"The literary product of a people cannot be understood without knowing its history" Eqrem Çabej
The geography and character of the country
The geographical profile of today's Albania, apart from the sea, is characterized as a whole by the mountainous borders that divide it from the neighboring countries: to the north rise the great chains of the northern Albanian Alps and the mountains of Gjakova. The eastern mountainous borders are represented by the high mass of the dry Mount (Mali i Thate) which rises between the Lakes of Ohrid and Prespa, marking in the north-east the border of the plain of Coriza (Korça), whose southeastern margin is formed by the steep Monte di Morava. The plain of Delvina, in the deep south of Albania, is also partially surrounded by mountain ranges.
This country, already so isolated in itself, is still crossed by chains, mountain ridges, valleys and depressions that form vast plains like Myzeqeja. And yet Albania presents itself as a whole geographical unit. Albania is composed of numerous territorial fragments of this type that are different from one another and marked by great contrasts. Nevertheless, it is linked in a great unity, in a country that appears as a united and individual thing. The country stands out clearly from those neighbors for its being a particular unit.
The name of the people
In this territory, so isolated and confined to Montenegro, Macedonia, and Greece, the people who today are called by the name of Albanians have lived since ancient times. To this population are added the colonies in Italy (with Dalmatia), the ancient ones in continental and insular Greece, in Sirmi, in Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, in Turkey, Egypt and the United States.
The name by which foreigners call our people (Albaner, Albanais, Albanian etc.) was once used also in the same Albanian territory. But now it is restricted to local use and has been replaced by the name Shqipetar. The old name (Arben, Arber) has been replaced by the name Shqipetare.
Among foreigners, the writing of the old name oscillates between the alb- and arb- forms; the Albanians themselves used the second form. The Alexandrian geographer Ptolemy, from the 2nd century AD, highlights in his map of the world, between the Orestisi and the Almopi, east of Alessio (Lezha, Lissus), the fis (Roman gens or clan - group of individuals of the same blood in masculine line) of A? ßa ??? and the city A? ßa ?? p ????. This fis lived in central Albania. A silence of centuries follows.
Around the 1072 the Albanians are nominated by the Byzantine Mihael Attaliates. Anna Comnena (XIII, 5) recalls in Albania, at the time of the Byzantine-Norman wars around the 1079, the country A? Ssa ???, Georg Akropolita all the territory around t? A? Ssa ???. In the Middle Ages Arbanum is Kruja (a city about 40 km north of the capital Tirana), and its bishop is episcopus Arbanensis.
The Latins call the people Arbanenses (1166) and the country Arbanum (1204 - 1250) and only from the time of the Angioini (1271) onwards, more and more Albanenses and Albania.
The ancient name is also preserved by the Albanians themselves in the form of arb-; so among the Albanians of Italy, who, having departed in the fifteenth century from regions that are more often Tuscan, call themselves arbéreshs. This name is also used by the Albanians of Greece, who are equally Tuscan. Both these groups do not know the name Shqipetar, which therefore could not be dominant in Albania at the end of the Middle Ages.
Furthermore, that the old name was also used in northern Albania, up to the seventeenth century, the name Arbënésh testifies with which the ghega Albanians, who emigrated around the 1700, still call their village Borgo Erizzo in Dalmatia.
Until the beginning of the XVIII century the old name was still in use: thus the Albanian council held under Pope Clement XI is mentioned, in the acts of the year 1706, Kuvendi i Arbenit.
Centrifugal forces in the history and character of the Albanian people
The physical barriers on the margins of the Albanian territory and especially the high mountain ranges in the north and east have resulted in a separation and isolation of Albania from the neighbors. But stronger than these insulating factors were, in the history and character of the Albanians, the forces that operated from the inside out. The drought and the proverbial poverty of many regions of the country have made it impossible to collect enough for the needs of the population. However, the Albanian-illiration fighters of migrations and arms, have always known that over the neighboring mountains and beyond the sea extended wide valleys and fertile plains: Dardania, Macedonia, Tessaglia, Puglia.
