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Albania during the First World War (1914-1920)

Last modified: 2018-07-21 by ivan sache
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Regency (1914-1915)


Flag of the Regency government - Image reconstructed by Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

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 black double-headed eagle.

Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

Essad's provisional government (1915)


Flag of Essad Pasha's government - Image by Jorge Candeias, 15 July 1996

Essad Pasha 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

Bajram Curri's guerilla (fall 1915-1917)


Bajram Curri's flag - Image by Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

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 Bajram Curri. 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 Curri until 1918.

Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

Bajram Curri (1862-1925) was born in the village of Koganaj, located in the region of Tropojë (north of Albania). In 1898, he joined the League of Pejë (Pec), founded by Sami Frashëri (1850-1904), asking for the reunification of the Albanian lands and the acknowledgement of the national language. The League was quickly suppressed by the Turks but Curri carried on his fight.
The inhabitants of the mountains of the north of Albania are known as malisores (mountain dwellers). They obtained from the Ottoman Empire several privileges such as the exemption of tax, tribute and conscription. When they decided to help the Ottoman troops, they were commanded by their own clan leaders (bajraktar, standard bearers). At the end of the 19th century, the Sultan decided to suppress the malisores' privileges, to no avail. The Young Turks government set up in Istanbul in 1908 sent a punitive expedition made of 40,000 men commanded by Sheçet Turgurt Pasha. In 1910, the expedition scoured the region and the malisores' insurrection broke out. Commanded by Curri, the malisores from Tropojë expelled the Turks from the vilayat of Kosovo and took Skopje.
During the First World War, Curri maintained the insurrection against the foreign troops occupying the north of Albania.
In 1920, Ahmed Zogu showed up and attempted to confiscate the power and Curri rebelled against him; Zogu sentenced him to death in 1922. Curri entranched himself in the valley of Krasniqe, in Tropojë, and was killed in 1925 in the cave of Drogobi by Zogu's troops. In 1952, the town of Kolgeçaj was made the capital of the district of Tropojë and renamed to Bajram Curri.
[Jean Durand-Monti. Albanie. Arthaud, 1990]

Ivan Sache, 11 April 2006

Albanian Republic under Italian control (1917)


Flag of the Albanian Republic - Image reconstructed by Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

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)


Flag of the Republic of Korçë - Image by Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

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 flag of Skanderbeg 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 Greek Γ 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 [ffx] # 6 FM 082 series A shows a ribbon with the colours of the French flag 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 shown above.

Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

Regency (1918-1920)


Flag of the Regency government - Image by Jaume Ollé, 15 July 1996

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