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Not to be confused with the Princedom of Albania or the Albanian Principalities, which existed in the Medieval Ages.
Principata e Shqipnis`
Principality of Albania

 

1914–1925

Flag

Anthem
Himni i Flamurit
Capital Durrës
Language(s) Albanian
Government Principality
Prince
 - 1914 William
Prime Minister
 - 1914 Turhan Pashë Përmeti
 - 1924-1925 Ilias Bej Vrioni
History
 - Established 1914
 - Disestablished 1925
History of Albania
Coat of Arms of Albania
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The Principality of Albania refers to the short-lived monarchy in Albania, headed by William, Prince of Albania and to the state after the First World War, until the abolition of the monarchy in 1925, when Albania was declared a republic.

Contents

Principality

The Principality was established on February 21, 1914. Albania had been under Ottoman rule from around 1478 until the Treaty of London in May, 1913 when the Great Powers recognised the independence of Albania. The Great Powers selected Prince William of Wied, a nephew of Queen Elisabeth of Romania to become the sovereign of the newly independent Albania. A formal offer was made by 18 Albanian delegates representing the 18 districts of Albania on February 21, 1914, an offer which he accepted. Outside of Albania William was styled prince, but in Albania he was referred to as Mbret (King) so as not to seem inferior to the King of Montenegro. The first government under the rule of the House of Wied was a kind of a "princes privy council" because of its members, who were representatives of the albanian nobility : Prince Turhan Pasha Permeti, former turkish ambassador at Saint Petersburg, Aziz Pasha Vrioni, Prince Bib Doda of Gjomarkaj-Mirdita, Prince Essad Pasha Toptani, Prince Georges Adamidi bey Frasheri (Frachery), Mihal Turtulli bey Koritza, etc.

Prince William arrived in Albania at his provisional capital of Durrës on March 7, 1914 along with the Royal family. The security of Albania was to be provided by a Gendarmerie commanded by Dutch officers. William left Albania on September 3, 1914 following a pan-Islamic revolt initiated by Essad Pasha and later taken over by Haji Kamil the military commander of the Islamic Emirate of Albania centered in Tirana. However he never renounced his claim to the throne.

World War I

World War I interrupted all government activities in Albania, while the country was split in a number of regional governments. Political chaos engulfed Albania after the outbreak of World War I. Surrounded by insurgents in Durrës, Prince Wilhelm departed the country in September 1914, just six months after arriving, and subsequently joined the German army and served on the Eastern Front. The Albanian people split along religious and tribal lines after the prince's departure. Muslims demanded a Muslim prince and looked to Turkey as the protector of the privileges they had enjoyed. Other Albanians became little more than agents of Italy and Serbia. Still others, including many beys and clan chiefs, recognized no superior authority. In late October 1914, Greece entered, the autonomous under the Protocol of Corfu, southern provinces of Korçë and Gjirokastër (Northern Epirus). Italy occupied Vlorë, and Serbia and Montenegro occupied parts of northern Albania until a Central Powers offensive scattered the Serbian army, which was evacuated by the French to Thessaloniki. Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces then occupied about two-thirds of the country. Under the secret Treaty of London signed in April 1915, Triple Entente powers promised Italy that it would gain Vlorë and nearby lands and a protectorate over Albania in exchange for entering the war against Austria-Hungary. Serbia and Montenegro were promised much of northern Albania, and Greece was promised much of the country's southern half. The treaty left a tiny Albanian state that would be represented by Italy in its relations with the other major powers. In September 1918, Entente forces broke through the Central Powers' lines north of Thessaloniki, and within days Austro-Hungarian forces began to withdraw from Albania. When the war ended on November 11, 1918, Italy's army had occupied most of Albania; Serbia held much of the country's northern mountains; Greece occupied a sliver of land within Albania's 1913 borders; and French forces occupied Korçë and Shkodër as well as other regions with sizable Albanian populations such as Kosovo, which was returned to Serbia.

Albania's re-emergence after World War I

Albania's political confusion continued in the wake of World War I. The country lacked a single recognized government, and Albanians feared, with justification, that Italy, Yugoslavia, and Greece would succeed in extinguishing Albania's independence and carve up the country. Italian forces controlled Albanian political activity in the areas they occupied. The Serbs, who largely dictated Yugoslavia's foreign policy after World War I, strove to take over northern Albania, and the Greeks sought to control southern Albania.

A delegation sent by a postwar Albanian National Assembly that met at Durrës in December 1918 defended Albanian interests at the Paris Peace Conference, but the conference denied Albania official representation. The National Assembly, anxious to keep Albania intact, expressed willingness to accept Italian protection and even an Italian prince as a ruler so long as it would mean Albania did not lose territory. Serbian troops conducted actions in Albanian-populated border areas, while Albanian guerrillas operated in both Serbia and Montenegro.

