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Albania during the First World War (1914-1920)

Last modified: 2023-07-03 by
Keywords: eagle: double-headed (black) | star (white) | essad pasha | tsuri | korce |
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Regency (1914-1915)

[Flag used in 1914]by Jaume Ollé (reconstructed image)

In September 1914, under the auspices of the International Commission (France, United Kingdom, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia), and under their flags, a Regency government was constituted in Vlorë. Since no decision was taken regarding the flag, the former national flag remained official but wasn't used. The flag used de facto was the red flag with the double-headed eagle.

Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

Essad's provisional government (1915)

[Essad's provisional government]by Jorge Candeias

Essad, however, returned to Albania and, with the help of Serbia, occupied Durrës and reconquered Tirana and central Albania, forming a new government, which again used the flag without the eagle, showing the Muslim preponderance (April 1915). This flag was adopted as the official flag of Albania by Essad's provisional government, following a decision of the Albanian Senate. The German ambassador was informed of this decision on 21 April 1915. Essad called himself in this note President of Albania and General Commander-in-Chief.

Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

Tsuri's guerilla (fall 1915-1917)

[Tsuri's gerilla]by Jaume Ollé

In autumn 1915, Austro-Hungarian troops occupied northern and central Albania and suppressed the Albanian government of Tirana, while Essad fled to Greece. Only the Regency government in Vlorë survived, but Vlorë was finally also occupied by Italy in November 1916. The country got, therefore, under the flags of the powers: Austria-Hungary (north and center) and Italy (Vlorë region and south of the country). France also controlled some areas in southern Albania.

Since then, the Albanian flag was used by the guerilla led by Bairam Tsuri. The model of the image shown above comes from the post stamps released by the Provisional Control Commission in Koritza. The flag was probably in use from September 1914 to 1916, and was further used by Tsuri until 1918.

Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

Albanian Republic under Italian control (1917)

[Republic under Italian control]by Jaume Ollé (reconstructed image)

In Autumn 1915 the Austro-Hungarians occupied north and central Albania and suppressed the Albanian government of Tirana. Italy, which controlled the south of Albania and Vlorë decided to set up an Albanian Republic under Italian protection. This republic was proclaimed on 23 June 1917, adopting officially the red flag with the black eagle.

Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

Republic of Korçë (1917-1918)

[Korçë, 1917]by Jaume Ollé

The French entered Korçë on 29 November 1916. On 10 December 1916, by order of the French General Sarrail, a protocol was signed between the French Colonel Descoins and a group of Albanian representatives. A local government composed of 12 members was appointed and was granted many legislative powers. Themistokli Gërmenji was the head of executive power with the title of Prefect of Police.

Korçë was thus awarded the statute of "autonomous province". The Skanderbeg flag was approved together with the tricolor ribbon and used in the city hall.

On 23 June 1917, Italy proclaimed the independence of Albania under her protectorate, justifying this with the French precedent in Korçë. Austria-Hungary had done it before on 3 January 1917.

The French government, which had decided to keep good relations with its Greek and Italian allies, disowned the decisions taken by the Eastern Army. Themistokli was charged with intelligence with the Bulgars and Austro-Hungarians against the French, judged summarily by the Council of War of the Eastern Army, headed by General Sarrail, and executed on 9 November 1917.

On 16 February 1918, the protocol was formally suppressed. Korçë was given the statute of territory (Quarku i Korçës) and from then governed by the French; the council of 12 members was given a simple advisory capacity. Following this, the Skanderbeg flag was forbidden, and the French flag used instead.

Albanian central troops entered Korçë on 26 May 1920 following an agreement with the French and the last French troops left on 29 May.
However, the French influence remained strong in Korçë and the French Secondary School, founded in 1917, remained active until the Second World War (in 1992, the building was still standing but closed and in a rather bad state). Its most famous student, and later French teacher, was Enver Hoxha, the futur ruler of the country between 1944 and 1985. There is also a French war cemetery in Korçë.

Korçë was also one of the main centers of the Albanian Rilindja (Rebirth), 1840-1912, and the first Albanian school was founded there in 1887, followed by a similar school for girls in 1891, despite the violent opposition of Turkish fanatics, who murdered several of the first teachers. The school was transformed in a very touching Education Museum.

The denomination of Republic of Korçë (Republika Shqipëtare e Korçës) was neither allowed nor forbidden by the French and is shown on stamps and banknotes issued there (almost certainly after the Italian proclamation). The first issues had the denomination Shqipërise Vetqeveritare - Korçë.
As it can be expected, these stamps show the Albanian double-headed eagle. On some of these stamps, the second V of Vetqeveritare was printed upside down and looks like a Capital Greek Gamma letter.

Paulo Lago & Ivan Sache, 3 May 2001

The Flag Bulletin [tfb] shows the dates of 14 October 1917 and 10 December 1918 as the start and end of this Republic. Flag Fax [flx] # 6 FM 082 series A shows that a ribbon with the colours of the French flag was attached to the flag. The eagle was there drawn similarly to the current Albanian eagle. However, the eagle used in Korçë appears in a stamp released in 1917, and was used as the base of the image above.

Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

Regency (1918-1920)

[Regency, 1918]by Jaume Ollé

When the war ended, Italy installed in its occupation area a provisional government led by Turchan Pasha, as a provisional government of Regency (for a possible sovereign to be appointed). This governemnt officially adopted the red flag with the double-headed eagle, but the shape of the eagle changed several times. France delivered Korçë and its occupation area to this government at May 1920. The image above shows the eagle as used in 1918-20.

Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

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