Tosk may refer to the Tosk-speaking Albanian population of southern Albania, subgroups of which include the Myzeqars of Myzeqe, Labs of Labëria (name version in Albanian: sing: Lab, pl. Lebër, also dial. sing.: Lap; Greek: Λιάπης, Liapis) and Chams of Çamëria. The Arvanites of Greece and Arbëreshë of Italy are, mainly, descendants of Tosk-speaking settlers, as are the original inhabitants of the village of Mandritsa in Bulgaria. The name Toskëria itself is often used to name entire Tosk-speaking parts of Albania, in contrast to northern Gegëria.
The Tosks in Albania live indicatively south of the Shkumbin river. This region is widely referred to from foreigners as Toskeria (alb. Toskëri) The Ottoman Turkish term, used during the times when Albania was included in the empire, was Toskalık which is derived from Turkish language and means, belonging to Tosks.
The Tosks speak Tosk Albanian, one of the two main Albanian dialects. The Albanian communist regime based the standard Albanian language mostly on Tosk Albanian. This practice has been criticized, notably by Arshi Pipa, who claimed that this decision deprived the Albanian language of its richness at the expense of the Ghegs, and referred to the literary Albanian language as a "monstrosity" produced by the Tosk communist leadership which conquered anti-Communist north Albania militarily, and imposed their Tosk Albanian dialect on the Ghegs. Although Albanian writers in former Yugoslavia were almost all Ghegs, they chose to write in Tosk for political reasons. This change of literary language has significant political and cultural consequences because the language is the main criterion for self-identification of the Albanians. Despite all efforts to unify Albanian language in some cases Ghegs from remote northern regions can not have conversation with Tosks from the further south.
Initially the population of Albania was Orthodox Christian, but in the middle of the 13th century the Ghegs were converted to Catholicism. Although many Tosks remained Orthodox Christians, the sense of strong division between Catholic Albanians and Orthodox Albanians did not evolve until the middle of the 18th century. Most Tosks are either Orthodox Christians or Bektashis in background. The Orthodox are more predominant in the regions around Gjirokastër, around Leskovik, and in the Myzeqe region (which includes the areas around Fier, Kuçova and Lushnja) and in the Dangëllia region (around Përmet) while Bektashis and are more heavily concentrated around Vlora, Tepelena, Pogradec and in Skrapar, Erseka and Gramsh. Other sects of Islam are present too, with Sunnis present mostly in cities and in far eastern regions (especially in Macedonia and Devoll) while there are also Halvetis in Berat. In almost all these areas, however, Christians, Bektashis and sometimes other sects of Muslims live side by side. Christians and Muslims were historically (around the time of the fall of the Ottoman Empire) almost evenly distributed in the Korça District and the area in and around the cities of Berat and Lushnja.
As a result of communist rule, most Tosks are not religious, and a large irreligion and secular population remains prevalent in much of Southern Albania.
At the end of 19th and beginning of 20th century many Albanians migrated to United States and almost all of them were Tosks. There was also substantial migration of Tosks to Greece, particularly its northern part.
The Tosks have often been described as shorter, less slender and described as being of a darker Mediterranean type having a darker skin color than the Ghegs. The Tosks have smaller noses and rounder faces than Ghegs. Some claim that this difference has been reduced because of population movement in the period after 1992.
Pre-Ottoman and Ottoman period
There was a distinction between Ghegs and Tosks before the Ottomans appeared in Albania at the end of the 14th century. In the Ottoman Empire this division was additionally solidified because Tosks established strong cultural and intellectual connection with Istanbul and generally, the rest of the world.
In the 1920s Tosks were poverty-stricken peasants, still treated as serfs by their Muslim landlords. The Albanian Communist Party was basically established by Tosks who made up about three quarters of its membership. Before communists (Enver Hoxha and his fellow Tosks, such as Mehmet Shehu and Hysni Kapo) gained control over Albania its political life was dominated by Ghegs. At the end of 20th century the communists were overthrown and political life was again dominated by Ghegs. Ancient tensions between Ghegs and Tosks came to the forefront and resulted with riots of Tosks against the Ghegs' rule, whose symbol was Sali Berisha.
