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I vjetėr 27.5.2008, 19:37   1
Anėtarėsuar: 6.2001

Punim 1834-1912: The Road to Independence

Overview of the period from Edwin Jacques', The Albanians. I'll start the thread with some excerpts of his, and then shall see how it goes. Other authors shall be added later, as the thread starts fragmenting in order to cover elements more in detail.

By now Albania and all the northern provinces of Turkey were filled with anarchy and terrorism. The Albanians bitterly opposed the taxes, military service and even the reforms themselves [the tanzimat]. A series of uprisings occurred in Mirdita, Dibra, Shkodra and throughout the northern mountains. Thus in 1862 the abbot of Mirdita, Gasper Krasniqi, led an uprising involving intellectuals like Bishop Pal Dodmasej and the patriotic writers Zef Jubani and Pashko Vasa. In 1877 Msgr. Pjetėr Prenk (Prince) Dochi helped in the uprising which erupted in Mirdita, for which the Turks arrested him and exiled him to Istanbul. Soon these limited and uncoordinated protest movements would be national rather than local in character, and they would demand full independence rather than a more limited autonomy.


This passion for national unity and independence was contagious. Both Italy and Germany succeeded in their struggles for unification in 1870. The six great powers — England, France, Austria, Germany, Italy and Russia —now took it upon themselves to maintain stability and order in Europe. In 1875 and 1876 the Slavic populations in the Balkans — Bulgaria, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro — erupted in uncoordinated revolutions for independence. They were speedily crushed by Turkey. Russia moved to intervene. To avert a Russo-Turkish war, England called the great powers to London in March 1877. The resulting Protocol of London required Turkey to extend a degree of autonomy to Bosnia, Herzegovina and Bulgaria, they remaining within the empire. In just such an unfavorable climate as this Abdyl Hamid II began his rule as sultan of Turkey in 1876. To placate his restless populations, he ascended the throne with the promise of a constitution and a democratically elected parliament like those enjoyed by other European states. But the anarchy in the Balkans made him suspend his promise in 1878, and he reigned as an absolute monarch for over 30 years. To escape imprisonment or exile, many liberty-loving Albanian patriots fled the country.

Progressive Turks were concerned over the failure to realize the promised constitution and democracy and formed a party called the Committee of Union and Progress to secretly plan the overthrow of Abdyl Hamid. Albanians too were exasperated, for the London Protocol of 1877 placed certain Albanian populations under Bulgarian administration. So southern Albanians, led by Abdyl Frashėri, met at Yanina and adopted a memorandum addressed to the Turkish government. It demanded that Albanian populations constitute a single vilayet or province. This vilayet should enjoy a degree of local autonomy under Albanian officials, with schools and courts in the Albanian language and with military service performed only within the Albanian vilayet. The Protocol of London exasperated the Russians also, for it did not extend to the Slavs in Serbia and Montenegro the same limited autonomy promised to the others. So Russia, with Serbia and Montenegro, declared war on Turkey on 24 April 1877.


Turkey was quickly and completely defeated and had to accept the severe terms dictated by the Slavs in the Treaty of San Stefano on 3 March 1878. To the shock and indignation of the Albanians, the treaty made no reference whatsoever to Albanian rights. Albania was to remain subject to Turkey. And the Turkish territory awarded to the victorious combatants was predominantly Albanian in character. Article 1 of the treaty gave to Montenegro the districts of Dulcigno, Tivari, Hot, Plava and Gucinja. Article 3 gave to Serbia the district of Prishtina. Article 6 gave to Bulgaria not only the coveted Macedonian port of Salonica, but also the districts of Korcha, Voskopoja, Pogradec, Dibra, Gostivar and Tetova. It seemed as though much of Albania would be under Slavic domination and the Orthodox Church. It seemed also that the age-old Russian dream of Pan-Slavism and a warm-water seaport were both to become reality.

That prospect alarmed the western powers. The British fleet hastened to Istanbul. Otto Bismarck, the "Iron Chancellor" of Germany, hurriedly summoned the Congress of Berlin for 13 June 1878 to study and revise the terms of the Treaty of San Stefano. Interestingly enough, the Ottoman government welcomed the indignation of the Albanians and even encouraged them to organize "self-defense" committees. Hoping also to avert further dissolution of their crumbling empire, the Turks pleaded with Muslim Albanians to declare themselves loyal Turks.
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I vjetėr 27.5.2008, 19:39   2
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Albanian patriots could not accept either of the two alternatives facing them: subjection to the neighboring Slavs or continued subjection to the Turks. Their longing for full independence had been stimulated by the experience of local autonomy attained by the pashas of Yanina and Shkodra, and even more by the achievement of freedom for Greece. Accordingly Albanian patriots living in Constantinople organized a secret committee in April 1878, the Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Albanian People. The committee was headed by Abdyl Frashėri and included his brother Sami Frashėri, Pashko Vasa, a Shkodra Catholic, Jani Vreto, Kostandin Kristoforidhi and others. Recognizing the urgency for action, they called a widely representative assembly to bring the world's attention to the rights of the Albanian people. They hastily called the convention to meet at Prizren just three days before the opening of the scheduled Congress of Berlin.

