Çerçiz Topulli

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Çerçiz Topulli
Cerciz-topulli.jpg
Çerçiz Topulli in a rare photo
Born 20th of September 1880
Gjirokastër, Albania (then Janina Vilayet, Ottoman Empire)
Died 15 July 1915 (aged 35)
Shkoder, Albania
Occupation Freedom Fighter, Rilindas (Revivalists)
Ethnicity Albania Albanian
Period 1907 - 1915
Literary movement Albanian National Revival
Notable awards People's Hero of Albania

Çerçiz Topulli (1880 - 15 July 1915) was a patriotic Albanian nationalist figure and guerrilla fighter. He was the younger brother of Bajo Topulli.[1] He was known for fighting the Turks in 1907 and 1908 and then, after the Turks left, the Greeks, who invaded in 1913 and 1914.[2]

Biography[edit]

Armed resistance[edit]

In the spring of 1907, he and Mihal Grameno formed a band of guerrillas in Sofia to fight for Albanian interests.[3] In April of that year, the band landed in Vlora, having entered the country from Brindisi. The purpose was to spread Albanian national consciousness among the people, including the immediate need for administrative autonomy for Albanians within the Ottoman Empire.[3] They also brought books in Albanian for the people. He wrote an article "From the Mountains of Albania" in the journal "The Hope of Albania" in its issue. In that article he condemned the many thefts that the Turkish administration would commit towards the Albanians and asked for full independence of Albania. In the article he made calls for an armed insurgency.[1] Soon campaigns of agitation were prepared so as to lead an armed uprising in 1908.[3]

On 25 February 1908, Çerçiz and his followers had assassinated the Turkish Binbaşı of Gjirokastër,[4][5] who had brutally suppressed those Albanians working for Albanian political ends. Five of them, including Çerçiz Topulli, then fled to Mashkullorë, a village near the town of Gjirokastër.

On March 18 they were surrounded in Mashkullorë by Turkish forces from Ioanina.[4] The Ottoman force of 150 troops vastly outnumbered Çerçiz's Kachak.[3] However, Topulli and his fighters managed to keep the Turks at bay from dawn until dusk and then fled into the mountains, an event which was later celebrated in folk ballads.[3]

In July 1908, Topulli attempted to take the town of Korça, but his forces were pushed back by Turkish troops. When the Young Turks took power, he organized patriotic societies and assisted in the opening of Albanian-language schools.[3]

On 29 May 1909, Cerciz Topulli founded in Gjirokastër a secret society called Kandilja (The Candle), an underground çeta group.[6]

After independence[edit]

After the proclamation of the independence of Albania on November 28, 1912 Topulli was also active in the defense of national interests after independence. Albanian bands under the command of Çerçiz Topulli and his cohort composed of fifty people, Albanians and Bulgarians against the Greek bands. Adjutant-Major Ahmed Niyazi Bey too stated that in Ohrid, Bulgarian bands and Albanian Tosk bands under Çerçiz Topulli had been united.[7]

Topulli went to the north to help with the efforts against Montenegrin forces. He was killed in the Fusha e Shtoit (Shkodër) from the Montenegrin invadors.

In 1937 his bones were brought back to Gjirokastër.[8][9]

Quotes[edit]

Çerçiz Topulli subordinated religious differences and every other consideration to this goal of national liberation:

"Each Mohammedan has a duty to die for a Christian because he is blood of his blood; in the same way each Christian should die for a Mohammedan who is likewise blood of his own blood[6]"

Topulli was a strong advocate against the Ottomans:

"We go with rifle in hand, out into the mountains, to seek freedom, justice, civilization and progress for all ... to expel the Turkey from our dear Motherland[6]"

References[edit]