Military Review

Principality or Republic? How Albania sought independence

November 28 Independence Day marked Albania - one of the most isolated countries in Europe. 104 a year ago, in November 1912, the Declaration of Independence of Albania was adopted, which 83 signed by the political and public figures of the country that was then part of the Ottoman Empire. After the declaration was signed, politicians Ismail Kemali and Luid Gurakuchi hung out from the balcony of the building in the city of Vlore, where the authors of the document gathered, an Albanian flag with an eagle. So turned the next page in stories Albania, more than four centuries before that was part of the Ottoman Empire.

Principality or Republic? How Albania sought independence

The conquest of Albania by the Ottoman Turks began at the end of the 14th century and was accompanied by the struggle of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice. In the end, in the second half of the 15th century, the Ottomans established control over most of the territory inhabited by Albanians. In the empire, Albania took a special place. The fact is that the Ottoman sultans considered the Albanians as a natural counterweight to the Slavic and Greek population of the Balkan Peninsula. Moreover, Islam began to spread rapidly among the Albanians. Although still in Albania a significant part of the population professes Christianity - Catholicism or Orthodoxy, it was Islam that played an important role in the development of Albanian identity and the separation of Albania from the rest of the Greek Slavic Christian world of the Balkans. The militant Albanian highlanders, or, as the Ottomans and the Arnauts called them, became the suppliers of the warriors for the Ottoman Empire. Many prominent Ottoman commanders and statesmen were of Albanian origin. Unlike Christians, Slavs and Greeks, Albanian Muslims were perfectly integrated into the political system of the Ottoman Empire. At the same time, in Albania, confessional affiliation has never been decisive - at least in the form it was in neighboring Yugoslavia. Albanians - Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox, ultimately remained Albanians. They separated themselves from the Slavic and Greek populations, which could not but impress Istanbul.

Nevertheless, even among the Albanian elite, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the ideas of autonomy, and even gaining state independence, gradually began to spread. In 1909-1910 An Albanian uprising broke out in Kosovo, which was severely crushed by Ottoman troops. Then, in 1911, a new uprising began, whose leaders raised the demand for national autonomy. Another uprising broke out in March 1912. The most volatile were the northern areas of Albania, where the Ottoman government was the weakest. By mid-August 1912, the rebels were able to capture a number of cities. The most important role in declaring the independence of the country was played by the First Balkan War, as a result of which Serbian and Greek troops entered the territory of Albania.

Ismail Kemali (1844-1919) stood at the source of the national movement of Albania, as is clear from his name, a Muslim by religion, a native of a noble Albanian Ottoman Bey family. From a young age he began his career as a civil servant in the Ottoman Empire, led a number of cities on the Balkan Peninsula, and the most significant post of Ismail Kemal became the post of governor of Beirut. However, Kemaly periodically flared up differences with other Ottoman officials. Finally, in 1900, Ismail Kemaly appeared on the yacht of the British ambassador and asked for political asylum. He was removed from the territory of the Ottoman Empire and the next eight years he lived in emigration, during which time he became the most prominent figure of the Albanian national movement. Kemali was a supporter of the liberalization of the political system in the Ottoman Empire and advocated the proclamation of the independence of the Albanian national state.

Luid Gurakuchi (1879-1925) was another major figure in the national movement who was behind the adoption of the Declaration of Independence of Albania. Unlike Ismail Kemali, Luid Gurakuchi (pictured) was born to a Christian Albanian Catholic family and was educated at a Jesuit college. Albanians - Catholics were focused on cooperation with Italy, considering the Italians the most culturally close people. There was no exception and Luid Gurakuchi. In 1909, he headed the first Albanian Pedagogical Institute.

Hassan Pristina (real name - Berisha, 1873-1933) - an Albanian politician who studied law in his youth in Istanbul, then elected a deputy of the Majlis of the Ottoman Empire, also played a prominent role in proclaiming the independence of Albania. In 1912, it was Hassan Pristina who led the Albanian national uprising. At this time he was considering the possibility of creating a mixed Albanian-Slavic state in Macedonia, and this idea was approved by the British leadership, but it was never destined to be realized. Another Ottoman official, Ilias Bey Vrioni (1882-1932), came from a noble Albanian family, also participated in writing the country's Declaration of Independence.

After the Declaration of Independence was adopted on November 28, the Provisional Government was formed in Albania, which existed until December 4 1914. Its first chairman was Ismail Kemali, in 1913-1914. also serving as foreign minister. Luid Gurakuchi took the post of Minister of Education in this office. Ismail Kemali hoped to achieve independence peacefully, while maintaining good relations with the Ottoman Empire and with the countries of the West. To this end, he attracted many old Ottoman officials to participate in the formation of the Provisional Government. However, the Provisional Government failed to establish control over the whole of Albania. This was due to the peculiarities of the Albanian society, in which the most important role was played by the clans and their leaders - large landowners. In addition, the world community did not view the Kemali government as the sole representative of the Albanian people. In fact, Kemali enjoyed the support of only Italy and Austria-Hungary, while Great Britain and France sought in every possible way to delay the international recognition of Albanian independence. Serbia, Greece and Montenegro, which won the First Balkan War against the Ottoman Empire, claimed large parts of the territory of Albania.