Three hundred delegates met at Prizren, now Serbia, on 10 June 1878 under the presidency of Abdyl Frashėri. Because of the short notice and difficulty of travel, many of the attendants came from northern and eastern Albania. The program was drawn up under the leadership of Pashko Vasa. A national league was formed, the Albanian League for the Defense of the Rights of the Albanian Nationality, or simply the League of Prizren or the Albanian League. Its headquarters were in Prizren, with branches in the major cities and towns of Albania. The league declared the inviolability of the four vilayets of Shkodra, Kosova, Monastir and Yanina that were recognized by the Ottoman government as ethnically Albanian. The delegates also agreed on the formation of a central council for autonomous self-government, the official use of the Albanian language, the establishment of Albanian-language schools and the formation of a national militia for self-defense. The league immediately dispatched to Berlin a copy of the resolutions signed by the delegates, requesting that Albanian nationhood be recognized.

This declaration was issued at the precise moment when the British scholar Arthur John Evans published his Illyrian Letters in 1878. After visiting Durrės, northern Albania, Kosova and Prizren in 1877, he concluded his impressions of the characteristics of the Albanians with these words: "Everything reminds me that I am not among either a Slavic or a Turkish people. These are truly fellow-patriots of Skanderbeg and of Ali of Yanina — Albanians, 'Shqiptarė,' heirs as strong as rock, a most warlike race and altogether undefeated! ... The Albanian is by nature quick, energetic, skeptical, always in motion, impatient with supervision. For him, above everything else is freedom" (Liria September 1988, 8). This and his later work, Ancient Research in Illyria (1883), evidence his unusually perceptive impressions of the Illyrian people and culture. Unfortunately this insight was not shared by European diplomats in their ivory tower.
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I vjetėr 27.5.2008, 19:48   3
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The European powers convened the Congress of Berlin on 13 June 1878. They concentrated on the issue which had precipitated the Congress —the reduction of Russian influence in the Balkans. The month-long congress under the presidency of Bismarck forced Russia to withdraw her ambitious plan. It declared Serbia, Montenegro and Romania to be independent states. Austria took Slavic Bosnia and Herzegovina. Abdyl Bey Frashėri and a companion, Mehmet Ali Vrioni, pled for the recognition of Albania, but in vain. They heard the objection repeatedly, 'There is no such thing as a nation without a written language" (Grameno 1925, 58). On the basis of Bismarck's cynical remark, 'There is no Albanian nationality!" the congress approved the assignment of Albanian territories to Serbia, Montenegro and Greece. The decisions of Berlin deepened the dismay of Albanians even more than did those of San Stefano.


As the continuing League of Prizren attempted to formulate a constitution, it became evident that there were two radically different schools of thought represented there. Reactionary Muslim officials and clergymen collaborating closely with the Ottoman government attempted to make the league a Balkan Muslim organization designed to strengthen loyalty to Turkey. Those patriots convening the sessions intended an organization in which all Albanians regardless of religion could cooperate to safeguard Albania's territorial integrity and achieve her full independence from Turkey. Strangely enough, the former predominated at first in defining the league's goal as limited autonomy and loyalty to Turkey. But when Turkey tried to persuade the league to surrender Albanian territory as required by the Berlin agreement, Albanians refused. They fought Turkey from 4 to 6 September 1878 at Jakova, and won. Three weeks later the Istanbul committee drafted a more specific program which was approved by the Albanian League on 10 November and delivered to the government in January 1879. It proposed that all Albanians in Turkey form a single province, with its own general assembly, official use of the Albanian language, Albanian schools and use of part of the tax revenue for education and public works (Frashėri, M., 1938, 29-30). The reply was delayed.

But the Albanians steadfastly refused to surrender territory. When the Turko-Greek Boundary Commission started discussions in Preveza in February 1879, hundreds of influential patriots of the league assembled there and announced that they would never surrender their territory. When Turkey, in accordance with the Berlin agreement, withdrew its troops from Plava and Gusinje, the league's army moved in to occupy them and defeat the Montenegrins when they attempted to take over.

Montenegro pleaded for the intervention of the great powers. On 2 April 1880 the great powers proposed giving Montenegro two other districts: Hot and Gruda. This was accepted by the sultan but refused by the Albanians. A special assembly, including mountain tribal chiefs, gathered at Shkodra on 17 April. They adopted a memorandum addressed to the sultan demanding the creation of one autonomous province including all Albanian districts to be governed by a prince elected by the Albanians but serving under the sultan.

Five days later, in accordance with the directive of the great powers, the Turkish armies withdrew from Hot and Gruda. The volunteer army of the league occupied them immediately, resisting the Montenegrin troops coming to take over. So the powers urged Turkey to turn over to Montenegro instead the port city Dulcigno and environs, its population again exclusively Albanian.

As soon as the Turkish troops withdrew on 27 August, the league's volunteers took possession. Nor could they be dislodged until an international battle fleet of 17 ships blockaded the city on 20 September and a Turkish army of 10,000 men blockaded the city by land. Two months later on 26 November the 3,000 Albanian volunteers had to turn Dulcigno over to the Montenegrins.

