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

?The road advances for a while upwards, only to reveal a high tumulus where one can see the majestic polis of Voscopole, situated on five large hills, which are today covered by ruins alone. The scene fills the heart of the traveler with grief, and unawares he starts to condemn the memory of Ali Pasha, who, driven by greed, had beaten to the ground the flourishing center of the Aromanians in Voscopole.?

Somewhat later, the Aromanian poets would invest a great deal of pathos in taking up this theme, while the tragedy of Moscopole, at least, seems to have stayed an open wound to the conscience of many (Ioan Foti, N.C. Velo, Nida Boga, C. Colimitra, Marcu Beza, N. Caratană, Nico Ogeacli, a.s.o.). All of them captured the clichés already constituted and circulated by collective mentality at moments of crisis: arbineşi făr? de cămeşi, căńil?i di păngăńi, pusta di Arbinişie, ghegańil?i măraţl?i, etc. Hâciu?s testimony (1936, pp. 76-77) of the collaboration of the Aromanians with Ali Pasha to the disadvantage of other Aromanians does not find its place in fiction. The bankers, gold-mongers, secretaries, dragomans, landlords, military commanders, in one word, "the instruments that the fearful Pasha used for domination" had been, in their majority, Aromanians and they must have obtained some privilege from oppressing their own kin. None of these facts surfaces into the texts of the enumerated authors. Collective identity, founded on the most profound subjectivity, defends its exemplary status that makes it consubstantial with the mythical model: the chosen people. Although the syntagm was not used as such, all the associated marks are present: the wealth, the purity and the beauty of a golden era, the valiance, the will to sacrifice, the generosity of martyrdom, the belief in a destiny that would repay for history?s injustice. On the side of the Albanians, all these qualities are opposed by primitivism, blood thirst, shrewdness, cupidity, cruelty, incommensurate pride, lack of loyalty etc.

The avarice of the Pasha, however, was not the one and only cause that lead to the breakdown of Moscopole (which did resist, though, to some twenty years of Albanian raids, between 1769-1788). The contention to other commercial settlements and even the rivalry of the muhtars of the twelve slums need not be excluded either. Neither can the plotting by which the powerful merchants of the city tried to belittle the Pasha in the eyes of the Padishah, so that they could free themselves from the oppression of the bey.

The certain thing is that all along this century the prosperous settlements of the Vallachians proved attractive to the looters, be they Muslim or Christian. It is also the case with one of the many Aromanian villages that Neniţescu crossed ? Trestinic. A village of 400 souls, ?located on a hill left of the Cruşova mountain (?) with diligent and money-earning people, the property of whom is always on the way up. This is precisely the cause of their being often pillaged by bandits.? (Ioan Neniţescu, 1895, p. 87). But he dutifully gives the example of the Albanian village of Adalciani, a pack of thieves from around Cruşova:

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