BELGRADE – Macedonia’s Albanians put up monuments in the shape of Albania’s coat of arms in Macedonia’s capital, while demolishing a construction site for a Christian monument in an increasingly violent conflict.
While both sides deny their monuments are meant to be divisive, Albanians and Macedonians in Macedonia’s capital Skopje are pursuing an increasingly violent war of monuments.
Ethnic Albanians attacked a Macedonian man who funded a new monument in Skopje’s Cair district, a Christian cross, and later bulldozed the construction site. Demonstrators also set up tents on the site and put up Albanian flags.
In February, the DUI party installed a monument in Cair commemorating the beginning of the 2001 conflict between Albanians from the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Macedonian government. On that day, eight Macedonian soldiers and policemen were tortured and burned in a fire after being ambushed and kidnapped by Albanian militants.
Local government chairman Izet Medziti claimed that Skopje must resemble Brussels, not Beirut, as a city of ethnic harmony, where minarets are put in mosques and crosses are kept in churches.
Macedonian authorities previously put up two other monumental crosses, including the Millenium Cross, a local landmark, which angered ethnic Albanian politicians in the country.
The demonstration was attended by parliamentarians from Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration party, which is allied to the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). Education minister and party member Abdulakim Ademi was also in attendance.
Macedonia faces elections in April, to which local media have attributed the conflict. The country’s United States embassy also takes an active position in the country’s tense ethnic and political landscape.