By this time it was becoming apparent to the Albanians that limited autonomy under the sultan would never suffice. In October during the siege of Dulcigno another general assembly of the Albanian League was called at Dibra. Once again the reactionaries were numerous and vocal. Recognizing that Turkey was ready to surrender Dulcigno and would try to crush the freedom movement of the league, the reactionaries withdrew. The league then reorganized. On 8 May 1880 the league declared itself the autonomous provisional government of Albania, organized a small militia and began functioning within a limited area. A congress convened at Gjirokastra on 23 July 1880 and took similar measures. But a strong Turkish army arrived in April 1881, taking Uskup, then Prizren and Gjakova, reestablishing Turkish administration throughout Kosova.

Determined to crush the defense committees and the freedom movement, the government set up military courts which tried large numbers of patriotic Albanians, sentencing over 4,000 of them to imprisonment, exile or death. Bibdoda of Mirdita and Hodo Pasha Bushati were eternally exiled to Anatolia. Abdyl Frashėri was hunted incessantly, but successfully eluded his pursuers for weeks. But upon leaving the shelter of the Bektashi tekke at Kruja to reach home at Frashėr, he was captured by a Turkish patrol on 16 May while crossing the Shkumbin River. The government commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment, but in a general amnesty he was released from prison in 1885 shattered in health.

Only recently was one of Abdyl Frashėri's latest letters discovered in the Italian archives. He addressed it on 16 September 1890 to Francesco Crispi, then prime minister of Italy, and himself of Albanian descent. The letter expresses the singleness of purpose which drove those patriots of the league.
The Albanians are all ready to die with arms in hand before permitting themselves to be divided among neighboring states, which would completely destroy their language and culture which they have conserved since prehistoric times. ... Albanians want their country to be proclaimed an autonomous province or a little kingdom in the new reorganization of the peninsula. ... Albanians must preserve their administrative autonomy and the national and ethnic boundaries of their homeland. ... The Albanians will gladly welcome a European organization and laws. They give little importance to religion, and Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox all are unanimously agreed on anything related to their country. They would prefer a prince of their own blood worthy of this title, capable of directing them well in the way of progress, and who would know their traditions and customs [Liria 15 August 1984, 1).
Abdyl Frashėri died in 1892 before his longing was realized.

Yet another memorable uprising was that precipitated by an Austrian named Delmotzi (or Lemass) in May 1883. At the time a commission was attempting to define the boundary between Albania and Montenegro. Delmotzi traveled throughout the mountain villages speaking of freedom. He convinced the mountaineers that the Slavs were stealing more Albanian territory and that the Austrian government would support an uprising to save it. Durham (1909, 58-59) reported her conversation with an old mountaineer who had guided the stranger.
I believed him. O God, I believed him! I believed we were to win freedom from the Turks. He asked how long our ammunition would hold out, and we said, 'Two weeks." "Help will come in four days," he told us. The Kastrati and Hoti tribes rose up and took the Turkish authorities unawares. But help never came! They fought the Turkish troops. When their ammunition was all but exhausted, they hurled themselves in a final frenzy on the soldiers. They dragged in dead bodies, and tore cartridges from the belts of the living and the dead.
The Austrian and French consuls intervened to prevent the final massacre. The survivors were promised an armistice and safe conduct to return home. But then the Turks fell on them separately, slaughtered many and burned their houses. Once again these freedom-loving mountaineers were disillusioned with their foreign allies. Apparently, repeated Turkish military action had crushed the League of Prizren. Yet it had served its purpose in crystallizing the determination of Albanians for complete independence. However, the traditional military confrontation began to wind down.

A final appeal that must have sounded like an ultimatum to Sultan Abdyl Hamid II came in June 1902 from a committee speaking for "all Albanian leaders, Mohammedan, Catholic and Orthodox, and for all Societies, Leagues and Committees which are to be found within Albania and without." After summarizing the poverty, ignorance, political oppression and foreign aggression, they asserted their submission to the sultan and implored his help for the Albanian vilayets: Shkodra, Kosova, Monastir, Salonica and Yanina. The petition closed,
"But if the government of Your Majesty ... now as before, will do nothing for the Albanians to renew our nation which is in danger, then with the help of God and with that of our sword, we shall see what things we shall do. 'God with us'" (Java 30 May 1938, 5).
No reply has come to light.
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I vjetėr 27.5.2008, 20:18   4
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Bajo Topulli of Monastir (1868-1930)

The determined effort of the Turkish government to suppress the Albanian language and every other patriotic expression aroused popular resentment. In November 1905, Bajo Topulli, former director of the Turkish secondary school in Monastir proposed a secret komitet to press for Albanian independence. Grameno (1925, 26) listed among the first collaborators then at Monastir the following: Gjergj Kyrias, who operated the patriotic press; Nuēi Naēi, who had suffered much for the Albanian boys' school at Korcha; and Grigor Tsilka, Protestant pastor at Korcha. Topulli himself headed this very first komitet, named "Pėr Ēlirimin e Shqipėrisė" (For the Liberation of Albania). To enlist support and other recruits, Topulli went to several centers of southern Albania, while Tsilka went to the Albanian communities of Sofia and Bucharest.

