Tag Archives: history

The Albanian School of Venice

Author: Signorina Sandra Rossi

A relief sculpure

A relief sculpure commemorating the seiges of Scutari in 1474 and 1479. The Sultan, Mehmed II, turbanned and crowned and accompanied by his Grand Vizier, stands holding a scimitar below a cliff on which is perched the fort of Scutari.

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that the beautiful city of Venice in Italy was settled by progenitors of the Albanians, the Illyrian tribe of the Veneti, around 1200 BC. Equally interesting may be the fact that an Albanian School (Scuola Albanesi)in the sense of a lay confraternity dedicated to charitable works was established in Venice in 1479 by Albanian refugees who fled from the Turks after the fall of Shkodra, and that the famous Venetian artist, Carpaccio, was retained by them to paint the decorations of their building. Although the school building, now unmarked, exists today as a residential dwelling, it still retains its bas relief sculpture (shown below) over the front entrance commemorating the
Turkish seiges of Shkodra in 1474 and 1479.

Distinguished painters who emerged from that Albanian community in Venice were Mark Bazaiti, Viktor Karpaci, and Francesco Albani. Below is a description of the Albanian School:

“The Scuola di Santa Maria degli Albanesi had been founded in 1442 for the special benefit of the Albanian community. Following the fall of Scutari (Shkodra) to the Turks in 1479, a number of refugees fled to Venice, where they received assistance from the Signoria (Government of the Venetian Republic). In 1497 the group resolved to build a meeting-house next to the church of San Maurizio, observing that ‘even the Armenians have their own hostel and we have none.’

“When it came to the decoration of the building, Carpaccio was the chosen artist. His six scenes from the Life of the Virgin indicate, however, that other commissions may have had first priority on his attentions. The paintings for the Albanesi are of low quality by comparison with those of the Scuola di San Giorgi, and were probably carried out to a large degree by his workshop. A document of 1503 noted that the majority of the members were artisans and mariners, indicating that the financial resources of the Scuola were very meagre. Carpaccio must have been at the height of his fame during the years in which he painted for the Dalmatians and the Albanesi.

“In a final decorative flourish that documents their long memories and continuing concern for the fate of their homeland, the confratelli of the Albanesi completed the facade of their building around 1530 with a relief sculpure commemorating the seiges of Scutari in 1474 and 1479. The Sultan, Mehmed II, turbanned and crowned and accompanied by his Grand Vizier, stands holding a scimitar below a cliff on which is perched the fort of Scutari. The heroes of each battle — respectively, Antonio Loredan and Antonio da Lezze — were honored by the inclusion of their coats-of-arms. “*

* Pages 70-72, Venetian Narrative Painting in the Age of Carpaccio, Patricia Fortini Brown, Yale University Press, New Haven and London The Frosina Foundation wishes to express its gratitude to Signorina Sandra Rossi of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum Collection in Venice for providing access to the above information.

Lord Byron’s Albanian Costume On Exhibit at Bowood Estates

Author: Ms. Kate Fielden

Lord Byron

Lord Byron

During Lord Byron’s visit to Janina in southern Albania in 1809, he purchased an Albanian costume in which he sat or rather “stood” for the fashionable portrait painter, Thomas Phillips in the summer of 1813. The three-quarter length portrait titled “Portrait of a Nobleman in the dress of an Albanian” depicts Byron in a crimson and gold velvet jacket with a red and gold and bluish-green striped shawl wound round his head like a turban, a white shirt with a large black jewel in a brooch at his throat and, cradling in his arms, a yataghan or sword with a purple-tinged hilt. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy and is now in the British Embassy in Athens.

In 1835 and 1840 Phillips painted two copies of the portrait. The first in half-length was given by the artist’s son in 1862 to the National Portrait Gallery in London where it is on permanent display; the second, which was commissioned by John Murray, Byron’s publisher, is kept in the publishing firm’s premises in Albemarle Street, London.

And what became of the Albanian costume? Byron conducted a flirtatious correspondence with Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, daughter of Lord Keith, and in 1814, he gave her the Albanian costume suggesting she use it for fancy dress. It eventually passed into possession of the Lansdowne family and rediscovered in 1962, when a Byron scholar, Doris Langley Moore, went to the Landsdowne family home at Bowood House in Wiltshire to select items from the family collection for a costume museum she was establishing in Bath.

