Academic Writings

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The struggle for survival of the Albanian state in the Post-Ottoman period during the Years 1912-1914 in the international arena


Ermir Dardha







University of New York in Tirana

Course Title: Advance International Relation

Date of Submission: 1/20/2006

Instructor: Dr. Enika Abazi

The struggle for survival of the Albanian state in the Post-Ottoman period during the Years 1912-1914 in the international arena


The Realism theory is the best explanation of what happened in Albania from 1912-1914. All the Balkan countries behaved on self interest, the power and the support of Russia, France and England gave Greece and Serbia support on the occupation of the south and north of Albanian territories. The Ottoman Empire started to deteriorate steadily at the beginning of the twentieth century, although its initial downfall counts down from the eighteenth century. Inspired by the ideology and methods of European modernization, the Young Turks made a final revolution in 1908, which marked the commencement of the end of the Sublime Porte. In addition to this array of events, the political and economic centralization that was governing the state assisted in the decline of the empire. Considering these conditions, the Balkan countries initiated continuous revolts until the First Balkan War of 1912. Among other participants, Albanian people from all the Albanian territories partook in the war and became a key factor in the expulsion of the Turks from local and Balkan lands.

Because of the detrimental Albanian uprisings, Ottomans considered the Albanian question as crucial and destructive for the Empire, while Albanians judged this as a favorable factor that could lead to autonomy or probably to independence from the OttomanState. Nevertheless, the diplomatic status of the Albanian case was quite intricate. On one side, Austro-Hungary and Italy were planning to expand their territorial domains over Albania, and on the other side, the rest of the Balkan and European countries together with the tsarist Russia developed into actors interested in Balkanizing Albanian territories.

That being said, the internal and fatal crisis in the Ottoman Empire led to an alliance in the Balkans. In March 1912, the Serbs and Bulgarians signed a treaty of cooperation which implied a common goal: fragmenting northern Albanian territories. Moreover, even though allies to Albanians initially, the Greeks signed a treaty with the Bulgarians and set in motion the Balkan Alliance, which was brought to fruition in September 1912. The intentions of this coalition were to acquire as many Albanian lands as attainable with the pretext that the Albanian people had always been dynamic allies with the Sublime Porte. In addition, the coalition considered Albanians as incapable of an autonomous or independent government.

Given these adverse circumstances and with the reaffirmation of the appeal for self-governance by the end of 1911, the Albanian people instantiated a movement not only against Ottoman forces, but also in disfavor of the Balkan (and European) countries. This movement marked the beginning of a series of additional events that would occur in the next three years: 1912 to 1914. Starting with the diplomatic steps undertaken in 1912 to declare the independence of Albania, and proceeding in the years 1913-1914 with the post-independence issues of territorial sovereignty and national identity involved the Albanian state in intense diplomatic issues with the mischievous politics of European actors.

Here and there, further European states, especially Austro-Hungary and Germany, were impelling the Porte to satisfy Albanian requests for autonomy, since these countries had their own interests in Balkanizing Albania on top of their common goal of expelling Ottomans from the European domain. But the Balkan Alliance would not then realize the eminent objective of dividing Albanian territories. This was one of the major reasons why the Balkan allies started “[…] an aggravated war against the Turks that eventually stunned the European diplomacy” (Puto, 87). At this point, Albanian governors were forced to set the diplomatic stage to prepare for independence.

The two renowned Albanian diplomats and governors, Ismail Qemali and Luigj Gurakuqi, organized in March 1912 a rebellion in Northern and Southern Albania, while it was an election period in Turkey. During this time though, some Serbian emissaries were sent to Kosovo in order to treat with Albanian senior officers for mutual military cooperation against any possible Turkish attack. According to E. Durham, Isa Boletini, a renowned Albanian combatant, accepted the Serbian proposals without considering the fact of a probable Serbian conquest of northeastern Albanian territories. In addition to this event, the Turkish Parliament sent a diplomatic delegation to discuss the major claims of Albanians. Thereafter, a bilateral agreement was signed – the Memorandum of Sinja, which was introduced to both the Sublime Porte and the main European consulates in Vlora. The response of the European actors was a neutral one, even though Austro-Hungarian diplomats supported the decentralization of the TurkishState and the declaration of an autonomous (or possibly independent) Albanian state under a certain control of the sultan. This viewpoint of official Vienna was soon shared by Italy, Germany, and later joined by France, England, and Russia. According to Puto, “[…] an independent or even autonomous Albania would be the cornerstone of a novice Balkan politics of the astute Viennese diplomacy,” for the geographical position of Albania proved to be quite strategic in terms of economy and political control over the Balkans (101). Nevertheless, because the Albanian movement eventually transformed into an uprising, people proposed the establishment of a provisional administration under the leadership of Ismail Qemali, who categorically refused the political combination of cooperating with neighboring Balkan countries.

