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Robert Elsie

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Baron Franz Nopcsa, ca. 1928.



Baron Franz Nopcsa, ca. 1928.

Webdesign J. Groß

Baron Franz Nopcsa, ca. 1928.

1907
Baron Franz Nopcsa:
Murder Statistics in Northern Albania

Hungarian scholar Baron Nopcsa [see Document 1913 Nopcsa] travelled extensively in the northern Albanian mountains in the first decade of the twentieth century. Together with Edith Durham and Karl Steinmetz, he is considered to have been one of the most knowledgeable foreign scholars of northern Albanian culture in this period. What fascinated many foreign observers – then and now – was the seemingly senseless blood feuding among the northern tribes. A good portion of the male population in the mountains was decimated over the years in the vendettas. In this work, Nopcsa offers precise statistics on the numbers and percentages of deaths due to feuding. Now, a century since Nopcsa’s time, blood feuding once again plagues the northern Albanian mountains and it is quite possible that the murder statistics would be similar today. Among the victims are many male children, who for fear of falling victim to feuds, spend their childhood at home in the dark, and can never go outdoors or attend school. The insanity continues.

Since various views exist as to the percentage of murders among deaths occurring in northern Albania and even reputed scholars such as Dr Hassert give 25-75% for the male population, which would be a serious stain on the country’s reputation, I believe that the following information will be of general interest.

“Albanian Sketches: Retribution, the End of a Blood Feud,” lithograph by Caton Woodville, in The Illustrated London News, June 19, 1880.


“Albanian Sketches: Retribution, the End of a Blood Feud,” lithograph by Caton Woodville, in The Illustrated London News, June 19, 1880.



“Albanian Sketches: Retribution,
the End of a Blood Feud,”
lithograph by Caton Woodville,
in The Illustrated London News,
June 19, 1880


The figures given in the following tables derive from over half a year of travel in Catholic northern Albania in the company solely of natives. They are taken from the registries of deaths kept regularly in the various parishes that I consulted. I had originally intended to consult the death registries of all the Catholic parishes, but unforeseen circumstances forced me to abandon this endeavour. I was, however, able to gather data from 30 parishes, some of which were incomplete. The blanks in the following tables mean that there was no registry of deaths in the year and parish in question. The main reasons for this were vacancies or the advanced age of the priests concerned. In some parishes, for example in Orosh, the church registries have disappeared. Nonetheless, given that there are data for over a fifteen year period and for several dioceses, though fragmentary in some cases, I believe that general conclusions may be reached.

The rate of murder is much lower than generally thought. On average at the moment, not 25% or indeed 75%, but only 19% of the male population is murdered.

To appreciate this figure, one must take some factors into consideration. In Albania, one must differentiate between common or primary murders (robberies, hatred, disputes) and revenge or secondary murders (blood feuding).

It was impossible to ascertain from the registries how many of the murders given in the following tables belonged to the second category. However, since blood feuding is obligatory in northern Albania and is often the only legal means one can resort to, I would venture to say that almost half of the murders that take place in the country are acts of revenge. This is of great significance for an understanding of the Albanian character. An Albanian who kills his foe out of vengeance, who, as they say “ka mar gjak (has taken blood),” is guilty of far less a crime than his central European counterpart who has legal – albeit perhaps inadequate - means at his disposal to deal with defamation, but who prefers to challenge his opponent to a duel. In actual fact, blood feuding, duelling and hara-kiri are three equal means of dealing with the same problem.

Shkodra mountain funeral (Photo: Shan Pici, ca. 1930).


Shkodra mountain funeral (Photo: Shan Pici, ca. 1930).



Shkodra mountain funeral
(Photo: Shan Pici, ca. 1930).

In defence of the Albanians it must be noted that, as opposed to the situation in central Europe, killing women is virtually unknown. The only exception is when the wife is caught in flagranti in an act of adultery, in which case the avenger endeavours to shoot both the lovers with one bullet.

One explanation for the very high level of murders is that all the Albanians, who are very touchy and proud by nature, are armed. Murders committed during armed robbery are rare. Many murders are committed out of pure ignorance. A case in point is the statement of a friend of mine from Bugjon who said that he would much rather be murdered that grow ill and die a ‘straw death,’ i.e. of old age.

Further psychological aspects of murder and homicide are given in my sketch of Catholic northern Albania, published in Hungarian and in German, in the periodical of the Hungarian Geographical Society in Budapest.

