|Regions with significant populations|
|North Macedonia||around 500,000|
|Serbia||50,000-70,000 Albanians live in Serbia out of whom majority live in the municipalities of Pre?evo (Albanian: Preshevë), Bujanovac (Albanian: Bujanoc), and part of the municipality of Medve?a (Albanian: Medvegjë).|
Predominantly Sunni, Bektashi minority
Predominantly Roman Catholic, Orthodox minority
The Ghegs (also spelled Gegs; Albanian: Gegët) are one of two major ethnic subgroups of Albanians (the other being the Tosks) differentiated by their cultural, linguistic, social and religious characteristics. The Ghegs live in Albania (north of the Shkumbin river), Kosovo, North Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro. The name Gheg is derived from the term initially used by Orthodox population of pre-Ottoman Albania for confessional denotation when referring to their Catholic neighbors who converted to Catholicism to better resist the Orthodox Serbs. The Ghegs speak Gheg Albanian, one of the two main dialects of Albanian language. The social organization of the Ghegs was traditionally tribal, with several distinct tribal groups of Ghegs.
The Ottoman Empire annexed and ruled the Tosk-inhabited south at the beginning of the 15th century, while the territory populated by Ghegs remained out of the reach of the regular Ottoman civil administration until the beginning of the 20th century. As a consequence, the Ghegs evolved isolated from the Tosks. Similarly, the Islamization of the Ghegs was incomplete, with a large area of northwestern Albania remaining Catholic. The Ottomans never completely subdued the northern Albanian tribes of Ghegs because they were more useful to them as a stable source of mercenaries. Instead, they implemented the bayraktar system, and granted some privileges to the bayraktars (banner chiefs) in exchange for their obligation to mobilize local fighters to support military actions of the Ottoman forces. After establishment the state of Albania in the 20th century its politics has been centered on the constant rivalry for superiority between the Tosks and the Ghegs.
The etymology of the term Gheg is not completely clear. According to Arshi Pipa, the term Gegë was initially used for confessional denotation, being used in pre-Ottoman Albania by its Orthodox population when referring to their Catholic neighbors. Some theories say that the term Gegë is derived from the onomatopoeic word for "babbling", in contrast to Shqiptare which is the Albanian word for those who speak clearly. This is sometimes considered illogical because the self-ethnonym Shqiptare seems to have been developed by Ghegs. According to Pokorny it derived from (attic) Greek "" (giant). From the Homeric mythology the giants of the Acroceraunian mountains and probably denoting originally war-like invading tribes descending from Epirus. Cognate to Arbëreshë (dialectal and archaic) "glatë" (tall, long) (Standard Albanian "gjatë", Gheg "gat"); Albanian "gatë" (heron) and Latin "gigas" (giant).
In Albania, Ghegs predominantly live north of the Shkumbin river and in areas of the mountainous north. This region is widely referred to by Albanians as Gegëni and as Ghegeria. The Ottoman Turkish term, used during the times when Albania and the wider area was included in the empire, was Gegal?k, meaning land of the Ghegs. During the late Ottoman period apart from the term Arnavudluk (Albania) being used for Albanian regions, the designation Gegal?k was also used in documents by Ottomans. Gegëni or Gegal?k encompassed the kodra, Kosovo, and a small area of the Monastir vilayets. In the 1880s, Albanians defined the wider region of Gegal?k (Ghegland) as encompassing the Ottoman administrative units of kodra (Shkodër) and Duraç (Durrës) sanjaks that composed kodra vilayet (province), the sanjaks of Yenipazar (Novi Pazar), ?pek (Pejë), Pri?tine (Prishtinë), Prizren, Üsküp (Skopje) of Kosovo vilayet and the sanjak of Debre (Debar) in Monastir vilayet.
Little more than half of ethnic Albanians from Albania are Ghegs. Except for a small Tosk population in north-western Greece (the greek state also having arvanite language speaking populations in the south but which has adopted the greek language ) and around lakes Prespa and Ohrid in North Macedonia, all ethnic Albanians in the Balkans who live outside of Albania (Kosovo, North Macedonia and Montenegro) are Ghegs.
