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Saturday, 26 January 2013

ALBANIA Face of the BALKANS





Some years ago whilst travelling in the south of France, I bought a copy of ALBANIE - visage des Balkans. Published in 1995, it contains a series of reproductions of photographs of Albania taken by members of the Marubi family (See: ecritsdelumiere.fr). Its text is by the renowned Albanian author Ismail Kadare. As it is hard to obtain a copy of this book nowadays, I have decided to present a selection of illustrations from this beautiful book (copied by me with my camera).



1878: A composer of lyrical verse. Kel Marubi is on our left (Pjeter Marubi, photographer).

The Marubi family went to Albania from their native Piacenza (Italy) in the late 1850s (Click here for more about the family). They settled in Shkodra, a city in the north of what was then an Ottoman province. Albania was a relatively unknown place in those days, and pretty wild on occasion.



Young insurgents from the Shala region  ( Kel Marubi, between 1900 & 1915)

But despite its troubles - banditry, the oppressive nature of being colonised, and the endless vendettas between hostile families - life went on as usual, as can be seen in this picture of men making and selling felt hats ('qelesh'). 


Picture by Kel Marubi taken between 1900 & 1920


In 1925, 13 years after Albania became an independent nation, Ahmet Muhtar Bej Zogolli ('Zog')became ruler of Albania(first as President, then as King).


Zog 'working out' on the beach at Durres in 1925 (Kel Marubi)

Zog married the half American/half Hungarian Geraldine Apponyi , the "White Rose of Hungary", in April 1938. Mussolini's son-in-law Count Ciano was present at the ceremony.


Zog's marriage to Geraldine in 1938 (Kel Marubi)


It was during Zog's 'reign' that the beautiful country of Albania became inextricably entangled with Fascist Italy.


View of Shkodra's Lead Mosque from the Rozafat Citadel (Gege Marubi, 1938)

Zog was attracted to Mussolini's brand of, fascism and the assistance that was offered to him.


Celebrating 25 years of independence in Tirana (Kel Marubi, 1937)

Mussolini's son-in-law, Count Ciano, was a frequent visit to Albania, and built a hunting lodge on the coast near the small town of Lezhe.


Count Ciano on a visit to Tirana (Kel Marubi, 1937)

In April 1939, Italy invaded Albania. Later on in WW2, Germany dominated the country. Remarkably, Albania was the only German occupied country in mainland Europe where the number of Jews increased between 1939 and 1945. The occupation was resisted by various groups of partisans, each with their own political agendas. In the end, the Communist partisans under the leadership of Enver Hoxha prevailed, and remained in power until the early 1990s.


Enver Hoxha reading a speech in 1936 at Shkodra (Kel Marubi)

Under Comrade Enver Hoxha's leadership, Albania became cut off from the outside world. It was more isolated than North Korea is today. Its people were not allowed to travel or to learn anything about the world outside their isolated country. Even thier history was doctored, as can be seen in this retouched version of Marubi's 1936 photograph shown above.






Now, read more about Albania in Adam Yamey's 
travel memoir:

"ALBANIA ON MY MIND"


Available in paperback:


 and on Kindle:


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