Nationalist movement as an arena of political struggle: the case of Kosovo
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This thesis focuses on the Kosovo Albanian national movement between 1968 and 2008. Using a multi-layered approach, it analyses a) the factors that determined its political success, b) its continuous transformation and, above all, the internal dynamics of power competition, and c) the prevalence of the independence option in the early 1990s. A key feature of this research project is that it emphasises intra- Albanian struggles, elite competition and tensions over internal legitimacy and power to dominate and generate political identities. In other words, it depicts the way in which nationalism is contested within a national movement that seeks independence. As regards the political success of Kosovo Albanian nationalism, the thesis has demonstrated that although the latter has been fragmented, especially during the war, external intervention was essential in the removal of the Serbian/Yugoslav control and, later on, in achieving independence. It not only proved to be a determining factor in the achievement of Kosovo’s independence, but also played an essential role in sustaining a minimal consensus within the deeply fragmented nationalist movement. Regarding the issue of the internal dynamics of contention and power-struggles and ideological and political transformations of the nationalist movement, the findings suggest that the Kosovo Albanian nationalist movement has constantly been an arena of struggle for competing groups/organisations and political stances. Such power struggles in turn led to the bifurcation, trifurcation or even total fragmentation of the movement, with various groups and parties standing at opposite ends of the spectrum of political and nationalist demands. The thesis contends that the internal power struggle intensified in the aftermath of critical junctures that provided new opportunities (such as audiences) and constraints for the competing parties/groups. These ‘episodes of contention’ in turn resulted in the fundamental transformation and the restructuring of the power relations within the Kosovo Albanian nationalist arena and political field and, consequently, of the political demands and ideological orientation of the movement. The thesis adopts the institutionalist approach to explain the predominance of the independence option. While examining the role of political institutions in structuring political life and forging a new political identity, it argues that the project of an independent Kosovo is tightly linked to, and even stems from, the existence of Kosovo’s quasi-republican status in Yugoslavia. In other words, the existence of separate Kosovan cultural and political institutions during the period of autonomy was crucial in the process of the emergence of independence-oriented elites. Finally, as regards the contribution of this thesis to the wider scholarly work on nationalism, it reinforces the necessity of shifting the focus from the political success of nationalism to its sociological development and the properties of political and social interactions that define the emergence of factionalism and competing political stances. Most importantly, this thesis has shown that even in cases of apparent ethnic homogenisation and cemented inter-ethnic distance, internal dissent and strife is inevitable as groups and individuals strive for power and domination.