THE POLICY OF ABDULHAMID II REGARDING THE PRIZREN LEAGUE
The most significant attribute of the Prizren League in Albanian national history is the fact that this movement brought the Albanians together, for the first time, under a national resistance ideal and action. This movement not only engaged in an
armed struggle for preventing the distribution of Albanian lands amongst neighbouring countries, but also followed a political program that aimed towards the unification of Albanian territory under a single province administration.
The approach of Abdülhamid II towards the Prizren League aimed at keeping this movement connected to the Ottoman caliphate and monarchy, and in line with the Ottoman State’s policies. One factor in his succeeding with this aim was
Abdülhamid’s policies regarding the Prizren League and another was the fact that the members of this movement did not have homogeneous political views. One of the most distinct characteristics of Abdülhamid’s policy regarding the Prizren League was his concealed support, from the beginning, of the movement. In fact, this was a natural outcome of the widespread reactions against the resolutions of the Congress of Berlin that had suggested the division and distribution of a portion of Albanian lands. These reactions lead to an armed resistance that spread to the whole of Albania in a short period of time and was almost impossible to prevent.
On the other hand, since the lands that the Albanians struggled for were a part of the Ottoman Empire, the Albanian resistance was legitimate as far as Abdülhamid II was concerned. The success of this resistance in preventing the loss
of the lands in question was in concordance with the interests of the Ottoman State and such a success could relieve the Ottoman State from possible liabilities against the signatory countries. Furthermore, the fact that a great majority of the Albanians were Muslim created suitable grounds for Abdülhamid II for controlling this resistance movement. In the isolated state, the Ottoman Empire was pushed into with the 1876 Istanbul Convention. Islam had become the strongest weapon for Abdülhamid II in both domestic and foreign politics. From this point of view, the mainly Muslim Albanians were the stronghold of Ottoman presence in Roumelia lands.
Even though all these reasons transformed Abdülhamid II’s policy regarding the Prizren League into support albeit concealed, it was not successful in meeting the political demand of this League to unite Albania under a single province administration. The most important reason for this were the discrepancies in the ideals and ends of the foremost leaders of the League due to cultural, religious and regional differences. These circumstances had created the political manoeuvring space Abdülhamid II needed to bring this movement in line with his own interests. Therefore, the Prizren League was unable to assert the resistance it showed against foreign powers in defending its lands against meeting the political demands of the Ottoman Empire. Another reason was the opinions and cautions of high state officials working in the Albanian region regarding the purpose and activities of the Prizren League, which were very influential in the policies of Abdülhamid II the Prizren League. So much so that every so often these state officials were accused by the leaders of the Prizren League of misinforming and deceiving the Ottoman State regarding their league.
Albanian Resistance against the Decisions of the Treaty of Berlin When we observe the developments that occurred after the establishment of the Prizren League, we see that concrete action was not taken by the Ottoman Empire
regarding the League’s political demands for uniting Albania under a single province administration, but that the spread of this movement to the whole of Albania was largely overlooked. This policy provided two practical advantages for
the Ottoman State. First of all, it lengthened and delayed the process of applying the Berlin Convention decision to give a portion of Albanian lands, included in Ottoman territory, to neighbouring countries. Secondly, the trust of Albanians in the
Ottoman State was established.
Even before the Prizren League, a local resistance movement had been initiated by the Albanian clan leader Ali Pasha of Gusinia as a reaction to the decision of the San Stefano Treaty that suggested the distribution of his lands to Montenegro. This local resistance effort grew even stronger after the initiation of the Prizren League that was established within the Berlin Convention process, which revised the San Stefano Treaty. Thus, Gusino and Plava, which were to be left to Montenegro in accordance with the Berlin Convention, could not be handed over to Montenegro. Mehmet Ali Pasha, who was appointed to apply this decision and convince the Albanians regarding this issue, was killed by angry Albanians in the region. Later, the Ottoman soldiers sent to escort the hand-over of the region to Montenegro, as result of the persistence of the signatory countries, were not sufficient enough visà- vis the resisting Albanian forces.
