As a PhD candidate, in the final stages of a doctoral dissertation, which deals with the US foreign policy and the problem of the disputed Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija, I was searching for scholars, academics, journalists, writers, politicians and other experts to interview regarding this subject. It is important to note that the doctorate on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija is even more precious to me, given the fact that the former US president Bill Clinton is an honorary chancellor of the Walden University, which I am attending. According to the doctoral methodology my task is to be unbiased and objective, presenting various points of view, from many sides involved in the dispute. Naturally I was to contact individuals of Albanian nationality, among others, and through a great friend and an independent columnist, Ms. Julia Gorin, I came into contact with a gentlemen of the Albanian descent, directly from Albania.
As a Serbian woman, I was somewhat cautious based on the previous negative experiences, and maintained the relationship professional and strictly academic, basing the conversation on my doctoral task at hand, without revealing much about my own background. I started receiving answers from the gentlemen in question, including his personal introduction, CV, and his background. I was astonished by his honesty, integrity and bravery. So, with his permission, I decided to reveal some of our academic and friendly discourse, since I found it very surprising and fascinating.
Out of the concern for his safety, given his controversial answers, I asked if it was acceptable to use his name in the publication and he responded: “Yes, write my name, because I want the responsibility of my opinions. Besides, it is much more efficient. That’s what we’re trying to do. Otherwise it looks like a fairy tale. Fear is not a factor!” He also added that it is important to add the disclaimerthat the opinions expressed are personally his. “I want no moderation whatsoever for my opinions.” So, here they are…..
Dr. Ilia Toli was born and raised in Albania, with a given name Ilir, which he changed to Ilia, as in his mind Ilir was too explicitly symbolic of an Albanian patriot. “Long story short, I don’t feel Albanian since 1992, when I was only 20, and still in Albania” says Dr. Toli, and continues, “I have been always outward about the Albanian character being at great odds with my character and goals.”
After completing his education at the University of Tirana, he fled his home country on a boat and found himself in Italy, illegal and homeless, but through dedication and hard work managed to complete a doctoral degree in mathematics at the University of Pisa.
“I lived 9 years in Italy and was eager and had a great deal of good will to assimilate, but I felt like forever I’d have been a second hand Italian. This disenfranchised me from Italy” reveals Dr. Toli. “If chance brought about for me to live in Serbia, I would have no problem whatsoever to become a proud Serbian. For example, I never became a proud Albanian. Part of my erratic movements in Europe are explained by the fact that I would do what it takes to avoid Albania. I wouldn’t become Arab or Muslim either.”
Dr. Toli revealed:“I am of Christian Orthodox birth, and have been baptized Christian Orthodox in the Russian church of Bologna, Italy, in May 1999. I carefully chose the date to coincide with me expressing sympathy for the Serbs against Albanians at the time of the bombing.”
This statement alone, held so much power, integrity and honesty, forcing me to pursue his opinions further. Luckily, he was captivated and stimulated by my questions, searching for his new and dealing with the leftovers of the old abrogated Albanian identity. He said that if he didn’t answer my questions they would continue to itch. “There is a degree of liberation in expressing oneself,” says Dr. Toli.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with whatsoever origin and whatsoever history. It would make me stand taller if I start from humbler origins” he admits. “But then again, this is me, and not everybody is like this. If a person has nothing whatsoever to identify with, or to brag about, or to hope for, they invent themselves a great grandfather that was Gran Duke of Atlantis. If they are a crowd, they invent the History of Albania.” Dr. Toli is clearly aware and seems to suggest that there are blatant historical falsifications made on the part of the Albanian community, used for political purpose, which is another reason for a great clash with his Albanian counterparts.
Eventually, Dr. Toli made it to the United States, where he lives and works today. Currently he is a professor at the Valencia College Florida, in the United States, working on a second degree in Aerospace Engineering, and he intends to complete a second PhD in Mechanical Engineering. “I got the US citizenship since few months ago and feel American since a few years. I feel more American than George Washington. Feeling more American than Obama is easy, not even a compliment,” said Dr. Toli, lending a critical eye towards the current US Administration.
Naturally, the questions regarding my task of the doctoral dissertation led to the discussions about the war ravaged Balkans, disintegration of Yugoslavia and the subsequent problem of Kosovo and Metohija. Dr. Toli began answering my questions with a deep understanding of the historical consequences, which were surprising and contrary from what one would expect from the common Albanian rhetoric.
