Author: Stavro Skendi
The Frashëri brothers, Sami, Abdyl, and Naim were all very noteworthy patriotic figures, though in different ways, of the Albanian Renaissance. The birthplace of this trio was the village also called Frashëri (Permeti District). Naim was above all an intellectual and a writer. A poet of distinction, he composed and published first in Persian, which he learned at a Bektashi tekke, then switched to Albanian. His subject range was wide but especially about patriotic themes including his epic “Historia e Skënderbeut” (History of Scanderbeg). He wrote much for children and translated fables of LaFontaine. In outlook a pantheist and idealist, Frashëri demanded the emanicipation of women and universal education. He was opposed to the Megali idea (that Greece should take over and run the Ottoman Empire) as well as to Panslavism. Naim Frashëri was very highly regarded during the Communist period. Although not made a hero of the people, he was alloted the rare distinction of having the Order of Naim Frashëri named after him; among its recipients have been Mother Teresa. Naim Frashëri was a Bektashi though during the Communist period this was not publicized. His works include a religious affirmation of faith.
Page 96, Historical Dictionary of Albania, Raymond Hutchins,
The ScarecrowPress, Lanham, MD and London ,1996 Artwork by Ksenefon Dilo
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After Scanderbeg’s death in 1468, all of Albania eventually fell to the Ottoman Turks where it was to remain for almost 500 years. It was not until the late 19th and early 20th centuries that a national movement for Albania’s independence became a major force. Foremost in that movement was the poet and activist, Naim Frashëri. Born in southern Albania in 1846, he spent most of his life propogating the Albanian cause. His influence with the Turkish adminstration gave him the unique opportunities to further Albanian nationalist activities such as the publication of the Albanian periodical “Drita ” (Light) in 1864, and the opening of the first Albanian school in Korçe (southern Albania) in 1866.
Romantic in style, Frashëri used simple language in his poetry so that uneducated people could grasp its meaning. His works were well understood and loved by all Albanians. But the Turks had banned everything published in the Albanian language so Frashëri’s works were smuggled into Albania. This precious cargo was securely packed into sacks of grain and rolls of dry goods which were earmarked to reach designated shops in Albania. Once there, the books were read or listened to avidly in defiance of Turkish authorities who had orders to punish severely those who received, or read, or who had in their possession for whatever reason, any publication in Albanian. A most beloved of Frashëri’s poems is “Bagëti e Bujqësi ” (Herds and Pastures) of which the opening verse follows:
The Readings, Kor I Ustërit Performance Worcester, Massachusetts, 1980
“O malet e Shqiperise! e ju o lisat te gjate,
Fushat e gjera me lule,
Qe u kam nder mend dit e nate,
Ju bregore bukoroshe, e ju lumenjt e kulluar!
Çuka, kodra, brinja, gerxhe,
Dhe pylle te gjelberuar.”
“O, mountains of Albania, you trees of towering height,
Meadows broad full of flowers,
You’re with me day and night,
You stately hills magificent, you rivers bright and sheen,
Knolls, boulders, rocks, crags,
And woodlands clad in green.”
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In “Bagëti e Bujqësi” published in 1886, Naim Frashëri exalted in poetry the beauty of Albania and the simple life of her people, expressing gratitude that she bestowed on him “the name Albanian.” He was made a symbol for unification and became a national hero. In his poem “Our Language”, Naim exhorts his compatriots to honor their nation and write their language, exclaiming: “Look, what a language! / Like God’s language.” And in “Feja” (Religion) he advises the Albanians not to make a distinction between Christians and Moslems but to let each other believe as he wants for they have the same origin and they speak the same language.
Excerpted from pp 123, 124, The Albanian National Awakening/1878-1912, Stavro Skendi, Princeton University Press, 1967