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  • Famous Albanians

    Posted by franksupa on February 21, 2008

    Mother TERESA
    Gonxhe Bojaxhiu

    August 27, 1910 – September 5, 1997


    Mother Teresa has dedicated all her life full of sacrifices to the benefit of the poor, banished, the sick, those who have no sanctuary and are deprived of love. She has always attested to the power of fraternal friendship by so encouraging the true human and social development”

    BEATIFICATION OF MOTHER TERESA
    “COME, BE MY LIGHT”Sunday, 19 October 2003, St. Peters Square, Rome

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    Enver Hoxha (1908-1985)


    Enver HOXHA (b. Oct. 16, 1908, Gjirokast’r, Alb.–d. April 11, 1985, Tiran’), the first communist chief of state of Albania. As that country’s ruler for 40 years after World War II, he forced its transformation from a semifeudal relic of the Ottoman Empire into an industrialized economy with the most tightly controlled society in Europe. Hoxha, the son of a Muslim cloth merchant, studied at the French lycÚe at Kor�’ and reportedly also at the American Technical School in Tiran’. In 1930 he went on a state scholarship to the University of Montpellier, France, and then from 1934 to 1936 he was a secretary at the Albanian consulate general in Brussels and studied law at the university there. Returning to Albania in 1936, he became a teacher at his old school in KorcÔ. In 1939, when Italy invaded Albania, Hoxha was dismissed from his teaching post for refusing to join the newly formed Albanian Fascist Party, and he opened a retail tobacco store at Tiran’, which became headquarters for a communist cell. After Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Yugoslav communists helped Hoxha found the Albanian Communist Party (afterward called the Party of Labour). Hoxha became first secretary of the party’s Central Committee and political commissar of the communist-dominated Army of National Liberation. He was prime minister of Albania from its liberation in 1944 until 1954, simultaneously holding the ministry of foreign affairs from 1946 to 1953. As first secretary of the Party of Labour’s Central Committee, he retained effective control of the government until his death. Albania’s economy was revolutionized under Hoxha’s long rule. Farmland was confiscated from wealthy landowners and gathered into collective farms that eventually enabled Albania to become almost completely self-sufficient in food crops. Industry, which had previously been almost nonexistent, received huge amounts of investment, so that by the 1980s it had grown to contribute more than half of the gross national product. Electricity was brought to every rural district, epidemics of disease were stamped out, and illiteracy became a thing of the past. In order to enforce his radical program, however, Hoxha resorted to brutal Stalinist tactics. His government imprisoned, executed, or exiled thousands of landowners, rural clan leaders, Muslim and Christian clerics, peasants who resisted collectivization, and disloyal party officials. Private property was confiscated by the state; all churches, mosques, and other religious institutions were closed; and all cultural and intellectual endeavours were put at the service of socialism and the state. As ardent a nationalist as he was a communist, Hoxha excoriated any communist state that threatened his power or the sovereignty of Albania. In 1948 he broke relations with Yugoslavia and formed an alliance with the Soviet Union. After the death of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, for whom Hoxha held a lifelong admiration, his relations with Nikita Khrushchev deteriorated until Hoxha broke with him completely in 1961. He then forged close ties with China, breaking with that country in turn in 1978 after the death of Mao Zedong and China’s rapprochement with the West. From then on, Hoxha spurned all the world’s major powers, declaring that Albania would become a model socialist republic on its own. In order to ensure the succession of a younger generation of leaders, Hoxha in 1981 ordered the execution of several leading party and government officials. Thereafter he withdrew into semiretirement, turning over most state functions to Ramiz Alia, who succeeded him upon his death.

    ZOG I – KING OF THE ALBANIANS

    Ahmet Zogu

    AHMET ZOGU
    ZOG I – KING OF THE ALBANIANS
    1895-1961


    Ahmet Bey ZOGU (b. Oct. 8, 1895, Castle Burgajet, Albania–d. April 9, 1961, Suresnes, France), president of Albania from 1925 to 1928 and king from 1928 to 1939. Though able to manipulate Albania’s internal affairs to his own advantage, he came to depend heavily on Benito Mussolini’s Italy and was eventually ousted by the Italian dictator on the eve of World War II. Siding with Austria during World War I, Zog thereafter became a leader of the reformist Popular Party. He held ministerial posts from 1920 until he was forced into exile in June 1924, but he returned with Yugoslav assistance in December, was elected president on Feb. 1, 1925, and was proclaimed king on Sept. 1, 1928. Zog ended a period of postwar political turbulence, and Albania enjoyed relative tranquility under his regime. He began a fateful association with Italy in 1925; a loan in that year was followed in 1926 by a treaty of friendship and security and in 1927 by a 20-year defensive military alliance between the two countries. Mussolini made Albania his bridgehead to the Balkans, and by 1939 Italy controlled the country’s finances and army. Zog tried but failed to break that hold from 1932 onward. On April 7, 1939, Mussolini finally made Albania into a protectorate; Victor Emmanuel III became king, and Zog went into exile. His hopes of returning after the war were disappointed by the establishment of a communist republic under Enver Hoxha in 1945. He formally abdicated on Jan. 2, 1946.