In an article published in the Costume Society Journal in 1971 Langley Moore describes her excitement when she came across a rich crimson velvet jacket and waistcoat. She recognized it as “Byron’s Albanian dress!” After having been on display at the Museum of Costume in Bath the Albanian costume was later returned to Bowood for exhibit purposes. Appropriately nearby are two mezzotints on a wall of the original recipient of the costume, Mercer Elphinstone, who has preserved a visible link between Byron and Albania.

Model wearing Byron's Albanian dress

Model wearing Byron’s Albanian dress

Bowood House & Gardens
Bowood was bought by the 2nd Earl of Shelburne in 1754, in a half-completed state and finished before 1760. Part of the house was demolished in 1955, and thre rest rearranged in a very happy transformation. Half of what remains is open to the public. The family inherited from their ancestor, Sir William Petty, “whatever degree of sense may have appeared in it, or whatever wealth is likely to remain with it.”

Petty’s widow became Baroness Shelburne, and it is their grandson who settled at Bowood, and their great-grandson who became the first Marquis of Lansdowne. It was he, better known as Shelburne, who befriended Joseph Priestly, the early chemist – who invented oxygen at Bowood. Shelburne also communicated with Johnson, Goldsmith, Hume and George Washington. His great political feat (as Prime Minister) was peace negotiated with the new, young United States in 1783. His son made a great art collection and a fine library, and his great-grandson was Governor-General of Canada and Viceroy of India, and Foreign Secretary.

Though initiating the Entente Cordiale with France in 1904, he also advocated Peace by Negotiation with Germany in 1917. The talents of this family enlighten the house, and their accumulation of centuries beautify the interior. Outside, there are 800 ha of grounds with handsome features — a Doric Temple, a pinetum and arboretum, and a most spectacular Cascade. The Adventure Playground is praised by its young users, and the quite separate Rhododendrum Gardens are open for six weeks during May and June. The 8th Marquess’ son, Lord Shelburne, took over management of Bowood in 1972. He opened the house and grounds to the public in 1975 and later converted the stables and grooms’ quarters into exhibition rooms. restaurant and gift shop. Also on exhibit at Bowood are Napoleon’s death mask, the glittering Keith jewels and an exceptional collection of English watercolors, including works by Bonington and Turner.

Frosina thanks Bowood’s Curator, Ms. Kate Fielden, for supplying the photo and Albanian costume information and Ms. Alison McGrain of Boston’s British Consulate-General for the description of Bowood House & Gardens

Mira KuÇuku/ Albanian Ceramicist Extraordinaire

Mira KuÇuku ceramics

Mira KuÇuku ceramics

Upon entering Mira Kuçuku’s exquisite gallery “Albqeramik” on Bulevardi Zhan D’Ark near the center of Albania’s capital, Tirana, it’s as if you’re suddenly transported to New York’s Park Avenue or Boston’s Newbury Street. Indeed, her gallery would fit in perfectly anywhere on those two elegant confluences of American haute culture. Its contemporary appearance and subtle decor provide an enchanting backdrop for the display of ceramic potteries and sculptures that Mira has hand-fashioned to tantalize both the eye and taste of the most discerning art critic and buyer. The gallery is divided into two rooms, the larger one as you enter where most of her works are on display, and then a smaller one just behind it which serves mainly as storage and some display of finished pieces.

Mira, a dark-haired attractive woman with bright eyes and a quick smile, is serious about her craftsmanship as she points out and describes features on several of her hand-made creations. Her work, encompassing a variety of sizes and shapes ranging from smaller, decorated potteries, plates, and sculptures to impressively-large, floor-standing vases, are distinguished by intricate appliques set off by warm, earth-colored glazes that are oven-fired to last for an eternity. She maintains a rigid work schedule to replenish the stock of the gallery and to fill especially commissioned projects and orders.

