How was Albania economically separated from the Ottoman Empire! Little known acts of Ismail Qemali. From the closing of 'Ziraat Bankasi' to the banning of "Dette Publique Ottoman"

2023-11-28 13:52:41Histori SHKRUAR NGA KRESHNIK KUÇAJ

The raising of the flag on November 28, 1912 was the main symbolic act of the separation of Albania from the Ottoman Empire. But this act would be accompanied by a series of other measures, sometimes undertaken in international coordination and sometimes unilaterally, to create the separation of the independent country from the Empire it had been a part of for 5 centuries.

Separation of Albanian soldiers from Ottoman soldiers

After the election of the government cabinet, one of the first steps would be the creation of the Armed Forces of independent Albania. At the end of 1912, there were numerous Ottoman army garrisons in Albania. Immediately after the declaration of Independence, the Albanian soldiers of these garrisons abandoned their Ottoman uniform and went to Vlora to be put in the service of the new government.

Their new uniform was provided by the Italians while the reorganization was to be assisted by the Dutch general, De Veer. Likewise, the Albanians who came from the United States of America would also become part of the armed forces of the new government.

The new armed forces would take control of the armaments that the Ottoman government had in Berat, adding to them some armaments that came from Italy. In this way, Albania created its first army.

How was Albania economically separated from the Ottoman Empire! Little known

Albanian language, the official language of the state administration

After the formation of the Government and the important directorates, another act undertaken by Ismail Qemali was that the Albanian language was the official language for every employee, putting an end to the use of Ottoman in state offices. Every Albanian civil servant had to master the Albanian language, in writing and reading, in order to continue his work.

For this purpose, all employees were tested for their knowledge. For those who did not pass the test, the decision provided for a second opportunity to learn the Albanian language in order to continue with the exercise of the task

"Nationalization" of the properties of the Ottoman Empire in Albania

One of the most dynamic steps of the government of Vlora would be to place property under control. With the declaration of Independence, the new Albanian state did not touch the manors or large private properties, nor the endowments. In 1912 they occupied an area of ??210 thousand hectares or 55% of the country's arable land.

They remain in the hands of the previous owners. But an important measure was the transfer into her hands of state manors that were the property of the Ottoman Empire. The fiefdoms of the Ottoman Empire that passed to the Albanian state occupied an area of ??56 thousand hectares and stretched along the Western Lowlands of the country, mainly in Myzeqe, Elbasan, Kavajë, etc.

In this way, by nationalizing the lands of the Empire, the Albanian state became the largest owner of properties. On the other hand, a stalemate would be created between the two countries regarding the properties of Albanians in Turkey and the properties of Turkish citizens in Albania. During the period of the communist regime, a special office would be established that would follow the inheritance of Albanian citizens in Turkey.

Closure of the Ottoman Agrarian Bank

One of the immediate measures taken by Ismail Qemali's government to break away from the Ottoman system was the liquidation of the Ottoman Agricultural Bank that had its branches in Albania. The Ottoman Empire was an empire where the economic model was based on agriculture and livestock, where exchanges were still made with goods and where taxes were paid, yes with goods.

In this economic context, the role of this bank had taken on a major role in Albania. As a result of the decision of Ismail Qemali's government, its branches in Leskovik, Gjirokastër, Berat, Vlora, Delvina, Përmet and Tepelën were closed.

This was a bank that dealt mainly with agricultural lending, short-term loans and property sales. On the occasion of the liquidation, all employees of this bank in Albania were ordered to accurately and in detail declare their accounts and make the transfers to the new structure owned by the new Albanian state.

With the liquidation of the Ottoman Agricultural Bank, all its branches and coffers came under the control of the Ministry of Agriculture, which at that time depended on Pandeli Cale.

The raising of the National Bank, the second act after raising the Flag

After the closing of the Ottoman banks, the step of establishing the first Albanian bank was taken, which was also considered as the second most important act of Independence, after that of raising the flag. The concession act was signed in October 1913 by the Albanian government and representatives of the Italian and Austrian banks.

The signatories were Baron Karol Peter and Oskar Pollak, on behalf of "Wienner Bank Verein" and Pietro Fenoglio and Guido Ansbacher, on behalf of "Banka Commerciale Italiana". The decision determined that the National Bank of Albania would be the only financial agent of the Albanian government inside and outside the country.

Due to the outbreak of the First World War, the bank's activity was limited to only one banking transaction, not being able to fulfill the mission of issuing banknotes or lending to the economy.

How was Albania economically separated from the Ottoman Empire! Little known

Blocking of obligations to "Dette Publique Ottomane"

The government of Ismail Qemali was not only faced with a new state that was born economically ruined, but also faced with some emergency needs such as the financing of its activity but also the provision of food for hundreds of immigrants who were installed in Vlora. Under these conditions, the government decided to take control of taxes and any revenue that until that time went to the coffers of the government of the Ottoman Empire and its creditors.

One of these decisions was that any revenue from customs and taxes would no longer be paid for the account of the Ottoman Empire but for the account of the government of Albania. A not a little diplomatically delicate act was the placing under control of the revenues that were collected to pay off the Ottoman public debt. The Ottoman Public Debt Administration was created years ago to pay off the debts that the Ottoman state had to European banks.