These migratory forces appear to us as a fundamental and decisive factor since prehistoric times and then throughout Albanian history up to more recent times. Thus we see that since ancient times, the Illyrian physics extend both beyond the sea, in Italy, and on the continent, in Hellas, in Dardania, Macedonia, Thrace, up to the Bosphorus; contributing there in shaping the Italic nation and here in the formation of the Hellenic nation and of Thrace (later than the Serbian one, Greek and Turkish). Not only are the Messapians and the Japigi, tribal, Dardanians, peons and others are iliri, but the Macedonians and the Dorians are also connected.
At the time of the Roman Empire the expansion of the Illyrians became a military and administrative expansion. With the invasion of the Slavs begins a new dark period for the Balkan peninsula. But in the fifteenth century the "manifestation of the Albanians" took shape (the expression is of Fallmerayer), that is the establishment of the Albanians in Thessaly, in Greece, in the Morea Islands (which for the Albanians was what Italy was for the Germanic peoples).
The Ottoman domination could not stop the migratory flow of the Albanian people; in fact he only helped to give him new directions. The Ottomans in fact brought the Albanian migratory flow to its peak and then to its conclusion, thus contributing to their diffusion and dispersion. Due to the fear of a strengthening of the Albanians in Greece (a sympathy between the two cultures was all too evident) they removed from Albanian emigration the possibility of heading towards that country. Thus the Albanians could leave only to Italy and, on the other hand, to the Slav populations in Macedonia and ancient Serbia.
Subsequently, after the Islamization of the country, he followed the second settlement of the Albanians in Macedonia and Serbia, in the wake of the first Albanian physicists.
As in ancient times, even later this strong mountain population gave its blood to shape the young Balkan nations; not only in the ethnic sense, with the partial fusion of peoples, but also from the political point of view, ending up with the role of caste of the Balkans.
It is precisely because of these centrifugal forces that the Albanians have always worked and fought more for foreigners than for their country.
Of the same opinion is also one of the greatest thinkers of the Albanian renaissance, Sami Frasheri: "The greatest and most talented generals of the Ottoman army were Albanians, such as Sinan- pasha who took Jemen and carried the Turkish flag to the seas of India , or like the "Qyprilinjt" who saved the Turkish Empire from great danger and then carried it to the gates of Viena. And many other valiant men who liberated Christiana Greece giving him freedom from the Turkish empire; Boçari, Xhjavella, Miauli (the names are spelled differently in Greek and Italian) and many other fighters who have fallen for the rebirth and prosperity of the new Greek nation. Then there is the great Mehmet - Ali who saved the Egyptian empire from decay, after which he reigned for two centuries. There are so many others for whom history, which has always been the greatest, reserves only silence, and unfortunately continues to do so.
Foreign centripetal currents
In contrast to these centrifugal movements of the Albanian people, the centripetal currents of foreign nations poured into Albania. These have come from the sea or through the valleys of the rivers that cut the mountains along the borders, or from the great "gates" of the country like the plain of Corizzia (Korça).
Albania between West and East
More important than the north-south invasions, which were mostly immigrations of different kinds, are the movements in the west-east direction because, politically organized by the neighboring countries, they have been more lasting. Albania is the territory in which the long conflict between the Western-Roman world and the Balkan-Byzantine world has been expressed in a more pronounced way.
The western invaders (Rome, Venice, the Normans, and the Angevins) aimed at the domination of the Balkan Peninsula with Constantinople as the last destination. The Orientals (Byzantines, Goths, Bulgarians, Serbs and Ottomans) wanted to end up in the Adriatic and sometimes (Goths, Byzantines and Ottomans under the leadership of Mohammed II), they wanted to use Albania as a springboard to Italy. It is evident here that Albania has always turned more to the west than its neighbors. The Albanian oscillation between the Balkans and the West appears to us, almost as in Dalmatia, also from the political and (not least) linguistic point of view, due to the similar way in which the elements of Latin were received in both these languages.
The division of the country into many mountainous or flat regions, often deeply divided from one another, has caused the birth of the FIS in Albania and kept them alive until today. The fis, the form still extended by the extended family, is the simplest expression of the collective individualism that adapts to the feeling that the Albanian has always felt. Albania now finds itself at the center of an invisible social process, in the transition from the individual life of the fis to the common national life.
