Arbanasi people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Total population
ca. 4,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Zadar County
Arbanasi, Croatian
Roman Catholic
Eastern Orthodox
Related ethnic groups
Other Albanians, Croats

Arbanasi (Arbanasi: Arbëneshë)[2] is an ethnic community in and around the city of Zadar region in northern Dalmatia region of Croatia who are of Albanian ethnic origin. They are traditional speakers of the Arbanasi dialect of Gheg Albanian.[3] Their name is an obsolete way to say Albanians in Croatian and is the toponymy of the first Arbanasi settlement in the region, which today is a suburb of Zadar.[4] In Albanian literature, they are known as "Albanians of Zadar" (Arbëreshët e Zarës).


Today, the community is spread across Croatia. Their original settlements were Arbanasi of Zadar and some villages around Zadar, namely Zemunik, Gračac, Dračevac, Crno, Ploča, etc.[4] The former village derived its name from its founders, the Albanians. 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.


18th century migration and resettlement[edit]

Arbanasi (Арбанаси) is the old ethnonym that the South Slavs used to denote Albanians, dating back to the Middle Ages.[5][full citation needed][6][full citation needed][A][a][7] The ancestors of Arbanasi people are Catholic Albanians who originated from the villages of Briska (Brisk), Šestan (Shestan), Livari (Ljare), and Podi (Pod) located in Skadarska Krajina (Albanian: Krajë) region, then part of the Muslim ruled Ottoman Empire (now modern southern Montenegro).[8][9] They fled to avoid circumstances of military service and to due to religious discrimination or conversion to Islam.[8][10] Every one of the inhabitants of the village of Pod had left for migration in 1726, leaving the village completely abandoned. Ruins of old houses can still be found in the area today. [9] They originated from the hinterland, demonstrated by the names of fish coming from Croatian.[4] This population migrated into what is today Croatia in two different periods,[4] first in 1655 to Pula, Istria[1][better source needed] and then 1726–1727 and 1733, to the Zadar area, supported and planned by Archbishop of Zara Vicko Zmajević and the Venetian republic to repopulate the countryside and hinterland of Zadar.[9]

The first migration to Zadar was mentioned on 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 of the Pretani family, and the following people are mentioned:[citation needed]

  • 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
  • Luca Lucich

The second migration to Zadar 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
  • Jovan Vucin

They bore surnames:

  • Duka (Duca)
  • Prema (extinct)
  • Mazija (Mazia)
  • Gaćeša
  • Cotić (extinct branch of Mazija)
  • Marušić
  • Ratković
  • Krstić
  • Stipčević
  • Mužanović (initially called Kovač)
  • Maršan
  • Vladović (Vlagdan)
  • Ugrin
  • Luco
  • Relja (branch of Vladović)
  • Nikpalj
  • Musap (branch of Duka)
  • Morović (from Petani)
  • Prenđa (Prendi)
  • Gjergja (Đerda)
  • Tokša, Tamartinović

As well, there were three Montenegrin families: Zanković, Popović, and Škopelja.[11] Other surnames are Dešpalj, Kalmeta, Karuc (Karuz), Kotlar, Jelenković, Jović, Perović, Vukić, and Ćurković.[12]

Around the same time, Chakavian-speaking families from Kukljica, Ugljan, and Zadar hinterland, settled among the Arbanasi, and included:[11][12]

  • Bajl
  • Dadić
  • Tomas
  • Ćućula
  • Mateši
  • Matija
  • Bulić
  • Banić
  • Smolčić
  • Grdović
  • Zubčić
  • Ljubičić
  • Labus

These eventually integrated into the Arbanasi community to the extent that they are now considered real Arbanasi.[11][12] Their church, Saint Mary of Loreto, was built from 1734, and founded in 1737.[12]

All these groups were integrated into the social and economic sphere of Venetian Dalmatia, but they preserved their language, customs and songs. The Arbanasi settled on the outskirts of Zadar on lands provided by Venetian landowner Erizzo.[8] First, the Albanian community worked to claim the marshy areas near their settlement (Arbanasi), 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.[13][14][15] Other Arbanasi settled in the neighbouring villages of Ćurkovići, Paleke, Prenđe and Šestani, as well in the towns of Kotor, Dubrovnik and Zemunik.[8] All other Arbanasi were assimilated, except in Zadar where a settlement formed that they called Arbënesh (for the Italians Borgo Erizzo, for the Croats Varoš Eričina), later becoming known in all local languages as Arbanasi.[16]

19th and 20th century[edit]