The lack of decisiveness by the Ottoman State during the development of these events also played a great role in making the hand over of Gusina and Plava to Montenegro impossible. Essentially, Abdülhamid II had not welcomed the decision
of giving Gusina and Plava to Montenegro from the very beginning. During the debates on this decision in the Berlin Convention, he had reasoned that the peoples of these regions were mainly comprised of Muslim Albanians and that they would not harmonize with the Montenegro people either in terms of nationality or religion and hence he proposed instead Küçük and Osebik, which he said were more familiar to the Montenegrins. However, Abdülhamid II’s proposal did not find sufficient support in the Convention and it was resolved to leave Gusina and Plava to Montenegro. Nevertheless, the events that made the abdication of Gusina and Plava to Montenegro impossible were also in favor of Abdülhamid II. It is also
very interesting to note that the suspects of Mehmet Ali Pasha’s murder were left unpunished. It is understood from later developments that the approach of Abdülhamid II to this issue considerably encouraged the Albanians. Although it
was decided to hand over the districts of Toz, Hot and Gruda to Montenegro, after the attempts to leave Gusina and Plava to Montenegro were unsuccessful, this attempt was unsuccessful as well. In response to the decision to hand over Toz, Hot
and Gruda to Montenegro, the Scutari branch of the Prizren League sent a five to six thousand Albanian resistance army to Toz without any significant reaction from the Ottoman State, and prevented the abdication of these districts to Montenegro.
The communications between the Scutari Governor Izzet Pasha and the Istanbul Government confirm that the forbearing policy followed regarding the abandonment of Gusina and Plava, continued for the handing over of Toz, Hot and Gruda.
Although the signatory countries strongly insisted that the lands in question be first invaded by the Ottoman Empire and afterwards handed over to Montenegro, the Ottoman government continued to resolve this issue without disturbing the resisting Albanian forces. When the communications between the governors and high state officials in the region and the Ottoman government are examined, it would not be far fetched to say that this was a policy that surpassed the idea of disturbing and nearly underhandedly supported the resistance. In his letter dated April 12 1880, Saffet Pasha indicates that since the Albanians belong to a faction of Islam, their bond to the Ottoman State should be utilized to urge them to revolt as a whole against the enemy and that the Ottoman government should be in constant contact with the Albanian resistance forces for this purpose. Similarly, the Scutari Governor Izzet Pasha stated his views on this issue in his telegraph message7 dated May 25 1880 which reads as follows: “The abdication of these lands to Montenegro is only possible if the Albanian people are evacuated from the area by force. Neither our Sultan’s nor anyone’s conscience would allow such an action. Rather than causing this land to be lost by our own hands, let’s leave the Albanians to their own fate and entrust the issue to God. And let’s say to the aggressor countries that ‘we have abided our agreement; the rest is up to Montenegro - we cannot invade the region once more.’ Thus we would maintain that the Ottoman State attains the appreciation of the Albanian and other Ottoman peoples.”
The response of the Ottoman government, dated May 27 1880, to the concerns and recommendations of Izzet Pasha
regarding the lands that would be abandoned is even more interesting. In this reply Izzet Pasha is asked to convince the Albanians to hand over these lands and this action is justified as follows: “....otherwise these lands will be invaded by the joint armies of foreign states. And this will both create a justification for the foreign states and please the Latin. It should be secretly conveyed to the required officials that if the region is invaded by Ottoman soldiers, it would be possible for the Albanians to regain control of the lands in question. The Muslims should be told that if the agreement is not made in accordance with the rules, then the Gusine issue will come to the agenda and such an event will be in favor of Austria.”
The fact that the Ottoman Government gave priority to the method of persuasion the success of which seemed rather difficult considering the abandonment of lands and was confirmed with the reports corning from the region, not only delayed the process of handing over the lands in question, but also gave time to the Albanian resistance forces to grow stronger in the region both in terms of organization and armed struggle. However, this also weakened the resistance strength of Ottoman armed forces that were to accompany the turnover of Toz, Hot and Gruda to Montenegro in accordance with the agreement against the Albanian resistance forces.