In January 1920, at the Paris Peace Conference, negotiators from France, Britain, and Greece agreed to divide Albania among Yugoslavia, Italy, and Greece as a diplomatic expedient aimed at finding a compromise solution to the territorial conflict between Italy and Yugoslavia. The deal was done behind the Albanians' backs and in the absence of a United States negotiator.

Members of a second Albanian National Assembly held at Lushnjë in January 1920 rejected the partition plan and warned that Albanians would take up arms to defend their country's independence and territorial integrity. The Lushnjë National Assembly appointed a four-man regency to rule the country. A bicameral parliament was also created, in which an elected lower chamber, the Chamber of Deputies (with one deputy for every 12,000 people in Albania and one for the Albanian community in the United States), appointed members of its own ranks to an upper chamber, the Senate. In February 1920, the government moved to Tirana, which became Albania's capital.

One month later, in March 1920, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson intervened to block the Paris agreement. The United States underscored its support for Albania's independence by recognizing an official Albanian representative to Washington, and in December the League of Nations recognized Albania's sovereignty by admitting it as a full member. The country's borders, however, remained unsettled.

Albania's new government campaigned to end Italy's occupation of the country and encouraged peasants to harass Italian forces. In September 1920, after a siege of Italian-occupied Vlorë by Albanian forces, Rome abandoned its claims on Albania under the Treaty of London and withdrew its forces from all of Albania except Sazan Island at the mouth of Vlorë Bay.

Mirdita Republic

Yugoslavia continued to pursue a predatory policy toward Albania, and after Albanian tribesmen clashed with Yugoslav forces occupying the northern part of the country, Yugoslav troops escalated their campaign in the area. Belgrade then backed a disgruntled Geg clan chief, Gjon Markagjoni, who led his Roman Catholic Mirditë tribesmen in a rebellion against the regency and parliament. Markagjoni proclaimed the founding of an independent "Republic of Mirdita".

Finally, in November 1921, Yugoslav troops invaded Albanian territory beyond the areas they were already occupying. The League of Nations dispatched a commission composed of representatives of Britain, France, Italy, and Japan that reaffirmed Albania's 1913 borders. Yugoslavia complained bitterly but had no choice but to withdraw its troops. The Republic of Mirdita disappeared.

Political situation

Interwar Albanian governments appeared and disappeared in rapid succession. Between July and December 1921 alone, the premiership changed hands five times.

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Congress of Lushnjë

The Congress of Lushnjë (Albanian: Kongresi i Lushnjës) was held in five sessions on January 27-January 31, 1920 in Lushnjë, Albania by Albanian nationalists and had as its goal the study of the Albanian situation and the measures to be adopted in order to save Albania from being partitioned among other countries after World War I. The Congress was held in the house of Kaso Fuga and it comprised delegates from all of Albania. Aqif Pashë Elbasani was elected as speaker of the Congress as he was held in high regard as a great patriot. It established the High Council (Këshilli i Lartë), the National Council (Këshillin Kombëtar), and moved the capital from Lushnjë to Tirana.

The High Council was made up of Luigj Bumçi, Aqif Pashë Elbasani, Abdi Toptani, and Dr. Mihal Turtulli who would perform the function of the leaders of the new Albanian state, whereas the National Council would function as the Parliament.

The New Government that was created was: Sulejman Delvina - Prime minister
Ahmet Zogu was elected Minister of Internal Affairs
Mehmet Konica - Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hoxhë Kadria - Minister of Justice
Ndoc Çoba - Minister of Finance, Sotir Peçi - Minister of Education
Ali Riza Kolonja - Minister of War
Eshref Frashëri - General Director of World Affairs
Idhomene Kosturi - General Director of the Post-Telegraph Agency.

Political parties

Albania's first political parties emerged only after World War I. Even more than in other parts of the Balkans, political parties were evanescent gatherings centered on prominent persons who created temporary alliances to achieve their personal aims. The major conservative party, the Progressive Party, attracted some northern clan chiefs and prominent Muslim landholders of southern Albania whose main platform was firm opposition to any agricultural reform program that would transfer their lands to the peasantry.

The country's biggest landowner, Shefqet Bej Verlaci, led the Progressive Party. The Popular Party's ranks included the reform-minded Orthodox bishop of Durrës, Fan Noli, who was imbued with Western ideas at his alma mater, Harvard University, and had even translated Shakespeare and Ibsen into Albanian. The Popular Party also included Ahmed Zogu, the twenty-four-year-old son of the chief of the Mati, a central Albanian Muslim tribe. The future King Zog drew his support from some northern clans and kept an armed gang in his service, but many Geg clan leaders refused to support either main party.