Their lofty purpose was stated in their constitution, article 2: 'The purpose of this komitet is the resurrection of Albania, sowing brotherhood, love, unity, spreading the way of civilization by means of books which will be printed, sending men throughout the ends of Albania to sow these thoughts, sustaining men in the mountains to help in every way to reach the purpose of the komitet, and using every instrument for the progress of the nation and its deliverance from the yoke and darkness in which it now finds itself" (Liria 15 February 1982,1). These "instruments" incidentally included the pistol and dagger.

Following the Albanian League of Prizren in 1878, another secret society had drawn patriots together for united action. Their seal featured a crossed pistol and dagger. These underground patriots were the first to enroll in the guerrilla bands (Liria 15 June 1984, 2).

Ēerēiz Topulli of Gjirokastra (1880-1915)

Bajo Topulli enlisted a notable band of freedom fighters right in his home town of Gjirokastra. The komitet was headed by his own brother Ēerēiz Topulli, soon to become a legend. Early in 1907 Ēerēiz Topulli declared,
"We go with rifle in hand, out into the mountains, to seek freedom, justice, civilization and progress for all ... to expel the rotten Turkey from our dear Motherland" (ibid.).
He subordinated religious differences and every other consideration to this goal of national liberation.
"Each Mohammedan has a duty to die for a Christian because he is blood of his blood; in the same way each Christian should die for a Mohammedan who is likewise blood of his own blood" (ibid.).
The patriots who formed this band in 1907 included in their number one Mihal Grameno, who later would lay aside his rifle for the editorial pen and found the first Albanian-language newspaper in Korcha. Grameno, the warrior patriot, poet and journalist, has conserved for us the most graphic accounts of the modus operandi of these guerrilla bands.

This particular band of nine patriots continually visited trusted friends in village after village of southern Albania. Their primary activity was not military, but missionary. They were apostles of Albanism. More threatening to Turkish officials than their gjashtore (six-shooter revolvers) was their patriotic propaganda, their revolutionary ideology. Their trusted friends invited other patriotic neighbors in to spend long hours discussing the Albanian predicament. Invariably they found that "some of them had patriotic feelings, so we gave them a number of books to read." And again, "We found some patriotic young men who could read Albanian very beautifully, so we gave them several books to read" (Grameno 1925, 35, 51). Incredible warriors were these! Besides their weapons, their heavy all-purpose cloak and the yet heavier backpacks loaded with ammunition, food and equipment, they carried quantities of Albanian books.
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The Reval Programme

Meanwhile, the condition of Turkey, the "sick man of Europe," was steadily growing worse. Control over its provinces was rapidly falling apart. The great powers realized increasingly that they must interfere in her affairs if they were to control the balance of power in the Balkans. In June 1908, King Edward of England and the Tsar of Russia met at Reval. They drew up a secret Anglo-Russian scheme known as the Reval Programme. It called for more effective European supervision of Turkish affairs and dealt especially with the administration of justice.

The Young Turks and Their Constitution

The Reval Programme greatly alarmed the secret Committee of Union and Progress, whose members also called themselves the "Young Turks." They knew that to save Turkey from foreign intervention, they would have to overthrow the despotic regime of the "Red Sultan" Abdyl Hamid. In order to succeed in this, they had to secure the cooperation of the Albanian chiefs of the Imperial Guard, who were trusted implicitly by the sultan, and who were utterly loyal to him. Only when the Young Turks assured them that Abdyl Hamid would remain on the throne would the Albanian guards tip the scales in their favor. In return for Albanian cooperation the Young Turks promised constitutional freedom of education and religion, new roads, and the erection of schools and hospitals throughout the country (Dako 1919, 76).

The Albanians joined in their brief, bloodless revolt, 30,000 gathering at Ferizovik to demand a constitutional government. It will be remembered that the sultan's earlier proposed constitution had been suspended in 1878 because of the anarchy prevailing in the Balkans. Now at the demand of the Young Turks, supported by 30,000 revolting Albanians, Turkey proclaimed its constitution on 23 July 1908. It promised justice in place of arbitrary rule and complete equality for the several nationalities within the empire.

Now also for the first time the four Albanian vilayets or provinces could choose deputies to represent them in the Turkish parliament.

The Consequent Explosion of Albanism

The proclamation of the constitution brought indescribable joy throughout Albania. Taking its assurances at face value, the people pressed foward enthusiastically to implement their new freedoms. Literary clubs were opened throughout Albania. Patriotic societies were formed to support education in the Albanian language. Schools were opened in cities and villages. Printing presses were established. Newspapers and periodicals began publication in Istanbul, Salonica, Monastir, Korcha, Yanina, Elbasan, Shkodra and elsewhere. The Monastir Club sponsored a congress in November 1908, which adopted an official alphabet and voted to open a normal school at Elbasan for the training of school teachers.