Although a new agreement between the signatory countries and the Ottoman State suggested giving Ulgün, instead of Toz, Hot and Gruda, to Montenegro caused new anxiety among the Albanians, after strong pressures and threats the
Ottoman government performed the required actions with foremost caution to prevent the Albanians from turning against them. Even during the negotiations to hand over Ülgün to Montenegro, a communication sent from the Scutari Governor’s Office on July 24 1880 stated that it was impossible to realize this without any bloodshed in the region as there were extensive Albanian resistance forces in the area. Consequently, negotiations were made with the Scutari branch of the Prizren League and they were asked to admonish the branch in Ülgün regarding this issue. Despite all these efforts, the Ottoman soldiers sent to escort the hand-over of Ülgün to Montenegro encountered great Albanian resistance and unwillingly turned back. In his September 21 1880 letter to relevant authorities, Riza Pasha attributed this unexpectedly large Albanian resistance to two reasons. The first reason was the Albanian belief they could relieve Ülgün from invasion just like the other two lands in question. The other reason was that the Albanians thought that in fact the Ottoman State never wanted to hand over Ülgün and that they appointed officers to admonish on this issue solely for the purpose of keeping up appearances.
Undoubtedly, the principal reason for such Albanian judgment was the support given to the Albanian resistance by the Ottoman State on the other two land disputes and this had unavoidably caused the Albanians to expect the same
approach on this issue. However, there is still a possibility that a concealed Ottoman support was received on the Ülgün issue from the very beginning. Because when Riza Pasha was trying th e Albanian resistance and encountered the aforementioned reasons, he had expressed to the concerned authorities that he did not know whether a secret order sent to regional authorities by the Ottoman government had played a role in this, but that he, for one, had no connection whatsoever with the Albanian resistance. The pressures and threats received from the signatory countries after
Riza Pasha’s ineffectiveness against the Albanian resistance, lead the Ottoman State to act more decisively on the issue of handing over Ülgün. A major military force commanded by Dervis Pasha was sent to the region with the purpose of
accompanying the turnover of Ulgiin to Montenegro. Derviþ Pasha’s principal duty was to take measures towards calming the general anxieties and maintain the order in Scutari and escort the turnover of Ülgün to Montenegro without any complications after the required environment was provided. However, the insistence of Abdülhamid II to resolve this issue by refraining from confronting or offending the Albanian peoples as much as possible, left Derviþ Pasha in a very difficult position. Derviþ Pasha, who was ordered not to use any force against the Albanian resistance forces, mainly suppressed the Albanian activities in Scutari with all the authorization bestowed upon him, which excluded the use of force, a situation that prevented the activities of the Scutari branch of the Prizren League.
However, realizing that it would not be possible to overcome the great Albanian resistance during his principal mission, namely the turnover of Ülgün to Montenegro, with his limited powers, Derviþ Pasha asked to be relieved from duty,
reasoning that he should at least be given authorization to use limited force against the Albanian resistance. But his request was denied with a justification that Ülgün must be handed over as soon as possible at a time when a border issue with the Greeks was on the agenda. Furthermore, Dervis Pasha was strongly informed not use any force against armed or civilian Albanian resistance members or their associations until Ülgün was handed over to Montenegro.Although Derviþ Pasha succeeded in accomplishing the difficult task of handing over Ülgün to Montenegro, at later dates he did not refrain from criticizing the Ottoman state’s mild policy against the Albanian resistance forces.
After seeing that the escalating Albanian reactions against the turnover of Ülgün to Montenegro resulted in the establishment of an actual Albanian government in Kosovo, the Ottoman state remained silent, or at least did not engage in a military intervention against these actions. The main reason for this was the yet unresolved Ottoman-Greek border issue which incited great reactions among the Southern Albanian people. On the other hand, the increasingly harsh opposition on this issue was creating a favorable situation for Abdülhamid II against the signatory countries. As a result, he continued to overlook these activities to a certain degree until the issue was resolved. The Ottoman government was aware from the beginning that the Greek border issue, which was to result with abandoning a portion of Southern Albanian lands to Greece at the Berlin Convention, especially provoked a big reaction from the Albanians in this region and that this reaction carried a potential for igniting a major war with the Greeks. The reports sent by an official sent to Loannides to carry out inspections in the region, illustrated the dimensions of the anxiety in the region. One of the things that enraged the Albanians regarding the Greek border issue was the thought that Greece was not content with the lands offered to them in the Berlin Convention and intended to acquire the whole Toskha region and even Albania itself. According to the Albanians, the claims of Greece over Preveze, Narda and Loannides, which hosted some of the most important ports of the Albanians, constituted the most important part of Greece’s secret ambition regarding this issue. Giving these locations to Greece would mean losing Albania, and the Albanians clearly expressed that they would never allow such an action by
sending telegraph messages to both the Ottoman government and the embassies of foreign states.Members of the Prizren League conveyed their concerns to the Ottoman government that accepting the Greek claims would incite a major war that would not be limited with Greece but would also include Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, Austria, and Italia and advised that the only way to keep Albanian lands under Ottoman control was to unite the region under a single province administration. However, the Ottoman side persistently refrained from taking a concrete step in response to the numerous telegraphs coming from the Prizren League branches in the region and continued to mainly overlook the activities of these
