A Frosina Infobit _______________________________________________________________________________________
THE KAÇAK MOVEMENT (1918)
In 1918, disaffected Kosova Albanians,
who had rallied around Hasan Prishtina, formed a "Committee for the National Defence of Kosova" in Shkodra
(in northern Albania – ED), their
main demand being the reunification of Albanian lands. A general revolt
started, known as the Kaçak (outlaw) movement, led by Azem Betja-Galica against
the incorporation of Kosova into the newly proclaimed 'kingdom of Serbia, Croats, and Slovenes' otherwise known as
the first Yugoslavia. The Committee issued strict guidelines to the Kaçak
fighters, urging insurgents not to harm local Slavs, burn houses or churches,
or mistreat victims -- instructions which were in stark contrast to
Serbian activities in Kosova.
The movement enjoyed considerable support
from Albania, especially after 1920 when three well-known Kosovar Albanians
became senior officials in Albania's government -- Hasan Prishtina, a member of
parliament, Hoxhe Kadriu, Minister of Justice, and Bajram Curri, Minister of
War. The key task for Belgrade, therefore, was to destabilize Albania,
and an effort was made to this end, with the encouragement of the Catholic
areas in Mirdita, north-east of Tirana, to proclaim an independent republic --
something that the Montenegrins had several times attempted in the past, with
some success. But the new interior minister, Ahmet Zogu, managed to route
the Mirdita rebels, who returned with Yugoslav forces to take some territory in
The Kaçak movement
began to suffer, mostly as a result of politics inside Albania. The
Kosova leaders fell out with Zog, and Prishtina, who briefly became Albania's
prime minister, tried to dismiss him, but this ended in street fighting between
the rivals' supporters. Zog became prime minister on 2 December 1922. His
squabbles with the Kosova leaders had turned him into a fierce opponent of the
Kaçak rebellion, and of Kosova in particular; hence the end of Albania's
short-lived support of Kosova. Zog sentenced the Kaçak leader, Betja, and
Prishtina to death in absentia and had Prishtina assassinated in 1933.
Betja died after being wounded in 1924. And the Kaçak movement withered away afterwards.
Two years after coming to power, Zog experienced the first and only
significant challenge to his authority when he was forced out of office by a
liberal coalition led by Bishop Fan Noli and supported by Bajram Curri.
Zog retreated to Yugoslavia where he was supplied with money andmen and
returned to stage a coup six months later. From then onwards, he became a
virtual vassal of the Serbs, and the question of Kosova was buried.
However, his Serbian vassalage did not last long and Zog's government and
chances of survival were to remain subject to the whims of Italy and
Yugoslavia. When, in 1928, Zog proclaimed himself King Zog I,
transforming the country into a monarchy, political pragmatism had led him to
abandon the Serbs in favor of Italian promises of economic assistance.
With Italian blessing, Zog proceeded to style himself 'King of the Albanians'. The title infuriated Belgrade as it
signalled territorial claims to Kosova and other Albanian-inhabited lands in
Yugoslavia although Zog displayed no intention of planning any such thing.
The plight of the
Albanians annexed into the first Yugoslavia worsened when a Belgrade programme
aimed at changing the ethnic composition of Kosova and Macedonia had begun
after the Balkan wars, pursuant to the
'Decree on the Settlement of Newly Liberated and Annexed Regions of the Kingdom
of Serbia' of 20 February 1914. However, its implementation had been
interrupted by the start of hostilities. When the war ended, the agrarian
reform began, culminating in decrees passed in 1931 aimed at forcing
Albanians out of their lands, with, among other things, new regulations
requiring all land to pass into state property unless the owner could produce
Yugoslav title-deeds -- something few Albanians had been issued with.
A fuller platform for
the colonization of Kosova was worked out by Vaso Cubrilovic in 1937 in the
form of a memorandum called 'The Expulsion of Arnauts' (old Turkish for
'Albanian'- ED). Some of its draconian measures were implemented in
the interwar period -- which coincided with the signing in 1938 of an agreement
between the Yugoslav and Turkish governments on the deportation to Turkey of
huge numbers of Albanians. But the Italian occupation of Albania in April
1939 and the onset of World War II subjected the country and its people to a
different kind of fate.
PP 18-20, "The Myth of Greater
Albania" by Paulin Kola, New York University Press, 2003