George W. Bush statue in Albania
To understand the George W. Bush statue, you must first understand the longstanding relationship that has always existed between the US and Albania. Albanians have had a great admiration for former President Bush. In 2007, President Bush’s European tour was plagued by protests and debacles.
Albania was one of the only countries to give the President a warm welcome1. That’s because, for decades, Albania has always remained one of the USA’s loyal allies. Don’t believe it? Albania has always supported the US’s efforts to stamp out terrorism.
So much so that the country even sent some of its troops to Afghanistan, as well as Iraq. Albania has even, in the past, taken in eight former Guantánamo Bay detainees whom no other country would accept. There has always been a strong sense of gratefulness that the people of Albania have nourished towards the US, for both its people and its politics.
The root of Albanian pro-US romanticism can be traced to Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. Woodrow was among the few global leaders who endorsed Albania’s independence after the end of the First World War. The sentiment was further cemented in 1992 when the US advocated for Albania in NATO intervention in Kosovo. In 1999, it was the US that led the NATO bombing invasion that froze the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo by troops from Serbia.
How the statue came about
After President Bush visited Albania in 2007, a small Albanian village decided to erect a statue in honor of President George W. Bush. The little Albanian village known as Fushe Kruje town, situated about 22 kilometers from the capital, erected the statue of the former American President right in the middle of the town square.
The tall statue is easy to spot from miles away, standing at 2.85 meters (or 9.3 feet). The former President is depicted with his left hand raised in greeting. It is easy to understand why the residents chose to erect this statue- President Bush was the very first president of the US to tour the post-communist nation. According to Mayor Ismet Mavriqi, the sculpture “captures his trademark way of walking with energy2“.
The statue was debuted on President Bush’s 65th birthday and was unveiled by the then prime minister Sali Berisha. In addition to unveiling the sculpture, the Prime Minister also renamed the square as it now bears former President Bush’s name. It is said that the statue was erected in the same spot where Bush gave his public address in 2007.
Apart from the statue and the renamed square, a small café and the street in which the cafe is located were also renamed in the former President’s honor. The former President stopped at the café for a short while to have a meal.
According to internet rumors that spread in 2007, George W. Bush’s watch got stolen by overjoyed locals who tried to shake the President’s hand and pat his head. The statue was eventually erected in the very same spot. The Timex watch costs around $50 and by understatement being the ultimate statement of power, it was famously worn not just by George W. Bush but also by Bill Clinton during their presidencies.
These claims got debunked3 by a White House spokeswoman later. Apparently, President Bush took off the watch himself and handed it to an Albanian bodyguard. However, this wasn’t visible on the Youtube video. The Atlantic wrote accordingly: “If Albania Took George W. Bush’s Watch, It Also Gave Him a Statue4.”
This is not the first statue of a US president to be erected in the country. A large sculpture was also erected in Kosovo to honor former President Bill Clinton. Kosovo, which borders Albania, was on the verge of a war with Belgrade between 1998 and 1999 that was stopped by former President Bill Clinton. The statue in Kosovo was therefore erected to thank the President and the US for its efforts.