The proposed paper examines labour mobility and migrations in search of livelihood and improving of the living conditions during the second half of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century among the Albanians inhabiting compact territories in the western part of the Republic of Macedonia. On account of the specific historical and structural circumstances the Albanian community in Macedonia differs in many socio-culture characteristics from the Albanian citizens of the Republic of Albania. The patterns of labour migration created by them have developed interesting characteristics and are also different.
During the socialist period citizens of Albania were banned to travel abroad legally. In contrast, Albanians from Macedonia, then a federal republic within the frame of the Yugoslavian federation, could go as workers in a number of West-European countries like every other citizen of Yugoslavia. In the mid 1960s the Yugoslav government signed official agreements with Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France etc. Soon numerous Albanians started to seek their livelihoods working abroad. Initially migrants were solely men and migration was temporary – workers went abroad, having concluded provisional arrangements. These trips did not differ so much from the traditional Balkan migratory model broadly known as gurbet/kurbet.
In the course of time migratory movements among Albanians from Macedonia were constantly increasing and became a mass phenomenon. Many went illegally, without agreement, but simply following and relying on the patronage and assistance by their relatives who departed earlier. During 1980s and especially 1990s (when Macedonia became independent state) many Albanian migrants were starting to bring their families in the host country. More and more women and children were involved in the migratory processes.
Nowadays migration is already not just man’s territory, as it was in the traditional “gurbet”. It is significant that during the last three decades “family migration” exists parallel to the migrations of single men. Furthermore, the migration of people permanently settled at the host countries is interlaced with the temporary or pendulum migration. Thus migrants, returned migrants and non-migrants are engaged in a set of complex social and interpersonal interrelations through kinship, friendship, and feelings of affection towards the shared place of origin.
In the paper migratory processes among Albanians from Macedonia are studied in the context of dynamics of the social and cultural models, connections and identities which individuals and groups carry and develop, and their reflections on the homeland. The main research questions are following: what are the effects of remittances (financial and social) upon living conditions, village infrastructure and architecture in home places; how social organisation and family-kin relationships change; in which means connections and relationships between migrants and non-migrants affect the social status and roles of people, the social values and patterns of consumption, the way of manifestation of the identities etc.
Main sources of the paper are ethnographic materials collected on field among the Albanian community in Macedonia with regard to PhD thesis on “Contemporary labour mobility and migrations of the Albanians from Macedonia” (the thesis was successfully defended by the author in July 2011). Fieldwork was carried out in selected settlements (in districts of Tetovo, Struga, Debar and Skopje) at the Western parts of the Republic of Macedonia, where the Albanian population is concentrated. Also, as an Erasmus student in Ljubljana, (Republic of Slovenia), the author was presented with the chance to talk to Albanian workers in the city (restaurant workers, confectioners and bakers), most of whom were born in Tetovo (Republic of Macedonia). The main methods for gathering information were ethnographic interviews, informal conversations and observations. Some of these interviews were biographical – namely describing experience – either personal or such of friends and relatives. In the proposed paper the respondent’s “version” is placed among information from other sources – statistical data, scientific interpretations, different points of view and theoretical formulations.