March 29, 2011, Bronx, NY -- Ignorance comes in many forms. And all of them are dangerous. As Albanians around the world eagerly anticipate the 100-year anniversary of the Albanian Uprising of 1911, or “Kryengritja e Malësise Madhe”, an interesting development is taking shape, or lest I say, an interesting stasis, that one can argue is advocating ignorance of historic proportions. Podgorica’s neglect of Malesia’s celebrated milestone should not surprise anyone, but even the most loyal democratic adherents have to shake their heads at how ignorant a state can behave with its most important ethnic minority.
Albanians make up a sizeable population in Montenegro, and with the national census soon approaching, the numbers will have significant impact on society, culture and development, both in Malësia and among its Slavic towns to the north. "Kryengritja" is one of the most important dates in Albanian history. Yet, Podgorica has made no effort to promote this event, nor sponsor any activity associated with the week-long celebrations currently under way in Hoti, Gruda, Trieshi, or even along its neighbor in Shkodra. To all the naysayers, 1911 was just as significant to Montenegro as it was to Albanians. By all accounts, had Albanians not engaged the Asian invaders head on, Montenegro would cease to exist as a state today. This is a fact. Moreover, due to external policies with her neighbors, Montenegro was in no position to devote its military towards the Turkish insurrections coming from the south and east. Had it not been for the brave men who assembled from the villages, valleys, and mountains of Malësia, the landscape of Podgorica today would resemble that of Istanbul. Indeed, the Montenegro of today would look, feel and smell very different.
Who is remembering 1911 one-hundred years later?
Will the week-long celebrations, which will culminate on April 6th, be broadcast on Montenegro’s national TV? Will Podgorica be handing out medals to the families of those who died for freedom? Will non-Albanians be attending this historic day? Will schools throughout Montenegro be talking about Kryengritja? Will students learn to appreciate the ethnic minorities that live down their streets, and gain a better understanding of their culture, history, and contributions to their state? Will April 6th ever become a national holiday in Montenegro?
Sadly, the answer to all of these questions is, NO. This is only a wrinkle in the ethnic cleavages that exist today in Montenegro. If Albanians who have gathered in towns and villages this week to remember Deda and his fellow compatriots do not engage the state to recognize this historic feat, and provide Albanians with the recognition they legally and morally deserve, Kryengritja will soon be an after-thought in history.