by Antonina Zhelyazkova
Kastrioti-Skanderbeg's resistance to the Ottomans. Heroicity as part of
the Albanian individuality...(2)
Following the bloody battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, in which some of the Albanian princes also took part, the feudal particularisation of the country even magnified. Taking advantage of George II Balsha's weakness, many of his feudal vassals - the Dukagjin, Zachary, Yonima, etc., seceded from the North-Albanian principality and established their independent dominions.
In 1392 Carlo Thopia's successor, George, signed a document the clauses of which provided that after his death Durrës would be inherited by Venice. George II Balsha, too, could not sustain the pressure by the Venetian Republic. He also accepted vassalage, conceding to the Venetians a large portion of his principality, the town of Shkodra included. Very soon, however, he became disappointed by the Republic's endeavours to restrict his revenues, as well as by the Hungarians' defeat at Nikopol, and turned for support again to the Ottoman governor of Skopje Yi?it Pa?a. One after another the feudal lords in Central and Southern Albania came to declare their independence, splitting and weakening further the country's power of resistance.
The strong economic pressure exerted by Venice on the vassal provinces, accompanied by religious persecution of non-Catholics, compelled the Albanian feudal lords to make war with the Venetians in defence of their own independence. This demoralised them even more. Many of them preferred to negotiate with the Ottoman conquerors, in order to keep their positions and autonomy. All the more that in the time of Sultan Murad I (1360-1389) the Ottomans were in no hurry to introduce their administration in these territories recognising instead the vassalage of the Albanian feudal lords.
The severe battle at Kosovo Pole in 1389, the defeat of the Ottomans by Tamerlane in the battle of Ankara in 1402, and the internecine dynastic strife checked for some time the appetite of the Ottoman Empire for a rapid expansion westwards. Simultaneously, the Ottomans persisted in their policy of making use of vassalage for draining the resistance of the Christian feudal lords and princes. The troops of the vassals were used for expansion eastwards against the non-Ottoman beyliks in Asia. In a letter of 1391, Emperor Manuel Palaiologos mentions "Tribals, Moesians and Illyrians" (Serbs, Bulgarians, and Albanians), who fought fiercely against the Anatolian beyliks, "believing they were punishing those who had made them suffer in the past." In other words, in defying the Islamic enemy, the Christian vassals sought a kind of compensation for their own defeats by the Ottomans in the Balkans.20
The dismembered Albanian territories and the unceasing pressure by Venice provided favourable conditions for the Ottoman expansion. In the period of 1415-1419, Sultan Mehmed I (1402-1421) managed to oust the local princes from Southern Albania, to deprive them of their possessions and establish the Ottoman military-feudal order in their place. He recognised only the vassalage of the large clans in Central and Northern Albania.
The heroic resistance of the Albanians led by George Kastrioti-Skanderbeg,
which lasted even after his death, until almost the end of the 15th century,
is of key importance in understanding the mentality and folk psychology
of the Albanians. It portrays the Albanians, in the context of the Balkan
peoples' history, as an ethnos that confronted most valiantly and steadfastly
the Ottoman conquerors. In terms of the issue of the Albanian identity,
the uprising of Skanderbeg and the enduring resistance add further touches
to the collective portrait of the Albanians - they stand out as a people
characterised by a freedom-loving mind and rebellious spirit, coupled with
unyielding belligerence. The facts from this period, and from later times,
provide convincing evidence of the anthropogeographical characteristics
which Cvijic, and Hösch in the present regard as a typical zone
of patriarchal order in the highland regions of the Western Balkans, where
the dominant social human type is one having a markedly manly-heroic ideal
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.