The Young Turks Have Second Thoughts

Very soon the Young Turks revealed that they were indeed the children of the old Turks. Rather than extend equality to their subject nationalities, such as the Albanians, Bulgarians, Armenians, etc., they sought nothing less than their denationalization and their complete Ottomaniza-tion. Had the Albanians not been so deliriously happy with the new constitution, they might have inferred this intention when a number of their leaders were honored by the Young Turks at a banquet in the famous White Tower of Salonica. Mustafa Kemal, who would later become Turkey's first president, stressed in his address "the importance of this freedom which will unite all our different nationalities in one common effort for the welfare of the Ottoman empire" (Grameno 1925,114). That was hardly the basic concern of the Albanians. But soon it became obvious that absorption into the empire was to be the condition of their enjoyment of the privileges granted by the new constitution.

So the Young Turks outlawed the patriotic societies, suppressed the Albanian schools and newspapers, and decreed that thereafter the Albanian language should be written not with Latin letters, but only in the holy Arabic characters like the Koran and the Turkish language. Nor would the Young Turks allow the Albanians to choose their own representatives to the Turkish parliament; the Young Turks would appoint them. They withdrew the limited autonomy already extended by the old regime to the district of Himara and the northern mountaineers. They also ordered all Albanians to surrender their cherished weapons.

The Albanian population very naturally resented this reversal of the freedoms promised them. When they resisted this unforeseen threat to their ethnic identity, the Turkish government once again sent their armies on the march. That November 1908, Xhavid Pasha mounted an expedition of 7,000 men with 22 cannons to subdue Kosova. One Isa Bey Boletini of Mitrovice with only 14 hastily gathered friends resisted them in the mountains. When the patriot band had to escape into their mountain wilderness, the army could only vent their frustration by burning Boletini's house and farm (Woods 1911, 98).

Boletini then raised an army and led much of the fighting around Prizren, Prishtina and Kosova in 1909, the Turks leaving 2,000 of their men casualties (Leka 1937, 364).
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The Congress of Dibra (July 1909)

That July 1909, members of the Albanian committee convened a congress in Dibra to debate the changing political situation. The wily Young Turks, determined to exploit the congress for their own ends, flooded it with their own delegates armed with a prepared list of resolutions. The assembly adopted these, with additional demands for justice in the courts, Albanian schools, tax reforms, greater autonomy, the construction of roads, the delineation of frontiers, permission to retain their weapons, and military service only within Albanian territory (Woods 1911, 100-1). In reply, Turkish armies that month moved across northern Albania to Shkodra, forcibly disarming the population, enforcing martial law, commandeering cattle and horses, enforcing taxation and burning villages to enforce their rule.

Now it became apparent that Albanians could not achieve autonomy under the Ottomans. Not even freedom to adopt a Latin alphabet would suffice now. Albanians determined to become content with nothing less than their own land, language and liberty.

Spiro Belkameni of Belkamen (1885-1912)

When the Young Turks turned the clock back, Albanian patriots reactivated the underground ēetas and went back into the mountains. On 29 May 1909, Ēerēiz Topulli founded in Gjirokastra a secret society called Kandilja (The Candle). Patriots elsewhere did likewise. One of these guerrilla bands was headed by Spiro Belkameni, a dashing young folk hero. In August 1909, this band of patriots from Belkamen and Negovan left their homes to roam the villages and mountains of the entire region (1909-1912). They raided Turkish military depots, ambushed caravans of packhorses loaded with Turkish military and food supplies, defied the Turkish authorities and aroused nationalistic fervor. Surrounded again and again by the Turks, Belkameni was never captured. When these several bands entered liberated Korcha, Belkameni and his companions led the way, their white felt kėsula (berets) bearing the words: Liri a Vdekje! (Liberty or Death). Later, after these rebel bands had been granted amnesty by the government, Belkameni and some companions accepted an invitation to visit an acquaintance. They went unarmed and were all treacherously murdered (Drita 28 November 1937, 10).

Themistokli Gėrmenji of Korcha (1871-I917)

Themistokli Gėrmenji was also prominent in the independence movement. Born in Korcha in 1871, he received his early education there then at 21 moved to Bucharest, where he was greatly influenced by the patriotic societies. Moving to Monastir, he and his brother opened the Liria (Freedom) hotel which soon became the center for patriotic Albanians. Here they planned the Congress of Monastir (1908), and here they planned the four annual uprisings of 1909,1910,1911 and 1912 (Drita 12 September 1937, 10). To raise the considerable sums of money needed to equip and maintain the fighting men, Gėrmenji gave liberally of his own funds then left his own business interests in Monastir to solicit aid from the Albanian communities of Romania, Egypt, Italy and elsewhere. The island of Corfu became a natural staging ground for these guerrilla bands, being Greek territory, near the Albanian border, with a Turkish consul, Mehmet Konitza, of Albanian origin who was sympathetic to the cause. Pro-Albania activity had begun in Corfu in April 1909, when Dr. Leonidha Naēi and many other members of the Labėri Club of Vlora fled there, where Naēi at once began publication of his paper E Drejta (The Right) which continued from 1909 to 1912 (Drita 28 August 1937, 3).

