Studies
ALBANIAN IDENTITIES
by Antonina Zhelyazkova
14
Ottoman colonisation and establishment of the new administration...(3)

At first the aggressive aspirations of the Ottomans were directed towards the large ports along the Adriatic coast which were actively engaged in the Mediterranean trade. One of the first to fall under Ottoman power, as early as 1417, was the city of Avlona situated on the southeastern shore. It was a busy trade centre, exporter of cereals, wood material, salt and other products from the interior to Dubrovnik and the Italian republics. A new administration was immediately established in Avlona and its officials hurried to impose their control over the trade activity of the citizens of Dubrovnik and the local merchants - Christians and Jews. Being interested in the considerable revenues obtained from trading, the Ottomans took measures that business would not stop with their settlement in this town. Even the new governor of Avlona himself contributed to the further intensive growth of trade following the 1420s, 1430s, and 1440s. The result of this stimulative policy was a special ferman issued in 1430 by Sultan Murad II under which the merchants from Dubrovnik were granted freedom to trade "all over my kingdom's territory and do business wherever they want to across the western and the eastern parts, both by land and by sea, in the Serbian and Albanian lands, in Bosnia, and in all lands and towns… and to pay custom duty under the law and let nobody stand in their way". 41

Generally speaking, the seaside centres of trade were on the decline after their occupation by the Ottomans. On the one hand, because during the conquest the population was fleeing from the coastal areas and this, in turn, disrupted production and commercial activity. On the other hand, the introduction of the military-feudal system in the coastal areas, like anywhere else in the vast Ottoman Empire, was an impeding factor for commodity production and the growth of trade because of its restrictive character, although it did not stop them completely and deliberately.

According to the sources, however, Avlona reached its zenith as a commercial centre in the 15th century, when it had already been conquered by the Ottomans, unlike Durrës, for example, whose activity by that period began to decline. Yet, an important factor here was probably the more flexible and independent policy of the local administration, which derived benefits from Avlona's prosperity. An essential fact is that despite the town's foreign government, commercial activity was left in the hands of the local and the Dubrovnik business circles. Avlona preserved its Christian character during that period.

If we go back to the records of the Arvanid register of 1432 containing data about the interior of Southern Albania, we would find out that the size of colonisation was insignificant. Even if there had been any initial designs to transfer colonists to the Albanian lands, the Ottoman sultans failed to implement them - because of shortage of men, because of the complicated political situation and the inaccessible terrain. There is some evidence of the movement of only a certain number of mustahf?zes (soldiers in the fort garrisons) from Asia Minor. In exchange for their service they were given timars and so they joined the class of the Ottoman feud holders in the sancak of Arvanid. Most of the mustahf?zes of the fortress of Skrapar led by dizdar Karaca were migrants from the Saruhan area of Asia Minor. They were remunerated with not very large feuds comprising lands inhabited by an entirely Christian population. Beside the garrison soldiers, migrants from Anatolia, there were also Albanians serving at the fortification: Gjin, son of Todor, Nikor, Peter, Niko, etc. 

In the 15th century, although Albania was under Ottoman rule, the population in Argyrocastro (Gjirokastër) and the neighbouring villages, in the vilâyet of Kartalos, etc., remained Christian Orthodox and the colonisation was only minimal. The overall ethnic and religious configuration, assembled on the basis of sources, indicates that Southern Albania preserved its pre-Ottoman characteristics, including distinctions in the field of toponymy and onomastics. 42





 
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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