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Italian protectorate over Albania

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Albanian Republic

Republika Shqiptare
1917–1920
Motto: Atdheu mbi te gjitha
"Homeland above all"
Anthem: Himni i Flamurit
"Hymn to the Flag"
StatusProtectorate of the Kingdom of Italy
CapitalValona (Vlorë)
Prime Minister 
Historical eraInterwar period
• Established
June 23 1917
• Disestablished
2 August 1920
ISO 3166 codeAL
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Principality of Albania
Principality of Albania

The Italian protectorate over Albania was established by the Kingdom of Italy during World War I in an effort to secure a de jure independent Albania under Italian control. It existed from June 23, 1917 until the summer of 1920.

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Transcription

The period leading up to the First World War in the Balkans was a time of great confusion. Most of the nations there had only recently become independent from the Ottoman Empire and national, ethnic, and religious tensions ran high. Nowhere did this hold true more, though, than the principality of Albania. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to a Great War special episode about Albania in World War One. Albania was actually the last of the Balkan nations to declare its independence from the Ottomans, but let’s go back a bit. In the decades before the war, as countries like Serbia and Bulgaria were becoming independent themselves, Albania was in a precarious position. It had its own independence movement, but several of the other newly independent nations considered Albanian land their for the taking. Albania had, for the most part, fought alongside the Ottomans in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78, and the treaty of San Stefano after that had assigned Albanian land to Montenegro and Greece. As the new century began, Albanian demands for greater freedoms and rights began to cause frequent revolts, but when the first Balkan War erupted in 1912, Albania, still part of the Empire, saw its cities and villages occupied in all directions, by Serbs, Montenegrins, Greeks, and Bulgarians. This finally prompted the Albanian declaration of independence November 28th, 1912, which was immediately ignored by all of the occupying neighbors. But when the war ended in May 1913, Albanian independence was recognized - though under international control and with half the lands Albania had claimed. The second Balkan War began a month later, and ended in August with a strengthening of the Serbian position in the region, and Serbian acquisition of Western Macedonia, with a predominantly Albanian population. The Balkan Wars, though overshadowed by WW1 today, got a lot of attention in the west, particularly because of the wartime atrocities committed by all sides. In fact, the Carnegie Endowment for International peace specifically wrote about atrocities committed against Albanians in order to transform the ethnic character of regions inhabited by them. Numbers vary widely in various sources, but as many as 120,000 Albanians were killed in the regions occupied by Serbian forces during the wars, as Serbia sought access to the sea. Now, the non-occupied regions of Albania drifted into pretty much total chaos at this time. The Great Powers tried to bring some order to this chaos with an international commission that would govern the country until a Prince could be found. This commission was created October 15th. The following day, Essad Pasha, an Ottoman loyalist supported by Serbia, declared the independence of the Republic of Central Albania, with the goal of reuniting it with the Ottoman Empire. He held this “republic” until February 1914. He agreed to step down under pressure from the Great Powers, in exchange for a strong position in the government of William of Wied, a German officer and noble, who had been finally chosen as Prince of Albania. That month, though, the Greek minority of southern Albania, not wishing to be stuck in a country that was predominantly Muslim, declared the Republic of Northern Epirus, which included most of Southern Albania. William of Wied arrived in Albania March 7th, 1914, and tribal leaders pledged allegiance to him. He formed a government with Essad Pasha as Minister of War, and signed the Corfu Protocol, which gave the rebellious Greek minority autonomy within Albania. Then he began making reforms, such as separating church and state, which were hugely unpopular with the people. In addition, Islamists viewed the him as a crusader. The Prince, for his part, accused Essad Pasha of double service and conspiracy and had him arrested and taken to Italy. Within days, Central Albania was in insurrection. By the time the First World War broke out, William had lost control of most of the country. In addition, the Austro-Hungarian Empire demanded he send troops to fight for them, and when he refused, the financial aid he’d been receiving from the empire was cut off. William would leave the country of September 3rd, eventually joining the German army on the Eastern Front. So: power vacuum. Essad Pasha returned from Italy and made a deal with Serbian Prime Minister Nicola Pasic that ceded mostly Christian Northern Albania to Serbia in exchange for financial and military support. Essad took over central Albania with little resistance. Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Venizelos made a deal with British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey that allowed Greece to officially invade southern Albania. Shortly after that, Muslim leaders in Central Albania rose up against Essad Pasha and by late November he was surrounded in the capital, Durazzo. He was rescued by Italian warships, and indeed Italy invaded Valona in December, and soon took control of most of the coast from Valona to Durazzo. No major European power protested this invasion because at this time both sides wanted Italy to join them in the First World War. Much of Albania was now under the rule of local chieftains or the Central Muslim movement, while in the north, the Kachaks fought a guerrilla war against the Serbs. In April 1915, the Pact of London was signed that brought Italy into the war. The pact gave Italy a protectorate of most of Albania, southern Albania to Greece, and Northern Albania to Serbia and Montenegro. By the end of June, Northern Albania had been occupied, though the Albanians resisted the invasion and there was some fierce fighting. In October, Serbia withdrew from Albania to fight the Central powers invading Serbia, only to return weeks later in the retreat to the sea that would see tens of thousands of Serbian refugees and soldiers die of the freezing weather, starvation, and guerrilla attacks from Albanian forces. Soon Austria-Hungary controlled all of northern Albania, and the future King Zog of Albania - history’s heaviest smoker, look it up, and the only modern monarch to pull out his own gun and return fire on would-be assassins, true story - joined them in taking Durazzo. Many Albanians viewed the Austrians as saviors, but that took a real blow in April 1916, when the Austrians ordered the Albanians to surrender all weapons. You would think that Italy and Austria-Hungary, both occupying Albania, would fight each other there, but you’d be wrong, except for small skirmishes. By autumn 1916, the Allies were beginning to move in the Balkans. The French soon occupied Korcha and declared it an autonomous republic. This meant that French and Italian forces were now connected and an Albanian rifle regiment was even created in the French army. In June 1917, Italy declared Albanian independence and ousted Essad Pasha. Interestingly enough, especially considering what had gone on prior to the war, there was still no major fighting in Albania. Not till mid 1918, when an Italian offensive captured the Berat region. A month later, though, the Central powers recaptured most of the territory, which is quite interesting because it was the final real military success by the Central Powers in the war. On September 15th, the Allies began the final offensive on the Salonika front, soon defeating Bulgaria and forcing the Austrians to retreat. The Allies destroyed the port of Durazzo on October 2nd, the final major confrontation on Albanian soil, and by November 5th, the whole country was in allied hands. And what happened then? Well, the political confusion continued. Albania didn’t have a recognized government and Albanians feared that Italy, Greece, and Yugoslavia would carve it up. It was US President Woodrow Wilson who spoke up for Albanian independence and in December 1920, the League of Nations recognized Albania as a sovereign nation and admitted it as a member. Okay, even though this is probably really confusing, it was still only a general outline of what was happening in Albania during the war. You should definitely look it up yourself for a deeper understanding because it’s really interesting, and almost mind-blowingly confusing. Of all the countries that took part in the First World War, it was in Albania that the Game of Thrones was played the most. Thank you to Lirm Bllaca for helping us out with this episode. If you want to learn more about the situation on the Balkans during Serbias retreat, you should check out our episode about that right here. If you want to help telling the story of your country in World War 1 on our channel, get in touch with our social media guy Flo on Facebook or through our official website.

