Professor Ferdinando Milone (Naples 1896 - Rome 1987), illustrious geographer, teaching in the Universities of Naples and Rome, National Member of the Accademia dei Lincei, author of numerous books still today of capital importance for the study of economic geography, he published in the March issue 1942 of the magazine of the Touring Club Italiano "Le Vie d'Italia" an important essay entitled: "The Albanians and Albania".
I consider it useful to provide a summary of the article, which is certainly not readily available in Italian libraries or, I believe, in the Albanian ones.
Ferdinando Milone: "The Albanian Nationality"
The author states, at the beginning of the essay:«In the Balkan region, a tangle of countries and peoples, physical forms do not always allow a clear distinction between one and the other region, nor are individual nationalities so marked as to allow a division between them.
Territories of transition from one region to another, inhabited by mixed populations for the long centuries of common history, must necessarily, more than once, be assigned to this or that political state.
With a little good will, a lot of rectitude and objective study of the facts, it will be possible, however, even in this intricate great physical and human region, to come to a fair and lasting settlement ".
So Ferdinando Milone goes on to consider the new Albanian state.
"First of all, is there an Albanian nationality?" Ferdinando Milone
An authentic Albanian, the Minister Ernest Koliqi - (Scutari, 20 May 1903 - Rome, 15 January 1975) - Albanian writer and poet, as well as Minister of Education in Albania from 1939 to 1942 - in the overall look that opens the beautiful guide of Albania published by the Italian Tourist Association in 1940 - makes two important statements: "The different historical vicissitudes, through which the Albanian race has passed, have given it a particular, varied and curious physiognomy, which make it appear a true mosaic of religions, of uses and of very disparate customs".
And further note: "If you ask the people of the countryside or of the city, of the plain or of the mountain, of the north or south, of the marsh or of the plateau: "Who are you?" You will always hear a proud pride: "Jam Shqipëtar", I am Albanian " .
The Koliqi is right, says Milone: the more we stop in Albania, the more we study it and learn about this interesting land and this people so good and loyal, and the more land and people appear to us different from region to region, from people to people, from fis to fis.
And goes on: "But if we consider the physical structure of the Balkan and we keep in mind that this intricate tangle of geological soils and forms of soil, climates and peoples offer this great peninsula, we will see a physical Albanian region quite distinct from the other neighboring ones, even if broken into several smaller units, relatively easy to include or exclude.
And, much more, we will be able to observe how there is, without any doubt, an Albanian nationality, which must be honestly recognized and respected.The fragmentation of the physical region could have led to the formation of as many regionalisms.
And it is admirable, despite the Turkish domination, that every national sentiment in this population of shepherds and woodsmen has not been extinguished, which - in the long centuries of foreign rule - did not have a history of its own that was not made of bold rebellions and bloody repression. The flame of national sentiment has remained alive in this people so much so that, in the 1878, after the Berlin Congress, the Central League for the defense of the Schipetara nationality was established, which demanded the autonomy of the Albanian State, with the capital Okrida, against the dismemberment of the Albanian territory in favor of Serbia, Montenegro and Greece ".
"If you ask the people of the countryside or of the city, of the plain or of the mountain, of the north or south, of the marsh or of the plateau:"Chi sei?"You will always hear yourself respond with proud pride:"Jam Shqipëtar", I'm albanian"
Milone recalls in his article that even in past centuries he recognized the Albanian nationality, offering help to Skanderbeg in his truly epic struggle and welcoming the Albanian refugees to our lands, where they freely lived preserving their own religion, their own language and their own costumes, linked to the adoptive homeland no less than to that of origin.
The independence of Albania demanded the Italian leftists and in the 1904 a Rome was established Italian-Albanian Committee to prepare the future of Albania as a nation.
Shortly afterwards an Albanian Council of Italy was established to coordinate the action of the Italian Albanians and link it to that of the other associations scattered around the world and those of the Albanians of Albania.
Finally, in the 1911, when the Albanians were already in revolt, a parliamentary committee for Albania is formed in Rome, which gathers over 60 deputies of every political color; a legion is organized to make common cause with the brothers of the opposite shore and a Rescue Committee is set up in Turin to collect clothes and money for the insurgents.