While Gėrmenji was conferring in Corfu, the Greek authorities learned of the patriots' anti-Turkish activities and their need of funds. The Greek prime minister, Venizelos, summoned Gėrmenji and two of his friends to Athens. He offered them arms, ammunition, free passage through Greece to the Turkish border and a "fat salary" to the guerrilla leaders on one condition: that they not carry on any nationalistic propaganda south of Vlora, which region he coveted for Greece. After two hours of negotiation during which neither side yielded, Gėrmenji and his companions refused the restriction and became personae non gratae in Greek territory (ibid., 21 August 1937). Operating between Saranda and Gjirokastra, planning the guerrilla capture of Turkish military supplies, Gėrmenji was seized by the Turkish authorities and imprisoned at Yanina. To fill the vacuum, Spiro Belkameni and his brother Mihal were sent to that territory with arms and supplies purchased in Corfu (ibid., 24 August 1937). Early in 1912 Gėrmenji was released and returned to Monastir where he began a strong propaganda campaign among Albanian officers in the Turkish army, and among students. Individual officers and students joined various bands, but one officer, Tajar Tetova, was noteworthy because he defected with his whole company (ibid., 31 August 1937). Later that same year Gėrmenji headed an armed band in the Korcha district.
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Uprisings in Northern Albania

By March 1910, the Young Turk oppression had led to serious but uncoordinated local uprisings which spread from Prishtina throughout the province of Kosova. Grameno was convinced that the sultan himself had fomented the rebellion, hoping to weaken or even overthrow his Young Turk rivals (Grameno 1925, 122). Mountaineers interrupted the railroad line between the strategic centers of Uskup and Ferizoviē and that April 1910 fought several engagements with Turkish troops who swarmed like bees out of both centers. The patriots insisted that they did not destroy the railway, nor did they touch the mail. But they did stop the trains, confiscate war materials, and disarm and turn back Turkish troops (Leka 1937, 366). A punitive Young Turk army smothered the insurgents then set up courts-martial which punished many of the offenders with imprisonment, exile or hanging. One division of Turks marched westward again through the mountains and despite stiff resistance reached Shkodra that 26 July. They set up military court, forcibly disarmed the people, registered them and their livestock for tax purposes and forced into the army most young men between 18 and 26 years of age (ibid., 366-67). Isa Boletini with 3,000 other refugees fled to Montenegro, their traditional enemy (ibid., 368).

A second division of Turks marched southward to Elbasan where they proclaimed martial law. They closed the Normal School, and all persons associated with it were arrested and flogged mercilessly. They also closed other Albanian-language schools (Kalendari 1911,19). This succeeded only in sharpening the antipathies already existing between the Albanians and Young Turk government officials. Because of the widespread unrest, government authorities forbade the continued publication of Albanian newspapers in Monastir, Elbasan and Korcha, punishing their directors with fines and imprisonment or exile. The brave Albanian resistance seemed crushed. But confidence in the Tightness of their cause led many of these determined mountaineers to share the optimism of Hil Mosi, who had fought among the rocks, who wrote poetry and would later serve in the Albanian cabinet. He eulogized the stubborn heroism which would never quit:
And though this year was not propitious for us,
Let no one believe Albania has died. Spring will come again,
And again to the mountains we'll hie!

[Liria 17, 24 November 1978, 2]
And so they did! The next April 1911, Dedė Gjo Luli of Hot in the Shkodra mountains led another regional uprising. Waylaying Turkish military units, the Albanians disarmed and freed the soldiers, once gaining "33 mausers and 4,000 cartridges." But in March these determined mountaineers had fought the Turks with "guns, knives, axes, picks, stones and clubs" (Leka 1937, 368). A Turkish paper reported that "among the mountaineer rebels are also women armed like men, who fight with greater bravery and hatred than the men, preferring death rather than retreat" (ibid., 369).

That April Turgut Pasha as Turkish "commander of the army of Shkodra" called on the mountaineers to surrender their weapons, promising amnesty instead of severe punishment (ibid., 375-76). Meanwhile a Shkodra newspaper in May 1911 reported 13 battles fought up to that date, all of them won by the Albanians. Mountaineers ambushed Turkish units in the narrow mountain passes, women and children helping roll rocks down the precipitous mountain walls. They captured thousands of Turks, taking away their weapons and heavy guns and releasing the unarmed soldiers. Sizeable units of insurgents were now reported operating in northern Albania: about 3,000 serving under former deputy Basri Bey in the region of Dibra, 4,000 others near Prishtina, and 5,000 others in the region of Ipek and Kosova.

Uprisings in Southern Albania

In Istanbul that spring (1911) a secret meeting of patriots had designated two Albanian deputies of parliament to act in Kosova, Hil Mosi fomenting general revolution in the Shkodra mountains. They also assigned Grameno and two associates to encourage and coordinate the guerrilla bands in southern Albania, and another patriot for Sofia or Bucharest to channel news bulletins to European capitals (Grameno 1925, 125-26).

Grameno returned to Korcha where he enlisted volunteers, raised money to buy sandals and cloaks, and smuggled in weapons from Corfu. On 16 June 1911, Dr. Haki Mborja led the first new rebel contingent out into the Korcha mountains. One week later another band followed, and yet others throughout the south.

