Toleva concluded “After thorough studying of the archives we may claim that at the beginning of the 20th Century the Albanian population did not still represent a formed nation. The ethnical groups in Albania live isolated; they do not have connections between themselves, except when fighting. The possibilities for their convergence were practically nonexistent; murders are common, even for the people from the same clan. There were two basic dialects in the country that were so different that people could hardly understand each other. There was no unique literary language, but more than twenty different manners of writing in local dialects.”
The Albanian Nation was constructed by Austro-Hungary
Written by: Djordje Opsenica and Goran Ilic
Source: Geopolitika 71/2014.
Interest in the Bulgarian scientific public is not fading regarding the voluminous historical work under the title Influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the Creation of the Albanian Nation (1896-1908) based on studied documents of the Vienna Royal Archives, and might be quite interesting for the Serbian public as well.
Namely, the doctoral thesis of the recently deceased Bulgarian historian Teodora Toleva (1968-2011) in Spanish under the original title in Spanish La influencia del Imperio Austro-Hungaro en la construccion nacional albanesa (1896-1908), in which she in a factographically rich book divided into ten chapters explains her vision of the genesis and development of the Albanian nation in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The Bulgarian editing house Siela published her work in Bulgarian posthumously, and the German translation of this work under the title Der Einfluss Osterreich-Ungarns auf die Bildung der albanischen Nation 1896-1908 was also published in December 2013.
It should be noted that Teodora Toleva built her name in Bulgarian historiography by being a very industrious researcher, with high professional standards, an extraordinary polyglot (she spoke Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Russian, English and German). Besides this she was noticed back in 2006 for her capital work Foreign Policy of Gyala Andrássy and the Macedonian Issue, and posthumous publishing of her third book Genocide and the Fate of the Armenians 1905 is soon expected. We are emphasizing all this for comprehending that this work of hers, defended in Spain, is a work valuable of attention of the Serbian historians as well, who not rarely shy away from studying Bulgarian historiographical works.
Modern history usually implies that the Albanian nation existed even prior to the 19th Century, which is supported by the works of Stavro Skëndi, Peter Bartle, Hans Dieter Schanderl, and others. The basic thesis of Toleva is that Vienna did what ever was possible to homogenize different Albanian tribes and clans, which in the second half of the 19th Century, according to Toleva, did not have a developed national consciousness, but were amorphic and dispersed. Hence, the Vienna diplomacy actively helped the creation of a unified literary Albanian language, the edition of Albanian nationalistic publications and the development of journalism and education. The motifs of Austro-Hungary for this were to prevent the spreading of the influence of rival Serbia and Italy, and indirectly, by preventing the Serbs, to hamper the spreading of the Russians to the Mediterranean.
Toleva entered the Vienna Royal Archives for the first time in 1999 in order to gather data from the archive documentation around the Macedonian issue. Searching for documents regarding this, completely by chance some day she discovered in one of the archive drawers the never published Memorandum on Four Conferences that held place at the Vienna Court in 1896 regarding the plans of creating the then nonexistent Albanian nation. These meeting are also mentioned in the document Die Albanienpolitik Osterreich-Ungarns un italiens 1877-1908 de Hans Dieter Schanderl from 1971, which Toleva stated in the footnote on page 28 of the Bulgarian edition. Vienna had to take concrete steps in creating the Albanian national awareness, since the mass of the mutually opposed Albanian tribes was not unified neither linguistically nor religiously, they did not have a normed alphabet, there were only several schools, there was no literature, nor press. In a word, they did not have any personal identity, nor did they long to create one.
The starting point of her research was 1896, or the secret conferences, when Vienna decided to take more active actions in the area of the southern Adriatic, and the final point is the year 1908, when the Young Turks took power which led to a change in the up to then context for action of Austro-Hungary towards the Ottoman heritage.
