In 1915 a Geographical Section was formed in the Naval Intelligence Division of he Admiralty to write Geographical Handbooks on various parts of the world. The purpose of these Handbooks was to supply, by scientific research and skilled arrangement, material for the discussion of naval, military, and political problems, as distinct from the examination of the problems themselves. Many distinguished collaborators assisted in their production, and by the end of 1918 upwards of fifty volumes had been produced in Handbook and Manual form, as well as numerous short-term geographical reports. The books follow, in general, a uniform scheme, though minor modifications will be found in particular cases; and they are illustrated by numerous maps and photographs.

The purpose of these books is primarily naval. They are designed first to provide, for the use of the Commanding Officers, information in a comprehensive and convenient form about countries which they may be called upon to visit, not only in war but in peace-time; secondly, to maintain the high standard of education in the Navy and, by supplying officers with material for lectures to naval personnel ashore and afloat, to ensure for all ranks that visits to a new country shall be both interesting and profitable.

Their contents are, however, by no means confined to matters of purely naval interest. For many purposes (e.g. history, administration, resources, communications, etc.) countries must necessarily be treated as a whole, and no attempt is made to limit their treatment exclusively to coastal zones. It is hoped therefore that the Army, the Royal Air Force, and other Government Departments (many of who have given great assistance in the production of the series) will find these Handbooks even more valuable than their predecessors proved to be both during and after the last war. (J.H. Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence 1942)

Preface excerpt from Geographical Handbook Series, Albania, August 1945, Naval Intelligence Division

Mirdita: the name of the district south of Puke occupied by the old bajraks of Kushneni (36), Oroshi (50), and Spaci (65) and the new ones of Dibri (11) and Fandi (15). Population 17,000-20,000: 5,000 in the kapidan’s own clan: 7,000 armed men. All are Catholics and of distinct physical type.

On the ridge between the two Fan rivers near the road from Scutari to Orosh is the church of St. Paul (Kisha e Palit) where all Mirdita clans hold their spring council.

Meeting in Shpal c.1908

Mirdite tribes never accepted Ottoman rule, remained Catholic, and paid only nominal tribute. The present line of Mirdita chiefs descends from Marka Gjoni, kapidan in 1700. In the nineteenth century, though Kol Preng had served the Sultan against the Russians (1829), Bib Doda planned a revolt and was assassinated (1868). His son Preng was neutral in the Montenegrin war (1876), but was suspected and attacked by the Turks. He took a leading part in the Albanian League (1875), but was interned from 1881 to 1908, when his restoration was the Mirdite condition for accepting the Sultan’s ‘constitution’. Nevertheless, there were risings in 1911 and 1912. Preng planned a Mirdite republic, with Serbian help, repulsed Essad Pasha in 1914, and became vice-premier in the provisional government of 1918. He was killed in 1919. His successor Marka Gjoni refused office and revived the project of a Mirdite state; but most of the tribes remained loyal to the Government of Tirana (1921). As long as Ahmed Zogu was supported by Yugoslavia, Marka Gjoni joined him, but without adequate reward, and thereafter revived the ancient claims of Mirdita. His son Gjon was recognized as kapidan, supported the Government on national issues and sent Mirdite recruits to the army. But all government action in Mirdite has to be sanctioned by the kapidan, and the “Canon of Lek” is strictly observed by these tribes, which are the only group strong enough to challenge the Matje administration.

OROSH – (Orosh: 120 families): a bajrak of Mirdita, all Catholics, on the left bank of the Fan i Vogel, below the Fandi clan, and on the slopes of Mt. i Shenjt where the clan uses the Fushe e Nenshjetit summer pastures: bounded north and west by Kushneni; east by Fandi; south by Lura and Kthella. VILLAGES – OROSH, chief place, with kapidan of all Mirdita, and monastery with mitred abbot; Zajs, Mashtrokore, Lgjin.

excerpts pages 167-169

Bianca Gjomarkaj

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