Bulgarians in Albania

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Ethnic Bulgarians in present-day Albania live mostly in the areas of Mala Prespa, Golo Brdo and Gora. According to the Bulgarian State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, 40,000 to 50,000 persons of Bulgarian origin are living in Albania,[1] but other sources have estimated Albania's Bulgarians to number as many as 100,000.[2] Most speakers of Slavic languages in Albania converted to Islam during the period of Ottoman rule in the Balkans.[citation needed] Ethnic identity can be fluid among the Albania's Slavophonic population, who might identify as Albanian, Bulgarian or Macedonian, depending on the circumstances.[2] Between 2001 and 2016, around 4,470 Albanian nationals applied for a Bulgarian citizenship and over 2,600 of them were granted one.[3]


Middle Ages & Ottoman Period[edit]

The extent of the uprising of Peter Delyan (Peter II of Bulgaria) may have included much if not most of modern Albania; one of its centres was Drach (Durrës)

The first reference to a Slavic presence in Albania dates to 548, when the Slavs reached Epidamnos (Durrës), capturing fortresses in the city's vicinity. Slavic settlement near Epirus in southern Albania is mentioned in a note in a 10th-century manuscript of Strabo's Geographica, and near Durrës in a Middle Bulgarian translation of the Manasses Chronicle.[4]

Archaeologists have suggested the existence of a Bulgar archaeological culture in what is now modern Macedonia and eastern Albania,[5] citing fortresses, burials, various products of metallurgy and pottery that could be of Bulgar origin.[6]

According to toponymic evidence, Slavic settlement was concentrated in the region between the Vjosë and Devoll Rivers. Slavic placenames in this region suggest an eastern South Slavic (i.e. Bulgarian, as opposed to Serbo-Croatian) dialect.[7] Bulgarian Slavs were the majority of the population in the area by the Early Middle Ages,[citation needed] and remained a significant group in central and southern Albania through the 15th century.[8] In the 850s and 860s, Simeon I's First Bulgarian Empire included the Slavic-inhabited areas of what is today western Macedonia and southern Albania, which constituted the Kutmichevitsa administrative province. Kutmichevista included the cities of Ohrid, Glavinitsa (Ballsh), Belgrad (Berat) and Devoll (at the village of Zvezdë). The Bulgarian enlighteners Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav are known to have worked in Kutmichevitsa, where according to the 11th-century account of Theophylact of Bulgaria, Clement had 3,500 students. Clement's and Naum's activity, as well as the consolidation of Bulgarian religious and state authority, helped establish the Bulgarian identity of this Slavic population.[9][clarification needed]

From 989-995 to 1005, Albania was ruled Samuel of Bulgaria. Under Samuel's rule, the region was governed by Ivan Vladimir, his vassal and the husband of his daughter Kosara.[10] In 1005, the area was reconquered by the Byzantine Empire. While the area was under Byzantine rule, a Bulgarian leader named Tihomir headed an uprising against the Byzantines near Drach; he was first supported but then killed by another insurgent, Peter Delyan, who proceeded to head the uprising and briefly ruled much of Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and western Bulgaria.[11] In 1078, Nikephoros Vassilaki raised an army from the area surrounding Drach, consisting of "Franks (who came from Italy), Bulgarians, Romans (i.e. Byzantine Greeks) and Arvanites (i.e. Albanians)"[12]

The area fell under Bulgarian rule again between 1231 and 1240, under Ivan Asen II, who "routed the Greek army ... and conquered the entire Greek, Albanian and Serbian land from Odrin [Edirne] to Drach."[13] John Kukuzelis, a famous medieval composer of Bulgarian descent, was born in the city in the late 13th century.[14] During the Angevin period(1250–1350), the Slavic population lived mainly in the cities and villages near the sea, along the Drin River and in the vicinity of Lake Ohrid.[citation needed]

In the late 14th century, Venetian records note a number of Bulgarians (de genere Bulgarorum) from southern Albania being sold as slaves, suggesting the Albanians may have subjugated the Slavic population, which ultimately led to its extermination, migration and assimilation.[15][need quotation to verify]

Ethnographic map of Bulgarians in 1912 on the eve of the Balkan Wars. The map was made by a team of Bulgarian professors in geography, ethnography and history at the University of Sofia under the leadership of Prof. A. Ishirkov[16]

