Faik Konica

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Faïk Bey Konitza
Faik Konica.jpg
Born (1875-03-15)March 15, 1875
Konitsa, Janina Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Died December 15, 1942(1942-12-15) (aged 67)
Washington, D.C., USA
Other names Dominic
Alma mater Harvard
Occupation Writer, statesman
Known for Albanian language literary style
Albania periodical
Dielli periodical
Vatra Federation
Albanian Congress of Trieste
First Albanian Ambassador to United States

Faïk Bey Konitza (Albanian: Faik bej Konica, March 15, 1875 – December 15, 1942), born in Konitsa,[1] was one of the greatest figures of Albanian culture in the early decades of the twentieth century. Prewar Albanian minister to Washington, his literary review, Albania, became the focal publication of Albanian writers living abroad. Faik Konitza wrote little in the way of literature, but as a stylist, critic, publicist and political figure he had a tremendous impact on Albanian writing and on Albanian culture at the time.[2]


Faik was born on March 15, 1875 as a son of Shahin and Lalia Zenelbej in the town of Konitsa,[1] Janina Vilayet, Ottoman Empire, now in northern Greece, not far from the present Albanian border. He had three brothers: Mehmet, Rustem and Hilmi. After elementary schooling in Turkish in his native town, he studied at the Xavierian Shkodër Jesuit College in Shkodra which offered him not only some instruction in Albania but also an initial contact with central European culture and Western ideas. From there, he continued his schooling at the eminent French-language Imperial Galatasaray High School in Istanbul. During his youth Konitza cultivated his skills in the Albanian language and amassed a small library of books by foreign Albanologists.[2]

In 1890, at the age of fifteen, he was sent to study in France where he spent the next seven years. After initial education at secondary schools in Lisieux (1890) and Carcassonne (1892), he registered at the University of Dijon, from which he graduated in 1895 in Romance languages and philology. After graduation, he moved to Paris for two years where he studied Medieval French literature, Latin and Greek at the famous Collège de France. He finished his studies at the prestigious Harvard University in the United States, although little is known of this period of his life. As a result of his highly varied educational background, he was able to speak and write Albanian, Greek, Italian, French, German, English and Turkish fluently. In 1895, Konitza converted from Islam to Roman Catholicism, and changed his name from Faik to Dominik, signing for many years as Faik Dominik Konitza.[3] However, in 1897 he would say "All religions make me vomit".[4]

Konitza strove for a more refined Western culture in Albania, but he also valued his country's traditions. He was, for instance, one of the first to propagate the idea of editing the texts of older Albanian literature. In an article entitled "Për themelimin e një gjuhës letrarishte shqip", (On the foundation of an Albanian literary language), published in the first issue of Albania, Konitza also pointed to the necessity of creating a unified literary language. He suggested the most obvious solution, that the two main dialects, Tosk and Gheg, should be fused and blended gradually. His own fluid style was highly influential in the refinement of southern Albanian Tosk prose writing, which decades later was to form the basis of the modern Albanian literary language (standard language).

Albania (periodical)[edit]

A young Faik Konitza in national Albanian dress, 1918

While in Brussels, in 1896–7 Konitza started the publication of the periodical Albania, with publication ending in 1909, after he departed for the USA.[2] It was printed both in Brussels and Paris. The magazine was one of the most important rilindas magazines of that time.[5]

Albanian publications were published abroad as the Ottoman Empire forbid the writing of Albanian and like other Albanian writers of the time Konitza used a pseudonym Trank Spiro Bey, named after a Catholic Ottoman figure Trank Spiro, to bypass those conditions for his works.[6] In 1903–1904, Faik Konica was resident at Oakley Crescent in Islington, London. There he continued to edit and publish, under the pseudonym Trank Spiro Beg, the dual language (French/Albanian) periodical Albania that he had founded in Brussels in 1897. He contributed bitingly sarcastic articles on what he saw as the cultural backwardness and naivety of his compatriots, stressed the need for economic development and national unity among Muslim and Christian Albanians and opposed armed struggle.[7][8] Support for a better Ottoman administration was advocated for by Konitza through reforms in Albania.[8] Konitza's mastery of complexity and fine details of the Albanian language and its dialects was reflected in his writing style being refined and rich in expression.[2] He also endeavoured to enrich Albanian vocabulary through words of the people and folklore raising the ability of the Albanian language to treat complex and difficult topics, unparalleled among other Albanian language publications of the time.[2] Albania contributed to the development of national sentiment among Albanians through focusing on topics such as folklore, poetry, Albanian history and the medieval figure of Skanderbeg.[2]

