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I vjetėr 24.6.2008, 13:58   1
Anėtarėsuar: 6.2001

Punim 1913, Post-Independence: The European carving up of Albania

Continuing from the Declaration of Independence (1912) thread. The intervention of the international factor and the violation of Albanian national boundaries. Excerpts from E.Jacques', The Albanians.


Just as the overseas communities of Albanians had stimulated the patriotic fervor which gradually led to the independence of their homeland, so at this critical juncture they once again demonstrated their solidarity. On 1 March 1913, they convened a Great Congress in Trieste, Austria. There were 150 representatives in all, coming from the United States, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, and of course from the new state itself. Bishop Fan Noli of Boston was one of the featured speakers.

The congress recognized the provisional government of Ismail Kemal, pledged its faithful support, discussed the ethnic boundaries of the new state and sent strong resolutions to the European capitals and to the London Conference of Ambassadors then in session, appealing for their recognition of Albanian independence and for the lifting of the Greek blockade.


The question of Albanian independence that had prompted the Conference of Ambassadors at London came up for discussion at their first session. The six ambassadors decided that Albania would be recognized as an autonomous state under the sovereignty of the Ottoman sultan. After months of wrangling and compromise under the constant threat of a general war, the conference announced its formal decisions on 29 July 1913.

They recognized Albania as an independent sovereign state with no ties to the Ottoman Empire.

Quite inconsistently they provided that it be governed by a European prince to be elected by the powers. Albanian neutrality would be jointly guaranteed by the six great powers. They also appointed an "International Commission of Control for Albania," to be composed of one representative from each of the six powers and one Albanian. This commission would supervise the Albanian government's organization, finances and administration for a 10-year period. Dutch officers would organize the gendarmerie.

The American minister to Greece called this plan "a marvel of incompetency," an "absolutely discordant scheme" and "a jumble of inconsistencies" (Williams 1915, 19-20). Although it did infringe on Albania's independence, such international sponsorship of the new state, surrounded as it was by greedy neighbors, probably became Albania's best assurance of survival.
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I vjetėr 24.6.2008, 14:05   2
Anėtarėsuar: 6.2001

The most difficult decision facing the Conference of Ambassadors was the definition of the frontiers of the new Albanian state. Soon after the Treaty of San Stefano, which had awarded so much Albanian territory to its neighbors, an International Eastern Roumelian Commission had been appointed in 1880 to regulate the affairs of Turkey. Great Britain was ably represented by Lord Edmund Fitzmaurice, who became convinced that the Albanians had been treated with great injustice. Strongly supported by Lord Goschen, British ambassador at Constantinople, he proposed boun¬daries which would include all regions where the ethnic character of the population was predominantly Albanian. On 26 May 1880, Lord Fitzmaurice reported to the Foreign Office as follows.
The district covered by the geographical expression, Albania, falls mainly within the two vilayets of Scutari and Janina. But it extends also in an easterly direction beyond the watershed of the mountains dividing the streams which fall into the Adriatic from those which fall into the Aegean Sea, and includes portions of the vilayets of Monastir and Kosova. The extension of the Albanian population in a northeasterly direction towards Prishtina and Vrania is especially marked, and is fully acknowledged [Albania 1 April 1920, 3].
Turkey had also grappled with this question. When in 1912 they proposed the formation of an autonomous Albanian province, they recognized the four vilayets of Scutari, Yanina, Kosova and Monastir as ethnically Albanian. Simple justice should have recognized these natural boundaries, and much bloodshed would have been avoided.

But compromise is ever the accepted strategy of diplomats. So the Conference of Ambassadors sought by appeasement and expediency to satisfy the exaggerated territorial claims of Albania's greedy neighbors. Contiguous states based their ingenious and naive claims on historical, geographical, political, strategic, economic and even archeological considerations: anything to counterbalance the obvious ethnic Albanian character of the territory.

After months of debate and compromise, the six ambassadors produced the following irrational settlement in March 1913. In the north the districts of the Hoti, the Gruda and much of the Clementi tribes were severed from their Shkreli and Kastrati allies in the "Five Banner Group," and with Plava and Gusinje were given to Montenegro.

In the northeast they gave to Serbia the whole vilayet of Kosova, including the cities of Uskup, Ipek, Gjakova and Prizren, cities so sacred in Albania's renaissance, populated by one million Albanians and very few Slavs. Serbia would find Kosova a thorn in her side right down to the present day.

