A. Basciani: L'occupazione italiana dell'Albania (1939–1943)

L'impero nei Balcani. L'occupazione italiana dell'Albania (1939–1943)

Basciani, Alberto
Roma 2022: Viella
Anzahl Seiten
304 S.
€ 28,00
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Hendrik Geiling, Seminar für Neueste Geschichte, Philipps-Universität Marburg

The Italian occupation of Albania from 1939 to 1943 has long been somewhat neglected by Italian historiography. Although the topic seems to have received a little more attention recently, the list of Italian academic monographs on the subject remains very short. Alberto Basciani’s latest book expands and enriches that list with a necessary close analysis of the Italian occupation structures in Albania.1 Central to Basciani's monograph is his consistent contextualization of the occupation of Albania within the framework of the history of fascist Italy's aggressive expansionist policy, which continuously reminds the reader of the central importance that the occupation of Albania originally had for fascist Italy. In fact, the Italian occupation policy in Europe and the fascists' dream of an empire in the Mediterranean cannot be understood without considering the Albanian case.

In his chronological study, Basciani succeeds in making clear that the occupation of Albania in April 1939, months before the outbreak of the Second World War, was the result of Italy's violent expansionist ambitions, which were fueled by the ideological concept of the „spazio vitale“. North Africa, most of the central and eastern Mediterranean, the entire Adriatic region, and large parts of Southeast Europe were to come under the rule of fascist Rome. Albania was to be the starting point for the expansion of the fascist sphere of influence in Southeast Europe. Basciani emphasizes that Italy’s conquest of Albania and its plans for the Balkans ran counter to the (economic) expansionist aims of the German Reich and thus created potential for conflict within the Axis – a fact often underrepresented in the research literature (p. 26).

The author does a good job of introducing the reader to Albania's historical and geopolitical situation in the context of the Italian occupation. Basciani provides a brief socio-economic overview of Albania and also describes its difficult political and administrative integration into the fascist empire. Importantly, the author underlines that occupied Albania served as a prime example of a puppet state on which the Axis powers relied for their military expansion into (South) Eastern Europe (p. 64).

In the second chapter, Basciani addresses the question of how the Italians attempted to consolidate their occupation rule. He emphasizes that Italian occupation rule was to be secured through political surveillance, not only of Albanian citizens in Italy, but also of the local population in the occupied territory. Anti-Italian forces were to be recognized at an early stage and their activities curtailed. Basciani's research in the state archives in Tirana leads him to the conclusion that the Italians wanted to establish a comprehensive surveillance network in Albania for this purpose (pp. 73–75). The book also discusses the Italian restructuring of Albania's state administration, especially the education system, and the various construction measures undertaken in the cities to improve and modernize the country's infrastructure. The author is able to demonstrate that these measures, in combination with various methods of repression against political opponents and the strategy of binding variously influential personalities who were neutral or favorable to the Italian occupation, were the central pillars intended to consolidate occupation rule. Albania was to be completely dominated by fascist Italy in political, social, cultural, and economic terms.

The fourth chapter deals with the Greco-Italian War, which the Italians started from Albanian territory. Here, the author succeeds in making clear that the war both led to a great strain on the relationship between the population in occupied Albania and the Italians on the one hand, and burdened the relationship between the Axis powers on the other. The occupied people had little interest in the war aims of the Italians and felt the negative consequences of the conflict when large parts of the country were bombed and subsequently occupied by the Greek army during the (for the Italians) disastrous campaign. The National Socialist German Reich was made aware of the military inadequacies of its most important ally through the military defeats and reversals of the Italian army in Albania. The Balkan campaign initiated by the Germans in April 1941 was also motivated by the desire to save Italy from a final defeat in Greece, which delayed their own war policy goals, the invasion of the Soviet Union.

After Yugoslavia and Greece were militarily defeated in the Balkan campaign, there were extensive border shifts throughout the Balkans. Large parts of present-day Kosovo, western North Macedonia, and southern Montenegro were assigned to Italian-occupied Albania. As Basciani shows, there were major administrative and security difficulties involved in integrating the new territories into the enlarged puppet state, which the Italians now referred to as „Grande Albania“ (pp. 176–185). Conflicts arose between the Axis allies, who pursued quite different goals in the region and now had to administer directly neighboring occupations. There were also new, differently motivated acts of violence between different population groups in the new border areas and problems with food supplies.

In the monograph's final two chapters, Basciani concentrates primarily on the decline in power of Italian occupation rule, which began to emerge steadily from autumn 1942. The author describes the increasingly frequent anti-Italian protests by the population, which were mainly organized by Albanian students and teachers. This is followed by a brief but precise description of the strengthening of the resistance struggle against the Italian occupiers. Particularly worth reading is his socio-economic analysis, which shows how war-related price increases, massive wage differences between Italians and Albanians in the country, the economic ineffectiveness caused by the oligopolistic network in which the country's trade was located, and the lack of food production and supply all led to major social problems. The fact that Basciani repeatedly includes analyses of the history of perceptions, in which he focuses on the Italians' perception of the occupied population and the occupied population's perception of the occupiers, is a great help in understanding the different motivations of the various actors in Albania during the Italian Occupation (pp. 256–257).

Basciani has succeeded in producing a compact overview of the Italian occupation of Albania. However, it must be noted that it is primarily the Italian side of the story that he illustrates. Even though the effects of the Italian occupation and the reactions of the occupied population are constantly addressed, Basciani’s main concern is to shed light on how the Italians attempted to enforce their occupation in Albania. Thus, the source material he analyzes consists almost exclusively of Italian sources. Nevertheless, this occupier-centered perspective, often sought in the occupation histories of the Second World War, does not detract from the quality of the book in this case, as it lives up to its promise and is, in its density of content, a valuable and necessary addition to the still limited research literature on the Italian occupation of Albania. Furthermore, the book makes an important contribution to understanding the imperialist foreign policy of fascist Italy, as the occupation of Albania is always placed in the overarching context of the aggressive fascist expansionist policy. It now remains the task of future research to build on works such as Basciani's and to investigate further aspects of the history of occupation – not just in Albania, but in the whole of (South) Eastern Europe.

1 For other academic Italian monographs on the topic, see Federico Eichberg, Il fascio littorio e l’aquila di Skanderbeg. Italia e Albania 1939–1945, Rome 1997; Giovanni Villari, L'Italia in Albania 1939–1943, Aprilia 2020.

Veröffentlicht am
Redaktionell betreut durch
Mehr zum Buch
Inhalte und Rezensionen
Weitere Informationen
Sprache der Publikation
Sprache der Rezension