A prolific artist (no two pieces of Mira’s art are exactly alike), she keeps exploring new themes by frequently reaching back into her Albanian roots and culture. The ever-changing four seasons of the year are of great interest to her, and one of Mira’s favorite subjects is her young daughter, Bora, whose visage is rendered either in full-face or profile on various pieces as the perfect motif for Spring (Pranvera). A graduate of the Academy of the Figurative Arts in Tirana, Mira was employed for 17 years as a Modeling Sculptor at the Migjeni Arts facility until she established her own gallery/studio in 1993. Her ceramics are considered first-rank, and, unquestionably, they deserve to be exhibited at art and cultural centers in the USA and elsewhere.

With the advent of democracy in Albania in 1991 and the long-awaited freedom of artistic expression, Mira Kuçuku is already making her mark in several countries of Europe such as Denmark, Greece, and Croatia where her ceramic exhibitions garnered rave notices.

Excerpted from an article in LIRIA by Van Christo, October/November, 1995

The Scanderberg Operas by Vivaldi and Francouer

Author: Del Brebner

Antonio Vivaldi’s list of rarely-performed compositions includes an opera entitled Scanderbeg. that was originally performed at the Teatro de la Pergola in Florence, Italy on June 22, 1718. The occasion was the re-opening of the theatre, to this day a pearl among Florentine theatres. For the event Vivaldi had chosen to produce an opera, testimony to Vivaldi’s standing in the music world at that time. That Vivaldi had selected Scanderbeg as the subject of an opera especially composed for that momentous occasion confirms the impact that the Albanian folkhero still had on the civilized world almost 300 years after his heroic life. Only a few of the Vivaldi arias from the opera remain in Turin, Italy along with the libretto which is archived in a library in Bologna.

Another opera entitled Scanderbeg was composed by the 18th century French composer, Francois Francouer. It had been given in command performances before their majesties, King Louis XV and Queen Maria Charlotte Leszcynska of France at Fontainebleau on October 22, 1763. The entire opera has survived including both an original and revised version, librettos and musical scores. The complete works are housed in a library in Paris.*

The Scanderberg Operas

The Scanderberg Operas

According to data provided recently to Frosina by Peter Rennie of London’s Anglo-Albanian Association, there was a third opera about Scanderbeg composed by Bernard Germain le Comte de Lacepede (1765-1805), a French naturaliist, politician, and musician. Better known for his later political actrivities as President of the French Senate and of teh Grand Chancelier de la Legion d’honneur, Lacepede was also teh composer of five operas. One of these was Scanderbeg which was commissioned by a committe of the Academie Royale de Musique in 1785. The opera, however, was never performed since Lacepede for some reason has destroyed it.

Scanderbeg, the national hero of Albania and a military and political leader of international importance was born in 1405 in northern Albania to the Kastrioti family of feudal leaders, and as the child, Gjergj Kastrioti, he was taken as a hostage from his father, Gjon Kastrioti, to be raised and educated in Turkey and to serve in the Ottoman army. Under the name of Skënder (meaning Alexander, after Alexander the Great), he gained distinction in fighting in the Balkans and Asia Minor. He was awarded the title of Bey (Lord of the Land), adopting the name Scanderbeg (Albanian: Skënderbeu) which he retained all his life.

In 1443, he led a revolt in Krujë (northern Albania) against the Ottomans and scored repeated victories over them usually against great numerical odds. His successes were due to his knowledge of Turkish military tactics, his own sound tactics and strategy, brilliant leadership, the mountaineous terrain, and the support of the Albanian people. The revolt ultimately failed because of the overwhelming odds ranged against it and because of Scanderbeg’s death in 1468. The revolt’s astonishing achievements have ever since inspired and heartened Albanians everywhere they are located in the world.**

From 1983 until 1986, Van Christo conducted an extensive search that led him to various archival sources in Italy and France where he eventually retrieved copies of both the Vivaldi and Francouer Scanderbeg operas. He will donate them to several libraries including The School for the Arts at Boston University and the Fan Noli Library in Boston.

