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Fan Stilian Noli

In office
June 16, 1924 – December 23, 1924
Preceded by Iliaz Bej Vrioni
Succeeded by Iliaz Bej Vrioni

Born January 6, 1882(1882-01-06)
Ibriktepe, Ottoman Empire
Died March 13, 1965 (aged 83)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Alma mater Harvard
Occupation Writer, Bishop
Profession Priest
Religion Albanian Orthodox

Theofan Stilian Noli, better known as Fan Noli (January 6, 1882 – March 13, 1965) was an Albanian-American writer, scholar, diplomat, politician, orator, and founder of the Albanian Orthodox Church, who served as prime minister and regent of Albania in 1924.

Fan Noli is venerated in Albania as a champion of literature, history, theology, diplomacy, journalism, music and national unity. He played an important role in the consolidation of Demotic Greek as the national language of Greece with numerous translations of world literature masterpieces.[1] His contribution to the English-language literature are also manifold: as a scholar and author of a series of publications on Scanderbeg, Shakespeare, Beethoven, religious texts and translations.[1]

He acquired his education at Harvard and was ordained priest in 1908, establishing thereby the Albanian Church and elevating the Albanian language to ecclesiastic use. He briefly resided in Albania after the 1912 declaration of independence. After World War I, Noli led the diplomatic efforts for the reunification of Albania and received the support of U.S. President Wilson. Later he pursued a diplomatic-political career in Albania, successfully led the Albanian bid for membership in the League of Nations.

A respected figure who remained critical of corruption and injustice in the Albanian government, Fan Noli was asked to lead the 1924 June Revolution. He then served as prime minister until his revolutionary government was overthrown by Ahmet Zogu. He was exiled to Europe and permanently settled in the United States in the 1930s, acquiring U.S. citizenship and agreeing to end his political involvement. He spent the rest of his life as an academician, religious leader and writer.



Born in the Albanian community of Ibrik Tepe in Eastern Thrace, as a young man Noli wandered throughout the Mediterranean Basin, living in Athens, Greece, and Alexandria, Egypt and supporting himself as an actor and translator. He knew 13 foreign languages. Through his contacts with the Albanian expatriate movement, he became an ardent supporter of his country's nationalist movement, and moved to Boston in 1906 in order to mobilize the Albanian emigrant community. At that time, some of Albanian Christians were part of the Greek Orthodox Church, which was vehemently opposed to the nationalist cause. When a Greek Orthodox priest refused to perform the burial rites for Kristaq Dishnica, a member of the Albanian community from Hudson, Massachusetts because of his nationalist activity, Noli and a group of nationalists in New England created the independent Albanian Orthodox Church. Noli, the new church's first clergyman, was ordained as a priest in 1908 by a Russian Orthodox bishop in the United States. In 1923, Noli was consecrated as a bishop for the Church of Albania.

Political activities

In 1908, Noli began studying at Harvard, completing his degree in 1912. He returned to Europe to promote Albanian independence, setting foot in Albania for the first time in 1913. He returned to the United States during World War I, serving as head of the Vatra organization, which effectively made him leader of the Albanian diaspora. His diplomatic efforts in the United States and Geneva won the support of President Woodrow Wilson for an independent Albania, and in 1920 earned the new nation membership in the fledgling League of Nations. Though Albania had already declared its independence in 1912, membership in the League of Nations provided the country with the international recognition it had failed to obtain until then.

In 1921 Noli entered the Albanian parliament as a representative of the liberal Vatra party, the chief liberal movement in the country. He served briefly as foreign minister in the government of Xhafer Ypi. He was consecrated in 1923 as the senior Orthodox bishop of the newly-proclaimed Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania. This was a period of intense turmoil in the country between the liberals, represented by Vatra, and the conservatives, led by prime minister Ahmet Zogu. After a botched assassination attempt against Zogu, the conservatives revenged themselves by assassinating another popular liberal politician, Avni Rustemi. Noli's speech at Rustemi's funeral was so powerful that liberal supporters rose up against Zogu and forced him to flee to Yugoslavia (March 1924). Zogu was succeeded briefly by his father-in-law, Shefqet Verlaci, and by the liberal politician Ilias Bej Vrioni; Noli was named prime minister and regent on July 17, 1924.

Downfall and exile

Despite his efforts to reform the country, Noli's "Twenty Point Program" was unpopular, and his government was overthrown by groups loyal to Zogu on Christmas Eve of that year. Two weeks later, Zogu returned to Albania, and Noli fled to Italy under sentence of death.

He moved back to the United States in 1932 and formed a republican opposition to Zogu, who had since proclaimed himself King Zog I. Over the next years, he continued his education, studying and later teaching Byzantine music, and continued developing and promoting the autocephalous Albanian Orthodox Church he had helped to found. While in exile, he briefly allied with King Zog, who fled Albania before invading Italians in 1939, but was unable to set a firm anti-Axis, anti-Communist front.

After the war, Noli established some ties with the communist government of Enver Hoxha, which seized power in 1944. He unsuccessfully urged the U.S. government to recognize the regime, but Hoxha's increasing persecution of all religions prevented Noli's church from maintaining ties with the Orthodox hierarchy in Albania. Despite the Hoxha regime's anticlerical bent, Noli's ardent Albania nationalism brought the bishop to the attention of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI's Boston office kept the bishop under investigation for more than a decade, with no final outcome to the McCarthyite probe.

Toward the end of his life, Noli retired to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he died in 1965. The branch of the Albanian Orthodox Church that he had governed eventually became the Albanian Archdiocese of the Orthodox Church in America.

Fan S. Noli is depicted on the obverse of the Albanian 100 lekë banknote issued in 1996.[2]

See also


  1. ^ a b Avni Spahiu, Fan Noli’s American Years: Notes on a Great Albanian American (Houston: Jalifat, 2009), tr. Getoar Mjeku.
  2. ^ Bank of Albania. Currency: Banknotes withdrawn from circulation. – Retrieved on 23 March 2009.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ilias Bej Vrioni
Prime Minister of Albania
June 16, 1924 – December 26, 1924
Succeeded by
Ilias Bej Vrioni


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