The eastern Albanian districts of Dibra, Ochrida and Monastir also went to Serbia. On the south the Greeks insisted that the population of "Northern Epirus" which was Greek Orthodox by religion was therefore Greek by nationality. They based this claim on the official Turkish population statistics of 1908 which classified citizens by religion as either Mohammedans, Jews or Greeks. The latter term referred to Greek Orthodox Christians, many of whom were not Greeks by race, nationality, language or sentiment. Many of these Greek Orthodox people were no more Greek than the Roman Catholic people were Romans. This should have been evident from the fact that in 1908 when southern Albania, which the Greeks called their "Northern Epirus," sent representatives to the first parliament of the Ottoman Empire, six of the deputies were Albanians, and only two were Greek-speakers (Dako 1915, 15).

Despite appeals from southern Albanians and from relatives who had migrated to the United States, a compromise solution was reached on 11 August 1913.

The ambassadors ceded to Greece much of southern Albania, including the region of Chamėria populated mostly by Albanian Muslims and including even Yanina, the traditional capital of southern Albania.

Dako in fact has cited more than 20 historians, geographers and diplomats, Greeks as well as Turks and Europeans, who identified the Illyrians, Macedonians and Epirotes as far south as Yanina as being Albanians, not Greeks (ibid., 7-11). Furthermore, the scholar Sami Bey Frashėri, when proposing administrative divisions for an eventual Albanian nation (1899), had located their centers at Shkodra, Ipek, Prizren, Prishtina, Uskup, Monastir, Dibra, Elbasan, Tirana, Berat, Korcha, Kosturi, Yanina, Gjirokastra and Preveza, all these cities being in the four Albanian vilayets of Turkey (Frashėri, S., 1924,101-2). How ironic that of these 15 Albanian centers, eight were awarded to either Greece or Yugoslavia!

The Conference of Ambassadors constituted an International Boundary Commission in August 1913 to do an on-the-spot study of the populations and fix the exact boundaries. Their work was greatly complicated in the south by the obsession of the Greeks that persons identified with the Greek Orthodox religion were therefore Greeks.

Sevasti Kyrias Dako reported that when the commissioners reached Monastir that October en route to Korcha, she contacted an acquaintance, Mr. Bilinski, the Austrian representative, to inform him of the Greek strategy to represent the Korcha population as Greek. After the colorful Greek-inspired demonstrations, "Mr. Bilinski suggested to his colleagues a stroll in the city. When they entered the Greek school yard where the children were playing, he threw in their midst a handful of small coins. The children rushed to pick them up, and in their excitement forgot to speak Greek, but spoke Albanian, their mother tongue. This was enough to convince the commission" (Dako, S., 1938,128-29).

A former schoolteacher, Elpinike Frasher, described the Hellenistic propaganda carried on through the Greek-language school operated by the Greek Orthodox Church, this being the only school in her village near Pėrmet. She wrote,

While there was not a single Greek individual in the population of Pėrmet and its environs, we were made to feel we were Greeks. The opening exercises of every school day consisted in responding individually to the question, "What are you?" with the answer, "I am a Greek Orthodox Christian." I was so conditioned to think that everyone has a native tongue (Albanian in my case) and a school language (Greek) that when I came to the States as a child I couldn't get over the fact that people here spoke English both at home and in school [Liria 15 April 1984, 3).

She recalled the visit of the Greek crown prince to Pėrmet after the Balkan War.

He appeared at the balcony to survey us, a sea of schoolchildren from Pėrmet and the neighboring villages, singing Greek songs. Each child dressed in the Greek colors (blue and white), carried a small Greek flag (supplied by Greece of course), and each of us wore a blue and white sash across one shoulder on which was embroidered "Enosis i thanatos" which meant "Union or Death." It could have fooled anyone. But it was all propaganda [ibid.].
Frashėr told also of the visit of the International Commission to Erseka, as she recalls, to determine the Greek or Albanian character of the population. Once again the schoolchildren massed before their balcony to sing the Greek songs. The Austrian member of the commission threw a handful of coins to the children below. Suddenly the singing stopped, and the only sounds heard were what came naturally: Albanian words, as the children scuffled to pick up as many coins as they could. 'This," the Austrian said, "proves the true ethnicity of the people." And the commission agreed.

But Frashėr continued, "When it seemed certain that our districts would be rightfully assigned to the newly formed Albanian state, my town of Frashėr, a center of national awakening and home of the famous Frashėri brothers, as well as many other villages in southern Albanian were burned to the ground by the retreating Greeks" (ibid.).

