Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ali Pasha Tepelena (1740-1822)

Ali Pasha Tepelena was born in 1740 at Tepelenë in southern Albania, and in his youth was a leader of brigands. Later he entered the service of the Sultan and managed to achieve his ambitions: he created the largest pashaluk (a territory ruled over by a Pasha) in the Ottoman empire. His ambitions were to amass a great fortune, to avenge himself on his private enemies, and to become the independent ruler of Albania and part of Greece. Ali Pasha established and maintained contacts with all the great powers of Europe at that time. He maintained contacts with Napolean, the English Admiral Lord Nelson, and the Russian Tsar. He also gave support to the Greek struggle for liberation from Turkish rule. His pashaluks harboured organizations dedicated to winning independence from Greece. He would also have liked to secede from the Ottoman empire.

Ali Pasha's ruthlessness, cunning, and diplomatic skills earned him the title "Lion of Janina", and his court was visited by many Europeans, including in 1809 Lord Byron, who was thus inspired to devote a canto of Childe Harold to Albania and the Albanians.*

Rival feudal lords, both Albanian and Turkish, whom Ali Pasha had ousted from their holdings in Albania, Epirus, and Thessaly, as well as the Greek patriots fighting for their own liberation, put pressure on the (Turkish) Porte to get rid of Ali Pasha. Turkish forces attackled Janina, and Ali Pasha found himself deserted by his sons and allies. He fought to the bitter end and was killed in 1822. His head was sent to Constantinople and publicly displayed.

Under Ali Pasha, Janina was the most advanced centre in the Western Ottoman empire. Although the great powers did not recognize the Janina and Shkodër pashaluks as independent principalities, they treated them as separate states as relations with the Porte deteriorated.

The great pashaluks created the conditions for a faster economic development of the Albanian regions. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the Ottoman empire entered a new phase of decline. Its downfall came from within and not from without, through the successful struggle of the subjugated peoples in the European part of the empire -- a struggle in which the Albanians played a prominent part. A strong national independence movement took root in Albania which was not satisfied with concessions such as the creation of semi-autonomous pashaluks, but which demanded full national and cultural rights. It soon became a well-organized movement.
PP 18 and 19, Albania and the Albanians, Ramadan Marmullaku, C. Hurst & Company, London, 1975


(Ali Pasha) was rather soft and mild in appearance. He spoke both Albanian and Greek, plus a little Turkish, but was illiterate. Short in stature (about five feet five inches), an excellent shot and fearless, he remained active, ambitious, and vigorous until old age. He ruled over both Greeks and Albanians, but his main power rested with the latter (although his worst vengeance was also directed against the Albanians). He carried out considerable construction in both Epirus and Albania, including road building and the draining of marshes, while the merciless punishments curtailed crime. Despite repellent traits of behavior and the violence and ruthlessness of his rule, in official historiography he is regarded as a patriot and a fighter for Albanian independence. It is remarked, too, that Ali's death was the immediate precursor to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence.
PP 21 and 22, Historical Dictionary of Albania, Raymond Hutchins, The Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD and London, 1996

*See Frosina infobit: Lord Byron and his Albanian Costume


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