Contents

History

The Kingdom of Italy occupied the port of Vlorë on December 1914, but had to withdraw after the Austrian-Hungarian invasion in late 1915 - early 1916, and the fall of Durrës on 27 February 1916. In May 1916, the Italian XVI Corps, some 100,000 men under the command of General Settimio Piacentini, returned and occupied the region of southern Albania by the autumn 1916,[1] while the French army occupied Korçë and its surrounding areas on November 29, 1916. The Italian (in Gjirokastër) and French forces (in Korçë), according mainly to the development of the Balkan Front, entered the area of former Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus (controlled by the Greek minority) in autumn 1916, after approval of the Triple Entente.

Albania after fragmentation in 1916. The lower green area indicates the Italian protectorate as of summer 1917. In autumn 1918, it was  enlarged to encompass nearly all Albania.
Albania after fragmentation in 1916. The lower green area indicates the Italian protectorate as of summer 1917. In autumn 1918, it was enlarged to encompass nearly all Albania.

The establishment of the Autonomous Albanian Republic of Korçë was done on December 10, 1916 by French authorities with a protocol, according to which an autonomous province would be established on the territories of Korçë, Bilishti, Kolonja, Opar and Gora in eastern Albania.

Italian soldiers in Vlorë, Albania, during World War I. The tricolour flag of Italy bearing the Savoy royal shield is shown hanging alongside an Albanian flag from the balcony of the Italian prefecture headquarters.
Italian soldiers in Vlorë, Albania, during World War I. The tricolour flag of Italy bearing the Savoy royal shield is shown hanging alongside an Albanian flag from the balcony of the Italian prefecture headquarters.

On December 12, 1916, Italy asked for explanations from the Quai d'Orsay, through its ambassador, because the establishment of the Autonomous Albanian Republic of Korçë violated the Treaty of London.[2] Austria-Hungary used French precedent in Korçë to justify the proclamation of independence of Albania under its protectorate on January 3, 1917 in Shkodra.

The Kingdom of Italy did the same when proclaiming independence of Albania under its protectorate on June 23, 1917 in Gjirokastra.[3] General Ferrero proclaimed on that day the Italian Protectorate and the next weeks occupied Ioannina in Epirus.[4] Neither Great Britain nor France had been consulted beforehand, and they did not give any official recognition to the Italian Protectorate.[5]

This Albanian republic under the leadership of Turhan Përmeti, protected by 100,000 soldiers of the Italian Army, adopted officially a red flag with a black eagle in the middle, but raised a storm of protests even in the Italian Parliament [6]

1917 postcard from Italian-occupied Sarande.
1917 postcard from Italian-occupied Sarande.

In autumn 1918, the Italians expanded their Protectorate (without adding anything officially to Albania) to areas of northern Greece (around Kastoria) and western Macedonia (around Bitola), conquered from the Bulgarians and Ottomans. On September 25 the Italian 35 Division reached and occupied Krusevo deep inside western Macedonia.[7]

In October 1918, the Italian XVI Corpo d' Armata (nearly four divisions, with even 2 Albanian volunteers battalions) conquered all north-central Albania from the Austrians: on 10/14 Durres, the next day Tirane and on 10/31 Scutari; finally on November 3 even Ulcinj and Bar in actual coastal Montenegro.[8]

In November 1918, when World War I finished, nearly all what is now contemporary Albania was under the Italian Protectorate, after the French expedition withdrawal from the Korce area (France "officially" put an end to the Autonomous Albanian Republic of Korçë on December 10, 1918).

Since then and for nearly two years until summer 1920 the Italian Protectorate over Albania was administered by the Italian government: in a country that lacked nearly everything after centuries of Ottoman rule, were built 546 km of new roads, 110 km of new railroads, 3000 km of telegraph lines, 9 teleferics, a few hospitals and some modern administrative buildings.[9]

After World War I

A delegation sent by a postwar Albanian National Assembly that met at Durrës in December 1918 defended Albanian interests at the Paris Peace Conference, but the conference denied Albania official representation. The National Assembly, anxious to keep Albania intact, expressed willingness to accept Italian protection and even an Italian prince as a ruler so long as it would mean Albania did not lose territory.

