The Albanians

The Albanians have a multi-fold and complex identity, as well as their own contradictory and difficult historical fate likewise most of the Balkan nations. Based on nearly no reliable and actual facts and largely debated, the Albanians are believed to be descendants of the Illyrians – mysterious tribe of obscure ethnic-racial origins. One of the other interpretations is that the Albanians are the Indo-European people that around 1000 BC inhabited the area of the western Balkan Peninsula. For some time the origins of the Albanians has been a matter of dispute among historians given that there are no substantial documents and artifacts from the First millennium AD of the legacy that could prove the Illyrian origin of Albanians and help us trace them further back into history.

The origin of Albanians has given rise to a good deal of discussions which still deserves deep, serious and systematic research. The earliest theory brings original Albanians to Asiatic AlbaniaCaucasian Albania /present Azerbaijan and Dagestan/ and the coasts of the Caspian Sea who resettled to Sicily and southern Italy in the 8th century due to Khazarian penetration and raids in the series of wars between Khazars and Arabs in the Caucus. At that time the Arabs and Roumelia fought in the Mediterranean which ended with Arabian conquest of the largest part of Sicily. In the 20-ties of the 11th century the Byzantine Tsar Basil occupied Epirus Nova – New Epirus /corresponds to nearly territory of the present south Albania/ which was predominantly populated by the Serbs and some Greeks. Albanians were Serbian mercenaries in rebellions against Byzantine rule from 1040 to 1041 when they were allowed to remain and settle in the area or Raban /east of the present Kroja/. Whatever theory is regarded, especially the so-called “Illyrian theory” on origins of the Albanians, it at the same time confirms and refers to their common origins with the Serbs. There is a strong kinship between the Albanians and the Serbs especially population of Drenica, Rugova, Luma, Shkoder, Debar, Malisori and Labians who are divided into 9-10 fises and come into relationship in regard with customs, slava feast celebrations, lifestyle and tribal organization, however the both people are brothers by sufferings.

Some believe Albanians to be the descendants of an older indigenous civilization (the Pelasgians), as the new ethnic formation created in the first centuries of the Middle ages on the Protobalkan basis by mixture of various elements of the ancient Paleobalkan substrates – Illyrian, Dako-Mesian /Dardanian/ and Thracian. Others believe Albanians to have settled later to the Balkans /about 6-7 century BC/ – came to Europe under Turkish /Oghuz Turks – Ghuzz Turks/ command and took name of their country from the Scythian who lived there way before the Sqhips. Modern European ethnographic and historical science suggest that the homeland of the Albanian nation is set in what today is the Central Albania. The German Illyrologist – Albanologist Georg Stadtmüller, stresses that the original Albanian native region includes the Shkumba River Valley, both sides of the Mat River, Kruja, and some neighboring areas. Contemporary scholars describe the number of tribes as “Illyrian” who at one time occupied much of the Balkan peninsula as far north as the Danube. But whether Greeks or Illyrians inhabited much of the southern region of present-day Albania known as Epirus, remains a highly controversial issue. The hypothesis of the descent of Albanians from Illyrians remains controversial, especially with regard to the peoples who inhabit the wider coastal region of Epirus, stretching across northwestern Greece and southern Albania. Thus the whole issue of ethnicity in the present Albanian space needs to be re-evaluated, with more professional refinement than before and leaving nationalist prejudices behind.

However the people called Illyrians were a multi-tribe race of peoples who settled in the Balkan Peninsula centuries before succumbing to the Roman conquest in the 3rd century. When in 395 AD the Roman Empire was divided, the Illyrians came under the jurisdiction of the Eastern portion – the Byzantine Empire. By the administrative reforms of the Byzantine Empire carried out during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, the Albanian territory was divided into three provinces: Praevalitana, with Shkodra /Shkodër/ as its administrative center, Epirus Nova with Dyrrachium – Durres as its capital, and Epirus Vetus, with its central city at Nicopolis /now in north Bulgaria/. Yet Albanian religious affiliation was with the Church of Rome and they continued to distinguish themselves in government, achieving once again the highest seat of power: the Byzantine emperors Anastasius I, who was born in Dyrrhachium and Justin I = born in hamlet close to Naissus /modern Nis in south Serbia/, and finally Justinian I – born in the Latin-speaking peasant family in Tauresium /present day East Serbia/ and believed to have been of Thraco-Roman or Illyro-Roman origins ….

