Albanians and Arvanites

The weird view that certain great heroes of the Greek liberation struggle (1821) as well as of the posterior national struggles were Albanians conveys either ignorance or distortion of History.

It is about an obvious confusion between Albanians and Arvanites/Arvanitophones Greeks. There is definitely a clear difference between Albanians and Arvanites. To make it even more palpable we are to explain a few facts:

Markos Botsaris, whose memory has been disrespected by a number of us, was an Arvanitophone Greek like the majority of the inhabitants of Souli. His Greek conscience shows even by his famous phrase when he first arrived to the Ionian isles.

‘A Greek can’t feel free where the British flag flies”. Besides the dictionary he wrote was of arvanitan –not albanian-and plain modern greek language. Moreover he could not maintain Albanian national conscience as such a thing emerged just in 1878 with the Prizren (Kosovo) League by all means fabricated by foreign powers and religious propaganda. During the Turkish domination there was no Albanian nation. The inhabitants of today’s Albania were distinguished by their faith The Orthodox ones were called Rums, placed among the rest of Greeks while those of Muslim faith felt themselves as Turks thereof the term Turk-Albanian resulted. If there is a need to mention any Albanian participation to the Greek Liberation Struggle then we should not refer to Botsaris and Kountouriotis families as well as Bouboulina but instead to Turk-Albanians used by the enemy side as slaughterers of the Greeks.

Our Byzantine ancestors never mentioned Albanians in the Balkans. Kontantinos Porfyroghenitos called as Albanians a tribe of Caucasus. Georgios Kastriotis

-Skenderbey-   who is honored as a national hero by modern Albanians used to call himself Orthodox Epirotan. (15th century). In documents of the Reppublica Serenissima of Venice, by the end of 15th century, the word “Albanians” was interpreted as Greeks form Epirus and Peloponnese without their national conscience being argued. The Albanian conscience is by all means a foreign fabrication as proved with the attestations of all parts involved, recorded by Ach. Lazarou, our contemporary Balkanist.  

While Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were striving for their own reasons to establish an Albanian state with a view to control the entry to the Adriatic Sea, the Turk-Albanians hoisted the Ottoman flag in Dyrrachion.

They preferred the Turkish rather than the Albanian conscience, unfamiliar to them. Moreover during the Balkan wars the Muslims of Albania fought dynamically ranged among the orders of the Ottoman Army. After 1908 a number of members to the Neo-Turk committee that plotted the pogroms against the Greeks were Turk-Albanians.

The word Albania means White Country deriving from the Latin word ALBA: white. It is a term with a geographical and not with an ethnological connotation.

The term Arvanitis referring to the people from Souli, Hydra, Spetsai and to groups of inhabitants in Mesogeia stems from an entirely different root. In particular, from the word Arvanon , a toponym of N. Epirus mentioned, already since 11th century, in the texts of Anna Komnini. That is from Arvanon, from the Hellenic N. Epirus, Greek population speaking Arvanitika migrated down to towns and islands. Finally Arvanitika is a dialect compound of ancient Greek, Latin, Turkish and local Balkan elements. The Arvanitophone Greeks never maintained a conscience differing from that of the rest of the Greeks. Similarly there were Slavophone fighters during the Macedonian Struggle such as Kottas, Kyrou, Dalipis etc. who fought for Greece against the Bulgarian committee’s actions. Like also the turcophone Orthodox people in Cappadocia, who even though divested the Greek language however maintained their Greekness through the Church. The bilingual Greeks such as Arvanitophones, Vlachophones, Slavophones etc provide us with concrete evidence that throughout the Balkans during at least the past five centuries it was the Orthodox faith and generally the religion that has shaped the national conscience much more effectively than the linguistic vernacular.

The confusion between the words Albanian and Arvanitis is apparent just in the Greek language as the words sound similar however that similarity is only superficial. Moreover, Albanians call their country Squiperia: Land of Eagles. What do a Sqipetar and an Arvanitophone Greek have in common? Perhaps they may be able to understand few words from one another’s languages. However that doesn’t mean that they maintain the same national conscience. Let’s not forget that Serbs, Croatians, Bosnians of Muslism faith speak exactly the same language even though they fought against each other with afflictive consequences.  

I defer and comprehend the efforts of politicians and journalists to prevent possible racist and xenophobic events –although the sources of problems have not been examined properly-in our country. Let us tumble to History so that we grace Greek Arvanites for their national contribution and also to maintain good neighborliness with the Albanian people without of course forgetting the Greek community in N. Epirus.