there are a potential numbers of Christian which is growing up everyday as the Albanian getting to know the fact that they use to be a Christian country before turkey destroyed them and force them to convert into Muslims .

  • 85.
  • At 10:18 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Claudia wrote:

I don’t agree with this report about Albania being a country in Europe with Muslim majority.
My boyfriend is Albanian and he has a muslim name but for him doesn't mean nothing just a name.
As for the fact there never been any statistic in this issue plus there are a potential numbers of Christian which is growing up everyday as the Albanian getting to know the fact that they use to be a Christian country before turkey destroyed them and force them to convert into Muslims .

  • 86.
  • At 10:38 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • micheal wrote:

I think, Mark Mardell wrote an objective article. He must be lucky visiting foreign countries and writing about them.

  • 87.
  • At 11:31 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • alban shala wrote:

hi ,
I'm albanian (kosovar) that belongs to muslim religion but still at low level. I go sometime to mosque to pray and to keep connection with God. I have friends catholics and thats just what makes me feeling wonderful. I celebrate Eid (Bayram) , I go out for Christmas, I really like this diversity...thats unique here at albanians. Kosovo and Albania muslims are unique, totally living in peaceful manner...Unfortunately I cannot 'guarantee' for other Muslims in the world, since there's been terrible wars all around... and yes the quote that Religion of Albanians is Albinism is something deep in albanin soul...

  • 88.
  • At 11:49 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Franz Winterstein wrote:

Nice text and I have to say that I have enjoyed it very much. Having met a lot of people from the Balkans in my lifetime, I have heard many negative stereotypes about Albanians. It is true that the land is not developed enough, but it has a good geographic position and I hope it will prosper with the EU admission process. I have been there last summer and I must say that I was astonished. The land is very beautiful and the people were extremely nice to me. My hobby is alpinism and so I went around with to of my Albanian friends that I know from Austria to a couple of villages on the border between Albania, Greece and Macedonia and the emotional experience is unforgettable. People would offer you food and shelter with out even knowing you, also they give you their beds and they sleep on the floor, and at the end you have to basically `beg` them to take some money for all of their hard work.
What I wanted to say is that I am really disappointed with the comments about Ottoman `tolerance`. As most of you probably know, Vienna has a strong Turkish minority (about 300000 people) and every time I have ever tried to speak to any of them about the Ottoman Empire, they would reply immediately how they are endangered, who the west has always made crusades against them?!? Please, what about all of these ancient cities of Christendom: Philadelphia (just to inform all those who do not know, the original Philadelphia is in Asia Minor, in today Turkey), Smyrna, Miletus, and Ephesus etc. What about the conquest of Constantinople, then the rest of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary all the way to the gates of Vienna? But the problem with these people is if you reply to them in these words, you can see in their eyes that if they had a chance they would revenge 3 times as much against you. Their religious tolerance is a story for itself, just one fact and not to go into details, in Constantinople in 1922 there were more than 200000 Greeks. Now, how many are there, less than 4000. Where did all of these people go?

  • 89.
  • At 12:22 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • sam J wrote:

As long as Muslims are not in power, they are nice, they do sometimes co-exist with fellow human beings peacefully. They were never encouraged to be humble and that is why we see endless disputes, Muslims against Muslims, Muslims against non Muslims. Please visualise the absolute corrupt power falling into the hands of people who are not humble. Sending in more UN conflict abating troops to Kosovo sounds like a joke. We should give the every Kosovan a humble pie first.

  • 90.
  • At 01:03 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • AnonymousCalifornian wrote:

Seeing as no comment [which passed 'inspection'] as yet has commented on your comparing Wahhabists to 'Bible Belt' Baptists, will do so.

'Bible Belt' Christians, and other devout Christians don't go around wanting to murder non-Christians or imposing their beliefs on them, something which sure doesn't seem to be the case of quite a few Wahhabists. As long as you don't try to kill them, Christians will live in harmony with their Atheist, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and 'other' neighbors. Christians are supposed to treat all other humans kindly and fairly, not just other Christians.

Your comparison of devout Christians with a Muslim sect bent on attacking non-Christians and going into a tizzy over the slightest provocations (see Danish cartoons: along with Mohammed, were depictions of Jesus and Buddha; a Turkish Roman Catholic priest and maybe two other Christians were murdered by rampaging Islamists who for some reason linked the offending cartoons to Christianity--the cartoonist and editor might not even have been Christian; no Christians or Buddhists went around murdering, rioting, etc. over the cartoons, and Christians consider Christ to be God, not just a Prophet).

As with deeming the Ottomans as tolerant, your comparing Wahhabism with devout Christianity was uncalled for. Just because some Christians are not as atheistic as you might want them to be, doesn't make them dangerous.

/end rambling.

  • 91.
  • At 02:36 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • erdem wrote:

It's sad to read all the anger and all the dwelling of the past as if anyone's past was perfect. Hearing all these half true, half made up stories throughout generations. This is why we had the Bosnia tragedy in the middle of Europe and this is why Al-Kaida is still getting all its brainwashed suicide bombers. Unfortunately, your little discussion board clearly demonstrates that hate will never die.

  • 92.
  • At 03:06 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Ersagun wrote:

It's hard to credit the Ottoman Empire with anything positive with respect to Balkan history. The Empire's selectively permeable indifference to religion usually confuses many who don't know enough about Ottoman history and beguiles them to rule on the "700" year long history of this state. Calling the Ottoman rule over the Balkans "tolerant" is a vast generalization that's sadly not true at all. Many individuals did benefit from Ottoman rule, but only at the expense of their own kin. In fact, many of the leading pashas that staffed Mehmed the Conqueror's court or divan or whatever it was, who wanted the Ottoman warmachine to turn firstly against Constantinople and then to Christian Europe were christian renegades themselves, who converted to Islam, as Sir Runciman's works show. While it is hard to dismantle the "millet" system that still plagues the Turkish nation more so than anyone else as of today, as a historian, i have to admit that no ethnicity came out of Ottoman rule "tolerated" as they all lost something in the course of their rediscovery of one's own nationality.
Greeks, Serbs, Albanians, Bulgarians, well you name'em, had to split hairs when it came to defining who was who in the confusion following or even prior to final Ottoman demise. Turks today are going through a very similar recovery as they still don't know what a nation is and how it can stay put together. The word millet, has no ethnicity basis and refers to a people in the best guess that is bound within a religious context. Hence is the Orthodox Millet or whatever else they had, as opposed to the Greek nation or the Serbs. You have to give it to them, the Ottoman rule was when plainly said, a long reign of pillage and plunder. If people were left alone, which rarely was the case for Christians and Muslims alike, as we have seen with the Alevis and Shiis of Anatolia and Syria or even Iraq; they were left alone because Ottoman authorities didn't bother at the time or were busy with another spot within their randomly distributed domains.
The most infamous example, perhaps, is indeed the devshirme institution which was no doubt engineered to break the populations of south-eastern europe. Ironically enough, the decline of the ottoman empire coincides with the shift in the janissary corps's demographics from ethnic europeans to turks and the resulting decay in the fighting strength and discipline of the units.
As for islam in turkey, while most Arabs do not consider turks muslims, as they are very fond of rakii which is turkish ouzo essentially and thus a very alcoholic beverage, or due to a variety of reasons like "a secular constitution" etc.; Turkey is a very much muslim country with 90% plus believing firmly in God. Cultural practices suffer no doubt from such stats and circumstances and the non progressive attitude of Islam prevails in many aspects of a Turkish way of life. It is still hard to get young males to entertain the possibility of empowering one's gf or wife. Though the tunes coming out of turkish media pipers dont paint such pictures, and convince few hopefuls in Europe of Turkey's firm belief in secularism and progressive thinking, Turkey still has yet to actually turn such sentiments of the media into a widespread practice and belief. I doubt it will ever happen, or that we will see it in our lifetimes.

  • 93.
  • At 04:13 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Agron wrote:

Mark, Ottomans didn't get anything right in the balkans, even islam is a very opresive religion. As long as you cannot criticize islam in EU, this kind of romantic propaganda is non-sense. Dont look at Albania to find answers, because radicals muslims are all in EU, and imposing their dictatorship. But try to find out why they cannot impose it to Albanians?
Conecting Albanian "muslims" which is very questionable, with Ottomans Muslim religion it is just missleading and intentionally done to make EU public beleive that Ottomans and turkey of today are same as albanians.

  • 94.
  • At 05:10 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • me wrote:

Ottomans were tolerant compared to europeons in thos times. Lets not forget the Spanish inquistion. Wherer did the jews flee.... to the ottoman empire. Therer is no way at that time you could have been muslim and living in europe unless you werer a diplomat. Rember this was the same time christain sects like catholics and protestents werer killling each oher and waging war. Not long after the brits, french and spanish invaded north and south america they commited the biggest genocide know to man virtually wiping out the indegenous population. spain expelled or forced to convert the muslims in south spain.More people have died because of nationalism than any religion wars. Most wars are between races and nations of peoples not neccisalry religions.

  • 95.
  • At 05:13 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Rambo wrote:

Ottoman Empire - The Turks are anything but tolerant they came to India and butchered Hindus and did so many forced conversions.

  • 96.
  • At 05:25 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Cagri Tanyol wrote:

Just a quick point. Bektashis are not Shia, they are also Sunni though Alevis(Turkish Shiis) have long been on friendly terms in Turkey. Their tradition is often called the Alevi-Bektashi tradition. The Bektashis provided refuge to the Alevis during Ottoman times when they were under attack from the Sunni Ottoman state.

  • 97.
  • At 08:44 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Oscar wrote:

Like someone said before here - the real religion of Albania is "Albaniansim" (ie nationalism). So, the religious tolerance of Albania has nothing to do with Euro Islam or any such notion.

It is a unique case with no relation to the majority of Muslims in Europe, who are from South Asia, the Middle East or Northern Africa.

  • 98.
  • At 10:05 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • A.Dimitriou wrote:

To those claiming that the Ottoman empire was RELATIVELY tolerant,
let's compare the ottoman and nazi occupations for two Balkan countries that had the privilege of being occupied by both: Yugoslavia and Greece(although partizan movements existed in other Balkan countries, let's not count the countries that were oficially axis allies): With nazi occupation you have
-general population starvation in the cities
-fierce reprisals (100 civillians executed for any german killed by the resistance)

with the ottoman empire you had
-heavy taxation
-continuous humiliations
-even more fierce reprisals
for resistance acts
-the yeni tsari practice
-continuous humiliations, as mentioned in many posts

Therefore, when a comparison CAN be made, the "relative" tolerance theory does not hold water.
If there is a single reason for
the church being important in the Balkans, its pretty much a sense of historic debt, i.e. that it held these nations together over more than 400 years of slavery. The same is true with most Israelis: They are
not religious, but they respect the role religion has playe throughout their history.

  • 99.
  • At 10:55 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Kazan wrote:

Rambo maybe you forgot to mention the millions of indians that died under british rule. Hows that for barbarism.

  • 100.
  • At 11:04 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"you [Mark Mardell] were impresed by Tirana. But I heared people complain that many of those nice new buildings were financed with criminal money."

I have heard that said also about many new buildings and estates in Astana, and Moscow, and St. Petersburg, and Sofia, and Bukarest, and Sofia, and Warsaw, and even, imagine that - in UK [not only in Belgravia]

Although, grant you, in that last case, the money hasn't come from British subjects.

  • 101.
  • At 11:50 AM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Edlira wrote:

To this whole discussion, may i just add what Edith Durham said:

“When a Moslem kills a Moslem, it does not count; When a Christian kills a Moslem, it is a righteous act; when a Christian kills a Christian it is an error of judgement better not talked about; it is only when a Moslem kills a Christian that we arrive at a full-blown atrocity"

  • 102.
  • At 02:06 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Arban wrote:

Lets remember something here : Albaninas were invaded by Turkey same as other countries in the Balkans (except Greece) which means they would've been influenced by them, however I think Mark is trying to point out that Albanians are not what most people in the west imagine as they are very tolerant when it comes to religion when most people suspect them (or us) to be these wild people from the mountains but surprisingly that is not the case as you correctly pointed out

  • 103.
  • At 02:18 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • bd wrote:

We have become so politically correct, it is amazing.
Recount the Dr. Livingstone letters on the Arab slave cruelty. It will make you blood curdle.
The Turks were much worse. To say, the albanian are wonderful. Ask them how they treat women form other ethnic origin.
A mark of how well you are civlized is you interaction with other tribe's people. By that measure, the albanians leave a lot of room for improvement

  • 104.
  • At 02:31 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Milan wrote:

To all decent people on planet Earth who reads this comments, and are surrely not from balkans, and dont have a damn clue WHY all this mess:
Ask yourself judging by all this posts:
A: Can be nation who openly says: 'religion of albanians is albanianism' considered tollerant, specially with knowledge that neather albania nor kosovo have more than 10% of non-albanian population (does hitler in his time also belived that religion of germans is germanism?)
B: If their problem was milosevic, why they rebel against peacefull macedonians (in 2001 and with constant tensions up till now), or against anyone else before milosevic, except german nazists who even made a ss (skenderbeg) division out of them (are there any nazy division in serbia or greece at that time?)
C: What can you say about nation who openly says that they dont belive in God in any form except allmighty albanian
D: How it happens that most oldest nation in Europe NEVER have its own state till 1912, (when it was given to them by wery same people who now provide them a backup country) and it happens to be the most gratest failed state in Europe all the time, regardles that it was not destroyed nor during WW1 nor WW2
E: How it happens that if albanians are iliryans there is no monuments of that time anywhere on the balkans nameing anything albanian (imagine Greeks claiming ancestral roots with Homeric times with no inscription at all from Odyssey)
F: Fact that greatest mafia in Europe is organized by albanians, and that now Russian, Sycilian or Chinese seems like joke comparing to them
G: append. to F: Are albanians the greatest exporters of drugs, white slaves and criminals in the world comparing population percentage or not?
H: Does Slavs, Greeks and any other humans have a right to live equally on the lands controlled by albanians, just because they have a God given naturally born right for that, OR they should relay on indegenious mercy and hospitability of albanian hosts (cos without it, they shouldnt exist on lands inhabitated by albanians who was descedants of iliryans, who was descedants of pelasgians, who was descedants of cro-magnons, who was descedants of australiopitecus, who was...)
I: Since there is places in Itally who in ancient times were called Alba (something), does that means that Itally is next stage for albanian landgrab after balkans, with usuall story about albanians being descedants of Etruscans.
J: Since there is a city in USA called Albany, does that means that Navaho are also relatives of albanians and that USA is last stage of albanian 'fight for freedom' (perhaps failed fort dix plot is a first stage in proccess)

When you find answers on this questions, maybe you dont get so amazed like mr. Mardell by people 'who are so west oriented' with a country perplexed by tribalism and blood feuds in 21st century Europe.

I read this blog entry and I want to thank you for bringing a different part of our culture to the light. I do think it is important to know about Albanian religious inheritance whether Christian or Islamic, and accept it as part of Albanian culture (how significant is for us to decide), whether we identify with it or not.

  • 106.
  • At 04:05 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • wrote:

67. At 06:17 PM on 22 Jan 2008, Jon Antoy wrote:
I don't think that it is so difficult to understand why Turkey might be rejected on the matter of religion by some while Albania and Kosovo are not. Generally when I read of news on Kosovo or Albania I find it in the European section, while I primarily find Turkey in the Middle Eastern section. I would say that it is a matter of long-term opinions throughout much of the West.

Sorry to dissapoint you but if you chech most web sites, such as yahoo, bbc or google, Turkey is in the Europe section. FYI

  • 107.
  • At 04:15 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • une wrote:

Most of the people here that claim to be christian escpecially greek orthodox should not complain about Albania. I am Albanian Orthodox and in my first time visit to Greece they all tried to convince me that since Ia m orthodox i am greek. Why becasue their nationality is based on religion. I am albanian but i am orthodox and and proud of it. Albanian is one of the greatest places in the world. I love it and may god continue to bless it with the tolerance and the love amongst us that it has always had.. FEJA SHQIPETARIT EHSTE SHQIPTARIA>>>>. LOVE PEACE DHE KOSOVA PAVARUR

  • 108.
  • At 06:19 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Knok-knok wrote:

"Ottoman Empire ,multi-ethnic and relatively religiously tolerant" Are you kidding ? Permanent killing Christians is tolerance? Kidnapping, enslaving Europeans during millennium this is multiculturalism of Ottomans. Ask any Christian neighbors from Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia. Try to be Cristian in modern Turkey - the very similar thing (look at killed priests).

  • 109.
  • At 06:38 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Atakan wrote:

'Well you are correct up to a point, however, taking a RELATIVE approach, Ottoman Empire was indeed against nationalism and was tolerant. Those who ignited killings, which affected both sides, were triggered by games played by external powers to cripple the region and devour Ottoman Empire, which at the end led to Turkish nationalism.'

You can not blame foreign powers for the rise of Turkish nationalism or the Fall of the Ottoman Empire. You can't blame them for everything. The causes for the Fall of the Ottoman Empire:

1. Their was no industry
2. The economy depended on Osmanis working abroad.
3. The army was in bad condition
4. Turmoil at the Balkans
5. So emty Ottoman treasery and hight public debt

As you can see the Fall of the Ottoman Empire was mainly caused by the Empire itself.

Japan modernised around the same time as Europe and is now rich. They were even able to defeat much larger China and they caused a lot of damage to emerging superpower United States.

Turkish nationalism emerged as a reaction on Pan-Slavism. There were Greek, Armenian, Anatolian, Kurdish and Arab Turkish nationalists. They wanted to modernise but they participated in WW1 which gave the last push for the weakening of the Ottoman Empire. As a reaction, Pan-Turkism emerged (like Pan-Germanism in Germany). Those people were responsible for the slaughtering of the Armenians, Kurds, Arabs and Anatolian and Greek interlectuals.

Note: the 'Turk'did nog exist in that time. Turks was the name the elite called the farmers of Anatolia.

  • 110.
  • At 06:43 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Artion wrote:

I am reading the comments of those who read Mark Mardell's comments. And what is amazing me, is the hidden intolerance that most of the commentors have about islam. I am Albanian myself. From Tirana a city created by a Muslim Pasha that has a Mosque as its heart. And I am proud to be Muslim, Zot shyqyr we say - in Albanian.
However I feel very bad when I read the comments of some Albanians here, living in the west who either say that:
1. we are not Muslims at all
2. we are Muslims, but not like those bad Muslims
3. and those who say we are only Albanians and Islam belongs to the Turk.

This shows the great feeling of guilt and fear that Europeans have installed upon Albanians. Dear Europeans, and dear Mark Mardell, don't you think that by making articles with titles like 'Is there a European Islam' you are indirectly contributing to the general worldwide Islamophobia that portrays Islam as the ultimate evil? Just read those little Albanian boys and girls who are scared with the Islam that their fathers had, how they try to distance themselves from this evil jinny in maximum. They are scared because Muslims are hated in the west and they do not to be identified with the bad guys. The atmosphere of fear against Islam is genocidial. The genocide against the Jews started in such a way.

Dear people. Islam is good. And Albanian Muslims are normal human beings. Please share your plannet with them.

Since you claim to be Europeans, Christians and whatever you may be, please Mercifull and love Muslims. Be them Albanians or Turks.

  • 111.
  • At 07:18 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Marina wrote:

To Post # 88, when you say that "Ottomans were tolerant compared to Europeans" I think you are forgetting the historical fact of the first genocide of the 20th century committed by the Ottomans against the Armenian Christians of Turkey (then, Ottoman Empire). They slaughtered 1.5 Million Armenians between 1915 and 1918. I hardly can call the killing of 1.5 million Christians tolerant behavior. As a matter of fact, Turkey is still not a tolerant country. You still go to jail for up to 5 years in Turkey if you offend "Turkishness." Christians are still not free and equal in Turkey. They are not allowed to built new churches even tough Turks can build as many mosques as they desire in Europe.

  • 112.
  • At 07:33 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Pasholli wrote:

We burnt Serbian churches in 2004 in Kosova not because of their symbol or religious affinity but mainly because they have become the main promoters of ethnic hatred in the region.

Don't forget, we the albanians, saved and looked after all churches in Kosova for over 500 years under ottoman empire (documented). If we wanted to destroy them, we could have done that ages ago.

In other hand, who says they were Serbian churches in the first place. Apart from few, built by them, majority of old churches in Kosovo, stand on foundations of churches built by albanians, before the arrival of Ottoman empire.

  • 113.
  • At 07:33 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Dawud Farquhar wrote:

Islam is one and it transcends all racial and national and ethnic boundaries. You may have a unique Islamic 'culture' moulded to the place you live, but the Islamic fundamentals and jurisprudence does not change; it is applicable for all people for all places and for all times.

What Albania needs is an educational revolution and a theological revolution of orthodox Islam. All sects that claim to be Muslim are judged on their closeness to the original sources and the referential integrity they provide for their beliefs and practise. There is no adherence except with evidence.

I have wriiten a book (unpublished) about Ambania and its Orthodox church. Most discussion here revolves around Islam. But if you read carefully the above account of Mark's visit to an Albanian Bektashi shrine (teke), you will notice striking similarities between the feats of the supposed Islamic hero Sari Saltik and the folk version of the miracles of St George. It is very doubtful whether Saltik existed at all, while St George was a Roman soldier in Palestine who was killed for his Christian faith. The veneration of the latter in the Balkans got mixed up with remnants of the cult of some ancient Thracian agricultural deity. The legends about Saltik are secondary and retell the same story.

Fr Pavel Stefanov
Theology, Shoumen University, Bulgaria

  • 115.
  • At 07:54 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Marinko wrote:

Sorry to say but you don't have a clue...about albania or the ottomans

  • 116.
  • At 08:03 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • john somer wrote:

Judging from the comments about the Ottomans by those who say they are Albanians, I wonder if Albanian public opinion about Turkey's accession to the EU is any more favorable than the Austrian one

  • 117.
  • At 08:11 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Pasholli wrote:

We burnt Serbian churches in 2004 in Kosova not because of their symbol or religious affinity but mainly because they have become the main promoters of ethnic hatred in the region.

Don't forget, we the albanians, saved and looked after all churches in Kosova for over 500 years under ottoman empire (documented). If we wanted to destroy them, we could have done that ages ago.

In other hand, who says they were Serbian churches in the first place. Apart from few, built by them, majority of old churches in Kosovo, stand on foundations of churches built by albanians, before the arrival of Ottoman empire.

  • 118.
  • At 08:26 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Peter wrote:

it doesn't surprise me to see "Anti-Turkish" comments here from Ultra Greek Nationalists !

Anyway, i also believe that Democratic Secular Turkish Republic is a good example for other countries in the region.

Turks showed us that democracy, Secularism and Islam can live together.

if you go to Turkey tomorrow, you will see mosques, churces, bars, nightclubs, mosques calling people to god, at the same time all the beaches and clubs full of people.

great !

  • 119.
  • At 09:17 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Galilei was burned alive because of religion.[#76]

No he wasn't, because he recanted. Neither was his intellectual mentor, Kopernik (Copernicus) because the Pole was smart enough to have his seminal work ("De Revolutionibus.."] published only when he was already dying. It was Giordano Bruno who was burned at stake (after being extensively tortured by Holy Inquisition).

Galileo got a fair and honest trial. How do we know it? Because the current head of Vatican state has told us so, and he is, after all, infallible, like every other pope.

Incidentally, after that fair trial during which Galileo was forced to recant his heliocentrism, he spent the last years of his life under house arrest on orders of the Inquisition.

Now, about those most barbaric, genocidal Ottoman conquistadors:
Kortez Pasha and Pizarro Khan...

  • 120.
  • At 10:01 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Haim wrote:

I am utterly shocked at the childishness of some responses. Not everything is black or white in the world. Ottoman Empire had some things right and some of them wrong. But if you read history, please do it in a comparable way FOR THE SAME TIME INTERVAL. At the same time interval, inquisition was onto killing Jews in Spain, pogroms in Russia, mass witch hunts across Europe, etc... I would never think I will be in a position to defend Ottoman Empire! But seeing all these childish responses, I could not help. And when it comes to Islam or Christianity or Turks or Americans or Armenians or..., they are not monolithic blocks. Secular Turks will agree more with liberal Europeans and ,believe it or not, conservative muslims in middle east agree more with Sarkozy on secularism. There may be more common points among poor Armenians living in Armenia and Turks in Anatolia than diaspora Armenians because they suffer from the same economic hardships. (When did the economic classes disappear from the world for god's sake? Quit pretending! ) In the end, Albanians may have more in common with Europeans than Russians such as democratic elections, despite the different religious backgrounds. Life is not white or black, it is gray.

I reed some were that the albanian language may be the oldest language recorded in history. It seems to me if we dare to look inside this fragmented history we may need to rethink every thing we know. Or just fill in the areas like a DNA. Since the world want to evolve quicker the only way we can do this is to understand our past. They realy are an intresting people. An the more I read of them the more I feel that they cold unlock some unaswerd qustions to history and religion.