In the middle of this diplomatic turmoil and given the disruptive status quo, European consulates in Vlora decided to advertise the issues to the headquarters of the Great Powers situated in Skopje in October 16, 1912. The Powers were informed that Albanians did not intend to surrender any of their national sovereignties to European (and Balkan) forces (Puto 102).  Notified on this matter, I. Qemali and his right-hand, L. Gurakuqi, initiated a diplomatic voyage from Istanbul to Albania, with premeditated, parallel stops in Bucharest, Vienna, and Trieste.

During the stay in Bucharest in November 5, 1912, Qemali and Gurakuqi held meetings with members of the Albanian colony (the strongest in the Balkans). There Qemali proposed two crucial directives. The first one consisted of an immediate cooperation and reunification of Albanians in order to establish a strong superstructure for support against the upcoming event of independence. The second directive was diplomatic in character and comprised the establishment of a commission of educated and intellectual Albanians in order to defend and preserve the national territorial rights.

After the completion of their duties in Bucharest, I. Qemali and L. Gurakuqi undertook two distinct, parallel trips: the former stopped over in Vienna and the latter in Trieste, Italy. All in all, Gurakuqi’s mission was to inform Albanian colonies about the upcoming event of the declaration of independence and to get back to the homeland to wait for Qemali’s arrival and to accomplish the goal. On the other side, Qemali had already planned a diplomatic strategy for setting the stage for independence. While in Vienna, he sent a telegram to Vlora ensuring all Albanian patriots about the forthcoming “glorious day” (Puto, 104). In November 12, 1912, Qemali held talks with Viennese diplomats in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There he was reassured about the pro-Albanian attitude of Austro-Hungarians. However, official Vienna tended to stay neutral and did not put forward any ultimate decisions concerning the Albanian movement. Qemali held additional talks with the British and Italian ambassadors. While there are no official documents about the talks with the Italian diplomat, we are given primary evidence about the conversation Qemali had with Cartwright, the British ambassador to Vienna. According to a telegram that Edward Grey, the British Foreign Minister, received from Cartwright in November 10, 1912, Qemali had clarified the main issues related to the national sovereignties of Albania and had somewhere mentioned he would soon head to Vlora to declare the independence of Albania.

Even though the responses of the above-mentioned European diplomats were not the encouraging answers Qemali was hoping to get, he immediately resumed his final voyage to Albania. In the dawn of November 21, Qemali disembarked in the port of Durres, where Gurakuqi and four other patriots were waiting for him (Puto, 110). They headed to Vlora without delay and arrived there in November 25. These days of ado are a key part to the pragmatism of the history of Albania, since they mark the finalization of the steps toward independence.

After three days of initial gatherings, Ismail Qemali, Luigj Gurakuqi, and other Albanian delegates declared open the Assembly of Vlora in November 28, 1912. In the very first convocation of the assembly, Qemali held a critical speech. In his talk, he used diplomatic patterns in order to mention the general viewpoints of European countries concerning the Albanian case. For instance, in addition to stating that the only way Albania could be saved was the permanent separation from the Porte, Qemali declared that Austro-Hungary and Italy supported the same judgment and the Albanian case. However, Qemali’s outlook was not fully expressing the real situation. While he was quite aware of the real intentions of European and Balkan countries, the Albanian leader used this diplomatic technique in order to avoid disappointing the people.

By the end of the first convocation of the Assembly, Qemali had defined several immediate duties and objectives. First, he proposed the establishment of a transitional government. Side by side with the government, he advocated the founding of a Committee of the Wise that would aid the administration, and the arrangement of a diplomatic commission to represent the AlbanianState in the European arena. Based on these procedures, the Assembly of Vlora underlay two main historical pronouncements. First, the independence of Albania was finally declared. Second, the first Albanian government was established.

