One of the worrying problems, especially in the last 2 decades, has been the Greek claim that Himara is a Greek land and that the population there is entirely Greek. A couple of weeks ago the Greek PM visited the "Greek" population in Himara and Saranda in a military jet. In the continuation of this article, we will tell one of the stories about why not only this claim but every claim that Greece may have had or has about Albanian territories does not stand, where Greece got this impetus from, and when this problem has its roots in history.

Some Albanian mountain areas never accepted the authority of the Turkish government even during the 5 centuries under the Ottoman Empire. The inhabitants of the 28 villages in the river areas of Vlora such as Himara, Kurveleshi, and Rrezomati never accepted a government other than the son of Gjergj Arianiti, who at that time lived in the Sultan's court. Their request was fulfilled, but Arianit's son (Arianit had led these highlanders at the time of Skanderbeg) had adapted to the Turkish way of life and he could not fulfill the demands of his compatriots, so even after his arrival, the mountaineers of these villages were not calmed down.

Therefore, they were given some autonomy from the empire. They were Christians (mostly Catholic) and because the Ottoman government could not convert them to another religion, it left them in the hands of the Patriarchate. Later this proved to be a great misfortune for the Albanian people because especially the Orthodox, often forgetting their origin and from the dense propaganda of the popes (who needed them to rise against their centuries-old enemy - the Ottomans) fell prey to a pro-Greek policy.

Eqrem bey Vlora says to support this:
"The sad habit of the Orthodox Church in the Balkans to identify itself with the nation, as happened in the South to the detriment of the Albanians and to the greater and greater benefit of the Greeks, makes this church one of the most dangerous enemies of the Albanian people. Never did the popes understand that the faith can be identified with the nation as little as the heart with the blood, even though without the beating of the heart the blood cannot circulate."

Also, during the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, during the government of Ali Pasha Tepelena (an Albanian pasha from Tepelena governing in the name of the Ottoman Empire), the residents of the Suli area had personal problems with this Pasha who wanted to have absolute power, to expand his territory and the subjects of his domain to live only by his desire and with his permission. Ali Pasha made so many efforts for Suli to submit and live according to the orders that the Pasha gave. Well, the Suliots were very proud people who wanted to be free to live in their mountains according to the laws of their ancestors.

Regardless the dozens of twisted attempts that Ali Pasha made to bring the Suliots to their knees, they did not fall into the trap and their fame in the European newspapers of the time was growing more and more as a tribe of very capable (non-Ottoman) warriors who despised him and the Ottoman rule that Ali Pasha represented. Meanwhile, Ali Pasha wanted Suli, firstly to calm down the disturbances caused by the Suliots in his trade routes and secondly to have the opportunity to pass from there to the possession of other lands.
After many battles in which Ali Pasha also used the Ottoman and French armies, Suli fell and the Suliots were forced to leave their land. The few men who remained, who at that time were still children, joined the Greeks of the areas to which they moved to raise their heads against the Pasha. They even were unwittingly the cause of the beginning of the Greek revolution.

For many of the Europeans who did not know the existence of the Albanian state, which until then had not been clearly defined, this was seen as the Greek population. The Greek government seized the moment and used this to claim many Albanian territories as Greek ones. Bear in mind that that time was a very transitional period after the Ottoman Empire disintegrated and only then many of the countries we know today, such as Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, etc., formed and gained independence. Moreover, nowadays Albania is much smaller than it actually should have been if all the Albanian lands had not been broken up by the Treaty of London in 1913. This is one of the main reasons that there are more Albanians living outside the Albanian border than within it.

As for the "Greeks" living in Himara all Albanians and those who have studied Albanian history know that most of them are just Albanians being paid a hefty monthly pension from the Greek government to declare themselves Greeks. The first one that declared himself Greek was an Albanian- that in the same way was paid by the Greek government back in the day- that seized the moment during the Declaration of Independence in Vlora to lead the attack against the Albanian forces in Himara. Since then the Greek government has used that precise location and event to justify its claims. 

In the past 30 years the Albanian state coming out of the worst communist dictatorship in Europe that killed most of its own elite has been very fragile to handle many of its internal problems and external malicious influences. Here we brought a shortened version of only two references from Eqrem bey Vlora and Sabri Godo, both of them being part of the Albanian governments of different periods of time. 

Another valuable and summarized article to learn on how fate turned on Albanians at the southern Albanian lands is Albanians: From leaders to deportees!

February 03, 2023