|Participant in World War II|
The forces of the Balli Kombëtar
|Became||"Free Albania" National Committee|
|Allies||Nazi Germany (from late 1943)|
National Republican Greek League
|Battles and wars||
World War II in Yugoslavia|
World War II in Yugoslav Macedonia
Albanian Resistance of World War II
The Balli Kombëtar (literally National Front), known as Ballists, was an Albanian nationalist, anti-communist organization established in November 1942. It was led by Ali Këlcyra and Midhat Frashëri. The motto of the Balli Kombëtar was: "Shqipëria Shqiptarëve, Vdekje Tradhëtarëvet" (Albania for the Albanians, Death to the Traitors). Eventually the Balli Kombëtar joined the Nazi established puppet government and fought as an ally against anti-fascist guerrilla groups.
With Italy on the brink of defeat in 1942, the Albanian National Liberation Movement (LNC) and the Balli Kombëtar organized a meeting in the village of Mukje. The Balli Kombëtar entered into a fragile alliance with the communist-led LNC, and acted as a resistance group against the Italians. Following the Mukje Agreement, the vague mutual tolerance that had existed between the Ballists and Communists quickly evaporated.The Allies too could not guarantee that Kosovo would be a part of Albania, because they stood for the restoration of occupied nations under their borders as they existed prior to World War II.
Despite their hatred of the occupiers, the Ballists feared that an Allied victory in the war might well result in Communist control of Albania. Their lukewarm attitude towards the British was also fostered by their desire to preserve the ethnically united Albanian state under the borders drawn by the Italians in 1941, for they bitterly opposed and dreaded the loss of Kosovo and Debar to Yugoslavia once again, and feared that the Allies in their support of the Greeks might prevent them from claiming Chameria and deprive them of their southern provinces of Korçe and Gjirokaster, the heartland of their liberation movement. They regarded the Yugoslavs and the Greeks as their real enemies.
The Mukje Agreement immediately triggered a hostile reaction from the Yugoslav representative in Albania, Svetozar Vukmanoviċ. He denounced the agreement and put pressure on the LNC to repute it immediately, and Yugoslav Communist leader Milovan Đilas subsequently described the Balli Kombëtar as "Albanian Fascists".
The Balli Kombëtar, which had fought against the Italians, were threatened by the superior forces of the LNC and the Yugoslav Partisans, who were backed by the Allies. In the autumn of 1943, Nazi Germany occupied all of Albania after Italy was defeated. Fearing reprisals from larger forces, the Balli Kombëtar made a deal with the Germans and formed a "neutral government" in Tirana which continued its war with the LNC and the Yugoslav Partisans.
Safet Butka, a hardline Albanian nationalist, tried at various times to cooperate with the Communist-dominated Liberation Front. In February 1943, he organized a meeting with Communist representatives and an agreement for cooperation was reached in March 1943. He also made another local agreement in August 1943 and was one of the initiators and supporters of the Mukje agreement. The Albanian Communists had demanded that Kosovo and Metohija be ceded to Albania after the war. The LANÇ met with the Ballists in August 1943, agreeing upon the establishment of Greater Albania. The agreement was however short-lived. After the denouncement of the Mukje agreement by Albanian communists, he feared a civil war between Albanians and when asked on the matter, always stated that "the only Albanian that I will kill will be myself." On his way home, he was informed of the first clashes between Albanian partisans and the Balli Kombëtar. Upon hearing such news, he killed himself on 19 September 1943 in the village of Melçan, faithful to his word. In the south of Albania, the rivalry between the Communists and the Balli Kombëtar heated up. The Communists almost immediately repudiated the Mukaj agreement, and fearing the British might open a second front in the Balkans and lend their support to the Ballists, they issued orders that the Balli Kombëtar be eliminated wherever it was found. These factors contributed to members of the Balli Kombëtar forming a strong hatred for the Communists.
After forming the collaborator government, the Ballists pressed hard against the Communists. They destroyed a fairly large Communist partisan group southwest of Tirana. With the Grand Alliance established, the Germans began losing the war. This also affected the situation in Albania as the Germans could not supply the Ballists. With the current situation favouring the Communists, the partisans began a full-scale attack on the Balli Kombëtar. British liaison officers in Albania noted that the Communists were using the arms they received to fight fellow Albanians far more than to harass the Germans. The west noted that the Communists could not have won without the supplies and armaments from the British, America and Yugoslavia, and that the LNC were not afraid of murdering their own countrymen.
Kosovo and Macedonia
A large number of Serbs and Macedonians were also killed across western Macedonia as Ballist forces and the SS Skanderbeg division fought the Yugoslav Partisans. The main centres of the Balli Kombëtar in these regions were Kosovska Mitrovica, Drenica and Tetovo. It was noted that the Balli Kombëtar in these regions were more aggressive than the Ballists of Albania. With the Germans driven out by the Yugoslav Partisans, and the Albanian communists claiming victory in Albania, Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito ordered the collection of weapons in Kosovo and the arrest of prominent Albanians.
The order was not well-received and, combined with the passions felt about Kosovo, inflamed an insurrection. On 2 December 1944, Ballists from the Drenica region attacked the Trepča mining complex and other targets. Similarly in Kičevo, Gostivar and Tetovo, the remaining Ballists tried to remain in control of the region after the Yugoslav Partisans announced victory. After the war, most Balli Kombëtar leaders were either imprisoned, executed, or tortured due their alliance with Axis forces. Although the insurrection was crushed, it was not until 1947 that Kosovo was fully reintegrated into Yugoslavia.
Montenegro and Sandžak region
Parts of Montenegro and the Sandžak were unlawfully annexed into Albania in 1941. The cities included Bijelo Polje, Tutin, Plav, Gusinje, Rozaje and Ulcinj. Some of the Yugoslav Muslims that lived in these regions sided with the Albanians. Akif Blyta, former mayor of Novi Pazar and member of Nexhip Draga's party, Džemail Koničanin and Ballist forces under Shaban Polluzha successfully repelled Chetnik forces back from Novi Pazar and crushed their stronghold in Banja.
Midhat Frashëri believed that Albanian provinces under the Ottoman Empire were unfairly partitioned during World War I amongst Yugoslavia and Greece. After World War II, Midhat Frashëri began advocating for a Greater Albania. When Midhat Frashëri formed the Balli Kombëtar, it was based on his nationalist ideas and the old ideologies of Abdyl Frashëri, Ymer Prizreni and Isa Boletini. The works of Franz Nopcsa, Johann Georg von Hahn and Milan Šufflay, helped strengthen the nationalists' cause. The Balli Kombëtar believed that Albanians were "Aryans of Illyrian heritage". This helped gaining support by the Nazis.
The Ten-Point Program
After World War II ended, the Balli Kombëtar were defeated by Yugoslav and Albanian communists. The Ballists were so thoroughly discredited by their collaboration with the Nazis that there was no chance of them having a role in postwar Albania, though it took until 1945 to finish them off. Ironically, the Ballists' decision to work with the Nazis brought about the one thing they had sought to prevent – a Communist-dominated government. Balli Kombëtar fighters fled the Balkans to Austria, the United States, Australia, Switzerland and South America. The Ballists who did not escape were executed. An organization was set up in exile.
Tetovo was once the largest Balli Kombëtar base in Macedonia and still has strong ties with the name. The Tetovo-based football club KF Shkendija has a large support firm called the Ballistët. They are known in the Macedonian media for their use of hardline nationalistic rhetorics in football matches. The most notable Ballist leader in Macedonia was Xhem Hasa from Gostivar. A statue of him has been erected in Simnica, just south of Gostivar, by local Albanians.
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