Albanian place names in Chameria (Çamëria)

This Google Map shows the Albanian settlements in the part of Chameria – Çamëria in Albanian – that found itself on the Greek side of the international border after the Balkan War of 1912. Administratively, today Chameria mostly falls within the Thesprotia prefecture of Epirus.

The map does not purport to show all such Cham towns and villages. Many smaller villages and hamlets have been abandoned and are not easy to locate on modern maps. However, the majority of the larger and more culturally significant settlements should be found.

The place names on the map are those used by the Chams but are not necessarily of Albanian-language origin – some clearly have Greek or Slavic roots and the Albanian name is simply an Albanian orthographic variant. However, many do have Albanian etymology and are testimony to the region’s deep Albanian past, a heritage which has been depleted by persecution, emigration (to Albania, Turkey and beyond) and Greece’s official place name changes.

Note too that there may not be a single definitive Albanian place name – please bear in mind Albanian grammar (definite and indefinite noun endings apply to proper nouns such as places) and phonetic variations, the fact that Cham is a dialect of the southern Tosk variety of the Albanian language and that the Albanian language had not been subject to standardisation at the point at which this territory was lost to Greece.


Bektashi sufi lodges in Albania, 1910s

This Google Map shows the location of each Albanian Bektashi lodge – teqe in Albanian, tekke in Turkish – identified in Frederick William Hasluck’s “Christianity and Islam Under The Sultans” – specifically, in part III, chapter XLII 10 (“Geographical distribution of the Bektashi – Albania”).

F W Hasluck died in 1920 and his book was first published in 1929, edited by his widow Margaret Hasluck, who was a scholar in her own right, fascinated by the Bektashi, and lived for some 13 years in Elbasan, Albania after his death.

Hasluck attributed the spread and success of Bektashism in Albania to the influence of Ali Pasha, known as Ali Pashë Tepelenjoti in Albanian, the Albanian governor of the pashalik of Yanina (modern Ioannina in Greece). Hasluck estimated that up to 90% of the Muslims in southern Albania were affiliated to the Bektashi during the C19th.

It’s unlikely that Hasluck’s account, ambitious as it was, enumerated every teqe in Albania in the 1910s. The undertaking would have been made more difficult by the destruction and damage to teqes and other Islamic heritage after the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars when the Greeks occupied Epirus. In some cases, the site he mentions was without a teqe, having merely a tyrbja (türbe in Turkish) – these sites were included either because Hasluck regarded the tyrbja as important or because he suspected that a teqe would develop organically at the site.

The Bektashi sites have been pinpointed to the precise location where the teqe survives and could be located on a modern map; in other cases, where this was not possible, the Google Map pin is simply centred in the village. Place names are as per modern Albanian, rather than the older versions (sometimes phonetic) used by the Haslucks in their study.


The Këlmendi in Srem

In 1737, a group of Albanians found themselves in Srem on the plains of what is today the Vojvodina province of Serbia but was then part of Austro-Hungary – one of the flattest places in Central Europe.

These were members of the Këlmendi highland clan, also known as the Clementi and Klimenti (after their patron saint, St Clement (Klementi i Ohrit in Albanian; Sveti Kliment Ohridski in Serbo-Croat). They were originally from the Malësi (specifically the Malet e Kelmendit) near the modern Albanian border with Montenegro. Like other Albanians of this highland region, they were Roman Catholic.

Historically, the Këlmendi engaged in wholesale raiding and brigandage and, a generation earlier, in 1702, as a means of suppressing their activities and their deleterious effect upon trade and travel, the Ottomans forcibly resettled many of them on the harsh Pešter plateau (Albanian: Rrafshnalta e Peshterit) in the Sanjak.

In 1737, these Këlmendi had participated in a joint Serb/Albanian Orthodox/Catholic rising against the Ottomans. This was crushed by October that year and the Këlmendi fled north with their families, alongside the other defeated forces retreating towards Austria.

This is how the Këlmendi came to be settled in two villages, Hrtkovci and Nikinci, as part of the defensive forces, or Grenzer, on the Austrian military frontier (known as Vojna Krajina in Serbo-Croat). There they remained, Albanian-speaking Catholics for two centuries, only becoming assimilated into the local Croat population by the mid-C20th.

It is understood that, like many Croats in this part of Srem, they were displaced during the violent conflicts which accompanied the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. In 1992, a majority of the Croat Catholic population was expelled by Serb nationalists: the inhabitants of Hrtkovci are known to have been resettled in a former Serb village called Kula (itself ethnically cleansed of Serbs by Croats) to the NE of Požega in Croatia.

The Google Map shows the locations of these places. A third Srem village, Platičevo, is mentioned in some sources as being settled by Këlmendi and this is also shown on the map for good measure.