branches. Essentially, sending troops to the region before resolving the Greek border issue looked very unfavorable from both the militaristic point of view and Ottoman-Albanian relations. Therefore, such precautions as maintaining Ottoman
control in the region with a new administrative organization until Greek border issue was solved, providing the allegiance of Prizren League leaders to the Ottoman state by granting them right to be state officers, and admonishing the members of
the League instead of applying force were considered, with the province administrators being strongly informed of them. The mild and concealed support policy of Abdülhamid II regarding the Prizren League and its activities was favored by
both the Prizren League and Abdülhamid II as long as the outcome was in line with Ottoman interests. First of all, the Prizren League organized in all of Albania under these policies and formed a serious national resistance force against the disintegration of these lands. So much for that; eventually this force reached a level where it became potent to threaten Ottoman central authority in the region. The fact that the central administration did not take any serious precautions against the Prizren League lead to the complaints and criticism of Ottoman officers serving in the region. On the other hand, there were others - the signatory countries - who were disturbed by the developments. These conditions lead to the warning of the Ottoman government on this issue. Furthermore, it was stated in the letter sent from the British Embassy to the Ottoman government that the actual roots of the Prizren League were the Kosovo and Scutari governors and the discomfort felt about this issue was conveyed to the Ottoman party.
The Self-Government Issue of Albania
Abdülhamid II supported the Prizren League as long as it was in line with the Ottoman State’s domestic and foreign policies. Abdülhamid’s most general priorities in domestic and foreign politics was to prevent the disintegration of the
Ottoman Empire and use Islam as a strong weapon on the inside and outside. For that reason, Abdülhamid II realized that the transformation of the Prizren League into a national movement would dangerously lead to the turning of Albanian attention to the domestic rule of their country. To prevent this from happening, he opted to give a religious form to this League through the efforts of Muslim Albanian clergymen in the region. The fact that Abdülhamid II chose to use Islam and the note of the caliphate as a focus of allegiance in domestic policies and as a political power in foreign policies earned him certain practical gains. The most important gain was to control the Albanians, who were the strongest foundation of Ottoman presence in Roumelia lands, and to maintain his dominance in the region for a longer period of time. However, it is difficult to estimate how realistically he evaluated the demand to unite Albania under a single province administration, which was the political program of the Prizren League. Also to what degree and with which aims the League’s members and branches supported this program of the Prizren league from the very beginning appears very vague and complicated.
One reason for this was that even before the Prizren League was established, different political projects about their future were adopted by different Albanian fractions.Another reason was the difference of opinion that arose after the
formation of the Prizren League. A religious and conservative Muslim Albanian fraction did not welcome the idea of uniting Albania under a single province put forth by Abdul Frasheri during the establishment of the Prizren League. The
efforts of Abdülhamid II to turn the Prizren League into a Muslim movement via the religious and conservative fractions based in Kosovo were largely successful and this caused a division within the League. As a result of this division the
foremost leaders of the League resigned from duty and Sheikh Mustafa Ruhi of Kalkandelen started off an effort to reorganize the League as an Islamic movement. The call from Sheikh Mustafa Ruhi of Kalkandelen sent to all Albanian cities and regions stating that the Prizren League formerly represented only the north Albanian region but that from then on it would reconvene in Prizren to elect Members of Parliament for representing the whole of Albania was only replied by
Muslim Albanian clergymen. The endeavors of Sheikh Mustafa Ruhi of Kalkandelen to transform the Prizren League from being a national union into a religious union lead to the Ottoman government being warned by the British embassy. Almost certainly the pressure felt from this warning caused Sheikh Mustafa Ruhi of Kalkandelen to be ordered to leave Prizren for Yakova. Sheikh Mustafa reacted strongly against this order, stating and warning the Ottoman government that this decision created a deep resentment among the Albanians, they felt the state would abandon the region, the Albanian union would perish if he went to Yakova, and the Albanians could get the wrong impressions and engage in all kinds of harmful actions. He also accused the Ottoman officials of only protecting their own interests and acting unfriendly to the Prizren League. In
contrast, Abdul Fraseri, who was disturbed by the divisions within the Prizren League, intensified his efforts in the Toskha region to convince both the Albanians and Ottoman state to make Albania a single province. Abdul Fraseri went to the
Toskha region accompanied by Mustafa Pasha of Avlonya, Abidin Bey of Preveze and Mehmet Ali Bey of Berat, and not only established the Toskha branch of the Prizren Union but also tried to convince the locals to support his political project.30
After the Toskha branch decided to support this political project, the Debre branch also decided to support the project at a meeting held in October 1878. All the decisions were sent to the Ottoman state by the branches, together with messages
of allegiance to the monarchy and caliphate. However, they were unable to receive any response to their request from the government. Probably, this was mainly because Abdülhamid II did not approve such a political demand due to the
inconveniences it would bring. As a matter of fact, a communication received from the Governor of Kosovo shortly after the Debre meeting on October 14, 1878, the potential threats posed by this political project for both the Albanian people and the
Ottoman State were expressed and the authorities were warned on this issue.