” In the 14th century the area of Albania was set in quadrangle between towns of Valona – Ohrid – Prizren – Shkoder /Skadar/. The most important towns in the Medieval Albania were Shkoder, Drivast, Lissus – Lezha, Durres, Berat /medieval Belgrad/, Valona and Kanina. Those towns were until the 13th century populated by remains of the old Roman population and by Greeks in the coastal areas. Since the 14th century the majority of population in those towns were Slavs, later Albanians. By the half of the 13th century the Empire of Nicaea spread on the territory of the Epirote Despotate which included towns of Kroja /1252/ and Durres /1256/. At the beginning of the second half of the 13th century the Sicilian Normans regained rule of Albania. Under their rule were towns of Durres and Valona, but it did not last long. After 1268 the Kingdom of both Sicily was succumbed by the House of Anjou. The Epirus was divided into two parts which created the Epirus and Thessaly. In 1272 the Middle and South Albania came under the rule of the House of Anjou /Charles I/. Soon the strengthened Byzantium under the tsar Michael VIII Paleologus II /1281-1328/ retook the territories of Albania, among which were Belgrad, Butrint, Durres, Kroja and Kanina. So it was in 1282 that Albania was again in the hands of the Byzantine tsar Andronicos II and the Serbian King Milutin. King Milutin probably took Durres in 1296 ever-since he added Albania in his royal titles. This town was within the Serbian state until 1304 when it was reconquered by the Angevin. The Serbian influence in Albania strengthened during the 14th century which was time of some Albanian lords who recognized the supreme rule of Byzantines, Serbs and Angevin, depending on their power.

The entire present Albania except Durres was part of the Serbian state during the medieval period of rule of the Serbian king and later tsar Dushan /1331-1355/. The Serbian Archbishopric was elevated to the rank of the Patriarchate and later at the Assembly Dusan was proclaimed the tsar /1346/ and the Serbian state as the Tsardom. This was the pinnacle of the Medieval Serbian state. Tsar Dušan bonded Albanians by taking those from the mountainous areas and the feudal lords to the army when they were engaged in conquest of the Byzantine territories of Epirus and Thessaly. Tsar Dusan granted them with estates and various awards and recognitions. It was so during the reign of Tsar Dusan when the Albanian nobility first time became the important political factor in this part of the state. It is widely known that the Albanians were mostly involved in cattle breeding which describes their relationship and movement towards Thessaly, Epirus, Serbia, Macedonia, Zeta and Herzegovina. Tsar Dusan paid significant attention to them who were not legally equal with Wallachians, and they are mentioned in the Code of Tsar Dushan.  

Albania experienced the decline of the Serbian Kingdom/Tsardom which resulted in gaining independence of large feudal lords. This was time when Jovan Komnen in Valona joined the tsar Dusan’s half-brother Simeun Uros who proclaimed himself a tsar. The then Epirot despot Nicifor/Nikephoros took the reign of Epirus and Thessaly /he unsuccessfully tried to resettle Albanians in 1356-1358 and to give their estates to the Greeks/. Andria Gropa distinguished himself after 1371 as the lord of Ohrid. The northern part of Albania between rivers of Drim and Boyana was ruled by the independent feudal ruler Žarko. Since 1361 brothers of Balsic family /Stracimir, Đurađ and Balša II/ extended their ruling territory of Zeta into the north of Albania. Then within their state was Danj among other settlements. In their campaign towards the south, the Balsic family members fought with the Albanian feudal lord Carlo Thopia who first ruled the territory in vicinity of Durres and later in the town itself. In 1372 Balsa II extended by marriage relations his ruling territory of Albania in Valona, Belgrad and Himara. During 1385 Balsha II included Durres into his ruling area of reign, but lost it the same year after the battle with the Turks in which he got killed. Carlo Thopia regained Durres /died in 1387 and was buried in the church of Shëngjin – Saint John near Elbasan which he reconstructed himself and left three inscriptions – in Serbian, Latin and Greek/. Malisori and Dukadjini – Metochians in Albania are in close blood relationship with a number of Serbian families. Malesia in the north of Albania was called the Arna Gora – Dobra Gora.