A special role in Albanian politics was played by the influential feudal general Essad Pasha Toptani (1863-1920) in the north of the country, who served in the Ottoman army as the head of the garrison of the city of Scutari. During the 1912 anti-Ottoman uprising of the year, Essad Pasha, despite the fact that he was an acting Ottoman officer, did not seriously hinder the insurgents. After the proclamation of independence of Albania, Essad Pasha chose to start his own political game. He competed for power with the government of Ismail Kemali and in this struggle enlisted the support of the Serbian and Montenegrin governments. In 1913, Essad Pasha proclaimed the creation of the Republic of Central Albania, which was not subject to the Provisional Government of Ismail Kemal.

21 February 1914, with the consent of the great powers, Albania was proclaimed a principality. On the throne of the prince of Albania, the German prince Wilhelm Vid (1876-1945) was erected - the nephew of Queen Elizabeth of Romania. In Albania itself, he was called the king - to emphasize the equivalence of the king of neighboring Montenegro. Wilhelm Vid (pictured) arrived in Albania on March 7 1914 of the year, along with Dutch officers who were to lead the Albanian gendarmerie. However, in September 1914, after the start of a new uprising under the leadership of General Essad Pasha, Prince William was forced to leave Albania. He no longer came to the country, although he formally remained its head until the 1925 year, when a republic was proclaimed in Albania. After the departure of Prince Wilhelm, Albania did not find unity - the Muslim part of the population was guided by the Ottoman Empire and favored a Muslim by religion to become the ruler of the country. Islamized clans of Albania did not recognize a unified national government. Fearing the invasion of Albania by the troops of Austria-Hungary, with the outbreak of the First World War, the Allies sent troops into the territory of Albania. Greece claimed the part of the territory of Albania, under the auspices of which the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus existed, which was created during the First Balkan War and had a significant Greek population. Only in 1921, the area occupied by the Greek troops finally moved to Albania.

Thus, despite the independence proclaimed, there was no unified government in Albania. The power struggle between various clans and political factions continued, great interests, regional powers like Italy and Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and the Balkan neighbors of the country - Serbia, Montenegro and Greece, pursued their interests in Albania. With 1916, Turhan Pasha Permeti (1839-1927) became the actual head of Albania. He was a representative of one of the most influential aristocratic families in Albania, who served for a long time in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Ottoman Empire, and then served as ambassador to Russia. After the proclamation of independence of Albania, Turhan Pasha took part in the creation of a national government, supported Prince William Weed, served as prime minister of Albania. However, despite the fact that Turhan Pasha headed the Albanian government, there was another center of power - led by Essad Pasha, who sought to pursue his political line.

Essad Pasha wanted the great powers to recognize the sovereignty of Albania and abandoned plans for its division. Note that during the First World War, the future political future of the Albanian state remained extremely uncertain. So, Italy long ago laid claim to Albania, and the great powers, counting on Italy’s entry into the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary, 26 on April 1915 were signed by the London Treaty. In accordance with it, Italy left the Triple Alliance, for which the Entente promised Rome the following territorial acquisitions: Tyrol, Trieste, Goritsa and Gradiska, Istria, a part of the Inner Krai, Northern Dalmatia, the Dodecanese Islands, the Albanian city of Vlora and the protectorate over Albania, part of the Asian and African possessions of Germany. On the other hand, part of the Albanian territory was promised by the Entente of Serbia and Montenegro.

During the war, Italian troops entered the territory of Albania, which did not leave the country even after the defeat of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Italy claimed control of the city of Vlore - thus, where the independence of Albania was proclaimed. In turn, the Albanian side was in no hurry with the recognition of Italy’s territorial claims. When the Albanian authorities in 1920 year demanded that the Italian command withdraw troops from Vlora, General Settimo Piacentini, who commanded the Italian army, refused. In Vlora, an anti-Italian uprising began under the leadership of Kazim Kochuli. A national army of about four thousand men was formed, under the command of Ahmed Lepenitsa. Despite the fact that well trained and armed Italian troops of thousands of soldiers and officers in 20 were stationed in Vlora (that is, five times more than the insurgents), Albanian troops were able to besiege Vlore, driving Italian troops into the city. The Italian command did not manage to transfer reinforcements. In the end, 2 August 1920, the Italian leadership refused the claims on Vlora and agreed to withdraw its troops from the territory of Albania. In fact, the fighting in Vlora put an end to the long saga of Albanian independence.