Francois Pouqueville, in his 1820 book Travels in Epirus, Albania, Macedonia, and Thessaly described Bulgarian villages in the Devol region.[17]

20th century[edit]

In the 1920s, Albanians referred to orthodox Slavs in Albania as Bulgarians.[18] The new Albanian state did not attempt to assimilate this minority or to forcibly change the names of local towns and villages. During the second Balkan Conference in 1932, the Bulgarian and Albanian delegations signed a protocol regarding the recognition of the ethnic Bulgarian minority in Albania.[19]

Acknowledgement of the Bulgarian minority[edit]

In 1932, based on a resolution, that was voted by the Second Balkan Conference in Istanbul, Bulgaria and Albania signed a final protocol, which stated that the Albanian delegation acknowledges the existence of a Bulgarian minority in Albania. Due to a change in the government and the upcoming World War, the resolution was never ratified. The question is still bilaterally raised invariably since then. Among the questions, sensitive for the Bulgarian side and the bilateral relations, is the question of the rights of people with Bulgarian ethnic origin. In Albania, officially there are three recognised national minorities (Greek, “Macedonian” and Montenegrin), as well as two ethno-linguistic - Roma and Vlach/Romanian. The Bulgarian ethnic group is not recognised. That unfavourable position for Bulgaria creates advantages for Macedonia, which for years has ran policy for establishing the thesis of “Macedonian character” of the Bulgarian population in Albania.

The Bulgarian community is one of the most endangered, due to three main reasons:

  • Compared to other historical national minorities it is the only one that is not officially recognised;
  • Unlike other communities that are compact, the Bulgarian one is mainly in three different regions that are not adjacent to each other. These are Golo Brdo, Gora and Prespa, where the population is spread in small villages, in one of the poorest eastern regions of Albania;
  • The Bulgarian community varies in religion. In Prespa the Orthodox Christians prevail, in Golo Brdo the community is mixed, while in Gora, the Muslims are a majority. These factors contribute to the specific status of the Bulgarian community in Albania as endangered and strengthen its need of national recognition.
Map of the tree regions Mala Prespa, Golo Brdo and Gora in Albania, where Bulgarians mainly live today.

Although the 1989 Albanian census recorded 782 people who claimed either Romanian, Czechoslovakian or Bulgarian nationality,[20] The Albanian statistics institute denies the existence of a Bulgarian minority in Albania. In 1998 Paskal Milo, then the foreign minister of Albania, made the following statement on minorities: "After World War II, we know this minority as Macedonian. I’d rather not elaborate on why we chose this way, but the Communist regime made this decision and it’s difficult for us now to change that."[21] Recent official reports from Albania have not stated that any people have identified as Bulgarian in the last census.[citation needed]

The Bulgarian government and some inhabitants of the Mala Prespa, Golo Bardo and Gora regions dispute this.[2][22][23]

Two organisations for Bulgarians in Albania exist: "Prosperitet — Golo Brdo"[24] and the cultural association "Ivan Vazov" in Mala Prespa. [25] More than 800 Albanian citizens of Bulgarian descent have acquired Bulgarian passports based on claims of Bulgarian origin.[26]

According to Macedonian authorities, the Slav minority of Albania consists only of ethnic Macedonians and not Bulgarians.[citation needed] In 2008, the Bulgarian government reported that it had reached an agreement with the Albanian government that forms in Albania's next census would allow the Bulgarian community in the country to be counted.[27][28][29] In 2011, Bulgaria's Finance Minister, who is responsible for relations with the Bulgarian diaspora, met with members of the Bulgarian community in Albania, announcing that a Bulgarian cultural center would be opened in Tirana[30]

On 15.02.2017 the EU parliament for the first time in its 2016 Annual Progress Report on Albania, called on the country to recognize the Bulgarian minority in the country.