The declaration of independence is at once the nation’s most treasured symbol of sovereignty and Albanians’ most enduring monument. Nevertheless, the government was supposed to be a transitional one. Its main duty was to administer state affairs alongside the Committee of the Wise, and to decree a constitution based on the principles of the newly independent country. Moreover, the Assembly unanimously appointed I. Qemali as chief of the government and as Minister of Foreign Affairs. In December 4, as the head of the government, Qemali chose the other ministers to interpose order for the internal organization of the state.

In order to fully understand the difficult situations that the newly established government was to face, let me describe the framework of the issues confronting the State of Albania. Since the beginning of the Balkan War, Albanian territories assumed the role of battlefields and were occupied by military forces of neighboring countries. For instance, northern Albania was occupied by Serbian forces; in the south the Greeks had annexed Ioanina. Both the Serbs and the Greeks kept advancing towards the sovereign territories of Albania by taking over every major city. Hence, the only abode where the government could exercise power was the strategic nucleus Vlora-Lushnje-Berat (See the triangle in Figure A1 of Appendix A). Thereafter, Qemali sent different delegations to the occupied regions of Albania in order to persevere in the territorial sovereignty of those lands.

This way around, the government intended to reorganize the state. Because of the gradual recognition of the state of Albania in the international arena, the foreign forces were backing down. At this point, the very first achievement of the government was the establishment of the militia in June 1913. The case of an army was discussed as well. The Austro-Hungarian consul to Vlora, Leichanetz, wrote to his government among other things that “[…] the Albanians are planning to create an army based on the European standards, so they need from us many books and manuals” (Document 2 of the Temporary Government, pp. 146-149). Among the initial requirements for a sophisticated army, the infantry, the artillery, the engineer corps, the rearward and the sanitary equipment are to be mentioned.

In addition to the remarks above, the government made efforts to reorganize the judiciary, economic, and social system based on European models. At first, Qemali overthrew the old-fashioned laws inherited from the Ottomans. Second, the government was faced with the very crucial issue of transforming the economy in an agricultural-based system and to remove feudalism. However, the case of the economic reforms is, I believe, to be left out of discussion, since Qemali and other members of the government were more attracted to consolidating the state in terms of ‘nationalistic’ patters, such as the army and the preservation of the native culture and language.

Here and there, the temporary government intended to found a press organ on a national basis. For this purpose, Qemali signed a treaty with Italy in order to buy the necessary kit. As the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, S. Giuliani acknowledges, “[…] Albanians have already started to consolidate their language” (Puto, 121). And this consolidation was part of the overall finalization of the internal organization of the AlbanianState, since the Committee of the Wise declared that the official language was finally the Albanian language.

Besides the initial attempts and successes for the internal organization of the state, the government faced another central challenge – the engagement in diplomatic issues in the international arena. There were two crucial obligations the Albanian government had to fulfill: making foreign countries recognize the State of Albania, and preserving neutrality in the Balkan War.

Concerning the efforts for the recognition of the fourteen-month-old state, the very first action Qemali engaged was to send a telegram to the Great Powers, the Sublime Porte, and the Balkans. In that telegram, the head of the government announced the independence of Albania and asked for the recognition of the state as well as for protection against any external attack (Document 23 of the Temporary Government of Vlora, p. 37). This was the very first diplomatic act of the State of Albania. Moreover, in order to consolidate diplomatic relations, I. Qemali invited the consulates of the Great Powers to affiliate to Albania. Exclusively, Qemali posed to the Great Vezir of the Porte the appeal for the recognizing the state and for acknowledging the event of the unconditional secession of Albania from the Ottoman abode. Consequently, what the government expected from the foreign countries was their presence as a symbol of a fully organized state.[1]