* Excerpted from “Van Christo Uncovers Two 18th Century Musical Treasures Celebrating Albania’s Geatest Hero” by Del Brebner, DIELLI, March 1, 1986
** Page 200 Historical Dictionary of Albania, Raymond Hutchins, The Scarecrow Press , Inc., Lanham, MD and London, 1996

Ferid Murad: Albanian-American Nobel Prize Winner

Prof. Ferid Murad

Prof. Ferid Murad

, born in the US, son of an Albanian moslem immigrant father and an American Baptist mother, was awarded the Nobel prize in Medicine in 1998. He received his M.D. Degree in 1965 from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, from which he also received a Ph.D. in Pharmacology that same year. Among other awards/honors that Dr. Murad has earned are the Ciba Award – American Heart Assoc. (1988); NIDDK Bd. of Scientific Counselors (1990-1994) (Chairman, 1993-1994); Lasker Award for Basic Research (1996); Member National Academy of Sciences (1997); Member Inst. of Med. National Academy of Sciences (1998). He is the author/co-author of some 334 medical/scientific publications. The following article about Dr. Murad was excerpted from The Jerusalem Post, November 29, 1998:

“Dr. Ferid Murad, chairman of the department of integrative biology and pharmacology at the University of Texas (Houston) Medical School, will receive the Nobel prize along with Robert Furchgott of the State University of New York and Louis Ignarro of the University of Californa at Los Angeles. All three, working independently in Texas, California, and New York, have spent decades conducting basic research on nitric oxide (NO). Not only did their discoveries lead to the use of Viagra for treating impotence, they have now found that NO – which in minute quantities acts as the body’s most important signaling molecule – is profoundly involved in blood pressure, heart function, infections, lung problems, and the defense of the body against tumors, as well as having the potential to treat disease.

Although his father was an Albanian Moslem and his mother an American Baptist, Murad became an Episcopalian and married Carol, a Presbyterian teacher who is the mother of their five grown children. “My parents had a tiny restaurant in our home town of Whiting, Indiana, and I used to wash dishes and wait on tables to cover the cost of my medical studies. I didn’t write down what people ate – I memorized the details as a kind of game, and I think that helped me later in my scientific work.”

When Dr. Fathi Arafat, president of the Palestinian Red Crescent, learned that Murad had come to Jerusalem to lecture, he informed his brother, Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, who invited Murad to Gaza for a 30-minute weekend meeting.

Murad, whose university is the largest medical research institution in the world, noted that NO has the ability to dilate blood vessels and relax smooth muscle tissue; this led to its application in the anti-impotence pill (Viagra). But he also predicted that NO will be relevent in the fight against cancer, Alzeimer’s disease, heart disease and many other conditions. Altho researchers have long known various details about NO, in 1977 Murad discovered that nitroglycarin pills – used by heart patients for a century – work because they release NO. The colorless, odorless gas signals blood vessels to relax, which lowers blood pressure and relieves the pain of angina pectoris. “For years, colleagues said I was crazy to invest so much time and effort in NO,” Murad recalled. “But I was certain right from the beginning.”

Ironically, Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite (a product in which the explosion-prone nitroglycarin is curbed by being absorbed in a porous soil) became ill with heart disease, and his doctor prescribed nitroglycarin. Nobel refused to take it, knowing that it caused headache and dismissing the possibility that it could eliminate chest pain.

Murad, who works 16 to 18 hours a day, noted that since the Nobel prize announcement, he has been overwhelmed by queries and invitations to collaborate in important research projects. “I used to get 5 or 10 applications a month; now I receive an average of 15 a week. I’m no more brilliant or stupid than I was before the announcement – but now everybody’s listening,” he said with a smile.”

Fatos Lubonja: Albania’s Vaclav Havel?

Author: Tina Rosenberg

Fatos Lubojna

Fatos Lubojna

Few have done more to struggle for and constructively criticize Albania’sdemocracy than Fatos Lubonja, writer, editor of the quarterly journal Përpjekja, and now representative of the Forum for Democracy, that is attempting to replace confrontation with dialogue in Albania’s political life. In his 1995 writing, Lubonja presciently analyzed what he calls “the vicious circle of depotism and defence” which he blames for the difficulty in implanting civic freedoms in Albanian society: “It is precisely because of the Albanian individual, being at the beck and call of the patriach and the clan, has little scope for expression, that he has often displayed either compliance, which has created a closed society, or been prone to violent outbreaks in the shape of devastating acts of parricide…”

Lubonja’s judgement is backed with the moral authority of 17 years in communist prisons, and a family history of intellectual resistance. His father, Todi, for many years general director of Albanian Radio-Tellevision, was imprisoned on 1973 following a clampdown by Enver Hoxha on “liberalism” in the arts. Fatos’s mother, Liri, was interned in a remote village while her husband and son were in prison, and she too has written a book about her exile, Far Away, Among People, which portrays the wretched life of the Albanian peasantry.

