The Albanian National Theatre is erased by the government of Edi Rama and the Tirana’s Mayor Erion Veliaj.
This erasure was expected, from 2014, when the government of Edi Rama, after the selection of a puppet National Theatre director, separated the workers from their working place (Dear Karl Marx, what would you do to explain, to a former marxist-leninist country, what does it mean!?!?!?), by changing their contracts from unlimited in time to fixed-term contracts (from 3 up to 18 months). In this manner, through precarization, the workers (not only actors) were easy pray of Prime Minister’s extortion. The result is that defending The Theatre, on May 17th 2020, beyond the citizen volunteers and activists, was only one of the actual contracted actors of the national institution, Neritan Liçaj (I am not sure if Mehdi Malkaj, the other actor actively involved against the demolition, is still under contract with the institution).
This blog is full of this kind of materials. In Albanian language, unfortunately, for lazy art researchers from abroad, or luckily, for those who know Albanian and can copy for free and sell it as their own research in different languages. Anyway, although the smartest ones will deliberately continue to copy without quoting, here it is a translated sample from AKSREVISTA of June 12th 2014 (link):
“Last week the actors of the National Theatre, unlike those of the Opera and Ballet, signed the “contemporary” contracts of the Ministry of Culture. Ndriçim Xhepa, Yllka Mujo, Rajmonda Bulku, Bujar Asqeriu, Fadil Kujofsa, Vangjel Toçe, Mehdi Malkaj, Marjeta Ljarja, Sokol Angjeli, Eva Alikaj, Vasjan Lami, Artan Imami, Dritan Boriçi, Dritan Boriçi, Helidon Fino, Anila Bisha Çisha, Indrit , Olta Daku, Neritan Liçaj, Arben Derhemi, Marjana Kondi, Alfred Bualioti, Anil Frashёri, Ermela Teli, Lulzim Zeqja, Genti Deçka, Gerti Ferraj are the current members of the troupe of the National Theater, that signed the new contracs limited in time, as proposed by the Ministry of Culture. I want to make public their names, because these actors – for their weakness, deliberate malice, or ignorance – deserves to enter the contemporary Albanian history as signatories of the demolition of the first public Albanian cultural and artistic institution.
The controversy that occurred years ago, between Edi Rama and the actors of this institution, for the demolition of the building of National Theatre finished with a concrete ‘nothing’. The National Theatre remained in its place. Now, this situation, if repeated, would undoubtedly see the country’s prime minister as the winner. I don’t have the magic sphere, but I have the impression that very soon we will see the Prime Minister’s hammer beating in the same place. Edi Rama, today, would easily succeed, because the real actors of the National Theatre are dead.”
So, the end was in the air. The same predatory strategy was and is still applied in Albania from 1991 by all the political parties that formed the government: separation of the workers from their working places and consecutive privatization of the whole country (industries, factories, mines, oil wells, etc.). However there is no focus in this issue in each protest I ever participated. And the protest against the demolition of The National Theatre is one of them. The difficulty to articulate this issue depends by the infiltration of every single protest from political and para-political forces, such as Democratic Party/PD, Socialist Party/PS, Socialist Movement for Integration/LSI or Open Society Foundation for Albania/OSFA/Soros, etc. Therefore there is no possibility for a democratic change based on progressive ideas taking place while these reactionary forces are around.
However, to be honest, in the last few weeks, I thought maybe even this time the National Theatre could resist Edi Rama’s attack, because of a very hard work of some protesters, part of Alliance for the Defense of Theatre, that proposed and obtained from Europa Nostra the status of “endangered European Cultural Monument” for the National Theatre (link).
But, unfortunately, Europa Nostra is not the European Union, the representative/ambassador of which in Albania is Luigi Soreca, that apparently, involved in more important activities to pave the way of the country towards EU, has no comments regarding the peoples revolt against the demolition. The Alliance in Defense of Theatre while I am writing have already sent a request (May, 18th) for pronunciation to the Ambassador (link).
Actually I do not know where the EU finds its representative to send in Albania. The last one, Romana Vlahutin, seemed a porno actress coming out from Pornhub milf category, with the same “accuracy” regarding sobriety (link).
The Alliance for the Defense of Theatre has also sent a request of pronunciation to that Manchurian Candidate, named Yuri Kim, a cyborg that happens to be the US Ambassador in Albania. In this case, the request to me sounds so absurd that is even hard to believe. Our Big Brother, thanks to the Monroe Doctrine of which we, as Albanians, have our independence, but also the fruits of its psychotic struggle for hegemony, I am sure will be the biggest supporter of Edi Rama and, by defending his operation, will give him more credibility just to intimidate the protesters and return to “normality”.