Another important clause the Albanian government propounded was the declaration of neutrality in the Balkan-Turkish war. This was primarily announced in a telegram Qemali sent to the Foreign Ministers of Romania, Serbia, and Greece, where besides the usual clauses of recognizing an independent Albania, he insisted that “[…] the already invaded Albanian regions were to be freed at once” (Document 35 of the Government, pp. 43-44). Because Qemali’s avowal was strictly direct and less diplomatic in character, the Serbian forced persisted to precede further inland. Hence, at this point, Qemali received a negative answer. This discontent may have been caused because of the lack of proper diplomacy at a time of war and nationalistic obstinacy when diplomacy was quite unfit, or maybe because of the solid and old plans of neighboring countries for Balkanizing Albania. Furthermore, even though Qemali officially declared non-belligerence, he preserved an anti-Turkish attitude in the case of protecting Ioanina during the Turk-Greek War.[2] Once more, Qemali did not gain much consideration from the Great Powers during these events. This we notice when he called for their intervention to expel Turks out of Ioanina, but he received a pessimistic answer.

The attitude of the Sublime Porte toward Qemali’s petition for recognizing the secession was, of course, not affirmative. On the other hand, the Vezir proposed the conversion of Albania into a vassal country under the governance of the Porte. The only argument the Vezir used to support his idea was a simple question he posed to Qemali – which of the Powers could support Albanians during their campaign of recognizing Albania as an independent state? However, Qemali never excluded the foreign relief he was hoping to get soon. Thereafter, at the beginning of December 19, 1912, the Turks assumed judiciary arguments against the Albanian claims for secession and independence. After long, unfruitful discussions, it was only in 30 May 1913 that the Sultan finally resigned from his anti-secession claims toward Albanians.[3] At this point in time, Qemali was expecting answers from the Great Powers, which unfortunately would not be as encouraging responses as a country could receive from a great power.

As shown above, Austro-Hungary and Italy (members of the Triple Alliance), and Russia (member of the Entente Block) had their own interests after the Turkish retreat from the Balkans in May 1913. For instance, all the three countries were with an autonomous or independent Albania (even though independence had already been declared, but never fully acknowledged). On the one hand, Austro-Hungary considered Albania as a solid barrier for impeding further Slavic expansion, and as a bridge providing connection with the Aegean Sea. On the other hand, Russia aimed at the expansion of Slavic countries all over the Balkans and the distribution of Albanian lands amongst Balkan countries. Hence, there existed two different proposals on determining the final status of Albania. Furthermore, Serbia itself intended to have access to the Adriatic Sea. To achieve this, the Serbian army had to conquer Northern Albania. Thanks to the intervention of Austro-Hungary and the Triple Alliance in general, that plan was never realized.[4]

Here and there, Austro-Hungary had already elaborated a map for the Albanian borders. The very initial blueprint of that plan is shown in Figure A1 of Appendix A. This proposal caused disruption among the Great Powers. Hence, in order to reach a common conclusion, the Foreign Ministers of each ‘powerful’ country were convoked in 17 December 1912 to an assembly known as the Conference of Ambassadors or the London Conference.[5] It is peculiar that “[…] no reports or charge sheets were ever recorded during the formal meetings of the Ambassadors” (Puto, 151).

In principle, the Assembly was convoked to discuss the aftermath of the Balkan War and to resolve the variety of problems that arose. Throughout the eight months – the lifetime of the conference – the ambassadors discussed primarily and mostly the case of Albania. After thorough discussions, the diplomats took an eventual decision concerning the territorial sovereignty of Albania. The decision of 17 December 1912 affirmed the autonomy of Albania, but it also intended to provide Serbia access to the Adriatic Sea. Thereafter, the status of Albania would imply the political physiognomy of the territories under the control of the Sultan. According to the memoirs of I. Qemali, the decision of the conference had been misunderstood, since the he wrote a telegram at the beginning of January 1913, stating that “The Ambassadors acknowledged the independence of Albania.” Maybe this was a tactics to avoid any turmoil, or maybe this was just another legacy of Qemali’s plans to achieve national objectives.

