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Robert Elsie

Historical Dictionary of Albania
New Edition

European historical dictionaries, no. 42

ISBN 0-8108-4872-4
Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland, and Oxford 2004
xlv + 534 pp.


    Historical dictionaries are useful books for all countries, but they are more essential for some than others. Albania is a case in point. Never particularly well known by outsiders under earlier regimes, it was deliberately closed to the outside world during the communist era. Now, despite increased efforts to enter the international community, Albania remains remote and our knowledge of it is faint. Worse, some of the things we think we know are wrong. For these reasons, this new Historical Dictionary of Albania should be particularly welcome.
    This volume takes a long view, presenting the various peoples, regimes and rulers who shaped its earlier development and the leaders who now tentatively seek other, more promising directions. It also takes a broad view, covering not only history and politics, but culture and religion, foreign relations, language, economics and social customs. And it adds a further dimension: the Albanians living outside of the country, whether part of an earlier diaspora or cut off by artificial and sometimes contested borders. The introduction, chronology and dictionary entries already give readers a solid grounding on Albania and the Albanians. Those who want to learn more on specific aspects can consult the helpful bibliography.
    Not surprisingly, the number of foreigners who know Albania is quite limited, and the number of those who have mustered any "expertise" is even more so. We were, thus, fortunate that this new edition could be written by one of that tiny circle, Robert Elsie. Dr. Elsie, along with extensive studies, has traveled widely in Albania and other places inhabited by Albanians. Over recent decades he has published numerous articles and books on a wide variety of related topics. He has also served as a translator and interpreter of Albanian. Few have gained as much insight into the region and its inhabitants, and even fewer can convey their accumulated knowledge so easily and effectively.

Jon Woronoff
Series Editor


    Compiling a historical dictionary for a whole country, even for a small one like Albania, is a major undertaking. Compiling a historical dictionary for a country as traditionally reclusive as Albania presents even more of a daunting task, in particular since there is still no objective and reliable historiography in Albania upon which such a work can be based. Decades of politically motivated censorship and self-censorship, combined with generations of nationalist thinking, have given rise to many myths and misconceptions. It has been difficult for Albanian historians and scholars to set aside the standard fare of hero glorification and to turn their backs on pompous assertions of national grandeur. Albanian history abounds with myths, which have served to disguise the inferiority complexes of a small and underdeveloped people, but, on the other hand, have also helped to hold the nation together in times of crisis. Poet Dritëro Agolli described Albania as a country which has produced more heroism than grain.
    The few foreign historians who have dealt in depth with Albanian history and have published in this field have proven to be more trustworthy, working as they do from an objective distance. Nonetheless, some erroneous claims and naive views still pass from hand to hand. A full-length, comprehensive and reliable history of Albania has yet to be written. The present work does not endeavor to fill the void, but only to offer the reader basic, factual information on the country, its historical development, its current situation and the culture of its people.
    The majority of the over 700 entries in this Historical Dictionary of Albania are person entries. They comprise not only figures of Albanian history, but also contemporary public figures and political leaders in Albania, as well as individuals, Albanian and foreign, who have made notable contributions to Albanian studies and Albanian culture. Since a large proportion of the material in this dictionary has never appeared in English, it is to be hoped that most readers will discover new information to make the elusive Albanian nation more accessible to them.
    The Historical Dictionary of Albania thus endeavors to provide a comprehensive overview, not only of Albanian history, but also of contemporary Albania as it enters the 21st century, focusing as it does both on the past and on a modern European nation struggling to put its formidable Stalinist past behind it. It must not be forgotten that, for half a century, Albania was a planet of its own, isolated from the rest of Mother Earth. Since the fall of the communist regime, the Albanians have been striving, not without difficulty, to find their place among the nations of Europe.
    A few technical remarks must be made. Users of this volume should note that cross-references in each dictionary entry are printed in boldface type. The dates given at the start of person entries for births and deaths are provided here in the year/month/day system, which is used, for instance, by the Canadian government to avoid confusion between the international day/month/year system and the month/day/year system widely followed in the United States. The entries are listed according to the English alphabet, not the Albanian alphabet, which treats ç, dh, ë, gj, ll, nj, rr, sh, th, xh and zh as separate letters. Albanian nouns and place names often cause confusion because they can be written with or without the postpositive definite article, e.g., Tirana vs Tiranë and Elbasani vs Elbasan. In line with recommended international usage for Albanian toponyms, feminine place names appear here in the definite form, and masculine place names in the indefinite form, thus: Tirana, Vlora, Prishtina and Shkodra rather than Tiranë, Vlorë, Prishtinë and Shkodër; and Elbasan, Durrës and Prizren rather than Elbasani, Durrësi and Prizreni. Exceptions are made for tribal designations and regions for which English forms such as Hoti, Kelmendi and Shkreli are better known. In this connection, reference is made to political leader Ahmet Zogu, but when he became king of Albania, to King Zog, in line with common usage. Finally, preference has been given here to the Albanian form Kosova over the traditional Kosovo. English usage of eastern European toponyms is in flux at the moment, and now that Byelorussia has become Belarus and Moldavia has become Moldova, there is no reason why the traditional Serb form Kosovo should not be replaced by Kosova, as a sign of respect for the long-suffering majority population there.
    There are many people to be thanked for their assistance in the compilation of this book. I would like to express my particular gratitude to Peter Bartl of Munich and Michael Schmidt-Neke of Kiel in Germany, upon whose works I have relied extensively for the early twentieth century period. Bejtullah Destani and David Smiley of London put much useful material at my disposal and Maksim Gjinaj of the National Library in Tirana assisted me, as ever, with dates and details. Other sources are given in the bibliography. My thanks go, in particular, to Janice Mathie-Heck of Calgary, Alberta, for her kind revision of the manuscript.

Robert Elsie
Olzheim / Eifel, Germany


Editor's Foreword, by Jon Woronoff


Abbreviations and Acronyms

List of Albanian Heads of State and Government

List of Albanian Political Parties and Organizations





About the Author

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