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The bajrak (pronounced /brɑːk/ or /brɑːk/, meaning "banner" or "flag") was an Ottoman territorial unit, consisting of villages in mountainous frontier regions of the Balkans, from which military recruitment was based.[1] It was introduced in the late 17th century and continued its use until the end of Ottoman rule in Rumelia. The bajrak included one or more clans. It was especially implemented in northern Albania and in parts of Kosovo (Sanjak of Prizren and Sanjak of Scutari), where in the 19th century these regions constituted the frontier with the Principality of Serbia and Principality of Montenegro. These sanjaks had notable communities of Gheg Albanians (Muslims and Catholics), Serbs and Slavic Muslims. The Albanians adopted the system into their clan structure, and bajraks endured during the Kingdom of Serbia (1882–1918) and People's Socialist Republic of Albania (1944–1992).


The bajrak was a territorial unit of the Ottoman Empire, consisting of a group of villages,[2] from which military recruitment was organized – a "territorialized military organization."[3] The bajrak was composed of one or more clans. Several smaller clans could inhabit a single bajrak while larger clans occupied several bajrak; usually a bajraktar ("standard-bearer") led a clan, while in some cases a bajraktar led several clans or a single clan had several bajraktars.[2] The Ottomans entrusted the bajraktar with providing soldiers from his bajrak in exchange for privileges, and sometimes he performed important administrative and judicial duties. The bajraktar was usually hereditary position, via paternal ancestry appointed by the Ottoman government.[2] Bajraks formed loose tribal confederations; for example, the Shala joined the Shoshi.

The bajrak system existed in many mountainous ethnographic regions, such as Lumë.[4]


In Albania[edit]

According to Enke (1955), the Dukagjin highlands was inhabited by the "six bajraks, Shala, Shoshi, Kir, Gjaj, Plan, and Toplan,"[5][6] while according to Prothero (1973), it then included "Pulati, Shala and Shoshi, Dushmani, Toplana, Nikai, and Merturi."[7]

In Serbia and Yugoslavia[edit]

In Kosovo, after the conquest by Kingdom of Serbia, the Albanians incorporated the bajrak into their clan system (known as fis).[8] The Yugoslav authorities tried to break up the feudal relations created through this system.[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Malcolm, Noel (August 9, 1998). "Kosovo: A Short History". The New York Times. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Richard V. Weekes (21 December 1984). Muslim Peoples: A World Ethnographic Survey. Greenwood Pub Group. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-313-23392-0.
  3. ^ Paul H. Stahl (1986). Household, Village and Village Confederation in Southeastern Europe. Eastern European Monographs. ISBN 978-0-88033-094-7.
  4. ^ HOXHA, Shefqet. "BAJRAKTARËT E LUMËS". Pashtriku. Retrieved 15 November 2015. Megjithëse deri tani nuk është shpaluar ndonjë akt zyrtar i Perandorisë Osmane që ligjëronte zëvendësimin e sistemit të timarit në malësi me atë të njësive vetëqeverisëse tradicionale dhe si njësi administrative-ushtarake osmane me emrin "bajrak", ky proces mendohet të ketë nisur para shek.XVIII
  5. ^ Enke 1955, p. 129: "In den Bergen des Dukagjin: in Shala, Shoshi, Kir, Gjaj, Plan und Toplan."
  6. ^ Naval Intelligence Division 1945: "Shala and Shoshi are closely associated, have the same occupations and characteristics, and are sometimes called one bajrak. Shala is also declared part of the Dukagjin 'clan of the six bajraks'"
  7. ^ The Dukajin (in the Wider sense) include the six bairaks of the Pulati, Shala and Shoshi, Dushmani, Toplana, Nikai, and Merturi. Their territory lies between the Malzia e Mathe and the River Drin. 4. The seven bairaks of the Dukajin (in a stricter ...
  8. ^ a b Jens Stilhoff Sorensen (15 May 2009). State Collapse and Reconstruction in the Periphery: Political Economy, Ethnicity and Development in Yugoslavia, Serbia and Kosovo. Berghahn Books. pp. 64–. ISBN 978-1-84545-919-2.
  9. ^ Barbara Jelavich (29 July 1983). History of the Balkans: Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Cambridge University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-521-27458-6. Retrieved 10 May 2012. The basic unit was the clan, called fis, which was headed by the oldest male. Associated with the fis was a territorial and political counterpart, called a bajrak (standard), which was composed of one or more clans.