Historiography of Albania

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Historiography of Albania (Albanian: Historiografia e Shqipërisë) or Albanian historiography (Albanian: Historiografia shqiptare) refers to the studies, sources, critical methods and interpretations used by scholars to study the history of Albania and Albanians.

Influence of Germany and Austria-Hungary[edit]

Theodor Ippen in Shkodër wearing a northern Albanian costume

Theodor Anton Ippen, who would become a consul of Austria-Hungary in Scutari between 1897 and 1903, belonged to the group of Albanologists whose works were published through the state-financed institutes of Austria-Hungary.[1] He participated in writing and disseminating the first history of Albania published on the Albanian language because he insisted that it would be beneficial for the awakening of the Albanian national consciousness and therefore for the Dual Monarchy.[2] Ippen struggled for the establishment of an independent nation-state of Albanians.[3]

Modern Albanian historiography[edit]

There are two main sources of modern Albanian historiography: intellectuals from the Albanian National Awakening (Rilindja) period and historians from the regime of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania.[4] From 1878 onward, the national Awakening period galvanised Albanian intellectuals among some who emerged as the first modern Albanian scholars and they were preoccupied with overcoming linguistic and cultural differences between Albanian subgroups (Gegs and Tosks) and religious divisions (Muslim and Christians).[5] At that time, these scholars lacked access to many primary sources to construct the idea that Albanians were descendants of Illyrians, while Greater Albania was not considered a priority.[5] Compared with their Balkan counterparts, these Albanian historians were very moderate and alongside politicians mainly had the goal to get socio-political recognition and autonomy for Albanians under Ottoman rule.[5] Two major historical works written by Albanians during this early phase of modern historiography within Albania are Athanase Gegaj's L'Albanie et l'Invasion turque au XVe siècle (1937) and Fan Noli's George Castrioti Scanderbeg (1405-1468) (1947), both written outside Albania.[6]

Albanian socialist historiography (1945-1992)[edit]

Albanian socialist historiography was associated with the Albanian state building project of national legitimation.[7] Albanian historiography was based upon the works of a group of Albanian speaking intelligentsia that during the early to mid 19th century developed a national narrative when professional Albanian historians did not exist.[7] Balanced approaches to history were not encouraged during the period between the end of World War II and the death of Enver Hohxa in 1985.[8] After the Second World War the communist government trained scholars to become historians and write Albanian history, while due to the political context they were preoccupied with matters relating to national identity.[7] In 1959, the first volume on the history of Albania was published that dealt with topics ranging from antiquity until the 19th century and was a major undertaking that was a serious analysis of Greek, Latin, Byzantine and Ottoman sources.[7] Elements of national construction dominated parts of the work such as stressing the Illyrians as the ancestors of the Albanians, the existence of an Albanian medieval state and that Albanians during the Ottoman period were an autonomous entity.[7] These themes though linked to matters of national identification were not completely unfounded.[7] During the communist period, the regime attempted to instill a national consciousness through the scope of a teleological past based upon Illyrian descent, Skanderbeg's resistance to the Ottomans and the nationalist reawakening (Rilindja) of the 19th and early 20th centuries.[9] Those themes and concepts of history have still continued within a post-communist environment modified and adapted to fit contemporary Albania's aspirations regarding Europe.[9] Albanian historiographical scholarship though compromised by political influences did manage to produce reliable information at times. [7] Of Stalinist Albania, Bernd Jürgen Fischer stated that it produced good historians though not always good history.[8] Drawing upon themes of national struggles established during the Rilindja period, Albanian socialist historiography centred itself upon the main narrative of nationhood that within history writing included Marxist historical materialism and nationalism.[10] There were two main notable groups of Albanian historians in that period:[11]

  1. Military historians: Ndreci Plasari and Shyqri Ballvora
  2. Political historians: Alex Buda, Stefanaq Pollo, Arben Puto and Luan Omari.

