The “Illyrian” theory of Albanian ethnic origin as the foundation of the ideology of the Albanian ethnic racism at the Balkans


The topic to be addressed in this article is Albanian ethnogenesis and national identity framed by the “Illyrian” theory of Albanian ethnic and cultural origin and the regional political-security consequences of the implementation of the “Illyrian” theory of Albanian ethnogenesis, which was accepted by the Rilindja, (the renaissance) – the Albanian national awakening movement in 1878–1913.

The so-called “Illyrian” theory of the ethnic origin of the Albanians (created by German and Austrian scholars) is the most popular theory of  the Albanian nation’s derivation among the majority of 19th and 20th century Albanian scholars, politicians and intellectuals.[1] The crucial and concluding point of this theory (in fact, it is actually a non-provable hypothesis) is that the Albanians are an authentic nation (ethnolinguistic group) of the Balkans, the oldest, aboriginal and autochthonous one in this part of Europe. As a result, the Albanians’ South Slavic neighbours  (the Serbs, Montenegrins,[2] and Macedonian Slavs) in contrast to the “indigenous” Albanians are just “newcomers” to the Balkans. Their ethnicity and nationality are much more recent than that of the Albanians.[3] Subsequently, “historical rights” of the Balkan autochthonous Albanian population on certain disputed Balkan territories (between the Albanians and the South Slavs) are stronger, more justifiable and historically more deeply rooted than the “historical rights” of the Serbs, Montenegrins or Macedonian Slavs.[4]

According to the theory of Illyrian-Albanian ethnolinguistic continuity, the Albanians are descendants of the ancient Balkan population – the Illyrians. The national name of the Albanians comes from the name of one Illyrian tribe – the Albanoi. Furthermore, the tribal name, Albanoi, was the designation applied to the entire number of Illyrian tribes around the Ionian Sea.[5] The proponents of the Illyrian theory of Albanian origin build their hypothesis mostly on the speculation that the modern Albanian language is directly descended from the ancient Illyrian one. Both of them belong to the same Indo-European language-group.[6] Nevertheless, this claim is disputed by contemporary linguistic science. The fact is that Albanian language as a spoken language of the inhabitants of present-day Albania was not mentioned in historical sources until 1285 in the manuscripts from Dubrovnik in which the language was referred to as lingua albanesesca. The name for the land – Albanon (the territory in which Albanian language speakers live) is derived from the name of the language. This term for Albania, according to the supporters of this theory, appears in several 13th century Latin dictionaries, as well in some of the Byzantine historical sources. The same Byzantine sources referred to the region between the Lake of Scodra and the Drim river as Arbanon (or Arber). According to the 2nd century Greek geographer Ptolemy, this territory was settled by the Albanoi tribe which was Illyrian in origin.[7]

The partisans of the Illyrian theory of the Albanian origin speak in support of the school of thought on the origin and evolution of the Illyrians, which claims that the ancient Illyrians did not migrate to the Balkans. Instead, they were an autochthonous people in this part of Europe and even one of the oldest settlers in Europe. It has been suggested that the Albanians, as the direct ethnic, political and cultural offsprings of the ancient Illyrians, are the original and indigenous inhabitants of the Balkans, even more aboriginal than the ancient Greeks since the ancient Greeks migrated to the Balkans in two great migration waves: first, around 2000 B.C., and secondly (Dorians), around 1200 B.C.[8] Clearly, Albanian “historical” rights are much stronger, justifiable and historically deeper based in comparison to Serbian, Montenegrin, Greek or Macedonian Slavs’ and Bulgarian rights with respect to several Balkan territories of doubtful authenticity. In other words, the Albanians are the “hosts” while their all neighbors are the “guests” in the Balkan Peninsula.[9] American medievalist John V. A. Fine simplified the crucial point of the theory of the Illyrian-Albanian ethnical-cultural-political continuity, nothing that: “…if the Illyrians were the ancestors of the Albanians, then the Albanians, as original inhabitants, have some historic right to that region and possibly rights to other regions which had been settled by Illyrians. And their Illyrian ancestry has been very important in Albanian nation-building myths”.[10]

The pivotal aspect (from a historical-political point of view) of the Illyrian theory is the claim that the Illyrian-Albanian tribes withdrew from the vast areas of the Balkans settling  in Balkan coastal towns and in the mountains of present-day Albania, Epirus, Macedonia and Montenegro during the Slavic invasion and occupation of the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries. However, according to this theory, Kosovo and Metohija were the only fertile lowlands in the entire Balkan Peninsula, which were somehow not abandoned by Romanized Illyrians-Albanians. As a result, the Albanians of the Illyrian ethnic origin were considered as an autochthonous population of Kosovo and Metohija while the Slavonic Serbs and Montenegrins were looked upon as newcomers and occupiers in the region of Kosovo and Metohija. Shortly, the Illyrian-Albanian historical and ethnic rights to Kosovo and Metohija – the land claimed by both the Albanians and their neighbors – are 15 centuries older than the Slavonic Serbian-Montenegrin historical and ethnic claims to the same territories, according to the theory of Illyrian-Albanian ethnogenesis.[11]

