50 Years Since 1968: Looking Back at Kosova Protests

Stephen Sylejman Schwartz
Executive Director, Center for Islamic Pluralism

CIP, June 8, 2018


“Enverists” and “Titoists”, in Kosova and Albania, and the events of 1968

Remarks To Academic Conference On The 40th Anniversary of the 1968 Protests in Kosova, Macedonia, and Montenegro Conference Organized By The Kosova Society of Political Prisoners, The Institute of History of Kosova, The Albanological Institute of Prishtina – In the Main Hall of the Philological Faculty in Prishtina, Kosova Republic – 24 November 2008

Esteemed participants in the present conference, greetings to all. May I first express my thanks to Prof. Zymer Neziri who extended an invitation to me to join the discussion today. The subject of my remarks will be ” ‘Enverists’ and ‘Titoists’ In Kosova and Albania and The Events of 1968.” These brief comments constitute a modified extract from a longer work of mine on the topic of ideology in Albanian national politics, which will be published in Britain next year.

The political typology of “Enverists” and “Titoists” in Albanian political history, and especially that of Kosova, could easily lend itself to misinterpretation. The distinction could be taken to reflect an enduring preference for different styles of Communist governance – extreme dictatorial tyranny under Enver Hoxha (1908-85), ruler of Albania proper after 1944, and “liberal” Communism under Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980), the architect of Communist Yugoslavia. Such an assumption would be mistaken. According to my research, no significant Kosovar “Enverists” after the 1960s were supporters, per se, of Hoxhaite social or economic polices.

Kosovar Albanians suffered various forms and degrees of discrimination under Yugoslav Communist and Serbian neo-Communist domination, culminating in decisions in 1987-90 by the regime of Slobodan Milošević to expel the Kosovar Albanians from the Yugoslav political, employment, education, and health systems. Kosovars were then compelled to organize a parallel economy and political life, independent schools, and improvised medical services. The aggravated oppression suffered by Albanians led to the Kosova liberation war of 1998-99, in which NATO intervened on their side, and the recognition of independence of the Kosova Republic in 2008.

It would also be a conceptual error to equate “Enverism” in Kosova with aggressive agitation for a single “ethnic Albania” or “Greater Albania” uniting Albania proper, Kosova, and the Albanian-speaking areas of western Macedonia, Montenegro, south Serbia, and northern Greece. As the Kosovar Albanian publicist Nexhmedin Spahiu wrote in 1999, while “Enverists” were viewed as moderately sympathetic to Hoxha’s regime, the essential cleavage separated “Enverists,” who placed the Kosova issue within the general context of a broad national consciousness in a people partitioned between Albania proper and Kosova, and “Titoists” who considered the Kosova problem to be distinct from the destiny of the broader Albanian community. In the period preceding the Kosova liberation war, Spahiu identified “Enverism” with the noted essayist Rexhep Qosja (b. 1936) and “Titoism” with Ibrahim Rugova (1944-2006).[1] The Kosova Liberation Army/Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës, which triumphed in 1999, was neither “Enverist” nor “Titoist,” regardless of Western speculation about its supposed Marxist origins. Further, as I will seek to elucidate, in the aftermath of Communism’s collapse in both Albania and Yugoslavia, as well as the success of UÇK, the terms “Enverist” and “Titoist” disappeared from the Kosovar political vocabulary. Although a nationalist left is present in Kosova today, its main protagonists do not identify with the legacy of either Communist Albania or of Yugoslavia.

The topic of the present Conference being the 1968 demonstrations in Kosova, Macedonia, and Montenegro, and particularly that of November 27, 1968, it is appropriate to examine how the events were described in foreign media. I have concentrated my review of this reporting on The New York Times, considered the main newspaper of record in the U.S., but also known for many years as a periodical under the influence of the powerful Serbian lobby in the U.S.

On November 28, 1968, the Times reported in an unsigned, brief notice, under the headline, “Protests Break Out In Yugoslav Towns Near Albania Line.” With a dateline of Belgrade, November 27, the text stated, “Hundreds of demonstrators, apparently Albanian nationalists, smashed shop windows and overturned cars today in Pristina, the capital of the heavily-Albanian province of Kosovo-Metohija in southern Yugoslavia. An undisclosed number of demonstrators were injured in the disturbances, the local government announced.”