Earlier, than Italian troops were driven out of Vlora, Essad Pasha Toptani was killed in June 1920 in Paris. He was shot by Avni Rustemi (1895-1924) - an Albanian revolutionary who participated in organizing anti-Italian speeches in Vlora in 1918-1919.

The strengthening of the sovereign Albanian statehood that followed in 1920-1930-s was associated with the coming to power in the country of Ahmed Zog (1895-1961), which in 1922, at the age of twenty-seven, became the Prime Minister of Albania for the first time. In 1924, he re-occupied the prime minister’s chair, and then, relying on the help of a detachment of Russian émigrés, accomplished a military coup and seized power in the country. Ahmed Bey Mukhtar Zogolli, who was actually called Ahmed Zogu, came from a wealthy Albanian feudal family and was the nephew of Essad Pasha Tptani. It was Ahmed Zogu who first began a real modernization of the backward Albanian society, seeking to minimize the influence of the clans on the political life of the country. Ahmed Zogu was actively supported in the implementation of his plans by fascist Italy, which by the second half of the 1920 had become the most important foreign political and economic patron of Albania. It was from Italy that Zog received financial assistance for the economic modernization of the country.

In 1928, Ahmed Zogu was crowned king of Albania under the name Zogu I. Thus, the monarchy was restored in Albania, only the ethnic Albanian became head of state. The reign of Zog continued until the 1939 year, when the country was occupied by Italy. King Zog himself emigrated to Greece and then to Great Britain, and the Albanian government, wholly controlled by the Italians, was headed by Shefket Verlaji, a long-time political opponent of Ahmed Zog. The full independence of Albania was restored only after the end of the Second World War.

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  1. parusnik
    parusnik 29 November 2016 08: 00
    Thank you, Ilya is very interesting ... There was another funny story, when two fraudsters seized power, one of them introduced himself as the king of Albania ..
  2. Rashid
    Rashid 29 November 2016 10: 22
    As a child, we watched a historical film about the national hero of Albania Skanderbeg, then they fought against the Turkish invaders. But about the period of the Second World War there was a film called "Fortune", about the struggle against the invaders, the film is good, color. By the way, Albania is the only Balkan country that freed itself from the occupiers on its own, without the help of the Red Army or the Allied troops.
  3. Reptiloid
    Reptiloid 30 November 2016 09: 21
    Thank you very much for the story about such a little-known country for me! At home there is a book from the 1950s, a large one --- "Albanian Tales". There are a lot of pictures, and Albanians on them look like Turks in appearance and clothes ( in other books).
    That's interesting: if the Albanians are not Slavs and Greeks, then who are they then by origin?
    Is it possible to find out: is there a genetic connection between the Albanians in the Balkans and the inhabitants of ancient Caucasian Albania?
    Now, when I hear about the Albanians --- immediately associations with the war in Yugoslavia and in Kosovo. Also reports that there are many refugees in Europe --- Albanians ???
    1. pytar
      pytar 8 November 2017 14: 01
      The Albanians consider themselves the direct heirs of the autochronous population of the Western Balkans - the ILIRIS. They were contemporaries of the ancient Greeks, Macedonians and Thracians. Before the Slavs came to the Bolkans, the Ilyrian tribes inhabited a vast territory covering present-day Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, BiH, Western Serbia and Cerna Gora. In the Albanian epics, many legends about their "resistance against the Slavic descendants" have been preserved. In the 7 century, the Ilyrian tribes, under the pressure of Slavic immigrants, retreated to the hard-to-reach mountain areas of present-day Albania. During the Ottoman invasion of the Bolkans, the Albanians / skippars as they call themselves / showed fierce resistance, led by their leader Skender-run / Iskender-Alexander /. The Ottomans were at war from this small people then, they suffered more losses than the conquest of other Balkan states .. The Albanian language is by ear similar to Romanian, although linguists do not consider it Romance. According to those geneticists whose studies I read, Balkan Albanians have no family connection with Caucasian Albanians. This is just a coincidence in the names.
      As for Kossovo, if we look back at history, then this region was originally inhabited by Illyrian and Thracian tribes. As for the Kosovo war in Yugoslavia, this is a separate and very extensive topic, which, unfortunately, is extremely biased in Russian information resources. I have been to Albania and Kossovo! My impressions are that Albanians and Kossovars are very different. This is in mind that for a long time they lived in states with different social and ideological systems. There is also a noticeable difference in their attitude towards Russia and Russians. It seems to me that in Albania itself Russians are treated normally, often even with sympathy. And in Kossovo, the attitude towards Russia is sharply negative, in view of the pro-Serb position taken by it. My opinion is of course subjective.
  4. tiaman.76
    tiaman.76 1 December 2016 19: 52
    Albanians are not ethnically descendants of Illyrians or epriotics? It would be interesting to know