by Antonina Zhelyazkova
|The Balkans Revival in
the 19th century and the Albanian patriotic ideas... (3)
M. Frashëri's idea was that if Albanians stayed what they were, uncivilised and underdeveloped, if they did not develop into a nation, if they did not cultivate in themselves an aspiration to their own statehood, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire they would perish, and nowhere else is this idea advanced so clearly as in his periodical Kalendari Kombiar (The National Calendar) published in 1900.85
Sami Frashëri's message declared in his book Albania - What it was, what it is, and what will become of it, published in 1899, became the manifesto of the Albanian revival (rilindja). Frashëri drew the prospects for a free and independent republic of Albania, composed of fifteen sancaks (Shkodra, Ipek (Pec), Prizren, Prishtina, Skopje, Bitola, Debar, Elbasan, Tirana, Berat, Korça, Kostur, Yanina, Argyrocastro, Preveza). In the name of this idea Frashëri appealed to the Albanians to unite, to work, and to fight against anything that would prevent its implementation. In this way, beginning with a demand for autonomy and struggle for their own alphabet and education, the Albanian national liberation movement arrived at the claim for independence, within broadest ethnic boundaries at that.86
As a matter of fact, the personal and family background of Sami Frashëri himself was a salient embodiment of the drama of the Albanian identity. He was brought up in a Muslim environment, was a member of a rich (bey's) Muslim family, had a place in the Ottoman literature as a talented author under the name of Shemsüddin Sami and contributed much to the Turkish language reforms. He and his family went through a painful metamorphosis from disappointment and giving up their loyalty to the Ottoman Empire and the sultan to full devotion to the idea of developing the Albanian national identity.87
In the first decade of the 20th century there was a sequence of spontaneous and unorganised revolts and uprisings in reaction to the attempts by the Ottoman administration to increase the tithe, to levy new taxes on the population - a resistance which involved Albanians from different regions (Gjirokastër, Lushnja, Kruja, Elbasan, etc.) and different faiths, but was of a social nature alone and lacked a well-rationalised national cause.
A serious impetus to some degree of ideological rationalisation and maturity of the national idea was given by the involvement of the Albanians in the Young Turks' revolution of 1908. Very soon, however, it became clear that the Young Turks' revolution contributed in no way to the national causes of the non-Turk peoples, on the contrary, it implied "Ottomanisation" of the empire.88 With the consolidation of their power, the Young Turks developed their pan-Ottoman programme: control over the religious communities and the national schools of the non-Turkish peoples, settlement of Muslims from Bosnia and Herzegovina in Macedonia and the Edirne area of Thrace by, driving away non-Turkish population from the estates owned by the Ottoman pashas and beys, confiscation of the arms of the national organisations, etc.
In response, the Albanians formed their constitutional clubs (after the proclamation of the constitution by Abdul Hamid II in July 1908), which took the lead in the movements for opening Albanian schools, in defence of the Albanian alphabet from encroachments by the Young Turks' regime. A cardinal question discussed at the clubs was: how to achieve Albania's autonomy. Two trends took shape within the autonomist tendency: the Albanian feudal lords committed to the Ottoman Empire sought to impose a line of compromise and conciliation with the Porte, while the democratic trend called for struggle for autonomy as a way to achieve full independence. Actually, in that period, around 1910-1911, in the context of a sequence of rebellions, it became unmistakably clear that Albanians had matured for the foundation of their own state.89
Parallel with armed insurrectionary action, Albanians defended their cause by parliamentary means. In December 1911, a group of Albanian members of the Ottoman parliament, guided by Ismail Qemal, started a parliamentary debate in order to make Constantinople grant the Albanians national rights in the cultural and administrative spheres. The aim of these claims raised by the deputies was, through acquiring cultural and administrative autonomy, to achieve a clear delineation of the ethnic and political boundaries of Albania. At a parliamentary session in January 1912, taking the floor during the parliamentary debate, Albanian deputy Hasan Prishtina warned that the reactionary policy of the Young Turks' government was going to lead to a revolution in Albania. In the spring of the same year an uprising stirred up the whole of Kosovo, and in June - southern, central and northern Albania. Albanian officers and soldiers began deserting all branches of the of the Ottoman military service to join the insurgents. Towards the middle of June all of Albania was already at war and the Turkish government administration had actually ceased functioning.
85 Ibid., p. 54.
89 Ibid., p. 99.
George Kastrioti - Skanderbeg's resistance to the Ottomans. Heroicity as part of the Albanian individuality.
The two world wars, the occupation periods and the frustration of the Albanian national strivings and anticipations for independence.