The Popular Party's head, Xhafer Ypi, formed a government in December 1921 with Noli as foreign minister and Zogu as internal affairs minister, but Noli resigned soon after Zogu resorted to repression in an attempt to disarm the lowland Albanians despite the fact that bearing arms was a traditional custom.

Zogu Government

When the government's enemies attacked Tirana in early 1922, Zogu stayed in the capital and, with the support of the British ambassador, repulsed the assault. He took over the premiership later in the year and turned his back on the Popular Party by announcing his engagement to the daughter of the Progressive Party leader, Shefqet Verlaci.

Zogu's protégés organized themselves into the Government Party. Noli and other Western-oriented leaders formed the Opposition Party of Democrats, which attracted all of Zogu's many personal enemies, ideological opponents, and people left unrewarded by his political machine. Ideologically, the Democrats included a broad sweep of people who advocated everything from conservative Islam to Noli's dreams of rapid modernization.

Opposition to Zogu was formidable. Orthodox peasants in Albania's southern lowlands loathed Zogu because he supported the Muslim landowners' efforts to block land reform; Shkodër's citizens felt shortchanged because their city did not become Albania's capital, and nationalists were dissatisfied because Zogu's government did not press Albania's claims to Kosovo or speak up more energetically for the rights of the ethnic Albanian minorities in present-day Yugoslavia and Greece.

Zogu's party handily won elections for a National Assembly in early 1924. Zogu soon stepped aside, however, handing over the premiership to Verlaci in the wake of a financial scandal and an assassination attempt by a young radical that left Zogu wounded. The opposition withdrew from the assembly after the leader of a radical youth organization, Avni Rustemi, was murdered in the street outside the parliament building.

Noli's Government

Noli's supporters blamed the murder on Zogu's Mati clansmen, who continued to practice blood vengeance. After the walkout, discontent mounted, and in June 1924 a peasant-backed insurgency had won control of Tirana. Noli became prime minister, and Zogu fled to Yugoslavia.

Fan Noli, an idealist, rejected demands for new elections on the grounds that Albania needed a "paternal" government. In a manifesto describing his government's program, Noli called for abolishing feudalism, resisting Italian domination, and establishing a Western-style constitutional government. Scaling back the bureaucracy, strengthening local government, assisting peasants, throwing Albania open to foreign investment, and improving the country's bleak transportation, public health, and education facilities filled out the Noli government's overly ambitious agenda. Noli encountered resistance to his program from people who had helped him oust Zogu, and he never attracted the foreign aid necessary to carry out his reform plans. Noli criticized the League of Nations for failing to settle the threat facing Albania on its land borders.

Under Fan Noli, the government set up a special tribunal that passed death sentences, in absentia, on Zogu, Verlaci, and others and confiscated their property. In Yugoslavia Zogu recruited a mercenary army, and Belgrade furnished the Albanian leader with weapons, about 1,000 Yugoslav army regulars, and Russian White Emigres to mount an invasion that the Serbs hoped would bring them disputed areas along the border. After Noli's regime decided to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, a bitter enemy of the Serbian ruling family, Belgrade began making wild allegations that the Albanian regime was about to embrace Bolshevism. On December 13, 1924, Zogu's Yugoslav-backed army crossed into Albanian territory. By Christmas Eve, Zogu had reclaimed the capital, and Noli and his government had fled to Italy. But his government lasted just 6 montsh, and Ahmet Zogu returned with another Coup d`Etat and regained the control, changing the political situation and abolishing principality.

Social conditions

Extraordinarily undeveloped, the Albania that emerged after World War I was home to something fewer than a million people divided into three major religious groups and two distinct classes: those people who owned land and claimed semifeudal privileges and those who did not. The landowners had always held the principal ruling posts in the country's central and southern regions, but many of them were steeped in the same conservatism that brought decay to the Ottoman Empire. The landowning elite expected that they would continue to enjoy precedence, but the country's peasants were beginning to dispute the landed aristocracy's control.

In northern Albania, the government directly controlled only Shkodër and its environs. The highland clans were suspicious of a constitutional government claiming to legislate in the interests of the country as a whole, and the Roman Catholic Church became the principal link between Tirana and the tribesmen despite the Muslim religious affiliation of most of the population. In many instances, administrative communications were addressed to priests for circulation among their parishioners.

Religion

This is the period, when Albanian religions got independence. The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople recognized the autocephaly of the Albanian Orthodox Church after a meeting of the country's Albanian Orthodox congregations in Berat in August 1922. The most energetic reformers in Albania came from the Orthodox population who wanted to see Albania move quickly away from its Turkish-ruled past, during which Christians made up the underclass. Albania's conservative Sunni Muslim community broke its last ties with Constantinople in 1923, formally declaring that there had been no caliph since Muhammad himself and that Muslim Albanians pledged primary allegiance to their native country. The Muslims also banned polygamy and allowed women to choose whether or not to wear a veil.

See also

References


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