The Ghegs speak Gheg Albanian, one of the two main Albanian dialects. The Albanian communist regime based the standard Albanian language mostly on Tosk Albanian. This practice has been criticized, notably by Arshi Pipa, who claimed that this decision deprived the Albanian language of its richness at the expense of the Ghegs, and referred to the literary Albanian language as a "monstrosity" produced by the Tosk communist leadership which conquered anti-Communist north Albania militarily, and imposed their Tosk Albanian dialect on the Ghegs. Although Albanian writers in former Yugoslavia were almost all Ghegs, they chose to write in Tosk for political reasons. This change of literary language has significant political and cultural consequences because the language is the main criterion for self-identification of the Albanians.
The social organization of the Ghegs was traditionally tribal. The Ghegs of Northern Albania are one of only two tribal societies which survived in Europe until the middle of the 20th century (the other being the Serb highlanders in Montenegro and southern Serbia). The tribal organization was based on the clan system of loyalties, and the dispersed settlement pattern of separate, scattered, mostly fortified homesteads. There are several distinct tribal groups of Ghegs which include Mirëdita, Kelmendi, Hoti, Kastrati, Berisha, Krasniqi and Shala. Other important tribal groupings include the highlanders of the Dibra region known as the "Tigers of Dibra". Western Kosovo during the late Ottoman period was dominated by the Albanian tribal system, while parts of Albanian society within wider Kosovo were also part of the urban-professional and landowning classes of major towns.
The Ghegs, particularly those who live in the north-eastern area, were the most faithful supporters of the set of traditional laws (Kanun), traditional hospitality, and blood feud. Among Gheg Malësors (highlanders) the fis (clan) was headed by the oldest male and formed the basic unit of tribal society. A political and territorial equivalent consisting of several clans was the bajrak (standard). The leader of a bajrak, whose position was hereditary, was referred to as bajraktar (standard bearer). Several bajraks composed a tribe, which was led by a man from a notable family, while major issues were decided by the tribe assembly whose members were male members of the tribe.
The organization of once predominantly herder Gheg tribes was traditionally based on patrilineality (a system in which an individual belongs to his or her father's lineage), and on exogamy (a social arrangement where marriage is allowed only outside of a social group). The land belongs to the clan, and families are traditionally extended, consisting of smaller families of many brothers who all live in one extended menage (Albanian: shtëpi). Girls were married without their consent, while bride stealing still existed to some extent until the early 20th century.Marriage was basically an economic and political deal arranged among the members of the tribe, while those who got married had no say in the matter.Sworn virginity was occasionally practised among the Ghegs. Child betrothal was also practised by the Ghegs, sometimes even before birth.
Initially the population of Albania was Orthodox Christian, but in the middle of the 13th century the Ghegs decided to convert to Catholicism to better resist Serbs who belonged to the Orthodox Church. During the Ottoman period in the history of Albania (1385-1912), the majority of Albanians converted to Islam. Today, the majority of Ghegs are Sunni Muslims, with a large minority being Catholic. Catholic Albanians are most heavily concentrated in northwestern Albania and the Malesija region of southeastern Montenegro, in both of which they form of a majority of population, while they have a thinner distribution in central Albania and northeastern Albania and Kosovo. There are also Ghegs who practice Orthodox Christianity, mainly living in the southwest of the Gheg-speaking region, especially Durrës (where they formed 36% of the population in 1918) and Elbasan (where they formed 17% of the population in 1918). Orthodox Ghegs were traditionally also heavily concentrated in the region of Upper Reka (Reka e Epërme) in North Macedonia. There are also some groups of Ghegs who practice Bektashism, living in areas such as Kruja and Bulqiza. Additionally, as is the case with all Albanians as a legacy of the Enver Hoxha regime, there is a significant percentage of people who don't identify with any faith, and a large number of people do not usually attend the services of any religion.
After the Tanzimat reforms in the second half of the 19th century, aiming to gain influence over Catholic Albanians, Austria-Hungary, with Ottoman approval, opened and financed many schools in the Albanian language, and Franciscan seminaries and hospitals, and trained native clergy, which all resulted in the development of literature in the Albanian language. The culture of the Ghegs blossomed at the beginning of 20th century. Gjergj Fishta and the Scutarine Catholic School of Letters led by Fishta significantly contributed to this blossoming. The Ghegs are known for their epic poetry.