These threats were listed as follows: (1) The reform efforts undertaken by the Ottoman government in the region had been unsuccessful and it was unlikely that they would in the future. (2) Since the people were uneducated, they would dispute
with one another if the administration was completely left to them and this would pave the way for the region being acquired by foreign states. (3) It was unwise to leave a big country like this in the hands of such an uncivilized people. Therefore, the presence of officers whose political and civil qualifications were tested was mandatory. (4) However, since the rejection of this people’s single-province request would cause them to become more insistent, as seen in the Crete example, and result in self-administration in the region, this request must be thoroughly examined and a suitable administration must be placed in office. Another reason was that this idea was a project that had not yet gained the support of Albanians as a whole. Consequently, the information passed to the Prime Ministry with a joint letter in July 1879 confirmed the situation. In this letter it was expressed that the Albanians in the Prizren League represented three different ideals.
The first group comprised of the Albanians that wished to patriotically fight against the Greek invasion and foreign provocations and did not want to give up allegiance to their Sultan. These made up the majority in the Prizren League. The
second group wished to acquire autonomy for Albania through the Prizren League. Abdul Fraseri and Mehmet Ali of Berat were the foremost figures of this group. Third group, on the other hand, included persons who wished to acquire personal
gains by being a member of the Prizren League. The members of the second and third groups referred to foreign states at every opportunity and degraded the true aims of the Albanians. This rough classification made among the Prizren League
members is open to debate in terms of its degree of being realistic. This categorization of Prizren League members between those that express allegiance to the sultanate and others that wish for self-government was probably used to distinguish
the ones who supported Frasheri’s political project from the religious and conservative fractions that had not yet decided to support this project. It is understood that the basic criterion in this distinction is the numbers of League members that served in favor of the Albanian national cause or the sultanate and caliphate. However, in the joint and individual telegraph messages sent by the League members that support this political project to the Ottoman government, it is observed that messages of definite allegiance to the sultanate and caliphate are given and the Albanian national cause is identified together with the Ottoman sultanate’s and caliphate’s interests. It is not our duty to question whether they were sincere in this or not. However, most of the telegraphs and letters sent by the League members to the Ottoman government are far more than mere messages that express allegiance to the sultanate and caliphate on the surface; these are official documents that justify the reasons for this allegiance.
The matters that are considered important by the League members on this issue are briefly listed below. • The Albanians have been the most loyal member of the Ottoman Empire for centuries and they will stay that way; • Albania is the stronghold of Islam union and Islam law in the Ottoman Roumeli lands.34 Therefore, the last people that would wish for the ending of Ottoman sovereignty this region are the Albanians. And no other Roumeli nation, except the
Albania, desires to stay under Ottoman control. Whereas the desire of both Christian and Muslim Albanians is to stay under Ottoman authority. The existence of the Ottoman State in Roumeli is only possible with the preservation of Albania.36
• Neighboring countries, and principally Greece, desires to share Albania amongst themselves and with this purpose they aspire to assimilate the Albanians through the Greek, Bulgarian and Slav schools they opened in the region through
the persons that are from their ethnic origin. For that reason, the province reform suggested in the Berlin Convention is extremely dangerous within the current administrative allotment of Albania. Because, under this allotment, the Bulgarians
and Greeks are more numerous in certain provinces compared to the Muslims. This situation will require new regulations in each province in accordance with the interests of the relative ethnic majority in question and this is very dangerous in terms
of Albania’s future. The only way to prevent this is to unite Albania under a single province and maintain an ethnic Albanian majority. • The Albanians sincerely wish to remain subject to the Caliphate Sultan. However,the ignorance, poverty and lack of authority in the region increase the discomfort and anarchy among the Albanians.
