1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Albania

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ALBANIA (see 1.481). — Up to 1908 the policy adopted by the national Albanian leaders may be summarized as follows:— (1) To preserve the Ottoman Empire until such time as the Albanian national ideal, surreptitiously propagated by the various national societies resident abroad, had entered into the consciousness of the Albanian people as a whole (a process necessarily slow where 99% of the population was illiterate and in the face of the opposition of both ‘Abdul Hamid and the Greek Patriarchate) — lest a premature disruption of Turkey might bring about the dismemberment of Albania herself at the hands of her Christian neighbours; (2) to press in the meantime by constitutional means for an autonomous administration of Albania.

Prominent among those in favour of these Fabian tactics were Ferid Pasha Vlora, the Sultan's trusted grand vizier, and his cousin Ismael Kemal. The keen appreciation by these statesmen of their country's predicament was amply proved by subsequent events. These events, however, they were unable to control. In July 1908 the Young Turk revolution became imminent. The Albanian mountain chiefs, throwing in their lot with the revolutionary movement, took the lead by telegraphing to the Sultan to demand the revival of the constitution of 1878. A few days later Maj. Enver Bey and the Committee of Union and Progress proclaimed the constitution at various places in Macedonia, and the II. and III. Army Corps threatened to march upon Constantinople. On July 24 the Sultan bowed to the inevitable. Six months later he was deposed after his attempt at counter-revolution had failed — an attempt undertaken with the aid of his Albanian bodyguard and with the connivance of the Liberal union, headed by Ismael Kemal, who had already realized that the aims of the committee were little more liberal than the old régime's. The privilege of informing him of this decision of Parliament was reserved for another Albanian, Essad Pasha.

The Albanians had at first hailed the Turkish revolution with enthusiasm. It seemed to promise the fulfilment of their most cherished aspirations: autonomy and the introduction of means of education in the national tongue. Albanians had never been slow to avail themselves of any opportunity of educating themselves on national lines, as is proved by the phenomenal progress in education that had been made within Albania itself during the years 1879-86, when the establishment of Albanian schools was tolerated, as well as in the Albanian colonies abroad. The names of men like the brothers Sami and Nairn Frasheri, the first a lexicographer and historian, the second a poet; of Wassa Pasha, founder of the society for the publication of Albanian books in Constantinople in 1879; and of Prenk Dochi, who became Abbot of the Mirditi in 1888, should especially be remembered in connexion with the obscure but heroic efforts on the part of patriotic Albanians to educate their countrymen prior to the revolution of 1908.

A “Bessa” (pledge of honour) was taken by the mountain tribesmen to suspend all existing blood feuds in honour of the auspicious occasion. It soon became evident, however, that not only was nothing to be hoped for from the Young Turks but that the triumph of the revolutionary movement was to prove a more formidable menace to the cause of Albanian nationality than the obscurantist tyranny of the Sultan. The Committee of Union and Progress had no sooner obtained a settlement of the international questions arising out of the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and of Eastern Rumelia by Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria respectively, than they actively set to work to achieve their plan of Ottomanizing the subject races of Turkey. The Albanian schools, which had recently been able to open their doors through private contributions, were again closed, the Albanian newspapers were again forced to migrate to foreign lands, and the national movement was stopped. In the face of violent protests a decree was issued that the Albanian language might be taught with the Turkish instead of Latin characters and a number of school-books were actually published in this manner. But the Albanians saw through the device and would have none of it. Heaps of the books were burned in the market-places.

Insurrection of 1911-2. — At the same time an insurrectionary movement broke out among the Moslem tribes in the north, headed by ‘Isa Boletin, a natural leader of rare prowess who rallied the mountain tribesmen disaffected by the attempt of the Young Turks to levy taxation from which hitherto they had been exempt. The Turks, however, retaliated by ruthless efforts to disarm the population. Whole villages were destroyed and — what the proud clansmen would less easily forgive — their chiefs were publicly flogged. In igri the insurrection assumed larger dimensions. While the Moslem tribes kept quiet the Roman Catholic Malzia and Mathe tribes, instigated by the Montenegrins, formed armed bands, and in the spring attacked with success the Turkish outposts on the Montenegrin frontier. In April Torgut Shevket Pasha tried to suppress the movement with a large army, but notwithstanding the superiority of his forces, met with several reverses. In May Russia warned the Ottoman Government not to extend hostilities against Montenegro, who was harbouring a large number of the refugees. In June Mirdita joined the rebels, proclaiming her own autonomy and setting up a provisional government. In the same month there was a great meeting of rebel chiefs, who drew up a statement of their grievances and a list of their demands under 12 headings, of which the most important were the recognition of Albanian nationality and the use of the Albanian language in the schools and in all local administration.

