Essad Pasha Toptani

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For other Esad Pasha, see Esad Pasha.
Essad Pasha Toptani
Essad Pasha Toptani.jpg
3rd Prime Minister of Albania
In office
5 October 1914 – 23 February 1916
Preceded by Turhan Pashë Përmeti
Succeeded by Turhan Pashë Përmeti
Personal details
Born c. 1863
Tirana, Ottoman Empire
Died 13 June 1920
Paris, France
Religion Sufi Islam
Military service
Allegiance  Ottoman Empire
Service/branch  Ottoman Army

Essad Pasha Toptani or Esad Pasha Toptani (Albanian: Esad Pashë Toptani; c. 1863 – 13 June 1920), primarily known as Essad Pasha, was Ottoman army officer, Albanian deputy in the Ottoman parliament, and politician in the early 20th century in Albania. He was cooperating with the Balkan League after the Balkan Wars[1] and established a state in central Albania, based in Durrës, called the Republic of Central Albania.[2]


Early life[edit]

Essad Pasha surrendering Shkodra to Montenegrins

Essad Pasha was born in 1863 in Tirana, Ottoman Empire (today Republic of Albania) the son of Ali bey Toptani and Vasfije Alizoti.[3] He belonged to prominent landowning family Toptani which founded contemporary Tirana.[4] In 1908, having served as gendarmerie commander in Janina, he joined the Young Turks and became a member of the Turkish parliament as the deputy of Durrës.[3]

First Balkan War[edit]

During the Albanian Revolt of 1912 Essad Pasha Toptani obliged himself to organize the uprising in Central Albania and Mirdita.[5] On January 30, 1913, Hasan Riza Pasha, commander of Shkodër, was ambushed and killed by most probably a group of Albanian Catholic agents paid by Montenegro,.[6] Riza Pasha wanted to keep up the defense of the besieged city, and after his death Essad Pasha continued his resistance until April 1913. He turned the fortress of Shkodër over to Montenegro, only in April 1913 after a prolonged war and great heroism of Albanian and Turkish soldiers. Essad Pasha was allowed in return to leave the town with his army and all their weaponry to become involved in the struggle over power in central Albania.[1]

The heroic resistance of Essad Pasha was the main factor for the decision of the Conference of Ambassadors in London which had assigned Shkodër to Albania. In July 1913 he was persuaded by the Vlora family to accept a position of minister of the interior in the provisional government, but on 16 October 1913, to frustrate Ismail Qemali, Toptani who depicted Qemali as a Greek agent, set up a rival government of his own in Durrës, called the Republic of Central Albania. Officially Serbia simultaneously helped a number of other small tribal chiefs who resisted Ismail Qemali's government, directing them towards cooperation with Essad Pasha.[1]

Peasant Revolt[edit]

He reluctantly stepped down when forced to do so by the Great Powers on 1 February 1914, being given as a consolation prize the right to lead the Albanian delegation that travelled to Neuwied on the Rhine, in Germany, to offer the Albanian throne to Prince Wilhem zu Wied. Back in Albania, relations between the Prince and the scheming Toptani, now minister of war and minister of the interior soon soured. Essad Pasha led a faction of his own in the Peasant Revolt in Albania against Prince Wilhem. He was the only person in Albania to have a self-contained army of his own, strove to grab as much of the country as he could. On 9 January, his men tried to take Elbasan, but they were repulsed by the governor of the town, Aqif Pasha Elbasani.[7]

On 19 May 1914, when Toptani refused to lay down his weapons, armed forces under Dutch gendarmerie officer Johan Sluys surrounded and shelled his house in Durrës, forcing him to surrender. He was arrested for conspiracy, though after consultations with Prince Wied, he was not court-martialled but sent to Bari in southern Italy and banned from returning to Albania.[8][9]

Exile and the Treaty of Niš[edit]

Essad Pasha in Salonika

From exile in Rome, he maintained close links with the Serbian and Montenegrin governments. After the outbreak of the First World War, Toptani travelled to Niš, Kingdom of Serbia, where he and Serbian prime minister Nikola Pašić signed the secret Treaty of Serbian-Albanian Alliance on 17 September 1914.[10] With Italian and Serbian financial backing he established armed forces, Toptani invaded Dibër on 20 September, and by 3 October 1914 he had taken Durrës without a fight. Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić ordered that his followers be aided with money and arms.,[1]

His power base in central Albania was weakened in November 1914 by an uprising of Muslim rebels who turned against him, but he managed, with Italian support, to hold on to the town of Durrës. When Serbian forces invaded Albania in mid-June 1915, swiftly occupying Pogradec, Elbasan, Tirana and Kavaja, Toptani was put in place as ruler of central Albania from Durrës. Though his rule was not stable because of the First World War. In the end of 1914, Essad secretly agreed with the Greek government to support the annexation of the southern provinces, known to Greeks as Northern Epirus, to the Kingdom of Greece.[11] He soon declared war on Austria-Hungary to show support for the Entente, and profited from the situation enormously by taxing all the Allied supplies sent to the Serbs. When Austro-Hungarian forces swept through much of central and northern Albania in the spring of 1916, Toptani fled to Salonika from there went to France, to represent Albania at the Paris Peace Conference.