The Memorandum of Grecha (23 June 1911)

Ismail Kemal Bey, a native of Vlora, was following these developments with unusually great interest. For 35 years he had headed the liberal opposition in the Turkish parliament and was widely respected as a mili-tantly progressive politician and able diplomat. With Luigj Gurakuqi (1879-1925) he called an assembly of national leaders to meet at Grecha (now in Serbia) on 23 June 1911, to consider Albanian affairs. The delegates framed a memorandum that was printed as a brochure entitled Libri i Kuq (The Red Book), which was sent to the Turkish government, with copies going also to the great powers of Europe.

The memorandum pointed out that once before the Albanians had surrendered their arms and received assurances of constitutional liberties that were subsequently taken away. The memorandum listed a dozen demands once again, chiefly the following: Albanian autonomy within the Turkish empire, free election of Albanian deputies, free conduct of Albanian-language schools, administrative organization of the Albanian vilayets, but with decentralized administration of isolated mountain regions by the traditional law of Lek and use of the Albanian language in government offices and courts {Drita 28 November 1937, 18-19).

Apparently these persistent Albanian demands did finally bring a response of a sort. Two days later, on 25 June 1911, Sultan Mehmet Reshati V went to Salonica to pay his respects at the tomb of Sultan Murat who had fallen at the battle of Kosova. Over 200 leaders from the Korcha and Vlora regions greeted him. Whether or not this record can be taken literally, it probably does indicate his attitude toward the recalcitrant Albanian subjects: 'The king granted gifts to the clubs: to the Bulgarians, 50 lira (Turkish pounds); to the Greeks, 70; to the Jews, 70; and to the Albanians a rock with which to beat their heads" {Leka 1937, 389).

Back in Istanbul Ismail Kemal and Hasan Prishtina led the Albanian deputies in the Turkish parliament in their insistent demands that the Young Turks recognize Albanian rights to a measure of administrative autonomy. To remove their platform of protest, and hoping to replace the dissenting deputies, the Young Turks on 18 January 1912 dissolved the parliament, established their own military dictatorship and called for a new election the following April. During the interval there were violent clashes between patriots and the Turkish occupation forces in northern Koplik and the Peja and Gjakova regions.

The electoral campaign also provided the perfect opportunity for an Albanian propaganda campaign. Alleged voting irregularities that April triggered local uprisings. An Albanian student at the Military Academy of Istanbul, Sali Hidri, wrote a letter in early May to Ismail Kemal Bey. He described how the mountaineers of his district had surrounded the city of Gjakova. They sent letters to the civil and military authorities repeating the demands of Grecha. Instead of indicating compliance, the authorities strengthened their fortifications. So the insurgents stormed the city by night from four directions and captured it. But the letter noted that only one-fourth of the men were properly armed. Hidri pled for "weapons, cartridges and a little money. Most important are the weapons." He continued, 'The morale of the men is excellent, so much so that fighters who are in front fight even with swords or axes" (Liria 17 November 1978, 5).

The heroic Isa Boletini led an uprising which spread throughout Kosova and the northern mountains then by June to most of Albania. Sympathizing officers and soldiers began to desert from the Turkish army. Former deputies, including Hasan Bey Prishtina led guerrilla bands of up to 2,000 men (Leka 1937, 404-5).

The Assembly of Junik (21-25 May 1912)

Another step forward was registered at the Assembly of Junik, which was convened from 21 to 25 May 1912 by Hasan Prishtina. Elected three times as a deputy to the Turkish parliament, he used that platform to defend Albania's national rights. Besides leading the northern uprising, he collaborated closely with Ismail Kemal and became the head of the national uprising of 1912. The Assembly of Junik demanded Turkish recognition of Albanian ethnic borders, Albanian administrators elected by the Albanians themselves, use of the national flag, the opening of Albanian-language schools, and the use of Albanian as the official language (NAlb 1987, 4:14). These well-formulated demands were announced not only in Albanian newspapers, but also in Istanbul and in watching European capitals.

A widely publicized letter of Hadji Adil Bey summarized once again these demands. He insisted on the following: The Porte must recognize as governor general the man whom Albanians elect; all government officials in the country must be Albanians; military service of Albanians will be performed only within Albania; local office holders must also be Albanians; taxes received must be spent in the places where they are collected; taxes must build roads and open schools in which lessons are given in the Albanian language using Latin letters; all Albanians doing military service in Yemen must be called back to Albania to complete military service. Responding, the Porte ordered the governors of the vilayets to quiet the Albanians with the promise of sending a commission to discuss these matters and urging them not to make war against the state at such a critical time for the empire (Drita 28 November 1937,19). Symbolizing their increasing authority in negotiations with the Turkish government, however, revolutionary mountaineers at Pejė on 8 June 1912 refused to admit government spokesmen wearing the characteristic Turkish red fez, but required them to wear the white Albanian beret or skullcap (Leka 1937, 406). That same June, Turkey's Itilaf party joined the revolt against the Young Turks.
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I vjetėr 27.5.2008, 20:42   8
Anėtarėsuar: 6.2001
Albanian Insurrections Contribute to the Young Turks' Collapse

