Engaging the New Generation

Youth Perspectives on Democracy and Citizenship in Post-Communist Albania

Tatjana Hora

Dr. Bianca Szytniewski


In a rapidly changing world, the voices of young people are crucial in shaping the direction of societies. In the bustling city of Tirana, Albania, my research delved into a topic of significant importance: the perception of democratisation and its impact on active citizenship among the youth.

My study aimed to uncover the thoughts, beliefs, and aspirations of Tirana’s young population regarding democracy and their role as citizens. With a focus on university-educated individuals, I sought to understand how historical, socio-political, and cultural factors influence their engagement in civic and political life.

One of the key findings of my research was the prevailing skepticism among the youth about the state of democracy in Albania. Many participants viewed the current political system as an extension of the past, rather than a contemporary democratic structure. Media prejudice and limited political transparency further fuelled this perception, creating a sense of disillusionment and disconnect.

My interviews revealed that while young people in Tirana have a strong desire to be agents of positive change, they face several barriers to active participation. The association of protests with political parties creates mistrust, and the belief that such actions were ineffective hindered their engagement. Additionally, the pervasive presence of corruption and nepotism in various fields, including politics and education, left many feeling disenchanted with formal institutions.

Interestingly, despite these challenges, the youth in Tirana demonstrated a profound belief in democratic values such as pluralism, freedom of speech, and equality. They expressed a yearning for a more robust democratic system, indicating a collective aspiration for positive transformations in their society.

However, it was evident that historical factors played a significant role in shaping their perceptions. The transition from communism to democracy in the 1990s has a lasting impact, as participants felt the lingering effects of the past regime. This historical backdrop influenced their confidence in political institutions and their understanding of civic responsibilities. The results demonstrated how much history does matter.

My research also highlighted the importance of civic education. The absence of active citizenship education in families contributed to a sense of disorientation and uncertainty among the youth. Bridging the generational gap and fostering a culture of lifelong civic learning emerged as vital steps towards empowering young people to become active, informed citizens.

In our journey to understand youth engagement, we uncovered a crucial aspect that warrants attention – the nurturing of youth participation. Beyond the barriers and challenges, there lies a realm of possibilities to cultivate an environment where young people feel empowered to contribute actively to their society.

Empowering youth participation involves providing platforms for their voices to be heard. Initiatives such as youth councils, town hall meetings, and online forums can serve as spaces where young individuals can express their opinions on matters that affect them directly. By actively involving young people in decision-making processes, we can bridge the gap between generations and foster a sense of ownership over the future. Young people as active citizens goes beyond sporadic engagement – it’s about fostering a culture of youth leadership. This involves creating an ecosystem where young individuals are encouraged to take the reins, initiate projects, and lead change.

In conclusion, my study sheds light on the intricate relationship between youth perception of democratisation and their engagement as active citizens in Tirana, Albania. Despite challenges, the youth’s unwavering belief in democratic values and their desire to drive positive change offer a glimmer of hope. By addressing issues of mistrust, corruption, and historical legacies, policymakers can create an environment conducive to meaningful youth participation.As we reflect on the challenges and opportunities presented, we are reminded of the resilience and determination of young people who yearn for a brighter future. By nurturing youth participation, strengthening civic education, harnessing the power of digital platforms, and fostering a culture of youth leadership, we pave the way for a generation of engaged, informed, and empowered citizens.

I extend my sincere gratitude to the participants who shared their thoughts and experiences, making this research possible. Their voices provide valuable insights into the aspirations and challenges faced by Tirana’s young generation as they navigate the path towards a more engaged and vibrant civic life. Through their stories, we gain a deeper understanding of the potential of Albanian youth to shape a brighter future for their country.

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