This first Times report immediately proceeded to put the incident in a context of fantasy, centered on Hoxha but also following the official Yugoslav line by attempting to assimilate Kosovar discontent with the intra-Communist rivalries of the cold war. The Times declared, “The disturbances took place as a Chinese Communist delegation arrived in the Albanian capital of Tirana… reflecting continued Chinese support for Albania, Peking’s only European ally. Veli Devi, leader of the Communist party in the predominantly ethnically Albanian region of Yugoslavia, said in a statement that the demonstrations had been ‘synchronized and organized,'” that is, presumably with directives from the Hoxha regime and the Chinese. But the item also concluded by noting, “Similar disturbances have taken place in Kosovo-Metohija over the last year.”

On November 30, 1968, The Times published a statement by the Tanjug news agency, via the United Press International, that at least one person was killed in the Prishtina demonstrations.

The first reportage is remarkable in that it shows the positive will of Western media to view any news involving Albanians, whatever their location in the Balkans, through the perspective of Hoxhaite influence. In reality, the pages of The Times during the same period as the Prishtina demonstrations were filled with stories reflecting the deeper turmoil in the Eastern European Communist states, following the Russian intervention in Prague. The Times noted that NATO had warned Moscow against a possible attack on Yugoslavia, Romania, or Austria,[2] that Tito himself had denounced the Soviet action against the Czechs, and that the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, then considered a “national Communist” in the style of Tito, had expressed reservations about the Soviet policy but had then submitted to Soviet orders.

Yet in 1968 as so many times before and afterward, “Albanian exceptionalism” was applied to analysis of the crisis in Kosova, Macedonia, and Montenegro. It was simply inconceivable for Westerners to understand that the Albanian nation had its own grievances in Yugoslavia and general aspirations, and could not be treated as a pawn of Hoxha or the Chinese. Nor could Westerners perceive that the protests in Prishtina had more in common with the events of 1968 in Prague and Paris than with anything imagined in Peking.

I look forward to the comments of my Albanian colleagues at the present conference, if they have anything to offer that would correct my opinion.

Even the Croatian-American historian Ivo Banac argued that in the late 1980s, during the first major crisis in the autonomous province of Kosova after Tito’s death in 1980 – student protests and mass demonstrations in 1981, followed by martial law and a purge of Kosovar Albanian Communist leaders – “the Hoxhist version of Marxism-Leninism” furnished and would continue to provide “the language, concepts, and political culture of the Albanian national movement in Yugoslavia.”[3] This unambiguous observation and confident prediction turned out to be based on epiphenomena, and, with the advance of Albanian disaffection in Kosova, was quite wrong. Kosovar Albanians who lived through the period of cultural revival after 1974, when books printed in Tirana were introduced into Kosova in large quantities, typically comment that in those days Kosovars viewed Albania with undiluted affection, until they began visiting the Hoxha-ruled state and saw its poverty and oppression for themselves.

In reality, the emergence of both Rugova’s Lidjha Demokratike e Kosovës (LDK) as well as UÇK, were expressive of the failure of Communist ideology among Albanians.

Nationalism has consistently overcome other ideologies in the collective life of the Albanian people. A small remnant of the former Albanian-speaking element in the Yugoslav Communist bureaucracy operates in Kosova, as the Social Democratic Party, but is unrepresented in the republic’s Assembly. Nothing resembling any of the historic Communist movements has survived in Kosova. The terms “Enverist” and “Titoist” are as dead as the men with which they originated.

Thank you for your kind invitation and attention. As many of you will know, I have long been an admirer of the Albanian nation and especially of the people of Kosova, and I will continue to work in the U.S. and elsewhere for the defense of this people and its rights.

Washington, DC

October 2008


[1] Nexhmedin Spahiu, Serbian Tendencies for the Partitioning of Kosova, Budapest, Central European University, 1999.

[2] Drew Middleton, “Warning by NATO Seen As Gamble,” The New York Times, November 29, 1968.

[3] Ivo Banac, With Stalin Against Tito, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press, 1988, p. 216.





By Stephen Schwartz, Executive Director

Center for Islamic Pluralism


Washington, DC, USA