• The union of Albania under a single province will facilitate the reform efforts in the region. Thus the tax revenues will increase as well. Furthermore, civil and military costs will be cut down as a single governor will be in office, instead of four, and it will be possible to enroll more soldiers for duty. • After a decision to support the political project was given at the Prizren League meeting held in Prizren in September 1879, the number of telegraphs sent to the Ottoman government requesting the approval of this project increased dramatically.Although the Ottoman government continued to refrain from taking concrete steps in response to the increasing request of the Prizren League to unite Albania
under a single administration, it is understood that this issue gradually rose to the agenda of the government and turned their attention to the problems in this region. However, this interest never resulted with the realization of the project in question.In the letter of Saffet Pasha dated April 12 1880, the Ottoman government’s attention is drawn to the inferior economic, social and administrative circumstances in the region, and expressed that possible solutions should be discussed through meetings with local leaders in the region and reforms must be made.
One month later, the issue of uniting Albania under a single province was discussed in the Ottoman cabinet in May 1880 and it was resolved in principle to unite this region under the name of Western Roumeli Province and assign Eyüp Pasha as
the governor of this province.43 However, a telegraph message received from the Manastir province three months later, lead to the withdrawal of the first step taken to unite Albania and prevented this decision from being realized. After this message, which included a warning that uniting Albania under a single province would pave the way to autonomy for this region, arrived in Istanbul, the Ottoman Cabinet convened once again in mid June and this time decreed to establish an administration in Albania under a single governor with the name of “Transitory Albanian Province.” This decision was justified by stating that this would suppress Albanian anxiety and that the transitory status of the province could be lifted whenever desired and a legal complication would not be encountered.44 However, the decree of the Cabinet of Ministers was rejected as Abdülhamid II did not favor the idea, and instead it was decided to govern Albania as divided into four provinces.
All these developments put forth that the actual issue that disturbed Abdulhamid II was the intelligence information received stating that in fact the Albanians aspired for self-government. Consequently, the telegraph message received from Manastir led the Ottoman government to giving a completely opposite decision on the Albanian province issue. Nevertheless, intelligence letters sent by the officers in the region to Istanbul must have disturbed the leaders of the Prizren League as
well as Abdülhamid II, as certain telegraphs and letters were received by the Ottoman government, during the discussions of the Albanian province issue in the Cabinet, that were sent by these leaders and denied such intelligence information.
Among these, the telegraph sent by Abdul Frasheri is very significant. In a telegraph sent to Istanbul on June 18 1880 while the Albanian province issue was being discussed in the Ottoman Cabinet of Ministers, the following words were
The efforts of the Albanians, which merely reflect their loyalty and sympathy to the Ottoman State, have been distorted by certain circles to show these endeavors as an aspiration for princedom or independence and hostility has been planted between the state and the people, while the Albanian people can protect their religion, country, virtue and nationality only under Ottoman rule. The day Albania abandons Ottoman sovereignty will be the day that Albania perishes. Hence,
how can one and a half million Albanians continue to survive among so many enemies? The Andalusia disaster is an example of this. Therefore, please show mercy and secretly order the governors in Albania to work together for our future without giving any opportunity to foreign states, but of course this authorization solely belongs to the Sultan. Because, if the local administration in the region does not act in our favor when we take action against the Bulgarians and Greeks
in the near future, this will be harmful rather than beneficial.” Abdul Frasheri’s partially threatening letter was shortly followed by a telegraph that was collectively signed and sent on July 9 1880 by the members of the Toskha
branch. In this telegraph the League members expressed that they did not wish to be annexed to Greece and would fight against this to the end.48 However, the lack of response from the Ottoman government to these telegraphs increased the reactions against the Ottoman central administration and the Ottoman officials in the region. Although the League members that convened in Prizren in August 1880 threatened that they would use force against the Ottoman administration, with an army of 20,000-30,000 soldiers, the Skoplje, Kalkandelen and Pristina branches did not give sufficient support and they postponed this issue to be discussed in a later meeting. In the meanwhile, in the scheme presented to the Ottoman government by Abdullah Hüsnü, a member of the Toskha branch, in October 188050 stressing the importance of uniting Albania under a single province in terms of both Albanian and Ottoman interests was explained and certain state officers serving in the region were accused of acting in a hostile manner against the Prizren League and misinforming and deceiving the Ottoman government about the true intentions of the Albanians. It appears that all these telegraphs, letters and messages of allegiance did not convince Abdülhamid II well enough as he prepared a Declaration 51 addressing the
Albanians and clearly stated the policy he followed and would follow in this matter together with his justifications.