Alex Buda, who also became a president of the Academy of Sciences of Albania, is sometimes considered as a founder of the Albanian post WWII historiography.[12] Buda belonged to a small group of intellectuals allowed by the Albanian communist regime to have access to foreign literature in order to use them to prepare new ideological and theoretical directives for the rest of their colleagues.[13]

Post communist Albanian Historiography[edit]

When Albanian socialist historiography dealt with people, it tended to see things black and white.[14] The legacy of understanding history through such dichotomies has remained for a majority of Albanians which for example they view Skanderbeg and the anti-Ottoman forces as "good" while the Ottomans are "bad".[15] The influence of ideology upon Albanian historians during the socialist era of Albanian Historiography can be seen not only in publications published by Academy of Sciences of Albania (i.e. Historia e Shqipërisë) but also in specialized works published by individual authors like Viron Koka, Mentar Belegu and Ilijaz Fishta.[16] Due to that legacy, Robert Elsie emphasized that there was no reliable and objective historiography in Albania which could serve as a basis for his historical dictionary of Albania he compiled and published in 2010.[17] Oliver Jens Schmitt stated that the post-World War II Albanian regime propagated the official version of the past using all available means. People in Albania were subjected to state organized indoctrination and propaganda. Schmitt explained that because of political influence it was impossible to organize open discussion about socialist historiography, while those who attempted to criticize it would be denounced often as non-professionals or foreigners with evil objectives.[18] The influence of such historical myths still remain which for example in 2009 Schmitt was severely criticised in Albania after producing an academic biography that challenged the traditional Albanian concept of Skanderbeg.[9] Post-communist Albanian historiography has attempted to move away from previous political influences of the Hoxha era and shift the discipline toward a more scientific methodological direction, however, themes of national struggles continue.[10] Political pressures have been placed upon contemporary Albanian historiography.[19] For example the Albanian government in 2013 reformed the Academy of Sciences by allowing it to influence the scholarship of historians by urging them to rewrite history (mostly in relation to the modern period).[19] Those moves caused heated debate among historians of which one group viewing the initial intent as being a move to place aside distortions of the past that assisted in empowering the communists and another group seeing it as a repeat of the communist regime's politicisation of history.[19]


Early Albanian history[edit]

The picture created by Albanian science about the early history of Albanians is simplified, uncritical and has appearances of fabrication.[20] Albanian scholars have continuously asserted and claimed antecedence of Albanian culture over Slav culture.[21] The official Albanian historiography, which influenced many Albanians, emphasizes that Albanians have always lived in Albania and supports the hypothesis that Albanians are descendants of Illyrians, while some non-Albanian scholars consider the question of the origin of Albanians to be unsolved.[22]

Ottoman period and Islam in Albania[edit]

The image of Islam produced by both main sources of modern Albanian historiography was neither objective nor positive.[23] Although the communist regime fell (1992) in Albania, contemporary Albanian historians have still held onto inherited stereotypes and myths regarding Islam from Albanian socialist historiography.[24]

Albanian historiographical myths regarding Islam include:[25]

  1. Islam was imported by the Ottomans and is an alien element of Albanian culture.
  2. Albanians converted from Christianity to Islam not because of their religious feelings though instead for other opportunistic reasons or because they were sometimes forced to do so.
  3. Albanian religious sentiments are weak because Albanian national feeling was always more important for Albanians than their religious adherence and affiliations.

Numerous historians from Albania with nationalist perspectives (Ramadan Marmallaku, Kristo Frasheri, Skender Anamali, Stefanaq Pollo, Skender Rizaj and Arben Puto) intentionally emphasized "the Turkish savagery" and "heroic Christian resistance against the Osmanli state in Albania".[26] Albanian historiography tends to ignore religiously inspired enmity between Albanians of different faiths.[27] Trends from Albanian nationalist historiography composed by scholars during and of the communist era onward linger on that interpret Ottoman rule as being the "yoke" period, akin to other Balkan historiographies.[15]


Although the Myth of Skanderbeg had little to do with the reality of historical Skanderbeg, it was incorporated in works about history of Albania.[28]

Treaty of London[edit]

The Treaty of London interpreted by nationalist Albanian historiography symbolizes the partition of the Albanian nation into three parts.[29]


The Serbian argument that Kosovo was first settled by the Albanians in the 17th century is rejected by modern Albanian historiography.[30]


