Tirana celebrates 99th anniversary

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 15, 2019 11:22

Tirana celebrates 99th anniversary

Story Highlights

  • Tirana was decided to become the capital of Albania on Feb. 11, 1920 at the Congress of Lushnja, since it held a geographically suitable position at the heart of the country, in the midst of national roads connecting all cities, and had no foreign influence.

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TIRANA, Feb. 11- If the declaration of Albanian independence was signed on Nov. 28, 1912 in Vlore by Ismail Bej Qemali and other delegates, the country declared its freedom in Tirana and Elbasan first in Nov. 26. Especially Tirana having a geographical position at the very heart of the country, it was expected that the Serbian army ousting the Ottomans off Balkans would arrive there first, thus it was important that Independence was declared in these cities first.

Tirana however, remained the grand village that it was, with its bazaar, until 1920 at the Congress of Lushnje. There was a need for a more geographically suitable city to serve as the capital of the newly formed country. A city that would have a close access to maritime, and that would also be a connecting point to both the North and the South.

Vlora remained the capital for a while with the provisional government Qemali set up. However, it was quite far from the North, and was under an Italian influence. Thus, another city had to be chosen. According to records from the National Archive, Durres, Shkodra, Tirana and Elbasan were some of the candidates picked by the Congress of Lushnje. Just like Vlora, Durres had an Italian influence, whereas Shkodra was too near Montenegro, which would make it easily attackable from the Slavs. Elbasan, on the other hand, was under the negative influence of Shefqet Verlaci, an enemy of the Congress.

Tirana was left as the most favorable option. It was out of any foreign military intervention, like Italian or Slavian, and had a suitable geographical position. The argument was that the city had a location at the center of the country with Dajti mountain as a shield, and had a short distance from the Adriatic sea. It was also added that the city was on the crossing of national trails. Such trails are Dalmatia Road, linking Ulcinj, Shkodra, Lezha, passing through Tirana, and then to Elbasan. Then it is the Egnatia Road, linking central Albanian cities with the south, up to Manastir (Bitola today), Thessaloniki and Istanbul. Two other roads passing through Tirana, linked the north with the seaside, and Kavaja with Great Dibra and Macedonia.

Sami Frasheri,- the father of the Albanian National Awakening,- would write that “the bosom of Albania, meaning the general capital, will be one of the cities that is located at the middle of Albania, and in which the Albanian language is spoken… in a healthy and beautiful place, with large and straight roads, with good house, squares, and whatever else needed.”

Even though Tirana was decided as the capital on Feb. 11, 1920 with a decision by the members of the Congress of Lushnja, and also announced as the capital on Feb. 13 by then Interior Minister Ahmet Zogu (later King Zog I) to all Albanian prefectures, the city officially became the capital in Jan. 1925. It took two years of intensive public and official debates from 1923 until late 1924 to come up with the decision.

What faced difficulties was building and establishing the state institutions, as buildings, offices and suitable persons for the new Albanian administration were missing. Nevertheless, the people of Tirana showed themselves committed in helping to establish the new Albanian government. All the already existing buildings and hotels were made available for the National Council members, until the real governmental edifices were built.

The first architectural plan followed that gave a shape to Tirana until 1923, were made by Austrian architects. The governmental residency was placed next to the offices of the Muslim Community, where the National Library is located today. The High Council was placed at the building where the Academy of Sciences is today, and later on the National Council, or Parliament, would conduct its businesses.

The actual architectural scenery that Tirana has preserved until today, was attained by two Italian architects working under Mussolini. Florestano Di Fausto and Armando Brasini are the designers of the governmental buildings surrounding the Skanderbeg Square in the capital.

The governance and administering of Tirana was established on legal grounds from 1922. In Jan. of that year the National Council approved a law about the election of municipality councils, which came to power after the High Council’s consent. The first mayor of Tirana from the 1922 elections was Ali Bega. When the city became the official capital, Fuat Toptani was chosen as mayor in Dec. 1925.

Tirana as the political center of Albania forwarded the most significant events of the country. It faced great political encounters and changes, experienced authoritarian and dictatorial governments, the fascist invasion and the liberation from it. The governance nature, tastes and concepts of past regimes are reflected and encrypted in the ground and memory of Albania’s bosom. At the last decade of the past century, contributions from everyone, for better or worse, were given to this city so we can have the Tirana we have today.

And post-90s Tirana has become the metropolis of the Albanian world having undergone many changes in different directions. It is now the home of one million people with an intensive political, economic, cultural, educational and scientific life. By losing the monotony imposed by the monist regime, Tirana won a dynamics which brought major changes in lifestyle, social stratification, and in the intensity of city life itself. However, it also brought negative phenomenons in the political, economic and social sphere, with organized and vulgar criminality, informality and environmental pollution, and many other worrisome issues.  

Yet, Tirana is the largest city of Albania, where a third of the country’s population lives there, thus is management is hard. Nevertheless, the city is transforming into an admirable European capital in its style and substance, with an added hope to live and work towards a European future.

All this information has been transcribed and gathered in multiple documents, and it is now made available to the public at “Kalaja e Tiranes” (Tirana Castle). The Municipality of Tirana together with the National Archive have set up an exhibition there with photos and documents that narrate the history of this city. In documents from this exhibition, one can find that Tirana was a grand city during Skanderbeg’s era, which was demolished around 350-400 years ago from the Ottomans.

This information was also pointed out at the annual “Sofra Tiranase,” a traditional cultural-artistic festival which seeks to display the highest values of the lifelong culture and tradition of Central Albania’s songs and dances. At the festival it was pointed out how the successes and challenges faced by Tirana throughout a century had affected the welfare of the entire country.

“Sofra Tiranase 2019” took place at the Palace of Congresses on Feb. 11. The activity was opened by Albanian President Ilir Meta, who greeted the public, congratulated the organizers, and appraised the history and weight of Tirana. He described the decision taken by the Congress of Lushnja as visionary, as the former modest city has now turned into an ambitious metropolis, and the country’s main administrative, economic, social, cultural and mediatic center.

“Tirana’s traditions such as generosity, hospitality and human solidarity were factors that united the Albanians from all regions into a diversified and harmonic cultural environment. In this 99th anniversary we bow in humility with gratitude to the contribution, history, hospitality, and cultural heritage of the Tirana community,” said Meta at the event.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 15, 2019 11:22