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1878: The League of Prizren

Monument of the League of Prizren
Monument of the League of Prizren

The Serbian historian Milan St Protić believes that the Serbian-Turkish wars of 1876-78 "caused the most massive migration process in the Balkans in the course of the 19th century." He estimates a million Christians and a million Muslims, including of course Albanians, were forced to flee. Many came from areas around Niš which the Serbs took in 1878 and many of them fled into Kosovo which was still, until 1912, Ottoman territory. 1878 was also the year in which Serbia won official recognition as an independent state. For Albanians however it is remembered as the year of the League of Prizren:

Fearing the imminent loss of Albanian inhabited-lands to the new Christian states, including Bulgaria and Montenegro, intellectuals mobilised to call a meeting of Albanian leaders in Prizren in June 1878. Some wanted to defend Muslim and Albanian traditions, which they felt were being threatened by modernising reformers. Some wanted a fully autonomous Albanian state, including of course Kosovo, to be set up within the empire. Others were simply keen to fend off the encroachments of the Christian and Slavic states. By 1880, thanks to deteriorating relations between the politicians and the Porte (the traditional name of the Ottoman government), the League in effect took over the running of Kosovo and some of its leaders, notably Abdyl Frashëri, began to think in terms of independence. The spring of 1881, however, saw the insurrection crushed by Turkish troops. But the idea that Albanians, both Muslims and Catholics, and those hailing from the northern Gheg and southern Tosk tribes, could or should unite as Albanians only and fight for either autonomy or even independence, could not be swept aside. As the Albanian poet Pashko Vasa put it: "the religion of Albanians is Albanianism."

[p. 12]

Kosovo: War and Revenge. 2002, Second Edition. [Yale University Press]

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