  1. ^ Blumi, Isa (2007), Seeing Beyond the River Drin, Sarajevo, Ottoman Albanians and Imperial Rivalry in the Balkans after 1878 (PDF), Austria: Kakanien revisited, p. 3, At the center of this Sarajevo-based policy were highly regarded Albanologists such as Theodor Ippen (b.1861), Norbert Jokl (1877-1942) and Franz Nopcsa (1877-1933) who all published influential studies on Albanian language, geography, archeology and history through state-funded institutes in Budapest, Sarajevo and Vienna.
  2. ^ Clayer, Nathalie (2007), Aux origines du nationalisme albanais: la naissance d'une nation majoritairement musulmane on Europe, Karthala, p. 416, ISBN 9782845868168, retrieved January 19, 2011, Ce sont aussi les fonctionnaires austro-hongrois qui furent à l'origine du premier livre sur l'histoire de l'Albanie en albanais“. Dès le mois de mai 1897, le consul Ippen insistait auprès du ministre des Affaires étrangères de la Double Monarchie sur les avantages que procurerait, pour l'éveil de la conscience nationale albanaise et donc pour l' action autrichienne en Albanie, l'écriture et la diffusion d'une histoire de l'Albanie.
  3. ^ Ethnologia Balkanica. Prof. M. Drinov Academic Publishing House. 1998. p. 215. he promoted the Albanian educational system and supported the establishment of an independent Albanian state
  4. ^ Kressing 2002, p. 40

    Modern Albanian historiography has two important sources: the thinkers of the 'renaissance' (rilindja) period (1844-1912), and the historians of the Communist regime.

  5. ^ a b c Kostov, Chris (2010). Contested Ethnic Identity: The Case of Macedonian Immigrants in Toronto 1900-1996. Peter Lang. p. 40. ISBN 9783034301961.
  6. ^ Gran, Peter (1996). Beyond Eurocentrism: A New View of Modern World History. Syracuse University Press. p. 221.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Di Lellio 2009, p. 11. "The development of an Albanian scholarly tradition of historians is relatively recent and tightly linked to a project of national legitimation. While a loose international network of Albanian-speaking intellectuals began to develop a national narrative in the first half of the 19th century, professional historians were absent. Only after WWII did the Enver Hoxha regime start to train the scholars who would take up the task of writing Albanian history and, from the outset, the profession was strongly influenced by an authoritarian project of state building; political circumstances kept Albanian historians absorbed by issues of national identity. This does not mean that their work does not yield reliable information. The first volume of the history of Albania that first appeared in 1959 concerns the period from antiquity through the mid-19th century and is a major enterprise based on a serious examination of Greek, Latin, Byzantine and Turkish sources. Its emphasis on the autochthonous character of the Albanians as the sole descendants of the Illyrians and on the existence of an Albanian state in the XII century; and the insistence on the Albanian nation as an autonomous entity during the Ottoman epoch, are all elements of a national construction and in the end inseparable from the process of national identification, but not entirely without foundation."
  8. ^ a b Jürgen Fischer 1999, p. 281

    The political climate in Albania under Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania from World War II until his death in 1985, did little to encourage a balanced approach to history.

  9. ^ a b c Schmidt-Neke 2014, p. 14.
  10. ^ a b Brisku 2013, p. 16.
  11. ^ Jürgen Fischer 1999, p. 281
  12. ^ Hysa, Armanda; Keber, Katarina (2010). Historièni seminar 8. Založba ZRC. p. 111. ISBN 978-961-254-216-0.
  13. ^ Hysa, Armanda; Keber, Katarina (2010). Historièni seminar 8. Založba ZRC. p. 120. ISBN 978-961-254-216-0.
  14. ^ Jürgen Fischer 1999, p. 281

    ...socialist Albanian historiography tends, when dealing with people, to see things in black and white terms.

  15. ^ a b Schmidt-Neke 2014, p. 15.
  16. ^ Ilirjani, Altin; Arolda Elbasani; Ridvan Peshkopia (2010), Albanian Journal of Politics, 1, Chapel Hill, NC: Shoqata Shqiptare e Shkencave Politike, p. 178, ISBN 9780977666225, OCLC 70817932, ... the ideologically tingled historiography of socialist-era Albanian historians, as evidenced not only in official publications issued by the Academy of Sciences of Albania, like in....Historia e Shqipërisë, but also in more specialized works by authors such as...
  17. ^ Elsie 2010, p. xi

    ...Compiling a historical dictionary for a country... as Albania... because there is still no objective and reliable historiography in Albania.

