A very important part of the formation of the Albanian graphic novel were also the clichés together with the stereotypes which the unconsciousness of the creative artists brought to the small readers different characters, who left a mark in the memory of the Albanian society over the years such as: Katallani, Sokoli and Shqiponja, Pipiruku , Gishto trimi, Toli and Coli etc. Besides communist ideological indoctrination, in the Albanian graphic novel of the years of Socialist Realism, artists created different characters, identifying through them the mindset of the time.

The artistic genre that helped the most and served as a vanguard of the Albanian graphic novel was caricature. The cartoon is undoubtedly the earliest part of visual art compared to the graphic novel, so it has had an important role in concretizing and conveying the image of Albania and Albanians long ago. An image that has accompanied several important stages of Albania’s history, starting with the country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912 and the conferences held by the great powers to determine the borders of the new Albanian state, the period of the monarchy 1928- 1939, the Nazi occupation with World War II 1939-1945 and the communist dictatorial period 1945-1990.

In this field of view, clichés and stereotypes were the typification of the character of the Albanian and the Albanian society, where the emphasis was obviously placed during the period of Socialist Realism on the evidence of Marxist-Leninist values. Some of the most widely treated stereotypes in the Albanian graphic novel was the hyperbolization of the figure of the partisan, showing him as the savior of the homeland, the figure of the spy, the one who observed, listened and reported everything for the good of socialism. Two figures that we look at together in the same graphic novel made by Gëzim Isufi, entitled “Fundi i spiunit të Gestapos[sq]The end of the Gestapo spy” (fig. 1), where the overestimation of the figure of the partisan is at the peak level for the way the interpretation artist that within the graphic novel, so much so that on the other hand, with the same interpretative power, we see the figure of the Gestapo spy “humbled”.

After the figure of Prince Wied during his “reign” in Albania, the partisan is the first character most drawn in the period of the communist regime. A character who turned into an icon of worship and propaganda for Albanian society. We see his iconography drawn in graphic novels, painted on canvas and carved in sculpture, with a typical portrait, almost raised to a “divine” size, beautiful and seven-high, always ready to defend the homeland, stoic and head high.

Fig. 1

The stereotype of the partisan in the Albanian graphic novel is that of a worthy citizen full of social values ​​and the one who inspires and nourishes the new generations with the ideological principles of the Communist Party of Albania. Albanian artists have always placed his figure in the center of their figural compositions, knee to knee with the people, preacher of the communist doctrine and in the foreground.

The special feature of the Albanian graphic novel during the period of the dictatorship in Albania is that we see the partisan drawn at all ages, from the youngest as in the specific case of this graphic novel, where Arbeni is a twelve-year-old boy, dressed as a partisan with wears the typical beret with the red five-pointed star, presents his peer Mark with the red scarf of the partisan, to wear around his neck until he is older at a young age.

Another peculiarity of the cliché and stereotype of the figure of the partisan is that of his powerful appearance and no more than at the age of thirty-five. This is to prove the strength of the Albanian people, the youth of the Albanian society and the vigilance towards the homeland.

Communist ideology demanded that the partisan appear in graphic novels stripped of his backward docks, always dressed in his military uniform and with a rifle in his hand, where he is sometimes depicted visually teaching the younger generations how to properly hold a rifle and shoot at it. mark the enemy and often others in pursuit of the mountains foot by foot of the conquerors.

The figure of the national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu is another clichéd iconography and stereotype of Albanian graphic novels, where the propaganda of the time demanded that through him unite the Albanian society, the nation. The national hero appears hyperbolized, grand in his muscular seven-foot stature, with a stern portrait, thick eyebrows, sharp nose, large penetrating eyes, extremely manly with a thick and long beard, broad shoulders and always dressed in a traditional Albanian costume, mostly in a white dress, a symbol of the ancient Illyrians as their descendants, but there are also images of him wearing tirke and opinga (fig. 2). On the head he is portrayed proudly with his goat’s head helmet, around which on a copper band is written in Latin: “* IN * PE * RA * TO * RE * BT *”, which means: “Jhezus Nazarenus * Principi Emathie * Regi Albaniae * Terrori Osmanorum * Regi Epirotarum * Benedictat Te” (Jesus of Nazareth Blesses Skanderbeg, Prince of Matit, King of Albania, Terror of the Ottomans, King of Epirus). The iconography of Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, who signed himself as Lord of the Forest (Dominus Albaniae[lat]), but in the 17th century the Albanian ecclesiastical prelate Frang Bardhi called him the “Dragoi i Arbnit[sq] – Dragon of Albania” (Epiri Draco[lat]), in contrary to the iconography of the partisan, he is shown with sword in hand riding his white horse and triumphant against the army of the Ottoman Empire of Sultan Murad II (مر اد ثانى – Murād-ı sānī[osm]) first and then against the army of his son Sultan Mehmet II (ثانى محمد – Meḥmed-i sānī[osm]) (fig. 3). So it is not in vain that Pope Nicholas V (Nicolaus V[lat]), Pope Callistus III (Callistus III[lat]), Pope Pius II (Pius II[lat]) and Pope Paul (Paulus II[lat]) as “Athleta Christi[lat]” (Athletes of Christ – Defenders of Christianity).

