Albanians: From leaders to deportees!

Did you know that practically until the withdrawal of the Venetians from the Greek lands in 1718, the Albanians were masters of the situation there, having established their real rule? How this happened we will probably tell in another story, but today we want to share a big lesson history taught our ancestors.

Our mission is to promote our heritage and educate ourselves and other generations to come. That’s why we think that is very important for you to read this history and to keep it in your memory for as long as you live. Perhaps tell it to your kids, spouse, or friends, too. 

Albanian fighters in the XIX century

 

In 1460 the Albanians that were settled in Greece asked the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman Sultan’s official government) to make them administrators of the whole of Greece, vowing to pay a regular tribute for this. Practically until the withdrawal of the Venetians from the Greek lands in 1718, the Albanians were masters of the situation there, having established their real rule. How this happened we will probably tell in another story, but the Albanians showed ingenuity in rule and skill in tax collection.


The Porte did not approve this request, recalling the case of Skanderbeg in the north, along with the fear that Albanians and Venetians (early opponents of the Ottoman Empire) were cooperating together. However, this was not the reason why the Albanians in Greece, from practically ruling, passed to the status of persecuted and expelled, from which follows the Cham history.

It was precisely religion, the new element that began to shift ethnic ties and divide and weaken Albanians.

"It used to be completely different. In the Turkish army often a Muslim officer commanded the cavalry composed of Christians or a Muslim-Christian cavalry unit, as orthodox Albanians and Muslims often fought side by side.

Albanian soldier of XIX century


During the siege of Kandia, Neima says in his story, when Venetian soldiers of Albanian blood matched Albanian soldiers serving in the Turkish army, both sides shouting "peace, peace" sat on the edge of the trench and chatted amicably. ”

But from this point on, under the ominous influence of the Orthodox clergy, this situation was fraught with gradual change. But what should not be underestimated is the role of Russian propaganda of Peter the Great, which according to him claimed to have been defender of all Orthodoxy. Peter himself, in addition to the Russian Tsar, called himself Emperor of the Greeks. Meanwhile the other side, (Catholic) Venice, the Order of Malta and the Holy Empire, which made religious propaganda for the sake of their own profits, further intensified this propaganda and the result was this:

The Orthodox Albanian did not see the Muslim Albanian as a friend and compatriot, but as an enemy, while he began to see the Greek Orthodox more and more as a friend and brother.

In 1765 the Russian Tsar sent an agent in More (nowadays Peloponnese) who ignited the anger of the Orthodox Greeks to take over the capital. Then, when the Orthodox Greeks came under heavy fire and began to kill anyone who was not Orthodox (Greek or Albanian) Russia began to send its fleet to their aid. Meanwhile the Sublime Porte, due to long distances, couldn’t get the right news at the right time and take the necessary steps; plus they were convinced that Russia had no fleet at all (some time ago the Russian fleet had suffered a great loss during a storm).

Thus, after some ghastly losses, the Sublime Porte made a deal with Russia that was not only to its detriment but especially to the Albanians living and ruling in Greece. The Kainarce peace treaty between Russia and Turkey, which is known to the Russians, was directed to protect all the Orthodox people of the Ottoman Empire. Thus Russia was left free to operate within the Ottoman Empire.

The first demand of the Russians was the removal from Greece of all those elements that opposed the Orthodox Greeks (the Albanians). Muslim Albanians had less priority over the Greek Orthodox under this treaty. The Albanian Orthodox (who were practically the real owners of the Greek territories and who constituted 1/3 of the population in Greece and More) on the other hand, opposed the Greek Orthodox because the latter certainly wanted to replace the Albanians in the administration and take all the privileges coming from those positions. And so it happened; The Albanians were uncovered from all sides and no greater power came into their defense. The opposite happened to the Greek Orthodox and the Catholics (Venice continued to come to the aid of the latter).

A greek soldier pointing the gun agains a Cham woman and her child


Many Albanians were killed. Many fled from Morea to Sicily and Calabria where many Albanians had gone since Skanderbeg's death. Those who fought were captured and forced to sign statements saying:
- they would live forever in Albania
- they will never come to the aid of compatriots (even Orthodox) who are in Greek territory and likewise should not seek help from any compatriot living in Greece

The Greeks on their part promised that they would pay very large fines if in the future they would not defend themselves with weapons against the Albanians.

Since before that time, the Greek people have continued to oppress the Albanian people and the Albanians have always seen themselves despised and subjugated by the Greeks. Thus, even the belief that the Albanians could have made for the Ottomans up to that period was broken by the treacherous behavior, even in the continuation of the Porte.

This breach of trust made the Albanians realize that they were now alone in defending their destiny and that is where the formation of a genuine national idea began. Those who had been sanjak bey in Albania created some type of small principalities. The Ottoman Empire soon found itself amid a host of problems that would soon lead to its disintegration. The first to rise was Kara Mahmud Pasha Bushati.
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Reference: This article was written after reading the two volumes of the book "Ndihmese per historine e sundimit turk ne Shqiperi" from Eqrem Bej Vlora- the cousin of Ismail Bej Vlora (Ismail Qemali) who was the founding father of the modern Albanian state. 

May 03, 2021 — Alban Selami