Notes on the Situation in Albania
By Rev. & Mrs. P. B. Kennedy, Kortcha, Albania, missionaries under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Boston, U.S.A.
London, July 14, 1913
1. The reasons why Albania should be as large as possible.
(a). Once the state has been created it cannot live if its size is too much reduced. Albania has already lost many fertile districts in the neighborhood of Djakova, Prizren and Ipek and now if Tchamoria were really to be incorporated in to Greece it would deprive many of the Albanians of the pasturage which they have been wont to use for their flocks during a large part of the year.
(b). Albanians, especially Moslems, now living in portions of disputed territory, and who are eager for autonomy, will never settle down peacefully under a foreign government but will constantly strive to unite themselves with Albania, thereby creating unrest on the frontiers.
2. Reasons for considering that the town and district of Kortcha are really Albanian and that they should be included in Albania.
(a). Language. Mrs. Kennedy and I have now lived in Kortcha, Albania, for more than five years. We have learned to read and write the Albanian language which is entirely distinct from the Greek language, and allied to the Latin in many of its roots. All through our travels up and down Albania we have not found it necessary to learn any other language even when we went down as far south as Santa Quaranta. Neither the Turkish government nor the Greek-Orthodox church have ever recognized the rights of the Albanians to use their own language and yet, to communicate with the population they have both been necessitated to constantly make verbal use of it. In Kortcha, even during the new regime, the Turkish government, encouraged by the attitude of the Greek church to identify the Albanian language with the Moslem element of the population, sought to enforce the use of the Arabic characters. The enthusiastic meeting which we witnessed at Kortcha when 12,000 men, largely from Kollonia signed not only their own names but also the names of those whom they represented in their villages who had entrusted them with their signature stamps or dyes, proved to us without a question that the true Albanian, unhurt by Greek influence, was eager to have his language at any cost.
Our Kortcha Girls’ Boarding school founded by Mr. Kyrias, an Albanian agent of the British and Foreign Bible Soc’y in 1891 in which the vernacular has been taught has been a storm centre greatly beloved by all the Albanians but constantly persecuted both by the government and the Greek Orthodox church, the Greeks even going so far a few years ago as to hire a butcher to watch for Miss Sevasti Kyrias the principal.
In a recent attempt to gather a large number of signatures from the population of Kortcha favoring Greek occupation only the Greek and the Turkish language appeared in the notices posted up, the intimation being made that all Christians were Greeks and the rest were Turks.
(b). Sentiments of the people. The people have never been free to publicly express themselves for any length of time. As American missionaries the people came to trust and confide in us, knowing that we desired to stand in their midst for true liberty and justice. Since our American Board always labors in the vernacular of the peoples to whom she sends her missionaries we were of necessity identified with the Albanians who had not yet been won over by the Greek or Turkish propaganda. We know for a fact that thousands who outwardly have tacitly submitted to the present Greek martial law and in many instances have even signed their names as favoring Greek occupation are still in heart true Albanians. Even before the recent political changes the efforts of the Greek church to denationalize the Albanian Christians was more and more feared and resisted by this virile people as evidence by the institution and growth of the Orthodox League which stands for the use of the Albanian in the church services. Greek statements as to the large percentage of scholars attending their schools are useless as there have been no permanent Albanian schools with which to compare them. As soon as the constitution was proclaimed the Albanians flocked to their own schools, deserting both the Greek and Turkish schools, although it was with difficulty that the Albanians could find capable teachers. If such sentiments are able to thrive amongst the people even when they have been oppressed, imprisoned, murdered and exiled, throughout these past hundreds of years both by the church and the state, what might we not hope if they were once given their just God-given rights of the free use of their own language!
(c). Kortcha, located on a high table-land, with an excellent climate and with a population of some 20,000 people is the cradle and home of Albanian nationalism. No city in Albania has had more influence in the Albanian national life. From Kortcha thousands of Albanians have gone out into the world to successfully earn their livelihood, many of whom have become very wealthy and some of these have desired to leave money for their own Albanian national interests. The new church of St. George and the building recently completed for the Girls’ school were designated by the donors for the use of the “Albanian Community”. As such a community was never recognized officially by either the government or the church, the Greeks have had the sole use of them.
In spite of these hindrances the majority of the leading citizens of Kortcha are Albanian in sentiment. At least one hundred of these are now staying in Valona anxiously waiting to know the fate of their beloved city. The expulsion of myself and wife from Kortcha by the Greek military authorities on April 26 on the utterly false charge that I was engaged in a political propaganda, making lists of Albanians who wished autonomy and exhibiting an Austrian flag, is to me an additional argument that the claim of the Greek government in regard to the nationality of Kortcha is weak when it cannot admit the presence of a single foreigner. A friend upon whose word we can rely, told us that when on business at the Bishop’s Palace (or Metropolis), soon after the occupation of the city by the Greeks he overheard an officer speaking to one of the principal “andartes” (comitadjis). The officer said in an aside to the latter, “Of course you know what our program is, but be careful what you do because it seems we have a foreigner who may write to the outside world.”
(d). Rough statistics of the population of the city of Kortcha.
Moslem Albanians who are almost entirely Albanian in sympathy, 8,000.
Christian Albanians (1) Albanian in sympathy, 8,000; (2) Greek in sympathy, 4,000
Total population, 20,000
3. Arguments against the Greek point of view.
(a). This war between the allies and the Turks should not have been carried in to Albania. It was not to be a war of aggrandizement and it was to confine itself to the oppressed people of Macedonia. The Albanians had themselves been trying to resist the oppression of the Turks and were by no means united in any stand against the allies. Notwithstanding this more or less neutral position of the Albanians, both the Servians and the Greeks have availed themselves of the opportunity to push into and devastate large portions of Albania. Thousands of Moslem Albanians have been brutally massacred or mutilated and thousands more deprived of their homes and are now living in the open, unsheltered and dying of hunger. I leave London tomorrow night to take up relief work amongst them.
(b). A census taken by any outside committee of investigation as urged by the Greeks could not be a correct one. The opposition to the use of the Albanian in school or church or mosque previous to the war has made it impossible for many to even know how to write their names in Albanian. Judging from what was already done before our leaving that city such a committee would of course be under the constant surveillance of the local police. Moreover we have heard since leaving Kortcha that the school children have been ordered to speak Greek in the streets before any foreigners.
4. Methods employed by the Greek authorities since their occupation.
(a). Pressing for signature in favor of Greece. The memorial service held in St. George’s church on the day of the late king’s funeral was made the occasion for taking a vote of the people. From the church the large concourse of people were invited to the Bishop’s residence in full sight of our windows where they were asked to sign in favor of Greece. From the notices previously posted up in Greek and Turkish, the people had been given to understand that there would be no pressure. Consequently many Christians and Moslems withheld their names when they found but one paper to sign. These were noticed by the authorities and questioned, though at that time they had not as yet been threatened. Many of my friends took occasion to come to my home for advice. Understanding that this vote was entirely voluntary I urged them not to fear, to be true to their own convictions.
(b). Systematic arrest of the people favoring autonomy. At first full liberty of speech was allowed but gradually we observed that various prominent Albanians were marked and at first quietly watched and persecuted. My home, our American school and our Sabbath services were systematically watched and persons were intimidated from coming to our home. Later they were openly opposed. They were arrested, beaten and sent into exile. Many were necessitated to leave Kortcha and simply because they could not say that they were Greeks. In Valona reports were circulated that some in Southern Albania had even been murdered by the Greeks for their pro-Albanian sentiments. On all hands we have heard remarks such as this, “Why we thought we were to have liberty, but this is worse than the rule of the Turks!”
(c). Treatment of Moslem women. During the first three days of Greek occupation when full license was given the soldiery, the harems of the city were in terror. Homes were forced into and Moslem women were stripped of their clothing and insulted. Even later after order was restored, it was unsafe for respectable Moslem women to be on the streets. Their veils were lifted from their faces and insulting language used.
(d). The Albanian newspaper was suppressed and the printing-press closed. Even the Albanian sign over the door was torn down by police order. The editor and printers were forced to flee to Avlona for their lives.
Phineas B. Kennedy
London, July 14, 1913.
Obtained and submitted to IAPS for publication by Bejtullah Destani.
Transcribed by David Hosaflook.
July 14, 1913
Rev. P. B. Kennedy
Subject: S. Albania, Reasons why Albania should be as large as possible and why Kortcha should go to Albania. Draws attention to action of Greeks.
Minutes: […] and while it amplifies what we know already. Mr. Kennedy tells a very different tale from M. [?] (see 32592) who wishes to [Hellenise] southern Albania and believes that this people wish it.
Public Record Office, London, F.O. 371 1839