Balkan War, 1912-3. — The Turks attempted to bribe and cajole Mgr. Sereggi, Archbishop of Scutari, a brave and honest patriot, to intervene. He protested that he had not the authority; nor was it his business. The inevitable result was that the following year, when the Turks were fully engaged in the war with Italy, the insurrection broke out afresh. The Albanians of Kossovo joined in the revolt, seized Pristina, and published a manifesto demanding a dissolution of Parliament and the holding of fresh and fairly conducted elections. Southern Albania joined the insurgents and success followed success. In May Uskub was occupied. In view of trouble brewing elsewhere the Turks had no alternative but to give in. By the terms of the cessation of hostilities, Albania was recognized by the Turkish Government as an autonomous administrative province comprising the four Albanian vilayets of Scutari, Kossovo, Yannina and Monastir, and more or less the same conditions already granted on paper were definitely ratified. Of all these concessions, however, by far the most important was the recognition on the part of Turkey that Albania extended to the four vilayets. This was the first official delimitation of the frontiers of Albania.

The success of the Albanians was, no doubt, a considerable factor contributing to the outbreak of hostilities between Turkey and the Balkan League in the autumn of 1912. The latter were encouraged by the reverses sustained by the Turkish army under their German leaders, and the grant of autonomy, were it allowed time to consolidate the national organization of the country, threatened to jeopardize the aims of the league, which envisaged the partition of Albania. The latter suffered from possessing no effective central authority. Accordingly, when the war broke out in Oct., the Albanians were divided as to the right policy to pursue. The Roman Catholic Maltsors joined the Montenegrins; the Kossovo Albanians fought half-heartedly on the side of the Turks; the rest of the Albanians remained neutral. The Maltsors, moreover, withdrew from the struggle before the end of the hostilities, being enraged at the cruel treatment by the Montenegrins of their Moslem neighbours. In fact, apart from the defence of the two fortresses of Yannina and Scutari, the safety of which was considered a vital point to the life of Albania, the Albanians practically left the Turks alone in their struggles.

During Nov. the greater part of northern and central Albania was invaded by the Serbians and Montenegrins, and the greater part of Epirus was in the possession of the Greeks. Albania seemed lost. But at this juncture the prompt action of Ismael Kemal partially saved the situation. After consulting with the Governments of Austria-Hungary and Italy, the two Powers interested in the maintenance of an integral Albania, he landed in the nick of time at Durazzo before the capture of that town by the Serbians. Thence he proceeded on horseback to Valona and summoned there an assembly of representative notables from all parts of Albania. On Nov. 28 1912 the national flag, the black double-headed eagle of Scanderbeg on a blood-red ground, was hoisted over the town and a formal proclamation of independence was issued together with a declaration of neutrality. This act gave the Austro-Hungarian and Italian Governments the necessary lead for their diplomatic intervention. But owing to the championship of Russia of the allies' cause, the only immediate result of this was the menace of a general European conflict. It was left to England, the only Power with any pretensions to impartiality, to lend her best offices to bring about an accommodation, and it was owing to the untiring efforts of Sir Edward (afterwards Lord) Grey that eventually a peaceful but by no means altogether satisfactory compromise was arrived at. A conference of ambassadors was assembled in London, and on Dec. 20 the principle of Albanian autonomy was admitted. The allies agreed to leave to the Great Powers the task of delimitating the frontiers and defining the status of Albania and a clause was drafted to this effect for insertion in the Treaty of London (May 1913) between the allies and Turkey. On April 7 1913 Sir Edward Grey made the following statement to the House of Commons:— “The agreement between the Powers respecting the frontiers of Albania was reached after a long and laborious diplomatic effort. It was decided that the littoral and Scutari should be Albanian, while Ipek, Prizren, Dibra and (after much negotiation) Jakova should be excluded from Albania. This arrangement leaves a large tract of territory to be divided between Serbia and Montenegro as the fruits of victory.”