Albania helped to spread awareness of Albanian culture and the Albanian cause across Europe, and was highly influential in the development and refinement of Southern Albanian prose writing. In the words of the famous French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, "Konica turned a rough idiom of sailors inns into a beautiful, rich and supple language". Konitza also published the works of Albanian writers of the time like Aleksandër Stavre Drenova, Andon Zako Çajupi, Filip Shiroka, Gjergj Fishta, Kostandin Kristoforidhi, Thimi Mitko and so on.[2] Theodor Anton Ippen, a diplomat of Austria-Hungary, was one of the authors whose texts were published in the Konica's periodical.[9] Konica assured Ippen that he and his friends believed that Albania should be in political and military union with Austria.[10][11] Writing in his periodical Albania during 1906 Konica viewed independence as being some "twenty years" away and stressed that focus be devoted toward placing the Albanian nation "on the road to civilization" that would lead to "liberation".[12]

Konitza viewed Italo-Albanians (Arbëreshë) as Italian citizens who would have difficulty going against Italian interests while at the same time supporting the conflicting goal of Albanian autonomy or independence and refused to cooperate with them.[13] Italo-Albanians criticized his pro-Austrian position, while Konitza defended it on grounds that Austria encouraged Albanian national and linguistic expression among Catholic Albanians in its schools unlike Italy.[11] Konitza during his lifetime developed a reputation of being at times "irritable by temperament", "self righteous in attitude" and for going into polemics.[14] These issues affected his work with a decline of circulation of Albania as disagreements with Albanian patriots occurred who viewed his works on culture, nationality and rights as being too indirect on the Albanian question unlike the publication Drita.[14] Konitza was unable to attend the Albanian Alphabet Congress of 1908, due to receiving his invitation late, something which he considered was done on purpose.[15]

Whilst in Brussels, Konitza had a correspondence with Apollinaire regarding an article published by the poet in L'Europen. When Apollinaire came to London seeking to regain the affections of Annie Playden, an English governess he had met and fallen in love with in Germany, he stayed with Konitza at Oakley Crescent.

Apollinaire published a memoir of Konitza in the Mercure de France on May 1, 1912, which begins: "Of the people I have met and whom I remember with the greatest pleasure, Faik Bey Konica is one of the most unusual". He recalls:

We would have lunch the Albanian way, which is to say, endlessly. The lunches were so long that I could not visit a single museum in London, as we would always arrive when the doors closed, and the attention and care with which Konica edited his articles meant that the journal always came out very late. In 1904, only the issues for 1902 appeared; in 1907, the issues for 1904 came out at regular intervals. The French journal L'Occident is the only one that could compete with Albania in that respect.

Political activities and death[edit]

Konitza organized the Albanian Congress of Trieste, held February 27 – March 6, 1913.[16]

Konica depicted on an Albanian postal stamp

Konitza went to Boston, US in autumn of 1909 where he took over as chief-editor of Dielli newspaper,[2] published by Besa-Besën society, a political-cultural organization of Albanian-American diaspora. With the creation of Vatra, the Pan-Albanian Federation of America, his role inside the Albanian community of US grew and he became general-secretary of Vatra.[17] Konitza was a close collaborator of Fan Noli and one of the main figures in Vatra's and Dielli's history. In 1911, he published Trumbeta e Krujes (Kruja's trumpet), a very short lived newspaper in St. Louis, MO. On November 17, 1912, Vatra held a mass gathering in Boston and Konitza was the main speaker rallying the Albanian diaspora in the USA to oppose any partition of Albania, due to the Balkan Wars.[18]

He got disappointed with the Austro-Hungarian authorities and Ismail Qemali personally, after Qemali's approval for the creation of an Austro-Italian bank (though named Bank of Albania - Albanian: Banka e Shqiperise), which was feared amongst Albanians as having been created for massive purchasing of land properties and controlling the future economy of Albania.[19] Konitza was one of the main organizers of the Albanian Congress of Trieste in 1913.[20] On November 20, 1913 he went in conflict with Essad Pasha and left Durres together with his collaborator Fazil Pasha Toptani.[21]

In 1921, he went back to the US where he became president of Vatra, and a columnist in Dielli. In 1929, Ahmet Zogu - newly proclaimed King Zog I of Albania would appoint him as Albanian Ambassador to the United States despite his very low opinion on Zogu.[22] He carried this duty until 1939 when Fascist Italy invaded Albania.[23] Konitza was a harsh criticizer of King Zog's decision to abandon Albania on the eve of the Italian invasion.[24]