For the next two years, Essad Pasha remained in Paris, attempting to organize recognition for Albania from the Great Powers and reject the secret pact of London, which planned the division of Albania. During this time Tirana and much of central Albania was controlled by his Field Commander, Osman Bali.[citation needed]


On 13 June 1920, Avni Rustemi assassinated Essad Pasha in Paris when he left Hotel Continental. Essad Pasha was buried in the Serbian Military Cemetery in Paris,[12][13] after staying for a long time unburied in the mortuary.[14]


Essad Pasha had a reputation as an unscrupulous opportunist[3] and is remembered among Albanians as one of the most negative historical figures and the symbol of treason.[12][15][16] Edith Durham viewed Essad Pasha as one of those "strange relic of the middle ages who sold themselves and their services to the rival monarchs and cheerfully transferred themselves to the enemy if he offered better pay. [His] sense of nationality was not developed at all, and whose sense of honour was, to put it mildly, deficient."[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Serbian government and Essad Pasha Toptani
  2. ^ Robert Elsie, Essad Pasha Toptani
  3. ^ a b c Elsie, Robert (2012). A Biographical Dictionary of Albanian History. I.B Tauris. p. 444. ISBN 978 1 78076 431 3. 
  4. ^ Pettifer, James (1 June 2001). "Ihsan Bey Toptani". Retrieved December 5, 2014. The Toptani family were in many ways the founders of contemporary Tirana 
  5. ^ Prishtina, Hasan. Nji shkurtim kujtimesh mbi kryengritjen shqiptare të vjetit 1912. Shkrue prej Hassan Prishtinës [Hasan Bey Prishtina: Brief Memoir on the Albanian Uprising of 1912] (in Albanian and translated on English by Robert Elsie). Shkodra: Shtypshkroja Franciskane. Archived from the original on 10 January 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2011. Essad Pasha assured us that he could manage things in Central Albania and Mirdita. 
  6. ^ {Olsi Jazexhi, Ottomans into Illyrians : passages to nationhood in 20th century Albania, PhD Thesis, 2011}
  7. ^ Elsie, Robert. "Albania under prince Wied". Archived from the original on 25 January 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2011. It was obvious to Wied and the Dutch officers that Essad Pasha had his hand in the unrest. 
  8. ^ Heaton-Armstrong, Duncan (2005). "An Uprising in the Six-Month Kingdom". Gervase Belfield and Bejtullah Destani (I.B. Tauris, in association with the Centre for Albanian Studies). Archived from the original on 25 January 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2011. Essad would be sent into exile, without a trial. 
  9. ^ Elsie, Robert. "Albania under prince Wied". Archived from the original on 25 January 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2011. to exile Essad Pasha to Italy 
  10. ^ Bataković, Dušan T., "Serbian government and Essad Pasha Toptani", The Kosovo Chronicles, Belgrade, Serbia: Knižara Plato, ISBN 86-447-0006-5, archived from the original on 19 January 2011, retrieved 19 January 2011, Essad Pasha signed a secret alliance treaty with Pasic on September 17. 
  11. ^ George B. Leon. Greece and the First World War: from neutrality to intervention, 1917-1918. East European Monographs, 1990, ISBN 978-0-88033-181-4, p358: "In return, Essad reconfirmed a promise he had made in the fall of 1914 to support Greece's annexation of North Epirus. However, while he was willing to come to a secret agreement with the Greek government on this question, he indicated that in order to be able to counterbalance the weight of the common adversary, that "is Italy, and to stabilize his influence in Albania he could not recognize publicly Greece's claim."
  12. ^ a b Firma e Esat Pashës për bashkimin e Shqipërisë me Serbinë [Signature of Essad Pasha for annexation of Albania into Serbia] (in Albanian), Bota Sot, April 6, 2013, retrieved October 31, 2013 
  13. ^ 1919 Essad Pasha Toptani: Memorandum on Albania, Robert Elsie, retrieved October 31, 2013 
  14. ^ ESSAD PASHA'S BODY STILL WAITS BURIAL; Great Albanian, Shot in Paris 14 Months Ago, Lies With Unknowns in the Mortuary., NY Times, 7 August 1921, retrieved October 31, 2013 
  15. ^ Puto: Esat Pashë Toptani nuk ka rehabilitim [Puto: There is no rehabilitation for Essad Pasha Toptani] (in Albanian), AMA News, November 10, 2012, retrieved October 31, 2013 
  16. ^ Bajram Peci, Ne 100-vjetorin e tradhtareve te atdheut [On the 100th anniversary of the National Traitors] (in Albanian),, retrieved October 31, 2013 
  17. ^ Durham, Edith (2001). Albania and the Albanians: Selected Articles and Letters, 1903-1944. The Centre of Albanian Studies. p. 125. ISBN 1 903616-09-3. 

External links[edit]


Political offices
Preceded by
Turhan Pashë Përmeti
Prime Minister of Albania
5 October 1914 – 24 February 1916
Succeeded by
Turhan Pashë Përmeti
Essad Pasha Toptani
Born: c. 1863 Died: 13 June 1920
Regnal titles
Preceded by
New title
King of the Albanians
27 April 1913 – 7 March 1914
Succeeded by
Vidi I
Preceded by
King of the Albanians
early June 1920 – 13 June 1920
Succeeded by