All things considered, there were three main aspects the conference focused on. First, the diplomats were to discuss the issue of the sovereignty of Albania. According to a telegram Edward Grey sent to the British Ambassador in Vienna, the First Session of the Conference could not choose between the terms “sovereignty” and “suzerainty.” This, according to Grey, was a consequence of the non-stable attitude of Russia toward the Albanian case (157). More specifically, the Tsar’s delegate to London, Benckendorf, had direct orders to advocate the fact that Albania was to be very dependent on the Porte. According to Lichnowsky, “Our Allies desired the establishment of an independent Albanian state, as the Austrians did not want the Serbs to obtain access to the Adriatic, and the Italians did not want the Greeks to get to Vlora or even to the north of Corfu. As opposed to this, Russia was backing Serbia’s wishes and France those of Greece” (Memoirs of Prince Lichnowsky). For the sake of unanimity, the other ambassadors could not entirely object the diplomat of a powerful country such as Russia. In order to take an intergovernmental and a non-subjective decision, the Ambassadors modified their previous statement by proclaiming that Albania was to stay autonomous and neutral, but under the ensured control of the Great Powers rather than the Sublime Porte.

This zigzag of the European diplomacy shows, of course, how misbalanced their decisions used to be and how mischievous their politics was. On the whole, they let us realize that the discussions for the Albanian question were mostly biased and concerned the implied national and intergovernmental interests of the Powers over the Albanian territories. For instance, they decided to let Serbia conquer territories in northwestern Albania, so it could have access to the Adriatic Sea. Moreover, they were with Greece in claiming northern Epirus and southern lands of Albania.[6] Nevertheless, as will be shown further on, Qemali was prepared to respond to all these impish proclamations.

The second main aspect of the Conference and the one crucial part of the Second Session was dealing with the internal organization of the AlbanianState according to the principles and directives of the Ambassadors of the Great Powers. Even though Qemali had already instantiated the campaign for the internal organization of the state, the European Powers intended to include “their interests” as well by decreeing plans concerning this case. The Conference employed Austria-Hungary and Italy to deal with this issue. The two countries were going to supply Qemali with the necessary equipment that he once requested from Italy. Then Austria-Hungary was charged to install a new government apparatus, where foreign advisors were to be included as well.

In addition to defining the sovereignty and the internal organization of the state of Albania, the Conference proceeded with a final and central subject: the designation of the borders. The general territorial frame of the state would be the bordering with Greece in the south and Montenegro in the north (see Figure A1 in Appendix A). One positive consequence of this initial decision was that the diplomats impeded Serbia to have a full access to the Adriatic Sea. Nevertheless, based on Lichnowsky’s memoirs, the Conference gave, indeed, Serbians some rights to use the Adriatic for commercial purposes. This is another instance which shows how oscillating the diplomacy of the Great Powers used to be.

All the three cases mentioned above show how unstable the proceedings of the Conference were and how favoritism dominated decisions. At the end of the preliminary sessions, the Conference of Ambassadors did not deduce any definitive pronouncements concerning the Albanian question and the appeals of the neighboring Balkan countries in relation to Albania. All the discussions from the decision of December 1912 up to January 1913 reflected a series of uneven proclamations and the set of these talks is defined by what Puto calls “the European Concert” (161).

The third aspect of the Conference concerning the borders of Albania was just an initial attempt to frame the state. Because of the additional issues that the diplomats touched upon, different viewpoints awakened. The Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, Mensdorff, expounded his government’s plan for Albania and exposed a map as well (see Figure A1 in Appendix A). Compelled by the conflict with Serbia, Austria-Hungary was more concerned with the borders in the north of Albania. According to that proposal, the northern border of Albania would extend up to the Montenegrin-Turkish line. However, the other members of the conference disputed the proposal, since, according to the memoirs of Lichnowsky, Austria-Hungary based its project on ethnographic principles.

Even though the actual border of the State of Albania is below the Austro-Hungarian proposal, much of additional Albanian territories and historical landmarks were left out. As Richard Hall points out, “Albania would have enjoyed viability from the beginning if the Conference had returned all its lands” (130-131). Rather, the proposals of the Great Powers conferred much of the northern lands to Serbia and Montenegro in a biased and illogical way. However, we are to understand that the terms ‘biased’ and ‘illogical’ imply the specific interests that the Great Powers themselves had regarding the Albanian question. Furthermore, being under the pressure of the rest of the ambassadors, Austria-Hungary charged new directives to Mensdorff concerning the map of Albania. Due to the new project, three other cities were left out of the northern border.[7]

In addition, Russia proposed its own project. The proposal, of course, was different from the Austro-Hungarian plan. The map proposed by Benckendorf, the Russian Ambassador, complied with the map projected by the Balkan countries neighboring Albania (see Figure A1 of Appendix A). Consequently, the Conference, under the leadership of E. Grey, had to combine these two opposing drafts, so that it could bring the Albanian question to an end. Thereafter, Grey proposed an adjournment of the Conference and recommended the Ambassadors to reach an agreement in the mean time.