“It is to be borne in mind that in making that agreement” — Sir Edward Grey added in answer to a question — “the primary essential was to preserve agreement between the Powers themselves.” The natural rights of Albania were accordingly sacrificed for the sake of the general peace of Europe.

In pursuance of this decision two international commissions proceeded to Albania, the one to delimitate the northern and north-eastern, the other the southern frontiers. The duties of the first were largely of a technical character, since with the exception of two or three small gaps the ambassadors had themselves traced the frontiers with some precision. The northern commission was, however, never called upon to report. Thus half a million Albanians forming a compact ethnographical unit within the watershed which constitutes the natural geographical boundary of Albania were left without appeal to Montenegro and Serbia. The southern commission was given wider powers. Under the chairmanship of Lt.-Col. Doughty Wylie the work was undertaken conscientiously, and resulted in the drawing of a frontier which may be considered in the circumstances a fair balance of conflicting ethnographical, geographical and economic claims.

Rule of William of Wied. — Meantime the status of Albania was defined by the ambassadors. On July 29 1913 it was agreed to recognize her as a sovereign independent state under perpetual neutrality guaranteed by the Powers. A foreign prince was to be chosen as ruler. Dutch officers were commissioned for the organization of an Albanian gendarmerie and an international commission of control was instituted, composed of one delegate from each Power and one Albanian representative, with authority for ten years to control the finances of the new State and to check the Albanian Government when acting beyond the limits of its jurisdiction.

On account of the mutual jealousies of the Powers, and especially of those of Italy and Austria-Hungary, it had become impossible to choose for prince any man of known purpose or courage. Prince Charles of Rumania and the Duc de Montpensier were among the abler candidates turned down. Ahmet Fuad Pasha of Egypt was suggested but Ismael Kemal let it be clearly understood that Albania intended to become a European State, and would not accept an Eastern ruler. The choice eventually fell upon Prince William of Wied.

When the international commission of control assumed the sovereignty of Albania at the request of Ismael Kemal in Jan. 1914 pending the arrival of the prince, the number of governments ruling over the several provinces were three. First in priority was the Provisional Government of Ismael Kemal at Valona. The second was the international administration of Scutari, with Gen. Phillips in command. The third was the Government of Essad Pasha in central Albania. This adventurer, after bringing about the murder, so it seems, of the Turkish commander defending Scutari, had betrayed the city in April 1913 into the hands of the Montenegrins on condition of being allowed to march out at the head of his armed followers. These he kept in hand, and on the withdrawal of the Serbs from central Albania he profited by the general discontent with the slow-moving over-cautious Government of Valona to establish a new government under his personal direction at Tirana. Meantime the Montenegrins had been persuaded by the Powers to evacuate Scutari and only the Greeks in the south remained in occupation of Albanian territory within the new frontiers.

Essad reluctantly consented to hand over the reins to the international commission of control on the condition that he himself might head the deputation to Neuwied for the purpose of offering the crown to Prince William. He continued, however, to intrigue against his chief, who bestowed upon him after his arrival at Durazzo (on March 7 1914) the post of Minister of War. The general situation was at this time exceedingly confused. The country was rife with disaffection due to the endless delays before the choice and arrival of the Mpret, to the intricate cross-currents of intrigue of Essad, Austria and Italy, and to the ghastly terror that the Greek irregulars secretly supported but officially repudiated by the Greek Government constituted in the south. Only a bold man capable of striking the imagination of his people could hope to succeed in these circumstances. Prince William, who even before his arrival had alienated the sympathy of many for having laid himself open to suspicion as implicated in the Austrian plots, revealed himself before long a man of neither courage nor resolution. He remained at Durazzo under the guns of Italian and Austrian warships, chiefly occupying himself in making and unmaking his Cabinet.