By that July (1912) uprisings had spread throughout the country, and all of Albania clamored for full independence. Even children caught the fever. M. Hasib of Elbasan reported the following to the Albanian newspaper in Monastir:
Every night after supper small boys from five to ten years old gather from all over the city to play soldier through the streets and market of Elbasan. One of the biggest, carrying a flag, acts as leader; another plays a flute like a band, and others — more than 500 — march behind the leader with a very pleasing military bearing, singing an Albanian national song. Lined up four-by-four, the leader gives the command "March I" and they go forward singing, "Go forward with bravery/ you will not lack victory!" All keep time with the tramp of feet, and at the end of the song, all shout in unison, "Long live Albania! Long live those who struggle for the Motherland!" [Drita 9 August 1912, 2]
Their elders, operating as armed bands, liberated many of the Albanian cities, under the leadership of patriots like Dedė Gjo Luli in Shkodra; Hasan Prishtina, Bajram Curri, Isa Boletini and others in the northland; Themistoli Gėrmenji at Korcha; Sali Butka at Kolonja; Elmas Xhaferi at Vlora; Aqif Bichaku at Elbasan; Abdi Toptani at Tirana and many others (ibid., I).

On 17 July 1912 the Young Turk government was forced to resign. The new Turkish government at once sent a commission of three high officials, all Albanians, to Prishtina. They could not accede to the nationalistic demands of Grecha, nor would the Albanian negotiators yield. So the struggle continued.

The Turning Point: The Fall of Uskup (18 August 1912)

Liberated that summer were Peshkopia, Fier, Pėrmet and other southern regions. It was the fall of Uskup, however, that marked the beginning of the end of the long struggle.

First Mitrovitsa, then Prishtina and then Kruma fell to the insurgents. The Gjakova garrison laid down their arms, many of them joining with the insurgents. When 15,000 insurgents headed to Prizren, the troops there fought sharply then laid down their arms. With gathering momentum the insurgents insisted on the fulfillment of their demands. From Ferizaj they presented a memorandum listing the 14 very familiar demands. They also declared that if they did not receive a favorable reply within two days they would attack Uskup, the capital city of the vilayet of Kosova. Since no reply came, a strong Albanian army approached the city. The Turkish garrison of 4,000 men did not resist, and that strategic city also fell to the insurgents. Ten days later from neighboring Monastir the newspaper detailed the fall of Uskup.
The Albanians entered Uskup in this manner. Sunday 29 July [old calendar, new calendar 11 August] afternoon 200 armed Albanians entered under the command of Mehmet Dokliani singing national songs. ... Monday [30 July] a train of 26 cars came bringing 1200 armed Albanians, who also entered the city singing. ... Tuesday 400 more entered. ... Wednesday morning 60 Catholic mountaineers came, and 1000 other armed Albanians. ... Finally Bajram Curi entered Uskup. At the head of this multitude was the band of the Albanian Catholic school, followed by the carriage of Bajram Curi, after which came 30 other carriages full of people, and after these more than 3000 armed Albanians. After them came a second multitude of about 2000 Albanians, and finally another body of 1000 persons. A hodja [Muslim priest] surrounded by deserting officers, soldiers and gendarmes carried a red-and-white flag. All of these entered the city armed and singing national songs, and went straight to the places prepared for them to stay. As soon as he entered the city Bajram Curi went to the prison and freed all the prisoners. All these Albanian insurgents went through the city streets, some armed, some unarmed, and no one dared to challenge them. Everything they took they paid for, and they harmed no one. But in spite of this the houses and market were closed for fear of harm. On the railroad some paid, and those who could not pay signed their names on vouchers. The leaders of upper Albania proclaimed to the people of Uskup that if any had suffered wrong by the soldiery, they had the right of complaint, and wrongdoers would be punished. We hope that the Albanians will conduct themselves wisely through to the end, and that they will not spoil the great honor which they have earned up to the present" [Drita 22 August 1912, 2].
This editorial tribute is witness to the fact that throughout their bloody struggle for freedom, the Albanian soldiers proved themselves as fierce fighters, yet remarkably free of the atrocities against civilians which unfortunately characterized the troops of Serbia and Greece. The victorious Albanian troops now headed toward Monastir and Salonica.

The Granting of Albanian Autonomy (18 August 1912)

The Monastir newspaper Drita (The Light) of 9 August carried the glad news in front page headlines that a royal decree announced the acceptance of the Albanian demands of Grecha. Included also was a general amnesty for all Albanian insurgents and for deserting officers and soldiers of the imperial army. By now the state administration was entirely paralyzed. On 18 August the new Turkish government spelled out the Accord of Uskup. It provided for the formation of an autonomous Albanian province composed of the four predominantly Albanian vilayets of Shkodra, Kosova, Yanina and Monastir. By this action the Turkish government officially recognized this territory as ethnically Albanian. It also assured Albanian self-government within the empire and public education in the Albanian language. However, this was not to be.
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