Arbanasi people

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"Arbneshë" redirects here. For other uses, see Arbëreshë (disambiguation).
Božidar Kalmeta.jpg
Total population
ca. 4,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Zadar County
Gheg Albanian dialect, Croatian
Roman Catholic

The Arbanasi, or Albanians of Zara (Albanian: Arbëreshët e Zarës), are a community in the Zadar region, Croatia, of Albanian origin, who traditionally speak a dialect of Gheg Albanian.[2] Their name means Albanians in Croatian and is the toponymy of the first Arbanasi settlement in the region, which today is a suburb of Zadar.[3]


Today, the community is spread across Croatia. Their original settlements were Arbanasi of Zadar and some villages around Zadar, namely Zemunik, Dračevac, Crno, Ploča, etc.[3] The inhabitants of this one time village were known as the Arbanasi (or simply, the "Albanians" in Croatian). The Arbanasi are known to have settled the area during two different periods of migration; the first in 1655 and the second in 1726-33. These settlers were said to be part of the Kastrioti clan, one of the numerous Northern Albanian clans known to have existed.[3]


The origin of this population is thought to be from Skadar lake region in Northwestern Albania, the villages Briska, Šestan and Livar.[4] Arbanasi have migrated in two different periods, during the mid-17th and 18th century.[3] A demonstration that the origin of the Albanians of Arbanasi was not along the coast is that in their language most of the names of the fish come from the Croatian language.[3]

The first group of Arbanasi group of Albanians that migrated to Croatia included a community that settled near Pula, Istria, in 1655.[1] The second and the third group that migrated 1726–1727 and 1733, were supported and planned by Zadar Archbishop Vicko Zmajević and the Venice Republic to repopulate Zadar countryside and hinterland.[4] The second migration is first mentioned in March 23, 1726, when first arrivals who numbered around 56 individuals, and afterwards another 28 families, were temporarily settled in Kaštel Novi, today Herceg Novi. It is considered[by whom?] that they arrived in Zadar in the summer, in July. The group was guided by two brothers Pretani, and are mentioned Luca d'Andrea Gezghenovich, Nicolo di Luca Marghicevich, Nicolo d'Andrea Gasparovich, Giovanni d'Andrea Gezghenovich, Pere di Marco, Prem Vuca Marghicevich, Paolo Giech Marghicevich, Giech Prend Marghicevich, Giech Pepa Marghicevich, Marco Discialo Marghicevich, Prenz Prema Marghicevich, Petar Vuca Gianova, Nico Matessich, Luca Prend, Boso Nico Smira, Stanica Gielencovich, Visco Gielencovich, Lech Pero Marghicevich i Luca Lucich.[citation needed]

The third group's migration was in 1733, and in the document from March 11, 1735 can be seen another 28 families and some members: Nicolo Andre, Crasto Covac, Marco Giocca, Giocca Gionon, Giocca Giuchin, Stjepo Gjuri, Stiepo Luco, Prento Kneunichi, Lecca Marco, Prento Marcov, Paolo Marussich, Mar Mazia, Marco Nicadobrez, Pema Nichin, Nicolo Pantov, Marco Pertu, Frane Popovich, Paolo Prendi, Nicola Rose, Rado Ruco, Gen Sperc, Prento Stani, Vuco Tamartinovich, Vuksa Tancovich, Pietro Tioba, Andrea Toma, Capitano Nicolo Vlagdan i Jovan Vucin. They bore surnames Duka (Duca), Prema (extinct), Mazija (Mazia), Cotić (extinct branch of Mazija), Marušić, Ratković, Krstić, Stipčević, Mužanović (initially called Kovač), Maršan, Vladović (Vlagdan), Luco, Relja (branch of Vladović), Nikpalj, Musap (branch of Duka), Morović (from Petani), Prenđa (Prendi), Gjergja (Đerda), Tokša, Tamartinović, as well three Montenegrin families Zanković, Popović, and Škopelja.[5] Other surnames are Dešpalj, Kalmeta, Karuc (Karuz), Kotlar, Jelenković, Jović, Perović, Vukić and Ćurković.[6]

