Çerçiz Topulli , the legendary Albanian guerrilla war leader, stands as a symbol of unwavering dedication to the nation's independence. Born in 1880 into a patriotic family of 14 children in Gjirokastra, his life's mission was deeply intertwined with the struggle for Albanian sovereignty.
Early Life and Passion for Independence:
From a young age, Çerçiz
, together with his older brother Bajo, actively championed the cause of Albanian independence. While Bajo was more politically inclined, Çerçiz's passion lay in the art of war.
The Birth of a Movement:
At just 24 years old, Çerçiz assembled a band of dedicated patriots with a singular goal: to spark a nationalistic fervor in southern Albania
and secure freedom from the Ottoman Empire.
Bold Actions and Retribution:
One of their earliest and most audacious acts was the assassination of a Greek bishop in Korça in 1907. This act of retribution was in response to the murder of the Albanian patriot Spiro Kosturi by the Greek government. The repercussions were severe, with Turkish and Greek forces raiding and burning Çerçiz
's home, leading to the arrest and torture of some of his brothers.
Exile and Return:
Çerçiz was forced into exile, seeking refuge in Bulgaria and Romania for a year. During this time, he authored Albanian books and letters while meticulously planning his return to Albania.
Upon his return to Gjirokastër, Çerçiz clandestinely established Albanian schools, silently promoting the use of the Albanian language.
Defiance Against the Ottoman Commander:
One of Çerçiz's most daring feats was the assassination of the Ottoman Commander in Gjirokastër, Bimbashi. Bimbashi had sought to quell the Albanian spirit by suppressing Albanian schools, but Çerçiz and his band managed to eliminate him. This daring act ignited a fierce battle in the village of Mashkullore, where Çerçiz and his comrades narrowly escaped into the mountains. You can watch the movie "Liri a Vdekje" to see more about this and listen to the famous song "Te rrapi ne Mashkullorë".
An Appeal for Peace:
Remarkably, Çerçiz appealed to the Turkish army to spare further bloodshed, emphasizing their unwavering commitment to their homeland's honor. Despite his plea, the Turks refused, but Çerçiz and his band managed to escape.
National Hero and Government Role:
Although not present at the Declaration of Independence in Vlorë, Çerçiz was later invited by Ismail Qemali and hailed as a hero. He assumed the position of the Head of the Defense of National Interest in the newly formed government.
WW1 and Ultimate Sacrifice:
During World War I, Çerçiz fought on three fronts, defending Albania from Greek annexation, Turkish loyalists, and Serbian forces. Tragically, he met his end in Shtoj, near Shkodër, executed alongside Muço Qulli 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 voice like a lion, and ran towards the soldiers with lighting 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”.
The Legend Lives On:
Çerçiz's legacy continues to inspire, and he is often compared to the iconic Che Guevara, not just for their physical resemblance but also for their shared commitment to guerrilla warfare even though their ideologies where quite different. He serves as a symbol of resilience, fighting against all odds, and an inspiration to future Albanian heroes like Adem Jashari for the reason that he was not fighting only with one enemy, but with all of Albanian’s enemies at the same time
Honoring Çerçiz Topulli:
In tribute to Çerçiz Topulli
's immense contribution to Albanian history, we've created the Çerçiz Topulli Collection
, featuring t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, and coffee mugs. Join us in celebrating the indomitable spirit of this Albanian hero.