This theory emphasizes that in present-day Northern Albania an extensive settlement of old inhabitants emerged after the occupation of the Balkans by the more powerful South Slavonic tribes.[12] There was particular emphasis on this part of the Illyrian theory during the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 as a way of refuting Serbia’s claims on the territory of North Albania. Furthermore, the Illyrian-Albanian population from the lowlands of Kosovo and Metohija began to come under Slavonic political-cultural influence, while the Illyrian-Albanian mountainous tribes from the Albanian highlands, who had less contacts with the Slavs, succeeded in maintaining their social system and cultural inheritance without alteration. The defenders of this theory claim that the Byzantine province of Theme Dyrrhachium (which was established around 809 and covered the entire Albania’s territory, part of Northern Epirus, Western Macedonia and the main part of the Montenegrin littoral with the area of the Lake of Scutari) was inhabited by Albanians who “caused the region to develop a special (Albanian) character”.[13] Charles I of Naples  (1227–1285) established his own feudal domain under the name of the Regnum Albanai, which is considered in Albanian historiography as the first Albanian national state, located on the territory of the Byzantine Theme Dyrrhachium. Its capital became the city of Dyrrhachium (Durazo/Durës/Drač).

According to the Illyrian theory, the Albanians as one of the oldest European peoples, who had lived on the same territory since the early period of Antiquity, deserved to be taken into account as one of the original inhabitants of Europe. They were descended from the Illyrians, i.e. from a special branch of Indo-European peoples, just like the Greeks or Armenians. Moreover, the Albanians have a language which reflects the quality, intensity and period of important pre-Indo-European and Mediterranean (i.e., Pelasgian) influences. Their culture is different from neighboring ones in terms of religious tolerance, a common history of permanent resistance against any foreign power and subjugation, a partial (medieval) experience in independent statehood, a culture which is an amalgamation of Illyrian-Balkan origins and East-West European elements, a very old and distinctive folk culture, and ultimately  a certain kind of “individualist toughness which, all together, singles the Albanians out of their immediate surroundings…”[14]

In accordance with this theory, since in historical and ethnic terms, the following territories in South-Eastern Europe were inhabited by the Balkan Illyro-Albanians they should be defined as the territory of a united (Greater) Albania, as the national state of all Albanians, in the future: it would extend from the area of the Lake of Scodra in Montenegro on the north, to the Bay of Ambrazio in Greece on the south, and from the Adriatic Sea on the west, to the Treska river in Macedonia and Preševo, Medveđa, Bujanovac and Lebane districts in Serbia on the east.[15] That was and is, in the eyes of supporters of the Illyrian theory of Albaian ethnogenesis, the exact territory of the Illyro-Albanians who have a 2.000 year-old history and culture.[16] The aim of the Albanian national movement Rilindja (1878–1913) was Albanian liberation from Ottoman rule and the creation of a national Albanian state whose borders would encompass all of the territories cited above. The political arm of the movement, the First League of Prizren (1878−1881),[17] established its own organizational structure in all of the territories considered to be parts of a united ethnic state of all Albanians.[18] The League launched the motto: “feja e shqyptarit asht shqyptaria” (“The Religion of the Albanians is Albanianism”) for the sake of ovecoming Albanian religious diversity and separation. This movement has been the crucial united force of the Albanians and the pivotal point for defining the national identity and development of the Albanians.

The Illyrians – autochthonous Balkan people and nothing to do with the Albanians who are originally the people from the Caucasus

It is true that every story about the Balkan Peninsula begins with the ancient Illyrians.[19] Historians believe that this Indo-European people were one of the largest European populations to inhabit the western portion of the Balkans from the coasts of the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea to the Alps about 1000 B.C. Their eastern neighbors were also Indo-European peoples – the Thracians. The demarcation line between their settlements and their cultural and political influence was the Morava river in present-day Serbia (in Latin, the Margus located in the Roman province of Moesia Superior) and the Vardar river in present-day Macedonia. On the north, on the shores of the Sava and the Danube rivers, their neighbors were the Celts, while on the south the Pindus Mountains separated the Illyrians from the ancient Macedonians and the Greeks.[20] The Illyrians lived on the eastern littoral of the Adriatic Sea around 500 B.C. according to Greek geographer Hecatei (Hecateus) from the city of Miletus in Asia Minor. According to the early Byzantine historian Pseudo-Scilac, who lived 150 years later, the Illyrian settlements in the Balkans in the south extended to the southern Albanian port of Valona (Vlorë).[21] Among the ancient and early medieval historians and geographers the most reliable information on the geographic dispersion of the Illyrians and  the demography of the Illyrian territory appears in the writings of Herodotus, Livy, Pliny, Ptolemy, Appianus, Strabo, Procopius of Caesarea, Synecdemos of Hierocles, Isidorus Hispaniensis, and Euagrius.