At the end of the 14th century Albania experienced mortal danger from invading Turks who conquered and plundered places and towns of their conquest. Disagreement and disunity of feudal lords of the Serbian state led to deeper Turkish invasion and occupation. The road to Albania was open after the Kosovo Battle /1389/. The Venetian Republic used the fear from the Turkish conquest to strengthen its influence in Zeta and Albania. The last feudal ruler of the Thopia family, son Karlo Topia handed over Durres to Venetians in 1392, when he died. His estates were inherited by sisters Jelena and Vojislava, but they also came into Turkish possessions. At the end of the 14th century the Turkish reign was recognized also by the feudal lords of Leka and Pavle Dukadjini, who ruled earlier in the areas of Lissus /Alessio/ and Zadrimlje.

Deeper Turkish breakthrough, plundering of occupied places and massacres of local population convinced the Albanian lords that rely on the Turks was useless, so the Arianite uprising against the Turks started in 1433 in the areas from Shkodra to Valona. This uprising was supported by some prominent Albanian families, like Topia, Musaki and other, but despite the Turks defeated the rebels in 1436.  However there was another uprising, led by Djuradj Kastriotic – George Kastrioti Skenerbeg – the son of Ivan/John Kastriot who came to Kroja in 1443 and liberated it from the Turks. By marriage connection Djuradj made relationship with the Arianiti family and with some feudal lords made deal against the Turks. Right after the Uprising, Skenderbeg revolted the Venetians but later he made peace treaty with them. Skenderbeg fought bravely but after his death in 1468 the whole Albania came into the Turkish hands. It will remain so until the Balkan wars when in the meeting of the Albanian beys and tribal leaders, with full support of Austria-Hungary and Italy, at the end of 1912 was proclaimed the independence of Albania in Valona.  The science has it that the early-feudal Serbian state of Dukla-Doclea, i. e. Zeta included the present territories of Montenegro and north of Albania. Shkoder was the capital of the Serbian rulers of Zeta since 1043. At the end of the second decade of the 12th century this town again came into hands of the Byzantines, and was regained by Stefan Nemanja /1185/ when it was within the Serbian state with shorter interruptions until 1479 when it was definitely conquered by the Turks.

In the oldest part of Shkoder there was the Orthodox cathedral /seat of a bishop/ dedicated to Saint Stephen, later turned into mosque, as well as several Orthodox and Catholic churches. There in Shkoder were buried rulers of Zeta of the Vojislavljevic Dynasty, in the Church of Saint Sergio and Bacchus were buried Mihailo /1050-1082/, Bodin /1082-1101/, Vladimir, Gradinja. During the reign of the Nemanjic Dynasty, State of Zeta with Shkoder belonged to the Serbian heirs to the throne who all had their courts there. Shkoder likewise the other littoral towns of Ulcinj, Bar, Budva and Kotor experienced preferences. Shkoder was important trading center where the copper and silver coins were minted. Traders of Shkoder kept squares in Danj, Drivast and Lissus /Lezhe. During reign of dynasties of Vojislavljevic and Nemanjic, and later Balsic Family /1360-1421/ and Crnojević Dynasty /1426-1499/, Shkoder was mainly populated by the Slavic population of Orthodox and Catholic religion. Romanized existing and settled population of trading and crafts professions were minor, and later there occurred the Albanians. Projekat Rastko – Jovan R. Bojovic /O stanovnistvu slovenskog porijekla u Albaniji/

The early archives of the Durrachium Bishopric among which are undoubtedly the Slavic names of Glavinica or Acroceraunia, Cerenica and Gradica testify on the very old Slavic territories in present Albania. Slavs encountered the remains of the old Roman settlements and fortresses, and had built their own new strongholds. As the warlike and feudal elements and part of the ruling population, the Albanians spread in two centuries far beyond their original nucleus of Arbanum and became master lords on the territories bearing the Slavic names which were populated by the Slavs in the early Middle ages. Larger part of the Luma population – today the area of East Albania until the 19th century had spoken the Slavic language and was of the Orthodox religion.

