|kosovo.net : History : Kosovo Origins|
by Hugo Roth
It is Also a Question of Names
Duty requires that we deal with the apparently strange way with which I have designated one party with a twofold name, having called it Albanian and/or Shiptar.
In the conviction that very rational and convincing reasons can cause and lead to this unusual use of a two-fold name for one people and its national minority (at least when it is not a matter of using two languages for the same concept), I shall explain the reasons, primarily practical ones, for this approach.
In essence, this is a question of two names in the Serbian language for the same people. At one time, the already out-of-date name, Arbanas, was in use well as the Turkish version, Arnaut and yet two more variants of the name Shiptar which are Skiptar and Schiptar. Probably this last was the most correct because the Albanians call themselves in the Albanian language Shchiptar but that name did not enter into widespread use in the Serbian language and so is in practice not used. Otherwise, that name is spelled in the original - Shqiptar.
In the Middle Ages, the expression Epirote was also used from an old Greek word, Epeiros, which signified dry land, continent. This term is no longer used but the first known Albanian dictionary from 1635, Dictionarium latino - epiroticum, as is evident from its title, used that noun for the language of the Albanian people.
In our case, the accent in no wise lies on some contentious point or specific motive. It is natural that a nation, people, tribe or similar has its own name for itself just as it is equally reasonable that their neighbours call them by some other name characteristic for foreigners and depending on the specificity of their language or on some other circumstances. Here it is a question of the use of a name (self-named and a foreign name) for two categories of one ethnic group. These two categories arise from two different and separate points but both as a result of political and historical circumstances. That is to say, by Shiptars we here are designating citizens of the Albanian national minority who, during the centuries of Turkish rule, came down from the mountains in Albania into Serbian lands. This process, it should be particularly stressed, was also encouraged by the Turkish authorities which at the same time were carrying out the islamicisation of the Albanian people. The term Albanians refers to citizens of the state of Albania. I mention here that we shall use the expression Shiptars for the Albanian national minority in Yugoslavia in order to shorten this incomparably longer name, giving preference to the shorter which, after all, is the one used by the greater part of the Yugoslav population and the citizens of Albania we shall call Albanians in order to distinguish more easily to which part of the Albanian people we are referring.
So far in this chapter about names, only the different names for the Albanians have been mentioned but nothing has been said about the origin of their name. In the case of the Albanians, this question assumes a strong significance, understandably, when it is realised that, at their inaugration, some political leaders of contemporary parties and movements in Yugoslavia also encouraged the "teaching" of an exclusive and unbroken generic line which traces their origins from the Illyrians to today's Albanians and, accordingly, to the Shiptars.
Whence arise such concepts and why are they launched with such great persistence, less so in specialist literature but incomparably more so in political pamphlets and similar publications? It is understandable of itself that such ideas are placed in the uncritical service of accomplishing political aims and are used primarily as a means for achieving political expansion. However, these so-called facts can in no manner be "woven" into an unreliable and false construct and here is the reason why.
In the work The Illyrians by Aleksandar Stipcevic which was published in its second edition as a school textbook in Zagreb in 1989 it is written "... in present day northern and central Albania there lived a series of small tribes among whom should be mentioned the tribe of the Albani (in Ptolemy written Albanoi), small in size and significance but important for the fact that it is from them that the present day Albanians get their name)".
The author of the cited extensive and exhaustive study (whose sub-title is "History Life, Culture") who geographically places and mentions over forty different Illyrian tribes, which is only a part of the number of tribes which are assigned an Illyrian origin, and who is evidently disposed towards the subject of his investigations - the Illyrians, with frequent references to the scientific conclusions of contemporary Albanian authors, does not once ascribe Albanian origins to the Illyrians but notes only, as a possible conclusion, that "... the Albanians of today owe their name to a small tribe called the Albani" (p. 28 of the cited work). On page 59 of the same book, he writes "...the thesis that the Albanians are the remnants of the Illyrians was clearly formulated for the first time by the German historian, Johannes Thunman 3, in the eighteenth century who declared that it was not possible to prove historically ethnic immigration into the area of present day Albania from ancient times until now."
