Thursday, October 1, 2009

Albanians in Romania: A Brief History

Albanians in Romania: A Brief History

Cristia Maksutovici

The Albanian community in Romania is one of the oldest of the Albanian diaspora. It ranks second only to the Arbëresh in Italy. Following the conquest of Dacia, Emperor Trajan brought some Illyrians (Ed-from whom the Albanians are descendants) into this area, with the aim of using them to exploit the mines found in the Apuseni Mountains of Transylvania. The first documented Albanian emigration occurred in 1595 when the Romanian Waivoda Mihai Viteazu permitted a sizeable group of Albanians to settle their families in Romanian territory north of the Danube. This document furnishes the first evidence that a large and unified Albanian group settled in hospitable Romanian territory. The report was written by Giovanni de Marini Poli, an agent of the Imperial Councillor Pezzen who stated that "...the Albanians of Cernavoda and other neighboring villages having sent a petition to the Waivoda of Walachia that they wanted to come with their families and live in Walachia and abandon their home in Turkish lands. The Waivoda immediately agreed and soon afterwards 15,000 Albanians, with their belongings and beasts, crossed the Danube and came to live in Walachia..."The most important period of the Albanian community in Romania extended from the late 19th to the early years of the 20th century where, in 1844, the Albanian patriot Naum Veqillarxhi developed the first Albanian alphabet. It was sent to Albania where it was well received. Verqillarxhi also sent a manifesto that incited his compatriots to fight for a national rebirth. He ranks among the true promoters of "Relindja (Rebirth).

"Princess Elena Ghica (Dora d'Istria) was a promoter of Albanian national liberation. In 1873 she published ‘Albanians in Rumania’ at Florence. This first unedited documentary history of the Albanians of Walachia contributed to the Albanian cause - it gave the liberation movement prestige throughout Europe. The princess was rightly named the "highest star in the unfortunate Albanian firmament." From the founding of the Drita (The Light) society in 1884, numerous Romanian intellectuals and political activists supported the organization. In 1887, the Dituria (Knowledge) cultural association was created. Under the dual patronage of Drita and Dituria, important works of literature and history were published. The groups also supported printing of Albanian language schoolbooks.

The writings of the Frashëri brothers, Sami, Abdyl and Naim, Jan Vretua, K. Kristoforidhi and others were also printed. Bucharest became an important spiritual and cultural center for the Albanian national movement.Nikolla Naçua and the Drita Association oversaw operations of the Romanian-Albanian Institute. This Normal school that operated between 1892 and 1901 was partly subsidized by the Romanian State. Diplomat teachers were sent to various Albanian settlements "even at risk of death" to instruct in the Albanian national language. Under the presidency of Prince Albert Ghica, a Pan-Albanian Congress was organized in Bucharest in 1905 where Ismail Kemali deliberated with Bucharest's Albanian community.

In 1953, an arbitrary decision of the communist authorities suppressed the last Albanian organization in Romania. Government agents confiscated all the property of the Albanian associations including libraries, archives, national costumes and musical instruments. Today, the Executive Committee of the Albanian Cultural Union of Romania is striving to reinvigorate a sense of pride among Albanians in Romania. Cultural exhibits, television shows and radio broadcasts, as well as printed articles, are offered to encourage a spiritual renewal following decades of oppression.
-Excerpted from the Albanian Catholic Bulletin


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