He died in Washington on December 15, 1942 and was buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston. In 1998 his remains were transferred to Tirana and interred at the Tirana Park on the Artificial Lake.[25]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mann, Stuard Edward (1955). Albanian literature: an outline of prose, poetry, and drama. p. 99. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Skendi 1967, pp. 125–126, 347.
  3. ^ Thanas L. Gjika, "Konica hapi epokën e rikrishterizimit të shqiptarëve"
  4. ^ Shqip, Gazeta (2014-09-11). "Myslimanët shqiptarë, "në anën e gabuar të historisë" | Gazeta SHQIP Online" (in Albanian). Retrieved 2017-07-28. 
  5. ^ The Albanians: an ethnic history from prehistoric times to the present By Edwin E. Jacques page 299 [1]
  6. ^ Skendi 1967, p. 128.
  7. ^ Skendi 1967, pp. 180–182, 397.
  8. ^ a b Gawrych 2006, p. 146.
  9. ^ "Qui était Faik Konica?". konitza.eu. 2009. Retrieved January 1, 2013. Les collaborateurs et le contenu de la revue "Albania". La collection d'Albania est réunie en 12 volumes qui font 2500 pages. Ses collaborateurs étaient des écrivains et intellectuels réputés de son temps en Europe comme Guillaume Apollinaire, Emile Legrand, Jan Urban Jarnik, Holger Pedersen, Albert Thumb, Théodore Ippen, etc. 
  10. ^ Tarifa, Fatos (1985). Drejt pavarësisë: çështja e çlirimit kombëtar në mendimin politik-shoqëror rilindës 1900–1912 (in Albanian). Tirana: Shtëpia Botuese "8 Nëntori". p. 102. Është opinioni im dhe i miqve të mi" i shkruante Konica më 1897 konsullit austriak në Shkodër Teodor Ippen – se "do të ishte fat nëse Shqipëria do të arrinte të gëzojë një autonomi administrative me një bashkim politik dhe ushtarak me Austrinë 
  11. ^ a b Skendi 1967, pp. 157–158, 267–268.
  12. ^ Gawrych, George (2006). The Crescent and the Eagle: Ottoman rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874–1913. London: IB Tauris. p. 182. ISBN 9781845112875. 
  13. ^ Skendi 1967, pp. 230–233.
  14. ^ a b Skendi 1967, pp. 158–159, 183–184.
  15. ^ Skendi 1967, p. 370.
  16. ^ Elsie, Robert. "Albanian Voices, 1962 – Fan Noli". Robert Elsie's personal website. Archived from the original on January 21, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2011. Congress of Trieste which was organized by his friend and rival Faik bey Konitza 
  17. ^ Skendi 1967, p. 453.
  18. ^ Skendi, Stavro (1967). The Albanian national awakening. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 458. ISBN 9781400847761. 
  19. ^ Fan Noli, Kostandin Chekrezi (1918), Kalendari i Vatrës i motit 1918, Boston: Vatra Press, p. 29. 
  20. ^ Elsie, Robert. "Albanian Voices, 1962 – Fan Noli". Robert Elsie's personal website. Archived from the original on January 21, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2011. Congress of Trieste which was organized by his friend and rival Faik bey Konitza 
  21. ^ Fan Noli, Kostandin Chekrezi (1918), Kalendari i Vatrës i motit 1918, Boston: Vatra Press, p. 30. 
  22. ^ Nasho Jorgaqi, Xhevat Lloshi, ed. (1993), Faik Konica - Vepra (1 ed.), Tirana: Shtepia Botuese "Naim Frasheri", p. 506, OCLC 49987449, ...tell your King that as right as my critics are towards his regime, I will restrict them inside the Albanian circles, meanwhile outside of them I will defend the regime with all I can. I will continue to serve the King with loyalty and without arguing, because I am his representative and because he is the Head of the Albanian State. But on a personal level, I feel the maximal contempt towards him 
  23. ^ Elsie, Robert (January 2006). Albanian literature: a short history. I. B.Tauris & Company, Limited. p. 106. ISBN 1-84511-031-5. had initially given his support to the government of Essad Pasha Toptani 
  24. ^ Nasho Jorgaqi, Xhevat Lloshi, ed. (1993), Faik Konica - Vepra (1 ed.), Tirana: Shtepia Botuese "Naim Frasheri", p. 511, OCLC 49987449 
  25. ^ Gottschling, Anila. "What to visit in Tirana" (in Albanian). Archived from the original on February 11, 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2010.