History of the Albanians, until 1912

Origins : The Albanian language derives from Illyrian and Pelasgian origins.

Religious and Ethnic Divisions : The Albanians were converted to christianity in the 4th to 9th centuries; with the schism of 1054 and Norman, later Venetian incursions came the split of the Albanian christian community into Orthodox and Catholic christians. Ottomans took control of Albania in 1430 and again in 1478/1501. During Ottoman rule (1478-1912) a significant number of Albanians converted to Islam.
The Albanian language knows two dialects, Tosk, spoken to the south of the Shkumbin River, and Gheg, spoken to the north of the latter.

Albanians in the Ottoman Empire : The Balkan peninsula, under Ottoman rule, was an ethnic caleidoscope. Albanians inhabited modern Albania, the Kosovo, Epirus (northwestern Greece); prior to Greek independence, Albanians formed the majority of the population of Athens and environs. An Albanian minority lived in Macedonia and Thessaly. On the other hand, non-Albanian ethnic minorities lived within the borders of modern Albania, most notably Greeks, Aromunians (Vlachs) and Gypsies.
This would prove a problem at the time of the emergence of Albanian nationalism; where the borders of a future Albanian nation state were to be drawn, was rather unclear. The centers of Albanian nationalism lay rather outside the borders of modern Albania : the Prizren League of 1878 met in Prizren, Kosovo. The Albanian Alphabet Congress of 1908 was held in Monastir (modern Bitola, Macedonia).
The vast majority of Albanians, until into the late 19th century, was illiterate; the country's cities small, the country's economy predominantly agricultural.

Albanian Cultural Awakening : Albanian intellectual exiles such as Naum Veqilharxhi (1797-1846) stressed the necessity of an education in the Albanian language - hitherto the only education available for Albanian Muslims was offered by Koran schools, in Arabic. Albanians, depending on their religion, wrote in Arabic script (the Muslims), in Greek alphabet (the Orthodox christians) or in Latin alphabet (the Catholics). Veqilharxhi stressed the necessity of a single alphabet for all religious communities among the Albanians, which he developed in 1844. In 1850 the Albanian Cultural Association was founded in Bucharest (Wallachia). In 1877 an Albanian Committee was formed in Istanbul. In 1908/1911 the Albanian alphabet, based on the Latin alphabet, was adopted.

Article Albanian Alphabet, from Wikipedia
Article League of Prizren, from Wikipedia
REFERENCE Miranda Vickers, The Albanians - a Modern History, (1995) London : Tauris 2001, 282 pp., KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.65 V637a
Article : Albania, pp.612-618 in : Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Macropaedia, vol.14, KMLA Lib.Sign. R 032 B862n v.14

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on October 6th 2006

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