It was Italy that proclaimed, together with Austria, the sanctity of the rights of the Albanians, in the Conference of Ambassadors held in London the following year, succeeding in finally making their just cause triumph; and Italy was the first to complain if the new state was not, on the other hand, recognized regions that would be physically and ethnically assigned to it.
In the 1915, Sonnino proclaimed to the Chamber: "The presence of our flag on the opposite Adriatic shore will also help to reaffirm Italy's traditional policy towards Albania, which represents, now as in the past, a first-rate interest for us, as its fate it is intimately linked to the structure of the Adriatic. Great importance for Italy is the maintenance of the independence of the Albanian people, whose marked and ancient nationality was in vain, for interested purposes, discussed and denied ".
Ferdinando Milone: "Who are the Albanians?"
The great scholar now moves on to a different topic: "Who are the Albanians?"
Leaving aside, he writes, the various hypotheses of anthropologists on the precise origin of the Albanian people, it is certainly remarkable that, even through so many vicissitudes, an easily recognizable common ethnic fund has been preserved.
"What in our eyes - writes Ferdinando Milone, reporting what he said about eighty years earlier by Domenico Comparetti (Rome 1855- Florence 1927 - among the greatest philologists of his time, professor of Greek literature in the Universities of Pisa, Florence and Rome) more than any other thing qualifies the Albanian people is the language they speak.
This is that, keeping itself admirably, in spite of the strong and multiple causes that were opposed to its existence, it prevented that people from being lost, as many did, going to blend into the bosom of other prevailing peoples over him.
Albanian is another example of the language considered as a powerful conservative element of nationality, even when the nations, politically considered, have lost their nationality and their independence ".
Ferdinando Milone: "The Language - The best document of the National Character"
Not all linguists agree about the origin and autonomy of the Albanian language.
According to most it would derive from the ancient Illyrian; according to others it would be a continuation of the trace and not of the Illyrian. Certainly it is a language that has undergone strong external influences and among these the greatest was that derived from the Latin. Neither are words derived from ancient Greek, but much more frequent are those derived from the Greek medium, limited however to the Tuscan dialect.
The Slavic and Turkish influences are also noteworthy, while the influence of the other Balkan languages is not negligible.
Thus concludes Milone: "The Albanian language, though so enriched and modified, retains its strength and constitutes today the steadiest national bond".
Nor does the Albanian people appear divided by the different religion. Subject to the influences of Rome and Byzantium, dominated for over four centuries by the Muslim invader, this people appears distinct in the practice of three great cults: the Catholic, the Orthodox and the Islamic. But the triplicity of religions does not serve to divide its unity. The strong Mohammedan majority coexists, in simplicity of life and full tolerance, with Orthodox and Catholics.
"The Albanian language, though so enriched and modified, retains its strength and constitutes today the strongest national constraint" Ferdinando Milone
Saint Paul and the Latin missionaries imported Christianity there, which they especially managed to introduce in the central-northern regions of Albania. In the central-southern regions the Byzantines introduced it, which had more frequent contacts there. When the religious schism of the thirteenth century was determined, these regions joined it, converting to orthodoxy, while the north remained linked to the Church of Rome. In the fifteenth century, with the Turkish conquest, the religion of Mohammed spread throughout Albania.
It is clear that, to identify what the Albanian nation really is, the most significant element of distinction is the linguistic one. After all, loyalty to one's own language, for a people that was for many years subject to foreign domination, is undoubtedly the best document of its national character.
It will therefore not be difficult - once the Albanian nation has been recognized by the linguistic element - to define the boundaries that the Albanian state should have. Unfortunately the author does not succeed - says the author - not even easy to say from how many individuals the Albanian is still spoken in the Balkan region. The Ottoman government was content with simple estimates of a fiscal nature and distinguished subjects by religion and not by language.
An official publication of the British Government, published in the 1922, caused the number of Albanians to oscillate between one and a half and two million individuals. But of the Albanian population, only one half, and perhaps less, lived within the borders of the Kingdom of Albania; the other half constituted non-negligible minorities of neighboring states: Yugoslavia and Greece.
The official Yugoslav statistics led to 442.000 ascending the number of Albanians incorporated within the borders of the Yugoslav Kingdom: according to official Yugoslav sources, the Albanian minority in the State would have been equal to at least half of the population of the Kingdom of Albania. In reality, the Albanians were at least twice the number reported, that is much more than three quarters of the population remaining in the Kingdom of Albania.