At age 23, Fatos was sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment for “agitation and propaganda” after police found his diaries, which contained criticisms of Hoxha, in his uncle’s attic. He began serving his sentence in the copper mine of Spaç. In 1979, while still incarcerated, Lubonja faced a second accusation, this time of having created a “counterrevolutionary organization” alongside nine other prisoners, and was sentenced to a further 25 years. He has described his trial and the circumstances surrounding it in a documentary novel called The Second Sentence, published in Tirana in 1996. Like all Lubonja’s prison writings, The Second Sentence is remarkably free of bitterness and resentment. It is a memorial to Lubonja’s fellow defendants, three of whom were shot, and records a fearful journey through the moral labyrinth of the totalitarian world.

Following his release from prison in 1991, Lubonja became involved in human rights, and went on to found the quarterly journal “Përpjekja (Endeavor)” in 1994. The journal, Lubonja says, “aims to bring a critical spirit into Albanian culture, and conceives culture not to be a closed archive, but a means of understanding reality.” Përpjekja carries short stories, poetry, literary and cultural criticism, and articles critical of Albanian political developments, and has fast earned a reputation as the foremost Albanian cultural review. A book-length English-language anthology of Përpjekja, entitled “Endeavor” was published in Tirana in May, containing work by Lubonja and leading intellectuals from Albania and Kosova, including Bashkim Shehu, Edi Rama, Ardian Klosi, and Shkëlzen Maliqi.

In January 1997, public fury rose when popular pyramid investment schemes collapsed devastating the Albanian economy. Lubonja and other intellectuals published a memorandum calling for free elections, and warned, ” A people who are not allowed to correct the institutions of the state by a free ballot and through their opposition will do so with fire.” With two other former political prisoners, Lubonja bcame a representative of the Forum of Democracy calling for peaceful dialogue in Albania’s increasingly polarized political climate.

The Forum’s attempts to organize peaceful demonstrations in February, under the slogan, “Flowers instead of stones” has several times led to the detainment of Lubonja and other coalition leaders. “These”, Lubonja writes, “are the times when a person must consume extraordinary quantities of spiritual energy to preserve himself and not to surrender to negative emotions such as fear and terror, which not only cost him his clarity of mind but also his dignity, and make him give way to evil.”

— Excerpted from the article “Leading the Endeavor” by John Hodgson, Transitions, June, 1997

********

Albania, the Nation Without Heroes / Why Its Own Vaclav Havel Is an Intellectual Ignored
If most Westerners had to choose one person to symbolize Eastern Europe’s emergence from Communism, it would be Vaclav Havel, one of a generation of Western-oriented intellectuals and writers who were dissidents and political prisoners under Communism and then continued to provide moral and sometimes political guidance after Communism fell. Then there is Albania, and Fatos Lubonja. He is the author of two novels, numerous essays and a diary and stories from prison. He uses his prison experiences — the murder of a cellmate’s cat, the joy of a prisoner released from shackles into the relative liberty of solitary confinement — to write about freedom and dignity … he has helped found Albania’s first human rights group. In Endeavor, the remarkable journal he edits, he argues for a more critical, tolerant and European Albania. Mr. Lubonja is all the more isolated because most of Albania’s intellectuals now live in America, France, and Italy. Some left to make a living they cannot make in Albania, others to be free of Mr. Berisha’s thugs. Mr. Lubonja stays because he thinks intellectuals must build a European political culture and show Albanians that not everyone in public life is there to get rich.