The above said declaration dated November 3 1880 briefly included the following words:The people of Albania, a rumor is being spread that Albania wishes to gather under a single province. My heart did not allow me to believe that the Albanians desired such a thing. Although the meaning of a single province is broad, wouldn’t the unification of four provinces be in contradiction with the procedure followed in other provinces of the empire? Wouldn’t uniting this region as a single province apart from other Ottoman provinces serve to the ends of foreign states desiring to acquire the region? The detrimental consequences of the separate administration established by Ali Pasha of Tepedelen have been seen
in a brief period of time, and Egribogaz and Peloponnesus have been acquired by the Greeks. The breakaway of Crimea and even the people of Dagestan from the Ottoman Empire are also outcomes of the aspirations to form a single administration. The aim of the persons who posses such malicious thoughts is to split up these lands piece by piece from the Ottoman Empire with deceiving and unreasonable excuses and to make the people betray their current religion and state...
There is a saying; the wolves snatch the ones that abandon the horde. The Ottoman state acquired these lands by shedding much blood. How can you make it easier for the foreign states to obtain these lands? How can I relieve the Albanians, who are a part of my progeniture, of my guardianship? I have been informed that certain agitators have been misleading the people saying that the Ottoman State will sacrifice Albania and calling them ‘to arm as a whole and establish our own government … Is it possible to defend the country with the irregular military brought together by these agitators? How will they manage to cope with the enemy’s established army? Does not the defeat of the Bosnians against a single Austrian volley of fire set a good example for this? … There is much pressure from foreign states on the Greek border issue. Does not one think whether or not we would leave an inch of land to the Greeks if this issue was left to be settled among the Ottoman Empire and Greece? … Weren’t the lands given to Montenegro and Serbia as a result of the pressures put forth by the big states? Which of these lands were willingly abandoned by the Ottoman State? I heard that the ones who have these malicious are saying that if a single province is established we will deal with all matters according to the Law of Sharia. Aren’t we applying the same laws? Aren’t the
regents and muftis in the region sent by the state? How can you be deceived by these harmful thoughts when all these examples are plain to see? In fact you should catch and hand over these persons to the State... And if you are unable to cope with them, the army I have personally sent to the region for the maintenance of law shall show the necessary force on this matter. The required reforms shall be carried out as you need more improvements in the just administration you
currently have The ones who are loyal and of help to the State shall berewarded in accordance with their ability and qualifications.
These words of Abdülhamid II addressing the Albanian people in late 1880 in fact constitute the main framework of his policy regarding the Prizren League. It can also be understood from these words that Abdülhamid II persistently refrained
from considering or perceiving the matter as the national cause of the Albanians and considered the issue within the framework of Ottoman domestic and foreign politics. In other words, Abdülhamid did not see the internal and external developments encountered in the region for the previous three years as the national problem of the Albanians but as an issue of the Ottoman State. According to him, the actual problem is the efforts of major countries to remove Ottoman sovereignty in Roumeli lands and the decisions of the Berlin Convention were the first steps for this. Therefore, transforming Albania into a privileged province different from other provinces would limit the Ottoman government’s sovereignty rights over the region and would leave the region defenseless against the attacks of enemy states.
