Isa Boletini

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Isa Boletini
Isa Boletini Small.jpg
Nickname(s) Luani Kosoves
Albanian for "The Lion of Kosovo"
Born (1864-01-15)15 January 1864
Boletin, Kosovo Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Died 23 January 1916(1916-01-23) (aged 52)
Podgorica, Kingdom of Montenegro
Allegiance League of Prizren
Provisional Government of Albania
Service/branch Ottoman army
Years of service 1881–1916
Rank Commander
Commands held Kachak
Battles/wars Albanian Revolt of 1910
Albanian Revolt of 1912
Albania during the Balkan Wars
Awards Hero of Albania (after 1945)[when?]
Hero of Kosovo (2004)

Isa Boletini (15 January 1864 – 23 January 1916) was an Albanian nationalist figure and guerilla fighter, born in the village of Boletin near Mitrovica, Ottoman Empire. He was one of the leaders of the Albanian Revolt of 1910 in Kosovo Vilayet and became a major figure of Albanian struggle against the Ottomans, Serbia and Montenegro.[1]


Early life[edit]

Isa's family had migrated to Boletin from the village of Istinić near Dečani, due to a blood feud (gjakmarrja) though it ultimately hailed from Shala, in northern Albania. They adopted the surname Boletini ("of Boletin"). Isa was an analphabet.[2]

Branislav Nušić recorded that Shala was the poorest tribe of Albania with a small exception of around 400 families who lived in Istinić.[3] The Shala tribe was in conflict with Gashi tribe until they made peace in August 1879, based on sultan's order.[4]

During the late 19th century, Boletini was member of Albanian movements which sought the unification of four Ottoman vilayets (Kosovo, Shkodra, Manastir and Ioannina) into an independent Albanian state. After the rise of the League of Prizren (1878), he took part as a young man in the Battle of Slivova against Turkish forces on 22 April 1881.[1] In the summer of 1901, he organised atrocities on Serb-inhabited Ibarski Kolašin,[5] when massacres, rape, blackmail, looting and eviction of ethnic Serbs were made.[6] In 1902, Boletini was appointed head of the personal "Albanian guard" of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in Istanbul, where he spent most of the next four years and acquired the title bey.[1] When Russia opened a consulate in Mitroviça (Kosovska Mitrovica) on May 7, 1902, and appointed Grigorij Stcherbin as consul, Boletini threatened that all Serb houses would be set upon fire if they worked with the consulate. The consul could not enter Mitrovica until the Porte sent for Boletini to Istanbul.[7] He was deputy of Kosovo in the Ottoman Assembly between 1908 and 1912. He was loyal to the sultan, but in 1908 he gave his initial support to the Young Turks.[1]

On 15 May 1909, The Young Turks, continuing their former policy of denying the Albanians national rights, sent a military expedition to Kosovo to stop the growth of hostile attitudes to the government and break resistance of the peasants, who refused to pay taxes which Istanbul had introduced.[8] Cavid Pasha, the new commander of the division at Mitroviça, was ordered to carry out a succession of military operations against the Albanian mountain people. On account of the attempts of the authorities to collect taxes which hitherto had been paid almost entirely by the Christians, serious disturbances broke out among the war-like Muslim tribes of northern Albania.[8] Isa Boletini, a prominent leader often honoured by the Sultan, and other chiefs of İpek (Peć) and Yakova (Đakovica), attacked the Turkish army of 7,000 men.[8] Boletini and his men put up fierce resistance and numerous collisions occasioning much bloodshed took place with the troops, who bombarded several villages. After their escape, Turkish troops burned his house down in revenge.[8]

Uprising and independence[edit]

During the popular uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1912, which engulfed all Albanian populated lands, Albanian patriots decided to establish an independent state.

Revolver of Isa Boletini

On 18 August 1912, The Turkish government in Istanbul announced its reply to the leaders of the Albanian rebellion that it had considered and accepted their demands. The Albanians were to receive a series of economic, political, administrative and cultural rights, but no formal autonomy. A meeting of the leaders of the uprising took place that night in Uskub,[8] at which they were informed of the Turkish reply and were persuaded by the moderates among them to accept it. An agreement with Istanbul was signed; Isa Boletini was pacified and returned to his own district, the village of Boletin in Kosovo, abandoning further national claims.[8] In the same month, Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević (called Apis, "the Bee"), the head of the Serbian Black Hand a terrorist organisation, sent a letter requesting Boletini and his men to assist the Serbs in fighting the Ottomans.[9]