The survival of the language was due to factors involving generational transmission of Arbanasi Albanian through oral traditions of reciting folktales in social gatherings, awareness of linguistic differences from Croatian speakers and teaching the language to non-Arbanasi spouses in cases of marriage.[16] In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Dalmatia was under Hapsburg rule. The establishment of a primary school in 1896 resulted in some Arbanasi receiving a mainly Italian-language education with some Croatian and two weekly lessons in Arbanasi Albanian.[16] Another primary school existed teaching mostly in Croatian and in 1901, it made learning Arbanasi Albanian obligatory for students who had it as a mother tongue.[16] In 1910, Giacomo Vuxani and Arbanasi promoted and organised the Italo-Albanian Association in Zadar.[13][14][15]

During the early to mid twentieth century, Arbanasi were divided along national lines and people in the community self identified either as Italians or Croats.[17][16] After World War One, Zadar became part of Italy and during the interwar period, Arbanasi Albanian was at first tolerated and in later years banned from being spoken and taught in school.[16] Following the Second World War, many Arbanasi people from village of Arbanasi who self identified as ethnically Italian emigrated to Italy, or made by communist authorities to forcefully leave following the Yugoslav takeover of Zadar.[15][16] In Yugoslavia, Arbanasi Albanian was not taught by the school system.[16] Contact between Arbanasi and Albanians was nonexistent from the eighteenth century until the late nineteenth century.[16] From the mid twentieth century onward, as the region was part of Yugoslavia, Albanians from other parts of the country settled in the area of the Arbanasi.[16]

With the Italian administration of Zadar in the interwar period, the Albanian language was initially tolerated and then banned from teaching and public use. After World War II, many Arbanasi fled Dalmatia or were forced into exile by the new communist authorities. Vuxani himself, already a volunteer at the Rijeka company, was the last Italian authority in Zadar at the time of the entry of the Yugoslav partisans. Arrested and sentenced to death, he was later released and organized the repatriation of 950 Italians from Zara until June 1947. Other Arbëresh remained: among them Krsto Tomas (1908-1988) who was responsible for the restoration of the monuments in Zadar damaged by Allied bombing. But the most famous post-war Arbanasi personality was the historian and archaeologist Aleksandar Stipčević (1930-2015) whose family had arrived 300 years ago from the Shkodër region and who became a member of the Kosovo Academy of Sciences and Arts. His masterpiece was the 1974 book "Gli Illyri", translated into English, Italian and Albanian.[18]

21st century[edit]

In the twenty first century, Arbanasi self identify as Croats or Arbanas Croats and do not want their community associated with the officially recognised Albanian minority of Croatia.[17][10] Arbanasi Albanian, once spoken by much of the community and served as a significant identity marker has nearly disappeared, due to the historical and political stigmatisation of Albanian in the former Yugoslavia and the recent period of globalisation.[17] In independent Croatia, for some years the language did not receive encouragement until the 2010s.[19] In modern times about 4000 Arbanasi remain in Croatia.[1] Arbanasi Albanian is currently endangered and fewer than 200 speakers competent in the language exist.[16] An additional 500 people can understand it to a certain degree.[16] Apart from a few publications like the journal Feja and collections of Arbanasi lore, the language is not written.[16]

In studies of speakers of Arbanasi Albanian, they stated to researchers that the language in Croatia is not stigmatised and they have not encountered issues due to speaking it.[19] Arbanasi who speak Arbanasi Albanian mostly have a positive view of the language.[19] Most Arbanasi speakers acknowledge the connections of their language with Albanian, however they stress the unique features of their language and independence from modern standard Albanian.[20]

Contacts between some community members and people from Albania and Kosovo were established.[16][21] In Croatia, there are recent attempts to salvage Arbanasi Albanian from language death.[16] In 2016, standard modern Albanian was introduced as an optional language class in a Zadar high school in the neighbourhood of Arbanasi with the assistance from Albanian, Kosovo and Croatian authorities.[10][21][20] Some disputes have arisen among the community over whether standard Albanian ought to be taught in the school system to keep their language alive or whether Arbanasi Albanian is better placed to fulfill that role instead.[20]

Due to numerous contacts and intermarriage with local Albanians, the Arbanasi are learning more about their roots. An honoured member of the community, Franco Marussich, is reconnecting the population to their ancestral land with an upcoming project on the genealogy of most families present in Zadar.[22]

Arbanasi dialect[edit]