Even the ancient Illyrians were divided into many more or less important physics, who often lived in serious conflict with each other. The idea of the poor is the basis of political life for the Greeks; for the Illyrians it is the gens; in both it is the expression of particularity. Rarely has a strong hand been able to bring together many FIS among the Illyrians and, if it has succeeded, it has only done so for a short period.
The fis is a compact ethnic group, a group of people who, strongly united among themselves, are aware of being descendants of the same lineage: last shoots of a trunk that grows continuously, the root of which is connected to the name of the progenitor of the fis, which has become a legend.
The most important concept among the members of a fis is the awareness of being a unit. Other elements that characterize it are the way of living, clothing and hairstyles, the external appearance, the way of living, customs and traditions, social and legal institutions, dialect and legends, nutrition; in summary, material culture and spiritual life.
From the linguistic point of view, the Albanians are divided into gheghi and toschi. This branch, according to linguistics, is not remote (G. Mayer, Nuova Antologia, 1885, p.588): the tosco dialect of the South of the late Middle Ages, as it appears in the idioms of our colonies in Greece and Italy, is approaching to the northern 16th and 16th century ghego.
Ghego and tosco are in turn divided into fis and sub-dialets. The external and internal passages take place gradually as if everywhere.
The history of Albanian physics, that is the non-written history of Albania, is still obscure. Šufflay considers as first ethnic formation the Illyrians of the Labeati, Pirusti, Sardeati, Batiati, Partini, etc. Second layer after these are the thirteen clans named in the 1304: Albos, Spatos, Catarucos, Bischesini, Aranitos, Lecenis, Turbaceos, Marchaseos, Scuras, Zeneuias, Bucceseos, Logoreseos, mateseos. Of the third layer, fis like Hoti are part of the North; in the South, in the 1481, Grisei, Churlisei, Plesei and Corvesei.
To what extent they continue to live, in today's models and in modified forms, traces of these ancient physics are difficult to say. As Baron Nopsca has shown, most of today's physics is for Northern Albania the final product of emigration and tumultuous immigration, displacements and forced fluctuations as a result of the settlement of the Turks in the Balkans.
It is the task of dialectology, in relation to the study of local legends, to contribute to bringing clarity to the obscure genesis of Albanian physics. At the same time, light will also be shed simultaneously on the bodies that have lost Albanian nationality over time. Thus, according to the tradition of the Fis Krasniqi, they themselves, the Nikajs and Vasojeviqs are brothers, separated with the passage of time: the Nikaj remained Catholic, the Krasniqi became Muslim, the vasojeviq became simultaneously Orthodox and Slavic.
The traditional character of the border mountain areas
The ancient forms of the way of life and of material and spiritual culture, as we imagine them retrospectively for the ancient Indo-Europeans, have not been preserved, I think, so faithfully in any of the Indo-European peoples of our era as among the Albanians. This observation is also applicable to the Balkans, an area that is generally very traditional. However, while the Hellenes, who became civilized soon, immediately abandoned the ancient traditions, the other peoples made their appearance in the Balkans already possessing a higher cultural level, or they were formed here later. Only in the case of the Albanians can we speak of a sedentary and uninterrupted tradition from ancient times.
Two factors, the territory of the country and the tenacity of the inhabitants, have contributed to the preservation of ancient traditions. The second factor applies to the whole of Albania and is therefore constant, while the first changes according to the regions. It follows that the gradual distinctions of the different fis regarding the conservative character depend mainly on the nature of the place. Where, as in northern Albania, insurmountable mountains almost close and isolate the inhabitants from the surrounding world, the old institutions have remained almost intact, unlike central and southern Albania, more urbanized areas which, being much more geographically open, they have suffered more and more foreign influence.
In Labëria (region to the south-west) there are clear traces of the life of the fis of the past. From the social point of view the labs are the bearers of arms of the South. The given word (Albanian: besa) and courage have long been constant attributes of Labëria.
Even in the economic field, tradition is kept alive, like the self-sufficient economy of fis: “The mountain farmer produces on his land only what he needs for his and his family's survival, vegetables, fruit and tobacco enough to itself.
From a legal point of view, the sporadic preservation of an ancient traditional Canon (alb: Kanun) is important, while the canon of Lek Dukagjini is still entirely alive in Northern Albania.