  • 122.
  • At 05:23 AM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • simon wrote:

No one here seems to know what Islam and being a muslim is all about. A Muslim doesnt need to go to the mosque. A Muslim doesnt need Arabic names. A Muslim doesnt have to wear like Arabs do. A Muslim is just a person, free to do what he wishes to do, believing in one god and basically having god in every aspect of his life. A mosque is not like a church or sygnogoue. A Muslim doesnt need leaders or priests. The reason why Muslims are such a varied lot is simply because Islam separates religion and culture. Sadly, it is not happening in the Middle East but ever since i was kid, I was told that the Middle East and Arabs were not good examples of how Muslims should be. I strongly believe that the only way to achieve peace is through finding similarities between every religion, race and culture. Unfortunately, most of us prefer to look at differences rather than similarities. Lastly, to all the Quran bashers in this forum, have you guys ever studied it before? It is the only holy book in this world that promotes inter-religious harmony, existence and happiness. It is also the only holy book that states that every good human being, regardless of religion, race and culture shall be rewarded in the afterlife. I think it's shameful in this day and age to still be racist and ignorant.

  • 123.
  • At 06:49 AM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Dardan wrote:

You have chosen the wrong nation to talk about Islam. Albanians are an European nation, one of the oldest one actually (take a look at the Indoeuropean language tree), who were 100% Christian 500 years ago, were forcibly converted to Muslim (not all of them though, and that speaks a lot), and that now are overwhelmingly either atheist of agnostics. Islam has been, is, and will be something strange, weird and foreign to us Albanians. More or less something that we had to live with until the moment came to gain independence and proclaim our own European identity.

If this was a try from your part to use Albanian atheism and agnosticism like some sort of "transition" or "bridge" between Turkey and Europe, I must tell you that every Albanian would protest loudly. Sir, the truth is that religious tolerance of Albanians comes from the very simple fact that we are not religious people. If not liking something seems like a big invention to you, well...anyway, cheap shot Mark! I hope it comes from the lack of knowledge for Albania and Albanians. We have worked and fought very hard throughout centuries to preserve our European heritage and focus diligently West, and here you come (not the first, nor the last one) trying to paint some "Eastern" colors over our Western culture and tradition. Please, next time lets talk science, economics, space, psychology. It gets very annoying when people take you for someone else over and over and over again...

  • 124.
  • At 07:41 AM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Diren Yardimli wrote:

As usual this has become a debate on who dislikes Turkey most. Give Albania some credit! Eventhough they were occupied by the Ottomans for a very long, the dont seem to complain half as much! It's time for Europe to get over it's Turkophobia. Half of the TV's you watch in Europe are manufactured in Turkey by Turkish companies. Thounsand of Fiat's, Renaults' you drive are manufactured in Turkish factories, yet again owned by Turkish businesmen. Millions of tomatoes, billions of clothes all come to you from this "genocidal", "hyper muslim" country! To get further back, would you be able to read Plato or Aristotle if the Muslims you despise today, hadn't handed over to you their texts while you were busy burning down libraries?

By the way, I should remind you that while the "conquest of paradise" organized by Europe resulted in one the worst genocides that the world has ever witnessed, you are also the "proud" consumes of approx. 70 percent of the worlds resources today. And please remember that these resources comes to you on the expense of millions of people' sufferings and miseries. Please ask yourself how can a Dutch oil company be one of the worlds largest?

Europe has a dark history full of pages that have been forgotten by a guilty conscience.

  • 125.
  • At 10:08 AM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

Religious believes must be tolerated.

But we should never allow religion and state to mix (I am aware that at least formally the UK has actually a problem here). Europe has seen centuries of war because of this unhealthy mix.

And this is the weak spot of Islam: It doesn't distinguish between the religious and the secular sphere. Islam needs to become a religion, not a prescription of how people should live their lifes.

  • 126.
  • At 11:16 AM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Edmond wrote:

Dear Mark,

Please read this monogram, I believe it will help you more to understand the issue of Albania and Albanians. This monogram is written in the Skanderbeg’s helmet and is separated by rosettes.

Skanderbeg’s helmet is made of white metal, adorned with a strip dressed in gold. On its top lies the head of a horned goat made of bronze, also dressed in gold. The bottom part bears a copper strip adorned with a monogram separated by rosettes

IN*PE*RA*TO*RE*BT, and this means Jhezus Nazarenus * Principi Emathie * Regi Albaniae * Terrori Osmanorum * Regi Epiratorum * Benedictat Te * - this in English has this meaning (Jesus Nazarene Blesses Thee (Skanderbeg), Prince of Mat, King of Albania, Terror of Ottomans, King of Epirus).

  • 127.
  • At 11:39 AM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

Religious believes must be tolerated.

But we should never allow religion and state to mix (I am aware that at least formally the UK has actually a problem here). Europe has seen centuries of war because of this unhealthy mix.

And this is the weak spot of Islam: It doesn't distinguish between the religious and the secular sphere. Islam needs to become a religion, not a prescription of how people should live their lifes.

  • 128.
  • At 12:20 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Attila wrote:

Another important point is that the Ottoman Empire was perhaps the first and only meritocracy in Europe. It was the only power in Europe that was NOT ruled by royalty and aristocracy in which titles and positions were passed on by blood. Anyone who accepted Islam could reach ANY position in the empire, and even the Sultans themselves were technically half-'slave'. Examples include the Janisseries, the architect Sinan, Suleyman the Magnificent's Grand Vizier Ibrahim, and the Albanian line of Grand Viziers in the 17th century, the Köprülü's. There was no Turkish-Ottoman 'royalty', nor any aristocratic land-owning class. Furthermore, every language and religion was not only tolerated, but the Greeks, Armenians, Jews etc were protected and allowed to act as mini-states themselves, being responsible for their own co-religionists who only really had to pay taxes to the Ottomans but otherwise went on living as they'd always done. If such toleration - even protection - were not the case, then could the Greek or Armenian Orthodox churches, or their languages and sense of identity, have survived intact for 5 centuries? Yet they did. And it wasn't only the Christians who were forcibly conscripted into the Ottoman army, the Muslims also underwent forcible conscription on a mass scale.
When it comes to Ottoman 'oppression', the fact is that those who were directly ruling over and extracting taxes from the Greeks were other Greeks - the 'Khodjabashi's - and even the Romanians were ruled exclusively by Phanariote Greeks from Constantinople. Why would a supposedly 'barbaric/genocidal/rapist' nation (as many now comically refer to Turks) assign Greeks to rule over Greeks and Romanians - all Orthodox Christians?! Why would Armenians and Greeks and Jews form a wealthy bourgeoisie in the 19th century and occupy such eminant positions as bankers, traders, bureaucrats, architects, dragomans and even as Grand Viziers?
That which we all focus on - Turks, Greeks, Slavs, Armenians, etc. - is the time of the Ottoman Empire after the rise of nationalist movements in the 19th century which saw all the horrendous massacres and wars which we all now choose to remember and which were committed by all sides. But there was a period - by far the longer period in the history of the Ottoman Empire - when we could see a uniquely multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious society not only function, but prosper. It was perhaps the first of its kind in history - certainly the first of its kind in Europe. And sure the Ottomans had their share of oppression and slaughter, as does any and every conquering people/empire in history, but it's a shame to only focus on that and not focus on such a unique political and social entity that once stretched into the heart of Europe and created a living working political system that was a precursor to the ideals of tolerance and multiculturalism we espouse so emphatically today. Yes, there are things like the tower of skulls in Nis, but there is also the Bridge of Mostar, splendid not only in its utility and aesthetic beauty and architectural genius, but also in its symbolism, as an Ottoman edifice that united Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics - a fact not lost on us even today, considering we all came together to rebuild it after it was destroyed by nationalists. Add to that the many mosques, medreses, bridges, aquaducts, hamams and baths, palaces and government buildings built from Somalia to Hungary, from the Caspian Sea to the Atlantic, and you will see that pigeon-holing the Ottomans to 'oriental despotism, barbarism and genocide' is that much more ignorant.

  • 129.
  • At 01:33 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Andy wrote:

Well Mark it seems you let the genie out of the bottle and all the Ottoman and Turk haters have had a field day and are once again able to bring up the alleged genocide of a bunch of traitors who backed the wrong side towards the end of World War One and now want everyone to feel sorry for them. What people here seem to foregt is the ethnic cleansing being undertaken on Turks and Muslims at the same time especialy around the Black Sea and through Thrace etc. History shows that the Ottomasn had a policy of tolerance to other religions but that certainly there were the tribute children and the harem women etc. as well as ome of the most iteresting tortures imaginable. Its easy with the PC glasses we all must wea these days to be shocked but its not like the Ottomans were unique in their brutality. Ask the population of Talevara in Spain how the British Army behaved back in the day, by todays standards Wellington would be had up on war crimes, those days it was accepted that there was 3 days of looting after a siege. Such issues have nothing to do with religion, just domination.

  • 130.
  • At 01:35 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • tanim wrote:

hi all

it is very nice to see that in albania there is great tolerance between different religion, thats the way it should be. but with regards to european islam, it ridiculous. islam is islam regardless of border, continent or race. you might not see a muslim women with head scarf or burka anywhere in the muslim world, that is unislamic. all the different kind of islamic group you mention have there own idea and some are more strict then others. but in islam there are simple fundamentals that needs to be upheld i:e headscarf and no consumpsion of alchohol. you praise turkey for there tolerance, that is a joke! ban of the headscarf what is that.........muslim in turkey cannot practice their faith that is not tolerance

  • 131.
  • At 04:14 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Mona wrote:

I am a Christian Albanian. I wish turks never been in my country. I wish we had remained christians as a country. This because muslim named albanians always need to clarify : I am not this, I am not that....Hoping that in the future albanians will not use even turk/muslim sound names to their children. Our language is very beautiful, melodic and pure albanian names have e deep meaning to us. Gjergj Kastriot our NATIONAL HERO is equally respected and glorified inside as outside Albania.

Having said this I do not believe the animosity between serbs and albanians is just religious. IT IS MORE ABOUT POWER. How about croatian -serbian conflict with both sides christian? Or greek-macedonian "under the water" conflict? Greeks still do not accept name Macedonia as independent republic. How about World War II? As for the craddle of civilization. The land was under serb government and they abandoned it OR? No one forced them to leave, so it seems they themselves gave up, ..but it feels nice to have and exploit it, thinking that the other side is stupid. Some crazy bloggers compare minorities or immigrants in Europe that may want to create their own country inside Europe. Well Kosovars did not immigrate from NOWHERE. If someone knows something else may prove it. Albanians and Kosovars have been living for milleniums in the region. ALBANIANS ARE FROM THE OLDEST EUROPEANS!!! As far as cultural monuments they were destroyed to a high degree by many invaders to Albania, because they wanted to extint any trace of OUR IDENTITY and our population was very small at that time to do anything about it.

Moreover if you look how the planet functions and considering the laws of nature:
Once upon a time the planet was populated by dinosaurs. This fact did not stop human race to populate every corner of the planet instead of leaving it pristine land or not coming closer to some animal bones. That's the way life goes ....

  • 132.
  • At 07:37 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • brunilda marc wrote:

to mr milan comment 105,i think that names alban that you find are related to their roots.your comment are racial and anyway i am telling you that are history facts that show the difference,but you sir dont like to hear.FOR example names of iliada and troy like HELEN are translated from albanian thar means E LEN(mens wife that her husband has left)MENELA(mend e lane-shqip)ZEUS(is voice for eng and ze for albanian)penelope(means a woman who sew and in albanian pende e lyp).AND THERE ARE MANY OTHER WORDS IN GRECCE THAT GREEKS THEMSELVES DONT KNOW THE MEANING.SPARTA IS (SHPATA)IN ALBANIAN THAT MEANS SWORD, TROY IS (TROJE -TOKA)MENS LAND IN ENGLISH AS WELL AS PRIAM (PRIJES)MEANS LEADER IN ENGLISH ,,,,,,I HAVE STUDIED HISTORY AND LITERATURE OF BALKAN AND KNOW A LOT ABOUT HISTORY,AND YOU SEEM TO KNOW NOTHING ,NEED TO READ A LOT LOL

  • 133.
  • At 07:46 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • best wrote:

regarding milan comment:

i have to not only disagree but encourage him to learn more abotu albanians and their sufferings.

regarding FYROM 2001 war : while all serbs were allowed to learn and study their language and parcaice their religion in 15,16,17,18,19 century, albanians in FYROM were not allowed to to have albanian language in ghigh scools in 2001 , this si the peaceful FYROMIANS why they had to face the albanian reaction, we dont just like making war, at least we haven't committed any massacree like srebrenica in the 20the century...keep that in mind, and don't make general comparisons

secondly, serbs wanting to leave in their lands, remember albanians have always lived in the balkans and they dont have to make space for you, better saying ALbanianism, which doesn't inflict religious war,that saying wasn't made out ultrantionalistic ideas, but only to avoid the harm religion can bring (i mean how people use religion for their interest)

regarding the killing of jews (from albanians) there is not a fact, secondly all the jews that came to albania during the WW2 came either from serbia, FYROM and GREECE, why that, if they were fine in your countries why did they come to albania, and you have to learn that albania was the only country that did not persecute them

what happened to the jews in Serbia ?
before speaking inform yourselves.

albanian mafia???there is albanian criminality, but before that there is always russians, italian and other mafias, ok, and i don't think serbs are innocent toward such issues. Mafia is not a characteristic of a nation, it's part of criminality

the people in balkans ahve to learn how to accept each other in good or bad, and this means, that albanians and serbs have to understand that in way way or another they will have to work together no matter what happened.but people have to accept their faults, and this should eb done by governments, because it's always people who suffer from all this hatred, not politics

thos ine power, those in power they use the people for their interest, they use religion and nationalism for power

albanian people are tolerant, no matter if they are atheistic or not ( not all the albanians are atheistic) and this proves that there is still tolerance

in war there not good or bad sides (but people who suffer its consequences)

i am an albanian christian, believer not atheist, and i never had a religious conflict, even verbal here or never felt it. If you compare Sarajevo (i love sarajevo by the way) to Tirana, you would understand how openminded albanian muslims are, even those who practice it.

i would greet xenakis for his mentioning of the albanian contribution to the greek independence, that's something worth mentioning and i do agree with him when he refers how we should be acreful to the religious issue, i believe that promotiing the albanian tolerance toward religion, is not fake and fictional but it is based on truth, learn from it, religious wars have not been only among islam and chritsianity, but also between christian denominations, therefore when western countries try teeach albanians to become more civilized, that's fake, because while westerns had to kill during many centuries in name of religion, at least we haven't done that, and we clean our councsiousness,

i believe modern europe is based on the human values, not because of religion or nationality, but on the personal development

and we are not in the 19the century to discuss who si better at what, but accept the facts and move on to improve europe

  • 134.
  • At 11:51 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Duncan Robertson wrote:


I always enjoy your comments and I often check your blog. This particular one is of interest to me as I have spent some time in Albania.

Your perspective is actually a typical one. A foreign journalist faced with a somewhat unknown Albanian reality. And, the religion has always been seen as a real issue in the Balkans.

I actually went through all of the posts as well. It becomes clear from most of the comments that albanians are not religious but mostly agnostic and an even a smaller percentage atheists. Otherwise, these are some of the most genuine, generous and interesting people in the world. Of course, they have been part of Europe for centuries, yet somehow in today's Europe they are seen as outsiders.

I think your blog Mark has actually triggered quite an interest considering the number of comments. For a good reason. This part of the world is quite misunderstood. It may actually be a good idea for you to do a follow up article in Albania and albanians in general.

Below is my take on some of the comments made:

Erind 14 This comment should definitely be your main point of reference in this subject. Well written and accurate in what Albania and albanians are and stand for. "The albanian's religion is albanianism'---

Mirek 21 Good points from a non albanian perspective.

Claire 32 very true indeed.

Martin 35 Got it totally wrong regarding Kosova and otoman history. Sorry pal! Do you have anything elase you might want to add/imply? Your comments appear to have a bit of strange ethnic colors.

Pierre 38. Sorry man! You also got it wrong! There are many more muslims and much more
intolerance in Paris and its catacombs than in all Albania and Kosovo. Not really the same thing. As for the riots in Kosova, they are pretty much ethnically related.

Atakan 39 Has a pretty good grasp on the issues. True, as he point out, the Churches, Mosques and other worship places are highly symbolic in this country.

Nicholas Xenakis 45 appears to be accurately synthesizing the state of the affairs in this part of the world. A definitely recomended read.

Peter Hodge 56 also has a good take on issues. He had lived in Albania for 8 years and has seen the reality himself.

Klaus 66 has summarized it perfectly! Albanians are overwhelmingly either atheists or agnostics ( I would emphasize this though, a lot!) , and those religious ones are mostly Christian.

Please Mark, listen to the words of Ari 77, and his accurate comments. At the peak of the ottoman empire, when all other balkan nations had accepted the soveregnity of sultan, the albanians were for 25 years under their prince and national hero Scanderbeg the only free and undefeated country in the region!

The experience of Franz Winterstein 89 is very typical of a foreigner's impressions on a trip to Albania. Generosity and hospitality are expressed in a unique way and you cannot help it but feel overwelmed.

Please pay a lot of attention to Milan 105. His comments are very typical of the current and past serb/slav mentality towards their place in the balkans and their realtionship with albanians. His rhetoric is unfortunately quite negative and his comments a good billboard for ethnic conflict.

Keep up the good work.


  • 135.
  • At 01:56 AM on 25 Jan 2008,
  • Noel, uk wrote:

Mark, looks like you are enjoying Albania a beautiful country with plenty unspoiled beaches in the South.

Why is that most writers cannot write about Albania without pointing out its indifference and/or tolerance towards religion? Is it because the western mainstream is so ill-informed when it comes to such issues? Hence, can be easily manipulated or is it something else?

I agree with most of the above. Fan Noli, Gergj Fishta et al, were very clever to stress that the “faith of Albanians is Albanianism” to ensure their UNITY, which was and still is crucial to their survival, when surrounded by enemies.

It is sad though that one cannot claim its religion just because of this huge misperception of Islam. Nevertheless I am fully aware that most of the Albanians are not religious. It is terribly wrong to identify Albanians as Muslims if they do not wish to be identified as such.

Milan, in response to you and other Serb propaganda I respond by quoting lady Thatcher ‘I am unmoved by Serb pleas to retain their grasp on most of Kosovo because it contains their holy places. Coming from those who systematically levelled Catholic churches and Muslim mosques wherever they went, such an argument is cynical almost to the point of blasphemy’.

  • 136.
  • At 08:52 AM on 25 Jan 2008,
  • A.Dimitriou wrote:

Interesting rebuttals here: The 1.5 million armenians (and others) genocided were " a bunch of traitors", turks were being "ethnically cleansed" -just compare turkish minorities in the Balkans and non-turkish minorities in Turkey-and the ottomans were so tolerant that they allowed the church to operate(never heard of forced conversions to islam) -never heard of the hanging of Patriach Gregory the 5th-even though he was forced to speak against the rebels and used local collaborators(well, every occupier had done the same, the nazis also did use collaborators-who had no real power without their friends) and things were really very good under the Ottomans, except those stupid balkans kept rising up all the time at a huge cost in blood for FREEDOM.
Those who could flee, did-apparently they did not ask the turkish hstory books to find out that at the time things outside the Ottoman empire were less tolerant.

As for Mona's comment:
"How about croatian -serbian conflict with both sides christian? Or greek-macedonian "under the water" conflict? Greeks still do not accept name Macedonia as independent republic."
Greece recognizes the country, FYROM, not the name. Why? Leaving aside history, it's for the same reason that the UK would not recognize a breakaway part of Argentina who'd like to go with the name "republic of the Falklands",
the US would not recognize a breakaway part of Siberia with the name of "republic of Alaska" or a breakaway part of Mexico with the name "Republic of California", especially if they's start saying they are "the Falkland nation", the "Alaskan nation" or the "Californian nation". It is for the same reason why the EU would not recognize any country, say FYROM, if they'd decide to call themselves "Republic of Europe" and say they are the "European nation". What does this make the rest of us then? People in the Northern Greek province of Macedonia(an ancient greek word, by the way, meaning "mountainous") are proud to be both greek and (real) macedonian(not FYROMians), and believe they have nothing in common with FYROMians.

  • 137.
  • At 03:43 PM on 25 Jan 2008,
  • Samuel Jones wrote:

If this article is all about religious tolerance, how can the comment, that there is only ONE creator, be allowed? What about the polytheistic religions of the World?

  • 138.
  • At 04:45 PM on 25 Jan 2008,
  • Andi Cela wrote:

Religion is the least important thing for Albanians these days, and yet is the single most important thing for foreign medias. Just leave it!! Please. There's plenty to look at when you visit the country.

Both my parents are Muslim and none practice it. Neither do any of my grandparents. And I can say the same thing about a lot of other families. I guess that's what 50 years of dictatorship does to people!

Albanians have moved on but the West's ideas about us seem to have been frozen in time. Instead of talking about the rather unique religious tolerance that exists in our country, people keep refering to the fact that 70% of the population is Muslim and that is about to become a "major terror hub". Nonsense

  • 139.
  • At 04:47 PM on 25 Jan 2008,
  • Zakariya wrote:

I do not understand why so many Albanian are posting messages which distance then from Islam? It is as if you are ashamed at your Muslim heritage. I am a Muslim Palestinian. In Palestine we also have Christians who share a distinct Arab Palestinian culture. You cannot tell the difference between a Palestinian Muslim and a Palestinian Christian. Peopl should just accept their history and herotage as being an integral part of them. I remember that every mosque I goto in the world prays for Albanian and Kosovan Muslims. And i have prayed in the UK, USA Jordan and Palestine. Which other religion prays for Albanians and Kosovans as much as Islam?

Thanks for a really fascinating and informative debate. Just a few points.

Many of you point out that the surveys into Albanian religious affiliation are well out of date, which I didn’t know, and that Albania is not a very religious country, which I did.

Kevin has the best line: “Ask Albanians to choose between a church and a mosque they would go for an orgy.” Tempted to nick this for my radio piece, but didn’t dare.

Erind puts the argument in context but I do think in the end this all supports my case, not undermines it.

He says: “If you asked my dad if he is Muslim, he would say “yes” but only because of his name.” I think its rather European to identify with a religion for very broad cultural reasons rather than deep devotion, in the way many British people will put “Church of England” on forms even though they never go to Church.

But still I have reflected the view that Albania is simply rather disinterested in religion in my radio piece, so thanks for the advice. Arban A: I think you have completely misunderstood my article: I merely point out that some people say Turkey should not join the EU simply because of its majority religion, and not because of its geographical position. While neither arguing that they are right or wrong, I was pointing out an inconsistency in their argument.

As for the Ottomans, you would have thought that I had held their empire up to be the most wonderful political institution ever to exist. As Nine points out I merely said “relatively religiously tolerant”. Note the words “relatively ” and “religiously”.

Of course, the empire could be disgracefully brutal to its subjects, of whatever religion. You can probably say this of most empires, and most certainly the British Empire. It is even rumoured others in the Balkans have not always behaved with restraint.

Of course, the Ottoman empire lasted more than 600 years and during that time Christian Europe moved from fanatical intolerance towards the slightest deviation in doctrine to freedom of worship for all religions. But for some of this period, while the Ottomans made those of a different faith pay taxes, in however a humiliating manner, Christians were burning to death fellow Christians. If it had been different, perhaps that English Queen would have had the sobriquet “Fiscal Mary” rather than “Bloody Mary”.

I would however love to take up 22 on his offer if he can arrange for me to live in the Ottoman Empire. Being the BBCs Ottoman Empire editor would be tough, involving a lot of time travel, but I expect I would get an allowance for the head tax.

  • 141.
  • At 09:13 PM on 25 Jan 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Re #133

FYI: State of Georgia does recognize the name of a breakaway Republic of Georgia, just as it recognizes Island of Georgia, part of Malvinas, known in some parts as...Falklands.

As far as I know the recognition is reciprocal, just as between Washingtonians from Washington State and Washington, D.C.

On a serious note: what should one call these days kebab formerly known as Macedonian? And not only in FYROM?

  • 142.
  • At 12:55 AM on 26 Jan 2008,
  • daniel wrote:

first of all i'm turkish and roman latin catholic. and i can say this is more secular country then eu. when church was making rules for european countries before years but in turkey it was and today secular country. and when i go eu i see more scarfed women on streets then in turkey. we are secular and free country-not like other kingdom(not free countries)-. United "Kingdom" how can say they have free republic and democracy with under the name of kingdom? and how can other kingdom-not free- european countries can try to give us democracy lessons today it looks really joke. i think turkey should not join to eu because i cant see future on eu.. there is no young people in europe and eu cannot be powerful like USA. and i wanted to answer some people who wrote something against to turkey here.. because we know secular system and democracy before their european countries and still some eu countries are in middle age-kingdom-. thats all

  • 143.
  • At 03:38 AM on 26 Jan 2008,
  • Marco Borg wrote:

Mark,shame on you! A man of your calibre and experience would certainly know that the the Ottoman Turks were cruel and intolerant. The main objection to Turkey joining the EU is that the Turks have nothing to do with Europe except that they conquered and retained a portion of Europe. They are not European, by race,looks,language,names,culture, everything. Anymore than, say, Pakistanis. And like most Arabs, they read and imbibe from a "holy" book which advocates the killing of Infidels (ie you and me and Europeans. And whose leader at 50 slept with a child of 9 and called her his wife.) Not to mention the Turkish elected leaders with veiled wives and veiled threats who promise to use the minarets as bayonets.