But in January 1920, at the Paris Peace Conference, negotiators from France, Britain, Italy and Greece agreed to divide Albania among Yugoslavia, Italy, and Greece as a diplomatic expedient aimed at finding a compromise solution to the territorial conflict between Italy and Yugoslavia. The deal (with the Valona territory and areas of south-central Albania given to Italy) was done behind the Albanians' backs and in the absence of a United States negotiator.

This deal created huge anti-Italian resentment between many Albanians and in May 1920 the Italians (even because of demobilisation of their troops after World War I ended) withdrew to some important cities (Durazzo, Scutari, Tirane, Valona, Tepelani and Clisura) and their surrounding areas: successively were forced to fight the Vlora war. The revolutionary movements [10] in Italy made the presence of the last 20,000 soldiers of the Italian Army in Albania basically impossible.

On August 2, 1920 the Albanian-Italian protocol was signed, upon which Italy retreated from Albania (maintaining only the island of Saseno). This put an end to Italian claims for Vlora and for a mandate over Albania, rescuing the territory of the Albanian state from further partition.[11]

The desire to compensate for this retreat would be one of Benito Mussolini's main motives in invading Albania in 1939 [12]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Armies in the Balkans 1914-18". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  2. ^ Popescu, Stefan. "Les français et la république de Kortcha (1916-1920)". France: Cairn info. doi:10.3917/gmcc.213.0077. Archived from the original on January 17, 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2011. La signature de ce Protocole contrevient aux stipulations du traité de Londres ...Par conséquent, l'Italie demanda des explications au quai d'Orsay, par l'intermédiaire de son ambassadeur, le 12 décembre 1916.
  3. ^ Jaume Ollé (July 15, 1996). "Republic of Korçë (1917-1918)". Archived from the original on January 12, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2011. On 23 June 1917, Italy proclaimed the independence of Albania under her protectorate, justifying this with the French precedent in Korçë. Austria-Hungary had done it before on 3 January 1917.
  4. ^ "PRIMA GUERRA MONDIALE - LA STORIA CON I BOLLETTINI UFFICIALI". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  5. ^ "Southern Albania, 1912-1923". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  6. ^ "Southern Albania, 1912-1923". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  7. ^ (in Italian) War in 1918 Albania
  8. ^ (in Italian) Italians in Albania during WWI: a forgotten war
  9. ^ (in Italian) "Commissione d'inchiesta per l'impresa d'Albania del 1914-21"
  10. ^ "Gli Italiani si ritirano dall'Albania". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  11. ^ "Albania - Albania's Reemergence after World War I". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  12. ^ "Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History". Retrieved 27 December 2015.

Bibliography

  • (in Italian) Biagini, Antonello. Storia dell'Albania contemporanea. Bompiani editore. Milano, 2005
  • (in Italian) Borgogni, Massimo. Tra continuità e incertezza. Italia e Albania (1914-1939). La strategia politico-militare dell'Italia in Albania fino all'Operazione "Oltre Mare Tirana" . 2007 Franco Angeli
  • (in Italian) Bucciol, Eugenio. Albania: fronte dimenticato della Grande guerra. Nuova Dimensione Edizioni. Portogruaro, 2001 ISBN 88-85318-61-4
  • Bushkoff, Leonard. Albania, history of. Collier's Encyclopedia. vol. 1. NY: P.F. Collier, L.P, 1996.
  • Nigel, Thomas. Armies in the Balkans 1914-18. Osprey Publishing. Oxford, 2001 ISBN 1-84176-194-X
  • Pearson, Owens. Albania in the twentieth century: a history (Volume 3). Publisher I.B.Tauris. London, 2004 ISBN 1-84511-013-7
  • Steiner, Zara. The lights that failed: European international history, 1919-1933. Oxford University Press. Oxford, 2005.
  • Stickney, Edith. Southern Albania. Stanford University Press. Stanford, 1929 ISBN 0-8047-6171-X

External links

This page was last edited on 31 January 2019, at 16:59
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