The post-Communist discourse on national identity in Albania reveals that Albanians have an ambivalent relationship with religion. Since the fall of particularly strict anti-religious Communism in Albania, there has been a tendency to redress negative stereotypes and to legitimate Albania’s place in «Western civilisation» – understood as Euro-Atlantic structures. This ambition reverberates in the rhetoric of politicians, intellectuals and, above all, in Albania’s revived Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic communities. Two topics dominate the identity debate: Albania and Islam in Europe and the postulated ethnic Albanian proclivity for maintaining religious tolerance. These topics are mixed with a range of national myths, old prejudices and Communist conspiracy theories, as well as regional history, political reorientation westwards and new enemy images. The different constructions of Albanian identity show that religion does play a role, and particularly in conceptions of «Islam» versus «Christianity».
Keywords: Albania, Christianity, Europe, identity, Islam, secularism
More people are positive – but is everything negative? Russia and the HIV epidemic
Despite enhanced attention to HIV and AIDS among the authorities in Russia, accompanied by growing public funds to fight the epidemic, the number of HIV-infected people continues to increase. The article focuses on factors in Russian society that contribute to explaining Russia’s lack of progress in curbing the epidemic. Based on interviews with a variety of actors at federal, regional and local levels, the authors examine coordination and cross-sectoral collaboration, the distribution of tasks and responsibilities between the different levels and the tension between general health promotion and targeted measures directed at the most vulnerable groups. The important role of civil society is also discussed. Stigma and discrimination in connection with HIV, which are widespread in Russian society, create obstacles for both targeting and coordination.
Keywords: HIV, AIDS, Russia, civil society
Across Social Divides: Training of Professional Social Workers in Russia, 1840–1905
The article examines in a context of social-economic and political conditions the emergence of an embryonic system of professional training within the field of social services in Russia in the period 1840 to 1905. Because of widespread poverty and increasing migration due to overpopulation in rural areas and incipient industrialization, there was a growing need for training in and professionalization of social assistance. Based on archival studies, the author analyses the role of representatives of the state, as well as of various philanthropic, pedagogical-educational and scientific associations and societies, in the formation of courses and professional training. It is found that it was nationwide charities that first attempted to introduce more professional training. Up to the 1905–07 revolution, due to the lack of a clearly formulated social policy, the state did not actively coordinate the various efforts or regulate the profession. Nevertheless, significant and valuable experience that came to play an important role in the further development of the field was accumulated during this period.
Keywords: charities, Russia, professionalization, social work, training