Mark,I don't think you should put Albanians and Turks in one bag and call them Muslims. Albanians, though not Illyrians are certainly fellow Europeans, Turks aren't. Whilst Albanians have certainly adopted some Islamic cultural traits, beating their own women, heartless trafficking of isolated,defenceless, European girls one can appreciate what Erind pointed out above.

But Erind's postulations about Albanian tolerance is certainly not applicable to Kosovo Albanians. The wilful, vile destruction of anything Christian in that historic centre of Orthodox Christianity is unforgiveable.

Overall I agree with another poster who declared that Europe has more to fear from foreign Moslems who have been given European passports, than from Albanians. In realiable independent polls nearly one out of every two such Moslems in Britain admitted wanting shariah law and one out of three have stated that a Moslem convert to another religion should be killed. London has been nicknamed Londonstan. The tallest and ugliest building in Britain is to be built by a gang of Arabs. Likewise an immense mosque housing 50,000 people in the shape of Arab desert tents has been planned. Like most Londoners I think that the aim is to show that London belongs to Moslems (and of course Islam is tolerant etc etc)

  • 144.
  • At 05:22 AM on 26 Jan 2008,
  • ILSA wrote:

Anybody with an unbiased knowledge of history knows that the Ottoman attitudes towards minorities, in the 16-17th were significantly more tolerant compared to its CONTEMPORARIES. This is particularly impressive, considering the myriad ethnic and religious groups living in its territory.

I feel many of the bloggers are project a skewed Turcophobic version (which seems to be very much in fashion these days…especially in Europe) of events. Unfortunately the main pillar of nationalism in the Balkans, in Greece and with Armenians is anti-Turkish sentiment, and deep-seated irredentism. In many post-colonial nations, there is a tendency to use the imperial/colonial state as the scape-goat for the problems in the county, and many of these nations suffer from post-colonial insecurities. However, nationalism founded on a hatred of ‘the other’ has proved to be dangerous. Obviously many bloggers’ opinions are tainted by this kind of irredentist sentiment and a tendency to demonize ‘the Turk’ as the cause of all evil. I would like to clarify certain issues which have been prevalent in the discussions here:

1.In terms of tolerance of minorities: We cannot compare 21st century ideals with those of 700 years ago!! You have to compare attitudes of states towards minorities with those of their contemporaries!!! Lets take a VERY BRIEF look

A) When Isabella and Ferdinand are carrying out the Spanish Inquisition, it was the Ottomans who took in Jewish refugees, while other European states (currently the self proclaimed beacon of human rights and tolerance) stood idly by. Likewise, Circassian refuges, persecuted by the Russians in the Caucuses, found a welcoming home in the Ottoman Empire.

C) During the Byzantine period, the Armenian Church was not allowed to operate in Constantinople, because the Greek Orthodox Church regarded the Armenian Church as heretic. Many famous Armenian Patriarchs (Catholicos), including Saint Narses, were imprisoned in the Princes' Islands by the Byzantines for "heresy". The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II not only allowed the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople to stay in the city, but also allowed the rival Armenians to establish their own church in the new Ottoman capital as well.

B) In the 700 years of Ottoman rule Armenians/Greeks/Jews and other minorities were in high-esteem, and held very high positions in the government. While in Europe the Jews had to live in ghettos, not to mention anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia and France. Under the Ottoman Millet System religious and ethnic minorities were able to manage their own affairs with substantial independence from central control.

C) Yes, the minorities did pay tax (big wow!!) The so called 'blood tax' was taken form non-Muslim groups, which made them exempt from military service.. not a bad deal, considering all the wars the Ottomans were engaged in. The Devsirme system was where young boys were taken from Christians, concerted to Islam (as a Bektashi, one of the most liberal sects of Islam) to be trained as soldiers in the elite military corps (Janissaries). In fact my own great, great… grandfather was a janissary -devsirme from Bulgaria. The Janissaries had significant political clout in the Ottoman system, and was a prestigious group. Some Muslim families actually tried to smuggle their kids to become janissaries, because of promising political prospects. Also note that the Devsirme system ended in 1683.

2.Also, some commentators here claim that Ottomans FORCED conversion to Islam. That is simply exaggerated. In fact, the reasons that the Ottomans were able to conquer land in the in much of the Balkan Peninsula was because their tolerant attitudes to religious sects. If the ottomans had pursued a forced conversion policy instead of the millet system, much of the Balkans would speak Turkish and be Muslims. People converted for many reasons; perhaps mostly for tax benefits or ease of social mobility, while some were only became Muslims nominally to benefit from these advantages and practiced other religions in private. Either way not even close to the Spanish inquisition! Or the attitudes to minorities in Western Europe.

3.Some bloggers are getting carried away by nationalist sentiment, which is regrettably linked to anti-Turkish sentiments in the Balkans. They irrationally link all the problems in their societies to Turkish rule. I invite you to guys to be a little more objective. Let me also remind you of the Muslims Civilians murdered in the Balkans during the wars of independence against the Ottoman Empire. The number of victims, according to some sources, is in the millions. Today millions of people in Turkey trace their ancestry to the Balkans, many of their grandparents were Muslim refugees fleeing from persecution by Christians in the Balkans during their revolution against the Ottomans…to be continued a century later in Bosnia and Kosovo.

4.Some vaguely point to the Armenian tragedy, to demonstrate that the Ottomans were an intolerant society. But of course, this reasoning is superficial, and the argument is flawed. Problems did inevitably develop with ethnic groups at the advent of Nationalism in the 19th century, the ensuing tragedies (which some call Armenian genocide) occurred in the context of war, and a period of structural change as the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Therefore cannot be used to exemplify Ottoman System of GOVERNANCE vis a vis minorities -since administrative system was not functioning.

Afterall no system can be expected to be perfect, but lasting as long as it did -700 years!!- and with hundreds of ethnic/religious groups, it must have gotten something right!!!

Finally, on the issue of European Islam:

First of all, Islam has been in Europe for centuries. In the Balkans, it is a part of the culture; it is evident in the food, in music, literature. However, Western Europe is a little late to see this. Better late than never!

Secondly, one reason why Islam in Albania and the Balkans in general is relatively mild is because when the Ottomans brought Islam to the region, they specifically bought the ‘SUFI’ version is Islam, which is by far the most tolerant and liberal version of Islam. In fact Sufism particularly preaches tolerance and humanism and embracing those from different faiths, and even non-believers. Ottomans knew it would be easier for people convert to a milder version like Sufism than dogmatic and strict versions like Sunni or Shi’a versions.

  • 145.
  • At 08:16 AM on 26 Jan 2008,
  • Enver wrote:

i am Albanian and MUSLIM

i would like to say that "islam" is also part of our National Idendity.

my father was muslim, all my neighbours muslim, my friends at work they all Albanians and Muslim.

of course we do have christian or non religious albanians as well.

but for me an Albanian can not be without islam.

there are also many Albanians that don't practice the muslim religion but if you ask them they will still call themselves "muslim".

islam is in our history, in our culture and in our future....


  • 146.
  • At 12:42 PM on 26 Jan 2008,
  • Mona wrote:

Being christian myself I still hope some albanians will not use in the future muslim names to their children. Name is the first gift you make to a child, and is like a passport to the world. If you name some child Marie or Peter (my dear grandpa) you try to show the affinity and where you wish the child will belong. But if you call him hussein you sure live little place for imagination. I myself live in Europe and I have a hard time believing that someone named John goes to a mosque rather than believing that some one named Ali doesn't go. EVEN IF HE SCREAMS about it. Albanians would have saved themselves and others who wonder, a lot of headache if they start acting more practically. As some expression goes : "Either you are with us or against". Mark is totally right when he says: "Brits put in a form Church of England even though they do not go to church" Zach # 136 you keep praying it aint matter...ALBANIANS ARE EUROPEANS. Dimitrou 133 you did escape explaining about serb-croat thing. and about Macedonia I think it is obvious why they call themselves like that and no need to ask a foreign country how SHOULD THEY call themselve.

  • 147.
  • At 07:45 PM on 26 Jan 2008,
  • said muminovic wrote:

Let us emagine that religions do not exist...can you make that little effort please.
Do you think that conflict in the world will desappear together with it will not, even when people share the same religion conflicts will not go away as religion is not real couse of any conflict... Isn't Europian history full of souch examples.
Many people think that Islam pose the biggest threat to Western/Europian way of life. When we destroy Islam what next religion will be destroyed in attampt to protect "souch a unique way of life".
Do we think that we are something special and that we should close our borders from outside world. I am not sure if there is anything in Europian wey that is originated in Europe.
Even christianity is imported product that is taken as better way of warshipping then politheistic primitiv religions we had before. Everything we have is result of international cultural, economic and sciantifical exchange.
That is only way that mankind civilisation go forward.
I am Muslim/ Europian/Bosnian, and there is no difference inbetween me and any other Europian christian.
You christians will not recognise in my behaviour that I am Muslim becouse my religion is my personal relation to the Universe and it is deep inside of me.
At the same time you Christians are for some reason very proud to belong to that religion like it is realy something special.
Five hundreds years ago we the Bosniaks used to be Christians and soon after Turks conquered Bosnia thousands of us converted in to Islam in a single day. Converting to Islam we didn't become something else. We are still Bosniaks...Europian Bosniaks. So, answer to the question if there is an Europian Islam is YES.
Bosnian Muslim Bosniaks didn't do any harm to the Europe and it's unique way of life while at the same time Europian christians did commited a lot of destruction and saffering to my nation....including Serbian genocide upon us.
Now, real question is who is putting who in danger.

  • 148.
  • At 09:18 PM on 26 Jan 2008,
  • mehmet wrote:

It's so funny that most of the comments posted here commit blatant anachronism in their analysis, by measuring Ottoman tolerance against today's standards, even though Mark clearly talks about Ottoman religious tolerance RELATIVE to other superpowers of the time. Probably to the surprise of most of the commentators here, during 15, 16th and 17th centuries (when Ottomans were busy conquering Eastern Europe) there were no universally accepted declaration of human rights, no democratically governed states or republics, not even nations, no gay lesbian rights, etc, etc... Please be historically (and scientifically) accurate or be funny. I am DEFINITELY not saying that all atrocities in Europe, south Asia, Africa, the New World or Eastern Europe were OK, but I am simply inviting every student of history (we all are!) to be attentive to historical context under scrutiny. On another but related note; being an atheist Turk, I sincerely believe that the persistence of all religions (ESPECIALLY Islam, just because it praises violence towards infidels), and all kinds of nationalisms are huge impediments to world peace. I find myself naively wishing that they could be done away with, but of course it won’t happen (in the near future). cry the beloved world!

  • 149.
  • At 11:15 PM on 26 Jan 2008,
  • asli wrote:

Dear Mark

Thank you for your last comment on this issue. As you have noted, we cannot compare 21st century ideals with those of 700 years ago!! We must compare attitudes of states towards minorities with those of their contemporaries! I feel many of the bloggers are project a skewed Turcophobic version (which seems to be very much in fashion these days…especially in Europe) of events. Unfortunately the main pillar of nationalism in the Balkans, in Greece and with Armenians is anti-Turkish sentiment, and deep-seated irredentism. In many post-colonial nations, there is a tendency to use the imperial/colonial state as the scape-goat for the problems in these countries, and many of these nations suffer from post-colonial insecurities. Nationalism founded on a hatred of ‘the other’ has proved to be dangerous. Obviously many opinions are tainted by this kind of irredentist sentiment and a tendency to demonize ‘the Turk’ as the cause of all evil.

There is plenty of compelling evidence to support your claim that the Ottomans were tolerant relative to their contemporaries. When Isabella and Ferdinand were carrying out the Spanish Inquisition, the Ottoman Sultan Beyazit II sent his ships to take in Jewish refugees. Likewise, Circassian refuges, persecuted by the Russians in the Caucuses, found a welcoming home in the Ottoman Empire. During the Byzantine period, the Armenian Church was not allowed to operate in Constantinople, because the Greek Orthodox Church regarded the Armenian Church as heretic. Many famous Armenian Patriarchs (Catholicos), including Saint Narses, were imprisoned in the Princes' Islands by the Byzantines for "heresy". The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II not only allowed the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople to stay in the city, but also allowed the rival Armenians to establish their own church in the new Ottoman capital as well.

Under the Ottoman ‘Millet’ System religious and ethnic minorities were able to manage their own affairs with substantial independence from central control.
Yes, the minorities did pay tax (big wow!!) The so-called 'blood tax' was taken form non-Muslim groups, which made them exempt from military service. not a bad deal, considering all the wars the Ottomans were engaged in. The Devsirme system was where young boys were taken from Christians, concerted to Islam (as a Bektashi, one of the most liberal sects of Islam) to be trained as soldiers in the elite military corps (Janissaries). In fact my own great, great… grandfather was a janissary -devsirme from Bulgaria. The Janissaries had significant political clout in the Ottoman system, and was a prestigious group. Some Muslim families actually tried to smuggle their kids to become janissaries, because of promising political prospects.

The claim that the Ottomans FORCED conversion to Islam is exaggerated. In fact, the reasons that the Ottomans were able to hold onto the Balkans for so long was because of their relatively tolerant attitudes to religious sects. People converted for many reasons; often for pragmatic reasons like tax benefits and the ease of social mobility. Some only became Muslims nominally to benefit from these advantages and practiced other religions in private. Now consider this: HOW DID THE BALKANS BECOME CHRISTIAN, in the first place? Did this process involve some force and coercion, or are we naïve enough to believe people wake-up one morning with absolute conviction and faith in the preachings of Christ.

Let me also remind you of the Muslims Civilians murdered in the Balkans during the wars of independence against the Ottoman Empire. The number of victims, according to some sources, is in the millions. Many people in Turkey trace their ancestry to the Balkans, many of their grandparents were Muslim refugees fleeing from persecution by Christians in the Balkans the wars of independence. The sequel was to come a century later with the tragedies in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Some arguments here allude to the Armenian tragedy, as proof that the Ottomans were an intolerant society. However, this reasoning is superficial. Problems did inevitably develop with ethnic groups at the advent of Nationalism in the 19th century, the ensuing tragedies (which some call Genocide) occurred in the context of war, and a period of structural change as the Ottoman Empire collapsed. The circumstances do not mollify the magnitude tragedy. However, this cannot be used to exemplify the Ottoman System of GOVERNANCE vis a vis minorities - since administrative system was not functioning at this time.
After all no system can be expected to be perfect, but lasting as long as it did -600 years!!- and with hundreds of ethnic/religious groups, it must have gotten something right!!!

Yes, the Ottomans did bring Islam to the Balkans. However, the mere exisistence of a Muslim minority in the Balkans cannot be sufficient conditions for ethnic violence in the region. Considering that Turkey had no involvement in inciting religious rivalries following the independence of the Balkan states, blaming Ottoman legacy for the subsequent violence is blatant scapegoating. Irredentist nationalism is a more realistic source for ethnic tensions in the region.

  • 150.
  • At 06:13 AM on 27 Jan 2008,
  • armir wrote:

yeah man, albania is pretty cool yo, it's pretty dope I tell you

one thing though, if albanians are so religiously tolerant, and albania is majority muslim, that goes to say that Muslim albanians are religiously tolerant, cause a majority can be tolerant, not a minority. and if you dig a little deeper into this, you will see that it is the albanian Muslims who are the real tolerant ones, for if it was up to the christians they would rather see everyone "revert" back to christianity, and they're not shy about saying this.

so thumbs up to albanian muslims, you rock hommies

  • 151.
  • At 08:15 AM on 27 Jan 2008,
  • seja wrote:

Kreshnik. Are you saying that it is OK to burn Orthodox Monasteries and churches because mosques have had the same treatment? How absolutely appalling!?! Are you trying to justify a crime by comitting another?

There is ample photographic evidence of over 150 Serbian Orthodox Monasteries and churches, many dating back to the 16th Century, being burnt to the ground and dynamited. These were monuments that should have been protected by UNESCO. These are world heritange monuments destroyed by Albanians.

There is no evidence of mosques destroyed or vandalised. If you have some I am sure that Mr. Mardell will be more than happy to let the world know about it.

  • 152.
  • At 11:15 AM on 27 Jan 2008,
  • Marko Bocari wrote:

As an Albanian I agree with Erind (nr 14). A couple of comments:

1. I am not sure if we are a good example of islam. However, no matter what religion, we respect our three main religions.
2. I would recommend you (Mark) read a book on Gjerasim Qiriazi. He lived during late 19th century, early 20th. Converted to protestant religion and spread the bible throughout Albanian territories, with the help of the British Bible and American Bible Societies.
3. As an Albanian, I would like to disagree with people like nr 30 (Enita), who seems to lay responsibility on the whole Turkish people for the lack of culture of work (lazy) and corruption. This is racist and shallow! My family and studies certanly did not teach me that.
4. My grandparents' families held high titles during the Ottoman Empire, but they did not practice religion, nor did they really feel muslim. They did not however ever said that they hated Turkey or Turkish people, they simply considered Albania /Kosova occupied by the Ottoman empire, and all this, they saw as distant history now. I say this to remind people that it is not just communism or Enver Hoxha solely responsible for secularism in Albania and leaning towards the west. Neither are some Albanian intellectuals who may have tried to distance Albanian culture from Islam. My grandparents and their families are older than those intellectuals, communism, etc.
5. Finally, it is gread to read such a positive article about Albanian culture on BBC. Thanks Mark! I hope you will write even better ones in the future! Just a small reminder- when you (if) cover the Battle of Kosova 1389, please remember that it was a battle of the people of the Balkans to defend Christianity. All people of the Balkans participated by sending their armies and a prince as a leader. Serbs sent their King to Kosova as a leader of their army. This King was simply beheaded there, he was not from Kosova.

  • 153.
  • At 11:36 AM on 27 Jan 2008,
  • Kralj Tvrtko wrote:

"Well, it managed to prevent Balkan Slavs from slaughtering each others for almost half a millennium "
You are right, Ottoman Empire slaughtered Balkan Slavs and ‘prevented them from slaughtering each others’. Everybody are talking about genocide against Armenian, but the worst genocide they did was against Slavic people in Balkan. They destroyed, at that time, the most tolerant Bosnian Kingdom, where 3 religions lived in peace and tolerance (Bosnian Christianity , Roman Catholic and Orthodox) and they killed 60% of the Bosnian population (Croatian). They did genocide against Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. They brought darkness and blood, they destroyed churches and killed priests, they keep horses in churches, Christians were not allowed to have houses, horses, they were always hungry, and without appropriate footwear and clothing, their properties were taken and they were forced to work free on their own properties and pay tax to the new owners even for hours while they “use” this property working for brutal animals. They were no allowed to be strong or beautiful. Any beautiful girls were taken, and any strong boys were killed. Parents had to harm their own children to save their lives. The first children were killed since in the most cases they were Turkish. People who lived in tolerance, people where one third could read and write in Latin, people who never harm each other becomes slavers, and treated worst than animals. Their history, their families, their background, everything what had any meaning for them were destroyed by Ottoman Empire hordes.
You just can read English, French or German papers from that time and see what Ottoman Empire was. Five hundreds years of darkness and brutality, and of course Balkan’s people should learn brutality, otherwise they would not exist today.
I am very surprised that nobody asking Turkey to pay for this torture and genocide like Germans were forced to pay after Second WW.

I understand you, Mr. Mirek Kondracki, for some reason, known to you, you do not you like Balkan Slavs, and you cannot hide it. You are mocking their torture and misery under Ottoman Empire, but I do not understand Mark and BBC what they are trying to do?

  • 154.
  • At 12:10 PM on 27 Jan 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Mark Mardell wrote: "I would however love to take up 22 on his offer if he can arrange for me to live in the Ottoman Empire. Being the BBCs Ottoman Empire editor would be tough, involving a lot of time travel, but I expect I would get an allowance for the head tax."

And food would be much better too than in Brussels, I suspect.
[as a matter of fact I know!]

And it's not impossible to imagine that after seeing a huge difference in pay (Ottomans rewarded the competent and reliable much more generously than Beeb) you might eventually choose to become an Ottoman correspondent in Brussels.
Or even its head-hunter.
[Great Porta had been always "looking for a few good men", just as USMC]

Imagine, you wouldn't need any visas while travelling all the way from Rabat and Cairo, through Damascus and Baghdad to the outskirts of Vienna.

Sure beats Schengen, doesn't it? ;-)

[Unfortunately, further north than Vienna you might be stopped by them winged Polish heavy hussars who - a mean and nasty bunch - for some strange reason never showed much respect to Porta's emissaries and were known to ride straight over them, particularly if they needed a fresh supply of Turkish coffee]

  • 155.
  • At 03:23 PM on 27 Jan 2008,
  • tina wrote:

maybe the albanians are tolerant, including those from kosovo, and macedonia, albania, and montenegro and diaspora. BUT.... the Turks are not tolorent! its a fact the world should accept, remember what happened to Albania in 1912? you call that tolerant? and what about the Arberesh (Albanians) people who live in Italy now that had to fle because of the Turks? you call this tolorant? albanians are not ottomans! nor are we anything else, we are albanian and thats what we like to be called albanian, calling an albanian ottoman is offensive! this is coming from an albanian from kosovo byeeee.

  • 156.
  • At 09:44 PM on 27 Jan 2008,
  • Art wrote:

Turkey simply isn't Europe. There mostly in Asia and also if EU wants a Muslim country they should take Albania and Bosnia. The largest country in the EU will be the poorest, the largest will be Muslim instead of CHristian or agnostic, and the largest will be the most Asian. Also there might be millions of Turks who might flood into Europe and steal jobs. Many in West Europe don't want this and many Turks are starting to oppose Turkey in the EU.

  • 157.
  • At 11:52 PM on 27 Jan 2008,
  • Isaac wrote:

I've seen many "disputes" about the tolerance of the Ottoman empire based on their warmongering history of conquest and slavery. If anything that proves Turkey is a highly tolerant European nation (being more in Europe than Cyprus). I live in North America and can't help but notice the high number of Ethnic Europeans and almost non-existant numbers of Native Americans.

Turkey is more secular (legally and culturally) than most of Europe with the exception of France (and far better than Poland). They problem isn't that Turkey isn't secular, the problem is that Europe isn't secular and still bows its head to Christian supremacists.

  • 158.
  • At 05:47 AM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • odi wrote:

I appreciate this article about the Religious tolerance in Albania. I hope such articles serve as an example to those people who don|t belive in multiethnicity and peace.
This is an admirable achivement towards a brighter future in Europe (and especially in the Balkans) Peace!

  • 159.
  • At 09:08 AM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • ADimitriou wrote:

Mark Mardell wrote: "I would however love to take up 22 on his offer if he can arrange for me to live in the Ottoman Empire. Being the BBCs Ottoman Empire editor would be tough, involving a lot of time travel, but I expect I would get an allowance for the head tax."

Well, the best that could be done is to cover modern day Turkey. I presume your experiences will be very different, either now, or with time travel, according to whether you go there as a BBC correspondent or as a member of some Balkan minority and also whether you try to cover
the Sultan's palace(major cities) or something like a rebel hotbed.
Head tax was then "a suggestion, not a guarantee". This is probably good advice even today.
I really do not think modern day Turkey has to be blamed for the memories of the ottoman times-people in the Balkans just do not like any attempts to wipe out that memory and suggest "things were better then" or "only way to keep you from killing each other is some form of strict empire".

  • 160.
  • At 09:43 AM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • Diren Yardimli wrote:

Comment 140 by Art... You surely seem to be victim of a culture based on hatred and propaganda, not on rational analysis and historical context. How un-European of you! The Turks have been to Europe before, they have invaded almost half the continent, ruled it for hundreds of years and have then returned home. Believe me, Turks arent that keen on jumping into Europe, which many sees as historically and culturally dead piece of land. What exactly do you have to offer the world with elected leaders like medieval Sarkozy and Merkel etc.? When it comes to economical growth Turkey surpasses Europe, when it comes to geographical opportunities Europe can only admire Turkey and its fortunate location, when it comes to religious freedome, believe me, you have more to learn from Turkey than Turkey has from you. A Christian gets murdered in Turkey and thats what the world talks about for many weeks, an apartment full of Turkish Muslims gets burned down in Germany and its only in the news in Turkey. Fanatics exist everywhere, its only in Europe that people are keen to stereotype them and judge an entire culture because of them. This is exactly the kind of arrogance and foolishness that will lead to the collapse of the European culture sooner or later.