Chapter I under the title Оrganization of Foreign Policy relates to the explanation of Austro-Hungarian foreign policy. Toleva clarified: “The purpose of this Chapter is to show that tradition in the Empire’s foreign policy, and its organization of the secret conference’s work in the sense of real management.” She explained the structure, the functions and the prerogatives of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. According to the Austrian researchers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was never studied up to now. Toleva stated two reasons for this. The first is that the Ministry started to be of interest only recently in searching for responsibility for the ultimatum which led to the outburst of WWI, and when the facts proved that the Ministry worked in favor of its own interests and according to its own mechanisms. And the second is the specificality of the Ministry itself. “According to Helmut Rimpler, there is still no study which discloses the essence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the institution, or what is the direct connection between its organization and its activities” Toleva emphasized.
Chapter II is especially significant, under the title Plan on Albania or the Vienna rationality or irrationality, in which Toleva explicitly wrote about the suppression of the impact of Serbia as one of the rational elements of the Memorandum which comprises four secret conferences, but that it was irrational to start a project of building a nation, as this a difficult task, in contrast with the military manner of thinking.
Chapter III – Acceptance of the plan – diplomatic risks and long-term predictions talks about the disagreement with the plan of the representatives of the Austrian Headquarters or certain diplomats who were aware that such a plan also violated certain international norms. However, the plan was accepted despite the voices that were against it.
In the Fourth Chapter under the title Initiatives of Vienna before the Ottoman Empire or concerns of one people between two empires there is mentioning about the concrete advocating of the Austro-Hungarian consul in favor of the mutually opposed and set against Albanian tribes before the Turkish authorities, as it must not be forgotten that the Porte as well did not have high opinion about the robberies and clans in the region at the foot of Mt Prokletije.
In Chapter V named Trips of Austro-Hungarian Consul through the Albano-Muslim society or the beginning of a romantic conspiracy, Тoleva explained the establishment of connections of the Austro-Hungarian Consul with the leaders of the Albanian Muslim tribes.
Chapter VI talks of the protection of religious confession. The so called Kulturprotectorat is elaborated.
The Albanian language is the theme of Chapter VII, which until then was written in twenty different ways (in Greek, Latin and Arabian letters), but was standardized in 1908, wherein the main role was played by the Consul of Austro-Hungary.
Chapter VIII deals with the school system and Chapter IX titled The Press or how Vienna starts to write in Albanian. Тoleva emphasized that different materials of an extraordinary high level of production were printed in the purpose of developing the national feeling of the Albanians pursuant to the conclusions of the Memorandum of the secret conferences from 1896. It mainly concerned calendars, grammars, historical books. Numerous educational initiatives were being made.
In the last, Chapter X, Toleva clarified the role of the Roman Catholic monsignor Primo Dochi, who had a plan to create a North Albanian Dukedom, wherein the main role would be played by the Mirdita tribe. Toleva also enclosed a whole series of up to now not published documents which support her thesis that the Albanian national renaissance actually started from the geopolitical motif “Kaiserlich und Königlich Monarchie”. She stated that there was an Albanian Committee both in Bucharest and in Sofia, and she referred specially to the establishment of Albanian schools in Italy and Italian ones in Albania. She also mentioned the Romanian Albert Djike who considered himself as descendant of Scanderbeg and who actively lobbed for the Albanian issue is interesting.
In the conclusion of her book Toleva also cited other geopolitical circumstances. For instance, she said that Germany did not take part in these Austrian actions, but that it was fond of the Albanians (for their geopolitical reasons), while the Bektashi order supported the Young Turk revolution. The British were keeping their neutrality, but also looked with affinity to the development of Albanian nationalism. All of this, as well as the strengthening of the neighbors, made impact on the concrete actions and the range of help of the Austro-Hungarians directed towards the Albanian tribes. The mentality of the tribes themselves did not abet the Austro-Hungarian plans, but the isolation of Russia in that period was crucial for the realization of those plans.