About 24% of murders took place in the Diocese of Pulat, about 20% in the Abbacy of Mirdita, about 15% in the Diocese of Sappa, and about 13% in the Diocese of Lezha (Alessio). The highest percentage is 42.3 in the parish of Toplana of the Diocese of Pult, and the lowest percentage is 5.5% in the parish of Qafmal in the Abbacy of Mirdita.

Diocese of Pulat, Parish of Toplana* ca. 420 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of murders
Deaths
1
2
2
0
1
2
0
0
1
4
2
15
Murders
1
0
1
0
2
2
1
1
1
1
1
11
Total
2
2
3
0
3
4
1
1
2
5
3
26
42.3
* “They are killing one another like in Toplana” is a common saying.

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Spaç, ca. 470 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
1
4
1
3
8
17
Murders
3
0
1
3
1
8
Total
4
4
2
6
9
25
32.0

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Ndërfana (Nerfandina), ca. 450 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
6
13
3
4
0
1
5
7
2
3
1
7
51
Murders
2
1
0
5
0
1
3
2
1
3
1
1
20
Total
8
14
3
9
0
2
8
9
3
6
1
8
71
28.1

Diocese of Pulat, Parish of Shala* ca. 2,800 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
12
19
26
24
20
23
26
24
12
16
10
16
9
8
24
269
Murders
12
8
1
1
8
6
13
12
4
7
3
12
5
4
2
98
Total
24
27
27
25
28
29
39
36
16
23
13
28
14
12
26
367
26.7
* Up to 1899 including Shosh.

Diocese of Pulat, Parish of Nikaj, ca. 2,400 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
28
48
29
6
12
10
11
10
10
11
7
9
10
9
46
263
Murders
7
13
4
7
8
2
5
5
9
4
5
6
4
4
9
92
Total
35
61
33
13
20
12
16
15
19
15
12
15
14
13
55
355
25.9

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Kaçinar, ca. 1,470 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
25
40
4
1
6
7
5
2
5
12
8
7
9
27
157
Murders
6
4
3
3
5
7
4
7
1
5
1
3
3
2
54
Total
31
44
7
4
11
14
9
9
6
17
9
10
12
29
211
25.5

Diocese of Pulat, Parish of Shosh

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
9
11
11
5
5
11
7
8
4
4
9
3
4
8
7
106
Murders
2
2
0
2
3
1
5
3
0
3
0
5
2
2
6
36
Total
11
13
11
7
8
12
12
11
4
7
9
8
6
10
13
142
25.1

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Kashnjet, ca. 1,200 inhabitants

Year
I only have the total figures for 1881-1891
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
 
81
                       
12
14
107
Murders
 
32
                       
1
2
35
Total
 
113
                       
13
16
142
24.5

Diocese of Pulat, Parish of Dushman

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
7
16
20
12
10
8
8
7
5
4
5
3
6
4
9
121
Murders
2
1
0
0
1
3
4
8
3
0
4
3
0
6
3
38
Total
9
17
20
12
11
11
12
15
8
4
9
6
6
10
12
159
23.8

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Shëngjergj (Shënjerç), ca. 1,135 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
3
6
6
6
3
2
1
6
2
4
2
3
6
3
54
Murders
2
3
0
2
1
1
1
1
1
0
3
0
1
0
16
Total
5
9
6
8
4
3
2
7
3
4
5
3
7
3
70
22.8

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Orosh

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
                   
10
8
4
3
8
33
Murders
                   
2
3
0
3
1
9
Total
                   
12
11
4
6
9
42
21.4

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Vig, ca. 480 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
                         
7
8
15
Murders
                         
0
4
4
Total
                         
7
12
19
21.0

Diocese of Lezha (Alessio), Parish of Bërzana (Pedhana), ca. 288 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
4
2
7
4
7
8
11
4
2
6
6
1
3
65
Murders
2
1
2
1
4
2
2
1
1
0
0
1
0
17
Total
6
3
9
5
11
10
13
5
3
6
6
2
3
82
20.7

Diocese of Sappa, Parish of Mazrek

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
2
4
4
2
5
0
2
1
2
4
5
31
Murders
0
1
0
0
2
1
0
1
1
1
1
8
Total
2
5
4
2
7
1
2
2
3
5
6
39
20.5

Diocese of Shkodra, Parish of Shkrel

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
10
10
17
6
16
16
10
22
16
8
10
7
3
6
6
164
Murders
3
4
1
0
4
1
3
2
0
1
4
2
5
6
1
37
Total
13
14
18
6
20
17
13
24
16
9
14
9
8
12
7
201
18.4

