by Antonina Zhelyazkova
Ottoman colonisation and establishment of the new administration...(6)

In the first half of the 16th century the Albanian lands still maintained their Christian character - Orthodox and Catholic. The Muslim population increased insignificantly and that mainly through the Islamisation of the indigenous population. In some of the Albanian towns or districts the Muslims were reinforced by Yürüks sent in there to serve as labourers, but this was actually a nomadic, temporarily resident population. Thus, for example, Yürüks were being sent to the ports around Delvina (Southern Albania), where they were employed to repair the sailing boats and load the merchandise on board. In 1547 the Yürüks from Ovce Polje worked in the mines at Dukagjin, Kamenovo, etc.47  According to data published by Ö. Barkan, concerning the period of 1520-1535, the Christian population in the sancak of Elbasan ran up to 94.5 per cent. In the sancak of Shkodra, during the same period the Christians accounted for 95.5 per cent of the total population. In the sancak of Dukagjin, which embraced parts of Northern Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo and Metohija, there were no followers of Islam registered at all.48

From 1593 to 1606 a war was waged by the Holy League against the Ottoman Empire. In 1594 the Pope in Rome insisted that the highland Albanian Catholics should rise up in arms. In the month of June in the Mat monastery an assembly of the leaders of a number of provinces and towns in Albania were called together to work out a plan for an armed uprising. Relying on support from the Pope and from Spain, some ten thousand people, armed with bows and swords, attacked the Turkish troops in Albania. Once again the Albanians did not receive the expected help, failed to withstand the well-armed Ottoman detachments, and in 1596 their uprising was crushed.49  Naturally, this led to repression on the part of the Ottomans and activated the spread of Islam among the local population.

From the late 16th and the early 17th century the military feudal system could no longer provide the conditions the Ottoman Empire needed to carry through its plans for expansion and withstand the ever strengthening European states. On the other hand, the interests of the big feudal lords in the Empire were increasingly directed to the unconditional forms of private land ownership and, naturally, they tried to find any ways to counteract the traditional centralised monopoly over the land. This all led to the decay of the military feudal system and to substantial changes in the agrarian regime of the Ottoman state. When in some places the spahi feuds began to be transformed into other types of landed property, the timar records were no longer kept so strictly. Smaller became the number, as well as the importance of the inventories. The few and incomplete defters of that period did not include most of the productive population of the Empire and are therefore less reliable as a source of information on the ethnic and religious changes in the Albanian lands.

In fact, during the 17th and 18th centuries there was no longer colonisation in the concrete sense of this term. The migration of Ottomans from Anatolia had long ceased, or came down to economic migration of separate families. In the 17th century, mostly as a result of the spread of Islam, the Muslim population in Albania constituted already 30 per cent of the total native population.

In the period of the conquest the central Ottoman administration applied the customary forms of colonisation - establishment of garrisons, settlement of representatives of the military and administrative power, and of religious functionaries. . It failed, however, to follow a purposeful colonisation policy with respect to Albania. The negligible size of colonisation in the Albanian territories allowed the Albanians to avoid any measure of assimilation or Turkisation and to preserve the pre-Ottoman aspect of their lands until as late as the 17th century. In the subsequent centuries the political aspirations of the Ottoman power, along with the native peculiarities of folk psychology, mentality and complex identity, determined a rather dynamic process of Islamisation.

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.

Contact us
55, Antim I St.,  Sofia 1303  Bulgaria
tel. +359 2 32 31 12; +359 2 32 40 44; fax  +359 2 32 00 15