Ottoman Administration and the Albanians, 1908-1913

The title is a dissertation by George Walter Gawrych, referring to the Islamic unity and published by ProQuest Dissertations Publishing in 1980. The following is a concise description of the dissertation.[1]


One major problem facing Ottoman statesmen in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was the maintenance of a multi-national empire in the face of growing nationalism among its various minorities.

Objective of the article

This study, focusing on one such nationality--the Albanians, examines both the process of Albanian separation and the Ottoman reaction to it. The analysis is based mainly on Ottoman archival and Turkish primary sources, supplemented by Austrian consular reports. By the mid-nineteenth century, a few Muslim writers took the idea of cultural pluralism among Muslims to argue that the unity of the Islamic community constituted one of the pillars of the Ottoman empire. Muslim Albanians were the first to challenge this view by joining with their Christian co-nationals to form the Prizren League (1878), thus inaugurating Albanian nationalism as a political force. This work discusses the emergence of Albanian nationalism, its growth after the suppression of the League in 1881, and its effect on Ottoman policies and the development of Turkish nationalism. The 1908 Revolution was a turning point for the Albanian national movement; the political uncertainty following that event allowed Albanian nationalists to open schools, newspapers and clubs. However, this national activity developed unevenly in the four Albanian provinces of Janina, Manastir, Kosovo, and Shkoder. The reasons for this development are explained by a socio-economic and political study of each area.


This analysis shows how the rivalries among different Albanian groups shaped the subsequent struggle for Albanian national rights and affected Ottoman policies. Internal disorders and the irredentism of neighbouring countries regularly confronted Ottoman officials governing the European provinces of the empire. Official Ottoman reports and projects for reform reveal such points as the siege mentality of government officials and the general Muslim view of Christians as a potential fifth column. Turkish literature of the period complements this archival material by presenting the agonies and illusions experienced by certain Ottoman officials. As a result of the 1908 Revolution, militant centralists gained control of the Committee of Union and Progress and the Ottoman military establishment. In dealing with the Albanians, these men favoured force to break Albanian resistance to centralization and Ottomanization. Sources demonstrate that in implementing these policies certain Ottoman statesmen did not rely on a sweeping policy of divide and rule. In the twentieth century, Ottoman authorities encountered obstruction and resistance from certain Albanians in the Ottoman army and bureaucracy. This local opposition stemmed not only from the forces of regionalism but also from nationalism. Albanian nationalists took advantage of the indiscriminate application of centralism in Albania to mobilize support for national issues. Eventually, the inability to suppress the 1912 Albanian insurrection forced the militant centralists from power, but not before their policies had alienated many Albanians on the eve of the Balkan Wars. Emphasizing only the tensions and armed clashes of this period tends to distort the nature of Ottoman society. Primary Ottoman sources show the continuance of peaceful social and cultural interchange in Albania amongst Christians and Muslims from different minorities. This created a local cosmopolitan culture and demonstrates a cultural interdependence between Istanbul and the provinces. Such conclusions call for a reinterpretation of the dynamics of Ottoman culture. Finally, this dissertation argues that Albanian nationalism and the Ottoman response to it cannot be considered in isolation, nor separated from the complexities and paradoxes inherent to the period.