Prev | Next | Contents
The Albanians, though they rather opposed than assisted the Allies in the war against Turkey, were set off as an independent nation by the Great Powers at the instigation of Austria-Hungary with the support of Italy. The determination of the boundaries of the new state was the resultant of conflicting forces in operation in the European concert. On the north while Scutari was retained for Albania through the insistence of Austria-Hungary, Russian influence was strong enough to secure the Albanian centres of Ipek and Djakova and Prisrend, as well as Dibra on the east, for the allied Serb states. This was a sort of compensation to Servia for her loss of an Adriatic outlet at a time when the war between the Allies, which was destined so greatly to extend her territories, was not foreseen. But while in this way Albanians were excluded from the new state on the north and east, an incongruous compensation was afforded it on the south by an unjustifiable extension into northern Epirus, whose population is prevailingly Greek.
The location of the boundary between Albania and New Greece was forced upon the Great Powers by the stand of Italy. During the first war the Greeks had occupied Epirus or southern Albania as far north as a line drawn from a point a little above Khimara on the coast due east toward Lake Presba, so that the cities of Tepeleni and Koritza were included in the Greek area. But Italy protested that the Greek occupation of territory on both sides of the Straits of Corfu would menace the control of the Adriatic and insisted that the boundary between Albania and Greece should start from a point on the coast opposite the southern part of the island of Corfu, Greece, accordingly, was compelled to evacuate most of the territory she had occupied above Janina. And Albania subsequently attempted to assert her jurisdiction over it.
But the task of Albania is bound to be difficult. For though the Great Powers have provided it with a ruler--the German Prince William of Wied--there is no organized state. The Albanians are one of the oldest races in Europe, if not the oldest. But they have never created a state. And to-day they are hopelessly divided. It is a land of universal opposition--north against south, tribe against tribe, bey against bey. The majority of the population are Mohammedan but there are many Roman Catholics in the north and in the south the Greek Orthodox Church is predominant. The inhabitants of the north, who are called Ghegs, are divided into numerous tribes whose principal occupation is fighting with one another under a system of perpetual blood-feuds and inextinguishable vendettas. There are no tribes in the south, but the people, who are known as Tosks, live under territorial magnates called beys, who are practically the absolute rulers of their districts. The country as a whole is a strange farrago of survivals of primitive conditions. And it is not only without art and literature, but without manufactures or trade or even agriculture. It is little wonder that the Greeks of Epirus feel outraged by the destiny which the European Powers have imposed upon them--to be torn from their own civilized and Christian kindred and subjected to the sway of the barbarous Mohammedans who occupy Albania. Nor is it surprising that since Hellenic armies have evacuated northern Epirus in conformity with the decree of the Great Powers, the inhabitants of the district, all the way from Santi Quaranta to Koritza, are declaring their independence and fighting the Albanians who attempt to bring them under the yoke.
The future of Albania is full of uncertainty. The State, however, was not created for the Albanians, who for the rest, are not in a condition to administer or maintain it. The state was established in the interests of Austria-Hungary and Italy. And those powers are likely to shape its future.
Prev | Next | Contents