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

            The general opinion of those who had known the Albanians held that it was not religious fervor that characterized them in the first place. As Muslims, they would observe a non-Orthodox rite, Bektashianism, with a strong Christian influence: ?Muslims of the region worship too and believe in Jesus Christ, whom they call Azăret Issa, while Saint Nicholas is called Aidâr-Baba. They observe neither the Ramadan, nor the Bairam, they merely abstain from drinking water for twelve days during the Ramadan.? (Burileanu, 1906, p.103)

Bolintineanu (1985, p.353) identifies Catholic Aromanians in the region of Scutari ? Antivari ? Dulcigno, i.e. in a region of a compelling Catholic presence among the Albanian population (for instance the Midrit tribe, the name of which he translates by ?valiant?[iv] and to which he attributes a dazzling descendence, as is the case of the other Albanian tribes too.)

The canon of hospitality, sacred to both the Albanians and the Aromanians, marks the reduction of any interconfessional barrier. In Drisa, Burileanu passes a memorable night in the party atmosphere entertained by the choir assembled by the host, a fărşerot, and by the other guests, some of whom were islamicized Albanians. In Bracula he becomes blood brother of the local Albanian bey, in whose abode he spent the night (Burileanu, 1906, p.146; p.167-169). The same hospitality had been encountered by Bolintineanu as well.

During the days of Neniţescu the slogan ?The Religion of Albania is Albania? (?Fea Shquipëtarit është Shquipërija?) had already been released, yet in 1906, when Burileanu got there, things were somewhat more complicated than that: the Muslims Albanians were separated into Ottomanists and nationalists, just as the Orthodox Albanians were separated into phylo-Greeks and nationalists, like the Aromanians. The nationalists of all sorts, be they Muslim, Orthodox, or Aromanian had a common discourse, as did the Albanians and the Aromanians phylo-Greeks. The Ottomanists continued to be loyal to the Sultan and to ensure the functioning of the state apparatus which the phylo-Greeks used in their attempts to counter over the nationalists. Schooling in the Albanian tongue suffered as much as schooling in the Romanian tongue. We exemplify by a case of solidarity taken from Neniţescu?s volume (1895, pp. 371-373):

?After one minute an islamicized Albanian entered the room, his hair fairly silvery, yet well-built, stout and tall like a giant. He stretched his colossal arm over the table and, grasping my right hand, clutched to it so friendly, that for a few moments I had the impression that he had smashed my fingers, then spoke to me loudly in Aromanian:

?I am Sali-Aga, otherwise known as Salce, as your Aromanians ? endearingly call me? I have always loved the Aromanians, so have my parents and my grandparents before them. My parents were born in lower Albania, where we lived at peace with the Aromanians. I have preserved my old manners with the Aromanians here as well, granting them bessa-bess to their death, and all was done. Isn?t that so, father??

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