100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Albania Declares Its Independence From Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire is called “The Sick Man Of Europe” because of it deteriorating control over its European possessions. Nationalism has swept through many of its territories and the Ottoman government itself had struggled with attempts at a more Western constitutional style government with the Young Turk Revolution in July 1908. This begins the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The aging Sultan Mehmed V is put on the throne in April 1909 but he is largely a figurehead with no real political power. The Young Turks in the Ottoman parliament put pressure on Ottoman Europe’s provinces by increasing taxes, forcing conscription in the Ottoman army and the disarming of civilian populations.

Between 1393 and 1501 the Ottoman Empire had incorporated the Albanian homeland into their dominion. After a suppressed uprising in Albania in June 1910, the Sultan visited Pristina and in June 1911 declared an amnesty. A number of concessions were suggested including establishment of Albanian schools, military service to be restricted to Albania, suspension of all conscription and taxes for 2 years and appointment of government officials who speak the Albanian language. By the end of 1911 Albanian members of Ottoman parliament requested additional rights for Albanians in cultural and administrative spheres. The next election in the Ottoman parliament was rigged and hardly any Albanian opposition members were seated in the new Chamber in Constantinople. Open rebellion against Ottoman authority began in Albania.

In January 1912 the Albanian Revolt was declared in Montenegro. Albanian soldiers and officers deserted the Ottoman military service and joined the insurgents. They were supported by neighboring countries and the rebels took over most of the area around Kosovo, capturing the city of Skopje. They demanded a number of actions from Turkey which were printed in newspapers Bulgaria in March 1912. By August 1912 the demands had solidified and the rebel position had strengthened.

In September 1912 the Ottoman government ended the Albanian Revolt by accepting all demands except the court martial of Ottoman officers who had fought against the rebels. The terms only covered Montenegro. This shows the weakness of the Ottoman Empire in Europe and encourages other Balkan states such as Thrace, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece to resist the Ottomans. This united defiance results in the outbreak of the Balkan War now being waged against the Ottoman Empire. The Albanian truce has held together and the Ottomans, already suffering military defeats in the Balkans, does not want to have Albanian nationals join in the war.

When the Ottoman forces abandoned Macedonia, Serbia stood to double in size and along with Montenegro gain access to the Adriatic Sea. Austria-Hungary felt threatened that not only would this give it neighbors increased power but cause nationalistic uprisings among it’s own Slavic population within it’s domain. This would put the Catholic Austria-Hungary in direct conflict with Russia who backed the Slavic Orthodox Christian nations. Austria-Hungary proposed that instead of letting Serbia and Montenegro expand to the sea both cities would be part of a new, independent nation of Albania.The members of the Balkan League fighting the Ottomans opposed this hoping to partition the lands in question among themselves.

On November 28, 1912 Albanian nationalist leader Ismail Qemal, an Ottoman civil servant who rose to the position of President of the Ottoman National Assembly in Istanbul in 1909, returned to Albania with Austro-Hungarian support and at the head of a swiftly convened national assembly declared Albanian independence in the town of Vlora. The chairman, Ismail Kemal Bey, stated that although they had always been faithful to the Ottoman Empire, the Albanians had never forgotten their own language and nationality. The declaration, in Albanian and Turkish read:

“In Vlora, on the 15th/28th of November. Following the speech made by the President, Ismail Kemal Bey, in which he spoke of the great perils facing Albania today, the delegates have all decided unanimously that Albania, as of today, should be on her own, free and independent.”

This signaled the end of almost 500 years of Ottoman rule in Albania. The leaders raised the flag on the balcony of the two-story building in Vlora where the Declaration of Independence had just been signed.

The flag of Albania

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