In the 6th century migrating Slavs among who were Bohemians, Slovenes, Croats and Serbs began to settle intensively on Illyrian territory and pushed the Illyrians into what is present-day Albania. Albanians were originally a small herding community engaged in the sheep transhumance that lived in the lofty and rugged mountains of the southwestern Balkan Peninsula. It was sometime after these invasions that the Illyrians, influenced by the many cultures of the invaders as well as their allies, underwent a change. The Illyrians, if not completely Greek themselves inherited much religious and cultural influence from sea-borne trade with the Greeks and Romans. Mountains of Southern Albania, called Northern Epirus by the Greeks, contain many monuments and traces of Greek and Roman civilization, such as those at Apollonia and Butrint, but also relics of the ancient Illyrians, claimed by the Albanians to be their ancestors. Numerous Slavic place names, Byzantine churches, and artistic monuments of the Roman and Ottoman period are a tribute to this complicated heritage, as are the inhabitants of the area who still speak Slavic, Greek and Latin dialects along with the Albanian language.

Expansion of branches of the Albanian tribal communities, their inclusion into the military and administrative systems of foreign states, their evident intrusion for governors of the lands inhabited by population of other languages and culture, left consequences for their future existence. In a number of families are present clear traces of Slavization in acceptance of the personal names, that is the sign of language oscillations, the old titles and dignitaries, in take-over of the church-Slavonic as the language of administration and literacy, in admittance of the Serbian religious traditions as the role of donor of the Hilandar Monastery by the Kastriotic Family or by marriage linkage relationship with the Balkan ruling and noble families… Interference vivid in the last decades prior to the Ottoman conquest not necessarily caused disappearance of the Slavic and imposing of the Arnavut features, as there were the opposite cases, but not decisive for the overall development. For the final outcome were decisive centuries of the Turkish rule when the social situation once changed and when inclusion into the Ottoman timar system and participating in islamized ruling class prevailed the numerosity of population and strength of a single or another language. Likewise the other parts of the Balkan peninsula, here the medieval period significantly influenced the ethnic development, but failed to shape its final form. Sima Ćirković, Tragovi slovenskog stanovništva na tlu Albanije u srednjem veku.

The name “Illyria” gradually gave way to that of “Albania.” In 1054, when the division between the Eastern and Western Church became final, northern Albania reverted to the jurisdiction of Rome, while the southern Albania remained allied to Constantinople-Tsarigrad. The first Albanian feudal state was declared in 1190 by the archont Progon at Krujë – Kroja. Progon’s older son, Gjin Progonović was Lord of Krujë and Elbasan from 1200 to 1208. There were several independent principalities ruled by the most powerful Albanian feudal lords: of Durrës in Central Albania ruled by Carlo Thopia; of despot Spat in Epirus; of the Balsha family in Northern Albania; of Theodore Muzaka of Berat, comprising the lands around Berat. The independent state of Albania was founded by Progon and lasted until the middle of the 13th century, after which the country relapsed into disunity.

The policy of the Byzantine rulers was directed to the strengthening of the Balkan positions of the empire, and the Muslim beyliks in Asia Minor were expected to contribute to its realization. On the ruins of the older – Byzantine political and cultural institutions, the Muslims, the steppe peoples and tribal unions set up a new type of polity and socioeconomic system. At the end of the 14th century invading Muslim Ottoman jihad – Seljuk Turks of the mighty Ottoman Empire conquered the Balkans and eventually Albania in 1468, despite the strong resistance by Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu /Iskender Bey – Lord Alexander – The “Dragon of Albania”/, the most outstanding hero of Albania’s fight of the Serb origin against foreign subjugation. In terms of the Albanian identity, the uprising of Skanderbeg and the enduring resistance add further touches to the collective portrait of the Albanians – they stand out as a people characterized by a freedom-loving mind and rebellious spirit, coupled with unyielding belligerence.

Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire Albania was referred to officially as Arnavutluk and its inhabitants as Arnauts which are raised in Macedonia, the Morea and the provinces bordering upon Sclavonia, and are commanded by officers from their respective provinces. Arnaut troops are hardy and vigorous, being inured from their infancy to laborious pursuits. They feel a pride in tracing their descent from the Spartans and endeavor to imitate the martial fierceness and manners of their forefathers.

The Arbëreshë are a linguistic and ethnic Albanian minority community living in southern Italy, especially the regions of Basilicata, Molise, Apulia, Calabria and Sicily. They settled in Southern Italy in the 15th to the 18th centuries in several migrations waves, following the death of the Albanian national hero George Kastrioti Skanderbeg and the gradual conquest of Albania and throughout the Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman Turks. In the period of 1415-1419, Sultan Mehmed I /1402-1421/ managed to oust the local princes from Southern Albania, to deprive them of their possessions and establish the Ottoman military-feudal order in their places. Sultan recognized only the vassalage of the large clans in Central and Northern Albania, although the Porte did not have high opinion on the clans banditry and crimes committed at the foot of the Prokletije Mountains. In the time of the Great Turkish war and during the wars at the beginning of the 18th century, the families of Bušatlija /Bushati/ and Mahmudbegović-Begoli consolidated their absolute power in the areas that they by inertion already ruled from the 16th century. By a combination of crushing taxes, restrictive laws, tribute in blood and violent oppression, the Ottoman Turks pressured Albanians to convert to Islam. Over the course of about 500 years two thirds of the albanian population converted to Hanafi and Bektashi/Sufi/Dervish forms of Islam. While by and large ethnicity in South-eastern Europe is closely related to specific religions /Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks and Romanians are Christian Orthodox, Slovenians, Croats and Hungarians are Roman Catholics, Bosnians, Pomaks and Turks are Muslims/, the case of Albania is different. People in the North of Albania are mostly Catholics, in the south of Albania are Orthodox Christians and Bektashi and in the Central and Eastern parts of Albania are Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslims.

As early as the 16th century, a new name for the country evolved among Albanian people: “Shquipëria” – the land of eagles. This name probably has its origins in the Kastrioti family crest. This word ALSO probably comes from old Dacian-Moesian language adopted by Bulgarians who settled themselves on the territory of Roman province Moesia Inferior in 680/681. In Bulgarian language the  word “Shqiptars” means the “highlanders”. But more significantly, the image of the double-headed eagle was a common symbol associated with the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. In Byzantine heraldry, the heads represent the dual sovereignty of the Emperor /secular and religious/ and/or dominance of the Byzantine Emperors over both East and West. The double-headed eagle appears on the coats of arms and flags of Serbia and numerous Eastern Europe countries and commonly represents an independent culture, reflecting the strength and individuality that is characteristic also of Albanians throughout their history. Despite all attempts by the Turks to suppress all signs of a separate cultural identity, the image would survive and would one day serve as the basis for the Albanian flag.

Arbanitai or Arbanon are first recorded in 1081 by Anna Comnena in an account of the troubles in the Balkan region during the reign of her father – Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus. Although the connection between modern Albanians and the ancient Illyrians has been disputed, it is generally accepted by ethnographers, and Albanians have claimed a link. The territorial nucleus of the Albanian state formed in the Middle Ages, as the Principality of Arbër and the Sicilian dependency known as the Kingdom of Albania. The area was part of the Serbian Empire, passing to the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. It remained under Ottoman control as part of Rumelia province until 1912, when the first independent Albanian state was declared following a short rule by the Kingdom of Serbia. The formation of an Albanian national consciousness dates to the late 19th century and is part of the larger phenomenon of the rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire. At the end of the 19th century the Austrian-Hungarian Empire decided to create an autonomous New Albania under the Hapsburg control and protectorate, later to be given a full statehood. Along with the brand new state, Austro-Hungarian colonial dictatorship invented a whole new fake history for the small tribal herding nation, tying it to the ancient Illyrians, despite the insurmountable historical gap of eight /8/ centuries between the last mentioning of the Illyirans and the first mention of the Albanians in Europe. A short-lived monarchy /1914–1925/ was succeeded by an even shorter-lived first Albanian Republic /1925–1928/, to be replaced by another monarchy /1928–1939/, which was conquered by Fascist Italy just prior to World War II.