  • 161.
  • At 02:03 PM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • Mona wrote:

If you don’t have anything SMART to say don’t say anything at all. Comment #143 Armir: First you contradict all previous comments by Albanians that say they are not religious, just have muslim names. That is more true than your statement that Albanians are majority muslim just because of their name. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO SPEAK IN THEIR NAME. It is like you spit in the face of the Albanian resistance of 600 years of Turkey occupation during which a big part of Albanians were converted. Prior to turk occupation Albanians were all Christians. Muslimness is not our heritage thank god, we didn’t ask for it. ESPECIALLY YOU DO NOT SPEAK IN THE NAME OF THOSE ALBANIANS THAT REMAINED CHRISTIANS ALL THE WAY. Our heritage is hospitability, folk songs, folk dance, family life, great spirit, pride, maybe a bit stubbornness, determination, survival. Some early comment # claiming that Albanians are treated by Italians in the same way as Moroccans by French , Well you can go on and say in just the same way as Italians are treated by white protestants (See “Godfather” in case you haven’t). Everywhere you go, someone is better than you and you are better than someone else (Einstein relativity maybe). I cannot change the history but I want to move forward. Being stuck in a battle that took place year 1389 is just as unrealistic as asking today’s turks to undo all the damage that their ancestors did to Albania. Albania has a great chance to join western way of life.

I posted a thought out reply to this days ago and apparently it was censored by the US. If you think the EU has problems visit America and watch it self-destruct. signed gloria poole, RN

  • 163.
  • At 03:02 PM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • Dubya, Netherlands wrote:

Diren Yardimli,

Of course economic growht in Turkey is higher then in Europa. Turkey is still a developing country. When Turkish national income surpasses the 1 trillion dollar, economic growht will slow down a lot.

Your talking about religious freedom is untrue. Turks who want to become Christian are barely able to do so and building a church in Turkey is much more difficult then building a mosque in Europe.

Another problem is Article 301, or other laws which limit the freedom of speech. If Turkey wants to join the European Union they have to improve that.

  • 164.
  • At 03:04 PM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • Bora wrote:

Ooo another blog with "Turkey" in it. Quick Turk haters, jump in! Come on Dimitrious and Marinas, write down your hatred, not in one but 5 different posts!
Write down how Turks are asian barbaric rapist hordes who committed genocides, humiliated priests, enslaved poor christians, made exotic looking towers from fellow christians' skulls, devoured fleshes in kebab feasts!
Quick Albanians! Deny your 500 year history and say Turks forced you into that crazy religion (you sound more European that way). It doesn't matter you're one of the oldest nations in europe at the center of european continent, you must prove something to rich but angelic west!
Isaac #150, spot on!

  • 165.
  • At 03:45 PM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • AC wrote:

Wow such a long post. As a Turk born in the heart of the Balkans, I could make a few comments. It is generally true that Islam in the Balkans is different than in the Middle East. In Turkey we call it Balkanisation, i.e. milder Islam. But in the Balkans, the effects of the Communist Russia are also visible. So the whole tolerance is not only because of the Ottomans, but also from more recent anti-religion policies of the Communists.

Anyhow, as for the Ottoman tolerance, if you look carefully in the history you will see that the Greeks, the Jews, and the Armenians prospered in the cities as tradesmen. They enjoyed the freedom of religion, economy and education. In fact, the Ottoman economy was run by them. A common Turk was nothing more than an uneducated peasant. This was the general picture of the Ottoman Empire for a long time.

As for the war crimes, and other accusations. Show me one war that wasn't bloody or unfair. Show me one war a western power was involved in that didn't end up in human tragedy? Take a better look at what happened in Yugoslavia. Stop blaming the others.

Gjergji (post 78) has written exactly what I think, so there is no need for me to repeat everything he said.

Enita Shala (post #30): open your dictionary and read the definition of Byzantine behaviour. The things you are describing are not the characteristics of the Ottomans but the Balkan people.

  • 166.
  • At 04:34 PM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"Turkey is more secular (legally and culturally) than most of Europe with the exception of France" [#150]

Have you been to France...lately?

If not, try and visit Marseilles and Toulouse. But when you do, never stop when waved down, and under no circumstances roll down your windows.

And when in Paris never park at night near a school or a library, let alone a gas station.

You never know with them Normand atheists these days.

  • 167.
  • At 07:24 PM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • said muminovic wrote:

Yeeh unfortunately we can see that we are not able to write about this subject without being subjective.
Mona is bad example for manageing tolerancy in Europe. No Mona ...Muslims in Europe should not give their kids christan names just not to be heated by christians. Doing that you will just make Christians less tolerant.
Isaac has a good point saying "Their problem isn't that Turkay isn't secular, the problem is that Europe isn't secular...".
The one who sign his name by the name of famous Bosnian King Kralj Tvrtko is realy full of heatred and lies talking about genocides specialy about 60% of "Bosnian catholicks (Croats)".
In his writing I can recognise Bosnian catholic or so coled Boasnian Croat that King Tvrtko of Bosnia would be shamed of as Tvrtko was fighting for Bosnia while this modern time Tvrtko is fighting for greater Croatia, which will never happen.
I would like to say one more thing about Turkay. I also think that Turkay should not look for future inside of United Europe..that would be big mistake of Turkish nation.
Turkay's future is in Unification of all turks countries like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzikistan,Kirgizistan,Azrbejdzan, Naxhichevan,Kazahstan and East Turkestan and Turks nations of Caucasus Emirate when they become independent from occupiers China and Russia.
Those countries posses huge energy sources of gas and oil and geo-political position, being placed inbetween economic energy hangry gigant Europe and rising China on the east, can bring Turkey, as leading country, and other turks nations prosperity they never dream of.

If Albanians were not Muslim, there would have not been an Albania or an Albanian people today. Because they would have been assimiliated by the neighbouring Italians, Serbs and Greeks, as those nations were, always, numerically, superior than the Albanians and determined to annex them. Therefore, Albanians of today should be grateful that their Muslim heritage protected their Albanian culture, language, and even the land over the centuries to this date.

If Albanians were not Muslim, there would have not been an Albania or an Albanian people today. Because they would have been assimiliated by the neighbouring Italians, Serbs and Greeks, as those nations were, always, numerically, superior than the Albanians and determined to annex them. Therefore, Albanians of today should be grateful that their Muslim heritage protected their Albanian culture, language, and even the land over the centuries to this date.

  • 170.
  • At 10:45 PM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • roger wrote:

God bless you mark.Thaks for this blog a very fcinating faithincreasing
talent you have in expressing most of you.r reader.s curiousity.and as you are at the same time able too captivate each and everyones attention in a way that causes peoples mind too be more geared toward spirituell values keep it up praying for more similar true stories fro you.thanks a whole lot. best wishes and a happy fullfilled new year.ROGER.

  • 171.
  • At 08:27 AM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Attila wrote:

That which we all focus on - Turks, Greeks, Slavs, Armenians, etc. - is the time of the Ottoman Empire after the rise of nationalist movements in the 19th century which saw all the horrendous massacres and wars which we all now choose to remember and which were committed by all sides. But there was a period - by far the longer period in the history of the Ottoman Empire - when we could see a uniquely multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious society not only function, but prosper. It was perhaps the first of its kind in history - certainly the first of its kind in Europe. And sure the Ottomans had their share of oppression and slaughter, as does any and every conquering people/empire in history, but it's a shame to only focus on that and not focus on such a unique political and social entity that once stretched into the heart of Europe and created a living working political system that was a precursor to the ideals of tolerance and multiculturalism we espouse so emphatically today. Yes, there are things like the tower of skulls in Nis, but there is also the Bridge of Mostar, splendid not only in its utility and aesthetic beauty and architectural genius, but also in its symbolism, as an Ottoman edifice that united Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics - a fact not lost on us even today, considering we all came together to rebuild it after it was destroyed by nationalists. Add to that the many mosques, medreses, bridges, aquaducts, hamams and baths, palaces and government buildings built from Somalia to Hungary, from the Caspian Sea to the Atlantic, and you will see that pigeon-holing the Ottomans to 'oriental despotism, barbarism and genocide' is that much more ignorant.

  • 172.
  • At 01:47 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • mim wrote:

I fully agree with Haydar when he says that Albanians survived as a nation partly due to the fact that the majority were muslims, otherwise the assimilationist pressure from the neighbours was too much to withstand.

A telling example were Suliots Albanians by birth and blood but converted to Greeks because of the strong pressure from Orthodo Hellenic culture. Muslim Chams on the other hand, although living in the same area as Suliots, were able to assert their Albanian identity and not succumb to assimilationist pressure because they were Muslims

Also Kosovar Albanians and Albanians in Macedonia used their religion as a shield agains Slav Orthodox pressure.

we must be honest with ourselves and admit that Islam played a positive role in protecting our national identity, although I am not sure to what extent exatly.

  • 173.
  • At 04:33 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Fisnik wrote:

I am Albanian (Kosova Under the occupation of UNMIK)myself, and i just want to add that Albania is The most tolerant country in the world. Religion never was our thing. I am born in a muslim family, my parents have never been to mosque. I don't consider myself muslim, like most albanians I am agnostic. as in the old saying, "the religion of Albanians is Albania". Therefore, my religion is Albania.

  • 174.
  • At 05:51 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • L.Y. Mitchell wrote:

Not only that for Albanians the only religion is albanianism, their "history" is also albania-story. And a story it only is. There's no nation in the world with more falsified history then them! Just because their language has no relations to any other in Europe or world for that matter, they claim to be older than Greeks ,probably older than Atlantidians. Dardania, their Avalon-state, never existed, dardanian temples never existed, and then to read, from Albanians, how THEY preserved Serbian historical and religious heritage in Kosovo and Metohija is next to watching Benny Hill show. Ever since Serbs fled from Kosovo and Metohija in 1690, escaping from enraged Turks-Ottomans, Albanians have been pouring into that blood-soaked yet incredibly fertile land, both below and above ground level... When ever they had chance to commit massive atrocities against Serbs that have left, they did... In 1916. during WWI, as Serbian army and most of the population fled before invading Bulgarians, Germans and Austro-Hungarians, not even Bulgarian komits did more evil as Albanians did. In WWII, SS Skanderbeg division cleansed Kosovo and Metohija of Serbs in the most brutal fashion again and in 1999-2008 their descendants are still doing the same job. Serbs do not hate Albanians not even close to the level Kosovo's Albanians hate them, for ages... When did it all start? With Prizren's league in 1878, Albanian tribal, political and village elders declaring for their goal to unite all the lands were Albanians live... And, boy, how do they live? Within 100 years, from less than 20% of Kosovo and Metohija's population, they grew to be 90%... One is not to be amazed, once he or she learns that they had, in average, 6-7 kids, and still do... Kosovo and Metohija is lost to them, falsified history is already releasing it's roots, but Macedonian west, Montenegrin East, Serbia's south-east and probably, one day, parts of Greek's north are already on the maps of greater Albania, greater even than Greater Albania from WWII, fascist puppet state and will be next... Although, I think that this time Kosovo will be the meeting point and their new Piedmont... God save as all from that utterly kind and pleasant nation to Americans and Britons, but bloodthirsty when it comes to their first neighbours, organized in clans and tribes still, with blood revenge still very much alive as acceptable way of settling disputes... God save us from nation which is all but drunk with their nationalism and brained-washed into believing in obviously insane history!
In case anyone wanders, I do not talk of Albanians of Albania, but of Albanians living in Kosovo and Metohija, Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece. Wrong country for article on Islam, great nation for psychological observations.

  • 175.
  • At 08:22 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Emir wrote:

i am Albanian origin from Turkey...

Many people in Turkey trace their ancestry to the Balkans, many of their grandparents were Muslim refugees fleeing from persecution by Christians in the Balkans the wars of independence.......

i don't like it some Greek People and other Racist Europeans tell us that we should hate ottomans or Turkish Republic.

Many Albanians, Bosnians, Macedonians etc. feel great sympathy for Turkey and Turkish People.

Today in Turkey there are still thousands of Albanians and other balkanic people living.

and also please do remeber denying your past, your culture, your names etc will not make you more Modern or More European.


  • 176.
  • At 10:24 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Tony wrote:

I think that Mr. M's piece is not interesting because it is stamped with political corectness. The discussion, however, is great! If that was his goal, I think he has achieved more than he wished.

  • 177.
  • At 11:51 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Februrski Pohod wrote:

to post :147 Demetrius,
as i see the blog is not about Macedonia and its citizens your Greek mind set is who ever said Macedonia anywhere in the world they must point out that is Greek ( which they were not) and how about telling them of 1 million Macedonians forced out of Greece during the co called Greek civil war even Muslim Turkey during 1903 Ilinden uprising didn't force out that many Macedonians and yet you are defined as Christian nation

  • 178.
  • At 06:13 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Mark Pushka wrote:

haydar & mim,
you couldn't be more wrong about islam saving the albanian identity. islam, worldwide, comes before a person's national identity. have you already forgotten that under the ottoman empire, the albanian language and their flag was outlawed. also, if gjergj kastrioti scanderbeg was able to fend off the OE for close to 3 decades, what makes you think the albanians would've had problems w/the greeks or serbs who were nowhere near as big a threat. infact, they had fallen to the turks long before the albanians who were the last to succumb to the dreaded turks. do me a favor and don't go around discracing my people w/silly theories because the vast majority of albanians who happen to be "muslim" will tell you the same thing and that's that the worst thing that ever happen to us was the ottoman empire.

  • 179.
  • At 09:17 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • A.Dimitriou wrote:

#165 and #175 :The objection was to the 'tolerant' label to an empire dissolved long ago. This is simply NOT the way the conquered nations remember this period. There were people escaping to the West(the Ionian islands for instance, also occupied by other foreign powers, never vice-versa). No point in questioning that, unless you really know best how the conquered nations felt about the ottoman occupation.
This has NOTHING to do with modern day Turkey and whether it could/should join the EU, which will only be based on Turkey's behavior today, not 500 or 200 years ago. The criteria are completely different and have nothing to do with the ottoman period. This is clear to anyone in the Balkans even today. If there is dislike for Turkey(as a country), it is based on its present, rather than centuries old behavior.

One of the major obstacles is exactly this extreme nationalist mentality-anyone who tells you anything you do not like about (not necessarily in the case of 175)your ancestors, however true, is a racist, nationalist etc. Anyone suggesting
Attaturk may not have been the greatest figure ever, goes to jail.

  • 180.
  • At 12:57 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • mim wrote:

Mark (178)

The problem with your counter-argument is that you are too ideological and emotional towards the truth.

You tend to see things in "good versus evil" or "black and white"

The truth is far broader and more varied than you actually try to picture it.

You see the national consciousness as a static thing, frozen in time whereas the contrary is true.

Albanians or Greeks or Serbs of 15th, 16 century are not Albanians, Greeks and Serbs of today and their national consciousness developed through the centuries resulting in the formation of their national states.

"Nation" as we know it today came rather late in the Balkans otherwise how would you explain the fact that Ottomans (not Turks) were in the Balkans for about 500 years and in the meantime, Albanians, Greeks and Serbs and other ethnic groups served under the Ottoman authority as soldiers, civil servants, scholars and even as Vezirs

Do I have to remind you that Mehmet Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt was Albanian, and also all the Albanians who were at the forefront of independence movement were officials of the Ottoman Empire

The relations between Ottoman empire and its subjects consist of a far more complex picture and not simply a story of continuous liberation struggle, savage repression, epic battles and heroic songs about martyrs as some would have us believe.

We have to be able to tell the myth from the truth and not delude ourselves with "we are the best and the rest is crap" fairytale

The events in former Yugoslavia offer the most compelling evidence concerning the evils of virulent nationalism

I wish to end my comment by quoting King Zog, King of Albanians from 1928-1939 "Super-patriotism is as dangerous as patriotism is beneficial"

  • 181.
  • At 01:31 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Bora wrote:

You state that your arguements are based on Turkey's present situation and yet you kept bringing up atrocities Ottomans had committed centuries ago. You went as far as saying WW2 Nazis were more tolerant than Ottomans (#48).
My family is also Balkan originated. My mother's a catholic bosniak from Tuzla, my father is muslim bosniak from Sarajevo. And yet i've lived in Turkey all my life as an atheist. People like you who compare Turks to Nazis, or even putting Nazis on a higher scale on tolerance have nothing to discuss. You are subjective and always will be, and as long as people like you exist and poison every blog, forum, discussion on the internet or elsewhere with your motives there will never be peace in Balkans. This was a blog about Albania and you kept throwing up your hatred for Turkey nonstop. Name one european country where a muslim society lived during middle ages among christians (not-Ottoman occupied). And then compare to Ottoman Empire. While i can clearly see as everyone else the attrocities commited by the Ottomans throughout history, one has to know europe was much worse at any given time towards minorities.
If you have a dislike for present Turkey talk about it, and stop bringing up stuff that happened centuries ago. Mark wrote the blog about Albania and how it's mild islam might be related to Ottomans as well as it's communist past. While you may not agree with the connection, it's there.
Although i dislike all religions i never feel the need to bash them to feel better about myself. I can see how corroded and aggressive all religions are, but it sickens me when people start bashing each other over religion. You fellow Albanians, whether you be christian or orthodox or muslim, bashing islam won't get you into EU as well as bashing christianity won't get your closer to Turkey. Your name is Ali or your father's name is Kasim? Stop being ashamed, get over it! If someone thinks low of you because of your name you shouldn't even try to negotiate with them, just ignore. Any country's history is a pandora's box. Once you start talking about history you'll always see people bashing your country for what you did to poor Serbs or how you have hidden agenda about a Greater Albania. Just work, work hard and prosper for you are one of the oldest nations in Europe and you don't have to prove anyone anything.
Same sentiments are rising in Turkey right now too. Many people are not in favor of joining the christian club EU anymore, not because Turks see EU as a christian club, but because EU sees itself as a christian club. We shut up, cover our ears and work, and work hard.
As far as economy goes, Turkey will be an economy giant this century, and as the economy gets better more countries around the world will start passing through genocide bills in their parliaments for all the minorities that lived under Ottoman rule to get some kind of reparations for what Ottomans did centuries ago, which will never happen. Turkey's current GDP (purchasing power parity) is $635.6 billion, Bulgaria's $78.68 billion, Romania's $202.2 billion, Greece's $256.3 billion, Poland's $552.4 billion ( Growth rate is 2nd or 3rd highest in the world, and figures now are even better than most websites showing their 2-3 year-old economy "estimates".
Turkey was founded after a long and bloody world war and managed to survive in an area between communism and radical islam past century, managed to avoid WW2 or Balkan attrocities. Revolutions are always bloody, else they wouldn't be revolutions. Turkey dropped it's caliphate background, established secularism and gave women the right to vote before most european countries. Maintaining the republic was costly and hard under harsh conditions, and being next to the the heart of communism and the middle-east with the never ending wars there, Turkish economy got crippled so bad that money from US rental bases weren't helping after some time. But it's a new century and things have changed around us.
Turkey will overcome social problems and civil rights issues in time, no matter how our fellow Greek neighbors, while stuck on history, are soo concerned about. Turkey doesn't need EU to prosper, we will do it on our own. Albania doesn't need to discuss it's religious or ethnic background, they will continue living with or without your or my criticism.

  • 182.
  • At 01:43 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • AC wrote:

A.Dimitriou #179: You are missing the whole point. None of us are claiming that the Ottomans were perfect rulers. The whole point of discussion is that the Ottomans were religiously tolerant. Let's say RELATIVELY tolerant. At the time, religion and education went hand in hand, so the argument could be extended to education as well.

I can understand your argument of the conqueror vs conquered, the whole point behind the collapse of the Ottomans was the right of self-determination. At least if the history books are correct, the principle of nationalism and self-determination didn't exist until early 1800s.

I grew up in the Communist Balkans at an era that religion was forbidden outright. It didn't matter what religion you were, it was forbidden. You can't even compare the religion policies in the Balkans of 20 years ago to the Ottoman era. Even the modern Greek and Turkish states are not as tolerant as the Ottomans were. We created "nation" states trying to homogenise everyone, and alienated the ones that remained different.

  • 183.
  • At 01:52 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • K. Bauer wrote:

Seems like every country in the Balkans has a very different history:
Februrski Pohod(177) thinks the Greek communist guerrilas who entered Yugoslavia when defeated during the greek civil war(1946-1949) were 'Macedonians'! I have myself known some of these people, many from southern greece, in what was then East Germany and they considered themselves nothing but greek-in fact their leadership had turned down Tito's offer for help to drive the Nazis out of Northen greece. Amazing how half a century of twisting history has succeeded in shaping national views.

  • 184.
  • At 04:16 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • mim wrote:

Mark (178)

The problem with your counter-argument is that you are too ideological and emotional towards the truth.

You tend to see things in "good versus evil" or "black and white"

The truth is far broader and more varied than you actually try to picture it.

You see the national consciousness as a static thing, frozen in time whereas the contrary is true.

Albanians or Greeks or Serbs of 15th, 16 century are not Albanians, Greeks and Serbs of today and their national consciousness developed through the centuries resulting in the formation of their national states.

"Nation" as we know it today came rather late in the Balkans otherwise how would you explain the fact that Ottomans (not Turks) were in the Balkans for about 500 years and in the meantime, Albanians, Greeks and Serbs and other ethnic groups served under the Ottoman authority as soldiers, civil servants, scholars and even as Vezirs

Do I have to remind you that Mehmet Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt was Albanian, and also all the Albanians who were at the forefront of independence movement were officials of the Ottoman Empire

The relations between Ottoman empire and its subjects consist of a far more complex picture and not simply a story of continuous liberation struggle, savage repression, epic battles and heroic songs about martyrs as some would have us believe.

We have to be able to tell the myth from the truth and not delude ourselves with "we are the best and the rest is crap" fairytale

The events in former Yugoslavia offer the most compelling evidence concerning the evils of virulent nationalism

I wish to end my comment by quoting King Zog, King of Albanians from 1928-1939 "Super-patriotism is as dangerous as patriotism is beneficial"

  • 185.
  • At 06:41 PM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Mark Pushka wrote:

I’m aware of how countries were formed throughout Europe from city/state to actual nations but my argument was to your earlier response regarding the Ottoman Empire and your suggestion that it saved the Albanian identity. I am 100% Albanian so I’m going to feel strongly about my convictions in regards to topics near and dear to my heart. Albanians are a very proud people and what they went through under the OE occupation is so dreadful that we still feel and see its effects today not only amongst the Albanian people but throughout the Balkan region. You say “good vs evil” but how else can you describe an unprovoked invasion, mass murder, rape, forced conversion and occupation? If that isn’t evil, I don’t know the meaning of the word.
While the rest of Europe underwent the renaissance of enlightenment, the Balkan people were locked in under a backward occupation for five centuries. Albanian history happens to be my forte so there’s no need for you or any other non-Albanian to attempt to tutor me on the subject. I’m familiar with who did what within the OE and that’s fine and dandy but I’d rather the Turks never stepped foot in Europe and we could’ve and would’ve accomplished much more for ourselves and not for the mongrels of the east.
I am not a nationalist but rather a patriot. There’s a difference between the two.
I have love for my people but I wouldn’t kill innocent people for that love. Unlike Turks, Serbs and Greeks which have done so on many occasions.
I’m assuming you to be Turkish but until you’ve lived through and had done to your people; don’t bother commenting on what you know very little about.
I don’t assume to tell you that if not for the Albanian people, there would be no Turkish culture or existence. If I come across a little hostile, it’s nothing personal against you but you seem insensitive to something very important to us Albanians.

  • 186.
  • At 08:11 PM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Thomas wrote:

This was a blog about Albania and some greek nationalists kept throwing up their hatred for Turkey nonstop...

There are large ethnic minorities living in Greece (Macedonians, Turks, Albanians, Roma, Vlach) that are forbidden from even identifying with their respective minority groups.

The Albanians, Turks etc. living in Greece, for example, were forced to changed their own personal names into Greek sounding names and are not allowed to change them back.

This is only one example of the systematic human rights violations perpetrated on the ethnic Albanians, Turks and others living in Greece.

And these are very well documented by the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the Greek Helsinki Monitor and the US State Department.

Rather than Greece trying to change it's neighbours names, it should cease all human rights violations in relation to the minorities living within its own borders...!

  • 187.
  • At 09:55 AM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Turkey's current GDP (purchasing power parity) is $635.6 billion, Bulgaria's $78.68 billion, Romania's $202.2 billion, Greece's $256.3 billion, Poland's $552.4 billion ([#181]

I don't think those figures require any comment: they speak for themselves. And after all current level of a country's GDP is more important than its ancient glory.

Although, it seems, not to all people.

  • 188.
  • At 07:46 AM on 04 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"During the Byzantine period, the Armenian Church was not allowed to operate in Constantinople, because the Greek Orthodox Church regarded the Armenian Church as heretic. Many famous Armenian Patriarchs (Catholicos), including Saint Narses, were imprisoned in the Princes' Islands by the Byzantines for "heresy"." [#144]

You're a dangerous person; you know too much. Although I appreciate that you tactfully refrained from mentioning that at a time Turkish Armenians allied themselves with Russia, that country waged a war on Turkey, although I'm sure you know it.
BTW number of the victims of so called 'genocide' seems to grow with every passing year, just like a number of descendents of "Mayflower" Pilgrims in the US.

[If the claims made today are to be believed there should not be any Armenians alive today, and "Mayflower" would have to be the size of "Queen Mary II". At least.]

It's also nice that you haven't mentioned that the former Christian boys (Janissaries) grew so powerful in Ottoman Empire that they had been known to march to the new sultan's palace and behead him if he refused to pay them bakshish - an informal head tax, you might say.