– Excerpted from Editorial Notebook by Tina Rosenberg, New York Times, December 13, 1997

Anton Logoreci (1910-1990): Torchbearer of Democracy

Author: Albanian Catholic Bulletin

Anton Logoreci was born in Shkodër, Albania on July 19, 1910 and died in London on September 23, 1990. He was the latest treasure to be given to the world by his Albanian Catholic family. Others included the Archbishop of Shkope, Mother Teresa’s parents, and Logoreci’s uncle Mati who worked to preserve Albanian culture in Kosovë, and assisting in the formulation of an greed alphabet for the Albanian language. Logoreci attended the Franciscan elementary school in Shkodër during his childhood where he served at the altar of St. Anthony’s church. He regularly served Mass for Fr. Gjergj Fishta, the great Albanian author and poet laureate.

At the encouragement of his uncle, he transferred from the Jesuit College Saverianum to the AmericanTechnical College in Tirana which was established by the American Red Cross in 1922. The College was an important addition to Albania — in its classrooms, a cosmopolitan group of young men were formed with the education essential to make Albania a full member of contemporary European society, and Logoreci was one of its brightest pupils. While studying at the Technical College, Logoreci was editor of the school magazine Laboremus. There he developed a distinctive prose style which he would later use to great success working for the BBC in London. He graduated with honors in 1927 and worked first as a teacher in the mountain villages of Albania. King Zog appointed General Jocelyn Percy to organize a gendarmerie, and he chose Logoreci as his interpreter. This work gave him a first-hand knowledge of the political eccentricities of Eastern Europe which he would use the rest of his life.

In order to better serve his homeland, Logoreci went to study at the London School of Economics (LSE) and while finishing his studies there, Mussolini invaded Albania. Unable to return to Albania, Logoreci was spared internment and gained a post as head of the BBC’s new Overseas Service. There, beginning in 1940, Logoreci’s reports were broadcast into his homeland bringing news to his countrymen when it was unavailable elsewhere until the BBC ended the service after the war. He was one of the best-qualified Eastern European commentators and, later, he became a program writer on Central Europe and remained a valuable commentator for the BBC for years afterwards where he specialized in Eastern Europe’s human rights problems as well as developments in Albania.
Logoreci was single-handedly responsible for most of the attention Albania received after the war. He condemned Hoxha early in his dictatorship, stressing that Albania’s future must lie in Western democracy rather than communism. Logoreci was a vociferous defender of Kosovë’s autonomy, culture, and traditions. His commentaries were insightful and often prophetic.

But all of Logoreci’s political expertise and knowledge were accidents of his trade, and not his greatest love. Literature was his great passion. His distinctive style in Albanian prose and poetry was admired for its sharp beauty. He introduced his countrymen to Europe’s contemporary writers with his literary essays. He likewise introduced Europeans with Albanians in his 1977 book, The Albanians — Europe’s Forgotten Survivors (Victor Gollancz, London, 1977 ASIN 0575022299).

– Excerpted from the Albanian Catholic Bulletin, San Francisco, California, Volume XII, 1991

Naim Frashëri (1846-1900): Poet of the Albanian Nationalist Movement

Author: Stavro Skendi

Naim Frashëri

Naim Frashëri

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

* * * * *

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.”

* * * * *

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

Alexander the Great / Leka i Madh

Author: Rose Wilder Lane

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Sir William Woodthorpe Tarn, of the British Academy, regarded worldwide as having written the definitive work on Alexander the Great, states in the opening paragraph of his book Alexander the Great that “Alexander certainly had from his father (Philip II) and probably from his mother (Olymbia) Illyrian, i.e. Albanian, blood!”*

During Rose Wilder Lane’s visit to Albania in 1921 resulting in the publication in1923 of her book Peaks of Shala, she heard the following rather extraordinary rendition of Albanian oral history about Alexander the Great from an Albanian elder:

“There was at that time two capitals of the united kingdom of Macedonia. There was Pela, between Salonika and Manastir, and there was Emadhija**, the old capital, lying in the valley which is now Mati (a high, fertile plateau north of Tirana, near the coast of northern Albania – ED).

“Alexander’s father, Filip the Second had great houses in both Pela and Emadhija, and before Lec i Madhe was born, his mother left Pela and came back to the original capital, Emadhija. It was there that Lec i Madhe was born, and there he lived until he was out of the cradle and rode on a horse when he first went down into Pela to see his father who came from the city to meet and see his son for the first time.