The work of the Boundary Commission terminated in December 1913 and was reported from Florence, Italy. Unfortunately, the capricious boundary lines had chopped up Albania, awarding to her neighbors to the north, east and south about one-half of her population and one-half of her territory. For years thereafter, maps on Albanian post office walls displayed those shaded areas of "Enslaved Albania" occupied by Yugoslavia to the north and east, and by Greece to the south.

But the artificial and unjust boundaries determined by the Conference of Ambassadors continue unchanged to this day. The resulting country extends 210 miles from northern to southern extremities, and its maximum width is 90 miles. The area is 10,629 square miles, about the size of Belgium, or the size of New Hampshire or of Vermont.
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I vjetėr 24.6.2008, 14:08   3
Anėtarėsuar: 6.2001

The national convention at Vlora, upon declaring Albanian independence in 1912, had created its organization with the official title, the Provisional Albanian Government. But while the ambassadors at London quibbled, virtually all of Albania had been occupied by foreign troops.

Even their capital city Vlora was surrounded by Serbian troops on the north, Turkish troops on the east, Greek troops on the south, and a Greek naval blockade on the west. The new government created a Ministry of Post and Telegraph that 5 December, but Vlora was besieged. To make matters worse, the Greeks had cut the undersea cable to Italy, leaving the new government completely isolated, "like a fish out of water," Grameno expressed it (Grameno 1925, 145).

Even worse, Albania's territorial boundaries were being determined in London, with no official Albanian representative present.

So on 23 December 1912, Mehmet Konitza, former Turkish consul at Corfu, was sent to London with two others as official representatives of the Provisional Government of Albania. The following 30 March Ismail Kemal with two other officials escaped by sea to appeal in London and other European capitals the integrity of Albanian territory and the lifting of the naval blockade. They could report no outstanding success.
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I vjetėr 24.6.2008, 14:18   4
Anėtarėsuar: 6.2001

In May 1913 the powers required the Serbian and Montenegrin troops to withdraw from northern and central Albania. Landlocked Serbia, enraged at losing the seaports of both Shkodra and Durrės, left a trail of destruction as it marched its troops away from the coveted "open window on the world." A new outbreak occurred that September. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published a letter from a "very reliable source" in Elbasan (Carnegie 1914, 150):

On 20 September the Serbian army carried off all the cattle of the mountain regions of Dibra. The herdsmen were compelled to defend themselves, and to struggle, but they were all killed. The Serbians also killed the two chieftains of the Luma clan, Mehmed Edem and Djafer Eleuz, and then began pillaging and burning all the villages on their way: [ten named]. In all these villages the Serbians committed acts of horrible massacre and outrage on women, children and old people. ... Many families from these villages, including women and children, were pitilessly massacred. On entering the village of Portchassie, the regular Serbian army led all the husbands outside the village, and then brought the wives thither to exact money from them in the shape of ransom; the wretched men were shut up in the mosque, which was then blown up with four shells. In the village of Sulp, seventy-three Albanians suffered a horrible death, and fifty-seven others from the village of Ptchelopek were basely assassinated. Was it not the Prefect of Krouchevo, when the Serbian army returned from the Albanian frontier, who openly told them to burn all the villages situated between Krouchevo and Ochrida?

The same report (ibid., 149) quoted a letter from a Serbian soldier made public that 22 October. He wrote,

I have no time to write to you at length, but I can tell you that appalling things are going on here. I am terrified by them, and constantly ask myself how man can be so barbarous as to commit such cruelties. It is horrible. I dare not tell you more, but I may say that Luma [an Albanian region along the river of the same name], no longer exists. There is nothing but corpses, dust and ashes. There are villages of 100, 150 or 200 houses, where there is no longer a single man, literally not one. We collect them in bodies of forty to fifty, and then we pierce them with our bayonets to the last man. Pillage is going on everywhere. The officers told the soldiers to go to Prizren and sell the things they had stolen.

The paper which published this letter added, "Our friend tells us of things even more appalling than this, but they are so horrible and so heartrending that we prefer not to publish them" (ibid.).

That same October a Serbian army of 60,000 men laid waste the districts of Dibra, Struga, Lake Ochrida and Goloborda in central Albania, and Gashi, Krasniki and Valbona toward the north.

