Bulgarian occupation of Albania

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The Bulgarian occupation of Albania refers to the occupation of the eastern parts of Albania by the Kingdom of Bulgaria's army during World War I. It lasted from December 10, 1915, when the Bulgarian army crossed the Drin river and entered Albania,[1] until September 9, 1917, when French troops captured Pogradec from the Bulgarian army.[1]


During the First World War the territory of Albania was fragmented by several countries that occupied various parts of Albania. The Kingdom of Bulgaria used its army to occupy the eastern part of Albania, while Austria-Hungary occupied the northern and western parts.[2][3] After the beginning of the Bulgaria's engagement in First World War on the side of the Central Powers in autumn 1915, many ethnic Albanians joined Bulgaria in their fight against Serbia, and were given arms.[4] Among them was Sali Butka, a south Albanian guerrilla leader,[1] Hysejn Nikolica[1] and Themistokli Gërmenji (until December 1916).[5]


On December 10, 1915, the Bulgarian army crossed the Drin river, entered Albania, and attacked the positions of the retreating Serbian army.[1] On the same day, near Dibra, the Bulgarian army advanced into the valley of river Mat, threatening to capture Shkodra and Lezhë.[1]

A company from the twenty-third infantry regiment of the Bulgarian army under the command of captain Serafimov occupied Elbassan on January 29, 1916.[1]

There was a rivalry between the Kingdom of Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary in establishing their influence in Albania.[1] Attempting to establish its influence in Albania, Bulgaria allowed Ahmed Zogu to establish his administration in Elbasan and supported him in his attempts to revive support for the regime of Wilhelm of Wied.[1] The double invasion by Austria-Hungary and Kingdom of Bulgaria and a lack of support by the Kingdom of Serbia or Italy, forced Essad Pasha Toptani to leave his proclaimed Republic of Central Albania on February 24, 1916, when he again declared war against Austria-Hungary.[1]

In March 1916 the army of Austria-Hungary took over control of Elbassan[1] from the Bulgarian army which then headed toward Berat.[6] Bulgaria had an idea to persuade Albanian leaders to elect Prince Kiril, second son of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, for their king (mbret).[7] On August 18, 1916 the Bulgarian army, joining the Austrian forces in Albania in a combined attack against the Italian army, expanded their occupied territory as far as Korçë ejecting the Greek garrison from that territory.[8]
Sali Butka, the south Albanian guerrilla leader who had joined with his lot the invading armies of Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, burned Moscopole, near Korçë, on October 16, 1916.[1] At that time the Bulgarian army held Pogradec under occupation, together with the army of Austria-Hungary.[citation needed]

Italian advance in Southern Albania, Autumn 1916

Shortly after, the Italian army advanced, taking over Northern Epirus from the Greeks, and the French army occupied Korçë. On October 25, 1916, it was announced that the Italians were now in touch with the allied left wing in Macedonia .[9]

In September 1917 general Maurice Sarrail undertook an action against the armies of Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria in Albania. Together with the armies of Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary, there were Albanians, led by Hysejn Nikolica, which fought against the French.[1] But without success: on September 9, 1917 French troops captured Pogradec, ending the Bulgarian occupation of Albania.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Pearson, Owen (2004). Albania and King Zog: independence, republic and monarchy 1908-1939. I.B.Tauris. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-84511-013-0. Retrieved January 11, 2011. December 10-11th; The Bulgarians crossed the Drin into Albania and attacked Serbian positions along the crest of Jablanica mountain range
  2. ^ Zogu, Ahmed. "King Zog Tells his Story to Herman Bernstein, former United States Minister to Albania". New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved January 11, 2011. while South Albania was being oppressed by the Greeks, Valona by the Italians, the east by the Bulgarians, and the rest of the country by the Austrians.
  3. ^ Vickers, Miranda (2006) [1995]. "The reign of Prince Wied". The Albanians: a modern history. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 88. ISBN 1-86064-541-0. Retrieved January 11, 2011. Bulgarians were pushing into Albania from the East.
  4. ^ Bataković, Dušan (1992). "Albanian Incursions into Serbia". In Ivan Čolović (ed.). The Kosovo Chronicles. Belgrade: Knjižara Plato. ISBN 86-447-0006-5. Retrieved January 8, 2011. The beginning of the German - Austro-Hungarian offensive against Serbia in autumn, 1915, Bulgaria's engagement in war on the side of the Central Powers and its attack on Serbia, ... Masses of ethnic Albanians recruited into the Serbian army became deserters, and many joined the Bulgarians who gave them arms...Essad Pasha ... fought ... against Albanian companies that joined Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian troops.
  5. ^ Clayer, Nathalie (2007), Aux origines du nationalisme albanais: la naissance d'une nation, Karthala, p. 666, ISBN 978-2-84586-816-8, ... ce personnage alla dans le sens d'une cooperation avec les Bulgares....
  6. ^ "The Times history of the war" (txt). The Times. London. Retrieved January 11, 2011. Akif Pasha, actually set up a Provisional Government, though apparently with Austrian approval, in Elbasan. The Bulgarians shifted their centre of intrigue- farther south to Berat.
  7. ^ "The Times history of the war" (txt). The Times. London. Retrieved January 11, 2011. About this time they seem to have been coquetting with the idea of persuading certain of the Albanian leaders to elect Prince Cyril, second son of Tsar Ferdinand, Mbret of Albania.
  8. ^ "The Times history of the war" (txt). The Times. London. Retrieved January 11, 2011. In their invasion of August 18 the Bulgarians had pushed west as far as Koritsa (S.W. of Lake Prespa), whence they ejected the Greek garrison.
  9. ^ "The Times history of the war" (txt). The Times. London. Retrieved January 11, 2011. Italian Expeditionary Force made its way through the broken country of Northern Epirus. and on October 25 it was announced that it was in touch with the Allies'" left wing, where, about the same time, the French occupied Koritsa.