«In the 1919 - writes Ferdinando Milone - an ethnographic map of the Balkan peninsula was published. In Montenegro, the region between Barri and the old border is inhabited by an almost compact Albanian population, which encircled Lake Scutari, occupied the whole region between the Cem and the middle and lower Moraca, where the shepherds of the Klementi tribe led the sheep to winter.
The high basins of the Lim, the Ibar and the White Drini are inhabited by compact Albanians, where the Albanians go as far as the mountains of Krusceviza and the Mokra, reaching the old borders between Montenegro and Serbia.To Albania - according to the Kettler - almost all of the Shkodra lake and the region of Hoti, all the northern Albanian Alps and the districts of Gjakova and Ipek with the fertile Methohija, up to the Krusceviza mountains should have been recognized.In Serbia, beyond its ancient border with Montenegro, the Albanians form a large island, which stretches and branches around Novi Pazar.
In the upper basin of the Ibar, up to the southern Kopaoniks and the Goljaks, the Albanians are in great prevalence, who only beyond these mountains mix with Serbs and Bulgarians. On the other hand, vast islands of Serbs interrupt the continuity of the Albanian population: immediately east of Ipek, at noon of Pristina and north of Prizren.
But even in these districts the Albanian population is in the vast majority and all that the Kosovan is undoubtedly inhabited by Albanians, who in the cultivation of the flat lands of this region demonstrate their great capacity of work and their remarkable possibilities of progress.
At midday of Prizren and Vranja, the mixture occurs with the Bulgarians, who occupy some stretches of the valleys of the major rivers. The mountainous region to the right of the upper Vardar is inhabited by Albanians, who, however, further south, form only modest islands near Kruscevo, Monastir and Florina, a city, the latter which was located within the old Greek border.
Within the old borders of Greece the Albanians form a large oasis in the SE of Florina. The number of Albanians incorporated within the old Greek borders was very likely to be a few hundred thousand individuals ".
Milone claims to have adhered to the statements of a German scholar (Kettler), with whom several other authors agree (Lejan, the Russian scholar Mirkovitch, in the indications of the areas inhabited by Albanians outside the borders (1940) of the Kingdom of Albania). Slavic Bradaska, H. Kiepert and Carlo Sax), all scholars of the second half of 800.
In the light of these authoritative sources, Ferdinando Milone examines the Albanian claims to the Peace Conference. Fundamental to the Albanian claims was the memorial of Turkhan Pascià, which demanded the return to Albania of the territories incorporated in Montenegro and of those incorporated in Serbia and Greece, as a result of the London Conference of 1913.
"It is certain that the Albanian people have by now the right to see its ethnic and national individuality established and definitively recognized" Ferdinando Milone
In essence, the ethnographic frontier of Albania was claimed, which, the text says, the memorial, "Starts from the Spitza bay, heads towards the North-East including the Tousi, Hoti, Gronda, Triepchi clans, the city of Podgoriza, and, following the Montenegrin border of 1912, encloses the Ipek district, the eastern part of Mitrovitza district, the districts of Prichitina, Guilan, Ferizovitch, Katchanik, a part of the Uskub district, the districts of Kalkandelen, Gostivar, Kertchovo, Dibra, to reach the mountain called Mal'i Thate, among the lakes of Okhrida and Prespa.
Starting from this point, the border follows the 1913 route up to the Monte Gramos crest and continues southwards to end at the Preveda gulf. All the territories located in the west of this frontier constitute ethnic and historical Albania "."Within the limits of the territories mentioned - continues the Turkhan Pascià memorial, live about two and a half million Albanians, of which almost a million in the borders assigned to Albania by the London Conference of 1913 and a million and a half in the regions ceded by the same Conference to Montenegro, Serbia and Greece ".
After this historical excursus I report the conclusion of Professor Milone: "It is certain that the Albanian people have by now the right to see its ethnic and national individuality established and definitively recognized".
Note: The ethnic and geographical maps, the original photographs of prof. Ferdinando Milone illustrating the article, the captions of geographical maps and photographs are taken from the original text and reported in full.
Follow Albania News on Google News