B. Peele Willett, an American relief agent, reported on his survey trip (The Christian Work Fall 1914, 477-78):

Serbian and Montenegrin troops destroyed one hundred villages in northern Albania without warning, without provocation, without excuse. ... 12,000 homes were burned and dynamited, 8,000 farm folk killed or burned to death, 125,000 made homeless. All livestock has been driven off. Corn fresh from the harvest has been carried away. Like hunted animals the farm folk fled to Elbasan, Tirana, Scutari and outlying villages. I have returned from a 400-mile journey, partly on foot, through these stricken regions. I saw the destroyed villages, the burned and dynamited houses. I saw the starving refugees. I saw women and children dying of hunger.

The Carnegie Commission summarized its findings as follows (Chekrezi 1919, 130):

The Serbian and Montenegrin regular troops undertook and did everything, from the first day on which they invaded Albanian territory, either to compel the inhabitants to lose their nationality, or brutally to suppress the Shkiptar race. Houses and whole villages reduced to ashes, unarmed and innocent populations massacred en masse, incredible acts of violence, pillage and brutality of every kind — such were the means which were employed and are still being employed by the Serbo-Montenegrin soldiery, with a view to the entire transformation of the ethnic character of regions once inhabited exclusively by Albanians.

This Serbian war of extermination along the northern border of Albania was also reported by Miss Edith Durham, the British benefactress who spent many years among those mountain tribes (Dako 1919, 107).

An Albanian passing through Podgoritza declared that in Kosova vilayet the ground in many places was simply strewn with the bodies of women and children, also that he had seen a living foot protruding from the ground and waving feebly. A Serbian officer boasted gleefully, "We have annihilated the Luma tribe." Then he described the wholesale slaughter of men, women and children, and the burning of their villages. "

But on 7 November 1913 Austria and Italy demanded that the Serbs evacuate their recently acquired Albanian territory, and they reluctantly withdrew to the borders indicated by the Conference of Ambassadors (Koti 1914, 35).

Some months later, on 28 June 1914, a Serbian nationalist vented his bitter frustration by assassinating the Austrian crown prince, Franz Joseph, at Sarajevo. It was thus, thanks to Europe's clumsy mishandling of Albanian affairs, that a world war exploded in the Balkan powder keg.


Despite the Albanian declaration of neutrality in the Balkan War, the Greek fleet on 4 December 1912 shelled the unfortified city of Vlora and landed troops on Sasano, the strategic island controlling its harbor entrance. The president, Ismail Kemal, at once sent messages of protest to the Greek government and to the great powers. At the same time near the southeastern city of Korcha a Greek army repeatedly attacked Turkish troops who, because of Serbian pressure were withdrawing from Monastir toward Yanina.

On 19 December the Greek troops entered Korcha. Mrs. Kennedy wrote that "with the retreat of Xhavit Pasha our home became a medical refuge to help wounded and sick soldiers" (Liria 28 November 1941; December 1987, 7). The Yanina fortress capitulated on 6 March 1913, and 46 miles to its north Argjirokastra and Pėrmet succumbed one week later.

Greek military operations ended quickly in southern Albania, and cultural aggression, the second phase, began immediately. The Greeks of course recognized Korcha as the early center of Albanian nationalism, fired by the many emigrants to Constantinople, Bucharest, Sofia and especially the United States. Only here was there an Albanian school for girls, the Kyrias School, tolerated by the Turkish government because of its American protestant mission sponsorship when every other Albanian school had been suppressed.

But Korcha was also the seat of an archenemy of Albanian nationalism, the bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, who, through an otherwise excellent Gymnasium or Academy sought to Hellenize the population.

Preparatory to the Korcha visit of the International Boundary Commission, Greek occupation forces in the area did everything possible to induce a show of loyalty to Greece and to drive out or exterminate the loyal Albanian population.

At once the authorities brought pressure upon everyone to speak Greek. They required people, whether Greek Orthodox or Muslim, to sign petitions to be sent to the London ambassadors then in session, declaring their loyalty to Greece and their fear of the Albanians. The principal of the girls' school reported the violence in and around Korcha:

"Not a Moslem Albanian was left without being personally robbed and knocked senseless to the ground. Right after the army was quartered, orders were issued that all the people should speak Greek because 'Korcha was a pure Hellenic city,' and the effort was made to prove to Europe that it was so. ... They started to persecute, imprison and exile all those Albanians who refused to say they were Greeks" (Dako 1919, 112-13).
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