On 4 September 1912, The Turkish government notified its acceptance of the Albanian conditions, with the exception of that for regional military service. After four years of sporadic fighting the Albanians had administered a heavy blow to the Turks, who agreed to create a virtually autonomous Albanian State. However none of the other Balkan States wished to see an independent Albania, but rather envisaged the partition of Albania between them. They thus hastened to precipitate war with Turkey, the purpose of which was the annexation of Albanian-inhabited territories that were under Turkish rule.[8]

The Black Hand stimulated and encouraged the Albanians of Kosovo in their revolt, promising them help.[8] Colonel Apis visited northern Albania several times in order to get in touch with the leaders of the Albanian uprising, especially Isa Boletini.[8] Dimitrijević and his men, disguised as Albanians, were known to have committed political murders.[8][when?] For some time Isa Boletini and other Albanian leaders hesitated to come to an arrangement with the Serbs, having no reason to suspect them of setting a trap. Eventually, however, Dimitrijević succeeded in allying Isa Boletini's suspicions by causing him to have doubt about being satisfied with the concessions already wrung from the Turks. Dimitrijević declared that the Serbs desired only to liberate the Albanians from subjection to Turkey, and that Serbs and Albanians together should benefit in common by freeing the country from Turks. Isa Boletini believed him and was deceived.[8]

Far from fulfilling their promise to help the Albanians to liberty, the Serbian and Montenegrin armies fell upon them. The Albanians were trapped and unable to obtain ammunition from either side; Serbs and Montenegrins killed many Albanians.[8]

Isa Boletini in the city of Vlorë (1912)

On 28 November 1912 in Vlora (the 469th anniversary of Kruja's liberation by Skanderbeg, who raised the Albanian flag) the Albanian National Assembly created the independent state of Albania. Ismail Qemali refused to wait for Isa Boletini and other Albanians from Kosovo vilayet and hastily made the Albanian declaration of independence.[10] The southern elite wanted to prevent Boletini's plans to assert himself as a key political figure and used him to suite their military needs.[10]

Isa Boletini contributed in the protection of Vlora government, while later was part of the Albanian delegation to the London Conference (1913) together with Ismail Qemali, Albanian head of state.[1] The Albanian delegation wanted a Kosovo within the borders of the newly founded state of Albania, however the Great Powers conceded them only about a third of the demanded land.

Balkan War[edit]

On 13 August 1913, an outbreak of hostilities took place on the Serbo-Albanian frontier. A tenacious Albanian band of fighters under the command of Isa Boletini, now Minister for War in the Provisional Government, made a successful attack on the frontier town of Debar and captured it from the small Serbian garrison, which had to retire after suffering severe losses.

Xhamadan of Isa Boletini

On 23 September 1913, the dissatisfaction of the Albanian population at finding themselves under Serbian rule led to an uprising in Macedonia of Albanian patriots who refused to accept the decision of the Ambassadors Conference on the Albanian borders. The Albanian government organised armed resistance to recover the lost areas and 6,000 Albanians under the command of Isa Boletini, the Minister of War, crossed the frontier. After an engagement with the Serbians the forces retook Debar and then marched, together with a Bulgarian band led by Petar Chaoulev, in the direction of Ohrid, but another band was checked with loss at Mavrovo. Within a few days they captured the towns of Gostivar, Struga and Ohrid, expelling the Serbian troops. At Ohrid they set up a local government and held the hills towards Resen for four days.[8]

When the spring comes, we will manure the plains of Kosovo with the bones of Serbs, for we Albanians have suffered too much to forget.

—Boletini, 1913[11]

Peasant revolt[edit]

During the revolt, Isa Boletini and his troops defended Prince Wilhelm zu Wied.[1] When Peasant Revolt in Albania deteriorated in June 1914, Isa Boletini and his men, mostly from Kosovo, joined the International Dutch Gendarmerie in their fight against the rebels.[12]

World War I[edit]

During World War I, Boletini was involved in the Kachak guerrilla movement against Serbia.

On 24 January 1916, it was reported that, during the Albanian negotiations with the Montenegrins, Isa Boletini was murdered[1] while he was a virtually a prisoner of the Montenegrins at Podgorica, where he had gone with his family, induced to involve himself in intrigue. The Montenegrins provoked a dispute which led to fighting the town. Isa killed eight men before he died on 23 January 1916.[8]


Isa Boletini statue in the centre of Kosovska Mitrovica inaugurated during 100th Anniversary of the Independence of Albania.

