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Modernism: The Creation of Nation-States

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Ahmet Ersoy
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Maciej Górny
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Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter II. Self-determination, democratization, and the homogenizing state

The political crisis in Albania

Faik Konitza
Traduction de Rigels Halili

Texte intégral

1Title: Kriza politike në Shqipëri (The political crisis in Albania)

2Originally published: in the weekly Dielli, 7 April 1923.

3Language: Albanian
The text used is from the collected works of Faik Konica: Vepra, V. III., ed. By N. Jorgaqi and Botimet Dudaj (Tirana: Shtëpia Botuese Nairn Frashëri, 2001), pp. 276–279.

About the author

4Faik Konitza (Faik Salko also known as Faik Bey Konica) [1875 (or 1876), Konitza (Alb. Konica, present-day northern Greece) – 1942, Washington D.C.]: politician, thinker, writer and editor. He was the descendant of a prominent Ottoman Albanian family that also included the mother of Ali Pasha of Tepelen. He first learned Arabic from private tutors. Afterwards, he joined the Jesuit School in Shkodra (It. Scutari, Srb. Skadar) where he spent one year. He attended the Greek school in his native town for another year. Finally Konitza was enrolled in the well-known Galatasaray Lyceum in Istanbul, a state institution where education was conducted by French instructors. In 1890 he went to France for advanced studies. There, he attended the College de Lisieux for two years, and after that the Lycée de Carcassonne. In 1895 he graduated from the University of Dijon and later that year moved to Paris, where he attended courses in medieval French literature. He completed his formal education at Harvard University. From 1897, mostly with the financial support of the Austro-Hungarian foreign ministry, Konitza published the monthly review Albania in Brussels, written both in Albanian and French. This review became one of the most important propaganda instruments during the period of the Albanian ‘awakening movement.’ After five years in Brussels, Konitza moved to London where he continued publishing Albania from 1902 until late 1909. During his stay there, Konitza became a close friend of the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire. Later, he moved to the USA, where he directed the Albanian weekly Dielli (Sun), and after that, in 1911, he started publishing the newspaper entitled The Trumpet of Croya. In 1912, together with the Orthodox Bishop Theofan Stilian Noli (better known as Fan Noli) and other Albanian activists, he founded the Vatra Pan-Albanian Federation of America, which, in the following years, was to play a major role in defending the independence and the territorial integrity of the new Albanian state. By the end of 1912, after the proclamation of Albanian independence, Konitza returned to Europe and, in 1913, visited Albania. He was disappointed with what he saw, but nevertheless remained there during the six-month reign of Prince Wilhelm zu Wied, from March to September 1914. He spent the years of the First World War in Vienna, together with Ahmet Zogolli, the future monarch of Albania bearing the title King Zogu. After the war, Konitza moved first to Rome, and later, in 1921, to Boston, to assume the leadership of the Vatra Federation. From 1926 until 1939, he was the General Consul of Albania (after 1928, the Kingdom of Albania) in Washington After the invasion of Albania by fascist Italy on 7 April 1939, he decided to remain in Washington and died there in 1942. Konitza is considered to be one of the most important figures in Albanian culture, journalism and politics. The review Albania was one of the most significant achievements in the history of Albanian publishing.

5Main works: Nën hien e hurmave, Prralla t’Arabisë [In the shadows of the date palms, tales from Arabia] (1924); Doktor Gjëlpëra zbulon rrënjët e dramës së Ma-murrasit [Dr. Needle discovers the sources of drama in Mamurras] (1924); Shqiperia si m ‘u duk [Albania, as I saw it] (1929); Albania: The rock garden of South-Eastern Europe and other essays (1957, Albanian edition in 1993); Vepra [Selected works], 6 vols. (2001).

Context

6Albania’s position in the international arena became stronger following the withdrawal of Italian forces from the Vlora (It. Valona) region during the summer of 1920, and the failed intervention of Yugoslav forces in the September of the same year. Territorial partition (based mainly on the London Treaty of 1915) was no longer the threat it had been in the aftermath of the First World War. The Versailles Treaty recognized an Albanian state with territories as they had been established in 1913. On 5 December 1920, the Albanian government issued a new electoral law and by the spring of the next year, following the first general elections in the country, a Parliament, called the National Council, was instituted in Albania for the first time.

7Political antagonisms between different interest groups were present from the very beginning of the existence of the new legislature. The situation deteriorated due to the activities of the head of the Mirdita region, Gjon Marka Gjon, who, supported by the Yugoslav authorities, tried to organize a revolt against the central government. In 1918, the Komiteti për Mbrojtjen e Kos-oves (Committee for the defense of Kosovo) (KMK) was founded in Shkodra, an institution that quickly developed both in Albania and Kosovo. Several members of the Parliament, and even of the government, were members of the KMK, which only intensified the already tense relations between Albania and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Consecutive Albanian governments during 1921 did not contribute towards a process of normalization in the country. Finally, by the end of December, Ahmet Zogu (who had changed his name from the Turkish sounding ‘Zogolli’ to the more Albanian sounding ‘Zogu’), the chief commander of the military forces in the north of the country, entered Tirana and formed a new government, in which he served as the Minister of Internal Affairs. His adversaries and especially the members of the ‘Committee for the defense of Kosovo’ were quickly banned from politics. In March 1922, a new rebellion was organized, but the government forces once again succeeded in suppressing it. It seemed that Zogu’s power would go unchallenged for some years to come, but the economic situation deteriorated and resentment against Zogu became more and more evident.