- Piotr Eberhardt (January 2003). Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth-century Central-Eastern Europe: History, Data, and Analysis. M.E. Sharpe. p. 433. ISBN 978-0-7656-1833-7. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
The Albanians comprise two ethnic subgroups: the Ghegs, who generally occupy the area north of the Shkumbin river; and the Tosks, most of whom live south of the river.
- Monika Shehi (2007). When East Meets West: Examining Classroom Discourse at the Albanian Socio-political Intersection. ProQuest. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-549-12813-7. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
There were and there remain distinct cultural and linguistic differences between Albanian Ghegs and Tosks
- Hugh Poulton; Suha. Taji Faruqi (January 1997). Muslim Identity and the Balkan State. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 117. ISBN 978-1-85065-276-2. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
the two ethnic sub-groups to which Albanians actually belong: the Ghegs in the north and the Tosks in the south... The Ghegs and Tosks differ from each other in linguistic, historical-cultural and socio-religious character.
- Elsie, Robert (19 March 2010). Historical Dictionary of Albania. Scarecrow Press. p. 450. ISBN 978-0-8108-7380-3.
The territory of the Tosks is poetically referred to as Toskeria.
- Blumi, Isa (12 September 2013). Ottoman Refugees, 1878-1939: Migration in a Post-Imperial World. A&C Black. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-4725-1538-4.
... the region of southern Albania—Toskalik...
- Canadian review of studies in nationalism: Revue canadienne des études sur le nationalisme, Volume 19. University of Prince Edward Island. 1992. p. 206. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Canadian review of studies in nationalism: Revue canadienne des études sur le nationalisme, Volume 19. University of Prince Edward Island. 1992. p. 207. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Arshi Pipa (1978). Albanian literature: social perspectives. R. Trofenik. p. 173. ISBN 978-3-87828-106-1. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
Although the Albanian population in Yugoslavia is almost exclusively Gheg, the Albanian writers there have chosen, for sheer political reasons, to write in Tosk
- Telos. Telos Press. 1989. p. 1. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
The political-cultural relevance of the abolition of literary Gheg with literary Tosk....Albanians identify themselves with language...
- Lear, Aaron (1 January 1987). Albania. Chelsea House. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-55546-166-9.
... some Ghegs from the most remote regions of the north cannot converse with Tosks from the extreme south.
- Leften Stavros Stavrianos (January 2000). The Balkans Since 1453. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 498. ISBN 978-1-85065-551-0. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
Religious differences also existed before the coming of the Turks. Originally, all Albanians had belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church... Then the Ghegs in the North adopted in order to better resist the pressure of Orthodox Serbs.
- Hugh Chisholm (1910). Encyclopædia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. Encyclopædia Britannica. p. 485. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
The Roman Catholic Ghegs appear to liave abandoned the Eastern for the Western Church in the middle of the 13th century
- Ramet, Sabrina P. (1998). Nihil Obstat: Religion, Politics, and Social Change in East-Central Europe and Russia. Duke University Press. p. 202. ISBN 0-8223-2070-3.
....the sense of true separation between Catholic Albanians and Orthodox Ablanians dates only from the mid-eighteenth century.
- Merdjanova, Ina (21 March 2013). Rediscovering the Umma: Muslims in the Balkans Between Nationalism and Transnationalism. Oxford University Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-19-996403-1.
... Ghegs are mostly Sunni Muslims,..., while Tosks are predominantly Bektashis and Orthodox Christians....
- Biberaj, Elez (1998). Albania in transition: the rocky road to democracy. Westview Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-8133-3502-5.
The Tosks live in southern Albania and parts of northern Greece. Because their territories were easily accessible, the Tosks developed substantial contacts with the outside world, and as a result, foreign influences were more pronounced
- Roselli, Alessandro (22 August 2006). Italy and Albania: Financial Relations in the Fascist Period. I.B.Tauris. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-84511-254-7.