Yugoslavia, Serbia and Kosovo and Metohija
“After WWII Serbs were accused of having been the favorite nation of Yugoslavia, in the interwar period, though the state was officially called Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians. Serbs, the largest identity group, paid the heaviest toll in WWII, not only at the hands of Germans, but mainly at the hands of Croatians, and marginally at the hands of Bosnian Muslims.After WWII, Tito, a half Croat, managed to defenestrate Serb nationalists from the key positions. When republics were organized, nothing whatsoever was kept present about the contiguity and population composition of the republics. The whole Orthodox population of Yugoslavia was a continuum of identities, mostly around Serb identity, little around Bulgarian, Montenegrin, and Macedonian. Also the language identity was and is a continuum that does not reflect whatsoever the religious or national identifications. Huge chunks of contiguous Serb populations were left in the newly formed republics, that didn’t even have any historical justification to be formed that way, except maybe Montenegro.Then the new Yugoslavian constitution was approved, that is still in the Guinness Book of records as the longest in history.”
Dr. Toli continued:“During his late years Tito very willingly awarded Kosovo and Vojvodina vast autonomy. Kosovo at that moment was still 50% Serbian, as reflected by the amount of Serbian cadres in the key positions of the new entity. Kosovo Albanians did keep pushing for more and more autonomy and ethnic cleansing with the intention of joining Albania. Kosovo was vastly helped economically by the Federation, and this created big resentments in Croatia and Slovenia. Why should they keep contributing to this poorer brother forever while Kosovo never straightens its back?”
“The organization of Republic of Serbia is a case study” said Dr. Toli, “composed of Kosovo, Vojvodina and the rest of Serbia. Laws passed by the common parliament had to be validated by Parliament of Kosovo to be valid in Kosovo, likewise in Vojvodina. This caused the raise of Serbian nationalism, as laws valid in small Serbia were voted for also by Kosovo and Vojvodina. A very similar case is the raise of the English nationalism, as the laws valid in England are also voted for by North Ireland, Scotland, Wales, but not the other way around.”
Dr. Toli continued giving insight into his views of President Slobodan Milosevic. “A psychopath he was, because he killed the one man to whom he owes the place in history and the relevance: Stambolic. A dictator Milosevic was, but he didn’t have a crush for rigging elections for its own sake. He could DEMOCRATICALLY win elections! Why would he rig them? How could he win the elections? Are Serbs that backward? Are they the new Nazis? No, they are not. Milosevic could easily win the peasant vote in Serbia. He could count on the vote of Albanians in Kosovo. They ALTOGETHER, without exceptions, voted for him, in order to keep him in power, because he could be sold in the West as a bloodthirsty communist dictator. If another person won the elections, the argument could no longer hold.”
His views about the US and the West were reflected in the statement regarding the bombing of Serbia. “Clinton – Albright administration, couldn’t do anything through the UN, and did whatever they did by mumbling vague terms like International Community, whatever that means. In order to inflame the US internal opinion, it was claimed that half a million Albanians are missing the headcount. It was implicit that they might have been killed by Milosevic. Why would he? Also, the cases of abuse, like 42 killed Albanian civilians, were indeed 42 KLA thugs” says Dr. Toli.
He asked me if I have ever read the demands of the „International Community“ to Serbia. His view of the ultimatum was very clear. “One of the demands was free availability of the whole territory of Yugoslavia for the NATO troops. This is an euphemism for occupation. And bad intentions didn’t stop here. Whatever the „hysteric“ perception of my opinions, they are the facts,” adds Dr. Toli.
Dr. Toli feels that major geo-strategic reason for the US/NATO bombing of Serbia, as well as the recent events in Libya and Syria are directed towards Russia, as the US is obsessed with keeping Russia confined in the Black Sea. He says: “Serbian interests and policies aligned mostly with Russia. This was for historical and blood-relation reasons, but also they didn’t have a choice: USA had already handpicked Albania, Germany had handpicked Croatia. Macedonia is still an orphan, begging USA that they are sincere friends, 20 years on.”
The questions about the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, and its mere legality, Dr. Toli addressed further: “Kosovo’s unilateral independence had been prepared for a long time. They are the main reason (not the only) for the breakup of Yugoslavia. They are the vibration that rotted the body.And the secession was not legal within the frame of the Yugoslavian constitution, as Kosovo and Vojvodina didn’t have the right to secede.”