And when on the subject... Those who write about ruthless and humiliating ways in which Ottomans collected taxes have obviously never dealt with IRS[US Internal Revenue Service] collectors/enforcers.

But, on a more serious note, what do all those obsessive/compulsive victimologists' bids here (who did more nasty things to whom since times immemorial) have to do with the CURRENT position/role of Islam in Europe, and particularly EU?

Can we talk about madrassas in UK, radical Islamists in France, growing numer of Islamic terrorists in Spain, etc? How about a role Pakistan and Saudi Arabia play in radicalizing European Muslims?

Does anybody care to remember who the 9/11 and 7/7 terrorists and Madrid train bombers were and where they hailed from?

A hint: They were definitely not Albanians, Bosnians or Chechens, and they sure as hell weren't Turks.

  • 189.
  • At 09:05 AM on 04 Feb 2008,
  • J.Prescot wrote:

Bad slip Mark-the unfortunate comment about the Ottoman empire has dominated the issue of Albania and islam. Basically people who view the Ottoman empire as relatively tolerant,without specifying with regard to what, i.e.
even in the roman empire all occupied people were roman citizens -and any attempts to compare on a relative level
were not discussed, are either Turks or
people not from the Balkans. Looks like all post from the Balkans, however different in their version of history, are united in their view of the Ottoman empire and it's not a pretty one.
many of the posts are not really relevant(186-a typical example of the delusions created by Tito's propaganda- and 187 which misses
the point that the larger the country's population, the larger the GDP, of course), but interesting discussions nevertheless

  • 190.
  • At 09:58 AM on 04 Feb 2008,
  • Laert Dogjani wrote:

To all social science students/scholars out there:

In social sciences it is a problem one cannot conduct experiments so as to check for different variables. Well, the closest you will ever get and maybe the best argument you have in still calling it a science you will find in studying Albanians.

They live in all of the countries bordering "current Albania" and a diaspora spread all over the world.

With regards to religion (not only Islam):

The Albanians in Albania underwent what Erind 14 explains plus a few other things.
Those in Kosova can add another enemy, being Albanian in a Slav Yugoslavia.
Those in Montenegro and FYROM can add a further enemy, being Albanian in a Slav Yugoslavia within a Slav republic of Yugoslavia.
Those in Greece...Most of them do not have enemies anymore because they are dead (Chams)...

The level of Muslim observance by Albanians in the above list is in an increasing order.

Moral of the story:

Dear enemies, the more you cause us trouble, the more united we will become. Who knows, in the future we might have to thank you for achieving an Ethnic Albania.

  • 191.
  • At 03:01 PM on 04 Feb 2008,
  • Meryem Atasay wrote:

#163 from Netherlands: economic growth does not occur only in developing countries. UK grows more than Netherlands. Are they a developing country now? So, do not oversimplify economic issues and bash Turkish growth.
I am a catholic Turkish and had no problems myself. Living in EU for the past ten years, my observation is that many Europeans (generalisation)are much more racist and religiously intolerant than Turkish simply because they are not interested in listening becsue they think they know everything already.
301..yes it should change. But so should freedom of speech in Europe and the attitude that EU guys do everything right. Surprised? Think Haider, think Armenian genocide vote hunters, think Greece not letting Albanian children carrying their flag in schools even if they were the school runner ups, think (sorry Greece again) not letting Turkish minority to identify themselves as Turkish, think (sorry Greece again) not letting the build of mosques...Then, talk about what you know.
Albanians...please do not deny your past, it is your culture and hang on to it even if you think denial is more practical, as you will need it for teaching your children to love their roots. Albania are similar to Turks attitude towards Islam, may I remind you Sufism originated in Konya, Turkey.

  • 192.
  • At 04:49 AM on 05 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"#187... misses the point that the larger the country's population, the larger the GDP, of course" [#189]

"Of course"?

Have you compared a size of US or, better yet, Japan's GDP to that of China or India? :-)))

And how would you explain the fact that Russia, a mineral-rich country of 140 million stretching over 11 time zones has an economy size of Netherlands?

[no offence to out Dutch allies]

  • 193.
  • At 05:46 AM on 05 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"#187... misses the point that the larger the country's population, the larger the GDP, of course" [#189]

"Of course"? You're joking, right?

Have you compared a size of US or Japan's GDP to that of China or India?
Must be something in American bourbon or Japanese sake to account for their huge advantage over those two behemots.

And how would you explain the fact that Russia, a mineral-rich country of 140 million stretching over 11 time zones has an economy size of...Netherlands?

I know that Karl Marx couldn't have.

  • 194.
  • At 11:48 AM on 05 Feb 2008,
  • mona wrote:

Just to refresh the memory of commentators: 175emir, 184 mim, 191miriam:

28 November 1912 is the Declaration of Independence from Turkey. Can you believe it. It is almost 100 Years. We made it, and we don't miss you a bit, turks with origin from Turkey. Miram we absolutely will not forget the past, and so shouldn't you. It will take you more than 600 years to try to win Albanians and you will still loose

November 28, Flag's Day is the most important celebration in Albania.
Mark thanks for the blog

  • 195.
  • At 03:04 PM on 05 Feb 2008,
  • J.Prescot wrote:

not sure what Turkey's economy has to do with Ottoman religious tolerance, relative or not. If you want to compare
GDP/capita, Turkey is below the countries you mention(which do not have particularly great economies either).
Of course, in Turkey you have some 70mil
people who need to eat, dress, and generally live and who also work and produce income-in short who drive the economy.
For a country with a smaller population like Bulgaria(about 10 million), Greece(also 10 mil) or Romania(some 30 mil) this means the average Bulgarian or Greek needs to move the economy 7 times
more than the average Turk. The average Dutch moves the economy much more than the average Russian, enough to match the population imbalance. The average Bulgarian, Greek or Romanian also moves the economy more than the average Turk, but not enough to overcome the population ratio.
Hope this is not taken as anti-turkish, consuming less is something I actually favor. On the other hand, although there are a lot of issues where I disagree with the EU, Meryem(191) is telling only half the story: I think Turkey has a lot more and much more powerful ultra-nationalists than Heider, and
armenians are not such a powerful force. It is true that Greece has a stupid law with school parades on national holidays where the best student gets to carry the flag: That law applies to all students and many students of different nationalities, including Albanians have carried the flag and some have publicly said they
felt honored. The problems arose with some people who feel it is not right for a foreigner to carry your flag, especially if that person still
feels like a foreigner, even though
if one lives in your country. In Greece that law is enforced, and whether the
local community likes it or not, the best student gets to carry the flag.
I'm sure Turkey(including the deep state) would have no objecton to an Armenian student carrying the turkish flag... As for minorities,
the international treaties in fact recognize religious, not ethnic minorities, and of course no one gets jailed for "insulting greekness" or "bulgarianness" or whatever. But
you really should think what happened to the "greek" minority in say Istanbul(which disappeared after the 1955 progroms and their property-taken away-) vs what happened to the "turkish" minority in Thrace-they are still there and doing quite well- in fact
one ran for the Prefecture with the support of a major political party.

So, it looks like you need to do some research yourself.

  • 196.
  • At 03:45 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Giannis wrote:

What you said about the issue of the Greek flag is completely wrong.

There was an issue some years ago with an Albanian student of 21 years old who had already finished school (or most classes) in Albania and who attended some classes in Greek school along with 16 year old kids. Obviously in maths and physics he had no problem as he was redoing the same, but in linguistics and history he was just being given grades for free by certain left-wing and party-active professors of his school.

The whole issue did not have to do with this kid but it was politically provoked. Not to mention that this kid was not any accident, his father was a high officer of Sigurini (and Albanians know very well what is the Sigurini agency), and not again accidentally this kid was given money (by whom?) to go and study in US universities.

In this case actually this Albanian kid was over-favoured by the school professors. The parents of the other kids simply protested for the unfair case - but in the media it passed easily as an as-if protest against Albanian kids holding the Greek flag.

However, I would like to ask any Albanian living in Greece what it means to him/her holding the Greek flag in a parade commemorating the Greek victory over the Italians (with whom Albanians were good allies and fought on their side, being of the best Nazi collaborators).

If I was a Greek, Turkish citizen living in Turkey I would try to avoid holding the Turkish flag in a commemoration of a Turkish victory over Greeks.

  • 197.
  • At 11:05 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • fatmir kosova wrote:


  • 198.
  • At 02:57 PM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Dubya, Netherlands wrote:

Meryem Atasay,

You missed mine point: countries like the UK or the Netherlands are not able to enjoy more then 4% economic growht. The average growht rate is 2%. Developing countries like Turkey, Poland, Estonia ect. have an average economic growht rate of 5%.

I know Greece is not fair towards it's minorities. I agree that this should change. I've seen a lot of progress in Turkey the last 5 years and I'm positive about the future. The biggest problem Turkey had now is the deep state. They form a real danger for the future of the Turkish Republic.

  • 199.
  • At 04:58 PM on 07 Feb 2008,
  • AC wrote:

If the news and history books are correct:

Fact 1: Ottomans banned Wahhabism within its borders. Ottomans didn't tolerate extreme Islam, and executed many Wahhabi followers. Even today, Wahhabis do not like what the modern Turkish state stands for.

Fact 2: Most of the mosques in the Balkans and even Europe are financed by the Wahhabi sect. Some sources claim as much as 90% of all Islamic faith expenses are paid by the sect. Back to some of the comments in this blog, this might give you an understanding why some 2nd and 3rd generation Turks in Germany are more extreme than their parents were.

Fact 3: The Muslims in the Balkans do not like the Wahhabi influence in their society, and are trying to get rid off it.

Question to the Albanians, I am asking this as an agnostic: Some of you say you are Muslims, yet you seem to be embarrassed with it, and you say it was enforced on you by the Turks. If you don't like it, why do you say you are Muslims? As individuals, you should make up your minds rather than say it was Turks' fault that you are Muslims.

  • 200.
  • At 05:23 AM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • GS wrote:

You are raising a very good point. Why shouldn't Albanians make up their minds about their religious identity rather than oscillating between endorsing Islam and yet claiming it is not their choice for being Muslims?
Indeed, Islam may have been forced to most of Albanians during Ottoman invasion; nonetheless, they have lived with it for more than 500 years. Some Albanians really believe at Islam; others are just by default Muslims. For the latter, Islam is part of their identity, an identity which they did not have much a saying, but which nevertheless sets them apart from the rest of Europe. It is not just filling the void left by rejecting this part of identity that it is hard; it is also hard to give up something (in this case Islam) for the sake of being accepted from the religious majority. Albanians may be too proud to just do it. Maybe that's why you are puzzled by these many ambivalent statements.
And as for the history, after reading all these entries, I have grown even more skeptic that the history of Balkans will ever be straighten up. Each nation will continue to hold their own version of the history; and there are these versions that are responsible for this hatred currently present among nations in Balkans. When it will be the time to start looking and moving forward?

  • 201.
  • At 06:17 AM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"Some of you say you are Muslims, yet you seem to be embarrassed with it, and you say it was enforced on you by the Turks. If you don't like it, why do you say you are Muslims?" [#199]

I wonder what Britons who (even if indifferent) put 'Anglican' as their religion are going to do when forced to obey Sharia Law, so highly recommended by the Archbiship of Canterbury as means to ensure social harmony and avoid double loyalty?

  • 202.
  • At 04:23 PM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Mark Pushka wrote:

11/28 is a huge day for albanians and you're absolutely correct, mona.
we will never forget and in the coming days we will have another date to add for kosove :)

  • 203.
  • At 01:13 AM on 09 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Re #199

Let's call spade a spade.

When your're talking about Wahhabi-sponsored Islamist extremism in Europe and Asia, you're talking basically about filthy (oil) rich SAUDIS.

BTW. I've been hearing for decades that Saudis have been bribing some Turkish female students to have them wear headscarves and even secretly covered costs of tuition of those who would publicly demand the right to wear them at universities.

I'm mentioning it because I see that Kemalists are already up in arms in view of current attempts to allow headscarves at Turkish secular institutions of higher learning.

NB I don't think that turkey will fly.

  • 204.
  • At 07:55 AM on 10 Feb 2008,
  • simovic wrote:

lets tell the truth

the ethnic albanians in Greece hated by the greek state and majority of greek nationalists

and please do go to greece and see the human right abuses and extreme hate against Albanians in Greece

  • 205.
  • At 09:57 PM on 10 Feb 2008,
  • Lukas wrote:

#204, what you say is completely innacurate. I am from athens and not only i don't hate albanians but i also have albanian friends (and by friends i mean close friends, not people that i occasionaly speak to on the street to show how tolerant i am). Also most people in my age think similarly.

Now the greek nationalists, they don't really hate albanians, they hate the fact that albanias have crossed the border illegaly and they are residing in Greece illegaly. Personaly, i think that they are wrong and that we should open our borders to immigratants, but as the law stands today, the vast majority of albanians have broken it, this is what the greek right hates. If the Albanians moved back to Albania, there wouldn't be any of the incidents that make you think Greeks have extreme hate against Albanians.

The only ones that really hate Albanians are the cops (hence the human right abuses that you mention), but don't take it personally, they hate anyone who is not a white Greek orthodox christian nationalist, be it Albanian, Russian, British, Bulgarian, Greek etc, but you know police is like that almost everywhere in the world. And by the way cops hate leftwing Greeks more than they hate albanians or any other kind of immigrants.

  • 206.
  • At 07:10 AM on 11 Feb 2008,
  • J.Prescot wrote:

there are no ethnic albanians in Greece,
there are legal and illegal immigrants.
Initially a few of them committed horrible crimes-which will not win popularity contests, but most of them now are well integrated, have jobs, families and many do not wish to go back. Have you been there?
What is a nationalist?(185's definition-like others hate hime, but he does not hate anybody-well, most people do not hate other countries, maybe their leadership or policies, but not the population individually) What makes you think this(undefined term) is a majority?(Funny how some people bring up Heider as being nationalist, but think it's ok if they occupy another country or procecute people for "insulting their nationality")
What state hate are you referring to?
Does repeatedly offer legalisation
to people who entered a county illegally
constitute state hate? Do you want to compare Albania's treatment of the greek minority in South Albania?
Too much misinformation in many
Balkan states vs their neighbors.

It is interesting that when the topic is Ottoman Empire, all of a sudden taxing subjects becomes a sign of brutal regime. Did someone say "biased"?

  • 208.
  • At 05:14 PM on 14 Feb 2008,
  • Meryem Atasay wrote:

#195, you are telling the other half of the story which is great. Yes insulting Turkishness is a silly crime, yes we have loads of silly ultra nationalists -still thinking Greeks should have remained as ottoman slaves, yes population of greeks decreased down to nearly nothing in Istanbul over the century. But let's not forget the first population exchange was a joint decision between greece and turkey -a terrible one that erased tolerance of newer generations, a common history and understanding. I personally think turkey lost so much of its richness with the greeks gone... Anyway, what I was writing is the other half of the story that gets so little told about..the prejudice, the racism and discrimination against turks and any other muslims (practising or interpreting islam to whatever degree). It drove albanians to deny themselves to believe in this unfashionable religion. It seems that everyone is eager to bash Turkey quickly and with so little knowledge, without turning the mirror to themselves. Which is exactly what makes turks go and vote nationalist parties, thinking only they can defend us in the international arena. People who think there is no discrimination to turkey -why EU has taken every country regardless of size and economy in with the same rules but want to change rules for turkey? do you really think Romania with a smaller gdp and massive problems with corruption is in but turkey not just because of its size?

#197 Fatmir: turks used to have the same attitude before islamists took advantage of the european hatred towards turks and tried (still trying with greater success) to convert them to wahabbism ("look they hate you anyway, you can never be european, why dont you join us under our headscarves and find a new identity?"). Dont fall in the same trap if greeks etc. do not accept you. Today turkey struggles in limbo: arabs dont think we are muslim enough, europeans dont think we are western enough.

  • 209.
  • At 09:45 PM on 14 Feb 2008,
  • mona wrote:

I am really amazed with Meryem. In the first poster she says she is catholic, but in the last one she appeals to fatmir to defend muslim faith WHY? Afterall it is as you say an unfashionable religion. Since we spoke last turks eased scarf ban from universities: 1 step backward. Why do you interfere? If the small country of Albania really needs a Big Brother turkey doesn't make the list. Just wait some more years and see. Albanians have missed so much from the western civilization, sooo many years. The number of Albanians that have emigrated (on their free will and choice) to West Europe or US in the last decade is quite large and they are embracing the new life. (you yourself have left turkey right?)

  • 210.
  • At 06:19 PM on 15 Feb 2008,
  • mim wrote:


Not all the Albanians think ill of Turkey and Turks and there is no denying about historical links.

According to some estimates there are two millions Turks of Albanian descent in Istanbul.

Those who blame all their failures and misfortunes on the others, are not courageous enought to see the truth for what it is and by doind so display their inferiority complex.

Our history with Ottomans has many facets and oversimplifications are wide of the mark.

Anybody is entitled to his/her own view. However, having said that I would like to stress that you can either chose to become economical with the truth and instead engage in myth-making or you are prepared to have a realistic, down-to-earth and self-critical aproach.

Despite its past and current problems Turkey deserves credit for steering clear of islamist fundamentalism being thus a barrier against the most dangerous fanaticism of our time

Greetings from an Albanian atheist :)

  • 211.
  • At 05:35 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Nikola Jovanovic wrote:

The European Islam is simply a way for Albanians to gain support from Euoropean countries to help them create the "Greater Albania." This would include the independence of Kosovo, and also the northern part of Macedonia, specifically tetvo. When Albanians say that their religion was imposed on them, they are simply making excuses to help them assimilate into the European Union. Albanians are not a stong enough race to be able to declare a religion. Europe is not ready to recognize an Islam state and the Ablanians know this, so they play the sympathy card to earn respect from the west. The Serbian people were forced to live under Turkish rule for approximately 500 years where in our religion never strayed. We are still the strictest Christians religion in the world. As far as Kosovo is concerned, the Serbian people are the rightful owners and this will never change. Western countries will never recognize how important the region is to my people. The closest example I can offer is the situation in California. Imagine the Mexican influx becoming so that that they ASSUME the state should become their because they have immigrated illegaly to the area.

Albanians will never take control of Kosovo because the Serbian people will not allow it. The situation like the one that took place in the late 90's is eminent to occur again. The only difference this time is that the U.S. does not have the means to get involved, so the Serbian people will resolve the situation on their own.

  • 212.
  • At 01:08 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • christos wrote:

thomas,have you ever been to greece,or you are wasting time reading articles on the interenet?? greek minorities are only the muslim minority...turks and pomaks,and they are recongnised and can have representatives in the parliament....vlachs consider tehmselves cousin is married to a greek vlach and if you dare to tell him he's not a greek but minority he will kill you..!! stop your nonsence propaganda...

and mr poho,there are not macedonians,but greek macedonians....the so called "macedonia" is a slavic nation immigrants in ancient macedonia in byzantine times and have nothing to do with alexander..otherwise explain why alexander started the HELLENISTIC period in history and not the macedonian..?and where do we find macedonian scripts and proof of macedonian language..??NOWHERE!! because macedonians spoke greek...simply...

as you see here,nationalism in the balkans is running high...some nations lik albania are stuck in the past and can't look forward...and turkey....if you want to join EU,leave and nationalist views,claims over territories and nations greatness and look into the future..!!!!

  • 213.
  • At 07:34 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

This is for 212 who speaks that there are No Macedonians. The ancient Macedonians regarded the ancient Greeks as neighbors, not as kinsmen. The Greeks treated the Macedonians as foreigners or "barbarians" whose native language was Macedonian, not Greek let me stress this point, the language was Macedonian not Greek. Another important point you should take a look at is that Macedonia was never a region of Greece. On the other hand ancient Greece was subjected to Macedonia. In 1913, modern Greece and Balkan allies partitioned Macedonia. Today if a portion of Macedonia belongs to Greece, it is only by an illegal partition of the whole and occupation of a part of Macedonia.
Something you have to realize is that term used by the Greeks "barbarian" literally means in that time one who is not Greek. So it seems that you are mistaken and that there are Macedonians who have there own language there own culture and history. You alos have no proof that you modern day 'Greeks' assended from Ancient Hellenic Greeks. You mixed with North Africans and Western Asians so i would first check up on your own history before you start talking about Macedonians. Read up on your history.

  • 214.
  • At 02:26 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • christos wrote:

i am still amazed about one poor albanian's link to his country with HOMER and ILIADA..!! good joke!!! try to convince someone with that!!!!

and some turk said that turkey doesn't need EU like greece they can make it that why you are knocking EU doors since the '60's..??you do get money from EU as part of the european stability project,AND from americans...i don't have anything against turks,i support their entry into EU,but that kind of nationalist agenda won't get you anywhere....

to the subject,muslims in europe are always a theory yes,we can co-excist...but in practice just take a look to britain where british muslims bombed london,the mess in denmark now and in holland before,france,germany and their turkish minority,belgium and their moroccan minority...albanians and serbs,bosnians and serbs......i would like to say that islam can excist in europe,but just take a look at the facts...are we ready...or even ARE THEY READY...??

  • 215.
  • At 02:03 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • christos wrote:

to victor:at least we have rich history to show mate,what do you have..??you are talking about mixed are 40% albanians and the rest serbs,bulgarians,turks,greeks,and roma gypsies..talking about mixing...
you only have ONE argument and you keep reapeating it...the fact that athenians didn't like macedonians because they saw them as threat..ancient greek politics..that's why to insault them they were calling them barbarians,not because they were not of greek stock....the language of ancient macedonians proves it...have you ever heard of the ancient script in greek :ESTI MEN OUN ELLAS KAI H MAKEDONIA..??it means: IT IS INDEED GREECE THE MACEDONIA...we have our history you see,we don't need to steal it from others...

have you ever been to the sites of PELLA, AEGAIS,AND VERGINA..??have you ever been to PHILIPPOI in kavala and the museaum of ancient history in THESSALONIKI...?? since you claim you are macedonian,why haven't you been there to visit your ancient civilisation...???maybe you will find it upsetting that everything there is greek,the architechture,the names,the art...EVERYTHING!!!!

just because you have the support of USA,it doesn't mean that it is the truth what you are sent troops to iraq to get their influence with your side,and god knows what else you did to get their low can a country get..???
history will prove the will have NO EU entry if you continue like this...and don't tell me you don't care like the turks....

  • 216.
  • At 02:23 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • chris wrote:

to the answer of some turks accusing greeks about building mosques etc...

a)albanians in greece burned the greek flag in a match for the 2004 euro qualifier,a game played in greece which we won...the albanians were immigrants living and working in greece...when they claim territory and history,(see iliada argument above) would you give them your flag to hold..??i dissagree with the decision of that school not to give the greek flag to that boy..i believe he should have got it..but on the other hand i don't blame the decision of my fellow greeks when i see behaviour from albanians like that...

b)about greeks not recognising the muslim minority as turkish..the minority is not only turkish ethnically but pomak and roma gypsy who are muslim as to name them all truks is not correct either...and i can assure you they live a much more comfortable life in greece than the greek minority in turkey which is dissapearing fast...

c)about greece not building mosques..are you serious...??just go to the west thrace and you'll find loads of them....the issue was in athens,while athenians agreed to build a mosque in athens,muslims demaded to be right in the city centre,right next to the most touristic place in athens: PLAKA...the fact that a mosque was granted to them was not enough...they are trying to make a statement that they conquered another european capital...NO!!! if they want a mosque,yes they should have it,but not near plaka...

i am looking forward to see how turkey will treat it's minorities when you join EU...

  • 217.
  • At 05:00 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Lena-From-Kosova wrote:

What I want to say to all of you is just simply this.
I am Muslim. I came to America during the war of 99, in Kosova. I used to be friends with Serbians, before the war. Today I am not very tolerant of them, because of the atrocities they have done. I am not tolerant of those Albanians/Kosovars that burned down churches either, I don't think that was the way to go during a war, but I can understand when you see your daughters being raped to death, and your sons being murdered, by being cutting into little pieces, you have no other choice! I have Bosnian, Croatian, Turkish, Russian, Greek, British, American, African American, Brazilian, German, French friends, etc. It is hard to live in America and not discriminate. I have been to most parts of Europe. I have been to Turkey. I know for a fact most Albanians in Albania are Muslim, and yes there are many Christians too. I actually have a friend at work, who is Muslim, however, she wears a cross? I asked her why? She said because I live alone in America and I don't want to get hurt nor do I want to be made fun of here because of the 9/11. My reaction to that was??? I just laughed histarically. I said I am Muslim, I am the most tolerant person I know of. I have more American friends than any other. They all know I am Muslim, and they know who I am. I don't wear a hijab. I don't like hiding myself. I don't read the Quran word for word and follow it. I follow in the name of Allah, just a name of our God. I believe a religion just gives people something to live for everyday. A religion is basically supposed to make you moral. As far as I am concerned, Albanians/Kosovars, are the most moral people I know of. They are very emotional, sensitive people. I know this because I have observed every Albanian family I know of, I have observed the two countries. I don't believe in Albania's religion is Albanianism. That was ENVER HOXHA, a communist that ruled Albania for so long. There were many more Muslims until he took over and told them that.
I believe everyone should believe in some sort of religion. I just don't understand why people have to die because of ethnicity and because of religion. We are in the 21 century and yet people keep repeating history that has been repeated, FOREVER. Mark, I am not sure that I agree that 70% of Albanians in Albania are Muslim, however, I know for a fact that 80% or more were Muslim until Enver Hoxha stepped in power.
The Ottoman Empire, as all other religions in this world, they have done the same thing, tried to convert people to Islam, using violence. (LA LA LA, all religions have done this in the past, and guesssss what? They still do it today, w/o the swords they have better technology now, I'm just waiting for some amazing Robots to just start wiping people out because they are Muslims.)(sarcasm, for those that are not picking it up)
I think that's all I have to say to all of you who are ignorant and not so. I wish you the best, and a lot of peace for the years to come.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE KOSOVA, finally you might be able to get some peace from the whole world not just Serbians.