“Ahmed Zogu – Zog I of Albania was born as Ahmed Zogoli /later changed into Ahmed Zogu/ on 8 October 1895 and was king of Albania from 1928 until 1939. Earlier he was the Prime minister /1922-1924/ and President of Albania 1925-1928. He was thrown from the throne after Italian invasion of Albania. Ahmed Zogu is of the Serb origin, descendant of Stanko Crnojević and the Bušatli = Bushati tribe from the Bushati village. He was niece of Esad pasha, his mother and Esad pasha were brother and sister. Before his realm, he lived in Yugoslavia as the Albanian emigrant, supported by the Yugoslav Government, recognized as its exponent. When the Fan Noli Government was toppled Zogu returned to Albania and in 1924 took the regime with support of the Yugoslav border units. Ass the President of Republic, he signed the Tirana pact with Italy in 1926 which recognized Italian protectorate of Albania. In 1928 he proclaimed himself the King Zogu I. When in 1939 the fascist Italy commenced attack of Albania and occupied it, Zogu escaped from the country. However he was son of Dhelal pasha Zogolli /1860-1911/ who was governor – kajmakam  in the village Zogolli, the Mat county, Albania, Ottoman Empire. Ahmed Zogu died in exile on 9 April 1961”.

During World War II, 35,000 to 40,000 Kosovo Albanians were recruited by Nazi Germany as part of the German occupation forces and security formations in Greater Albania, a state created by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini that included Kosovo-Metohija, western Macedonia, and territory from Serbia and Montenegro… After the collapse of the Axis powers, Albania became a communist state, the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania, which for most of its duration was dominated by Enver Hoxha /died 1985/.

The Albanians speak Shqip one of the most unique languages in Europe which linguists do not trace to any other group. The Albanians are divided into two major groups, the Gheg and the Tosk, according to which Albanian dialect they speak. The Gheg live north of the Shkumbin River, while the Tosk live south of the river. The two Albanian dialects differ slightly in vocabulary and pronunciation. One of the main differences between the dialect are nasalized letters, which are abundant in Gheg but not used in Tosk. In the 1950’s it was decided that the Tosk dialect would be used in all Albanian publications, since it was the one most widely spoken in Albania. Albanians speak Albanian language, which is originally called Shqip. The Albanian language belongs to the large Indo-European language family. Albanian forms its own branch inside this family – with Albanian as the only member of that branch. The language features many loanwords from Latin, Greek, Turkish and Slavic languages. The first document in the Albanian language was recorded in 1462 by the archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Durazzo /modern Durres/.

In addition to differences in dialect, the Gheg and the Tosk also have many social differences. The Ghegs are a very stern and courageous people; while the Tosks are known to be friendly, lively, and talkative. Prior to the changes introduced by the Communist regime in the 1940’s, the Albanians were a tribal people who lived in extended family units called fis. The fis had many old traditions, such as the vendettas, or “blood feuds,” which often lasted for several generations. For protection during these feuds, families lived in fortified stone buildings called kullas /towers/. The ground floor of the kulla was built with small slits rather than windows, while the upper floor had windows that could be closed. When the Communist regime began in 1944, the traditional lifestyles began to change drastically. Communist political authorities believed that the way to achieve national unity was to abolish differences of tribe, religion, and even dress. Huge community farms were established in Albania and education became mandatory. Large apartment complexes were built and much of the population became urbanized. During the 50 years of rule of Enver Hoxha thousands of bombproof defensive bunkers had been built to accommodate the whole of the population of the country in the event of attack. Bunkers are still found everywhere in Albania as are so indestructible. Today, more than a third of Albania’s population live in cities. The increasing industrial population and the introduction of mandatory education have, in fact, eliminated many regional differences.