  18. ^ Jens, Oliver; Ben Andoni (2013). "Historia shqiptare-një histori e hapur". ResPublica (in Albanian). Archived from the original on 21 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2014. Mbas 1945, për herë të parë në historinë e Shqipërisë, Shteti përdorte të gjitha mjetet e tij për të prodhuar dhe propaganduar versionin e tij zyrtar të së shkuarës. Fatkeqësisht, kjo ndodhte në një shtet Orvellian, ku historianët ishin thjesht mjete në duart e diktatorit, i cili personalisht diktonte linjat kryesore të interpretimit. Kjo ishte periudha ku shumë nga Shqiptarët u konfrontuan për herë të parë me historinë – e sistemi shkollor i shtetit të ri integroi për herë të parë gjithashtu fëmijë nga zonat rurale dhe familjet e varfra. ... Kritikët ose u denoncuan si jo-profesionistë (sepse ata nuk u rekrutuan në institucionet kërkimore për shkak të mendimeve të tyre ndryshe) apo si të huaj me qëllime të errëta.
  19. ^ a b c Brisku 2013, p. 17.
  20. ^ Bartl 2001, p. 17

    Слика коју албанска наука ствара о раној историјисопственог народа је поједностављена, некритичка и делује исконструисано.

  21. ^ Elsie 2004, p. xvii

    Albanian scholars ever ready to assert antecedence of their culture over that of the Slavs

  22. ^ Kressing 2002, p. 41

    The official historiography claims that Albanians have always lived in Albania and therefore gives credit to the thesis that they are the descendants of the Illyrians...However, non-Albanian researchers consider the question of Illyrian or Thracian origin of the Albanians to be unsolved...Nevertheless, this version of history has influenced many Albanians

  23. ^ Kressing 2002, p. 40

    Neither of them produced an objective and positive image of Islam.

  24. ^ Kressing 2002, p. 41

    Since the fall of Communism, Albanian historians have not started to free themselves from their inherited stereotypes. This explains why contemporary history, when it comes to Islam, is still the prisoner of myths.

  25. ^ Kressing 2002, p. 41

    One of these myths is that Islam is an alien element of Albanian culture imported by the Ottomans. The reason is that Albanians were originally Christian (Saint Paul visited Illyria). Other myths say that they had converted for a number of reasons which had nothing to do with religion. They were opportunists. They wanted to escape the taxes imposed on Christians and to benefit from the many advantages attached to being Muslim in a Muslim society. It is said also that they were forced by the Ottomans to embrace Islam. Those who converted are often presented as traitors to the true spirit of the nation. Another important myth is the weakness of Albanians’ religious feeling. Communists worked hard to show that in their history national feeling was always more important for Albanians than religious feeling. In their propaganda, they did not hesitate to distort the ideas of the rilindja writers. As an example, they used - out of context - the famous declaration of Pashko Vasa Shkodrani: ‘The religion of the Albanians is Albanianism’. Actually, he wanted to encourage national unity while still respecting each person’s religious belief.

  26. ^ Kopanski 1997, p. 192

    Albanian nationalist historians like Ramadan Marmallaku, Kristo Frasheri, Skender Anamali, Stefanaq Pollo, Skender Rizaj and Arben Puto in their books deliberately emphasized "the Turkish savagery" and "heroic Christian resistance against the Osmanli state in Albania".

  27. ^ Schwandner-Sievers 2002, p. 62

    ...there are many instances of religiously inspired animosities, which present day Albanian historiography tends to ignore.

  28. ^ Bartl, Peter (2009), Bartl, Peter: review of: Schmitt, Oliver Jens, Skanderbeg. Der neue Alexander auf dem Balkan (in German), p. 617, Dieser Mythos hatte mit der historischen Realität wenig zu tun, er fand aber nichtsdestotrotz Eingang auch in die albanische Geschichtsschreibung. [This myth had a little to do with the historical reality, but it was nonetheless included in the Albanian history too.]
  29. ^ Ersoy, Ahmet; Maciej Górny; Vangelis Kechriotis (2010), Modernism : the creation of nation-states, Budapest ; New York: Central European University Press, pp. 236, 237, ISBN 9781441684110, OCLC 699519530, Decisions of the London ...In nationalist Albanian historiography, this symbolizes the partition of the nation into three parts; Kosovo was annexed by Serbia, Çamëria (Gr. Tsamouria) was annexed by Greece, and the remaining part became the state of Albania
  30. ^ Singh, Jasvir (1 January 2009). Problem of Ethicity: Role of United Nations in Kosovo Crisis. Dr. Jasvir Singh. p. 84. ISBN 978-81-7142-701-7. Modern Albanian historiography rejects the Serbian argument that the Albanians first settled in Kosovo in seventeenth


Further reading[edit]

  • Pipa, Arshi (1989), The politics of language in socialist Albania, Boulder: East European Monographs, ISBN 9780880331685