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These laws doubtless served to further exasperate the hatred between Serb and Albanian, for to the bitterness of conquest was added religious persecution.
During the twenty years of Stefan Dushan's reign, Serbia was indeed great. It included almost the whole Balkan Peninsula, and Dushan was planning to seize Byzantium when he died suddenly (I356)- On his decease, great Serbia rapidly fell to pieces.
Albania was among the first districts to break loose. Led by local chiefs, we soon find the Albanians fighting against Marko Kralyevitch, the popular hero of the Serbs, and taking from him not only the towns of Ochrida and Kastoria, which he had recently taken from the Albanian chief, Andrea Musaki, but also Ipek and Prizren. Nor was great Serbia ever again reconstructed. The Balkan Peninsula was invaded by a foreign foe—the Turks.
The Turks, we should not forget, came first as the allies of the Greeks against the Serbs. On their arrival, the Peninsula was a struggling mass of rival races in which none was supreme, and they were thus an easy prey. The Balkan peoples were so occupied by their own differences that they did not realize the Turkish danger till too late.
In 1389 Lazar, who was Czar of a very small Serbia, summoned a large army of Serbs, Albanians, and Bosniaks (Bosnia was now an independent kingdom), and met the Turks on the field of Kosovo. Rival Serb chieftains were at this time struggling for supremacy, and one of them—the Czar's own son-in-law, Vuk Brankovitch—deserted, with all his men, to the Turks. This gave the victory to the Sultan, and established the Turk in Europe until today.
The Serbs accepted Turkish suzerainty and were ruled for some time by descendants of the traitor Brankovitch.
But the Albanians offered a long and stubborn resistance. Venice aided them. For some time the Venetians had been creeping down the Adriatic coast and founding trading ports. Their relations with the Albanians were good, and intermarriage of noble families took place. Together the Albanians and Venetians fought the Turks.
In the mountains at this time there were many notable Albanian chieftains. The Dukagini ruled over a large part of the northern mountains, which still bear their name. Lek Dukagin is famed as the author of the Code of Mountain Law which still exists. The Dushmani family ruled in the Pulati mountains, where the Dushmani clan still dwells. Gropa ruled at Dibra, and the Topias ruled all Central and Southern Albania.
Then it was that Albania's greatest leader, George Kastriot, called Skenderbeg, appeared as the champion of our nation and of Christendom. He was one of the great warriors of history. The Turks who invaded South Albania reached and attacked his father's town of Kroya. George was then a child, and he and his brothers were carried off as hostages. The other boys are reported to have been poisoned. George, who was remarkable for courage and intelligence, was brought up as a soldier and a Moslem. But on his father's death he seized an early opportunity to throw off both the Turks and their religion, and rode away to Ochrida, where he recruited some followers. Thence he reached Kroya, where he was joyfully hailed as King, and put himself at the head of the Albanian forces. His courage and skill were amazing. For twenty-four years he kept the Turks at bay. Two successive Sultans sent huge armies against him in vain. His realm extended into Macedonia, and Ochrida and Dibra too were his towns. Bitter was the grief of all Albanians when, in 1913, Dibra, one of Skenderbeg's towns, was given by the Powers to the Serbs.
But the enemy pressed upon Skenderbeg with increasing force. He went to Rome to beg help. Pope Pius II summoned the Princes of Europe to a crusade which should combine its forces with those of Skenderbeg under the command of the latter and drive the Turk from Europe. Though weak and ill, the old Pope enthusiastically declared that he himself would accompany the army. But the Powers of Europe—not for the first or last time— were torn by jealousy. It was opined that the eviction of the Turk would most benefit Venice, and many were reluctant to fight for the aggrandizement of Venice. The Pope in vain urged that this view was unchristian. He went to Ancona to await the arrival of the troops, and there he died. No help came to Skenderbeg. As an old man, he again appealed to Rome, and Pope Paul assisted him with money and supplies. But no army came to reinforce him. Nevertheless, he struggled on with his valiant men and remained unconquered till he died of fever at Alessio in 1467, aged 63. The Sultan, on hearing of his death, cried triumphantly: "Asia and Europe are mine at last. Woe to Christendom! She has lost her sword and shield!"
There was no chieftain capable of replacing Skenderbeg. Deep was the mourning for him. "Crowds of maidens," says Sabellicus, "though surrounded by the din of battle, assembled every eighth day in the principal cities and sang hymns in praise of the departed hero." The nation resisted the overpowering force of the Turk for yet another ten years.
Scutari, bravely defended by the Albanians and Venetians, fell in 1479, after a terrible siege. And the Turks then soon overran the whole land. Numbers of Albanians fled to Italy, where 104 Albanianspeaking villages exist to this day.
The mountain chiefs long hoped for help from Venice, and sent many appeals thither. But Venice, too, was hard hit by the Turks, and sent no assistance. There was nothing for it but to accept Turkish rule. From the beginning the Albanians had contrived to retain local autonomy. In the seventeenth century many began to go over to Islam. But, as above stated, unlike the other Balkan peoples, when Mohammedanized they retained their strong sense of nationality. No sooner did the Moslem Albanian chiefs rise to power than they began to work for independence. The Albanians, both Moslem and Christian, descended from the mountains and began a struggle to retake the plains from which their forefathers had been driven by the conquering Serbs. Bit by bit they regained territory and settled upon it.
Attacked by the Albanians on the one side, and oppressed on the other by the Turkish government, and oppressed also by the Greek Church—which strove ever to replace the Serb and Bulgar churches by Greek ones throughout Turkey in Europe—the Serbs of Kosovo, led by the Patriarch of Ipek, decided to emigrate and moved in vast masses into Austria, where they were given land in the Banat by the Emperor.
The Albanians speedily resettled the vacated lands, occupying the whole of the Kosovo district as far as Mitrovitza and northeast as far as Nish and Uskub. Eastward they spread as far as Monastir, and the greater part of the Moslem villages of Macedonia are Albanian. In truth, they thus retook a great part of their ancient Illyria and Macedonia. Christian and Moslem united to preserve and maintain their customs, rights, and language, and brooked but little Turkish interference.
Nor was it long before the Albanians struck for liberty. Ali Pasha, who was born in 1740, began his career in Turkish service. Made Governor of Janina, he extended his rule by degrees, rapidly gained followers and popularity, and made himself ruler of the whole of South Albania as far as Preveza and Arta. A practically independent Prince and a skilled diplomat, he had representatives in foreign lands and entered into negotiations. He had many dealings with England, and strove to gain her support. Contemporary travelers note the order that he established, and his organizing capacity.
At the same time the Bushatli family, the hereditary Pashas of Scutari, likewise rose to power, extended their Pashalik largely by conquest, and were soon a menace to the Turks.
The Sultan objected strongly to this threatened'rise of Albania. A Turkish force was sent against the Bushatlis and was defeated, which still further incensed the Turks. Waiting their opportunity, they fell upon Ali Pasha when he was a very old man. A large force successfully besieged him in his palace on the Lake of Janina, took both him and his sons prisoners, beheaded them all, and sent their heads