  • 218.
  • At 11:47 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Rona wrote:

i have worked and lived in Greece for years.

if you are not white orthodox, if your surname doesn't sound like Greek ones you are in big big trouble...

especially if you are Albanian in Greece you will be hated and racially abused and dicriminated wherever you go in Greece.

and majority of Greeks have very extrme right wing-conservatibe opinions.

there is no tolerance, no rights for minorities.

this is real greece...i been there lived there.

  • 219.
  • At 11:51 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Rona wrote:

i have worked and lived in Greece for years.

if you are not white orthodox, if your surname doesn't sound like Greek ones you are in big big trouble...

especially if you are Albanian in Greece you will be hated and racially abused and dicriminated wherever you go in Greece.

and majority of Greeks have very extrme right wing-conservatibe opinions.

there is no tolerance, no rights for minorities.

this is real greece...i been there lived there.

  • 220.
  • At 11:55 PM on 21 Feb 2008,
  • Lukas wrote:


I am sorry if you were discriminated against when living in Greece.

However, when it comes to minority rights, where exactly do you think that these are not respected? If you go to Thrace you will see that the minority there has turkish schools, mosques and MPs in parliament.

Now immigrants do not constitute a minority. Unlike the Turks, they have only recently moved to greece. So they get pretty much the same rights that immigrants get in every other country. That means they are entitled to social security and education under the same terms as Greek and EU nationals, as well as healthcare. They are not entitled to tuition in their mother tongue, or anything similar. After some years they can apply for citizenship. If any of these rights are violated immigrants can and should file lawsuits, even if they lose their cases, they can always turn to the european court.

I know that Greece is not Sweden or Germany, but you must acknowledge some realities:

A. Greece never invited immigrants like Germany or Sweden did in the 60s. The immigrants came in illegaly, were employed illegaly and after it was obvious that they were too many to ignore, they were allowed to become permanent residents paying 1/10th of what an illegal immigrant in the USA had to pay to achieve that.

B. Because immigration was not the result of an official invitation, but rather a reality that was imposed upon Greece, there was no plan on what to do with 1mil of people in a 10mil country, no teachers trained to teach greek as a foreign language and generaly no immigration policy. All the related matters came up suddenly and had to be dealt with gradualy one by one.

C. All greeks that are older than 40 had to go through much tougher stuff than the average immigrant today. A person my father's age has lived under an extremely brutal dictatorship, nationalist oppression and suppression of every civil liberty that now is taken for granted. A person my grandfather's age has also lived and probably fought in a world war, a civil war and has lived for 4 years under nazi occupation. Therefore for a quite big part of the population it is beyond understanding why an immigrant would complain when facing not even half of what they did.

Generaly, the situation for immigrants in Greece does suck indeed if you compare to the situation in north and west european countries, but even there quite many problems still exist. For example 3/4 of the jail inmates in Sweden are immigrants and if you don't have a swedish name, it's much harder to find a job or appartment, and we're talking about a country that invited immigrants and supposedly had some plan on what to do with them and how to integrate them.

As for the Greeks being conservative and right wing, it is simply not true. For the 34 years that Greece has been a democracy, there have been 16 years of conservative government and 18 years of social democrat government, also the communist party and the left party win 7-15% of the vote in every ellection. Which is pretty much the case in almost all european countries.

  • 221.
  • At 12:04 AM on 22 Feb 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

When Lena speaks that Kosovo has gone through all sorts of atrocities they have. Though it is very important to note that they also commited their fair share of atrocities as well. To say that they were a response to what the Serbian people were doing is not true. The Albanians in Kosovo are not the all perfect people, they do not deserve such sympathy that they get. What about all the historic churches they burned to the ground, along with the people they killed. That was the past and there was an international reaction to that. It was the UN RESOLUTION 1244...Kosovo remains part of Serbian sovereign territory, under UN and NATO jurisdiction, and the outcome must be resolved by ALL parties through the United Nations It is as simple as that. If all the Nations do not agree then it does not happen. To make Kosovo a special situation is not right. What gives them the special right? Nothing. Even going back before the UN Resolution there was the HELSINKI sovereign nation in Europe shall be split up without acceptance by ALL parties involved. So right there two clear violations of international law. People speak of giving the people of Kosovo an area to live without problems, THE ALBANIANS HAVE THERE OWN COUNTRY!!!!! Why create a new nation today? Many people are in favor of the European Union. The idea was to make it that "borders" will not have as big an impact. Then why create a new state, where the borders will cause conflict? If everyone wants progress is this not a step back? This will not bring peace to world by any means. It will begin to start even more conflict. What about the minorities of Russia, or the situation in Ireland? What about these people? The world will become even more unstabel.

  • 222.
  • At 06:47 AM on 22 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Before this discussion gets even more heated (if at all possible) I'd like to point out that nobody yet replied to my much earlier question what can one safely call Macedonian kebab these days, particularly if ordering it in different Balkan countries.

Can I still ask for 'Macedonian' in Bulgaria, like I used to decades ago?

Or in Bosnia during Sarayevo Olympics?

But should I refer to it as FYROM kebab when in Greece just to stay healthy?

But on the other hand perhaps I'd cause offense if it turned out that, according to the locals, this type of kebab originated in Greek Macedonia and not in "False State"?

So what then, 'Greek kebab'?

Or perhaps I should just forget it, and to be on the safe side simply order Adana ke....Just joking!
Folks, I was just kidding! Guys, please, stop it! It was a joke, OK?!
a JOKE!!! OUCH!!!!

No, I guess I should have remembered than in the Balkans almost any minute incident can easily become a deadly serious matter.

And I mean - D E A D L Y !

Just look how a peaceful Thursday protest in Belgrade turned suddenly into a mob attack on foreign embassies.

  • 223.
  • At 12:04 PM on 22 Feb 2008,
  • P M wrote:

Hi All,
this is a great forum! (Although Mark Mardel with his endless negative bias when reporting about Eastern Europe continues to amaze, anger and eventually - yes... bore me!) But apart from that (and a couple of completely ignorant comments from middle easterners and Americans that know nothing about the region) most of these comments are pretty true in their own way!
Yes - the Albanians were in the GEOGRAPHIC region of Kosovo before the Serbs, and no - they are not the "aboriginal" population - the Thracians were there before them and were forced out by the Illyrians/Albanians and in some places mixed with them, and no - the Serbs didn't evict Albanians - the plague and Roman imperial resettlement programs did, the Romans then allowed and invited Slavs (not only Serb!) to resettle Kosovo for the purpose of paying tax, and yes - the Turks DID forcefully and very savagely and brutally convert hundreds of thousands of people in South East EUROPE to Islam. And yet many Albanians did eventually convert voluntarily in order to get preferential treatment over the Slav and Greek "infidels" and thus became their landlords and oppressors and an important source of rebellion-crushing irregular armies for the Turks, hence - so many muslim Albanians in this blog would like to forget about their Islam - "it was just a way to survive and keep their Albanianism"... True - also it made everyone else around them that struggled on and kept their christianity see them as traitors and the "henchmen of the Turks”. Ah the Turks - the "source of peace and stability in the “Balkans" (that's the Turkish invaders term for South East Europe by the way - and therefore not a very PC word to use... hear that Mark?)
"Pax Ottomana" someone called it... yes... I find that as peaceful a notion as a Jew finds Auschwitz... let me tell you what they brought us in South East Europe... lamb kebab, kitsch oriental music and of course a lot of mosques (we blew most of them up when the Russians liberated us and many, though sadly not all Turks fled back to Asia). What they kept from us in those 500 years are those minor details of - our rights to life/not be raped, use of our land, our money, freedom to travel, write, study, sing, in our language, ride a horse, etc, etc, etc... Thank you Turks - we love you for that so much!
They "kept us from killing each other" - HA! As if the westerners didn't kill each other?? These things always happen between neighbours until they eventually settle within their predominant areas of residence and chose a good geographical border - say a big river or mountain like the Pyrenees or the Rhine or the Channel... or the Drava or Danube or Mt. Olympus? We would've fought a bit more and then made peace and then prosper and invent the telephone, and paint Mona Lisa and "discover" America and not exterminate the locals unlike Mardel's kind did!
As someone now living (and working, and paying NON-blood tax) in Londonistan I would like to say - NO! Europe and Islam is and has always been a bad mix - religion in general is for keeping naiive people under control but Islam seems to be the worst of the lot by a few miles... It forbids too many good things and insights too many evil things. Look how great the people from the Middle East used to be 2000 years ago - true cradle of human civilization... and what they've become now… even with all that oil?? FREE EUROPE, FREE IRAQ! There is no such thing as European Islam – the two are from 2 different planets!

  • 224.
  • At 01:48 PM on 22 Feb 2008,
  • albana wrote:

i am kosovan not albanian and i must say that albanians are not religious at all! maybe a small minority may be but the majority are either "christians" or athiests. Kosovo are more religious Kosovos populaiton of muslims is 97% . Many ksoovan muslims do practise Islam. As for Turkey, I think we should accept them into the EU as they have the same approach about religions as western Europe and dont pose a threat to europe.By distancing them away, we could be actually making Turkey resentfull and causing a threat to the western Europe.

  • 225.
  • At 07:50 PM on 22 Feb 2008,
  • christos wrote:

to rona...: partly i agree with you,that we greeks do not accept easilly foreigners except other europeans,either eastern or western,and in the best case scenario middle eastern people or egyptians...we are very cautius especially when it comes to people that we had years of dispute like albania turkey etc...that will change is already changing....
but you are not correct that there are no rights for minorities in greece...we have our minorities wich are respected...but as for asylum seekers we are far behind that other EU nations...shame really....but this goverment promissed to make essential changes so we keep hoping..
there is a wave of change which is slow but steady...hopefully the difficulties that asylum seekers face in greece will end soon...

bare in mind that for decades we were a country of emmigration and only the last 10 years we experienced so much immigration into greece that 10% of the population is foreign britain and other western countries took them more than that to come at the point of freedom and acceptance they are now....when your country starts getting immigrants (i presume you are from albania) you'll see how people are going to react...not all of them are going to be nice...


  • 226.
  • At 09:51 PM on 24 Feb 2008,
  • Visar Maliqi wrote:

I am albanian, proud one. I am discussed and disapointed at Europe for failing to support us in many wars through out histroy until now. But when it comes to religion, we are the most modern and tolerant. We must protect our mosques and churches,and continue to love each other, no matter what religion an individual chooses to practice. RESPECT towards each others religious beliefs is the magic word, after all we are all sons of the eagle at the end.Remember This is what makes us albanians, and unites us. Long live ALBANISM.

  • 227.
  • At 05:24 AM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

To Christos, hopefully this will help you understand the history of the Macedonians.

Tito did not create the Macedonian identity. As early as the 1800s
until the 1930s, (according to USA immigrant and census records) there
were people from emigrating to USA from Greece that called themselves
Macedonian and not Greek. In the 1930s up until the present, not one
Macedonian has emigratted from Greece. I smell two important points
here: there was already a well developed sense of being Macedonian well
before Tito, so how did these people calling themselves Macedonian and
not Greek develop an identity of being Macedonian if they are part
Slavic and not related to ancient Macedonians? And two: why all of a
sudden did Macedonians stop emigrating from Greece, yet the still came
from Yugo, Bulgaria, and other places? Reason being: after the 1913
treaty that divided Macedonia to Greece, Yugo, Albania, and Bulgaria,
Yugos had ambitions to take back the Macedonian part of Greece and
bring it into Yugoslavia. So the Greeks began switching the names of
towns from Slavic to Greek and forbidding Macedonian from being spoken.
They were afraid to recognize that Macedonians existed within Greece,
because then it would bite them in the ass if Macedonians ever wanted
to claim any rights to Aegan. How do they solve it? By denying there
were any Macedonians in Greece.

Second, it's true Alexander spread Hellenic ideas and values. Greeks
have a right to that history and should be proud of it. However, it
does not mean that Alexander was Hellenic as the others were. If you
really study history, Alexander is always referred to Alexander the
Great of Macedon -- repeatedly. This is hardly true of leaders and
Kings of Greek states...they would rarely refer to them as "_____ of
Athens" or ______ of Sparta.

Though, it could be true that Macedonians and Hellenic people were all
closely related. However, there is no evidence to suggest that TODAY'S
macedonians have no claim to ancient Macedonians while today's Greeks
only can. AFter all, through all the mgiration throughout Europe, and
with a Macedonian identity existing continuously for over 2400 years,
is it hard to believe that some Slavic tribes mixed with the people of
ancient Macedonia?

The truth of the matter is, after 1913 treaty (with it set to expire
soon and with all the separtist movements going on) Greece went on a
campaign to cleanse their country of Macedonians (who they simply call
Slavs or Bulgars) in order to protect the land they won. Why, that land
has: vital sea acces and deposits of gold and silver in amounts found
nowhere else throughout Greece.

Everything is in GREEK at those places because: Greeks were civillized
and Macedonians weren't. That's the bottom line. Greeks had democracy.
Macedonians didn't. Greeks read and taught philosophy. Macedonians
didn't. If Macedonia was such a part of Greece, why isn't there plenty
of Greek records about the Macedonians as there are about Sparta and
Athens and etc.? Because, they didn't view themselves as Hellenic
people. They didn't feel unified with the rest of the Hellenes.
Democracy, written communication, and philosophy were quite "rare" to

  • 228.
  • At 02:53 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • tim wrote:

Well Mirek(222), chances are people will check if the meat actually comes
from macedonia(you know, the region in Greece around Thessalonki). It's true that things in the Balkans may be volatile, but the cause you are championing carries the seeds of a new confrontation: Look at what
#213 is saying: In a completely irrelevant thread(about Albanian Islam) he says:
"Today if a portion of Macedonia belongs to Greece, it is only by an illegal partition of the whole and occupation of a part of Macedonia."
which only goes to show that years of communist propaganda has brainwashed an entire region into believing completely absurd things and to carry the seed for more conflicts and more war.
For the record, I have been a number of times to the supposed "occupied" Macedonia and everybody consider themselves 100% greek. Apparenty 213 knows better what they are.
In addition to all that crap he mentions that Macedonian language was not greek. Well, unfortunately,
Alexander in greek means "he who makes men run away", Philip means "friend of horses", Ptolemy means "ware-like" and Macedonia itself means "mountainous". It is true that greeks used to put greek endings to names, but they did not change the root of the names, e.g. Perian Darius-Darios or Xerxes->Xerxis (that's the persian leader in "300" )
Observing people in greece, I remark some characteristics observed in ancient art, the nose being especially characteristic. However, while no country is ethnically pure
, it is very clear that slavs arrive in the region 1000 years after Alexander, so if greeks have
little to do with the Macedonians of Alexander(who considered themselves archgeneral of the greek force agains the persian empire and solicited and got support in troops and supplies from other greek cities),
slavs have absolutely nothing to do with them.
It is amazing that this historic nonsense and irredentism has been engraved on a whole region by Tito's regime and persists even today. The whole idea that these people are somehow the "true" macedonians and the greek macedonians are either "occupiers" or "an oppressed minority"-even though greece is an EU country and they could freely complain if that were the case without the need of external lawyers withwhom they have nothing in common- is so incredibly dumm. It is also the reason why FYROM should never be recognized by such a name, as it just encourages this idiotic theory and territorial claims on neibgoring countries-in this case EU and NATO countries. Imagine if Mexico breaks up and a part of it wants to be called "republic of California" and talks about the Californian nation and occupied California. Or maybe Argentina and occupied Falklands. Unfortunately, the once famed BBC objectivity is no longer: The BBC could have been using the FYROM term, which is the UN accepted name and acceptable to both sides(and pleasant to none), at least on an interim basis. Incidentally, the greek embassy in Skopje was also attacked the day before by thugs, but
unlike the US embassy, this received neither coverage, nor condemnation.

Another example of the cultivated hate between balkan states in #216-217: It is plain stupid to say
"Albanians hate", "serbs hate", "greeks hate", "turks hate". Does
anyone know all Albanians,Serbs, Greeks,Turks? When you work and live in another country, you should respect
the people there. I am not orthodox, my name is not greek(and I do not hide it), and I have lived and worked
in Greece for a number of years without problems. All greeks I know are very open, in fact every now and then
a ship comes carrying refugees in dire straits from Africa or Asia and ordinary people and authorities alike
offer help. I also know a number of Albanians working there and they are quite well integrated, they have
their families and have made up their minds to stay. There were also Albanians involved in a number of crimes,
such as bus highjacking using grenades(one guy plus the perpetrator got killed). They are not characteristic of Albanians,
-all Albanians I know are very hard working people-, but there have been a number of such incidents(especially
after the pyramid scheme in Albania and the looting of military facilities by people, which meant lots
of people, including criminals with automatic weapons) and
it is also hard to explain to the family of the guy who got killed in the bus highjacking that they are better off
with open borders.
And compare what happened to Albanian immigrants in Greece(accepted, even though many entered illegaly, managed to find jobs and many prospered), vs Italy( had 3 days to find a job without being allowed to leave a confined zone in the harbor-then deported if they did not find a job)
In any case, immigration is always subject to the rules of the host country. Don't like it there, go back or try another country.

  • 229.
  • At 03:23 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Beverly Coleman wrote:

Human rights groups say Greece has one of the worst records in the European Union for racism against ethnic minorities.

According to Panayote Dimitras, spokesman of the anti-racism campaign group the Greek Helsinki Monitor, RACISM IN GREECE is deep-rooted.

"Greek national culture is one that believes there is a superiority of the Greek nation and when you think like this about yourself it is very easy to think that the others are inferior," he says....

  • 230.
  • At 04:59 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Alex wrote:

To Victor,actually all the evidence concerning ancient macedonians shows their greek affiliation,Alexander himself participated in the olympic games after proving that he was the descendant of Alexander I therefore Greek.Your arguments about the partition of macedonia is baseless since there was no macedonia only ottoman terrirory just conquered that contained 3 major ethnicities;Greeks,Slavs and Bulgars.I could go on and on but this kind of conversation is extremely taxing and I have already done it too many times over the internet,just a suggestion though;cross-check greek sources also,visit archaeologigal sites in Greece if you can and most importantly ask yourself if a rich history means being more advanced as a human.

  • 231.
  • At 09:01 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • klauss bauer wrote:

the reason you cannot communicate with greeks is simply because you cannot find a common language. You need to specify what are the people who live today in greek Macedonia. Are they greek?(which they strongly maintain). They certainly do not believe they are a part of some minority and they surely believe they have NOTHING in common with you.
If you think no, then do you really maintain you know better than they what they are? If you think yes, are they any less Macedonian than you? After all, they do live in a (big) part of Macedonia, just like you.
So if you call yourself Macedonian,
how can they both be Macedonian(which they surely are) and distinct from you. If you call yourself "slav Macedonian", then that will be accurate-you are presumably somebody of slavic origin living in a part of Macedonia. If you call yourself "northmacedonian", I suppose this will also be ok -because you do live in the northern part of Macedonia.
The rest of your history is plain wrong:
In classical times(that is until Philip and Alexander), Macedonia was not organized into strong city-states like Athens and Sparta(hence the frowning upon by the more organzized southern city-states). But Alexander(he who makes men run away), Philip and Macedonia itself are greek names.
Slavs appear in the region many centuries later, so you cannot claim the ancient Macedonia.
But this is not an issue of history,
but simply of common sense: Two different things cannot have the same name. You cannot claim a macedonian nation, since there are other people who live in the region, consider themselves(and are) no less macedonian than you and do not wish to be a part of your nation.
We have had enough wars in the region, it would be a folly to allow a new generation in your country growing up with the myth that parts of Greece and Bulgaria are theirs.

  • 232.
  • At 09:33 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

To Alex and others who are confused about the history of Macedonia and Greece and how the Macedonian people are not and never were Greek.

It is much easier to start a list to show you how the Macedonians are not Greek. Hopefully it will help you and your people understand.
1) The ancient Macedonians were a distinct nation, separate from their neighbors, the ancient Greeks, Illyrians, and Thracians. The ancient Greek and Roman historians have shown us that the Macedonians spoke a separate Macedonian language and had their own customs along with culture and tradition. Archeological discoveries confirm that the material culture of the Macedonians also defer greatly from all their neighbors, and it is by far more superior in artistry then anything found in contemporary Greece, Illyria, and Thrace. The texts of the ancient writers distinguish the Macedonians from the ancient Greeks, just like they distinguish the Romans and the Carthaginians. Yet, like the other non-Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Illyrians, and Thracians, the Macedonian high society also used the Greek language along with Macedonian. Greek was spoken by the nobility of many different ancient nations, just like French was spoken in the 19th century (at the German and Russian courts for example). Unfortunately there are only 150 glosses that have survived of the ancient Macedonian language and like ancient Carthaginian, Illyrian, and Thracian, it can not be reconstructed. There is no doubt that the Illyrains, Thracians, and Macedonians were non-Greeks, or in the words of the ancient Greeks "barbarians" which literally means people who spoke other non-Greek languages.

2) Macedonia became a world power when the Macedonian king Philip II conquered Thrace, greater part of Illyria, and the whole of Greece (except Sparta). At the battle of Chaeronea in 338, the Macedonian army destroyed the united Greek army, and put an end to Greek freedom and ancient Greek history. To secure the Macedonian victory, Macedonian garrisons were established in the Greek cities, just like they were established in Thrace and Illyria.

3) The ancient Greek historian Diodorus wrote much of the history of Macedonia from the times of Philip II and Alexander the Great up to the last Macedonian king Perseus. In his writings, Diodorus is clear that the ancient Macedonians were a distinct nation, not related to any of the Balkan peoples (Greeks, Thracians, and Illyrians). It is very important to look at your own people who simply put it that Macedonia was not Greece. I believe some quotes would help you understand.

1st quote: "For even Greeks – Thespians, Plataeans and Orchomenians, and some other hostile to the Thebans who had joined the king (of the Macedonians) in the campaign."

2nd: "For many days the king lay helpless under his treatment, and the Greeks who had been settled in Bactria and Sogdiana, who had long borne unhappily their sojourn among peoples of another race and now received word that the king has died of his wounds, revolted against the Macedonians. They formed a band of 3000 men and underwent great hardship on their homeward route. Later they were massacred by the Macedonians after Alexander’s death."

So I decided to take your advice and look at a Greek source and I have found what I always do, the fact that Macedonia is not part of Greece. There are many more quotes from numerous Greek and Roman historians. I feel it is also important to quote Plutarch, the ancient Greek Historian, “Alexander was born on the sixth day of the month Hecatombaeon, which the Macedonians call Lous, the same day on which the temple of Artemis at Ephesus was burned down."(This means the Macedonians had a separate Calendar).
As I said before I took your advice and cross-checked with the Greek sources. The result is the same. Macedonia is not Greece. And if you feel that this is not enough, you could always cross-check Macedonian sources to confirm these findings.

  • 233.
  • At 09:00 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Just another number wrote:

Thats right...unite everyone and mix everyone together so its easier to control them...that is exactly the plans of the NWO.

  • 234.
  • At 10:30 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Sinad wrote:


By your reasoning, then, all nations were occupied by the ottoman empire no longer count. The truth is, the ottoman empire conquered Macedonia as they did other Balkan territories. However, Macedonia was weak, and before they had a chance to enjoy independence, the 3 powers surroudning them partitioned it. And you cannot explain why and how there were Macedonians in the mid-1800s who called themselves MAcedonians and said they were from Macedonian and spoke Macedonian, if Macedonia didn't exist as it's own identity and as an occupied nation.

  • 235.
  • At 03:55 AM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Alex wrote:

To Victor,with all due respect to your ideas I must disagree with some of them,I have no enmity towards macedonian Slavs (yes I call them such as I would call a Bulgarian macedonian since for me the term macedonian is a toponym) but as I have already said I do not have the energy to start yet another debate,so I will leave a few words and counter-arguments of mine as short as possible:

1)There is no evidence of ancient macedonians speaking any other language than Greek.I have thoroughly searched all sources on that,the bulk of macedonian people undoubtedly contained other non-greek people through conquest but the macedonian nobility is of greek descent as claimed by Herodotus and other historians of the time,a distinct macedonian scripture or alphabet has never been found.