The conversation steered towards the serious allegations of criminal activity in Kosovo. “Traffic of organs from living persons, there is ample evidence for that” claims Dr. Toli. “They rounded up Serb civilians from Kosovo for the purpose of extracting their organs. A prisoner’s organ was taken as the need arises. Then he was stitched somehow, waiting for the next organ of his to be removed, and begging to be killed.”
Considering many factors including the most relevant, history, Dr, Toli concluded: “Serbia does deserve Kosovo for historical reasons. Serbian kingdom was actually vast, including most of Greece in the process. The point is, they ruled over a vastly non-Serbian population that considered them occupiers, and were only happy to get rid of it. By the same token, Turkey today keeps laying claims over Albania, Serbia and Bosnia, because they had it once, and for a long while.I wish Serbia keeps Kosovo, you can quote this if you wish, but this is not scholarly at all, just an emotional blurp. I daresay it is in the interest of the Albanians that Kosovo remains Serbian, but they are too thick to get this. Starting from the first year after independence, many Albanian dignitaries came open that the Albanian independence had proved a huge disappointment. I wonder what would have been of my life had Albania joined Yugoslavia in 1945. It could possibly only have been better.In a more sane world, Albanians would fight for their right to join Serbia, and Serbs would fight to keep Albanians at bay, but we don’t live in a sane world.In 1990 Kosovo had a per capita GDP three times higher than Albania. Back then I was wondering how long will it take for tables to turn. It didn’t take really long, just a few short years. And it is not like Albania is an economic miracle. They will keep blaming war, but war damaged Serbia much more than it damaged Kosovo,” says Dr. Toli and gives constructive solutions to the problem. “Keep Kosovo Serbian, break up Bosnia-Herzegovina so that Republika Srpska goes to Serbia, Croatians and Muslims will figure it out among themselves. After all they are democratic, civilized, open-minded, unlike the Nazi Serbs,” sarcastically concluded the scholar.
The religious factor is a dubious one, as far as the Albanians are concerned, so I asked Dr. Toli to address the issue. “The identity in that part of the world is religious for the most part. Therefore, struggling for an identity, Kosovo Albanians will keep pushing on Islam. The Albanian military officials that I have talked to are at once Islamic fundamentalist, Albanian chauvinist, pro-American, anti-American. Yes, you need a good dose of syncretism for the last two, but that’s not a problem for them. They are pro-American in the fight with Serbia, anti-American in the US-Middle East conflict.There have been more than 15 organized terrorist attacks in the USA by the Albanian Muslim organizations, and zero (0) from Serb organizations. Who has a bigger reason to have a grudge against USA? Albanians give it for granted that the USA had to do the right thing, that is, their bid.”
I have seen some reports that the Albania was being influenced in the direction of Christianity, and Dr. Toli, being Christian Orthodox himself concurred. “I agree that Albania now is being Christianized massively, including Kosovo. In South Albania Islam is almost extinct now, ceding terrain to Orthodox Christianity. In Kosovo it cedes terrain to Catholicism. This for historical reasons, and also because Orthodox would make them Serbian, which they now quite despise. The point is, I have known vast Slavic Muslim minorities, in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia. They deliberately feel Albanian, included Sandzak. This is again because genes and language don’t matter, the religion does. Rexhep Qosja himself is a Slavic Muslim from Sandzak. That would take a whole lot to realize. I think, as Albania drifts away from Islam to Christendom, there will be future for the Balkans. Also because this inner struggle will keep Albanians busy for a long while. This has already caused a triple drift among Albanians of Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia. Albanians are caught between a rock and a hard place now. Islam as identity is no longer viable because it has proved to be the looter thing that I so strongly underline all over. Shedding it away takes a huge toll, and so does not shedding it away and staying there in the middle struggling with oneself,” concludes Dr. Ilia Toli.
Albania and the World
Albania was one of the most closed off and inaccessible nations in the world. Nobody ever knew much about Albania, so Dr. Toli was kind enough to share his views about why and how this came about. As a side note and an explanation for the poverty and backwardness of Kosovo and Albania, Dr. Toli wanted to make sure to discuss the personal and professional traits and characteristics of both Albanians and Serbs, which likely contributed to his personal disregard for the Albanian culture and a frame of mind. “Albanians were the soldiers of the Ottoman Empire. That skewed their character a great deal, besides 500 years of big dividends. Soldiers of that day were looters, which contributes to the character of the Albanians to this day. Albanians in the region of Kurvelesh (Vlore) to this day tell jokes with thieves all the time, which is their only sport. And thieves are not Robin Hood types, rather simple looters that ravage and don’t care for the damage and bleeding that they leave behind. Whether Albanians were in power (most of history) or in minority, they never had an interest in farming. That is, they did care to own land, but not to cultivate it. In Yugoslavia time they all became miners. What else could they do? Serbs, on the other hand, are farmers which requires long term planning, dedication and skill. You be the judge!”
Dr. Toli continues, “Most of their history,the Albanians have been looters, and so are they today. Only that this is no longer morally permissible, and not even proposable. Therefore they have done an inversion. They paint themselves as victims, to the world and to themselves.There is empathy in victimhood. This, Albanians hope, is one reason for the „unity“ of purpose among Albanians. And it does unite, but for how long? For as long as looters remain united: until they have accumulated enough loot, or have brought down the prey. Then, time is ripe for lacerating each other.” Dr. Toli thinks that the Albanians feel entitled, and says, “Everybody owes them something for some wrongs sometime somewhere. They are articulate at this. Then they instill hate for the inhumane perpetrator of perceived injustices, which paves the way for the new round of loot. Show an Albanian a map and ask him, what are the boundaries of Natural Albania? (That’s what they call it now, Ethnic Albania is no longer viable.) You will get astonished! All Balkan nations would like to be a little bit bigger. Albanians beat them all in appetite, as well as in the lunacy of their historical arguments. And I am Albanian,” confirms Dr. Toli.
Speaking of history, we have also touched upon the origins of the Albanian people, and discussed two viable theories, the Romanian link and the Caucasus Albania link. Dr. Toli recognizes both, and says that there are some 800 words that are similar between Albanian and Romanian, but also due to the population mixing a lot of Slavic, Greek and Latin. Also, he recognizes that there must be an Asian or Mongolian layer to the Albanians, as they have some very prominent physical similarities, which may go back to the barbarian hordes. “In Europe there is Iberia, Albania, Bulgaria, in this order. In the Caucasus there has been Iberia, Albania, Bulgaria, in this order. That’s too much to be a coincidence”, says Dr. Toli. As far as the Slavic prominence in the region he says: “The toponyms of the South are very heavily Slavic. Like, Berat (Beograd), Bistrica, Bushtrica, Babica, Jezerca, Bezisht, Bilisht, Zicisht, Kucova, Polican (Aromanian I believe) and many others. There are plenty of Greek toponyms, and little Albanian. Albanians ought to not have much claim to much of Albania proper. More precisely, to anything South of Shkumbin river, that accounts for more than 60% of Albania proper.”
“Historically,” he says, “Serbs and Albanian Christians have had good relations. Christian Albanians are the suspicious patriots, unlike me who am outward traitor,” he admits.“The atmosphere was heavily poisoned by Franciscan (yes, Franciscan) friars of Albanian origin who had studied in Austria-Hungary before WWI, and made its bid. For what I was taught in school in Communist Albania, Serbs have a genetic tendency to be submissive and uninterested in all fine things. They are natural slaves. Yes, from Communist Albania I was taught this. By the professor of Marxism-Leninism, who himself is ethnically Gypsy.”
Julia Gorin, an independent columnist, took a very interesting approach the above statement by Mr. Toli. She said: “I was also struck by the part where he was taught Serbs are naturally submissive and natural for slaves. Although that doesn’t jive with the Serbian fighting spirit and their saying “better the grave than a slave,” it does jive with the submissive behavior about self-defense and lingering feelings of guilt from buying into their designated role as villains. But it also begs the question: If Serbs are submissive, what a coup to have painted them as the aggressors. At the very least, this is proof that the Serbs’ “victims” never believed the Serbs to be aggressors, but went on the offensive to fool the world that they were. Precisely the art of the propagandist: accuse the target of doing what you’re about to do.”
Dr. Toli also revealed an interesting fact widely perceived in Albania. He said, “The Serbian three-finger sign in Albania was explained like all the other things: in a convenient and wrong way: scissors (behead) and strangle. Being Serbian it can only be up to no good. Later on I found that nobody really knows what it means. At some point I thought it means Serbs, Croats, Slovenes.” Hence I explained the Christian Orthodox connotation to the Serbian three fingers, pointing out that the three fingers held together are a traditional Serbian greeting, as a symbol of the Holy trinity.