Diocese of Sappa, Parish of Qelëza (Çelza), ca. 1,200-1,300 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
           
6
6
9
5
8
5
10
15
11
75
Murders
           
1
4
0
3
0
1
3
0
4
17
Total
           
7
10
9
8
8
6
13
15
14
92
18.5

Diocese of Sappa, Parish of Koman

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
       
9
4
1
2
1
2
10
29
Murders
       
1
0
0
0
3
0
2
6
Total
       
10
4
1
2
4
2
12
35
17.1

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Korthpula, ca. 700 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
8
11
3
4
3
2
4
1
5
1
5
7
54
Murders
0
2
1
0
0
2
0
2
0
2
0
2
11
Total
8
13
4
4
3
4
4
3
5
3
5
9
65
16.9

Diocese of Pulat, Parish of Shllak

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
11
17
16
5
8
2
3
9  
5
3
11
1
5
2
102
Murders
3
0
1
0
0
0
0
12*
0
0
1
0
2
0
20
Total
14
17
17
5
8
2
3
21  
5
3
12
1
7
2
122
16.4
* As a result of an exchange of words on Easter Sunday right at the church door.

Diocese of Lezha (Alessio), Parish of Bulgër, ca. 700 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
13
12
12
4
7
12
14
3
7
7
8
5
5
12
1
122
Murders
0
2
6
4
0
1
0
1
1
0
1
2
2
0
1
21
Total
13
14
18
8
7
13
14
4
8
7
9
7
7
12
2
143
14.6

Diocese of Lezha (Alessio), Parish of Manatia, ca. 450 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
 
8
3
5
3
7
9
4
3
3
3
5
53
Murders
 
0
0
2
0
1
0
1
0
3
0
1
8
Total
 
8
3
7
3
8
9
5
3
6
3
6
61
13.1

Diocese of Lezha (Alessio), Parish of Rrëshen, ca. 1,000 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
                     
9
15
4
21
37
86
Murders
                     
3
1
4
7
2
17
Total
                     
12
16
8
28
39
103
13.0

Diocese of Lezha (Alessio), Parish of Kallmet

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
6
6
8
3
7
8
5
3
2
4
2
1
3
7
8
73
Murders
0
4
0
1
1
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
2
11
Total
6
10
8
4
8
9
5
3
2
4
2
1
3
9
10
84
13.0

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Blinisht, ca. 1,000 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
4  
17  
13
4
4
1
6
22
61
Murders
1  
4*
1
1
0
1
0
2
9
Total
5  
21  
14
5
4
2
6
24
70
12.8
* One man in the village was sentenced to death and shot by all the villagers together.

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Munella, ca. 600 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
                         
3
6
7
16
Murders
                         
1
1
0
2
Total
                         
4
7
7
18
11.1

Diocese of Lezha (Alessio), Parish of Vela (Velia)

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
10
11
14
4
2
5
10
9
7
6
7
10
10
6
9
4
124
Murders
1
3
0
1
0
3
0
1
0
1
0
1
0
0
0
1
12
Total
11
14
14
5
2
8
10
10
7
7
7
11
10
6
9
5
136
8.8

Diocese of Lezha (Alessio), Parish of Kryezez, ca. 700 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
2
5
5
7
5
6
5
5
3
2
45
Murders
1
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
1
1
4
Total
3
5
5
8
5
6
5
5
4
3
49
8.1

Diocese of Pulat, Parish of Kir

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
8
8
7
4
3
3
5
3
5
1
2
4
1
2
2
57
Murders
1
2
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
5
Total
9
10
7
4
3
3
6
3
5
1
3
4
1
2
2
62
8.0

Diocese of Sappa, Parish of Nënshat, ca. 700 inhabitants

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
10
11
7
10
9
2
6
7
6
8
7
7
9
18
118
Murders
1
0
0
0
1
2
3
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
8
Total
11
11
7
10
10
4
9
7
6
8
7
7
9
19
126
6.3

Abbey of Mirdita, Parish of Qafmal

Year
1890
1891
1892
1893
1894
1895
1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
Total
% of
murders
Deaths
                   
6
3
2
1
5
17
Murders
                   
0
0
0
0
1
1
Total
                   
6
3
2
1
6
18
5.5

 

[Franz Baron Nopcsa: Beitrag zur Statistik der Morde in Nordalbanien. in: Mitteilungen der kais. königl. Geographischen Gesellschaft in Wien, Vienna, 50, 8 (1907), p. 429-437. Translated from the German by Robert Elsie.]

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