2)Actually ancient Greek history ends at 146 BC by the defeat of the last greek city-state conglomeration by the Romans,Philip did everything in his power to woo the southern states while Alexander and other Macedonian kings were undoubtedly more aggressive.Garrisons had remained in the cities of the defeated other times in the past as in the aftermath of the pelopponesian war.

3)Demosthenes argued (quite vehemently I can say) the same fact that Macedonians were not Greeks,while Aischines and Isocrates opposed the idea.However I remember a piece from Herodotus before the battle of Platea when emissaries from Alexander the first king of Macedon warned the rest of the Greeks about the impending attack of the Persians,the king quoted "For I am myself a Greek by descent and I would not see Greece exchanging its freedom with slavery",after the Persian wars he took part in the olympic games after a tribunal of jurors (ellanodikai) confirmed his greek ancestry.

  • 236.
  • At 06:03 PM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • christos wrote:

to viktor.....

may i suggest you read a bit moe history and not the way you want to see it,but the way it is....come to thessaloniki (greek name), pella (greek name) philippoi (greek name) or vergina ( greek name) and have a look for yourself...since you claim you are macedonian how come haven't you already...??
ancient greece was not only sparta,athens,corinth and thebes...greeks where the thessalians,macedonians the people of epirus....there is no doubt about that....
you comment names changed in greece to cover the slavic said it yourself...SLAVIC!!! and as history teach us slavs came in the area of the balkans 1000 years after alexander!!!!so how can macedonians be slavs..??and of course you don't mention the fact that tito changed many greek names to slavic,many of the population of skopje are greeks who had to change their names to slavic so they wouldn't be procecuted by tito and his regime....
as for america,when the people of macedonia,the greek macedonia were emigrating they were stating the place they were coming from..not necesserily their nationality....

EVEN if we accept what you say,and macedonians were not greeks,they were hellenised and for millenia they were greek speakers and had greek culture..deffinatelly NOT the people of modern FYROM cannot call themselves macedonians or claim any part of their history,only as a toponym...
their language is a bulgarian dialect (remember you have a dispute with bulgaria as well for that),a slavic language that has nothing to do with ancient macedonia.

so if you want to go any further,join NATO and EU,just give up any territorial claims over greece (and you DO-recently in skopje greek buildings were attacked and greek journalists,greek flags burned and the crowds were shouting "we will get to salonica"). two nations that want to be allies,they do not burn each other's flag and do not claim land or history....period..!!!

  • 237.
  • At 05:17 AM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

To all who are still confused about the history of Macedonia.

It is a shame that you mention the names Aischines and Isocrates, while those two themselves have spoke on how Macedonia was not greek. It is a sad truth that the Greek-Propoganda networks such as Pan-Macedonian Network, Macedonian FAQ (Hellenic)and A Very Brief History of Macedonia have been feeding lies about their own history for years now. It is very simple for them to do so because Greeks believe anything other Greeks tell them. Though we will not go into detail about the weak minds of the modern greek who i should add, have no relation what so ever to the ancient greeks. They blended with asians and egyptians, though we wouuld not want to tell Greeks that just in case they could not handle the truth.

Going back to my initial point of the propoganda of the greeks. I will simply put out the Pan Macedonian Network about how "Macedonia is a Greek Land" this will also show you that i have read my history about the Macedonians, and like i have said before, try to read something from a non-greek and hopefully you will expand your mind on not only this issue but numerous.

"Macedonia is a Greek Land"
Greek claim 1

There is nothing in the ancient literature to suggest that ancient Macedonia was a Greek land. On the contrary, the ancient authors knew the difference between the Greek city-states and the kingdom of Macedon. Ancient and modern authors report:

1 "While Demosthenes was still in exile, Alexander died in Babylon, and the Greek states combined yet again to form a league against Macedon. Demosthenes attached himself to the Athenian convoys, and threw all his energies into helping them incite the various states to attack the Macedonians and drive them out of Greece." [p.212] Plutarch, 'The Age of Alexander' [Plutarch here specifically distinguishes Greece from Macedonia.]

2 M.Cary in his book "The Geographic background of Greek and Roman History" (ICBN 0-313-23187-7) I find the following constituent parts of Greece: Epirus, Acarnania, The Ionian Isles, Aetolia, Thessaly, The Spercheu Valley, Locris, Phocis, Boeotia, Euboea, Attica, Aegina, Corinth, Achaea, Elis, Arcadia, Argolis, Laconia, Messenia, The Greek Archipelago, Crete, The Outer Isles, The Northern Aegean, The East Aegean, Rhodes, .......... and of course, No Macedonia. Why M. Cary would omit Macedonia from the general description of Greece? Perhaps for the same reason the German classical scholar Bursian failed to include Macedonia in his otherwise comprehensive geographical survey of Greece "Geographie von Griechenland". Macedonia was simply different country then Greece.

3 On p. 91 in "Hellenistic World" by F.W.Walbank we find: "It is necessary, in any assessment of the role of Macedonia in the hellenistic world to bear in mind that although our sources naturally, being Greek or based on Greek writers, lay their emphasis on Macedonian policy towards Greece, Macedonia was in fact equally a Balkan power for which the northern, western and north-eastern frontiers were always vital and for which strong defenses and periodic punitive expeditions over the border were fundamental policy." ".... Macedonians were an essential bulwark to the north of Greece". [Self-explanatory]

4 In N.G.L.Hammond's book "The Macedonian State" on p. 141 states: "Philip and Alexander attracted many able foreigners, especially Greeks, to their service, and many of these were made Companions." [The operative word is "foreigners-especially Greeks", which shows that even Hammond forgets to tow the line.]

5 In "Makedonika" by Eugene Borza on p. 164 we read: "Alexander seem to have imported troupes of performers from Greece." [One does not import from his own country, does he?]

6 Plutarch "The Age of Alexander" "Thebans countered by demanding the surrender of Philotas and Antipater and appealing to all who wished to liberate Greece to range themselves on their side, and at this Alexander ordered his troops to prepare for battle." [p.264]

There is plenty more research that i can share with you, and it is important to note that christos and alex do not cite their information, whether it be from books or not? Why because as i have said they just believe what other greeks say. It is very difficult to argue with one who provides sources and with one who does not. Most importantly most sources are those of Greeks who say Macedonia was never apart of Greece.

Also a nice list of Greek Historians who have clearly stated information whether it be in direct citation or in maps or whatever means that have said Macedonia was never Greece.

Demosthenes, Achilles, Hippocrates, Caesar, Apollo, Aphrodite, Heracles, Pan, Orpheus, Zeus, Artemis, Hermes, Dionysus, Athena, Perseus, Medusa, Eros, Centaur, Lapith, Nike, the Maenads, the Muses, the Graces, etc.

If you would like i could provide you with their direct citations though i wish to keep this blog piece as short as possible.

It is very difficult to argue with fact. Actually impossible to argue with fact. Though some how the Greeks are the only ones who can. That i will say is amazing.

At times you must realize that some people will never believe the truth, they will not understand it and it is a shame. Though if they want to make themselves look like outcasts, go agaisnt what everyone else in the world knows then let it be. Macedonia was never greek, it is not greek and it will never be greek.

  • 238.
  • At 11:21 AM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • David Cohen wrote:

#237:"Macedonia was never greek, it is not greek and it will never be greek.".
Great, another war in the Balkans! Victor trying to "liberate Salonika".
So Salonika is not greek!
BTW, all these historians notwithstanding(I think Falmereier is another missing reference), jews have a holiday called "Hannuka", where they celebrate (one of the very few at the time) their victory over the Greeks(that is after Alexander's empire was divided). Right, the greeks, not the Macedonians. Sorry Victor!
P.S. What is the BBC's interest in starting another war? Do you get exclusive coverage or anything? Right now there is a mutually (as well as UN-) agreed name by both countries(and pleasant to none), namely FYROM. Why is BBC using "Macedonia" to refer to FYROM?
Surely you would not appreciate anyone else referring to a breakaway Argentina "republic of the Falklands"
or Scotland.

  • 239.
  • At 02:50 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • mona wrote:

Viktor and Christos all this responses … What for? Again the story for all Balkan people is: someone is trying to show the other that he is better, stricter, richer history and so on. So what do you do with your next door neighbour? They are as they are and they ain’t going anywhere. You have to deal with whatever people that surrounds you. How do you measure values? By how many Nobel Prices your country won? How many wars have you fought? Who discovered DNA? How many castles you have? Who has higher living standard? How many of what makes a great nation?

What has this to do with the title of the Blog? Is there a European Isl..? For whatever reason muslims leave their original country move west and then start planting mosqes. Well by now I guess this religion is excluded in Antarctica and North Pole due to Global Cooling.

  • 240.
  • At 05:20 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

I will keep this post short and sweet since there is enough historical evidence on this page already to prove that Macedonia is not greek. Though to response number 238, first off when you speak of Macedonia do not use the term Salonika. Do no use a greek name to talk about Macedonia. Secondly more and more countries and respected news agencies are begining to use Macedonia, because they know what is correct. Simple as that. It is just a matter of time before everyone uses that name. Also when you speak of "Hanukkah" spell it correctly. Secondly if you wish to speak of the History of Hanukkah that is fine, though it seems that you are mistaken about the history of it. You are correct it has nothing to do with Macedonia, though the victory over the Hellenist Syrians. Antiochus, the Greek King of Syria, outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. So it has nothing to do with true greeks, though the Syrian Greeks. In 168 B.C.E. the Jews' holy Temple was seized and dedicated to the worship of Zeus. Some Jews were afraid of the Greek Syrian soldiers and obeyed them, but most were angry and decided to fight back. The fighting began in Modiin, a village not far from Jerusalem. A Greek Syrian officer and soldiers assembled the villagers, asking them to bow to an idol and eat the flesh of a pig, activities forbidden to Jews. The officer asked Mattathias, a Jewish High Priest, to take part in the ceremony. He refused, and another villager stepped forward and offered to do it instead. Mattathias became outraged, took out his sword and killed the man, then killed the officer. After this the Jews began to go into hiding and attacked the Greek Syrians whenever possible. Then Judah Maccabee went back to the original Temple that the fight took place. They founded everything destroyed. They cleaned and prepared the Temple for a celebration a dedication for the Temple, thus lighting the menorah with oil that was only supposed to last 1 day and it ended up lasting 8 days. Thus the Jewish Holiday was born. Now that the irrelevant comment on Macedonian history has been cleared up we can move on.

  • 241.
  • At 10:21 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

I would like to correct a statement that i made, i listed the greek gods instead of the greek historians in my last piece. Here is the proper list, i must have been a bit confused in my research on the topic, again my apology.
Hopefully this will clear that up.

Diodorus - Plutarch - Pausanias - Livy - Herodotus - Justin - Isocrates - Ptolemy - Polybius - Demosthenes - Arrian
Curtius Rufus - Josephus - Thracymachus - Pseudo-Scylax - Thucydides - Strabo - Pseudo-Herodotus - Ephoros

  • 242.
  • At 10:28 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

I would also like to point out to all that the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has conducted a study on the genetic differences between Macedonians in Greece and the Greeks. Yet again this is science, pure science it is impossible to argue with these results. So if you have claimed to done your research, Christos and Alex, you have not. Some important notes.

1) Macedonians belong to the "older" Mediterranean substratum, like Iberians (including Basques), North Africans, Italians, French, Cretans, Jews, Lebanese, Turks (Anatolians), Armenians and Iranians

2) Macedonians are not related with geographically close Greeks, who do not belong to the "older" Mediterranenan substratum,

3) Greeks are found to have a substantial relatedness to sub-Saharan (Ethiopian) people, which separate them from other Mediterranean groups.

  • 243.
  • At 08:49 PM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • Georgi Koniski wrote:

When you read all these comments from Greeks please don't be surprised how extrme nationalistic and Racist some Greek friends can be.

No Turks, No Albanians, No Macedonians, No italians,No immigrants, No Muslims
But Long Live Greece and Real Greek Nation
unfortunately this is the mentality in Greece today.

  • 244.
  • At 06:38 PM on 06 Mar 2008,
  • Werner Schneider wrote:

Good to hear, that religion is not a question of debate in Albania. Neither should it be anywhere else. If there is one creator or more of them, if the person was actually one or not, it shouldn't matter in the people's relation to each other. Take me: I am married to a devout Christian of the Aglipayan group (also known as Philippine National Church), which is known as modern and liberal. I myself have strong feelings towards Taoism, Buddhism and certain animist feelings too. This is not a problem between us at all and neither with my wife's family and her friends, who are mostly Roman Catholics. I don't care, when she goes to church from time to time and she doesn't mind my very different spirituality. Why do people so often identify themselves over religion and start fighting or threatening others about it. "Die Gedanken sind frei" (thoughts are free) is a famous song of German origin, which was so well interpreted by Pete Seeger. People should all feel as brothers and sisters, regardless of colour, eye-shape, religion, citizenship etc. I always feel cheered up, when I see mixed couples (Chinese-white, Philippino-white, black-white, whatever). If the whole world would mix up, far less people would think to be better than others.
I know, that this is not really realistic, because certain areas in the world are extremely tribalistic. And this doesn't only count for Africa, but also for us here in Europe (see Balcans e.g.). And as too many people still feel lower because their skin is not shiny white, there is little in sight for the better.
Back to Macedonia: Does really anybody think, that the small, poor Macedonia would start an insurgency in northern Greece? That's stupid polemic. Names are just sound and smoke. Nobody here in Austria cares, that there is a Salzburg in Germany too. Hardly anyone even knows. But here some people say, that when more village-signs in two languages (German-Slovenian) are errected in our southern province Carinthia, our small neighbour Slovenia might one day want to conquer these areas. Same nonsense. It's a pity, that people waste their time and productivity with such kind of childish quarreling.

  • 245.
  • At 09:16 PM on 06 Mar 2008,
  • christos wrote:

victor,you are starting to have a convince no one in here,and no one is interested any more,and the only one who goes on about it is you....
plus,turkish people are not old medditeranians,are asians...turkmenistan,rings a bell..??central asia..?if you are refering to the old inhabitants of todays turkey,there are moesians,lydians,fryians kappadokians,etc...not turks...even here you are wrong!!!!

besides the more you struggle the more you prove that you are trying to prove something that is not won't get NATO or EU accession in you don't compromise....

and gorgi koniski...just read victor's peosts to see who is the ultranationalist,and in fact,for something it does not belong to him....

  • 246.
  • At 03:02 AM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

It is finally good to see that Alex and Christos along with others have finally realized what the truth is about Macedonia. It is very sad to see that the Nation of greece is going to veto for Macedonia to be apart of N.A.T.O.

The Macedonian Foreign Minister put it simply, "If other Nato countries, including Greece, do not mind when our soldiers employed in Afghanistan wear on their uniforms the name of our country, Macedonia, and our flag why would Greece mind if we joined the alliance after we have fulfilled all the relevant criteria?" also another good point that was brought up by the Foreign Minister..." I would like to see how prepared Greece would have been if we were speaking about the constitutional name of the Republic of Greece".
Just goes to show you that Greeks say that they work with others, though when the majority of the Nations want Macedonia to be apart of it why be the country that causes problems??
Greece always states they want the best for the Balkans, then put aside your petty arguments about the name that is not yours and look at the past and see what country has actually done the best for the Balkans.
Macedonia proceeded to change their flag and alter their constitution to state that they will not infringe on "greek land". We as Macedonians have already given up to much though we have done it in the interest of the Balkans.

  • 247.
  • At 10:06 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Aylin wrote:

To Post#111: the Armenian 'genocide' is clearly debatable in many perspectives. Currently, the Armenian government refuses to join an international historical commission on the findings of a genocide. There are more historical and ancient Christian churches that exist today in Turkey than in any part of the middle east. Ive seen it with my own eyes. And if you truly believe Ottomans killed Armenians bc they were 'Christian' why would they all of a sudden kill a group afte 600 yrs living with them inside them. Not to mention the top military generals were Armenian themselves at the time. If the Ottoman Empire was truly 'barbaric' as most Europeans think so, wouldn't half of Europe be Muslim by now if they forced them to convert? Clearly it is not. This is all propaganda against Turkey.

  • 248.
  • At 03:20 PM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • christos wrote:

you said so much about how ancient macedonians are not greek....can you try to convice us now that fyromians have anything to do with macedonians..??i want to see your arguments....start with the language first....and any connections with ancient macedonia...

and why you still have maps that include the greek part,the bulgarian part and the albanian part...and why do you have bank notes with thessaloniki's white tower on them...could greece get notes with the eiffel tower of paris,then if it is all for admiration..??

what is your reason to go to afghanistan..??to show america how much you obbey them and that you will be good in the NATO..? how low can you get..?

  • 249.
  • At 10:15 AM on 09 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

To Christos,
Yes i am very "ultranationalist" about my country of Macedonia. I am proud to be Macedonian. I am proud that my people do not have to lie about their history. I am proud that our neighbors to the south(greeks) want our history. It is one thing to be nationalistic when you have HISTORY on your side, when you have facts and modern research on your side. You can be very nationalistic becasue you know what you are saying is the truth. Something that many greeks do not know. As you say i go on and on about this because every small step to have the truth told is important. Reaching out to the readers of this blog is important. To educated someone about history is important. You still claim that my findings are false and have no truth. I have listed all of my sources, i have listed books, historians, scientific organizations. You have listed nothing. All you do is state that what i say is not true. On what means? Just for your word? Christos in this world with out citing your sources your word is worth NOTHING!! With out providng sources to back your findings, your statements mean nothing.

It is important to note that we will never change our name for the greeks. They have no say WHAT SO EVER on this matter. The Greeks always try to change history and make it suit for them. This will not be the case. May i mention having the support of countries such as, USA, China, Russia, and UK to name a few of the "big players" does not hurt at all. Greece can do whatever they want. If we do not enter the EU or NATO it is all on the Greeks. The rest of the world knows we have reached the requirements as i have stated before. The unstability of the Balkans will be blamed on the Greeks.

Like i have said before i would be glad to send you some more research and articles and research papers written by some of the worlds most respectable historians about how Macedonia is not Greece and never was and never will be. It is important for the truth to be told.

  • 250.
  • At 05:40 PM on 09 Mar 2008,
  • andreas wrote:

Greeks against Macedonians, Greeks against Turks, Greeks against Albanians, Greeks against Bulgars, Greeks against italinas.

Who is Greece's Friend then ?
of course serbia and russia.

  • 251.
  • At 12:39 PM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Lukas wrote:

Victor, I am a Greek living in Sweden, i will try to explain a couple of points:

You say you have history and research on your side. Hm. No. There consensus among historians today is that ancient macedonia was just another greek kingdom governed by greek kings. If you don't believe me:

If you disagree with the prevailing scientific opinion, you are free to do pursue studies in the area, but the fact of the mater is that there is wide scientific consensus here, which says the complete oposite of what you'd like to hear. Sorry but not my problem.

About the FYROM name, well if FYROM wanted just the name it would be fine by me, but when your country's foreign ministry issues maps with thessaloniki in it, when your education ministry does the exact same thing in your school books, when your defence ministry manuals explicitly state an aim to annex greek macedonia, then it's not just a name that we disagree about. If it was some right wing lunatic that issued those maps i wouldn't mind but when it's the government itself that issues them i do mind. The fact of the matter here again is that greece (owning 50% of historical macedonia) simply asks the country that owns the 30% to adopt a toponym such as upper or north macedonia, just to make it clear that your country's sovereignty stops where the border with greece begins, i.e. that it's only the north of historical macedonia that belongs to you, not the entire region.

Nato is a military alliance, countries do not engage into alliances with countries that have territorial claims against them, never have and never will. Greece is no exception. It doesn't matter if you fulfil the criteria, you also have to convince us you are a trustworthy ally. I understand that you are worried about stability in your country, but again, not our problem. We certainly do not have an obligation to ignrore our interests just to contribute to the stability of a country whose government aims to destablise ours.

I hope you understand I am not nationalist and I don't have anything against you, but when your government says "Ignore our territorial claims and let us into nato or we might face stability issues" is a bit like saying "let us into nato or we will hold our breath until we chocke". I can't take them seriously.

Please don't reply with pseudoscientific theories, if i want to read history i can open wikipedia or visit a library in Sweden, i strongly recomend you do that too. And this post is not an effort to convince you that you are not macedonian (you can be whatever you feel), I'm simply trying to explain to you why the greek government had to veto your country's application.

  • 252.
  • At 10:26 PM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

To Lukas,

I see where you are coming from on your points about the Admission of Macedonia into NATO, we all have our own views on the issue.
Though when you speak that Macedonia was just another ancient greek kingdom you could not be further from the point. You uses wikipedia as your source. Living in America and currently enrolled in a University here we have been tought that wikipedia is not a credible source. That when writting any sort of research paper the golden rule is not to use wikipedia. Anyone has the ability to change whats on the page. Anyone can make a page about anything. There are too many varibales while using that website. If you try to use History Channel, or any other modern history text that our studied in America and across the world, you will notice for example that they say Alexander the Great was Macedonian and not greek. Also you could watch this clip
a history piece that clearly explains that Alexander was Macedonia and goes on to some more detail about the history.

When you speak about the degree of trust a country must have to be in NATO look at greek first and then you may begin to talk abuot Macedonia. What about the Ethnic cleansing that takes place in Greece to Macedonians?? In Agena Macedonia the greeks have only been a mjority for 75years. Today as we stand Macedonians of Greece continue to be harassed and discriminated by the Greek Govt. 87 years since grrece took over Aegean Macedonia. The Macedonia Language is stil not recognized, The Macedonian Nationallity is still denied. Macedonians who live there are forced to have greek last names because having a Macedonian last name in Greece is illegal. If the claim is that we are greeks then why do this to your own people?? Simple, because the Macedonians are not greek.

  • 253.
  • At 12:53 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • A.Dimitriou wrote:

Werner's(#244) argument is indeed the main European argument: "
Does really anybody think, that the small, poor Macedonia would start an insurgency
in northern Greece? " -Well, look at Victor's posts-he does not even recognize Thesaloniki by its
name, so why make friends with somebody like this?

But reversing this, would anybody really think that small, poor Kosovo would start
an insurgency against Yugoslavia? Or that the small, poor Greece/Serbia/Bulgaria of the 1900s would
start a war against the Ottoman empire? Or that (actually just one political party of) small, poor
Lebanon would start a war against Israel?
The seeds of war are there, as long as you have generations
of fyromians growing up with that delusional theory that somehow the rest of Macedonia has
been taken from them and that they are the real Macedonians, dating all the way back to
Philip and Alexander.

Would it be ok then for Greece to rename itself "republic of Europe"? Would the US recognize
a Stalin-renamed Siberia "republic of Alaska"? or a mexican breakaway "republic of California"?
or would the british recognize an argentinian breakaway "republic of the falklands"?
The reason for the greek objections is that Fyrom portrays itself (and tries to spread
to the world) as "macedonian nation", claiming all sorts of delusional connection back to ancient
times. Why subscribe to a blatant lie? Why cannot they pick a name that will accurately represent
that they own a PART of Macedonia and not the whole of it(like Northwest macedonia or
Slavoalbanian macedonia )? If this is a non-issue, let's meet halfway(which is the greek
position), get a compromise solution that will state the truth: that FYROM is a PART
and NOT the whole of a region. Unlike your examples
here we are not talking about same names in regions, but the name of the country.
If they get to keep the name, then 300 years from now, they will be able to
more easily advance their propaganda("look, their country has the name") especially to
people who have no knowledge of history of how they got the name in the first place.
Recall what happened when Siam changed its name to Thailand.
Sure this is childish behavior, so why encourage this?

  • 254.
  • At 08:32 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • christos wrote:

to viktor:

why your "country" was called vardaska or vardar serbja before WW2..?why TITO renamed it to macedonia..?
macedonians were one of the 200 greek tribes living around aegean...nothing YOU say will change that....greece was not athens and sparta as many europeans believe..

and you still haven't answered my question about the language and other questions...where was the cyrillic alphabet that you use in the times of alexander..?where is any writen proof of your language..?

greece is not to blame for the instabillity of the balkans,but USA and other superpowers as you say or the big players...smal nations are in their mercy unfortunatelly....

  • 255.
  • At 08:46 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • christos wrote:

to beverley coleman:
not all minorities,only the refugees dear...we have 1 1/2 miilion immigrants if we were so racist,we wouldn't have any..and which country does not have racism..riots,bombings,discrimination excist in all EU members,and even those like france or UK that have immigration for the last 50 years...

to andreas..: greece at the moment has very few friends,that's true,but this is not our fault...if your country was attacked from ever neighbouring country claiming territory,and the superpowers were favouring those countries,would you allow them to say what they want..?and no we are not against bulgaria or italy...where did you get that..??

  • 256.
  • At 07:26 PM on 12 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

To A.Dimitriou,
First the real name of Thesaloniki is Solun. Check any map of historical Macedonia.