The peoples to the south of the River Shkumbin (the 'Tosks', more sober and refined in nature) were more open and progressive.
- King, Russell; Mai, Nicola (15 January 2013). Out Of Albania: From Crisis Migration to Social Inclusion in Italy. Berghahn Books. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-85745-390-7.
...Tosks, who had abandoned the tribal system by the time of the Ottoman conquest...
- Minahan, James (1 January 2000). One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-313-30984-7.
The Ghegs, who make up about two-thirds of the total, are less intermarried with non-Albanians than the Tosks,
- Lear, Aaron (1 January 1987). Albania. Chelsea House. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-55546-166-9.
Almost all of the Albanians who immigrated to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were Tosk peasants in search of a better life. Many Tosks also immigrated to northern Greece.
- Robin Hanbury-Tenison (15 July 2009). Land of eagles: riding through Europe's forgotten country. I. B. Tauris. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-84511-855-6. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
Ghegs, who are often described as fair, are taller than Tosks, who are darker and more Mediterranean.
- Lear, Aaron (1 January 1987). Albania. Chelsea House. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-55546-166-9.
The Tosk people are shorter and have rounder faces and smaller noses than the Ghegs.
- Miranda Vickers (2007). The Albanian Question: Reshaping the Balkans. I.B.Tauris. p. 270. ISBN 978-1-86064-974-5. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
... Ghegs speak a slightly different dialect of the language, and are often taller and thinner than Tosks, but these traditional differences (often exaggerated in vulgar anthropology) have been much diminished by population movement in the post-communist period
- Leften Stavros Stavrianos (January 2000). The Balkans Since 1453. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 497. ISBN 978-1-85065-551-0. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
These differences existed before appearance of Turks. Traditionally there has been the division between the Ghegs in the north and the Tosks in the south, the Shkumbi River being the line
- Blumi, Isa (2003). Rethinking the late Ottoman Empire: a comparative social and political history of Albania and Yemen, 1878-1918. Isis Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-975-428-242-9.
This dichotomy intensified through time as Tosks developed strong intellectual and cultural links with Istanbul,...
- Fischer, Bernd Jürgen (January 1999). Albania at War, 1939-1945. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-85065-531-2.
In the south, home of the Tosks, impoverished peasants were still treated essentially as serfs by their feudal Moslem landlords.
- King, Russell; Mai, Nicola (15 January 2013). Out Of Albania: From Crisis Migration to Social Inclusion in Italy. Berghahn Books. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-85745-390-7.
The ACP was largely a creation of southern or Tosk Albanians.
- Miranda Vickers (1999). The Albanians: A Modern History. I.B.Tauris. p. 164. ISBN 978-1-86064-541-9.
The Communist victory had realized the transference of political power from the Ghegs to the Tosks, and as around three-quarters of the membership of the ACP were Tosks,
- Cook, Bernard A. (2001). Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-8153-4057-7.
...considering that postwar Albanian communism was led by Tosks from the south of the country (Enver Hoxha, Mehmet Shehu, and Hysni Kapo)..
- Watch, Human Rights Watch. Helsinki (1995). Albania the Greek Minority. Human Rights Watch. p. 6. GGKEY:Q7D6FPTU830.
Ghegs dominated political life in pre-communist Albania, but lost power to the communist Enver Hoxha, who was from the south and placed fellow Tosks in high positions of the communist apparatus.
- Ágh, Attila (28 June 1998). The Politics of Central Europe. SAGE Publications. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-7619-5031-8.
The old North-South, that is, Geg and Task, tension came to the forefront, the Southener Tosks rioting against the Northener Gegs' rule, symbolized by Berisha.
- Pipa, Arshi (1989). The Politics of Language in Socialist Albania. East European Monographs. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-88033-168-5.
Ismail Qemali, a liberal statesman and the organizer and artifex of Albanian independence, was Tosk.