The conservative character of this mountainous border area is testified finally by some aspects and figures of popular beliefs. For example, the girl of the mountains who helps the man in war, zana (the nymph or the muse) of northern Albania (whose origin from the Latin Diana remains questionable and which also exists among Romanians and Arumena ), exists as zërë, formerly as "fairy", now as "beautiful maiden" in the villages near Valona (Tragjas, Dukat, Radhime) and Himare.
This song is sung here:
Eja posht'o zërë Come down or nymph
Vijte po s'më lënë I come but don't leave me
Më thon: Ku ke qënë? They ask me: Where have you been?
Even other mountainous areas of Toskëria can be assumed to have preserved the fis for longer. According to Ami Bouè, here they are called farë (lineages), while as we have seen in North fis (clan). So according to him the sulioti çam (della Camurria) were composed of thirteen fis.
The unity and spirit of the nation
From a socio-cultural point of view, it is important to ask whether Albania should be considered as a unit or a mosaic. When in the middle of the last century the studies on Albania began, from southern Albania, conducted by men with a wide cultural scope such as Ami Bouè, Hahn and others, it seemed natural that Albania, with all its local differences, were viewed as a whole and as such placed itself in front of the other Balkan countries.
But this perspective changed with the birth of the specialized sciences. In fact, his followers turned to one aspect of the shape of Albanian life or a region of the country, without looking at the whole. A part so isolated was thus illuminated from time to time in all aspects. But what he gained in depth was lost in breadth. Nowhere does the question arise if there is an Albanian unity, because there is no interest in this unity.
But unity exists. It is an ethnic and socio-cultural unit that derives from geographical unity. It must only be discovery.
Previously we saw how from a geographical point of view the Albanian territory appears as a unit. It is of the utmost importance to study the way of life of people in this area. The Albanian "science of housing" is really in its infancy. Despite this we can, based on what we know and recognizing foreign influences, identify common principles.
The idea behind the house is the possibility of defense. In relation to this idea, the comfort and the construction and management economy remain in second place. This is the spirit of the fortified kulla (tower) house, which we encounter more or less all over Albania and the Balkans wherever there have been Albanians.
It is also characteristic of the individualistic nature of the inhabitants of this land that, like the "great-grandparents" Illyrians and other ancient Indo-European peoples, such as the Germanic ones, the Albanian lives in a single fairly isolated house. With the growth of the family, the building grows with the courtyards, becomes a fis neighborhood and finally an entire village belongs to a fis.
As for clothing, on the other hand, Albania presents us with a vision full of colors and differences, testifying to its partition into regions. Each of them has its own clothing, in addition to historical differences, given that in each region the clothes evolve according to different times.
However, despite this great variability of costume, we can say that white is the national color of Albanian clothing. Particularly the characteristic white hat is what, with all the differences of the form deriving from the fis (Kossovo, Dibra, Central Albania, Myzeqe, Labëria, etc.) distinguishes the Albanian in all the Balkans. The color comes from the white wool with the population dedicated to birth making their own clothes.
The physical appearance of the Albanians is determined by the Dinaric race, which also includes a Serbo-Croatian and Greek part. Naturally the somatic features appear to us in Albania, as everywhere in the world, changed by the influence of foreign blood. But the Albanian, of tall or low stature, of white or dark complexion, for his bearing, for the expression of the face, for the look, is distinguished generally in net way from the surrounding people.
But more important than these physical traits are the inner ones which, deriving from the former, are connected to the spiritual life and are common to the whole nation. Ami Bouè says among other things: "If the Albanian has the physical qualities of the Swiss and the Tyrolese, if he is like a tireless walker who, with the gun in his back, goes up and down like a goat the mountain peaks, yes he is also joined in the vitality and southern agility with an extraordinary sharpness and concentration of the mind. It is the people of fast and acute par excellence answers.
The natural pride of the Albanian is expressed in its smallest expressions, in its gestures, in the light and, we can say, theatrical walking. Courage is innate in him. If one day they became civilized, they would become not the Swiss of the East, but French, that is, one of the peoples who above all else prefer to dominate. The reckless life is so strongly their element that the misfortunes in war don't weigh them at all.
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