The Ghegs have often been described as taller, more slender and having a lighter skin color than the Tosks, who are described as being of a darker Mediterranean type. The Tosks have smaller noses and rounder faces than Ghegs.C. S. Coon described the Ghegs as being of the "Dinaric type". Some claim that this difference has been reduced because of population movement in the period after 1992.
There was a distinction between Ghegs and Tosks before the Ottomans appeared in Albania at the end of the 14th century.
The Ghegs remained out of the reach of the regular Ottoman civil administration until the end of Ottoman rule. In areas where Ghegs were still tribesmen they followed their own laws and lived an autonomous existence. The fact that the tribes of northern Albania were not completely subdued by the Ottomans is raised to the level of orthodoxy among the members of the tribes. A possible explanation is that the Ottomans did not have any real interest in subduing the northern Albanian tribes because they were more useful to them as a stable source of mercenaries. The Ottomans implemented the bayraktar system within northern Albanian tribes, and granted some privileges to the bayraktars (banner chiefs) in exchange for their obligation to mobilize local fighters to support military actions of the Ottoman forces. During the late Ottoman period Ghegs often lacked education and integration within the Ottoman system, while they had autonomy and military capabilities. Those factors gave the area of Gegënia an importance within the empire that differed from Toskëria. Still many Ottoman officers thought that Ghegs, in particular the highlanders were often a liability instead of an asset for the state being commonly referred to as "wild" (Turkish: vah?i). In areas of Albania were Malësors (highlanders) lived, the empire only posted Ottoman officers who had prior experience of service in other tribal regions of the state like Kurdistan or Yemen that could bridge cultural divides with Gheg tribesmen.
The Great Eastern Crisis resulted in Albanian resistance to partition by neighbouring powers with the formation of the Prizren League (1878) which issued a Kararname (memorandum) that declared both Ghegs and Tosks had made an oath to defend the state and homeland in the name of Islam. During the crisis Ghegs and Tosks made besas (pledges of honour) to arm themselves and shed blood to defend their rights. Better armed than its southern Tosk counterpart, Gheg society was in a more effective position to resist the redrawing of borders in the region. Ottoman officials initially assisted Gheg Albanians in their efforts to resist incorporation of their lands into Serbia, Montenegro or Bulgaria. Ghegs experienced a brief moment of an autonomous administration where local tax was collected into Albanian coffers. Calls for an autonomous united Albania made sultan Abdul Hamid II suppress the League of Prizren movement, especially after Gheg Albanians revolted in 1881 and posed a military challenge to Ottoman authority.
Large parts of Gegënia posed a security problem for the Ottoman empire, due to the tribalism of Gheg society and limited state control. Gheg freedoms were tolerated by Abdul Hamid II and he enlisted them in his palace guard, integrated the sons of local notables from urban areas into the bureaucracy and co-opted leaders like Isa Boletini into the Ottoman system. During the Young Turk Revolution (1908) some Ghegs were one group in Albanian society that gave its support for the restoration of the Ottoman constitution of 1876 to end the Hamidian regime. Subsequent centralising policies and militarism toward the Albanian Question by the new Young Turk government resulted in four years of local revolts by Ghegs who fought to keep tribal privileges and the defense system of kulas (tower houses). Ghegs from the Shkodër region supported the Greçë Memorandum that called for Albanian sociopolitical rights within the Ottoman Empire during the Albanian revolt of 1911. On the eve of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) Gheg and Tosk Albanians managed to secure two concessions from the Ottoman government: the rights of Albanian ethnicity and rights for the highlander population during the Albanian revolt of 1912.
The Ghegs were dominant in the political life of Albania in the pre-communist period.
Before World War II, the dialect predominantly used for official purposes was Gheg Albanian. This was because Zog, the King of Albania, was the leader of the Ghegs. During World War II Nazi Germany recruited Ghegs from the northern territory of the Albanian Kingdom into the 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian). This recruitment was also supported by some anthropological research which considered Ghegs an Aryan race.
