Code of Leke Dukagjini /Kanun i Leke Dukagjinit

Dukag

Author: Raymond Hutchins

The Code of Leke Dukajini was a body of customary law by which the northern clans of Albania were ruled from about the 15th up to the beginning of the 20th Century, or even later. Although attributed to Leke Dukagjin, it evolved over many centuries — before, during, and after his lifetime. Presumably the formulation of the Code conformed to the needs of the times. Leke Dukagjin (1410-81) belonged to the family of the Dukagjinis, feudal rulers whose domain in the 14th and 15th centuries extended from the Zadrimi to the confluence of the Black and White Drin Rivers.

After Skanderbeg’s death in 1468, Leke Dukagjin was one of the principal figures of the war waged against the Ottoman Turks. The Code is divided into the following sections: Church, Family, Marriage, House, Livestock and Property, Work, Transfer of Property, Spoken Word, Honor, Damages, Law Regarding Crimes, Judicial Law, and Exemptions and Exceptions. In general, it would be correct to say that observance of the Code by all with due regard to its implications and consequences would assure safe living and passage, although with a very limited choice of alternatives.

The smallest violation, however, could and probably would have disastrous or even possibly fatal consequences. A Franciscan priest, Shtjefen Gjecov, began collecting the works that first appeared in printed form in 1913, and the completed Kanun was published in 1931 after his death. From time to time during the annals of history, various figures (some of the political and scientific dissertations of Benjamin Franklin come to mind) have transcended then-existing laws by devising their own codes of ethics or rules for society to follow.

When pondering the conduct and manners by members of various modern-day elected bodies of government, it might be both prudent and timely to review the ancient excerpts below from the Code of Leke Dukagjini’s Rules of Assembly:

1113. The Men gathered in an assembly sit in a semicircle so that each person may see everyone else and if someone is called on to speak, his path is clear among the Chiefs and the Elders. Burrat e bashkuem ne kuvend rrijn ne gjymes rrethit; ashtu qi te mund te shofin shoqi shoqin e, po u thirr kush, te ket shteg per me u duke nder Krene e Pleq.

1115. Regardless of how long the Men of the land are at the assembly, a stranger has no right to associate with them. Sa te jene ne kuvend burrat e dheut, s’ka tager kush i huej me u perzie nder ta.

1117. The Chiefs and the Elders sit at the Assembly according to rank and seniority. Krenet e Pleqt rrijn ne kuvend mbas priject e tagrit.

1118. At an Assembly, when one person speaks, the others must listen and remain silent. Ne kuvend, sa te flase njani, tjeret do te ndigjojn e te heshtin.

1122. Offensive language is not permitted at an Assembly. Fjala e rande nuk bahet ne kuvend.

1123. The Kanun forbids insults to anyone at the Assembly; if someone insults another person, a fine up to 5 sheep is imposed on him. Kanunja s’ban qi te shahet kush ne kuvend; po bani kush ket pune, do te gjobitet mje ne 5 desh.

1124. If someone calls another person a liar at an Assembly, a fine of up to 500 grosh is imposed on him. Po i tha kush kuej se rrene ne kuvend, do te gjobitet mje ne 500 grosh.

(English translations by Agron Alibali)

Page 202 The Code of Leke Dukagjini, Gjonleka Publishing Co., New York, NY 1989 Page 69 Historical Dictionary of Albania, Raymond Hutchins, The Scarecrow Press , Inc., Lanham, MD and London, 1996

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