Around the same time, Chakavian-speaking families from Kukljica, Ugljan, and Zadar hinterland, settled among the Arbanasi, and included: Bajlo, Dadić, Tomas, Ćućula, Matešić, Matijaš, Bulić, Banić, Smolčić, Grdović, Zubčić, Ljubičić, Labus, who eventually integrated into the Arbanasi community to the extent that they are now considered real Arbanasi.[5][6]

Their church, Saint Mary of Loreto, was built from 1734, and founded in 1737.[6]

All these groups were integrated into the social and economic sphere of Venetian Dalmatia, but they preserved their language and their customs and songs. First, the Albanian community worked to reclaim the marshy areas near the Arbanas, which was originally an island now connected to the mainland, and then got the leasing right of cultivation of the land.[when?] The Venetian government took charge of construction of many homes and, at first, even meals.[7][8][9]

Since 1901 the Arbanasi are also equipped with an Albanian school and in 1910 James Vuçani promoted and organized the "Italo-Albanian Association".[7][8][9] After the Second World War, many Arbanasi from village Borgo Erizzo emigrated to Italy, following the Yugoslav takeover of Zadar.[7][8][9] In modern times about 4000 Arbanasi remain in Croatia.[1]

Notable people[edit]

  • Hrvoje Macanović (1904-1980) – sport journalist
  • Kruno Krstić (1905-1987) – lexicographer
  • Šime (Simeone) Duka (1915-2006) – secretary of Vatican archives
  • Ratimir Kalmeta (1916-2005) – geographer and linguist
  • Nikša Stipčević (1929-2011) – linguist, and high member of SANU and Matica srpska
  • Aleksandar Stipčević (1930-2015) – an archeologist, historian, and member of ASHAK
  • Pavle Dešpalj (b. 1934) – music conductor and composer, member of HAZU
  • Josip Gjergja (b. 1937) – basketball player.
  • Ivan Prenđa (1939-2010) – archbishop of the Archdiocese of Zadar
  • Đani Maršan (b. 1944) – singer, musician, diplomat and Croatian Consul
  • Valter Dešpalj (b. 1947) – cellist and professor on Academy of Music in Zagreb
  • Bernard Kotlar (b. 1956) – In 2002 was honoured for the first multimedia CD Zadarski Arbanasi with city Zadar award Grb grada Zadra
  • Mladen Grdović (b. 1958) – singer
  • Božidar Kalmeta (b. 1958) – Mayor of Zadar 1994–2003 and 2013-present, former Croatian government minister
  • Agron Preteni (b. 1990) – kickboxer
  • Ivo Perović (1882 − 1958) - Ban (Viceroy) and Regent of Yugoslavia for the underage Peter II from 1934 to 1941

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Elsie, Robert (2004). Historical dictionary of Albania. Scarecrow Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-8108-4872-6. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Victor A. Friedman (1997). One Grammar, Three Lexicons: Ideological Overtones and Underpinnings in the Balkan Sprachbund (PDF). University of Chicago. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Mijo Čurković (1922). Povijest Arbanasa kod Zadra. E. Vitaliani. 
  4. ^ a b Barančić, Maximilijana (2008). "Arbanasi i etnojezični identitet" (in Croatian). Zadar: Croatica et Slavica Iadertina; Sveučilište u Zadru. 
  5. ^ a b Lorger, Srećko (2004). "Bajli - čakavski Arbanasi" (in Croatian). Mozaik; Slobodna Dalmacija. 
  6. ^ a b c Stagličić, Ivan; Barančić, Maximilijana (2011). "Arbanasi su se prvo doselili u Zemunik" (in Croatian). Donat; Zadarski list. 
  7. ^ a b c Erber, Tullio (1883). The Albanian colony of Arbanas village near Zadar, the history. G. Flori. 
  8. ^ a b c Tagliavini, Carlo (1937). Albanians of Dalmatia, contributions to knowledge of the dialect of Arbanasi, near Zadar. Florence: Olschki. 
  9. ^ a b c Marussi, Beppo; Stazzi, Valentina; Ptolemy, Rita (2006). Arbanas of Zara of that time. The calamo. 

External links[edit]