At the end of World War II, communist forces predominantly composed of Tosks captured Albania after the retreat of the Wehrmacht. That was perceived by many Ghegs as the Tosk takeover of Gheg lands. Most members of the post-war communist regime and three quarters of the Communist Party of Albania members were Tosks, while Ghegs were predominantly anti-communists. Therefore, the communist takeover was accompanied by the transfer of political power from the Ghegs to the Tosks. The Albanian communist regime unsuccessfully attempted to make the presence of the Ghegs invisible by silencing the Gheg Albanian dialect through the introduction of a standard Albanian literary language predominantly based on the Tosk dialect. The Ghegs were consistently persecuted by the predominantly Tosk regime, which saw them as traditionalist and less developed. After Enver Hoxha died in 1985, he was succeeded by Ramiz Alia, who was one of the few Ghegs among the leaders of the country. He took cautious steps towards changing direction on the national identity issue by gradually assuming the cause of the Ghegs from Kosovo. This change was accompanied by a long-lasting fear that the introduction of "too-liberal" Albanians from Kosovo might disturb the fragile balance between the Tosk and Gheg sub-ethnic groups. Absorbing Yugoslav Ghegs, who were almost as numerous as all Albanians from Albania, could have ruined the predominantly Tosk regime.
After the fall of the communist regime, religion was again the major factor which determined social identity, and rivalry between Ghegs and Tosks re-emerged. The new political leaders of post-communist Albania appointed by GhegSali Berisha were almost all Ghegs from northern Albania. The administration of Sali Berisha was identified as northern nationalist Gheg in opposition to southern Socialist Tosk, which additionally increased the contention between Tosks and Ghegs. In 1998 Berisha exploited the traditional Gheg--Tosk rivalry when he encouraged armed anti-Government protesters in Shkodër in actions that forced the resignation of prime minister Fatos Nano.
In the 1990s, the Ghegs of Albania were more sympathetic to the struggle of the Ghegs from Kosovo. During the Kosovo War, rivalry between Ghegs and Tosks faded, and a huge number of refugees from Kosovo were catered for with no internal conflict, despite unavoidable grumbles about the disruption of the community and theft.
1 .5 million Ghegs from Kosovo
South Serbia is home to 50,000 or so Albanians.
Initially, the guerrillas' publicly acknowledged objective was to protect the local ethnic Albanian population of some 70,000 people from the repressive actions of the Serb security forces.Missing or empty
The total population of the Valley is around 86,000 inhabitants of whom around 57,000 are Albanians and the rest are Serbs and Roma
The Serbian peace proposal calls for integrating the Presevo valley's 70,000 ethnic Albanian residents into mainstream Serbian political and social life.
The Albanians comprise two ethnic subgroups: the Ghegs, who generally occupy the area north of the Shkumbin river; and the Tosks, most of whom live south of the river.
There were and there remain distinct cultural and linguistic differences between Albanian Ghegs and Tosks
the two ethnic sub-groups to which Albanians actually belong: the Ghegs in the north and the Tosks in the south... The Ghegs and Tosks differ from each other in linguistic, historical-cultural and socio-religious character.
Thus the Tosks and the Ghegs evolved virtually in isolation until Albania obtained its independence.
...was a confessional name in pre-Ottoman Albania.
Gheg (Gege) seems to be derived from an onomatopoeic word for 'babbling,' as contrasted with Shqiptare, or 'those who speak clearly, correctly.
...the Ghegs in the north (Ghegeria) and the Tosks in the south (Toskeria)
The Ghegs account for slightly more than half of the resident Albanian
Most of the ethnic Albanians that live outside the country are Ghegs, although there is a small Tosk population clustered around the shores of lakes Presp and Ohrid in the south of Macedonia.
Although the Albanian population in Yugoslavia is almost exclusively Gheg, the Albanian writers there have chosen, for sheer political reasons, to write in Tosk
The political-cultural relevance of the abolition of literary Gheg with literary Tosk....Albanians identify themselves with language...