The Gheg Albanian dialect spoken by the Arbanasi is quite unique among Albanian dialects. Among other features it has non-standard imperatives (art! instead of eja! for "come!", c.f. past participle ardhur), lack of nasal vowels (peculiar for Gheg dialects), phonological changes including alternations between /s/ and /θ/ and the deletion of /h/, and the loss of trilled /r/. Arbanasi have a long history of interacting with speakers of three other languages, Italian, Croatian and Venetian. Historically, Arbanasi were often trilingual between Albanian, Croatian and Venetian; furthermore, they assimilated a large influx of Chakavian speakers who settled among them. There is a high volume of loanwords from each, but some changes appear to have instead distanced Arbanasi from these languages—this is the case with the replacement of all trilled /r/ (the only rhotic in all three of Croatian, Italian and Venetian) with an alveolar tap, a sound totally absent in all three of these influencers. In other ways Arbanasi behaves like a typical Gheg Albanian dialect.[23][11][12]

Notable people[edit]

Culture and the arts[edit]



  • Niko Karuc, writer and publicist
  • Kruno Krstić, lexicographer[24]
  • Josip Vladović Relja, writer[24][25][26]



Politics and diplomacy[edit]


Sciences and education[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to Demiraj:[full citation needed]

    The ethnic name shqiptar has always been discussed together with the ethnic complex: (tosk) arbëresh, arbëror, arbër — (gheg) arbënesh, arbënu(e)r, arbën; i.e. [arbën/r(—)]. p.536. Among the neighbouring peoples and elsewhere the denomination of the Albanians is based upon the root arb/alb, cp. Greek ’Αλβανός, ’Αρβανός "Albanian", ‘Αρβανίτης "Arbëresh of Greece", Serbian Albanac, Arbanas, Bulg., Mac. албанец, Arom. arbinés (Papahagi 1963 135), Turk. arnaut, Ital. albanese, German Albaner etc. This basis is in use among the Arbëreshs of Italy and Greece as well; cp. arvanit, more rarely arbëror by the arbëreshs of Greece

    — Demiraj (2010); p.534
  1. ^ An excerpt from Barančić on ethnic and linguistic identity following the migrations:[9]