Thus, the privileged single province model proposed for Albania would mean nothing but helping the enemy states’ aims. The persistence of certain persons on this issue in spite of all these plain facts meant, according to him, nothing but serving foreign interests and the Albanian people was being deceived by these people in favor of the interests of the foreign states. Although the opinion of Abdülhamid II on this matter was an important factor, his doubts that not all Albanians supported the idea of uniting under a single province led him to approach this issue with extreme caution. As a result of the
events that were observed during the turnover of Ülgün to Montenegro, this cautious approach of Abdülhamid II became transformed into a determination through the influence of Dervis Pasha.
The Prizren branch decision to reject giving soldiers to the Ottoman State during the handing over of Ülgün to Montenegro and the establishment of a government that acted independently from the Ottoman State by League members after
taking over the strategic locations in Kosovo, in a sense brought the Prizren League and the Ottoman State face to face. But was this truly a confrontation of the both sides?
From the Prizren League point of view it is understood that their trust to the Ottoman State was deeply injured. The main reason for this was the disappointment resulting from the handing over of Ülgün to Montenegro, which contributed to the
concerns over the Greek border issue. In the joint declaration prepared by the the Yakova, Pristina, Toskha, Kalkandelen, Skoplje, Yenipazar, Geylan and Vilitnn branches of the Prizren League addressing the people of Debre,54 it was expressed
that it was secretly learned that the Ottoman government had acted under the agitation of certain traitors and infidels and intended to establish an administration similar to Crete and eastern Roumeli, dividing the region into ten provinces, and for
this purpose wished to resolve the Greek border issue as soon as possible by accepting the senseless claims of Greece and also that it intended to neutralize the leaders of the Prizren league. But they would not consent to this in any way and they have decided to send an army of 10,000 soldiers to Skoplje to thwart the efforts of preventing a single province administration in Albania and the people of Albania were called to support them.
At a time when the Prizren League gained a rebellious quality, it is interesting to note that although a warrant of arrest was issued for him, Abdül Frasheri continued his efforts to convince the Istanbul government for a single province in Albania. In
the telegraph sent by Frasheri to the Istanbul government on February 23 1880, 20 days after the issuing of the Joint Declaration,55 he repeated his request for a single province in Albania and stated that the only purpose for the gathering of soldiers by the Prizren League was to fight against the foreign enemies and had no other aim whatsoever.
Whereas from the Ottoman State’s point of view, the belief that the time to dispel the Prizren League had come and Ottoman central authority should be established and the required reforms should be carried out in the region as soon as possible gained ground. However, the sensitivity caused by the Greek border issue demanded extremely cautious steps to be taken in this matter. A major military force commanded by Dervis Pasha, assigned to carry out this difficult mission, was
sent to Kosovo in March 1881 and quick steps were taken to establish a central authority in the region. Under the suggestions and directions of Dervis Pasha, the leaders of the Prizren League were sent away from the region together with their families56 and the persons know to be subject to the Sultan and Caliphate57 were rewarded with official positions and money, and their support to the reform program was maintained. The role of Dervis Pasha’s exceptional analysis of the region and the policies he accordingly followed played a great role in this success. It must also be with the effect of this success that after this date, none of the covert activities carried out by the Albanian nationalists managed to gather the Albanians under a collective movement as efficient as the Prizren League.
Despite the various political discrepancies it contained, the Prizren league holds an important place in Albanian history as a movement that gathered and organized the Albanians under a single cause. Although this movement was strong in terms of being a resistance force for the defense of the country’s lands against invading countries, due to the cultural, regional and religious discrepancies within itself, it was unable to become a politically strong and stable movement that could establish its own political future. These circumstances created the political manoeuvring space for Abdülhamid II to keep the Prizren League under his control. This is an important point in the success of Abdülhamid Il’s policies regarding the Prizren League. Abdülhamid II completely supported the organized resistance force of the Prizren League against the invading states and prevented this force from transforming into a political movement that would remove the Ottoman Empire’s sovereignty rights in the region by making use of the political disagreements among the Albanians. At this point, it is undoubtedly difficult to express how efficiently Abdülhamid II considered the aims of the Prizren League in terms of both the Ottoman State’s and Albania’s futures. The answer for this can be positive or negative. However, it is a fact that this policy affected later developments in one way or another.
The forum that contains documents concerning Abdulhamid the second in English for foreign visiters.
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En son Yılmazer tarafından 27 Eki 2008, 13:02 tarihinde düzenlendi, toplamda 1 kere düzenlendi.
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