The debts were taken during the time of Sultan Aziz to realize some public projects and their non-payment had led to the creation of the international administration that managed the income from the monopolies of salt, tobacco and fish, etc. in all the countries that were part of the Ottoman Empire.

In Albania, the main income for the repayment of this debt was provided by the Administration of the Vlora Saltworks.

Immediately, the government of Ismail Qemali changed the director of the Administration and stopped sending money to the budget of the Ottoman government, which then paid a part as repayment of the obligation to the European creditors. This unilateral step of Ismail Qemali would bring a diplomatic reaction from Italy and Austria-Hungary, but would on the other hand constitute a significant income to finance the government's activity and coping with emergencies.

In this case, Ismail Qemali used the same precedent that Crete had used with the Ottoman debt. 10 years later, at the Lausanne Conference, when the Ottoman public debt was discussed, Albania's representatives would use the same reasoning used by Ismail Qemali in defense.

The outbreak of the First World War would cause Albania to pass under the administration of foreign armies, and as a result, until the 20s, there would be no more discussions about the Ottoman debt, even though during this period the tax system and some privileges continued to be practiced as in the period when the country was part of the Ottoman Empire. The process of Albanian state reorganization after the First World War would coincide with the third disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of new states. And under these conditions, the debt that the empire had not yet paid to European creditors would be renegotiated.

Discussions on this issue would begin at the end of 1922 in Lausanne, Switzerland and would last until mid-1923 when the agreement would be reached.

The initial discussions were that the debt would be divided proportionately among the states created by the dissolution of the Empire.

But the Albanian side argued that the investments made by the Ottoman Empire in Albania were disproportionate to what it had secured from the revenues it had collected.

In this way, the decision of Ismail Qemali turned out to be right 10 years later. As a result, Albania emerged from the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire without any outstanding debt.

How was Albania economically separated from the Ottoman Empire! Little known

Cessation of taxes for the Ottoman budget

As for the fiscal system, Ismail Qemali would not undertake substantial interventions to change them. An exception would be a war tax imposed on salt by the Ottoman Empire, which he would remove.

Likewise, another tax that would change would be that for imported tobacco, which he increased with the argument that it would support its domestic production. On the other hand, the new government put under control the revenues that were collected from each tax, thus financing his budget and stopping their flow to the account of the Ottoman government.

He also took the same step with customs revenues. The customs administration was reorganized, although limited only to the customs of Vlora and Durrës. Even for customs, the same legislation that was used during the Ottoman Empire continued to be applied, but importance was paid to their collection and the fight against corruption and abuses by Ottoman officials. Within two months, also thanks to the director Spiro Koleka, the customs administration of Vlora managed to secure 7400 lira, from the 4200 that the Ottoman administration managed to secure for 1 year. The government also applied the same practice of establishing control to endowments from which it provided additional income.

Rejection of Ottoman concessions

Another step of the administrative division between Albania and the Ottoman Empire was the refusal to recognize the concession of coastal lighting lanterns, which the Ottoman government had given since 1860 to a French company. The company had built lighthouses and offices all along the coastline of the countries that were part of the Ottoman Empire, including Albania.

The ships paid a toll, which was collected by these offices and part of the revenue was taken by the concessionaire and the rest by the treasury of the Empire. In 1913, the Ottoman government approved the decision to extend the concession, but Ismail Qemali's government did not recognize this contract or its extensions.

The French company had built a line of illuminating lighthouses on the Albanian coastline, namely in Vlorë, Durrës, Shengjin and Velipoja e Bunë. Despite Albania severing financial and legal relations with the Ottoman Empire, the Toll Administration and the French company continued to operate on the Albanian coastline, where the mines continued to collect tolls from passing ships.

These revenues actually failed to be collected by the government of Vlora.

The "impasse" of pensions

One of the most delicate points of Albania's separation from the Ottoman Empire would be the recognition of pensions. The Ottoman Empire and later the republic that emerged from it, Turkey, would demand that Albania pay the pensions of Ottoman citizens who had worked and continued to work in Albania.

For this purpose, discussions were held where Albania agreed to pay pensions for those Albanians who had exercised functions in the Ottoman Empire, but with the only condition that they had left their service in the Ottoman administration and had contributed after 1912 to the Albanian state. .

Establishing diplomatic relations with Turkey

In diplomatic terms, the Conference of Ambassadors in London in 1913 would confirm the political and diplomatic separation of Albania from the Ottoman Empire.

The First World War would bring not only a military administration of Albania but also a dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the birth of new independent states and the birth of the Republic of Turkey.

In 1921, before the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, an Albanian Passport Office was opened by the Albanian government in Istanbul.

The focus of this office was to take care of the Albanians who lived and worked in Turkey for years and for their assets there.

After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey with Ankara as its capital, in 1923, the Turkish authorities did not take into account the activity of the Albanian Consulate in Istanbul with the argument that diplomatic relations had not yet been established between Albania and the Turkish Republic. In this context, diplomatic relations were restored on December 15, 1923, where the Treaty of Friendship between Albania and Turkey was signed in Ankara, which also marks the formal act of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. Kreshnik KUCAJ