The Albanian Che Guevara!
Çerçiz Topulli was an Albanian guerrilla war leader that fought all 3 of our enemies: Turks, Greeks, and Serbs. He was born in 1880 in Gjirokastra in a patriotic family of 14 kids. Him and his older brother Bajo fought hard for Albanian independence, but Bajo was more political whereas Çerçiz was more into war.
When Çerçiz was 24 years old he created a band of patriotic rebels whose goal was to try and create a nationalistic wave in southern Albania, to ultimately gain independence from Turks.
One of their first bigger acts was in 1907 where they did an assassination of a Greek bishop in Korça, as retaliation for the death of the Albanian patriot Spiro Kosturi who was murdered by the Greek government. After this, the Turks and Greeks raided and burned down Çerçizi’s house, also arresting a few of his brothers and torturing them to death. After this he exiled to Bulgaria and Romania where he stayed a year , writing Albanian books and letters and plotting a return back home.
When Çerçizi returned to Gjirokastër, he opened up Albanian schools in secrecy to try and promote the Albanian language.
Another big assassination Çerçiz did was the assassination of the Ottoman Commander in Gjirokastër, Bimbashi. Bimbashi was trying to punish those who were involved in Albanian schools, and tried to scare Albanians into “being Turkish”. He had over 1000 troops stationed and Çerçiz was still able to kill him. After, 150 of his troops chased down Çerçizi’s band and trapped them in the village of Mashkullore. Here, the fighting was intense and lasted into the night, where the band found a way to escape into the mountains.
Çerçiz is also known here for asking the Turkish army to let them go, as they were going to keep fighting and there was no reason to have any deaths on either side. “Let my guys go. We don’t give up because we are the sons of Skenderbeu, that fight until the last hour. An Albanian knows how to die according to our natyre, for the honor of our motherland”- he said. The Turks refused and they still were able to escape. You can watch the movie "Liri a Vdekje" to see more about this and listen to the famous song "Te rrapi ne Mashkullorë".
Even though he was one of the pioneers of anti-Ottoman warfare, he was not present at the Declaration of Independence in Vlorë. But he was invited shortly after by Ismail Qemali, where he was greeted as a hero and was the head of the Defense of National Interest in the newly formed government.
During WW1, Çerçiz fought in 3 different fronts: against the Greeks trying to annex south Albania, against the Turkish loyalists trying to reunite back with the Ottomans, and also against the Serbs who tried to annex the North. He ended up being executed together with Muço Qulli in Shtoj, a village near Shkodër, after he was arrested by Montenegrin forces. His execution was witnessed by the farmer Mahmut Golemi:
“On July 15, 1915, on Friday morning, a Ramadan morning, before the sun came out, I went to go pick up some hay from the field while it was cool. When I see from far 2 guys in the custody of about 15 soldiers, who when they saw me, they told me to leave, and I hid behind my cart.
When they got to a certain point, they stopped and the soldiers took position to execute the 2 guys. [Muço Qulli] began to scream in an alarming way, and the other guy [Çerçiz Topulli], tall and strong, yelled at his friend and said “Don’t be scared because this is the fate of patriots.” The soldiers shot, [Muço Qulli] died on the spot, whereas the other guy [Çerçiz Topulli] started cursing with a boice like a lion, and ran towards the soldiers with lighting fast speed, went in the middle of them and before they could reload to shoot again, tried to take one of their guns. They fought for about a minute, and when one of the soldiers found an open shot, shot him dead too. It turned out Çerçiz was supposed to be released a few hours later, but he was executed from the orders of Tozli, who was a Greek trader in Shkodër, to get revenge for the assassination of the Greek bishop in Korçë in 1907”.
Çerçiz is also known as the Albanian Che Guevara, for the slight resemblance they have to each other, and both being the face of guerrilla warfare to their people. Çerçiz was an inspiration to Adem Jashari as well for the reason that he was not fighting only with one enemy, but with all of Albanian’s enemies at the same time.
We highly appreciate the value he added to our history and thus decided to create a whole Çerçiz Topulli Collection which includes t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts and coffee mugs.