Local Albanian Leaders in the Early Nineteenth Century
The weakening of Ottoman central authority and the timar system brought anarchy to the Albanian-populated lands. In the late eighteenth century, two Albanian centers of power emerged: Shkodėr, under the Bushati family; and Janina, under Ali Pasha of Tepelenė. When it suited their goals, both places cooperated with the Sublime Porte, and when it was expedient to defy the central government, each acted independently.
The Bushati family dominated the Shkodėr region through a network of alliances with various highland tribes. Kara Mahmud Bushati attempted to establish an autonomous principality and expand the lands under his control by playing off Austria and Russia against the Sublime Porte. In 1785 Kara Mahmud's forces attacked Montenegrin territory, and Austria offered to recognize him as the ruler of all Albania if he would ally himself with Vienna against the Sublime Porte. Seizing an opportunity, Kara Mahmud sent the sultan the heads of an Austrian delegation in 1788, and the Ottomans appointed him governor of Shkodėr. When he attempted to wrest land from Montenegro in 1796, however, he was defeated and beheaded. Kara Mahmud's brother, Ibrahim, cooperated with the Sublime Porte until his death in 1810, but his successor, Mustafa Pasha Bushati, proved to be recalcitrant despite participation in Ottoman military campaigns against Greek revolutionaries and rebel pashas. He cooperated with the mountain tribes and brought a large area under his control.
Ali Pasha (1741-1822), the Lion of Janina, was born to a powerful clan from Tepelenė and spent much of his youth as a bandit. He rose to become governor of the Ottoman province of Rumelia, which included Albania, Macedonia, and Thrace, before establishing himself in Janina. Like Kara Mahmud Bushati, Ali Pasha wanted to create an autonomous state under his rule. When Ali Pasha forged links with the Greek revolutionaries, Sultan Mahmud II decided to destroy him. The sultan first discharged the Albanian from his official posts and recalled him to Constantinople. Ali Pasha refused and put up a formidable resistance that Britain's Lord Byron immortalized in poems and letters. In January 1822, however, Ottoman agents assassinated Ali Pasha and sent his head to Constantinople. Nevertheless, it took eight more years before the Sublime Porte would move against Mustafa Pasha Bushati. The sultan sent an Ottoman general to Bitola (then called Monastir, in Macedonia), where he invited 1,000 Muslim Albanian leaders to meet him, and in August 1830 Reshid Pasha had about 500 of the Albanian leaders killed. He then turned on Mustafa Pasha, who surrendered and spent the rest of his life as an official in Constantinople.
After crushing the Bushatis and Ali Pasha, the Sublime Porte introduced a series of reforms, known as the tanzimat, which were aimed at strengthening the empire by reining in fractious pashas. The government organized a recruitment program for the military and opened Turkish-language schools to propagate Islam and instill loyalty to the empire. The timars officially became large individual landholdings, especially in the lowlands. In 1835 the Sublime Porte divided the Albanian-populated lands into the vilayets of Janina and Rumelia and dispatched officials from Constantinople to administer them. After 1865 the central authorities redivided the Albanian lands between the vilayets of Shkodėr, Janina, Bitola, and Kosovo. The reforms angered the highland Albanian chieftains, who found their privileges reduced with no apparent compensation, and the authorities eventually abandoned efforts to control them. Ottoman troops crushed local rebellions in the lowlands, however, and conditions there remained bleak. Large numbers of Tosks emigrated to join sizable Albanian émigré communities in Romania, Egypt, Bulgaria, Constantinople, southern Italy, and later the United States. As a result of contacts maintained between the Tosks and their relatives living or returning from abroad, foreign ideas began to seep into Albania.
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