by Antonina Zhelyazkova

The Balkans Revival in the 19th century and the Albanian patriotic ideas,,, (2)

The Albanian resistance and national unification movement was directed almost entirely from abroad, mainly by the Albanian Diaspora in Italy, Greece, and Egypt. Of course, each of these Enlightenment groups strengthened the influence of either the Catholic or the Orthodox propaganda. Already in the 1880s, the Diaspora in Bulgaria drew in Albanian patriots who worked for and dreamt of an independent Albanian state, education and culture. Civil and publishing activities carried out by Yusuf Ali bey - the first Albanian political figure that raised the clarion call for independent Albania living in peace and understanding with its neighbours. Exactly twenty years before Sami Frashëri clearly and categorically recognised independence as Albania's only way out of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire, Yusuf Ali bey developed the thesis that only an independent Albanian principality would keep the territorial integrity of Albania.80

On 10 June 1878, the Albanian League of Prizren was founded, on the analogy of the one-time League of Lezhë formed by Skanderbeg. It was the first to unite under its slogans various Albanian committees, regardless of faith and with a common aim - national unification and emancipation, its priority, however, being the defence of the Albanians' national rights from the aspirations of the neighbouring states. This was prompted by the inclusion of territories with Albanian population within the boundaries of Montenegro under the treaties of San Stefano and Berlin.

Initially, the Sublime Porte was supportive of the Albanian movement trying to communicate an anti-Slav and anti-Russian leaning to it. The support offered by the Austro-Hungarian propaganda, as well as by the pan-Hellenistic circles in Greece, was of the same trend.81  At the time of the foundation of the League itself, the Ottoman-Muslim trend was prevalent in Prizren. The leadership of the League was in the hands of big landowners and Ottoman dignitaries. The League drew in also members of the Muslim population in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A military organisation, an Albanian army, was set up in order to counteract the claims by the neighbouring countries, at that time chiefly by Montenegro.82  The Sublime Porte, which officially declared that it would strictly abide by the clauses of the Treaty of Berlin (13 June 1878), in fact relied on the Albanian voluntary militias to resist the Austro-Hungarian claims to Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

The handful of Albanian patriots with incipient ideas of Albanian independence were frustrated and their hopes withered after a sharp statement by the chairman of the Berlin Congress, German Chancellor Bismarck, who declared that no Albanian nation existed at all and it was not possible to listen to any Albanian claims whatsoever.83

At the outset of the 20th century a discussion began among the Albanian emigration on the need for the Albanians to mature in order to become a nation. In an article under the telling title of We are Dying Out, M. Frashëri reveals the disastrous consequences of alienation, hatred, religious division and disunion among the Albanians. Cultural backwardness, the lack of Albanian schools, and the studying of foreign languages at foreign schools, which "poison the minds of youth", were defined as the basic reasons for the Albanians' underdevelopment. M. Frashëri made a lot of attempts to define the concept of nation. Thus, for example, he wrote: "A nation,  to claim to be living, should be united, should have its own language, should be civilised, because as it is - wild, with no civilisation and knowledge, it would not last long. In order to live, we have to get civilised."84

80 Ibid., p. 43. 
82 Ibid., p. 82.