The Conference resumed in 2 January 1913. The main issue the diplomats discussed and agreed on was to confer all the Aegean isles to Greece. On the other side, the government of Vlora prepared and sent a memorandum to Grey. In the memo, Qemali presented the legal claims of Albania, which were all the locations historically belonging to Albania. On the whole, the most important element Qemali accented was the question of the north and northeastern borders (shown by the blue line in Figure A1 of Appendix A). For instance, the government of Vlora claimed all the lands up to the Montenegrin border, including the towns of Peja, Mitrovica, Prishtina, Skopje, and Metzovo till to the northeastern town of Preveza.[8]

The Austro-Russian opposition grew stronger on the issue of the northern and northeastern border of Albania, until certain contradicts arose. For instance, Vienna insisted on the fact that Shkodra and the six towns mentioned above belonged to Albania; while Petersburg argued that they were all claims of Serbia. It is obvious that Russia had its own interests in being on Serbia’s side, so that after the distribution of lands, Petersburg could have access to the strategic locations of the western and southwestern Balkans. Because of the accumulation of contradictions and divergences and due to the avoidance of further diplomatic discussions, Grey was afraid of a possible Austro-Russian war. For this reason, in the middle of February 1913, he proposed to analyze the case in a short session of the Conference in order to reach a consensus. At first, Germany asserted that Russia yielded Shkodra in return of displacing its claims to Gjakova, a town in the northeastern part of Albania (see the white circles in Figure A1 of Appendix A). Petersburg agreed to this proposal, but stated that the Lake of Shkodra was to be distributed among Albania and Montenegro.

Ironical in this array of events is the fact that none of the Balkan countries was invited to discuss their respective questions in the conference. As opposed to Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece, Albania did not enjoy the guarantee of any of the Great Powers. Hence, we can consider the Albanian question as the analogical case when six rich neighbors in your apartment building decide for your bedroom, while they have no sublime rights to do so.

Shortly before the decisions for the southern border, the government of Vlora sent a delegation to London to have meetings with the Ambassadors and to present the memorandum of the Albanian people. In this memorandum, the issue of the territorial integrity of Albania covered most of the concerns. As Puto points out, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, Mensdorff, urged two Albanian diplomats, Konica and Noga, to persist on the question of the distribution of lands (345). Nevertheless, the conference followed the rest of the schedule without consultations with the Albanian delegation.

Austria-Hungary and Italy dealt with the plans for the south of Albania. In 19 March 1913, the Italian Ambassador, Imperiali, introduced Grey to the Austro-Italian proposal. According to that diagram, the island of Corfu and the towns of Ioanina, Konica, and Mecova were handed over to Greece in addition to almost all the Aegean islands. However, old Greek claims such as Korca, Himara, Gjirokastra, or Saranda were refused. One main reason why the Great Powers conferred all these territories to Greece may have been because of the persistence of Berlin. The sister of the German Kaiser was the Queen of Greece and the Kaiser intended to pull Greece out from the Entente Block to the Triple Alliance. Hence, the permutation Berlin chose to achieve this was by truncating Albanian lands. All in all, the discussions on the southern border of Albania and the talks in general went on until the end of the Second Balkan War in 30 May 1913.

Shortly before the end of the War and compelled by the decisions hitherto, I. Qemali instantiated a second diplomatic journey to Europe. The Prime Minister’s journey was stimulated by the issue of territorial integrity and by the decisions for the northern border of Albania. The first stop was in Rome in 1 April, where Qemali met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Giuliani, and the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, Merey. Both diplomats advised Qemali to turn back to Vlora rather than continue his journey, since it was too late to modify decisions (Puto, 355). By the end of April 1913, Qemali traveled to London, where together with the delegation, would follow the proceedings of the Conference concerning the southern border of Albania.


