A Nation Rising in Arms

Published originally by New Albania, 1970.
Re-published AS IS, for historical purposes 1, by Albanian Gallery of Arts.

Photo rescued from New Albania 1970 July-August edition, titled “Monument to the 1920 Vlora battle. A work by the sculptors Muntaz Dhrami, Shaban Hadëri, Kristaq Rama, Hektor Dule.”

At the beginning of September this year [1970], is the 50th anniversary of the victory of the Vlora battle when the Albanian people through an armed struggle threw into the sea the Italian imperialists who had occupied the Albanian territory.
After the First World War the political situation of Albania on the national as well as on the international arena became very grave. Italian imperialism as a great power and favoured by the international combinations, since the beginning of the First World War had occupied the greatest part of the Albanian territory and was mainly concentrated in the Albanian seaport of Vlora – from here the Italian imperialists secured the realization of their expansionist plans not only in the Balkans but in the Mediterranean Sea, too.

The news coming from the Peace Conference in Paris and from the foreign press etc spoke about the preparations of the Great Powers to dismember the whole of the Albanian territory. The Albanian progressive press issued a call to the Albanian people to prepare for the armed struggle. The newspaper “Drita” (Light) which was published in the city of Gjirokastra wrote in one its articles:

“Let us challenge by means of arms all those who covet this country let us redden every hand which seeks to stretch on the life of Albania…
Better honoured dead under ground than alive but ashamed”.

The all-round preparations for war, made in Vlora and in districts around it, continued to meet the support of the poor peasantry and of the working masses of the city. The Italian occupation command was aware of the danger. In May of the year 1920 it made a number of arrests among the organizations of the center, it proclaimed in Vlora a state of emergency and threatened those who would dare to take up arms against the Italian army. The Albanian people were determined to follow the road of the armed struggle.

On the 29th of May 1920, in a village South of Vlora a national council was set up and a staff which was to lead the military activities was created. The decisions of this meeting were made known throughout Albania. A call was directed to the people to act in accordance with them. These quick organizational measures were required by the character of the battle which was to begin very soon. The Albanian armed forces which took up arms within a few days became some thousand men strong.

On the 3rd of June 1920 the Albanian armed forces sent an ultimatum to the Italian military forces, reading in part as follows:
The Albanian people, united more than ever, not tolerating to be sold out like cattle in the markets of Europe, as a reward to the Italians, Greeks and Serbians, decided to take up arms and demand from Italy the administration of Vlora, Tepelena and Himara, which must be handed over as soon as possible to the national government of Tirana.
The Italian government was asked to give a reply before the evening of June the 4th. The Italian command gave a ridiculous reply. At the end of the set deadline the leading national committee ordered the beginning of the uprising according to the plan prepared in advance.
So on the 5th of June 1920 the armed uprising began against the garrisons of the Italian imperialists.

From all the parts of the country volunteers came to Vlora, among them many were women. They came from different cities of Albania to fight for the liberation of Vlora.

The Italian army in Vlora was surrounded. The Albanian patriots headed by Selam Musai threw themselves upon the barbed wires, which protected the Italian garrisons. Heavy fighting continued for a long time and the Albanians though badly armed, emerged victorious. The Italian General Piacentini asked Rome for new reinforcements. The Italian commissar in Durrés, F. Costaldi sent the following cable to Rome: “If we are to continue for a long time the present fighting the tired and weak Italian forces present in Vlora will not be able to resist the situation, not matter whether new reinforcements come or not“.
Though Rome promised new reinforcement, they never came. The revolutionary situation in Italy worsened the situation of the Italian imperialists.

The revolutionary situation in Italy worsened the situation of the Italian imperialists. The Italian proletariat rose up against the imperialist intervention into Albania. giving thus an international help to the liberation struggle of the Albanian people. In the streets of the Italian cities, in the progressive Italian press and in the parliament of Rome, rose strong voices of protests. They asked from the Italian government to withdraw the occupationist troops from Vlora and to respect the national rights of the Albanian people. In the main Italian proletariat passed from simple protests to strikes and demonstrations. In the coastal cities of Trieste, Bari and Brindisi the call of the Italian Socialist Party was distributed. This call invited the Italian soldiers not to go to Albania. The attempts of the Italian government to send new reinforcements to Vlora met with the resistance of the Italian army itself. On the 26th of June 1920 units of some Italian battalions refused to leave for Albania and joined the demonstrations of the workers and came into bloody clashes with the carabineers.

Being faced with the armed struggle of the whole Albanian people and with the increase of the revolutionary movement of the proletariat within Italy, the Italian government was obliged to sign a protocol between Albania and Italy. According to that protocol the Italian government acknowledged the Albanian sovereignty over Vlora and the territorial entirety of the Albanian state.

The Italian army was to withdraw within a month from Vlora. On the second of September, the Italian army withdrew from Vlora and on the 3rd of September 1920, the Albanian liberated Vlora, where they were enthusiastically welcomed by the representatives of all the Albanian districts, who had come there to celebrate this great victory of the Albanian people.

The Vlora battle supported by the Italian proletariat too, was a successful crowning of the efforts of the Albanian people against the plans of the imperialist powers to wipe Albania out of the map of Europe, and of the efforts of the people to see their fatherland free and independent.

The war against the Italian occupiers bears witness to the fact, that when a nation is fights for a just cause, like that of defending its freedom and independence, it becomes an invincible force; it can’t be defeated by the imperialists with their great armies and their modern technique of arms.


  1. This article was published originally by New Albania magazine, 1970 July-August edition, and re-published AS IS in the blog section by Albanian Gallery of Arts for historical purposes ONLY. None of the views expressed in this article are from Albanian Gallery of Arts.