In a study entitled Ilirska i Dardanska kraljevina (The Illyrian and Dardanelle Kingdom), the academic, Fanula Papazoglu writes in footnote 98 on page 169 "I have no intention of entering into the complicated question of the origin of the Albanians. I would wish only to recall that there are not a few experts (G. Weigand, N. Jockl, H. Baric, Vl. Georgiev) who locate the area of the forming of the Albanian people in the central part of Albania, citing various linguistic indicators (the kinship of Albanian with Illyrian, Thracian, that is, Dacomoesian). I would add that the ethnic word Arber, Arben, Arbanites, does not have to be strictly connected with Ptolemy's Albansi. Perhaps two different roots are in question so that the later correlation of the Albanians with the ancient Albanoi rests on a chance similarity of name."
On page 59 of the above-mentioned book by A. Stipcevic we read the following "Not disputing the old Balkan origins of the Albanians, many historians and linguists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have proposed a different solution to the question of Albanian origins. According to some, the Albanians derive from the Thracians (Carl Pauli, Gustav Weigand, Dimitar Decev) while others suggest the Dacomoesians (Vladimir Georgiev) etc."
Let us add another view but from a different author, Prof. Dr. Branko Gavela, in the book Prehistoric Archaeology 4. "Two other great ethnic groupings also appeared in the Balkan peninsula: the Thracians in the eastern areas and the Illyrians in the centre and the west. Although it is not possible for now to state more precisely their origin or the area from which they came to the Balkans, the fact remains that archaeological and linguistic traces of the Illyrians are to be.found widespread throughout the European continent."
It is not the purpose in citing these conclusions either to defend or to attack theses concerning the origin of the Albanians because science a long time ago declared "...there are no ethnically pure peoples, races or cultures" and that "mixoglottia and not idioglottia is the normal state of each linguistic community", words which that great expert in the philology, etymology and culture of the Balkan peoples, Prof. Dr. Milan Budimir, used in his work Grci i Pelasgi (The Greeks and the Pelasgians), published by the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, Department of Literature and Language, book 2, Belgrade 1950. That is not only his view of course because the theory of mutual contacts, mixing and influences between peoples is today accepted practically throughout the whole world.
Essential in understanding the reasoning of the pan-Illyrists such as A. Maier, G. Bonfante, P. Kretschmer, H. Krache (after several several decades of study this last abandoned or revised his earlier thinking) and several others is that they ascribe an unbelievably broad area to the Illyrians as well as linguistic and other characteristics. It is clear that this happened at a time when the study of the IIlyrians was at the stage of philological and archaeological investigations and much of what was similar was interpreted as being identical. However, it is even more important to understand why influential Albanians, almost to a man, accepted this on the basis of insufficiently proven and unproven evidence.
In his contribution to the work Illyrians and Albanians published by the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Belgrade, 1988, entitled "The beginnings and origins of the Illyrians", the academic, Milutin Garasanin, writes under points 8 and 9 in his final conclusions:
"8. Only with some diffculty can archaeology, for now, follow the situation at the end of the Iron Age because of the ever stronger process of cultural unification which was affected by strengthening Greek influence together with other social and economic processes: the strengthening of the tribal aristocracy, the forming of supratribal organisations such as that with Autarians already existed, it seems, in the Iron Age II. This can also explain the process of the integration of the Glasinac complex and the first states of the indigenous peoples. Some investigations, however, make possible a clear distinction of definite cultural and ethnic entities such as, among the foremost, the necropolises of the Gostilj type.
9. This unification was reflected even more in the period of Roman domination with the introduction of the Roman military, administrative and political system into the Balkan provinces. It cannot be disputed that this process did not mean the complete destruction of the indigenous element nor of the Illyrians whose presence, especially in the more farflung areas and so less exposed to Romanisation, can be discerned in various cults, funeral rituals and customs and in artistic creation. Only the stormy and complicated events of late antiquity and the movement of peoples with the settlement of the Slavs led in the most part to the complete disappearance of the indigenous population although later evidence of their continued existence is surely apparent. In this regard, it is particularly necessary to point to the remnants of the old Romanised population - the Vlachs. Within this framework, it is natural to raise the question of the Albanians whose paleo-Balkan origin cannot be doubted although in the sense of a sub-strata with the location of their territory still a matter of discussion and divided opinion. In order to be able to approach this question in a completely satisfactory manner from the archaeological point of view, however, it would be necessary to be in possession of reliably gathered and published material, especially from Albania. Here, unfortunately, there is a great gap in scientific knowledge. Albanian historians basically deal with the problems of prehistory in a satisfactory manner, accepting, albeit often tacitly, the results of investigations on which our work is also based. Inconsistency arises in their case when they do not differentiate the ethnic concept of Illyrian from the administrative one of Illyrica and so they extend the territory of the Illyrians to the Sava, even as far as Pannonia, but in the east they simply ignore the archaeological arguments about the position in the central Balkans and attach the Illyrians to the Dardanians and the Peonians. Investigators who deal with the archaeology of Albania in the Roman period have, unfortunately, until now mostly published synthetic reviews in which, without argument, they propagate the thesis of continuity on the territory of Albania throughout the Roman period. This continuity could have existed on this territory but on only in some areas. Yet, without publishing the corresponding archaeological material and a thorough analysis of it, its scope and character, it is not possible to pass judgement. Among the problems which for now cannot be solved by archaeological means is the question of the IIlyrians and the Albanians the study of which has been given an undesirable political and tendentious tone which is far removed from a scientific approach to resolving problems and scientific credibility."