Toleva concluded “After thorough studying of the archives we may claim that at the beginning of the 20th Century the Albanian population did not still represent a formed nation. The ethnical groups in Albania live isolated; they do not have connections between themselves, except when fighting. The possibilities for their convergence were practically nonexistent; murders are common, even for the people from the same clan. There were two basic dialects in the country that were so different that people could hardly understand each other. There was no unique literary language, but more than twenty different manners of writing in local dialects. The coefficient of literacy did not even exceed 2%. The population belonged to three religious confessions – Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics. The Albanians did not have national awareness, they did not have general interests, they did not express solidarity and they did not develop in the direction of waking the national feeling. Hence, at the beginning of the 20th Century there wass no Albanian nation.” Тoleva considered that her material evidence proved that Austro-Hungary was the most responsible for the creation of the Albanian nation, having 1908 as the crucial year, after which better times came for forming the Albanian nation.
It is interesting to see what reputed intellectuals from the West think about this work.
The Catalonian professor Ph D Agusti Colomines i Companys from the University of Barcelona said: “In her work Toleva comes to the conclusion that the Austro-Hungarian diplomacy played a crucial role in developing the feeling of national belonging of the Albanians in the Ottoman Empire, which had transformed into a dungeon of nations in the same manner as Austro-Hungary did itself. The political activity of Vienna was crucial in the process of national building in the light of Ernest Gellner and his modernistic theory, which later led to constructing the Albanian state”.
Professor Ph D Leopold Auer, former director of the Vienna Royal Archive, and member of the Institute for Austrian Historical Research, in his preface to the Bulgarian edition stated: “Teodora Toleva possessed by large what Arlette Farge – the French expert in history of culture – calls gout de l’archive (feeling for archive). Toleva is enchanted by the plethora of sources, stored in the archives, as well as by the possibilities they reveal /…/ Thus arriving to her doctoral dissertation, written in Spanish, by she will defend her doctorate in Barcelona in 2008. The manifestation of her insidious disease soon after that, where doctors proved to be powerless, prevented further research of this theme.
This book which represents a translation of the Spanish dissertation, has transformed into her legacy“.
This book should be translated into the Serbian language as well. Maybe this interesting book will force you to think a little more about how much we really know the Albanians. The mantra about two million Albanians in Kosovo is frequently repeated in our media, although it is known that there are less.
The Serbs usually called the Albanians in the past as Arbanas, while the Turks called them Arnauts. They most often called themselves Shqiptari. The relations between the Serbs and the Albanians were not always as they are today. Let us not forget that tsar Dušan the Great was the “ruler of the Serbs, Greeks and Arbanas”.
Short biography of Teodora Toleva
Teodora Toleva completed the French Language Gymnasium “Alfons de Lamartine” in Sofia. She was a polyglot, she spoke French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Italian. She graduated Balcanistics at the American University in Blagoevgrad (Bulgaria) (AUBG). She defended her dissertation for the Master of Sciences degree at the Department of Comprehensive History in Barcelona (September 2006), with the theme “Foreign Policy of duke Gyala Andrássy and the impact on the Macedonian issue.”
She defended the European doctorate in modern history before the Committee of representatives of the University of Barcelona, the London University and the University of Vienna, in September 2008 at the University of Barcelona. The theme was “Influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the creation of the Albanian nation (1896 – 1908)”.
In the article at http://facebookreporter.org/, via her friend a Serb, I found out that there are insinuations that her death is indeed a liquidation due to the themes of her research. At the beginning of her research, ten years ago, Teodora’s father was killed in Bulgaria, as far as I know with a rifle. He was a businessman in the telecommunication field and her doctoral dissertation: “НА МОЯ БАЩА”, “TO MY FATHER” was dedicated to him.
The article mentions that just before her death she complained and sought for some kind of protection from her friend “as she has felt for years the strange presence of some people and events that surround her”, but he is not the man from that world who is an expert for such kind of help nor was he able to help, hence help of any kind failed.
I am sincerely sorry for not being lucky to meet her, as we would be great friends. I am anyhow her friend and a sincere admirer.