Isa Boletini was tall, well-built, and strong with a great reputation whose deeds of bravery and escapes from Turks and Serbs had become legends in Albania.[8] He is considered one of Albania's greatest patriots and heroes. His ideas influenced the likes of Midhat Frashëri and prominent Albanian Nationalists.

In 2004, Ibrahim Rugova, president of Kosovo awarded him the highest order “Hero of Kosovo” along with Adem Jashari, Hasan Prishtina, and Bajram Curri. He was noted for always wearing the traditional Albanian white cap (Qeleshe) and national dress.

A statue of him was uncovered in Southern Kosovoska Mitrovica on the 100th anniversary of the Independence of Albania and Flag Day (24 November 2012).[13]


In regards to Albania:

"I am well when Albania is well"

When Sir Edward Grey met Isa Boletini in London at the British Foreign Office after having his pistol belt's ammunition removed:
EG:"General, the newspapers might record tomorrow that Isa Boletini, whom even Mahmut Shefqet Pasha could not disarm, was just disarmed in London." IB:"No, no, not in London either." (he withdrew from his pocket a second pistol)[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Robert Elsie (19 March 2010). Historical dictionary of Albania. ISBN 9780810873803. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Hötzendorf, Graf Franz Conrad von (1922). Aus meiner Dienstzeit, 1906-1918. p. 340. 
  3. ^ Branislav Đ Nušić (1966). Sabrana dela. NIP "Jež,". p. 242. Retrieved 4 June 2013. "Шаљани су најсиротније племе у целој Арбанији, од којих у богатству једва чине неки мали изузетак четири стотине кућа Шаљана који насеља- вају село Истиниће код Дечана." 
  4. ^ Đorđe Mikić (1988). Društvene i ekonomske prilike kosovskih srba u XIX i početkom XX veka. Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti. p. 40. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Mihailović, Kosta (March 16–18, 2006). Kosovo and Metohija: Past, present, future. Belgrade: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. p. 35. 
  6. ^ Kosovsko-Metohijski zbornik. Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. 2005. p. 191. 
  7. ^ Срђан СЛОВИЋ. Косово и Метохија од 1900. године до почетка Првог светског рата (in Serbian). scindeks. p. 281. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Owen Pearson (2004). Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume I: Albania and King Zog. ISBN 9781845110130. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  9. ^ MacKenzie, David (1989). Apis, the Congenial Conspirator: The Life of Colonel Dragutin T. Dimitrijević. p. 87. ISBN 9780880331623. 
  10. ^ a b Blumi, Isa (2003). Rethinking the late Ottoman Empire: a comparative social and political history of Albania and Yemen, 1878-1918. Istanbul: The Isis Press, 2003. p. 182. ISBN 975-428-242-0. Retrieved March 9, 2011. "Ismail Kemal Bey hastily made the famous declaration of independence in late November of 1912, refusing to wait for Boletini and "the Kosovars" to reach Vlora. [...] While Boletini had plans to assert himself as a key political figure in this Albanian state building project, the Southern elite made certain that he would be reigned in to suite their military needs and not hijack a political process over which they wanted full control." 
  11. ^ Paulin Kola (2003). The search for Greater Albania. London: Hurst. p. 1. ISBN 1-85065-664-9. 
  12. ^ Elsie, Robert. "Albania under prince Wied". Archived from the original on January 25, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2011. "... mostly volunteers from Kosova under their leader Isa Boletini" 
  13. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • Gawrych, George (2006-12-26). The Crescent and the Eagle: Ottoman Rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874-1913. pp. 134–139, 161–199. ISBN 9781845112875. 
  • Bahlov, Dr. Hans, Deutschlands geographische Namenvett Baden: Suhrkamp. 1985, cited of Abdullah Konushevci, Toponomia e Mitrovicës, “Word”, nr. 6-7, July 2001, p. 19
  • Fehmi Pushkolli, Ukshin Kovaçica-Bajgora, Horizontet e historisë, Prishtinë, 1997, p. 18
  • Fehrni Pushkolli, Po aty, p. 20
  • Ahdullah Konushevci, Po aty, p. 19
  • Mitrovica dhe rrethina, Mitrovicë, 1979, p. 69
  • Tafil Boletini, vepër e cituar, p. 153


a.   ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been recognised by 107 out of 193 United Nations member states.

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