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Historiography of Albania

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


  • 1 Influence of Germany and Austria-Hungary
  • 2 Modern Albanian historiography
    • 21 Albanian socialist historiography 1945-1992
  • 3 Themes
    • 31 Early Albanian history
    • 32 Ottoman period and Islam in Albania
    • 33 Skanderbeg
    • 34 Treaty of London
    • 35 Other
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 Sources
  • 7 Further reading

Influence of Germany and Austria-Hungaryedit

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-Hungary1 He participated in writing and disseminating the first history of Albania published on the Albanian language because he insisted that creating an Albanian national consciousness would be beneficial for the Dual Monarchy2 Ippen struggled for the establishment of an independent nation-state of Albanians3

Modern Albanian historiographyedit

There are two main sources of modern Albanian historiography: intellectuals from the Albanian National Awakening period and historians from the regime of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania4 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 Christians5 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 priority5 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 rule5 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 Albania6

Albanian socialist historiography 1945-1992edit

Balanced approaches to history were not encouraged during the period between the end of World War II and the death of Enver Hohxa in 19857 During that time the communist 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 centuries8 These themes and concepts of history have still continued within a post communist environment modified and adopted to fit contemporary Albania's aspirations regarding Europe8 Of Stalinist Albania, Bernd Jürgen Fischer stated that it produced good historians though not always good history7 There were two main notable groups of Albanian historians in that period:9

  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 historiography10 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 colleagues11

When Albanian socialist historiography dealt with people, it tended to see things black and white12 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"13 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 ie Historia e Shqipërisë but also in specialized works published by individual authors like Viron Koka, Mentar Belegu and Ilijaz Fishta14 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 201015 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 objectives16 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 Skanderbeg8


Early Albanian historyedit

Main article: Origin of the Albanians

The picture created by Albanian science about the early history of Albanians is simplified, uncritical and has appearances of fabrication17 Albanian scholars have continuously asserted and claimed antecedence of Albanian culture over Slav culture18 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 non-Albanian scholars consider the question of the origin of Albanians to be unsolved19

Ottoman period and Islam in Albaniaedit

Main articles: Islamization of Albania and Islam in Albania § Debates about Islam and contemporary Albanian identity

The image of Islam produced by both main sources of modern Albanian historiography was neither objective nor positive20 Although the communist regime fell 1992 in Albania, contemporary Albanian historians have still held onto inherited stereotypes and myths regarding Islam from Albanian socialist historiography21

Albanian historiographical myths regarding Islam include:22

  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"23 Albanian historiography tends to ignore religiously inspired enmity between Albanians of different faiths24 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 historiographies13


Although the Myth of Skanderbeg had little to do with the reality of historical Skanderbeg, it was incorporated in works about history of Albania25

Treaty of Londonedit

Main article: Treaty of London 1913

The Treaty of London interpreted by nationalist Albanian historiography symbolizes the partition of the Albanian nation into three parts26


The Serbian argument that Kosovo was first settled by the Albanians in the 17th century is rejected by modern Albanian historiography27

See alsoedit

  • Serbian historiography


  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 b1861, 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 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

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

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

  13. ^ a b Schmidt-Neke 2014, p 15
  14. ^ 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 inHistoria e Shqipërisë, but also in more specialized works by authors such as 
  15. ^ Elsie 2010, p xi

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

  16. ^ Jens, Oliver; Ben Andoni 2013 "Historia shqiptare-një histori e hapur" ResPublica in Albanian 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 
  17. ^ Bartl 2001, p 17

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

  18. ^ Elsie 2004, p xvii

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

  19. ^ 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 IllyriansHowever, non-Albanian researchers consider the question of Illyrian or Thracian origin of the Albanians to be unsolvedNevertheless, this version of history has influenced many Albanians

  20. ^ Kressing 2002, p 40

    Neither of them produced an objective and positive image of Islam

  21. ^ 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

  22. ^ 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

  23. ^ 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"

  24. ^ Schwandner-Sievers 2002, p 62

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

  25. ^ Bartl, Peter 2009, Bartl, Peter: review of: Schmitt, Oliver Jens, Skanderbeg Der neue Alexander auf dem Balkan in German, 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 
  26. ^ 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 
  27. ^ 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 


  • Bartl, Peter 2001 1995, Albanci : od srednjeg veka do danas in Serbian, translated by Ljubinka Milenković, Belgrade: Clio, ISBN 9788671020176, OCLC 51036121, retrieved 1 February 2012 
  • Kopanski, Atuallah Bogdan 1997 "Islamization of Albanians in the Middle Ages: The primary sources and the predicament of the modern historiography" Islamic studies 36 2/3: 191–208 
  • Jürgen Fischer, Bernd 1999, Albania at war, 1939-1945, West Lafayette, Ind: Purdue University Press, ISBN 9780585063881, OCLC 42922446 
  • Kressing, Frank; Karl Kaser 2002, Albania--a country in transition : aspects of changing identities in a South-East European country PDF, Baden-Baden: Nomos, ISBN 9783789076701, OCLC 50737195 
  • Schmidt-Neke, Michael 2014 "A burden of Legacies: The transformation of Albanian's political system" In Pichler, Robert Legacy and Change: Albanian Transformation from Multidisciplinary Perspectives Münster: LIT Verlag pp 13–30 ISBN 9783643905666 
  • Schwandner-Sievers, Stephanie; Jürgen Fischer, Bernd 2002, Albanian identities: myth and history, USA: Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-34189-2 
  • Elsie, Robert 2004 Songs of the frontier warriors Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers ISBN 978-0865164123 
  • Elsie, Robert 2010, Historical dictionary of Albania, Lanham: Scarecrow Press, ISBN 9780810873803, OCLC 454375231, retrieved 4 February 2012 

Further readingedit

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

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