    GJERGJ KASTRIOTI – SKENDERBEG (1405-1468)

    Gjergj (Albanian: George) Kastrioti was born in Kruja from Gjon Kastrioti, lord of Middle Albania, who was obliged by the Ottomans to pay tribute to the Empire. To assure the fidelity of local rulers the Sultan used to take their sons as hostage and bring them up in his court. Gjergj Kastrioti attended military school in the Ottoman Empire and was named Iskander Bey which in Turkish means Lord Alexandre.

    He was distinguished as one of the best officers in several Ottoman campaigns both in Asia Minor and in Europe, and the Sultan appointed him General. He even fought against Greeks, Serbs and Hungarians, and some sources says that he used to maintain secret links with Raguse, Venice, Vladislas of Hungary et Alphonse V of Naples. Sultan Murat II gave him the title Vali which made him the General Governor of some provinces in central Albania. He was respected everywhere but he missed his country.

    In 1443, during the battle against the Hungarians of Hunyadi in Nish (in present day Serbia), he abandoned the Ottoman Army and captured Kruja, his father’s seat in middle Albania. Above the castle he rose the Albanian flag, a red flag with the black double-headed eagle, the present-day Albanian flag, and pronounced to his countrymen the famous words: “I have not brought you liberty, I found it here, among you”. He managed to unite all Albanian princes at the town of Lezha (League of Lezha, 1444) and united them under his command to fight against the Turks.

    During the next 25 years he fought, with forces rarely exceeding 20,000 against the most powerful army of that time and defeated it for 25 years. In 1450 the Turkish army was led by the Sultan Murad II in person, who died after his defeat in the way back. Two other times, in 1466 and 1467, Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, led the Turkish army himself against Skenderbeg and failed too. The Ottoman Empire attempted to conquer Kruja 24 times and failed all 24 of them.

    Skenderbeg’s military successes evoked a good deal of interest and admiration of the Papal state, Venice and Naples, themselves threatened by the growing Ottoman power across the Adriatic. The Albanian warrior played his hand with a good deal of political and diplomatic skill in his dealings with the three Italian states. Hoping to strengthen and expand the last Christian bridgehead in the Balkans, they provided Skenderbeg with money, supplies and occasionally with troops. One of his most powerful and consistent supporters was Alfonso the Magnanimous (1416-1458), the Aragone king of Naples, who decided to take Skenderbeg under his protection as vassal in 1451, shortly after the latter had scored his second victory against Murad II. In addition to financial assistance, the King of Naples undertook to supply the Albanian leader with troops, military equipment as well as with sanctuary for himself and his family if such a need should arise. As an active defender of the Christian cause in the Balkans, Skenderbeg was also closely involved with the politics of four Popes, one of them being Pius II (1458-1464) or Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, the Renaissance humanist, writer and diplomat.

    Profoundly shaken by the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Pius II tried to organise a new crusade against the Turks; consequently he did his best to come to Skenderbeg’s aid, as two of his predecessors Nicholas V and Calixtus III, had done before him. This policy was continued by his successor, Paul II,(1464-1473).They gave him the title Athleta Christi.

    For a quarter of a century he and his country prevented Turks from invading Catholic Western Europe.

    After his death from natural causes in 1468 in Lezha, his soldiers resisted the Turks for the next 12 years. In 1480 Albania was finally conquered by the Ottoman Empire. When the Turks found the grave of Skenderbeg in Saint Nicholas church of Lezha, they opened it and held his bones like talismans for luck. In 1480 the Turks invaded Italy and conquered the City of Otranto.

    Skenderbeg’s posthumous renown was by no means confined to his own country. Voltaire thought the Byzantine Empire would have survived had it possesed a leader of his quality. A number of poets and composers have also drawn inspiration from his military career. The French sixteenth-century poet Ronsard wrote a poem about him and so did the nineteenth-century American poet Longfellow. Antonio Vivaldi, too, composed an opera entitled Scanderbeg.

    Skenderbeg today is the National Hero of Albania. Many museums and monuments are raised in his honour around Albania, and among them the Museum of Skenderbeg in his famous castle in Kruja.

    Bibliography:

    Noli, Fan S.: George Castrioti Scanderbeg, New York, 1947

    Logoreci, Anton: The Albanians, London, 1977.

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