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Eftim Mitrevski Interview with Eftim Mitrevski, vice-president of the Association "Mala Prespa"

7 May, 2001

Eftim Mitrevski interview to Viktor Cvetanovski of "Utrinski Vesnik"

Mr. Mitrevski, the Albanian census has recently been completed. In your opinion, does that census give a realistic picture of the ethnic minority numbers in Albania and the number of ethnic Macedonians in that country?

In our opinion, the census was secretly organized by the Albanian authorities. It was implemented by the people with political party affiliations. Only representatives of the political parties participating in the current government could participate in the census commissions. They conducted the census from their homes, without visiting families, so that they could on the spot establish the type of the buildings owned by a household, number of family members, and their ethnicity. If the census were organized in a fair and democratic manner I am convinced that the results would indicate that ethnic Albanians are a minority in Albania. That is why the census forms only had a column for citizenship. As an organization we boycotted the census. We issued a declaration and sent it to all the Albanian state institutions informing them that we refused to recognize the results of the census.
We have secured an agreement of all the Macedonian organizations in Albania, as well as the Greek organization "Omonia", which organized a parallel census on its own. Recently, even the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party led by Salli Berisha, issued a declaration stating that it also refused to recognize the results of the census, as it was not democratic and all personal preferences of an individual, such as ethnic identity and similar, could not be freely expressed in it.

You above all boycotted the census because the citizens were not allowed to identify themselves as ethnic Macedonians?

Yes, that is correct. We as an organization demanded that a true census be conducted so that we could establish the correct number of ethnic Macedonians, as the Albanian authorities are officially claiming a very unrealistic number, of only 5,000 ethnic Macedonians. We claim that in case of a fair and democratic census, immediately more than 150,000 citizens in Albania would identify themselves as ethnic Macedonians, while their actual number is twice that figure and reaches roughly 300,000 individuals, with different religious affiliation. We are the second largest minority in Albania. The largest ethnic minority are Vlachs, the third largest Greeks.

How did the authorities react to your demands to allow ethnic identification of Macedonians?

They responded to our requests by saying that this census was supposedly organized by Western European states and that its goal was to capture the current phase of the economic stability and development of the Albanian economy. They explained that soon there will be another census, while in this census the West wanted to establish the level of living standard in Albania. I do not think that is true, because Western European countries could never agree with census forms that inquired whether I have a toilet inside my house but would not be interested in my national identity or my culture. The true motivation is that if the Albanians recorded all the minorities, they would be a minority in their own country!

Therefore, after this census we still won't know how many ethnic Macedonians live in Albania?

We were identified as citizens of Albania, and that was it. The census was conducted from an office, without direct contact with the people. Some census takers were from Pustec. They are our people [ethnic Macedonians] but I must say that they support and sympathize the ruling party and conducted the census according to its needs. They did not visit any homes at all.

If you said that you were an ethnic Macedonian, would that be recorded?

No. Above all such an option was not given in the census form. Secondly, if for example I demanded to write in the census form that I am an ethnic Macedonian, that census form would be discarded as invalid. This was not a census in the true meaning of the word. If you ask the people around what they thought about the census, they would tell you that they did not realize there had been a census.

What sort of activities do the ethnic Macedonians in Albania plan for the near future?

Four organizations representing ethnic Macedonians, "Mir" from Golo Brdo, "Bratstvo" from Gora, "Med" and we "Mala Prespa" cooperate well. We shall form a civic orientation political party. We shall above all demand that ethnic Macedonians from Gora and Golo Brdo be given back the rights they had until 1948. There is documentation regarding these rights in Albanian institutions. Before 1948, in all ethnic Macedonian villages in Albania, in Gora, Golo Brdo, and in Mala Prespa, there were schools in the Macedonian language. The authorities are now deliberately denying that and are ignoring our requests. However, we hope that better times are coming and that democracy will finally arrive in Albania. Unfortunately, at the start of the twenty first century Albania is conducting unbelievable policy regarding the basic human rights, denying the existence of ethnic minorities. If this census were truly democratic and fair, the prosperity of the state would have been greater, and Europe would have more trust in the Albanian institutions. The current Albanian policy towards ethnic minorities can be compared with the policy of Bulgaria, where our ethnic Macedonian brethren have been for ten years denied the right to lay flowers on the grave of Jane Sandanski.

Would you care to comment on the recent events in Macedonia? What is your view of the demands made by ethnic Albanians in Macedonia?

The rights of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and the rights enjoyed by us, ethnic Macedonians in Albania, cannot even be compared, as we have no rights of any kind. The differences are as large as between the West and the Balkans. Nothing can be achieved with rifles and bombs. First, we should take a look at the rights of ethnic Macedonians in their motherland, Albania, and compare them with the rights of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia. They demand more than belongs to them. I cannot suppress my amazement at their demands. I would like to sit down with Thaci and Xhaferi and tell them about our troubles and our lack of rights. I would like to tell them about our poverty in Albania, shared by Albanians. I would like to compare prosperity in Macedonia with the situation in Albania and the rights enjoyed by minorities in both states. We also want to have the same rights as they, to live in our ancestral homes, to nurture our culture, our history. What Albanians in Macedonia are doing is unprecedented. I believe that all of that was prompted by these politicians. Let me make myself clear. I do not have anything against the Albanian nation. We ethnic Macedonians live with them, but hotheads like Xhaferi and Thaci should be kept away from the Balkans.

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The villages in Albania with mixed ethnicity, primarily ethnic Macedonian population:

Golo Brdo

* Trebishtë (Требишта)
* Ostern (Острен)
* Tërbaç (Трбаче)
* Lladomericë (Ладомирица)
* Otisani (Отисани)
* Gjinovec (Ѓиновец)
* Pasinkë (Пасинки)
* Tuçepi (Тучепи)
* Vrbnica (Врбница)
* Klenjë (Клење)
* Stërblevë (Стеблево)
* Džepištë (Џепишта)

Korçë - Pogradec

* Korçë (Корча)
* Pogradec (Поградец)
* Lin (Лин)
* Blacë (Блаца)
* Piskupati (Пискупати)
* Uduništë (Удуништа)
* Tservenaka (Червенака)
* Memlištë (Мемлишта)
* Zagragja (Врмова)
* Golik (Румен)
* Zerveskë (Зерваска)
* Sterova (Старова)
* Zagoreçan (Загоричан)
* Stropkë (Стропчке)
* Llëngë (Лешница)
* Çerava (Черава)
* Piskupijë (Пискупија)
* Drenovë (Дреново)
* Boboshticë (Бобошица)
* Vernik (Врбник)

Mala Prespa - Liqenas/Pustec

* Bezmishtë (Безмишта)
* Goricë e Madhë (Г. Горица)
* Goricë e Vogël (Д. Горица)
* Gollomboç (Глобочани)
* Liqenas (Пустец)
* Belas (Шулин)
* Cerja (Церје)
* Zvedzë (Звезда)
* Leskë (Леска)
* Pakičkë (Пакичка)
* Zagradeçi (Заградец)

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