Urged by Grey’s ultimatum, the countries of the Balkan Alliance – Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria – signed a Treaty with Turkey in 30 May 1913 ending the Second Balkan War. This diplomatic act included two articles concerning Albania. Based on the first article, Article 2, Turkey ceded all its lands in the European Continent to the Balkan Allies except for Albania. But according to Article 3, Turkey and the Allies “[…] entrusted the Great Powers for resolving the Albanian question of the borders” (Puto, 290). On one side, since the declaration of Independence, the Treaty of 30 May was the first document in which Turkey renounced its claims for Albania. On the other hand, the Treaty impelled Grey to give the Conference an end.

The sessions of 29 July 1913 and 11 August 1913 were the last convocations of the Ambassadors in regard to the Albanian question. The first session consisted of the final decisions of the Conference regarding the independence of Albania. Some points of this pronouncement are given in Document B3 of Appendix B. For instance, points 1 and 2 state that Albania is an autonomous principality and has no more suzerain relations to Turkey. These two articles fall in contradiction with the decision of 17 December 1912 and show how unstable the politics of the Great Powers was.

In the second session, based on the previous exchanges of proposals, Grey announced the final verdict for the overall border of Albania. For the northern border, the Austro-Russian agreement held. As for the southern part, Grey ratified the Austro-Italian plan with some slight changes.[9] This ratification marked the finalization of the Albanian question and the Ambassadors’ Conference. The result of all those talks was the simple fact that half of the Albanian territories were left out of Albania. And the reason of this finale was the mischievous political strategy of the Great Powers to Balkanize Albania in favor of political and maybe economic benefits of having some allies in the Balkans.

Disappointed by the finalization of the Conference, Qemali and the delegation resumed their journey of homecoming. Before arriving to Albania, they stopped in Vienna and held talks with local diplomats and a Bulgarian delegate named Hobuschev. The Bulgarian diplomat assured Qemali that Serbia might declare a war to Albania given that the Conference prohibited Serbians to access the Adriatic Sea. Because of the non-positive relations with Serbia, Bulgaria promised Qemali the return of Skopje and Dibra to Albania if the government of Vlora would accept the aid of the Bulgarian army against any possible Serbian attack. Bulgaria’s unique interest was not to let Serbia access the Adriatic Sea by winning the war with Albania. Therefore, the state of Bulgaria is the first Balkan country that established positive relations with Albania. However, since the autumn of 1913 up to the beginning of World War I, the relations of Albania with the bordering countries, Montenegro, Serbia, and Greece, remained aggravated.

Based on the Articles of 29 July 1913 (see Document B3 of Appendix B), the Great Powers prepared the International Commission, which gradually absorbed the authority of the Temporary Government of Vlora. Because of this diplomatic isolation the Commission caused to the Albanian government, I. Qemali was compelled to resign from his duty in December 1913, by leaving full power on the hands of the Commission. Accordingly, the very first national government dissociated and gave access to the nomination of a European prince to govern Albania alongside with the Commission. The name of that prince is Wilhelm Wied III, a German descendant of Kaiser Wilhelm I, who came on throne in February 1914 and lasted for only seven months.

In summary, since the declaration of independence in November 1912 up to the appointment of a German prince as head of the state in February 1914, Albania was involved in intense diplomatic conversations and became a major cause and factor of discussions and disagreements in the European diplomacy. The appeals for recognizing the independence of Albania failed. In addition, an assembly, called the Ambassadors’ Conference, assumed, by no legal basis, the right to decide the fate of the territorial integrity of Albania. The result of that conference was the simple fact that half of Albania remained outside the Powers’ frame. But what if, for instance, the Conference had included the region of Kosovo inside the border of the State of Albania in 1913, would there have been a Serbian-Kosovar conflict in 1998? My answer is negative. For this reason and for many others, I believe that the politics of the Great Powers since the demise of the Ottoman Empire up to the beginning of World War II was mischievous and unstable.

In this day and age, Albania enjoys the border frame designed by the Ambassadors less than a century ago. The relations with neighboring countries are officially positive, but on occasion they follow an oscillating path, maybe because of the enduring historical grief. Nevertheless, due to the global and legal statements of territorial integrity, the State of Albania shall make no more appeals to the Great Powers and shall have no more claims against the territories it lost, as opposed to certain contemporary claims of Greece and Serbia. All in all, ironical is the fact that how briskly the grief with Turkey was overcome in the past century and how hostile certain countries tend to remain toward Albania.




