Hungary's 'Slavic-Looking' Skanderbeg Shocks Albanians

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The first display of a statue of Skanderbeg that is expected to be erected in Budapest has upset artists in Albania who say it mixes Albanian and Slavic features.

The statue of Skanderbeg presented by the ambassador in Hungary (left) and the hero usual way of portraying (right). Photo: Twitter/Wikimedia

News that a monument to the Albanian national hero, Gjergj Kastriot Skenderbej/ Skanderbeg was to be erected in the central park of Budapest was initially welcomed by Albanians in the media.

However, the enthusiasm started to fade on July 25, when the Albanian ambassador to Hungary, Arian Spasse, together with the Hungarian sculptor, Mihaly Gabor, posed in front of the semi-finished monument – and pictures were distributed on the embassy's social networks.

Some Albanians were shocked by the appearance of the new sculpture of their national hero, seeing it as very different from the more traditional sculptures and images of him - such as the one in Tirana's main square.

The Dean of Fine Arts at the University of Tirana, Ardian Isufi, was the first to break the silence and to note that the features of this Skanderbeg did not look like those of an Albanian.

"I never have seen a more strikingly ambiguous Skanderbeg ... It might be a Hungarian, Bulgar or Serb but never an Albanian," he wrote on Facebook on July 27.

He called on Albania's foreign ministry to react, claiming that the features of the statute were part of consistent attempts to distort Albanian culture and history.

"I call on ... the foreign ministry to suggest that the Hungarian sculptor goes into the Vatican archives and examine the physiognomy of Skanderbeg ... since there are dozens of engravings that interpret him," Isufi suggested.

The post prompted a public outcry over the sculpture, which led the Albanian embassy in Hungary to remove the social media posts, while ambassador Spasse wrote on Facebook after the negative reaction that the statue was only in the modelling stage and would undergo changes.

"The presented model will undergo changes, taking on the features [of Skanderbeg] that Albanians are familiar with," he wrote.

However, suspicions concerning the outcome of the final sculpture remain high.

Ilir Lluka, an audiovisual artist, told BIRN that the statue was disturbing as it gave a general idea that Albanians and Slavic nationalities are one and the same.

"Many people might consider these criticisms trivials ... but this is a case when appearance takes on importance, contributing to an international ignorance about Albanians and over who they are," he said.

"Our identity risks getting mingled with that of others until it completely disappears from people's minds," Lluka said.

The statue of Skanderbeg - real name George Castriot/Kastrioti - who died in 1468 - is due to be erected next to his great Hungarian contemporary, the military and political leader, John Hunyadi.

The two of them fought together in the 15th century against the Ottomans, delaying the expansion of the conquering Muslim armies into Central and Western Europe.

Besides Albania, Skanderbeg statues have been erected in Pristina, Skopje, Rome, Brussels, Geneva and London.



Albo said...

Slavic? he looks like some asian dude. im sorry but he just looks nothing like the hero skanderbeg was and he just looks like some asian or kazack warmonk

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