April 21, 1997
Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
In his April 12th letter, Senator Moynihan correctly points out that while the issue of ethnic Albanians in ex-Yugoslavia has been addressed, Albania’s own ethnic divisions have been overlooked. Senator Moynihan points out that the rebellion, which is confined to southern Albania, corresponds to the geographic division between the Highland Gegs and southerly Tosks. Yet there is another, perhaps more historically relevant, ethnic division that Senator Moynihan himself seems to have overlooked.
The Greek minority in southern Albania, still known as Northern Epirots, their ancient Greek name, has endured systematic persecutions through the centuries at the hands of their Turkish and then Albanian Muslim rulers. Even though the Northern Epirots were the first minority to be given formal legal rights to self-determination under international law by the 1914 Protocol of Corfu, and the International Court of Justice's supporting 1935 decision, Northern Epirots were killed by the thousands and subjected to pogroms, imprisonment, torture and execution for any manifestation of their cultural, religious or ethnic Greek Orthodox identity under Enver Hoxha’s ruthless communist regime.
To dilute their numbers even further they were ethnically cleansed from their ancient homelands in Aghies Sarandes, Argyrokastro, and Delvino and dispersed throughout northern Albania. Even Berisha’s government, arguably the least repressive the beleaguered Epirots have experienced in centuries, elicited the strong condemnation of the international community when it prosecuted members of the Epirot community in a Stalinist show-trial, described by the former deputy leader of Albania’s ruling Democratic Party as being "part of a government strategy to use the ethnic Greek minority as a hostage".
Given this history of cruel repression and neighboring Greece’s interest in protecting its fellow Hellenes, this ethnic drama seems far more relevant to Albania’s future--and particularly to the region’s geopolitics if totalitarian rule once again grips Albania--than the now forgotten distinction between the Gegs and Tosks.
P. D. Spyropoulos, Esq.