Isa Boletini(15 January 1864 – 23 January 1916) was an Albanian nationalist figure and guerrilla fighter, born in the village of Boletin near Mitroviça (Mitrovica), Ottoman Empire. He was one of the leaders of the Albanian Revolt of 1910 in Kosovo Vilayet and became a major figure of Albanian struggle against the Ottomans, Serbia and Montenegro.
Isa's family had migrated to Boletin from the village of Istinić near Deçan, due to a blood feud (gjakmarrja) though it ultimately hailed from Shala, in northern Albania. They adopted the surname Boletini ("of Boletin"). Isa was an analphabet. Branislav Nušić recorded that Shala was the poorest tribe of Albania with a small exception of around 400 families who lived in Istinić. The Shala tribe was in conflict with Gashi tribe until they made peace in August 1879, based on sultan's order.
During the late 19th century, Boletini was member of Albanian movements which sought the unification of four Ottoman vilayets (Kosovo, Shkodra, Manastir and Ioannina) into an independent Albanian state. After the rise of the League of Prizren (1878), he took part as a young man in the Battle of Slivova against Turkish forces on 22 April 1881. Isa built a power base in his hometown and illegaly seized property from fellow Muslims. By 1898-99, he received money for protecting the Serbian Orthodox community in the Mitrovica region, and was rewarded with a medal and supply of weapons by the Kingdom of Serbia. However, in the summer of 1901, he was present while organised atrocities on Serb-inhabited Ibarski Kolašin were carried out, including massacres, rape, blackmail, looting and eviction of local ethnic Serbs. When Russia opened a consulate in Mitroviça (Mitrovica) on May 7, 1902, and appointed Grigorij Stcherbin as consul, Boletini threatened that all Serb houses would be set upon fire if they worked with the consulate – the consul could not enter Mitrovica until the Porte sent for Boletini to Istanbul. Sultan Abdul Hamid II, instead of crushing him, brought him to Istanbul and appointed him head of the palace guards (tüfenkciler) in 1902. He served for four years, then returned to Kosovo with an imperial land grant and officer rank in the local Ottoman militia in March 1906. He resumed his acting as a local "protector". He was deputy of Kosovo in the Ottoman Assembly between 1908 and 1912. He was loyal to the sultan, though in 1908 he had given his initial support to the Young Turks.
On 15 May 1909, the Young Turks, continuing their former policy of denying the Albanians national rights, sent a military expedition to the Kosovo Vilayet to stop the growth of hostile attitudes to the government and break resistance of the peasants, who refused to pay taxes which Istanbul had introduced.Cavid Pasha, the new commander of the division at Mitroviça, was ordered to carry out a succession of military operations against the Albanian mountaineers. On account of the attempts of the authorities to collect taxes which hitherto had been paid almost entirely by the Christians, serious disturbances broke out among the war-like Muslim tribes of northern Albania. Isa Boletini, a prominent leader often honoured by the Sultan, and other chiefs of İpek (Peć) and Yakova (Đakovica), attacked the Turkish army of 7,000 men.Boletini and his men put up fierce resistance and numerous collisions occasioning much bloodshed took place with the troops, who bombarded several villages. After their escape, Turkish troops burned his house down in revenge.
Uprising and independence
During the popular uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1912, which engulfed all Albanian populated lands, Albanian patriots decided to establish an independent state.
On 18 August 1912, The Turkish government in Istanbul announced its reply to the leaders of the Albanian rebellion that it had considered and accepted their demands. The Albanians were to receive a series of economic, political, administrative and cultural rights, but no formal autonomy. A meeting of the leaders of the uprising took place that night in Uskub,at which they were informed of the Turkish reply and were persuaded by the moderates among them to accept it. An agreement with Istanbul was signed; Isa Boletini was pacified and returned to his own district, the village of Boletin in Kosovo, abandoning further national claims.In the same month, Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević (called Apis, "the Bee"), the head of the Serbian Black Hand organisation, sent a letter requesting Boletini and his men to assist the Serbs in fighting the Ottomans.On 4 September 1912, The Turkish government notified its acceptance of the Albanian conditions, with the exception of that for regional military service. After four years of sporadic fighting the Albanians had administered a heavy blow to the Turks, who agreed to create a virtually autonomous Albanian State. However none of the other Balkan States wished to see an independent Albania, but rather envisaged the partition of Albania between them. They thus hastened to precipitate war with Turkey, the purpose of which was the annexation of Albanian-inhabited territories that were under Turkish rule.The Black Hand stimulated and encouraged the Albanians of Kosovo in their revolt, promising them help.Colonel Apis visited northern Albania several times in order to get in touch with the leaders of the Albanian uprising, especially Isa Boletini. Dimitrijević and his men, disguised as Albanians, were known to have committed political murders.For some time Isa Boletini and other Albanian leaders hesitated to come to an arrangement with the Serbs, having no reason to suspect them of setting a trap. Eventually, however, Dimitrijević succeeded in allying Isa Boletini's suspicions by causing him to have doubt about being satisfied with the concessions already wrung from the Turks. Dimitrijević declared that the Serbs desired only to liberate the Albanians from subjection to Turkey, and that Serbs and Albanians together should benefit in common by freeing the country from Turks. Isa Boletini believed him and was deceived.
Far from fulfilling their promise to help the Albanians to liberty, the Serbian and Montenegrin armies fell upon them. The Albanians were trapped and unable to obtain ammunition from either side; Serbs and Montenegrins killed many Albanians.
On 28 November 1912 in Vlora (the 469th anniversary of Kruja's liberation by Skanderbeg, who raised the Albanian flag) the Albanian National Assembly created the independent state of Albania. Ismail Qemali refused to wait for Isa Boletini and other Albanians from Kosovo vilayet and hastily made the Albanian declaration of independence. The southern elite wanted to prevent Boletini's plans to assert himself as a key political figure and used him to suite their military needs.Isa Boletini contributed in the protection of Vlora government, while later was part of the Albanian delegation to the London Conference (1913) together with Ismail Qemali, Albanian head of state. The Albanian delegation wanted a Kosovo within the borders of the newly founded state of Albania, however the Great Powers conceded them only about a third of the demanded land.
/to be continued/
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