Tag Archives: infobits

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

Mehmet Ali: Albanian Founder of Modern Egypt

Author: Edwin E. Jacques, McFarland & Co.

Mehmet Ali

Mehmet Ali

Mehmet Ali (1769-1849) established a dynasty in Egypt which endured for over a century. He was born of Albanian parentage in Cavalla, a small Macedonian seaport. This Albanian soldier of fortune led an Albanian contingent accompanying a Turkish expedition in 1798 to expel Napolean Bonaparte’s troops from Egypt, then a Turkish province. After the French withdrawal in 1801, prolonged factional struggle led Cairo to ask this Albanian adventurer to serve as governor of Egypt, and Constantinople confirmed the appointment in 1804.

Mehmet Ali improved Egyptian manufacturing and commerce. He built a canal between Alexandria and the Nile. For his military successes against the Greek rebellion of 1821, Mehmet Ali expected to acquire the Peleponnesus as a reward. But the combined navies of Great Britain, France and Russia destroyed his fleet at the battle of Navarino in 1827, virtually assuring the freedom of Greece. In 1839 he even rebelled against the Ottoman empire and might have captured Constantinople itself (1840) but for the intervention of Britain, France and Russia.

Thereafter, Mehmet Ali occupied himself with the development of Egypt as a modern state. He built the first dam across the Nile for irrigation purposes. He introduced the cultivation of hemp and cotton for which Egypt became famous. He built textile and steel mills. He had a high regard for the civilization of Europe and invited European educators to teach in a network of institutes, sending his best students abroad for higher study. His military skills were equaled by his governing skills. The new constitution of Egypt was his creation, as were the new army and navy, the tax system, the systemization of imports and exports, health legislation, schools, colleges, and publishing houses,

Mehmet Ali was far ahead of his countrymen, while his moral character, enlightened mind and distinguished ability qualified him for the title Founder of Modern Egypt. Because of his Albanian origin, Albanians were regarded with special favor in Egypt and welcomed as immigrants. Mehmet Ali was surely among the great men of his epoch.

An equally enlightened grandson, Ismail Pasha, improved the adminstration, the courts, the post office system and public works, notably the railways, telegraph nework, ligjhthouses, breakwaters and harbors. He also suppressed human slavery, and he completed the 92-mile Suez Canal joining the Mediterranean with the Red Sea in 1869.

All in all, the Mehmet Ali dynasty inroduced a new era to Egypt lasting from 1805 to 1952. The last king of Egypt, Farouk I, was reportedly of Albanian blood, which might explain the cordial welcome he extended to the exiled Albanian King Zog in 1939. (Farouk’s) reign extended from 1936 until his abdication in 1952. That year marked the close of this famous Albanian dynasty.

PP 331-332, The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present, Edwin E. Jacques, McFarland & Co., Jefferson, North Carolina 28640

King Zog in America (1951)

Author: The New Yorker

Ahmed Bey Zogu, born in 1895, battled innumerable Balkan adversaries to consolidate control of his country after the First World War, became President in 1925, and declared himself King Zog I in 1928. For his coronation, he ordered an outfit that included rose-colored breeches, gold spurs, and a gold crown weighing seven and five-eighths pounds.

Zog’s preoccupation once he was on the throne was how to stay alive. In 1931, he barely escaped assasination at the hands of two gunmen as he was leaving a performance of “Pagliacci” at the Vienna Opera House. His mother kept watch over the royal kitchen to make sure his food was not being poisoned. A virtual recluse in his capital city, Tirana, which in any case had neither night clubs nor theatres, Zog did little except play poker and smoke as many as a hundred and fifty perfumed cigarettes a day. Understandably, perhaps, shaking Europe’s royal family trees for a queen yielded Zog no fruit. But his four sisters, each of them a division commander in the Albanian army and none of them married themselves, helped in the search, and he eventually found a penniless half-American, half-Hungarian countess, Geraldine Apponyi, who had been selling postcards in the Budapest National Museum for forty-five dollars a month. Her photograph captured Zog’s heart, and they were married in 1938.

A year later, Italy invaded Albania, routing its thirteen thousand troops and two airplanes within forty-eight hours. Having fled to England with his family and a hefty portion of his country’s gold, Zog watched from afar as Mussolini’s Fascists and then Enver Hoxha’s Communists took over his kingdom. Zog was formally deposed in absentia in 1946. Having temporarily moved to Egypt, he became friends with King Farouk while he pondered the serious question of where an ex-monarch could live.

