Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The League of Prizren Lidhja e Prizrenit

A Frosina infobit

The League of Prizren (Kosova)  Lidhja e Prizrenit

There is scarcely a book about Albania that does not contain some reference to the League of Prizren (Lidhja e Prizrenit) in Kosova as occupying a very special place in Albanian history -- not only because of its influence outside of Albanian-speaking territories after the League was formed but also because of its effect on the international scene. In point of fact, it was thanks to the League of Prizren, alone, that the question of a separate Albanian nation was posed in worldwide diplomatic circles for the first time.
Why was the League of Prizren in Kosova formed, what were its aims, and what did it accomplish? Concisely stated, as a result of the Russian victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, the Porte (Turkish government) was forced to accept the terms of the Treaty of San Stefano the following year which, among other things, deprived Turkey of some important, integral parts of Albania which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. It should be noted that for purposes of administration and control, Turkey had divided Albania, after its subjugation, into the four vilayets of Shkodra, Kosova, Manastir*, and Janina.  Great Britain, however, demanded that Russia submit the Treaty to a European convention of six Great Powers (Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austro-Hungary, and Russia), and on June 14, 1878, the Congress of Berlin was convened to resolve the issue.
The League commissioned two prominent Albanians, Abdyl Frasheri and Mehmed Vrioni, to the Berlin Congress to ask for national recognition of Albania, but, there, Prince Bismark of Germany uttered his now-infamous statement that "there is no such thing as an Albanian nationality."  Bismark also urged the exclusion of the Albanian question from further deliberations. In due course, the Great Powers ordered that certain Albanian territories including Antivari, Plava, and Gusije be ceded to Montenengro. Yet, when Montenegrin armies attempted to occupy those Albanian territories, they were met with such fierce Albanian resistance that the Great Powers immediately changed their minds about ceding inland Albanian territory to Montenegro giving it, instead, the coastal town of Ulqin. But this territory was also defended heroically by the Albanians who were forced to give it up because of the threat of bombardment by the combined fleets of the Great Powers.
Eventually, the will of the Great Powers was to have its way, and what remained after they ceded major portions of the vilayets of Shkodra, Kosova, Manastir*, and Janina to, respectively, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece, is, essentially, the nation of Albania as it is known to this day.

*The name of the city of Manastir (after which that vilayet was named) was changed to Bitola after WWII.

Reprinted from the article entitled "The League of Prizren" by Van Christo, LIRIA, November/1992

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