Studies
ALBANIAN IDENTITIES
by Antonina Zhelyazkova
11
George Kastrioti-Skanderbeg's resistance to the Ottomans. Heroicity as part of the Albanian individuality...(5)

The years until 1468, when Skanderbeg died, were laden with tension, abounding in delegations and negotiations abroad, and filled with incessant battles. In 1463, misled by the Papacy, Venice and the other states in Italy and Central Europe as to their intentions to organise a crusade against the Ottoman Empire, especially as the campaign was officially proclaimed by Pope Pius II, Skanderbeg broke the peace treaty with Mehmed II. The promised crusade did not take place and the Albanian lands were subjected to a systematic devastation. 

Skanderbeg's death on 7 January 1468 made the Albanians abandon all hopes. Many of the feudal lords moved to Italy, vast numbers of peasants (tens of thousands) also emigrated to Italy, forming large colonies in Sicily and Southern Italy, which have persisted down to the present day.  Major strongholds like Kruja, Shkodra and some others maintained their resistance for a long time after. In 1467 a huge Ottoman army besieged Kruja, but the garrison stood up for two years. As late as June 1478 the exhausted defenders yielded the fortress.  The Ottomans lost so many lives, material resources and efforts that even in the 19th century the Christian Albanians were not allowed to be overtaken by and spend the night in the fortress for fear that it might fall in their hands again.29 

Not many are the leaders of the liberation struggle who have enjoyed so wide recognition of their deeds in the course of five centuries as Skanderbeg has. The legend says that, on hearing of Scanderbeg's death, Sultan Mehmed II exclaimed: "At last Europe and Asia belong to me! Poor Christendom. It has lost both its sword and shield!"30 

A bibliography published in 1881, contains 185 historical, philosophical and fiction works on Skanderbeg. The new bibliography issued in Tirana on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of George Kastrioti's death comprises over a thousand titles in twenty-one languages, among which writings in Esperanto.31  There appeared in various periods scholarly literature and ideological-aesthetical schools, which argued about approaches and views in the study of the Skanderbeg phenomenon. Although in different historical times and in terms of entirely different outlooks and cultures, both Idris Bitlisi in the early 16th century and F. Voltaire in his treatise Essai sur les Moeurs et l' Esprit des Nations of 1756, analyse in a resembling way the astonishing quarter-of-a-century-long resistance of the Albanians. Idris Bitlisi: "It is perhaps because the greater part of the Albanians live in mountainous areas that they have the tough and austere character which does not let them yield to anybody, whatever the circumstances" and Voltaire who argues that the factors underlying Skanderbeg's victories are two - the first, that Albanians are a people of warriors and, the second, that Albania is a highland country.32 

In the philosophical and historical works from the 18th and 19th centuries, Skanderbeg was elevated to the rank of a representative of enlightened absolutism. He was rather a king-philosopher, who rose above the classes and was more of a teacher than a traditional ruler. If we are to trust the texts published by Stefan Zanovi? in 1779, under the title of The Heritage of Skanderbeg, we are to find in them, among other things, the philosophy of that religious reservation, even indifference as to the fundamental significance and authority of religious faith which are so typical of the Albanians. Skanderbeg was believed to be the author of an extensive instruction addressed to his son Ivan Kastrioti, in which the subject of religion and clergy was given considerable place: "If the Pope tries to increase the number of priests and monks or if he urges you to take the field in defence of the Holy cause, may sooner a thunder fall from the skies on you and your brood, than you agree to itů33








 
Historical background. Ethnogenesis
The Albanian identity and the geographical environment.
George Kastrioti - Skanderbeg's resistance to the Ottomans. Heroicity as part of the Albanian individuality.
Ottoman colonisation and establishment of the new administration.
The Islamisation of the Albanians and its impact on the Albanian religious identity.
The Balkans Revival in the 19th century and the Albanian patriotic ideas
The two world wars, the occupation periods and the frustration of the Albanian national strivings and anticipations for independence.
The survival of the Albanian identities under Enver Hoxha. The role of the isolationist policy of the regime in Tirana.

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