  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. ^ Camaj, Martin (1984). Leonard Fox (ed.). Albanian Grammar: With Exercises, Chrestomathy and Glossaries. Translated by Leonard Fox. Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz. p. xi. ISBN 978-3447024679.
  3. ^ Friedman, Victor A. (1997). "One Grammar, Three Lexicons: Ideological Overtones and Underpinnings in the Balkan Sprachbund" (PDF). In Kora Singer; Randall Eggert; Gregory Anderson (eds.). CLS 33: Papers from the panels on linguistic ideologies in contact, universal grammar, parameters and typology, the perception of speech and other acoustic signals. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. pp. 23–44. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-17.
  4. ^ a b c d Mijo Čurković (1922). Povijest Arbanasa kod Zadra. E. Vitaliani.
  5. ^ Lloshi 1999, p. 277.[full citation needed] "The Albanians of today call themselves shqiptarë, their country Shqipëri, and their language shqipe. These terms came into use between the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries. Foreigners call them albanesi (Italian), Albaner (German), Albanians (English), Alvanos (Greek), and Arbanasi (old Serbian), the country Albania, Albanie, Albanien, Alvania, and Albanija, and the language Albanese, Albanisch, Albanian, Alvaniki, and Arbanashki respectively. All these words are derived from the name Albanoi of an Illyrian tribe and their center Albanopolis, noted by the astronomer of Alexandria, Ptolemy, in the 2nd century AD. Alban could he a plural of alb- arb-, denoting the inhabitants of the plains (ÇABEJ 1976). The name passed over the boundaries of the Illyrian tribe in central Albania, and was generalised for all the Albanians. They called themselves arbënesh, arbëresh, the country Arbëni, Arbëri, and the language arbëneshe, arbëreshe. In the foreign languages, the Middle Ages denominations of these names survived, but for the Albanians they were substituted by shqiptarë, Shqipëri and shqipe.
  6. ^ Kamusella 2009, p. 241.[full citation needed] "Prior to the emergence of the modern self-ethnonym Shqiptarë in the mid-16th century (for the first time it was recorded in 1555 by the Catholic Gheg, Gjon Buzuku, in his missal), North Albanians (Ghegs) referred to themselves as Arbën, and South Albanians (Tosks) Arbër. Hence, the self-ethnonym Arbëreshë of the present-day Italo-Albanians (numbering about 100,000) in southern Italy and Sicily, whose ancestors, in the wake of the Ottoman wars, emigrated from their homeland in the 14th century. These self-ethnonyms perhaps influenced the Byzantine Greek Arvanites for 'Albanians', which was followed by similar ones in Bulgarian and Serbian (Arbanasi), Ottoman (Arnaut), Romanian (Arbănas), and Aromanian (Arbineş).
  7. ^ Barančić 2008, p. 551.
  8. ^ a b c d Willer-Gold et al. 2016, p. 103.
  9. ^ a b c d Barančić 2008.
  10. ^ a b c Milekic, Sven; Cirezi, Arben (18 October 2016). "Croatian Town Launches Classes to Keep 'Arbanasi' Alive". Balkan Insight. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d Lorger, Srećko (2004). "Bajli - čakavski Arbanasi" (in Croatian). Mozaik; Slobodna Dalmacija.
  12. ^ a b c d e Stagličić, Ivan; Barančić, Maximilijana (2011). "Arbanasi su se prvo doselili u Zemunik" (in Croatian). Donat; Zadarski list.
  13. ^ a b Erber, Tullio (1883). The Albanian colony of Arbanas village near Zadar, the history. G. Flori.
  14. ^ a b Tagliavini, Carlo (1937). Albanians of Dalmatia, contributions to knowledge of the dialect of Arbanasi, near Zadar. Florence: Olschki.
  15. ^ a b c Marussi, Beppo; Stazzi, Valentina; Ptolemy, Rita (2006). Arbanas of Zara of that time. The calamo.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Willer-Gold et al. 2016, p. 104.
  17. ^ a b c Meštrić, Klara Bilić; Šimičić, Lucija (2017). "Language Orientations and the Sustainability of Arbanasi Language in Croatia – A Case of Linguistic Injustice". Open Linguistics. 3 (1): 147. doi:10.1515/opli-2017-0008.
  18. ^ |publisher=Beqir Sina |link=
  19. ^ a b c Willer-Gold, Jana; Gnjatović, Tena; Katunar, Daniela; Matasović, Ranko (2016). "Multilingualism and structural borrowing in Arbanasi Albanian". Language Documentation and Conservation. 10: 105. S2CID 11890544.
  20. ^ a b c Šimičić, Lucija (2018). "Torn Between Two Nation-States: Agency and Power in Linguistic Identity Negotiation in Minority Contexts". In Glasgow, Gregory Paul; Bouchard, Jeremie (eds.). Researching Agency in Language Policy and Planning. Routledge. pp. 12–34. ISBN 9780429849947.
  21. ^ a b Mlloja, Genc (1 May 2019). "Zadar's Arbanasi Exclusive/ "Albania, Surprisingly Beautiful". Albanian Daily News. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  22. ^ " - Arbansit-e-zares".
  23. ^ Matasović, Ranka (2012). "A Grammatical Sketch of Albanian for students of Indo-European". Page 42
  24. ^ a b c d "Vicko Zmajević - mecena i dobrotvor" (in Croatian). Narodni list. 2016-05-14. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  25. ^ a b "Arbanasi slave 290 godina od dolaska u Zadar" (in Croatian). 2016-05-10. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  26. ^ a b "U Zadar Su Došli Prije 290 Godina "Arbanasi: jesu li više Hrvati, Albanci ili Talijani?"" (in Croatian). 2016-05-02. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  27. ^ a b "Zadarski Velikani U Obnovi Kneževe Palače Pavle Dešpalj: Nadam se da će palača opet biti dom Zadarskom komornom orkestru jer on to i zaslužuje" (in Croatian). 2017-02-08. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  28. ^ Pavao Jerolimov (2009-02-17). "Na današnji dan: Šime Dešpalj" (in Croatian). Zadarski list. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  29. ^ Tatjana Pacek (2015-06-22). "Priznanje Mladena Grdovića 'Nisam alkoholičar, već sam alergičan na alkohol. Jedna bevanda i mene odnese!'" (in Croatian). Jutarnji list. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  30. ^ Irena Jurjević (2010-10-11). "Najbolja snaga je dobra čaša crnog vina i jedna slana srdela" (in Croatian). Zadarski list. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  31. ^ a b Petar Jurić (2016-05-10). "Došli prije 290 godina: Ovisno o vremenu i općim prilikama, u Arbanasima je bilo i prohrvata i pravaša i projugoslavena i protalijana i fašista i komunista i žestokih rimokatolika…" (in Croatian). Antena Zadar. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  32. ^ Milan Nosić (2006). "Život i djelo Ratimira Kalmete". Riječ - časopis Za Slavensku Filologiju (in Croatian). 12 (3). Rijeka: Hrvatsko filološko društvo: 7–22. ISSN 1330-917X.


External links[edit]