He found the answer, he thought, during a 1951 tour of the United States: Knollwood, a sixty-room granite mansion that had been built on Long Island’s North Shore in 1907. Zog bought it for $102,800 (not for ” a bucket of diamonds and rubies,” as some stories claimed at the time). Italian Renaissance in style, Knollwood boasted tall Ionic columns and a winding main stairway of Caen marble. Massive stone steps led down to vast reaches of landscaping, with gardens and reflecting pools. English ivy covered parts of wide terraces and also hung from marble fountains and urns. “A man must have a place to lay his head,” the Times commented, “and if Zog feels he must have sixty rooms to do it in, that is his business.”

Zog, it was announced, intended to turn Knollwood into his kingdom in exile. In its grounds would live Albanian subjects, working the land as his tenants. North Shore society, delighted at the prospect of royalty in its back yard, was soon flocking to Knollwood. At its gates, visitors were greeted by a bearded member of the Royal Guard: he would kiss their hands and turn them away.

Alas, Zog wanted to settle into the mansion with his entire court, of a hundred and fifteen, but the immigration authorities would allow him to bring only twenty into the country. Attempts to bribe the State Department failed, and in 1952 he was forced to pay $2,914 in taxes to save his property, having been unable to convince Nassau County that as a monarch he had sovereign immunity from such trifles. In 1955, he sold Knollwood, which had meanwhile suffered eight thousand dollars’ worth of damage from vandals. The vandals thereupon converged on the estate in earnest, ripping it apart in search of treasure that was rumored to be buried in its grounds. The mansion was later demolished, and Zog spent his last days in a nearly empty villa on the French Riviera, with Queen Geraldine doing the housework. He died in 1961.

Excerpted from Muttontown’s King, The New Yorker, pp. 33 & 34, September 11, 1989

Early Albanian Documents

Author: Edwin Jacques

The earliest evidence of the existence of Albanian-language literature is a written statement by the French Dominican Father Brocardus, then Archbishop of Tivar. In a written report in Latin in 1332 he said, “Although the Arbërs (Albanians) have a language different from Latin, still they have Albanian letters in daily use, as well as in all their books.” From this it becomes evident that the Albanian language was in common use and written with the Latin alphabet at least as early as the beginning of the fourteenth century.

Marin Barleti, the famous historian and biographer of Skanderbeg wrote in his Latin work of 1504 entitled The Siege of Shkodra, “I have recently gotten hold of certain annals — fragments rather than annals — which, based on the legend, speak about the reconstruction rather than the construction of this city. In them we read in the native language that a certain ‘Roza and his sister were the founders of the city of Shkodra’ “. This famous legend of the Rozafat fortress written “in the native language” would have been written not in Latin, but in Albanian. Unfortunately, “all their books” have been lost, either because of the contemporary Stephen Dushan’s determination to eradicate heretical Roman Catholicism from his Orthodox realm, or because of the Ottoman determination to eradicate all evidence of Albanian culture from their domain.

While most written documents in the Albanian language were lost forever, a few did survive outside the country in various archives and libraries. Thus in 1915 the Romanian scholar Nicola Jorga discovered in the Laurentian Library of Florence a circular letter written in 1462 by Pal Engjëll (1416-1470), the Catholic Archbishop of Durrës. Engjëll enjoyed the trust and respect of all Albanians, was a close collaborator of Skanderbeg and frequently traveled abroad as Skanderbeg’s envoy to secure the aid of allies against the Ottomans.

While Engjëll’s text was in Latin, it contained a one-sentence formula in the Albanian language, which Albanian parents could pronounce in baptizing their dying children.

The early text reads, “Un te paghesont pr’ emenit Atit e t’birit e t’ spertit senit.” This is quite similar to the present official Albanian which would be written, “Une të pagezoj për emrin e Atit e të Birit e të Shpirtit të Shenjtë” (I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit).

This brief sentence is the earliest text written in Albanian which has yet come to light. It was written in Mat, northern Albania, during the heroic resistance of the Albanian people against the onslaughts of the Ottoman armies.

PP 277-278, “THE ALBANIANS: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present” by Edwin E. Jacques, McFarland & Company, Inc., Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640, 1995