The traditional social organization of the Ghegs was tribal
Ghegs of northern Albania present the only true example of a tribal system surviving in Europe until the mid-twentieth century.
... the Ghegs being split up into a number of distinct tribal groups, such as the powerful and very independent Mirdite clan in the mountain fastnesses to the south-east of Scutari ; the Klementi, Hoti, Kastrati ; the Pulti, Shala,...
The Ghegs, who live in the northern mountainous regions, were traditionally herders and were organized around the exogamous, patrilineal
...Albanian sworn virginity can never have been more than occasional phenomenon among Ghegs
Ghegs practiced childhood betrothal -- there are reports of the betrothal of fetuses.
Gheg clan society lasted until the 1950s in northern Albania. ... Children were betrothed sometimes even before birth, often in respect of an existing alliance or in order to establish friendship or piece
Religious differences also existed before the coming of the Turks. Originally, all Albanians had belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church... Then the Ghegs in the North adopted in order to better resist the pressure of Orthodox Serbs.
The Roman Catholic Ghegs appear to liave abandoned the Eastern for the Western Church in the middle of the 13th century
Prior to the Turkish conquest, the ghegs (the chief tribal group in northern Albania) had found in Roman Catholicism a means of resisting the Slavs, and though Albanian Orthodoxy remained important among the tosks (the chief tribal group in southern Albania),...
... a golden age in the first decades of the 20th century, and much credit for this blossoming of Gheg culture goes to him
The Ghegs are known for a distinctive variety of epic poetry called Rapsodi Kreshnike sung by elderly men.
A new important impulse to the rise of Gheg culture is due to the revival of Albanian Catholicism, traditionally distinguished for ils highly prestigious cultural tradition and generic Albanianism.
Ghegs, who are often described as fair, are taller than Tosks, who are darker and more Mediterranean.
The Tosk people are shorter and have rounder faces and smaller noses than the Ghegs.
... Ghegs speak a slightly different dialect of the language, and are often taller and thinner than Tosks, but these traditional differences (often exaggerated in vulgar anthropology) have been much diminished by population movement in the post-communist period
These differences existed before appearance of Turks. Traditionally there has been the division between the Ghegs in the north and the Tosks in the south, the Shkumbi River being the line
Ghegs dominated political life in pre-communist Albania
The relations between the two basic groups of Ghegs and Tosks represent a constant rivalry for superiority,
Albanian politics has revolved around the rivalry of Ghegs and Tosks.
... the late King Zog was a leader of the Ghegs and that the Gheg dialect predominated in official usage before the War
However, many Ghegs perceived this event as the Tosk conquest of Gheg lands.
The Communist victory had realized the transference of political power from the Ghegs to the Tosks, and as around
Northern Ghegs were consistently persecuted by the largely Tosk-run socialist regime, stereotyped as less developed, steeped in traditional culture and communal law
It is furthermore undeniable that the entry into Albania of 1.5 million Ghegs from Kosovo would change the balance of power between Ghegs ...
He purged the state apparatus of hostile Tosks, replacing them with partisan northerners
Religion was once again a major factor in social identity, and elements of traditional Gheg- Tosk, north-south rivalries re-emerged.
Sali Berisha, a Gheg intellectual from the North-East
By contrast, the new leaders, including former president Sali Berisha, ousted in 1997, are almost all northern Ghegs
administration was identified as northern Gheg 'nationalist' as opposed to southern Tosk 'Socialist'
The fact that former president Sali Berisha, elected in April 1992, was a northerner from Tropojë has only intensified Gheg-Tosk rivalry.
Exploiting the historic Gheg (north)-Tosk (south) rivalry, he encouraged rioters in the northern town of Shkoder (a traditional DPA stronghold) in February 1998 and, in September, led his armed supporters in anti-Government protests that led to resignation to prime minister Fatos Nano
Throughout the 1990s, though, Ghegs became more sympathetic toward the Kosovo struggle
...national solidarity for the refugees was overwhelming, albeit coupled with inevitable grumbles about theft and community disruption. Gheg-Tosk rivalry faded and the nation was able to cater for a vast refugee influx without internal conflict