Friday, July 18, 2008

Albanian Cartoons and Art Under Dictatorship

Albanian Cartoon From Communist Era

My grand son was in one of his moods that reminded me of his father at the same age. He had no idea what he wanted, but he wanted it right away. I did what any caring grandfather would do under the circumstances. I sat down with him and watched some Albanian Cartoons compliments compliments of You Tube. I was always fascinated by that country, which for years was strictly off limits to Americans unless they were of Albanian ancestry.
There is a certain type of animation that has no dialogue, but relies on visuals to convey the plot. "Road Runner" is such a cartoon. Russia has a series "Nu Pagodi " which can be understood with a vocabulary of about four words of Russian. It is the same idea as "Tom and Jerry", with a sly underdog outsmarting a stronger adversary.Nu Pagodi is rare among Russian cartoons in its technical quality,which is comparable to American animation.
Albania was, during the communist era an isolated country. It is interesting to look at entertainment from that hermit kingdom that was not overtly political. Although less technically advanced than American cartoons, the video with this posting shows the vivid imagination of its creators. It shows a little boy who would rather do anything than his homework, his flights of fantasy and his artful diversions. It can be enjoyed by those who , like me know no Albanian.
One of the most interesting struggles under a totalitarian regime is the tightrope walk between truthfulness and survival. this is not really such a strange concept to those of us who live under a constitutional democracy. In the workplace, of course we barter our freedom for security. It's not right or wrong. It just is.
There was an artistic phenomenon in Nazi Germany called "inner migration", in which artists staked out a creative space in which the regime had little interest and found their freedom there, sometimes speaking the truth under cover of allegory. In Albania, Ismail Kadare was such a figure, who spoke of times past in Albanian history with the understanding that it was a commentary on the present. His poetry is widely respected in the west and translated into many western languages as are his novels. His achievement of keeping his integrity and his freedom under the insane regime of Enver Hoxha is an achievement at which one must marvel
It is interesting that those regimes most protected by webs of fear and barbed wire are the countries that collapsed most dramatically. Albania has traveled a rocky road to capitalism. It now has flat rate corporate and personal income taxes, which in this country is a suggestion that has come most often from the political right.
The cultural artifacts of fallen regimes should be studied and preserved. The common blood of humanity runs through us and their subjects. When we study them, whether master or captive, we are looking at ourselves.
Communism as a world wide menace is dead. But humanity is creative enough to find new ways to enslave itself. Mutant radical Islam seems to be the next aspirant to world domination.
Communism lies in the proverbial graveyard of world story. In front of its grave stands radical mutant Islam with its sense of smug superiority . And upon the tombstone of communism is the proverbial inscription that stands as as a stark warning to communism's aspiring successors.
"Where you stand, I once was. And where I lie, you shall too." Sphere: Related Content


Ruben - Manhattan said...

Nicely written. I am surprised.

Can I reprint this commentary in Illyria, the Albanian-American community newspaper?

Please let me know if interested.

My email is [email protected]

or [email protected]

Ruben Manhattan said...

A small explanation is needed about the illustrating cartoon in this blog:
4 (four) was and I believe still is the lowest grade in Albanian school system (although some teachers would use 0,1 or 2 to emphasize their discontent 4 was the lowest official grade).
5 was the lowest passable grade and 10 was the maximum.

Anonymous said...

Nice article, I hope you've seen this one: