For those that do not know why their social media feeds are full of Albanian flags and patriotic comments, today is the anniversary of Albanian Independence.
On the 28th of October 1912, the Declaration of Independence or Shpalija e Pavaresise was created and signed in Vlore. After it was signed, 83 leaders in the Assembly of Vlore came together to create the very first Government of Albania which was led by Ismail Qemal and the Council of elders.
After 500 years of Ottoman occupation and domination, followed by the Albanian Revolt of 1912, the Ottomans were becoming weak and after centuries of defiance, they finally made them agree to autonomy. The revolts had started a few years before after the Young Turks had introduced unsavoury measures such as tax increases, conscription, and disarming. These moves proved unpopular and first major Albanian revolt took place in 1910 led by Isa Boletini and Idriz Seferi. Then in 1911, a group of Albanian Members led by Ismail Qemali started a debate in the Ottoman parliament requesting additional rights for Albanians across the board. By January 1912, Hasan Prishtina an Albanian deputy warned the parliament that the Young Turks policy would spark revolution, after which, the seeds of the 1912 revolt were sewn.
The success of the subsequent revolt made it clear to neighbouring countries that the Ottomans were losing their grip, much to the concern of Serbia who wanted Albania to be divided amongst Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro. Of course the, Albanians didn’t and still do not care what Serbia think, so they set about declaring Albania as an independent country.
The declaration was composed in Albanian- partially in Gheg and Tosk with some Ottoman Turkish and it transates as:
“In Vlorë, on the 15th to 28th of November. That time the President was Ismail Kemal Bey, in which he spoke of the great perils facing Albania today, the delegates have all decided unanimously that Albania, as of today, should be on her own, free and independent.”
A local newspaper, the Perlindja of Vlore published the following:
“The National Assembly, composed of delegates from all over Albania and convening here in Vlora, opened today at four in the afternoon at the house of Xhemil bey. Ismail Kemal bey, as the prime initiator of the gathering, took the floor and explained to the delegates the purpose of the assembly, that is, that they all must strive to do what is necessary to save Albania from the great perils it is now facing.
The chairman, Ismail Kemal Bey, then took the floor and, in an ardent, fluid and reasonable speech, stated that although they had always been faithful to the Ottoman Empire, the Albanians had never forgotten their own language and nationality, the best proof of this being the endeavours and uprisings that had taken place from time to time, in particular over the last four years, to preserve their rights and customs. The Ottoman Government had never taken their interests into consideration and had never been willing to recompense the Albanians for the great services they had rendered. It had recently shown some interest in coming to an understanding with our people, but had not given proof of good faith and had not taken all the steps needed to appease and satisfy the Albanians. War had recently broken out with four countries in the Balkans that were seeking change and rights for their peoples, united by their ethnicity and religion.
Later, these countries put aside their initial objective and, as the war was going well for them, they agreed to divide the Empire up among themselves, including Albania. Realizing that the Turkish army had been defeated and that the Empire would not survive, the Albanians, who had played a greater role in the fighting than the soldiers, hastened to take requisite steps in their own interests as owners of the country. For this reason, Ismail Kemal bey departed for Istanbul and, having come to an understanding with the Albanians of Bucharest, too, set off for Vienna, where he reached an agreement with the Great Powers that had vital interests in the Balkans. As there was no more hope of saving Albania by means of arms, the only road to salvation was to separate Albania from Turkey. Ismail Kemal bey promoted this idea and objective, that was well received by all the Great Powers, in particular by Austria and Italy. It was only Russia that remained somewhat hostile to the idea because of the Slavs, but it did not deny the existence of Albania and an Albanian people. To realise this objective, he invited all Albanians to gather in Vlora and was delighted today to see that his call had not been in vain, and that delegates had been sent from all parts of Albania to reflect together on ways to save the Fatherland. According to Ismail Kemal Bey, the most urgent measures that the Albanian nation must take today are these: that Albania be independent under a provisional government; that a council of elders be elected to assist and supervise the government; and that a commission be sent to Europe to defend Albanian interests among the Great Powers.
The delegates unanimously agreed with the words of Ismail Kemal bey and resolved that Albania, as of today, should be on her own, free and independent under a provisional government.
The meeting was adjourned until the following day and the delegates went out and greeted the flag that was raised at five thirty in the afternoon.”
Then on December 4th after the second session of the Assembly of Vlore, Ismail Qemali waved the national flag of Albania from the balcony of the Assembly of Vlore in front of thousands of cheering Albanians. The flag was based on Skanderbeg’s principality flag that had been used over 400 years earlier.
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