Is Dua Lipa an Albanian nationalist?
It's complacent to assume that irredentist movements are a thing of the past
Do you know what ‘autochthonous’ means? If you’re an avid follower of the singer Dua Lipa, you probably do. That’s because she tweeted out a dictionary definition over the weekend — “indigenous rather than descended from migrants or colonists.”
(of an inhabitant of a place) indigenous rather than descended from migrants or colonists pic.twitter.com/OD9bNmLcZ4
— DUA LIPA (@DUALIPA) July 19, 2020
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I like the idea of pop stars explaining big words to their fans. Perhaps Taylor Swift could define ‘sesquipedalian’ for us, while Justin Bieber takes a stab at ‘discombobulation’. If schools don’t reopen in September, then social media may be the new classroom.
However, Lipa’s purpose was not purely educational. Though born in Britain, her parents are Kosovar Albanians and her tweet was illustrated with the Albanian flag — a black double-headed eagle on a red background. Furthermore, the flag was cut into the shape of a map. A map of what though? Albania itself? The neighbouring Republic of Kosovo (in which ethnic Albanians constitute the majority population)?
Er, not quite — the borders depicted appear to extend further than either of those sovereign states. Chunks of other Balkan countries seem to be included. Now it may be that the graphic was simply intended to show where ethnic Albanians have lived for generations upon generations. But in the online reaction, it has been condemned as promoting the nationalist idea of a Greater Albania.
You don’t have to look very hard on the internet to find maps showing ‘Greater’ versions of many different nations. The big word for thinking bits of neighbouring countries ought to belong to one’s own country is ‘irredentism’, which is derived from the Italian for ‘unredeemed’. Though there are examples the world over, the Balkans — plus the surrounding nations — are a notorious hotspot for territorial claims and counter-claims.
We’d be complacent to assume that irredentist movements are a thing of the past. Resentments continue to simmer and there’s no doubt that some nationalities have had a tougher deal from history than others. For instance, millions of ethnic Hungarians found themselves living outside Hungary when the borders were redrawn after the First World War. A hundred years later, Viktor Orban has made a point of offering Hungarian citizenship to their descendants.
Then there’s the matter of Macedonia, a former Yugoslavian republic whose very name was taken as an affront to the territorial and cultural integrity of Greece. A compromise was eventually found — last year, the country renamed itself North Macedonia so as not to imply a claim on the Greek region of Macedonia which lies to the south.
I guess we Brits should be grateful to have our borders defined by the sea, not war and diplomacy. But, then again, we’re hardly strangers to territorial conflict. There’s the land border with the Republic of Ireland, of course — which only last year came close to derailing Brexit. In turn, Brexit may yet derail the Union, if the Scots vote for independence. That would open all sorts of complications, though not I hope over the location of the land border with England, which these days is a settled issue. It didn’t used to be, however. It was fought over for centuries.
The same goes for the Anglo-Welsh border. The idea of Cymru (Wales) and Cymry (the Welsh) used to extend much further than it does now (where do you think the name Cumbria comes from?).
Perhaps we’re no so different from the Balkans as we might think we are.
Is the land border between Scotland and England a settled issue? It may have been settled for a while, but historically has been fairly fluid, and could become so again. At the independence referendum the two nearest councils to the border (Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders) both voted about 66% to remain in the union. In the event of a similar result next time round who could deny them their democratic wish to stay in the union?
I don’t think it’s too far out there to suggest that in the event of a (God forbid!) breakup of the United Kingdom the England-Scotland border would become a very hot topic!
“Our borders have been fixed for centuries” @Mark Corby only because they haven’t really mattered – Peter is being a bit optimistic to suggest the border “these days is a settled issue”.
Internal borders in a Union are pretty irrelevant usually – it’s when the breakups happen they become incendiary!
The precise location of the Croatia-Serbia border didn’t matter much when they were both part of Yugoslavia – people died about it once they weren’t.
The border of the Ukraine and Russia was a moving feast when they were tow parts of the USSR (Kruschev transferred quite big chunks of the Russian SSR to the Ukrainian SSR in the 1960’s in order to “russify the Ukrainian Communist Party Congress – those Russians now find themselves in Ukraine!)
I personally see a Scotland secession – like a potential Catalunyan one – as being a very messy business.
Cumbria might have shared a language with Wales in the Dark Ages but neither territory existed in their current form so it’s a bit of a stretch to say it was part of Wales.
However in Norman times Cumbria was definitely part of Scotland, albeit relatively briefly, for about 30 years in the C.11th and 20 years in the C.12th.
Which absolutely no one is getting hot under the collar about.
Not yet, but give it time.
If the SNP get their independence for wee little Scotland, it’s axiomatic they will put in a claim, however spurious for ‘Cumbria’, perhaps even the Isle of Man and Berwick on Tweed.
How about the biggest, and best, irredentism of the lot – Greater Britain, aka the Anglosphere?
“I guess we Brits should be grateful to have our borders defined by the sea, not war and diplomacy.”
err, apart from two contentious land borders: Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. The first, which was decided by war in 1921, and a diplomatic effort to placate the restless Unionists of north-eastern Ulster (see Anglo-Irish Treaty, the UVF, The Ulster Solemn league and Covenant of 1912), the latter in the War of the Spanish Succession and both still contentious.
A provocative and interesting essay.”Perhaps we’re not so different from the Balkans as we might think we are”. Priceless!
Leaving aside that most of the UK would have no idea where the Balkans are, this incendiary remark is so obviously false as to be worth a riposte.
Our borders have been fixed for centuries. Wales hammered into the ground like the proverbial ‘tent peg’ in the late thirteenth century. Those magnificent ‘Edwardian’ Castles remain a very visible reminder.
Scotland crushed by Oliver Cromwell &Co, “bought and sold for English gold” by the Act of Union, and crushed, yet again at Culloden Moor.
Ireland, all but jettisoned in 1922, but sadly leaving the festering carbuncle, that is forever Ulster.
By comparative analysis with the “Beastly Balkans”, this indeed paradise itself, as I am sure most would agree?
Are our ‘borders’ so uncontentious? In my lifetime it wasn’t clear if Monmouthshire was in Wales or England! And Berwick if officially in England but feels like you are in Scotland – visiting last year Tescos were handing out bags proclaiming their Scottish produce.
Of course I jest – these are a couple a couple of exceptions to prove the rule. I think the only contentious boundary would be the one in the North Sea if Scotland goes independent.
Ulster is not the carbuncle. That is Northern Ireland. The difference? Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan.
Agreed. I stand corrected, thank you.
I wonder whether Peter Franklin is a fan of Mr. Polly? 🙂
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