The collapse of the Communist regime in 1991 brought on numerous traumatic and rapid changes in Albania, leaving the people with an identity crisis. The people were shocked to discover that they had been reduced to poverty. Hurt, angry, and confused, they are struggling to find their identity in a country that is considered to be Europe’s poorest and least developed. A black Mercedes-Benz happens to be the most common car on Albanian roads…. However, the Albanians are very hospitable and helpful and seem willing to go far out of their way to meet the visitors requests. However, young Albanians are sure – Albania’s future is in Europe !

The institution of blood feud which was once prominent in Scotland and in the U.S. region of Appalachia, as with the famous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys still holds greatest sway today in the mountainous parts of the Balkans, Sicily, Corsica and Caucus region. The Albanian Gegs inhabiting the territories north of the Shkumbin River had lived for long centuries in large clans observing the Kanun CodeKanun Lekë Dukagjinit – Canon Lex Dux Ivan – a primitive constitution regulating not only their community life, but also their private lives – rituals by child birth, fraternity-brotherhood, wedding customs, deadh rituals and funeral customs, customs in family cooperative and other. The Leke Dukajini Code norms were passed on from generation to generation by an oral tradition and were decreed by the council of elders. It is considered that the Kanun Code was rationalized by the Serbian duke and army hero – despot Leke Dukagjini /1410 -1481/, the contemporary of Skanderbey. The Kanun Code made an individual obligated to guard the honor of family, clan, and tribe.

When Albanians want to highlight that something is rifghtful they say that “it remains from Leka”. Thanks to huge similarity, it is considered that when he created the Kanun Code Lekë Dukagjin was under large influence of the Tsar Dusan Code. Leka Dukadjin was described as the significant military leader and the legislator who governed the number of the Serb tribes living in the territory of the present Albania and the north of Montenegro, and managed that the Serbs for centuries were known as the largest oppressors to the Turkish conquest. Leka Dukadjini had two sons – Nikola and Bijeli Pavle, who created several tribes, among which are the Bjelopavlici tribe in present Montenegro.

The Kanun Code is based on the concept of honor /bessa/ and blood to be compiled throughout the centuries chiefly by adding new norms. The Kanun Code included an elaborate legal code trying to regulate blood feud – a system of reciprocal “honor killings”. According to the Leke Dukadjini Kanun Code, if a man is deeply affronted, his family has the right to kill the person who has insulted him. However, by doing this, the family will become a target for revenge on the part of the victim’s family. The victim’s closest male relative is obliged to kill the murderer of his family member. The pattern of reprisal killings thus formed has been passed on for generations of families and has been manifested up to the present day in Albania, Kosovo, and, partly, in Montenegro. The blood feud was the result of perceived violations of this code of “honour.” One of the responsibilities of a man is to defend the family in the case of a blood feud. The Albanian besë – besa is deeply rooted ethnic rule and highly important part of the Kanun Code obeyed by person and family through history. Besa means “to keep the oath” and “the word of honour” and creates a situation of inviolable trust. One who acts according to Besa is someone who keeps his word, someone to whom one can trust one’s life and the lives of one’s family. It is one of the most archaic features of northern Albanian society, honour is cleansed by killing any male member of the family of the original offender, and the spilt blood of that victim then cries out to its own family for purification. Rules of Besa : an Albanian can sacrifice his own son in order to keep his Besa; Besa can not be sold or bought in a bazaar; Albanians would die rather than break besa; Besa is worth more than gold. For all Albanians besa was the highest human and ethical value. Blood feud-filled tragedy and Albania itself is paralysed by a sort of auto-fear, where every individual is either in hiding or unable to do anything for fear of bringing a feud upon himself. It was suppressed during the strict communist rule of Enver Hoxha in the 20th century but the tradition has had a revival since the fall of communism in the very poor, more traditional and remote areas of the country. Their number has since declined and often involves disputes between rival criminal gangs.