Dr. Toli talked about the devastating economic conditions that Albania suffered throughout history, which continue to this day. “Looting Yugoslavia, Soviet Union and China (in times of national hunger) didn’t help Albania straighten its back. We still are the black hole of the mankind. I think Albania is one of the reasons for the backwardness of its neighbors; backwardness not as compared to Albania, backwardness as compared to the rest of the civilized world.How did Albanians describe their economic relationship with Yugoslavia, Soviet Union and China? Like Albania being robbed by all of these big revisionist sharks, and surviving thanks to the righteously inspired, Comrade Enver Hoxha. How lucky we were to have him…” says this enlightened scholar.“If you work hard, in Albania you are considered a fool. They have a saying: America is work, work; Italy is work, fun; Albania is fun, fun. For them, work cannot be fun!” claims Dr. Toli.
He continues to wonder….”Where is the Albanian Tesla? Or quarter-Tesla for the matter. Or tenth-Tesla? Palace Albania is situated in the middle of Belgrade, and was for some time the tallest building of whole Serbia. Where in Tirana is Palace Serbia?” Albanians refer to EU+ USA as „the civilized world“. They don’t include themselves there. How telling is that? They think they are barbarians. Even when Albanians civilize, they won’t become Americans or Swiss or Nikola Tesla.”
Dr. Toli shared some of his experiences as a professor in the US, looking upon the education in Albania. “One of the early grudges that I had about Albania at around 14-16 years old was: „Albania is the place where I cannot even satiate in Mathematical exercises” said Dr. Toli. He also adds,“Talking with an Albanian student in Michigan, he was jealous about how much Greeks brag around with their history. I told him, but they have it, and we don’t!”
“There is nothing wrong with having no history whatsoever to brag about,” remarks Dr. Toli. “Let’s start building it right now! Let’s set to work savagely, study savagely. Let’s set our minds to beat everybody else in school. Many nations have done this before. Judging by the number of universities, one would think yes. Knowing the facts, Albania just doesn’t belong where it is situated. With all the problems that they have, Balkan nations rank very, very high in schooling. All of them have their own crown jewels to brag about. If you want to study, you can. There are books in their own languages and other languages. How about Albania? There are some 100 private universities in Albania now, for 2.8 million Albanians. They are thought of as kiosks, businesses, and nobody in their right mind thinks they have any future. Public universities are not much better; no books, no intention to change it. Albania ranks below Ethiopia and Cambodia in university rankings, towards the very last places in the whole world.”
Dr. Toli points out that the Albanians do not have the loyalty towards the religion or their Albanian national identity, this is a romantic thought. The supremacy still belongs to their identification with a particular tribe or a clan. “Albanians look at anything else, including Albania, as a possible target to loot.” He continues his dissemination of the tribal allegiance by saying: “Even the commitment to their tribe needs dissection. Is it all love?” he asks remembering the story of his grandfather being beaten savagely by the clan-chief for disobeying him. “What was that powerful force that kept the clan together despite all the suffering? The outside enemy was. Everybody, Muslims and Christians alike were subject to looting by gangs of hajduks that ravaged the country forever. Everything was fair game. They could steal your wife and daughter to marry them off to whomever as a third wife. Or steal whatever riches they could carry away. This is the glue that bonded the clan together in Albania’s case. Again looting! So much a powerful steering phenomenon it was.”
He concludes, “It is easy to get in the main square and tell that you don’t like Serbs. Try this with „I don’t like Albanians“, and see what happens” says in the end Dr. Toli, revealing much pessimism about the Albanian democracy.“There is a term I coin a lot, little Albania-little misery, big Albania-big misery!”
“I was pleasantly surprised” he admits, “to discover that Serbs are the nation with the highest self-esteem in the world. I am sure that this is not a recent thing. There is no hope whatsoever that the USA or anybody else will remodel Serbia to their interest of the moment. But they can do damage!”
He finishes with a pleasant anecdote from his teaching at a US university. “I have had many Serbian students in the USA. One of them asked me for a reference letter. I said yes, I will give you a very nice reference letter. Then I jokingly added: I will write there, He is Serbian but good!”