“Filip the Second was very proud of his son, and his pride led him to the one great foolishness of a good and wise king. He said that he would make Lec i Madhe king of the world, and that was well enough, but he thought to be king of the world a man must be more learned than he himself. Whereas all old men who have watched the ways of the world know that to be strong and ruthless will make a man powerful, but to be learned makes a man full of dreams and hesitations.

“In his pride and blindness, Filip the Second sent to Greece for an Albanian who had learned the ways of the Greeks, and to that man he gave the boy, to be taught books. (The Albanian’s) name was Aristotle, and he came from a family of the tribe of Ajeropi, his father having gone to a village in Macedonia and became a merchant there. Being rich, he sent his son, who was fond of thought rather than of action, to learn the Greek ways of thinking. And it was this man who was brought by Filip the Second to teach his son.”***
* P 1, ALEXANDER THE GREAT, W.W. Tarn, Beacon Press, Boston, 1956
** “Emadhija” means in Albanian “the great city”
*** PP 184, 186, 187, PEAKS OF SHALA, Rose Wilder Lane. Harper Brothers & Publishers, New York & London, 1923

Ali Pasha Tepelena (1740-1822)

Author: Raymond Hutchins

Ali Pasha

Ali Pasha

Ali Pasha Tepelena was born in 1740 at Tepelenë in southern Albania, and in his youth was a leader of brigands. Later he entered the service of the Sultan and managed to achieve his ambitions: he created the largest pashaluk (a territory ruled over by a Pasha) in the Ottoman empire. His ambitions were to amass a great fortune, to avenge himself on his private enemies, and to become the independent ruler of Albania and part of Greece. Ali Pasha established and maintained contacts with all the great powers of Europe at that time. He maintained contacts with Napolean, the English Admiral Lord Nelson, and the Russian Tsar. He also gave support to the Greek struggle for liberation from Turkish rule. His pashaluks harboured organizations dedicated to winning independence from Greece. He would also have liked to secede from the Ottoman empire.

Ali Pasha’s ruthlessness, cunning, and diplomatic skills earned him the title “Lion of Janina”, and his court was visited by many Europeans, including in 1809 Lord Byron, who was thus inspired to devote a canto of Childe Harold to Albania and the Albanians.

Rival feudal lords, both Albanian and Turkish, whom Ali Pasha had ousted from their holdings in Albania, Epirus, and Thessaly, as well as the Greek patriots fighting for their own liberation, put pressure on the (Turkish) Porte to get rid of Ali Pasha. Turkish forces attackled Janina, and Ali Pasha found himself deserted by his sons and allies. He fought to the bitter end and was killed in 1822. His head was sent to Constantinople and publicly displayed.

Under Ali Pasha, Janina was the most advanced centre in the Western Ottoman empire. Although the great powers did not recognize the Janina and Shkodër pashaluks as independent principalities, they treated them as separate states as relations with the Porte deteriorated.

The great pashaluks created the conditions for a faster economic development of the Albanian regions. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the Ottoman empire entered a new phase of decline. Its downfall came from within and not from without, through the successful struggle of the subjugated peoples in the European part of the empire — a struggle in which the Albanians played a prominent part. A strong national independence movement took root in Albania which was not satisfied with concessions such as the creation of semi-autonomous pashaluks, but which demanded full national and cultural rights. It soon became a well-organized movement.

PP 18 and 19, Albania and the Albanians, Ramadan Marmullaku, C. Hurst & Company, London, 1975

(Ali Pasha) was rather soft and mild in appearance. He spoke both Albanian and Greek, plus a little Turkish, but was illiterate. Short in stature (about five feet five inches), an excellent shot and fearless, he remained active, ambitious, and vigorous until old age. He ruled over both Greeks and Albanians, but his main power rested with the latter (although his worst vengeance was also directed against the Albanians). He carried out considerable construction in both Epirus and Albania, including road building and the draining of marshes, while the merciless punishments curtailed crime. Despite repellent traits of behavior and the violence and ruthlessness of his rule, in official historiography he is regarded as a patriot and a fighter for Albanian independence. It is remarked, too, that Ali’s death was the immediate precursor to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence.

PP 21 and 22, Historical Dictionary of Albania, Raymond Hutchins, The Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD and London, 1996