Your claims are, again like everyone else who chooses to provide insight on this issue, false. That "northern part" of greece is Macedonia and it is historically ours. Like i have said previoulsy In Agena Macedonia as you call it,the greeks have only been a mjority for 75years. They have had control of that are for just 87 years. You then go on to speak that we make delusional claims to Alexander the Great and other history. He was Macedonian, he born in Macedonia. Maedonia at that time was not a Greek kingdom though a seperate state. They had nothing to do with greeks. You speak that we have no connection to Ancient Macedonians, that is wrong, the truth the greeks do not and they have done an accelent job of hiding it.
In recent historical time Europeans have held the view that the people of modern Greece have little ethnic connection with the ancient Greeks. Robert Browning, 32 a writer who is sympathetic to the Greeks, discusses the writings of the Bavarian Johann Philipp Fallmerayer, who in 1830 proposed that the Slav invasions and settlements of the late sixth and seventh centuries resulted in the "expulsion or extirpation of the original population of peninsula Greece. Consequently the medieval and modern Greeks ... are not the descendants of the Greeks of antiquity, and their Hellenism is artificial." Fallmerayer's view that not a drop of pure Greek blood is to be found in the modern Greek is often held to be extreme. A more moderate version of essentially the same idea was presented more recently by R.H. Jenkins

You must also realize that there a few other models about who(the modern greeks) are actaully linked to.
1) The Aryan model
2) Celtic Influence
3) Greeks as Slavs
4) Greeks as Albanians
5) Greeks as Vlachs
6) Greeks as Turks
These are the main models as to who modern greeks are related to. I could go provide endless research for you about each one of these. Though the reason that no one speaks of it is due to the Greek Independent Movement that began roughly around 1821. So please do not try and say that the Macedonians have no connection which we do, while you the greeks have none what so ever!!

  • 257.
  • At 08:38 PM on 12 Mar 2008,
  • christos wrote:

well viktor you obviously have BBC on your side because everytime i post something it is not published...and i am not using language or any other bad practice...

well if this is published,just answer this...WHY YOUR COUNTRY WAS NAMED VARDARSKA OR VARDAR SERBJA until WW2...??what happened after...?suddenly you remembered that you were macedonians..??

  • 258.
  • At 01:02 AM on 13 Mar 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

In a current climate it's not difficult to imagine such an exchange:

-Where are you from?


No, I mean where are YOU from?


- I mean, what's the name of your country?


-Where did you get such a stupid name like FYROM from?

-Why? From Greece!

  • 259.
  • At 09:49 AM on 13 Mar 2008,
  • erion wrote:

Worried about religious infections? Albanian type atheism is the answer! Effectively eradicating religions since antiquity. (Tested on Christianity and Islam)

  • 260.
  • At 05:24 PM on 13 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

To Christos,
First off I would think that you would realize that my name is not spelled Viktor, though Victor. Just a bit of clarification. Also I hope that you will read some of my earlier posts a bit more in detail because I have spoken about the language and the people of Macedonia.
The ancient Macedonians were a distinct nation, separate from their neighbors, the ancient Greeks, Illyrians, and Thracians. The ancient Greek and Roman historians have shown us that the Macedonians spoke a separate Macedonian language and had their own customs along with culture and tradition. Archeological discoveries confirm that the material culture of the Macedonians also defer greatly from all their neighbors, and it is by far more superior in artistry then anything found in contemporary Greece, Illyria, and Thrace. The texts of the ancient writers distinguish the Macedonians from the ancient Greeks, just like they distinguish the Romans and the Carthaginians. Yet, like the other non-Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Illyrians, and Thracians, the Macedonian high society also used the Greek language along with Macedonian. Greek was spoken by the nobility of many different ancient nations, just like French was spoken in the 19th century (at the German and Russian courts for example). Unfortunately there are only 150 glosses that have survived of the ancient Macedonian language and like ancient Carthaginian, Illyrian, and Thracian, it can not be reconstructed. There is no doubt that the Illyrains, Thracians, and Macedonians were non-Greeks, or in the words of the ancient Greeks "barbarians" which literally means people who spoke other non-Greek languages.
Those 150 glosses are the proof, though they can be reconstructed.
Also in the book, 'Macedonia and Greece: Two Ancient and Separate Nations" written by John Shea on pages 23-35 he clearly states how the language was a distinct Indo-European spoken language and challenges and disproves the claims that Macedonians do not have there own languages. You could go read that for yourself it is to long to state on this blog.
Finally dealing with the claim that Macedonia was called Vardarska before ww2 only has a small claim of truth to it. During the time that the Ottoman Empire held control of the region Macedonia was simply known as Macedonia. Two quick quotes will help you understand that.
1) The Venetian captain Gio Mario Del' Angiolelo, traveling from south towards Salonica, wrote in his diary for August 10th: " . . . a large river called the Vardar which flows through Macedonia . . ." (Istanbul, Basbakanlik Arsivi, Rumeli Mufetisligi Tasnifi, Sadaret ve Bashkitabet Evraki, 4/398). It should be noted that he did not say river Axios. Also Vardar does flow through the Republic of Macedonia, and consequently the territory of the Republic of Macedonia is a part of Macedonia, according to Angiolelo.
2) In a telegram of April 7th, 1903, from the Grand Vizier's Office is written: "Information concerning the Sultan's commands that in all addresses to and announcements in connection with the Rumeli vilayets [Skopje, Bitola and Salonica vilayets]: form henceforth the local names are to be used and under no circumstances the name Macedonia . . . ". This was a reaction to the persistent emphasis on the name Macedonia on the part of the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization and also by the European press and diplomatic representatives at the time when the decision about the uprising was taken.
Clearly Macedonia is not known as anything else during this time. It was in 1913 until ww2 which lasted between 1939 and 1945 that Macedonia was known as this. It was partitioned between greece, serbia and bulgaria. And here when it was not all of Macedonia was known as Vardarska. Other parts of the nation were known as Perin and Aegena. So even here you’re not correct Christos. The name was changed though the people and the cultural was still known as MACEDONIAN! As it is today in the region of Aegena. It is after the greeks would not give the Macedonian land back that they began the horrible ethnic cleansing that I spoke of earlier.

  • 261.
  • At 06:45 PM on 13 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

To Mark Mardell
i have just found this new article that i would like to share that with the readers that clearly shows that Macedonia was just not a creation of Tito. It kills what is known as the greek and bulgarian prapoganda abuot Macedonia.

Here is the link

note all of thise historical evidenc came from American archive documents located in New York's City Manhattan Island.

  • 262.
  • At 07:54 AM on 14 Mar 2008,
  • a.dimitriiou wrote:

Victor, you still have not answered the main point: first, what do you think the Greek
Macedonia people(the same people who turned out to protest against Skopje's falsification of their history) are -are they Macedonian or not? And would this mean the same Macedonian as
you claim to be?
Where are your fyromians in Greece being harassed and persecuted-even ethnically cleansed!- under the very nose of the EU? There is not a SINGLE credible case. You can ask fyromians who have settled in Greece.
Are you going to forbid the use of the name Salonika (before or after you annex it )? By the way the name was Thessaloniki in byzantine times, when it became essentially the second major city. Solun is your invention .The rest has been answered many times before, one can cite a zillion proofs that ancient Macedonians
were greek, but no matter what it is clear that slavs show up much later in the region and thus
can have no relation with ancient Macedonians. Simple as that, as you would say. I guess your claims start much later, about 30
years before the fall of the Ottoman empire when Bulgarian(comitadji) tried to ethnically cleanse the greek population
there under the nose of the Turks. Volunteers from Greece entered and the ensuing war under the nose
of the ottomans was lost by the comitadji. I guess this is what you are bitter about, though this
was 100 years ago. We want to move forward, not backwards.

It is also interesting what you answer to 238 whose simple point you apparently do not get:
Alexander was Macedonian, his empire was
split among his macedonian generals, but the Syrian part some years later ended up with a greek
king? How is that possible if macedonians were not greeks? This is another refutation of your
theories. One could also cite many others, Herodotus pointing out that ancient macedonians
were Dorians, which means as greek as Spartans and others, Persians in 513 describing Macedonians
as "greeks with head cover that looks like a shield", the royal tombs in Vergina , in greek and
with the same burial customs as in the rest of ancient greece, Roman historians like Kurtius Rufus
reciting Alexander's speech after the Cheronia battle "...I'd be happy if I had you all alive around me, since
we are united by religion, language and aspirations....", urging the Persians to learn greek,
and many more, even further back, when Euripedes around 408 stayed there at the invitation of
Archelaos, king of Macedonia. Funnily enough, Dimosthenes who was Philip and Alexander's
most vehement oponnent had a mother of skythian origin(definitely not greek).

With regard to scientific proof, I am in fact a referee for top "hard" science journals
so I can tell you that 1)there is very little credibility to studies that have not passed
a peer-review process(that means refereeing) So what Falmereier or his descendants say is not worth wasting my time. If you have evidence, I'll look at it, but the evidence you provide would not survive peer-review, in fact it would not even be taken seriously in a true scientific journal.

2) What gets published also depends on the quality
of the referee: In fact you can get junk work passed and this has happened,
as nobody claims the refereeing process to be perfect, but it is hopefully still rare for top
scientific journals 3) even if you get junk work passed in a journal, for physical sciences
where there is contact with reality, it will sooner or later be disproved(unless it is so
irrelevant that nobody cares to take it seriously) and you will be embarassed
4) these days no scientst starts a study whose results are irrelevant.
So with regard to your unreferenced "study", I assume no DNA testing with Alexander's or Philip's
DNA was done.
Also it is far from clear what they actually studied, but in any event the more industrialized a country, the larger the mobility, hence
many people have moved in and out of the area. Many Macedonians now live in Athens; many people from all sorts
of places in Greece, including Crete have moved to Macedonia, while there has also been a large influx of
Asia minor refugees. Same in most western countries, for instance many people of irish origin may be in Scotland, but that does not mean you can claim to be more scottish than the scots. So you want regional purity? Sorry,
Greece is one country, not a federation of different nationalities(or remembered nationalities) like Yugoslavia was.
You can move freely anywhere you want. In fact the entire EU is in principle
this way. So it appears that your AAAS study, if existent, is pure bull. I think Turks for
example will remind you that
they arrived in the region (as Seltzuk first and Ottoman later) 1000 years after Christ, so
how they can be part of the older substratum further undermines the credibility of your "study".
As for the story that greeks come from Subsaharan africa, this reminds me of the cold war joke
of the CIA agent that was arrested in Russia although he could speak perfect Russian, drink liters
of vodka, dance perfect kazantzok, just because before sending him nobody had noticed that he
was black.
And as for the reply to Lucas, you say don't trust the internet(Wikipedia), then you quote
a youtube video???

Luckily for you the BBC oublishes all your posts and one in 10 replies.

  • 263.
  • At 11:42 AM on 14 Mar 2008,
  • A.Dimitriou wrote:

To Victor's latest post(262): The period you refer to was the covert war between real(since you keep using Macedonians to refer to fyromians-which to me is Bulgarian origin, I'll use real macedonians to refer to greek macedonians)Macedonians+volunteers from Greece vs the (Bulgarian)comitadji. There was no such country at the time, it was occupied by the Ottomans. And the main point remains that even if you can find a handful of people of Bulgarian origin who did not want to call themselves Bulgarian, there were many more who
though of themselves as real Macedonians who had, have and want to have nothing to do with you.

Regarding Rainbow coalition(you mean party)...First, names ending in "opoulos" are typical Peloponesian names(though there are also some pontians by such names) and definitely have no relation with the region. Second this is a conglomerate or extreme left wing/anarchists (hence their alliance with an ultra -left wing
communist party splinter sect) who, view nationalism as the biggest evil
and will subscribe to anything that
they perceive is against the country, hence against nationalism. Most of them are in Athens, by the way.

BTW, in 260 you aknowledge that in Ottoman times Thessaloniki was known as Salonica vilaets, not Solun vilaets.... As for the river name, Vardar is also used to denote a specific north wind in Thessaloniki.
In fact people in Thessaloniki have no problem using the name vardar, as they have no problem using the Axios name and they also have no problem using turkish words for instance kazan dipi.

As for Mireck's post: As usual, you are wrong: FYROM was a MUTUALLY accepted and also UN-accepted name, not a name Greece(or phony Macedonia) likes.
It is a testament to BBC's (and others') objectivity that instead of using the mutually agreed, though interim, and UN-approved name, it grants the wishes of the party with territorial claims(no matter how stupid) over the othe one.
In fact anything involving Macedonia is not acceptable
to the majority of the greek public and for obvious and good reasons, namely what are the people living in real Macedonia.
The best offer we can make (and which has been made) is (against public opinion and against this vitriolic, but also extremely silly
propaganda) to recognize that FYROM occupies a part of the region and thus to accept a name that will aknowledge this fact, like Northwest Macedonia. Accepting a name that will pretend that 30% of a region is ALL the region is not going to happen.

  • 264.
  • At 04:24 PM on 14 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

There is a clear dispute about the matter of the history of Macedonia. Your false claims that it is part of greece and that Macedonians in a way do not exist should be brought to a halt with the following information. There is an article that clearly shows that Tito did not create the Macedonian state after WWII. These historical facts give an answer to Greek, Bulgarian and other propagandas denying the Macedonian nation, saying that it was a Tito's creation after the World War II.

Along with this article I would like you to take a look at this list of modern professors and organizations, who teach at some of the best and in some cases the best universities in the world. They all agree that Macedonia was, is and will be a separate nation state. With its own history and language. Also a nice fact for you to ponder Christos is that the name "Macedonia" is in fact the oldest surviving name of a country in the continent of Europe. Archaeological evidence shows that old European civilization flourished in Macedonia between 7000 and 3500 BC. The region Macedonia is located in the heart of the Balkans, north of ancient Greece, east of Illyria, and west of Thrace.
1) EUGENE BORZA- Professor of Ancient History at the Pennsylvania State University
2) ERNST BADIAN- Department of History at Harvard University
3) PETER GREEN- Professor of Classics at the University of Texas
4) A.B. BOSWORTH- Professor of Classics and Ancient History, the University of Western Australia
5) N.G.L.HAMMOND- Professor of GREEK University of Cambridge (even the professor who studies GREECE says Macedonia is not Greece)
6) ULRICH WILCKEN- German Professor
7) DAVID G. HOGARTH- Author of Philip and Alexander of Macedon
8) AMERICAN PHILOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION- Ancient Macedonians vs. the ancient Greeks Differences cited by modern historians. If you search those by yourself you can see. It has come to a point again that I have provided endless sources with high amounts of credibility, though the only source someone has provided to counter has been Wikipedia. Clearly not the best option available. I hope that in reading this and re-reading the previous posts that it will help you and others who are confused about the history of Macedonia.

  • 265.
  • At 08:17 PM on 14 Mar 2008,
  • christos wrote:

to a dimitriou: oh,you have the same problem too...??i wonder it that BBC's site is taking position over this?hhhmmmm....

to viktor/victor/whatever...
why the proof that you so desperatelly try to put here is known only in skopje and nowhere else..??when i check all those things that you say,very few can be found..and something else...40% albanian fyrom's bulgarian greek turkish and roma...are you talking about ethnicity even..??

to is obvious the anti-hellenic propaganda is going on in is a shame for everyone,no other nation has to endure such thing not only from enemies,but from "allies" as well...

  • 266.
  • At 02:48 AM on 15 Mar 2008,
  • Stavros wrote:

The Problem with Greece is the Greek Education System.

Unfortunately Greek Education system teach to students how to Hate !

The Greek History Books in the Schools are just Full of Hate and Racism.

And i think the Greek Orthodox Church also to blame.

  • 267.
  • At 11:05 PM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • sakis wrote:

I think Stavros you are not Greek, but Albanian that hates Greeks. So, talk about your country and don't lie.

  • 268.
  • At 09:55 PM on 19 Mar 2008,
  • christos wrote:

to viktor...

and as i was speaking to a pakistani doctor who i went to have a check up here in Dublin,when he ask me where i was from and i replied that i am from Greece,he immediatelly started to talk to me about how proud i must be to be descendant of alexander the great,and how much awe and respect have some people of pakistan for the greeks who conquered pakistan some millenia ago...and an indian UN officer that i have met when i was still living in Greece,that a tribe there in india believe to be descendants of alexander and he is very proud to come to his land.

he even told me about a tribe that lives in todays pakistan,the KALASH,that they are concidered to be descendants of alexander's army..some of them are blond with blue eyes (unusuall for pakistanis),they believe in a 12 god system (rings any bells?),they build their houses like ancient greeks with the fire (estia) in the middle and their language has nothing to do with punjabi or other pakistani dialects,but in fact has some grammar characteristics of ancient greek.

so despite of many of you still have any doubts,people in asia and other countries that alexander went,know the truth...

  • 269.
  • At 07:35 AM on 20 Mar 2008,
  • a.dimitriou wrote:

so Victor has managed to find 7 people(out of thousands historians or university professors) who agree in part with him. I wonder if these people are stupid enough to propose that fyromians are the descendants of ancient Macedonians. It's one thing to say "this house is not yours" and another to say "this is mine". In hard sciences even towering figures like EInstein -and your 7 people are hardly Einstein- have been proven to be wrong in their opinions, which were by the way not ignoring evidence that would refute their theories. In any case the scientific community is not represented by 7 out of many thousands. Even in this forum there has been ample refutation of all your theories, which you chose to ignore.
The point is, if you want to look to a falsified history, you're on your own. If you want to aknowledge that in this geographical region there are two or 3 different nationalities
, each of which has a part of the geographical region, then you will take the common sense position that a part of a region cannot claim the whole region. This is no different from Epirus(split between Albania and Greece) or Thrace(split between Turkey and Greece) or say the Pyrynees(split between France and Spain). Unfortunately Tito's brainwashing seems too strong to overcome and return a small country to sanity.

  • 270.
  • At 03:19 PM on 21 Mar 2008,
  • christos wrote:

when thessaloniki was liberated there was a mention about greeks jews and turks living in thessaloniki with a armenian and slavic minority...not "macedonians"...jewish population was the largest in europe before WW2 and the nazis....

  • 271.
  • At 07:24 AM on 23 Mar 2008,
  • The Ghost of Marinos wrote:

Shootings, beatings, intimidation and torture - it sounds like the script for a Tarantino film.
But in fact it is the kind of treatment the Greek police are accused of using, especially when dealing with minorities and immigrants.

Amnesty International and the International Helsinki Federation are so concerned about the number of alleged cases that they have issued a joint report on the subject.

They say tactics frequently used by the Greek police.

Police brutality is a subject which barely registers as an issue on the Greek political spectrum.

The suburb of Zephyri is only a 30-minute drive from Athens, but it feels like another country.

Children run barefoot by the roadside, and the houses are a jumble of corrugated iron and unfinished plaster.

The people who live here are Roma - Greece's largest and best-integrated minority.

Although they are Greek citizens, most are poor and uneducated - there is 90% illiteracy.

Many Roma make a living on the black market, which means they have frequent run-ins with the police.

Minorities' complaints against police have not got far

Graffiti on the walls alongside the main street reads "Police are murderers" and "Police Kills".

There is also a makeshift shrine with flowers and candles in memory of Marinos Christopolou. He was shot last year by a police officer at this spot on his way home from buying nappies at a local store.

His crime was not stopping in time at a routine police roadblock.

His sister Charoula is leading a high-profile media campaign to try to indict the police officer who killed her brother.

"Marinos couldn't pull over in time at the road block. The police officer shot twice - he missed the first time and hit him the second time in the back of the head, killing him instantly. No one from the police came to offer their condolences," she said.


Charoula's neighbour Theodoros Stephanou looks bewildered as he recounts his recent encounter with the police, when he voluntarily turned himself in for questioning about a suspected theft.

"The police commander and his officers took me into a little room. Then one officer started to beat me as the commander asked me where the money was."

Even though he had to be treated in hospital for his injuries, Theodoros is unlikely to get very far with a complaint against the police.

Experiences like his are relatively common especially amongst minorities.

Panayote Dimitras has compiled information on thousands of cases for the report by Amnesty International and the International Helsinki Federation.

He believes some methods used by the police when dealing with detainees in custody or immigrants facing deportation constitute torture and breach the European Convention on Human Rights which Greece has signed.

"We have seen very recently very alarming treatments. One is electric shocks ... this treatment has not been heard of in Greece for 10 years and then we had two cases this summer," Mr Dimitras said.

"In other cases of wanting to get detainees to confess information in custody we have cases of Roma beaten with clubs and attempted rape with police truncheons."

In Greece, problems of violence and torture are much more frequent because there is a culture of impunity - it is difficult to bring police officers to book.

It is only when the victim is of ethnic Greek background that success in the courts is more likely.

Throughout history, the Greek state has used the police as a tool to control the population.

Even though the last dictatorship ended in 1974, the concept that the police and judiciary are above responsibility still exists.

  • 272.
  • At 04:58 PM on 23 Mar 2008,
  • proscriptor wrote:

1. Albania is not a "Muslim country", it has never been, it has always been secular and moreover it has been the first to ever and officially declare itself atheist!
2. Muslims comprise no majority in Albania, atheists do.
3. Albania makes for no example of "Muslim success", we're tired of having to explain this to every foreigner. If sth goes right or wrong, it's Albania's success, and Albania's fault.
4. We don't care about foreign religions, stop calling us things we're not.


  • 273.
  • At 05:14 AM on 26 Mar 2008,
  • Papagiorgiou wrote:

Why The Greek Orthodox church calls the new school history books shameful and campaigned to ban the new history books ?

Because The new history books was designed to change Greek education system and remove bigotry and extreme nationalism from accounts of the country's recent history.

the problem is the connection of church and state here in Greece.

  • 274.
  • At 07:34 AM on 30 Mar 2008,
  • Victor wrote:

I would like to also just bring up the year of 1832. When the confrence of london MADE the "Kingdom of Greece" aka GREECE. Yet another piece of evidence that shows that the old greeks were different and that this modern greek is NOT RELATED AT ALL. Though when all greeks today going from the Church to the Govt. to the people act and speak lies it becomes "truth". Be proud greeks. be proud to speak lies.

  • 275.
  • At 08:05 AM on 31 Mar 2008,
  • a.dimitriiou wrote:

272, no one really cares about what the church says. Citizens of EU countries are not mindless zombies to be controlled by whatever church. But they also do not want to be controlled by whatever is on Washington's agenda and will certainely not be brainwashed into
believing what some people promote, i.e. that Islam and the Ottoman occupation was the best thing that ever happened in the Balkans. Despite their differences, people from the Balkans agree on one thing: that the ottoman occupation was a very dark period.
Attempts to soften that memory will
meet resistance, no matter what the church does or says. This is exactly what happened, with people voting down politicians who pushed for a book that despite getting a second chance for revisions, still contained many unsubstantiated claims that ran contrary to what, among other things folk songs have passed on for generations, and refused to call a slaughter by its name, choosing instead to present it more like an overcrowding issue As for bigotry and extreme nationalism, you should look in other nearby countries.

  • 276.
  • At 07:59 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Aliyah Kaine wrote:

I find it interesting that many people are quick to put down the Ottomon empire. I can think of many examples of cruelty towards other humans that don´t involve muslims in any way. some people have already mentioned them such as Hitler´s Germany, The Spanish inquisition, The American slave trade to name a few. What I want to express is that NO ONE can claim having a clear conscience. If you want to say something then please do some research. There are plenty of good historians out there with the unbiased truth. Some people have personal experience and that´s great but its obvious that others have just formed an opinion based on rumor. I´m not going to make any claims but I would urge you to read up on the Ottomon empire and what they brought to Europe, I´m not talking about religion here either. Islam is not a foreign religion or if it is then so is Christianity and Judaism-as all three originate in the same place. Food for thought.

  • 277.
  • At 10:11 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Nephilim wrote:

There are so many posters here from many nationalities, mostly from the Balkans who care enough to post their "thoughts" about Albanians, their heritage and statehood. I am Albanian myself, and when I see this happening, I cannot help but feel proud, hopeful, and full of joy. Yes, full of joy of the bright future that my nation will soon have. Our neighbors worries show nothing else but the enormous importance that Albanians have in the world heritage, history and destiny. ARBA is back! The prophecy will soon be fulfilled! Good luck stopping it!

  • 278.
  • At 09:21 AM on 11 Apr 2008,
  • Hans wrote:

#271 is misrepresenting the situation.
The shooting case he presents is only one side of the story, not proven in court, and even if true would say no more of the police stand vs minorities
than the british police proven shooting of an innocent unarmed brazilian after the London bombings.
The issue with the area mentioned, Zephyri, is whether the police has a right to enter Roma settlements to stop drug trafficing and return fire if fired upon. Drugs are never mentioned in the original post. In all EU countries, all areas in the country are within the national police jurisdiction.
That most of the Roma are poor and uneducated is not necessarily the state's or police's fault: It is the parents who send their kids begging or scavening instead of school, who allow 6-year old kids to smoke or tolerate drug trafficing.
So while Greece has a lot of things to be blamed for(especially environmental policies), minority treatment is not one of them. Armenians and Jews for example have no problems and nobody cares about your origins.

  • 279.
  • At 07:06 AM on 12 Apr 2008,
  • Victor Knaro wrote:

Greek bullying against macedonia must be stopped.
Greece blocked Macedonia's bid to join Nato a week ago over the name issue.
Also European Union must do more to stop police brutality and human rights abuses against minorities and immigrants in Greece.

This post is closed to new comments.

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