These conclusions do not require any explanation. They do not permit the existence of any tendentious and dubious pseudo-theories which equate the Illyrians with Illyrica. If, however, they point to the unreliability of Albanian attitudes and, particularly, the aims to which they aspire then it is also necessary to mention that which is left unsaid. This is addressed by Ljubomir Kljakic in the book Oslobodjenje istorije (The liberation of history) in which he says "the basic problem of the series 'the Illyrians and the Albanians' lies in the fact that this edition, in spite of its declared intention, in fact approves and strengthens that against which it was conceived. Thus Garasanin explicitly tells us that the 'paleo-Balkan' origin of the Albanians cannot be doubted".
Accusing M. Garasanin of ignoring the recent investigations of M. Budimir, M. Vasic, B. Gavela and many others, Kljakic concludes "... the Balkan-Slav theory of M. Budimir is 'demolished' within the Balkan-Slav milieu thanks to the fact that power over the intellectual community here is wielded by those who base that power on consistently making it impossible for the historical truth about the Balkan-Slav area to be established and articulated" (pp. 92- 3). It is clear that this problem is awaiting its resolution but let us return to the problem of Pan-Illyrianism.
Since the theory of Pan-Illyrianism has remained unacceptable in world scientific circles, the correction of the extent of the Illyrian-settled area has reduced it to the northwestern part of the Balkan peninsula or, more exactly, as Dr. Milutin Garasanin has it ..."it has been concluded that the Illyrians can be placed in the western part of the Balkan peninsula. That means that, having started from Albania, the whole of that area is regarded as that where the Illyrians developed but it has still not been exactly determined where. That area is constantly being narrowed down with continuing systematic, particularly archaeological, investigations so that, today, we can limit the Illyrians to an area approximately from southern Albania to the upper reaches of the Drina and, in the west, somewhere to the Neretva or possibly to the Cetina. This is, naturally, the result of scientific investigations and these results are systematically published in different discussion papers, studies etc."
Which these tribes were together with their disposition is shown in map no. 9 which requires some additional comments. The map in question is modelled on that from the previously cited work of A. Stipcevic The Illyrians. However, all the tribes which one or another expert has supposed belonged to the Illyrians are portrayed on it. In order to distinguish between that which has been questioned and that which has been verified, suspect tribes, that is, those whose Illyrian ethnic credentials are disputable, have been underlined on the map we are presenting. Since this map denotes tribes from the time of their appearance which is different for the different tribes and does not record the duration of their existence nor their disappearance from the historical scene, this map should be taken as a global overview of the better known tribes (not all of course since not even the names of some small, "sporadic", tribes have ever been discovered) which existed for a while in the history of humankind.
It is not superfluous to mention this because it is proof of the incoherency and absence of Pan-Illyrianism in the sense of an ethno-unifying idea that there were very many conflicts which led to the mutual destruction and disappearance of a large number of Illyrian tribes. Naturally, conflict with other, non-Illyrian tribes also had an influence on their disappearance. Those wars had a particularly deadly effect. Prominent among the host of attackers were the Hellenes, Macedonians, Celts, Normans, Scordisces, Byzantines, Bulgarians and especially the Romans who practically ended the existence of the state or, as many term it, the political community which was called Illyria or Ardiean and they later also carried out the Romanisation of the surviving Illyrian tribes. It is also considered that the arrival of the Slavs in the Balkans was one more factor which contributed to the quickening process of the disappearance of the Illyrians.
<< Previous | Home | Next >>
Copyright ©1999 kosovo.net.