In the meantime Essad, who had the goodwill of the Italians, continued to intrigue with the object of discrediting the Prince, while the Austrians and the Nationalist Albanian supporters of Wied plotted with equal pertinacity for the overthrow of the powerful Minister of War. The mistakes of the Prince were at first entirely ascribed by the populace to Essad's machinations. As a result, during the night of May 19, a group of armed Nationalists surrounded his house and Prince William's Austrian guns were trained upon it. Essad's life was only saved by the courageous intervention of an Italian officer. He was eventually placed upon an Italian warship and transported to Italy. Immediately after his departure rebellion broke out among his partisans at Tirana. It might easily have been crushed, for Essad's followers, though well armed, were limited to a few thousand men and were detested by the vast majority of the people. But Prince William at first hesitated, then blundered by bombarding the perfectly inoffensive village of Shuyak (Shyak), which raised the whole immediate countryside in revolt, and finally lost all caste in. the eyes of the Albanians by ignominiously taking refuge during an abortive attack by the insurgents on board a man-of-war. He was never again likely to win the goodwill of his people. When the World War broke out in Aug. 1914, he was still closely besieged in Durazzo. On Sept. 3 he abandoned the country.

The World War. — The history after the outbreak of the World War may be very briefly told. Essad returned to Durazzo, and with the help of his friends the Serbs was able for a short time to reëstablish his rule in central Albania. The international occupation of Scutari was followed by a Serbian occupation. The Greeks took possession of the south until the advent of the Italians in 1915. The rest of the country fell under the authority of local chiefs. Essad remained faithful to his plan which foreshadowed the partition of his country between the Serbs, the Greeks, and himself, under Italian protection. In the absence of any authoritative Albanian Government he succeeded for a time in imposing upon the Entente Powers the notion that he represented the will of his countrymen. It was owing to this fact that the articles relating to Albania in the Pact of London were admitted and it is these articles which have given rise to grave difficulties attendant on the settlement of the country since the Armistice of 1918. The articles in question run as follows: —

Article 6.

Italy shall receive full sovereignty over Valona, the island of Sasseno and surrounding territory of sufficient extent to assure defence of these points (from the Voyusa to the N. and E., approximately to the N. boundary of the district of Chimara on the S).

Article 7.

Should Italy obtain the Trentino and Istria in accordance with the provisions of Article 4, together with Dalmatia and, the Adriatic Is. within the limits specineciin Article 5, and the Bay of Valona (Article 6), and if the central portion of Albania is reserved for the establishment of a small autonomous neutralised State, Italy shall not oppose the division of N. and S. Albania between Montenegro, Serbia and Greece, should France, Great Britain and Russia so desire. The coast from the S. boundary of the Italian territory of Valona (see Article 6) up to Cape Stylos shall be neutralised.

Italy shall be charged with the representation of the State of Albania in its relations with foreign powers.

Italy agrees moreover to leave sufficient territory in any event to the E. of Albania to ensure the existence of a frontier line between Greece and Serbia to the W. of Lake Ochrida.

In Nov. 1916 the Italians had occupied Valona. In the autumn of 1915 the Austro-Hungarians, after overrunning Serbia, occupied northern and central Albania. Essad retired to Salonika where he continued to pose for some considerable time as the true Albanian representative until he became finally discredited. Many Albanians adhered to the cause of the central empires. This was not unnatural since a victory for Germany would in all probability have given Albania an autonomous, if not an independent, government within wider frontiers than she could ever otherwise hope for. Under Bairam Tsuri, an unsurpassed guerillero, Albanian bands harassed the Allied lines of communication which ran from Santi Quaranta to Koritsa and Salonika.

On June 3 1917 Italy proclaimed the independence of all Albania under Italian protection. This proclamation was subsequently explained as not denoting a “protectorate,” but it could hardly be interpreted as anything but a formal repudiation of the articles of the Pact of London. The French, who had occupied the Ersek-Koritsa road, replied by proclaiming the republic of Koritsa. After three months the republic was abolished, but the district remained under French rule until May 1918, when it was handed over to the Albanians. Then came the retreat of the Austrians in the autumn of that year. Thus the greater part of Albania fell under the occupation of Italy. An inter-Allied contingent on the other hand occupied Scutari, while Serbian troops seized Mt. Tarabosh and advanced their line considerably west of the 1913 frontier.

In March 1920 the inter-Allied command at Scutari handed over their powers to a small Italian contingent, which in May 1921 still remained in the town as representing the Allied and Associated Powers pending the formal recognition of the Albanian State and the confirmation of its frontiers.