Fig. 2

All these elements have made the figure of the national hero of the Albanians to be not only a character, where the communist regime of the time embodied its doctrine for the unification of the nation on the path of Marxist-Leninist ideology, but Skenderbeu was an inspiring figure beyond any kind of political influence even for the creative artists of the graphic novels themselves. Such mockery of Gjergj Kastrioti led to the creation of a multitude of graphic novels dedicated to his heroism against the Ottomans. However, it should be noted that all the images portraying Skënderbeu are borrowed from the few portraits made by his contemporary painters such as that of the Italian painter Gentile Bellini, who paints Skanderbeg in profile with a red cap on his head and the inscription “SCANDRE BECO” in the background (fig. 4). Such borrowing of his portrait has caused the figure of Skanderbeg to fall into the “trap” of clichés and stereotypes. This, after all the artists recognized as the truth precisely these portraits made by contemporary painters of Skanderbeg and naturally copied it, multiplying it in different ways and movements, as part of graphic novels dedicated to his history.

Fig. 3
  Fig. 4

Undoubtedly, apart from the partisan and Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, the figure of the woman and that of the dictator are part of the clichés and stereotypes in the graphic novels of the period of the communist regime in Albania. The socialist woman seen as equal to that of the man, powerful and full of energy, who faced every work and sacrifice and always in defense and spread of the communist ideology. The portraits of women lost their fragility and feminine sensitivity, adapting to the physiognomy of men, cold and shy, tough and manly in movement. The graphic novel of the socialist period presented another image of the woman. Of a woman with a rifle in her hand, who roamed the mountains alongside men called partisans, but also of a young socialist woman, who worked in the fields and in defense of her children, as in the graphic novel by Llazar Taçi “Dy shokët e Zonje Çurres[sq] – The two friends of  Ms. Çurre” (fig. 5).

Fig. 5

In the multitude of clichés and stereotypes in the Albanian graphic novel, the figure of the dictator Enver Hoxha inevitably receives special attention, seen as “entered among the gods”, keeping Albania and the Albanians on the right path of the Marxist-Leninist values ​​of  Russian Bolshevism. The portrayal of the dictator, like that of Skanderbeg, was borrowed from the few images that he himself allowed to be painted, thus orienting the artists to fall into repeated images and therefore into clichés and stereotypes of his figure. Enver Hoxha is identified dressed as a partisan at the head of military garrisons, smiling and always placed in the center of the compositions. The story “Trimëritë e pionierëve shqiptarë[sq]Courage of Albanian pioneers”, taken from the book written by Enver Hoxha himself and illustrated by Fatmir Haxhiu (fig. 6), proves how the dictator appears in children’s magazines, conveying to them a completely different image from the one in reality . The stereotype of the person who feeds the communist ideology to the younger generations under the guise of bravery of the figure of the little pioneer.

The stereotypes that have accompanied Albania in the period since independence is that of seeing it with contempt and disdain from Europe, as a godless booty from neighboring countries, anathematizing it, comparing it to ordinary animals, as in the case of this cartoon by the cartoonist Leonard Raven Hill, where everyone can do what they want with it, as much as Turkey – points out to Europe its inability to master, discipline Albania and demands that it return the whip to subjugate it as it almost did five hundred years in a row (fig. 7).

Fig. 6
  Fig. 7

The Albanian graphic novel has not only known clichés and stereotypes, which describe the physiognomy, character, well-known national characters and the Albanian society. An important part in their visual narrative is occupied by clichés along with stereotypes towards foreign Russian, American, Yugoslav and Chinese politicians, even towards the opponents of the communists, who were the ballistët[sq] – ballistas (member of the political party Balli Kombëtar[sq] – National Front) (fig. 8, 9) by Bardhyl Fico.

All these categories of people are depicted as ordinary, hostile to the Albanian people, unfaithful, evil and bloodthirsty. Ballistas were the most attacked by communist propaganda. They were considered sworn enemies and appear as such in the graphic novels of the period of Socialist Realism. The stereotype of the ballista is a common, unwashed, thick-headed, ignorant, unfaithful person, wearing a “pseudo” military uniform with a white cap on his head, on which a double-headed eagle is embroidered, and a collaborator with the Nazi fascists, which he we also find it written in the book of the American historian Bernard Fischer: “Liberals, Republicans and Baylors who rejected Hoxha’s invitation to participate in the Peza Conference looked at these developments and changes with great concern. Many of them came to the conclusion that in order not to be completely excluded from power, you must manifest, something more than a simple distaste tempered by cooperation with the Italians. In order to play an active role, nationalist liberals, some of whom had established some tenuous links with Lëvizja Antifashiste Nacional-Çlirimtare[sq]Antifascist National-Liberation Movement, in November 1942 formed a group called “National Front”, who hoped to make a political and military organization for moderates who distrusted the Communists.” [1]

The figure of the ballista is often played by children, mocking and humiliating them. This is a way, which has rooted in the Albanian society the stereotype of the ballista as a traitor, who cooperated with the invaders against the interests of the nation. Therefore, the graphic novel has played an essential role in educating and conveying this anti-national image of ballistics, which continues today to cause debates about their true role during and after the Second World War for the liberation of Albania from the Nazi fascists.

Stereotypes during the dictatorship period were not only political, but also from everyday life, where Albanian artists were supported to create characters and their characters. While the contemporary graphic novel after the year ’90 was more lukewarm in this direction, so much so that after the return to the cultivation of this artistic genre by Albanian artists after 2014, stereotypes or clichés almost disappeared altogether. This, as the new creators prioritized the creation of characters from imagination rather than inspired by everyday reality.

Such an approach has enriched the Albanian graphic novel even more, giving the reader new characters and characters, closer to the mindset of the time we live in, adapted to the language of advanced technology and therefore much more accomplished in terms of scenic and compositional effects, penetrating directly to the reader.


Study on cultural and social clichés and stereotypes