As I see it there is no hope from nowhere, being EU or USA, except from the people resisting fascism with the adequate weapons. The Albanian history speaks for itself.
What can we learn from the history, not only the Albanian history actually, is that the fascism does not permit any choice: it evokes always and everywhere a Piazzale Loreto, it starts and finishes succumbing in its spectacle.
Actually it is not only my perception that this will happen later or soon in Albania. There are for example other artist that somehow, through their works, transmit and evoke the same feelings. See in this regard “REASSAMBLE” of Pleurad Xhafa, a video of 2017 focused on the traumatic history of the WWII and the donation of Walter Audisio, an Italian partisan, to the “heroic people of Albania” of the machine gun with which was executed Benito Mussolini, conserved at the National Historic Museum:
or Ergin Zaloshnja’s quasi-Fellinian “Naming the Halter in the Hanged Man’s House” of the same year, which tries to provoke after the newly designed Tirana’s Central Square and the mafia-government affair behind:
But before concluding it is important to mention a historical reference to this contemporary somber omens. There is a poet and writer I love. His name, Millosh Gjergj Nikolla, known as Migjeni (1911-1938). He was from Shkodra, serbian mother tongue, but deliberately wanted to write in a minor, foreign for him, language, like Albanian. His Albanian language, like his verses in terms of metre, are far from perfect. Yet, there is no other author in Albanian language that sounds as perfect as him in terms of tonality, in terms of relations, stability, attractions of images created through words, which makes his writing an incomparable distinguished gesture.
In one of his essays, entitled “Novel on Crisis” (Novelë mbi krizë), Migjeni writes about a city “the elite” of which, to “fight” poverty, “changed the face of the city” by constructing “wonderful monuments” (a clear reference to the Albanian situation of the time under the self-proclaimed King Ahmet Zogu). And the elite was “competing among each other” in this race of aesthetization of poverty (here the author refers to his historical and social context, but, one year after the death of Migjeni, with the fascist invasion in 1939, with a more intensive aesthetization of poverty, his words sound more as a prophecy or discerning premonitory vision). However, the poorest, still starving, felt “colorful like the monuments under the sun”. But, not too late, after the destruction of the monuments “the day of beggars’ lynch came”, the day of “starving, skinny ribs wolves”. The End.
To me these “beggars” that start “lynching” hungry like “starving, skinny ribs wolves” seem a good image to understand the Albania after the liberation and the partisans persecuting an entire so-called elite of the time, from aristocratic and conservators to progressive and social democrats or other center as well as moderate leftists, all guilty of being too soft, uncertain, or reluctant, according the partisans, to fight against fascism and privileged classes. The terror of the time is better described in some of Kasëm Trebeshina’s poignant and surgical pages. I also remember my grandfather, a member of “Çeta e Pezës”, the first anti-fascist military group in Albania, and later partisan, that during the last years before passing away, in 1994, was used to tell me stories of this terror while hunting the fascists or fascists collaborators in Northern Albania and Yugoslavia. He was used to say “there were no bones or tails left” (“as rrasht as bisht”), a phrase that brings in mind Migjeni’s “starving, skinny ribs wolves” devouring their prey.
The National Theatre in 1944 after the liberation was taken from the fascists and Nazis with real weapons. Was occupied by starving people, which had never had the possibility to frequent the elitist “Scanderbeg Circle”, this was the name of the multi-functional complex, which became after the liberation The Popular Theatre, a theater of the poorest for the poorest. And, during these times of resistance against the demolition, the history of under-privileged classes occupying the elite’s institutions, the symbolic institutions of colonization, converted in symbolic institutions of culture, if not at all, rarely came out or was clearly articulated as the real value to preserve of the history of National Theatre. And it is because of the aforementioned political and para-political infiltration of each protest that this value is continuously erased. However, now, with the demolition of the National Theatre by Edi Rama’s government and Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj, the elitist race towards the aesthetization of poverty is coming to an end. The Theatre’s curtain is down. The “starving, skinny ribs wolves” are coming soon.
P.S. It was impossible to defend The National Theatre from the demolition without clarifying its fascist roots, its instrumental construction to promote a spectacular fascist regime through architectonic modernization for the colonization of a country. It was impossible to defend from the demolition The Theatre without evidencing its fundamental value, in other words the power of the poorest to convert a symbolic building of colonization in a symbolic building of culture. Without this clarification Edi(p) Rama’s psychosis and all the neoliberal ass-lickers of the contemporary art system have reduced and will reduce the erasure of this European Monument of Cultural Heritage as an Albanian feud between government and opposition.