The Albanian in His Own Habitat. A Dated Portrait
Viorel Stănilă
 

What about Albania? Had it stayed the way Ali-Pasha had left it? Or the way God had?

The Italians, encouraged by their own government to settle business ties with Albania, discovered the country with the enthusiasm of a colonizer faced with virgin soil: ?? we have bestowed all there was on those lands, yet took nothing back; we overhauled this ancient and infertile soil with roads, bridges, solid constructions, aqueducts, schools, and rendered it fertile with ploughs from our own land and seedlings from our own granaries.? (Andrea Riccardi, 1999, p. 187)

Assuredly, it was not the same mentality of a civilizing hero that animated Papahagi when he came to Albania. An Aromanian himself, he came first of all home, to his own people, whom he found fallen from their rights and oppressed, often disunited by the interests of neighboring states. All these, believed Papahagi, originated in the times of Ali-Pasha himself: ?This social decadence surely has to be envisaged since the times of the satrapic Ali- Pasha of Tepeleni. The cruelty that this tyrant used against Christendom is notorious. (?) The only people that vigilently withstood the plans of Ali-Pasha, ascertaining their legendary heroism, was that of the Aromanians of Pind and of the fărşeroţi. It was only natural, then, that this Pasha, with all his islamicized Albanians, would assail the Aromanians in all his fury, just like ? to quote the metaphor a friend used ? a thunder that assails the most beautiful and most resistent tree on the mountain crests.? (T. Papahagi, 1920, pp. 20-22)

The unquenched thirst for property, the carnal passions, the urge to power ? all seemed to T. Papahagi causes that propelled the oppression that Ali-Pasha had unchained against the Aromanians and that his progeny continued. The abusive raise in taxes, the confiscation of land, their disposition from petty offices held by tradition and their replacement with Albanians, as well as the interdiction for the Aromanians to build solid houses in easily defensible places are only part of the abuses that, ever since the age of Ali-Pasha, the Albanian beys wrought against the Vallachians in order to limit their power, to pauperize them and eventually to conquer them.

The looting of herds, the disposition from their lands or the transformation of former village communities in cifliks, the pillaging of settlements and their combustion were current practices that continued well into the 20th century.

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