Meantime important events had occurred which finally paved the way for the reëstablishment of Albanian independence. The Italians permitted the formation of a new national provisional government within their area of occupation, and Albania's case was duly presented at the Peace Conference in 1919. Her representatives included Turchan Pasha, who had acted as Prince William's prime minister; Dr. Tourtuli of Koritsa, the eminent specialist in tropical diseases; Mgr. Bumci, Bishop of Alessio; and Mehmet Bey Konitza, later Minister of Foreign Affairs and representative of the Vatra, an important national society of Albanians resident in America which had risen during the last ten years under the able organization of Faik Konitza and Mgr. Fa Noli, to take a leading part in the cause of Albanian independence. The general complications of the Adriatic question, however, prevented the Albanian case being concluded. President Wilson vetoed a proposal to partition the country. The Italians at the same time lost their initial popularity. It was generally understood that they had provisionally accepted a mandate for Albania. There were evident signs in any case of an intention on their part to remain in permanent occupation. They treated the local authorities with scant courtesy and seriously hampered the independent working of the central Government. The latter were also keenly aware that a permanent Italian occupation inevitably entailed the admission of at least part of the Greek and Serbian claims to their territory.

It was in these circumstances that fighting broke out between Albanian irregulars and the Italian troops, which had been greatly reduced in numbers and were suffering badly from malaria. The Italians accordingly concentrated within certain strategical areas, and thus enabled a new and more representative Albanian Government to be formed in Feb. 1920, first at Lyusna and then at Tirana, under the presidency of Suleiman Bey Delvina. Four constitutional regents were simultaneously appointed, namely, Mgr. Bumci, Dr. Tourtuli, Abdi Toptani and Akif Pasha — i.e. two Mussulmans, one Catholic and one Orthodox. Later in the year the Albanians under Bairam Tsuri again attacked the Italians, capturing many important positions and pressing them hard within the Valona area itself. Italy was in no mood for further wars. The economic and social condition of the country forbade any hope the Italian Nationalist parties still entertained of imposing by force of arms Italian rule in Albania. Moreover, Giolitti had assumed power with a large Liberal majority behind him, and he had made up his mind to tackle the Albanian question otherwise. The result was an agreement signed on Aug. 2 1920, by which Albania's independence was completely recognized by Italy and the evacuation of the country by the Italian troops assured.

The Serbs, who had attempted to profit by the occasion, had advanced on Tirana, but after some severe fighting had been driven back to their original positions. Yet in spite of these successes the Government of Suleiman Bey fell in the autumn. It was replaced by a Ministry under Illias Vrioni, pending the election due to take place in the following spring of a new Chamber, Mgr. Fa Noli was appointed Albanian representative at Geneva and in Jan. 1921 Albania was formally admitted to full membership of the League of Nations, all the parties (Italy, Serbia and Greece), at one time interested in her dismemberment, recording their vote in favour of the motion.

Bibliography. — Foreign Office Manual No. 17; Constantine A. Chekressi, Memoirs; Ismael Kemal, “Albania and the Albanians,” Quarterly Review (July 1917); J. S. Barnes, “The Future of the Albanian State,” Jour. Roy. Geo. Soc. (July 1918); A. Baldacci, Itinerari Albanesi 1892-1902 (1917); E. Barbarich, Albania (1905); E. Durham, The Burden of the Balkans (1905; 2nd ed. 1912); High Albania (1909); The Struggle for Scutari (1914); K. Hassert, Streifzüge in Ober-Albanien; Leon Lamouche, La Naissance de l'Etat Albanais; Louis Jaray, L'Albanie inconnue (1913); Au jeune royaume d'Albanie (1914); W. Peacock, Albania (1914); Sullioti, Sei Mesi di regno in Albania (1914); Haskins and Lord, Some Problems of the Peace Conference (1920); Report of Dutch Mission in Albania (1914); Report of French Ministry of War (1915); Report of Italian Ministry of War (1915); Report of Italian Ministry of Marine (1917); Karl Steinmetz, Von der Adria zum Schwarzen Drin (1908); Eine Reise durch die Hochlädergaue Oberalbaniens (1904); Ein Vorstoss in die nordalbanischen Alpen (1905); Baron Nopcsa, Das Katholische Nordalbanien (1907); Aus Sala und Klementi; Marchese di San Giuliano, Lettere dall' Albania; Miller, The Ottoman Empire 1801-1913, Cambridge Historical Series (1913).

(J. S. Ba.)