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Appendix A

Appendix B

Document B1. Excerpt from “My Mission to London, 1912-1914” of Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador to London Conference.

“My advice was to treat this question (the Albanian question – A.B.) as outside the scope of the Alliance, and to support neither the Austrian nor the Italian claims. Without our aid it would have been impossible to set up an independent Albania, which, as anyone could foresee, had no prospect of surviving; Serbia would have extended to the sea, and the present world-war would have been avoided. France and Italy would have quarreled over Greece, and if the Italians had not wanted to fight France unaided they would have been compelled to acquiesce in Greece’s expansion to the north of Durres. The greater part of Albania is Hellenic. The towns in the south are entirely so; and during the Conference of Ambassadors delegations from principal towns arrived in London to obtain annexation to Greece. Even in present-day Greece there are Albanian elements and the so-called Greek national dress is of Albanian origin. The inclusion of the Albanians, who are principally Orthodox and Moslem, in the body of the Greek state was therefore the best and most natural solution, if you left Shkodra and the north to the Serbs and Montenegrins. For dynastic reasons H.M. was also in favor of this solution. When I supported this view in a letter to the monarch I received agitated reproaches from the Chancellor; he said that I had the reputation of being “an opponent of Austria,” and I was to abstain from such interference and direct correspondence.”


Document B2. Excerpt called “Albania” from Richard Hall’s “The Balkan Wars 1912-1913

“One of the most important consequences of the Balkan Wars was the emergence of an independent Albanian state for the first time since the fifteenth century. All of Albania’s neighbors had claims to its territories. The self-destruction of the Balkan Alliance presented the infant Albanian state with a brief opportunity to develop without interference from Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia. At the conclusion of the Second Balkan War, these three Balkan states renewed their attempts to further their own interests at the expense of Albania. In London, on 29 July, the Ambassadors Conference had agreed on an Organization Statute for Albania that established a neutral princedom under the guarantee of the Great Powers. In August 1913, efforts within Albania began to establish a state infrastructure and firm frontiers. The Great Powers, who had undertaken the responsibility to accomplish these tasks, soon ran into difficulties over the frontier issue. In the south the Greeks claimed considerable territory as “Northern Epirus.” In the north, Serbian troops invaded Albania in the autumn and initiated a rule of terror against the local Albanian population…

The Serbs hoped for a revision of the border decided at the Ambassadors Conference. The Austrians, with German support, presented an ultimatum in Belgrade on 18 October that demanded the evacuation of Albanian territory.”


Document B3. Some points of the pronouncement of 29 July 1913 (Excerpt from Puto, 326-327)

  1. Albania is an autonomous and hereditary principality under the guarantee of the six Powers.
  2. Every suzerain connection to Turkey is excluded.
  3. Albania is neutral and her neutrality is guaranteed by the six Powers.
  4. The civil and financial administrations are to be controlled by an international commission composed of delegates from the six Powers.
  5. The competences of this commission will last for ten years, unless otherwise required.



[1] Qemali received no immediate and concise answer from the Great Powers. I am going to expose below that the unique response the Powers gave back was the convocation of the Conference of London.

[2] Since Ioanina was the heart of the southern Albanian territories, the fate of the city after the outcome of the war would determine the fate of the entire South Albanian and Northern Greek lands.

[3] Note that in 30 May 1913, the Turks and the Balkan Allies signed a peace treaty ending the Balkan War.

[4] Note that one of the main causes of the instantiation of WWI was the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist, and the cause for this assassination may have been the forbiddance of access of Serbs to the Adriatic Sea through Northern Albania.

[5] The delegates that partook in the Conference were: Mensdorff (Austro-Hungary), Lichnowsky (Germany), Imperiali (Italy), Cambon (France), Benckendorf (Russia), and Edward Grey, The British Foreign Minister.

[6] See Document B1 of Appendix B for an extended judgment of Ambassador Lichnowsky on the Albanian question in relation to the distribution of lands among the Greeks and Serbians.

[7] Those three cities, nowadays belonging to Kosovo, were Deçan, Peja, and Prizren.

[8] All these towns are nowadays outside the State of Albania, and belong to the province of Kosovo.

[9] See Figure A1 of Appendix A for the ultimate map of Albania.

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