8Within this context, the representative of the Vatra Federation in Albania, bishop Fan Noli, emerged as a central political figure. It was obvious at this point that the leadership of the federation was well informed about the changes in Albania. In the pages of his journal Dielli, Faik Konitza referred to all main events of the time. He criticized the authoritarian policies of Ahmet Zogu, and proposed new measures for the consolidation of the new state and for the settlement of international and domestic problems. Konitza became famous for his aggressive and polemical style. Throughout this period, he published detailed and critical accounts of political and economic life, attacking several politicians, most of whom were his former friends. Konitza strongly supported the activity of democratic politicians such as Fan Noli and Stavro Vinjau. He played a crucial role in keeping the Albanian diaspora in the USA informed about Albanian affairs. Nevertheless, the lack of direct contact with the country sometimes led to certain discrepancies in his articles.

9The text presented here is representative of this particular historical conjuncture. Writing about the political situation in Albania, Konitza underlines the main drawbacks of Albanian politics: corruption on the one hand, and, the total ignorance of those involved on the other. For him the only way for the country’s improvement was the implementation of radical social and political reforms. However, it needs to be emphasized that Konitza was not as radical in his claims as other politicians who were in clear opposition to Zogu’s policy and advocated revolution as the only solution. Rather than his ideas, it was Konitza’s style and rhetoric—calling the most important politicians “thieves,” “ruffians” or “clowns”—that had a strong and lasting impact.

10Konitza supported the so-called ‘Democratic Revolution’ of June 1924 as well as Fan Noli’s cabinet. Soon, though, he started criticizing even his own old friends for their policies, or, in his words, the lack thereof. The Noli government fell in December 1924 following Ahmet Zogu’s counter-coup, who was supported not only by his domestic contingents, but also by Yugoslav and White Russian forces. Soon afterwards, in the spring of 1925, Konitza reached a compromise with Ahmet Zogu and even entered the diplomatic service of the new republic, soon to become the Kingdom of Albania. This act was regarded as pure treason by his former friends, who were now scattered throughout Europe. However, Konitza argued that he made such a choice in order to bring an end to the anarchy, as he wrote later “for the good of the country.” Nevertheless, his action left a lasting impression, and when the communists came to power in 1945, Konitza was labeled a reactionary thinker and publicist. Even so, there is still a fierce debate today concerning his role as politician, literary critic and publicist. Still, there is no doubt that Faik Konitza was one of the most prominent figures in Albanian political life of the first half of the twentieth century.

11RH

The political crisis in Albania

12The party that has seized power in Albania has never had the vote of confidence of the Albanian nation, although it had the vote of confidence of the Serbian state. For some, there may have been some hopes and some illusions, but nowadays they have all been blown away by the wind. The Parliament does not represent the will of the nation. The MPs themselves have the courage to admit it. The present government is not the government of Albania—it is the government of a Parliament without any authority. The case of Vlora, where only one vote went to the government’s candidate, is a rather obvious expression of the general feeling. This is hardly an isolated instance; such signs abound and it seems that everyone can see them apart from the government in question which refuses to recognize.

13Nevertheless, the so-called ministers refuse to leave their chairs, holding on to their briefcases. They do not want to give up. But could they resign without inflicting danger on themselves? They know perfectly well that with the crimes they have committed—such as stealing from the state treasury, robbing the land of simple peasants, jailing innocent people, torturing, castrating and even hanging innocent prisoners—they can hardly expect something better than the trial and the noose or hard labor in the quarries. And there’s the rub: the government has no power to stay, but is afraid to go. What will be the end of this question? If they hold on to their functions by force and refuse to dissolve the Parliament as a condition for organizing the elections for a new, true Parliament, the ministers will not be considered “ministers” any more, but insurgent enemies of the state and nation. Therefore we cannot really talk about an uprising, because it is our pseudo-cabinet who started it.

  • 1 Konica refers to the famous prison in New York.

14Is it right to risk the life and security of a nation by leaving it in the hands of a band of unscrupulous criminals? Who are the people who govern today’s Albania? Just a group of thieves who have stolen, murdered, and spied for the enemies of Albania—and may even still be doing so today. Is it possible to open the doors of the Sing-Sing prison1 and give its prisoners the authority to govern America? No way! And yet this happened in Albania. Had the bandits who took power here been living in America, they would have already paid a visit to the electric-chair or the ‘Tombs’ of Sing-Sing.

15One of the most bitter fruits of this incredible story is that the Albanian Christians, who played a noble part in the struggle for liberation, began to doubt and loose their faith in the idea of an Albanian state. These brothers are forgetting that thousands of Muslim peasants are suffering with them, people who have nothing in common with the crimes of the governmental clique. Their withdrawal, however, does not end this poverty, but on the contrary, it paves the road for the criminal clique to continue and weaken those who disagree.

16Only the united efforts of all good elements will allow us to achieve our goals, to overthrow these bandits and lay the foundations of a new government from the people to the people, and for the people.

Notes

1 Konica refers to the famous prison in New York.

Auteur

Rigels Halili (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2010

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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