The official text of the report[31] says: Notes that further efforts are needed to protect the rights of all minorities in Albania, through the full implementation of the relevant legislation; recommends that the rights of people with Bulgarian ethnicity in the Prespa, Golo Brdo and Gora regions be enshrined in law and ensured in practice;

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Bulgarians in Albania". www.omda.bg. Archived from the original on 4 May 2008. Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  3. ^ Dash for Bulgarian passports empties Albanian village, July 10, 2017, The News International.
  4. ^ Гюзелев, Албанци..., pp. 12-13.
  5. ^ Иван Микулчиќ, "Средновековни градови и тврдини во Македониjа", Скопjе, "Македонска цивилизациjа", 1996, стр. 29-33 / "Medieval towns and strongholds in Macedonia", Skopje, Publishing house "Macedonian civilization", 1996, p. 29-33, in Macedonian
  6. ^ Curta
  7. ^ Гюзелев, Албанци..., pp. 15-16.
  8. ^ Заимов, Й. "Болгарские географические названия в Албании XV века". Studia balcanica (in Russian): 179–180. 
  9. ^ Гюзелев, Албанци..., pp. 19-21.
  10. ^ Гюзелев, Албанци..., p. 24.
  11. ^ Гюзелев, Албанци..., pp. 25-26.
  12. ^ Гюзелев, Албанци..., pp. 26-27.
  13. ^ Malingousid, P (1979). Die mittelalterlichen kyrillischen Inschriften der Haemus-Halbinsel. Teil I. Die bulgarischen Inschriften (in German). Thessaloniki. pp. 53–59. 
  14. ^ "St. John Kukuzelis". Orthodox America. Retrieved 16 September 2008. 
  15. ^ Гюзелев, Албанци..., pp. 47-48.
  16. ^ „Petermanns geographischen Mitteilungen” 1915, table 44. Map by a collective of Bulgarian professors led by Prof. Anastas Ishirkov. Taken from THE BULGARIANS in their historical, ethnographical and political frontiers (Atlas with 40 maps). Preface by D. RIZOFF, Minister of Bulgaria in Berlin. BERLIN, Königliche Hoflithographie, Hof-Buch- und -Steindruckerei WILHELM GREVE, 1917. ASIN:B000UUZN4S
  17. ^ ... A league north-north-west from Gheortcha, after crossing the Devol on a stone bridge, if you turn north, you enter a derven or narrow gorge of the mountain, watered by a small stream. Following it for a league and a half below the village of Panta-Vinia, are seen the remains of an acropolis, probably the site of Sation; and nearly opposite, a league to the westward, is the village Mocrena. To the northward, and below these villages, inhabited by Bulgarians, commences an open space of ground, which expands for a distance of four miles on to the lake of Ochrida or Lychnidus...(London: Printed for Sir Richard Phillips and Co, 1820)
  18. ^ Poulton, Hugh (2000). Who Are the Macedonians?. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 79. ISBN 1-85065-534-0. 
  19. ^ Ташев 1994: 141-162 стр.
  20. ^ Albanian census results Archived 11 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ "The Balkans" magazine, 18 ed., 2001, p.5-7 Ibid
  22. ^ Българите в Албания "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-23. (in Bulgarian)
  23. ^ Bulgarian Parliament Speaker Demands Albania Recognise Bulgarian Minority - Southeast European Times
  24. ^ "Default". prosperitetgolloborda.awardspace.com. Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  25. ^ "Osservatorio sui Balcani — Albania: le minoranze contese". www.osservatoriobalcani.org. Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  26. ^ "ALBANIA: Over 800 Albanians Acquire Bulgarian Passports". www.seeurope.net. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  27. ^ Integration of immigrants discussed in Sofia, Sat 05 2008.
  28. ^ Highlights of FM Kalfin's official visit to Albania, 26 April 2008. Source: BTA
  29. ^ March 2008&article=18041 Albania Counts Ethnic Bulgarians During Next Census, Standart, 11 March 2008.
  30. ^ Djankov Woos Ethnic Bulgarian Community in Albania, 9 May 2011. NOVINITE.COM
  31. ^ http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+REPORT+A8-2017-0023+0+DOC+XML+V0//BG
  • Mangalakova, Tanya (2004). Ethnic Bulgarians in Mala Prespa and Golo Brdo (PDF). International Centre for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations (IMIR). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2009. 
  • Гюзелев, Боян (2004). Албанци в Източните Балкани (Albanians in the Eastern Balkans) (in Bulgarian). София: Международен център за изследване на малцинствата и културните взаимодействия. ISBN 954-8872-45-5.