Original Austrian telegram considered best testimony to Albania’s Independence Day

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 30, 2018 11:12

Original Austrian telegram considered best testimony to Albania’s Independence Day

Story Highlights

  • US-based Albanian journalist and researcher Ilir Konomi says he has managed to retrieve the original version of a telegram that former Vlora-based Austrian consul to Albania, Wenzel Lejhanec, sent to the Austrian foreign minister of that time, describing it as the uncontested document providing a real picture of how Albania's independence was declared in the afternoon of Nov. 28 at 4 p.m. in Vlora 106 years ago

Related Articles

konomiTIRANA, Nov. 29 – A newly discovered original telegram sent by a former Austrian consul based in the city of Vlora, southern Albania, has brought back the atmosphere of Albania’s declaration of independence in the afternoon of November 28, 1912 in the face of lack of photo or audio evidence from Albania’s most important event following almost five centuries under Ottoman rule.

US-based Albanian journalist and researcher Ilir Konomi says he has managed to retrieve the original version of a telegram that former Vlora-based Austrian consul to Albania, Wenzel Lejhanec, sent to the Austrian foreign minister of that time, describing it as the uncontested document providing a real picture of how Albania’s independence was declared in the afternoon of Nov. 28 at 4 p.m. in Vlora 106 years ago.

“The 7-page telegram was written by Austrian consul in Vlora, Wenzel Lejhanec, and is sent to the Austrian foreign minister, informing him that Ismail Qemali [Albania’s independence leader] has proclaimed Albania’s independence,” says Ilir Konomi, a US-based journalist of the Voice of America in the Albanian language service.

The original typewritten document has been retrieved from the Vienna archives, which the journalist describes as a treasure for the Albanian history considering the accuracy that the Austrians recorded and reported everything that was happening in Albania at that time.

Former Austria-Hungary and present-day Austria, has been one of the key allies of Albania from the country’s independence to present-day support for Euro-Atlantic integration.

“It is a document already known by historians and already translated into Albania, but considering the accuracy with which the Austrians recorded and reported everything that took place in Albania, I think that the importance of this telegram has been underestimated to that extent that there have been legends that independence was not declared in Vlora,” says Konomi.

With the first landmark picture of the country’s independence leaders in Vlora dating back to November 1913 on the country’s first independence anniversary, the researcher considers the original telegram of the Austrian council and his accounts a key document to get a picture of what happened during the afternoon of Nov. 28, 1912.

“It is really a pity that we have no pictures at all from the declaration of independence in Vlora and that’s why the original telegram published for the first time helps us get a more or less accurate picture of this historic event,” says Konomi.

 

Excerpts from the original Austrian telegram

“The extraordinary National Assembly convened at 2 p.m. at the house of former mayor Xhemil bey Vlora. After examining and accepting the delegate’s mandates, the Assembly listened to Ismail Qemal bey, who briefly elaborated on the situation, stressed the need of making a quick decision to preserve the country’s interests.

The Assembly decided to unanimously declare independence all over Albania and immediately notify the Great Powers and inter-warring states.

In the meantime, Ismail Qemal bey was elected as head of the interim government and charged with forming the cabinet, namely the executive committee.

Under a proposal by Veli Efendi of Gjirokastra, father Kaçorri, the Durres parish priest who chaired the Assembly along with Ismail Qemali, was cheerfully approved as his deputy head.

Then, close to 4 p.m. the national flag, a double-headed black eagle on a red background, was raised at the front door of Xhemil bey’s house.

The declaration of independence was proclaimed to the people waiting outside who welcomed it full of joy and enthusiasm.

Then, a crowd of people crossed the city streets, singing and cheering. The people stood in front of our [Austrian] consulate and erupted in cheers calling “Long live Albania,” “Long Live Austria” in calls that were accompanied by applause.

I thanked the crowd from the window, waiving my hat and calling “Long Live Albania.”

Then the crowd marched in front of the Italian consulate, where similar celebrations were held. Even [Italian] consul De Facendis appeared on the window and thanked by calling three times “E viva l’Albania”.

No celebrations were held in front of the Russian sub-consulate where it is said that some sporadic calls of “Long Live Justice” were heard.”

 

Albania-Austria relations

Albania-Austria diplomatic relations date back to the 18th century, when Albania was still under Ottoman rule, with the opening of a consulate in Durres in 1751.

The most important support Albania received from then-Austria-Hungary was in the critical years of 1912-1913 during the country’s independence, when the country’s existence was called into question by the Great Powers of that time.

During World War I, almost the whole Albanian territory was occupied by the Austrian-Hungarian army while Shkodra, at that time the country’s largest city, became the seat of the military administration from 1916 to 1918.

Considered the father of Albanian studies and Albanology, Johann Georg von Hahn, a nineteenth-century Austrian diplomat and explorer, was one of the first to demonstrate the Albanian language’s membership in the Indo-European family.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 30, 2018 11:12