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Albania - 1830

In 1829, the year when the freedom of Greece was recognised, Mustafa Bushatli, Pasha of Skodra, the chief ruler in North Albania, then thought, as other people were obtaining recognition of freedom, it was a good opportunity for him, too, to strike. Albanian power at this moment was very great. Mehemet Ali, an Albanian, had made himself master of Egypt, and threatened daily to yet further curtail the Sultan's power. It is said that he not only encouraged Bushatli to rise, but supplied him with funds. After the Greek War of Independence four powerful chiefs - Mustafa Pasha Bushati, the last hereditary Pasha of Scutari, Veli Bey of Janina, Silehdar Poda, and Arslan Bey - agreed to forget their private differences and to make common cause against the Turks.

Bushatli waited till Russia had commenced the attack. When the Russian troops had reached Adrianople, and were ready to march on Constantinople, he hurried up with a large army and captured Nish. The Sultan was in a parlous position ; he was saved from destruction by the intervention of France and England. Russia had to make terms and withdraw, and Bushatli withdrew as well-a fact that has been much deplored by his compatriots-but a fatal blow had been dealt at the Sultan's throne.

Reshid Pasha, the Grand Vizier, determined to crush this movement. Had the Albanians at this period produced a second Skenderbeg, their independence would have been assured. Both the North and the South rose in revolt, but their want of unity brought disaster. They did not rise together, and Reshid Pasha, with a large army, gained a victory over the South before the North was ready.

Reshid Pasha commenced by an act of which one can only say that it was worthy of Ali Pasha himself. Reshid Pasha offered to make terms, and invited 1,000 Muslim Albanian heads of the noble Tosk families to meet him in August 1830. He proclaimed a general amnesty and invited all the Albanian Beys to a peaceful conference and a grand banquet to be held at Bitola (then called Monastir, in Macedonia). About five hundred appeared, headed by Veli and Arslan, and were received with every attention. When they repaired in gala costumes to the parade ground, where the banquet was to be held, they were suddenly surrounded by Ottoman troops and killed to a man. Though Arslan succeeded in breaking through the Turkish lines, he was pursued and slain a few miles outside the town.

After this massacre it only remained to crush Silehdar in the South and Mustafa Pasha in the North. The former, who had made himself master of Janina, was easily disposed of, and all Epirus was brought into subjection. The South was now hopelessly crippled; Turkish Governors were appointed in the chief towns, and the South lost all its independence.

The Northern revolt was nearer success. Albanian troops occupied Sofia and the heights round Monastir, but Mustafa Bushatli proved an incompetent leader. He fled back to Skodra, was pursued thither by the Turks; a four months' siege ensued, Skodra fell, and Bushatli was only saved from the fate of Ali Pasha by the intervention of Austria, who was already beginning to spread nets for the final capture of Albania. Mustafa Pasha was conquered only thanks to the inveterate hostility of the Christians to the Albanians. Intertribal quarrels prevented the North from coming to his assistance en masse, he was taken prisoner. After being severely defeated in Perlepe, he was besieged in Scutari and compelled to surrender. After Mustafa Pasha surrendered, he spent the rest of his life as an official in Constantinople.

After this the Porte abolished the hereditary Pashalik and appointed Turkish Pashas to the office. Turkish governors since ruled nominally in Skodra. It is true that they may have been shot, besieged, hunted away, and have had no power at all over the surrounding mountain tribes ; but in spite of the hatred which Albania bears any interference with her liberty, there is still a Turkish Vali at Skodra. Events so fell out that the Albanians thought fit to play again on the Turkish side.

After crushing the Bushatis and Ali Pasha, the Sublime Porte introduced a series of reforms, known as the tanzimat, which were aimed at strengthening the empire by reining in fractious pashas. The government organized a recruitment program for the military and opened Turkish-language schools to propagate Islam and instill loyalty to the empire. The timars officially became large individual landholdings, especially in the lowlands. In 1835 the Sublime Porte divided the Albanian-populated lands into the vilayets of Janina and Rumelia and dispatched officials from Constantinople to administer them. After 1865 the central authorities redivided the Albanian lands between the vilayets of Shkodr, Janina, Bitola, and Kosovo. The reforms angered the highland Albanian chieftains, who found their privileges reduced with no apparent compensation, and the authorities eventually abandoned efforts to control them. Ottoman troops crushed local rebellions in the lowlands, however, and conditions there remained bleak.

After the fall of Ali Pasha and the decay of the independent governorship of Scutari, the Porte undertook another campaign in Albania in order to wipe off all traces of their existence. The result was that the domination of the Sultan got a stronger hold on the country, especially as the two Pashas had previously suppressed all the petty rulers on whose jealousy and rivalry the Porte relied for the maintenance of the sovereign rights in Albania.

A period of comparative calmness ensued, but new insurrectionary outbreaks took place again in 1835 and 1847 respectively in Northern and Southern Albania, without, however, bringing about any appreciable changes in the conditions of the country. Large numbers of Tosks emigrated to join sizable Albanian migr communities in Romania, Egypt, Bulgaria, Constantinople, southern Italy, and later the United States. As a result of contacts maintained between the Tosks and their relatives living or returning from abroad, foreign ideas began to seep into Albania.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:26:48 ZULU