When the Celts came to the Balkans in the 3rd century B.C. some of the Illyrian tribes mixed with them. In the same century, the Illyrian King Agron from the Ardaei tribe organized the first Illyrian state. At the time of greatest expansion its borders extended to the Neretva river in Dalmatia, to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Vjosë river in the Southern Albania and Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. Some of the 20th century Albanian historians and national workers claimed that a proclamation of independent state of Albania on November 28th, 1912 was based on the Albanian political-state inheritance which dated back to King Agron’s Illyrian Kingdom. Nevertheless, the Romans succeeded in defeating the Illyrians and abolishing their state organization during the three Illyrian-Roman Wars between 229 and 168 B.C.

The administratively-political concept of “Illyria”, or “Illyricum”, was used in subsequent centuries by the Romans who after the new conquests in the Balkans established first the Province of Illyricum, and in the 4th century the Praefectura of Illyricum.[22] It stretched from the Istrian Peninsula in the north-west to Northern Albania on the south-east, and from the Adriatic littoral in the south to the Drava river in the north. However, the main portion of present-day Albania was not included in this “Illyrian” province and became part of the Roman Province of Macedonia. This was the result of the Roman conclusion that only the territory of Northern Albania had been settled by the Illyrian tribes, but not the Central and Southern Albania. The proponents of the Illyrian theory of the origins of the Albanians did not provide an answer to the question of why all of Albania was not absorbed into the Roman Province of Illyricum if it was entirely settled by the ancient Illyrians? The Romans finally brought under control all of the Illyrian tribes during a new war of 6−9 A.D.[23]

From that time the overwhelming and very successful process of Romanization of the whole Balkan Peninsula began.[24] Some protagonists of the Illyrian theory of Albanian origin developed the hypothesis that the Roman Emperors Aurelian, Diocletian and Probus, who were from the western part of the Balkans, which was settled by the Illyrian tribes, were the predecessors of the modern Albanian nation.[25] During the reign of Diocletian (284–305), who was of Illyrian origin, the whole Balkan Peninsula, except its eastern part, was administratively organized as the Praefectura Illyricum. Mainly due to such Roman administrative organization of the Balkans the names Illyria and the Illyrians were preserved for a very long period of time as common names for the peoples who lived in the western and central parts of the Balkans, i.e. for the South Slavs[26] and the Albanians.[27] However, according to  19th−21st century official sciences of history, ethnology and philology (but not according to many relevant sources), the Illyrians and Slavs were not synonymous as the later came to the Balkans 1.500 years after the Illyrians.[28]

Clearly, the name Illyrians disappeared in the 7th century at the time of the Slavic migrations to the Balkans. After the 6th century, however, Byzantine texts do not record any accounts of Illyrians abandoning Balkan territories from the Dalmatian Alps to the Danube. The new Illyrian political and cultural center became the region of Arbanum (in Greek, Αρβανον or Αλβανον, in Serbian, Рабан) in the Southern Albania. The name “Albani” appeared in historical sources no earlier than the 9th century. Byzantine historians employed the name “Albani” for the Slavic inhabitants living around the sea-port of Durazzo (ancient Dyrrhachium) in Northern Albania. From the 11th century the name “Albani” (in Latin, Arbanensis, or Albanenses, in Greek, Αλβανοι or Αρβανιται) was associated with all Albanian tribes.[29]

In the Middle Ages the “Albanoi” lived in the area between the cities of Skadar (Scodra), Prizren, Ohrid and Valona. According to the champions of the Illyrian theory of Albanian ethnogenesis, the Slavic raids and migrations to the Balkans in the early Middle Ages did not affect the native inhabitants of the territory of present-day Albania. They continued to live there, preserving their own culture, habits and social organization. The southern Illyrian provinces retained their earlier ethnic composition. And of course, this ethnic composition was identified, although without supporting evidence in the sources, as the Albanian regardless on historical evidences and facts that the original homeland of the present-day Balkan Albanians is the ancient Caucasian Albania.



[1] See, for example [Marmullaku R., Albania and Albanians, London, 1975, pp. 5–9; Miridita Z., Istorija Albanaca (“Iliri i etnogeneza Albanaca”), Beograd, 1969, pp. 6–13; Historia e popullit Shqiptar, I, Prishtinë, 1969, pp. 155–161].

[2] The “Montenegrins” should be considered from a cultural, religious and ethnolinguistic point of view as the Serbs from Montenegro [Glomazić M., Etničko i nacionalno biće Crnogoraca, Beograd: TRZ „PANPUBLIK“, 1988]. Historical, political, religious, economic and cultural relations between the Serbs from Montenegro (the Montenegrins) and the Serbs from Serbia are similar to those of the Germans from Austria (the Austrians) and the Germans from Germany. However, today 60% of the citizens of Montenegro claim that they are ethnolinguistic “Montenegrins” different from the Serbs. On this problem see more in [Lazarević D., “Inventing Balkan Identities: Finding the Founding Fathers and Myths of Origin – The Montenegrin Case”, Serbian Studies: Journal of the North American Society for Serbian Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2, 2011 (2014), pp. 171−197].

[3] However, the Albanian national identity was created by Austro-Hungarian authorities at the late 19th century and the very beginning of the 20th century. Bulgarian scholar Teodora Todorova Toleva in her book on the creation of Albanian national identity published in 2012, cites unpublished documents from the Austrian State Archives (Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv) in Vienna that demonstrate that the Austro-Hungarian authorities had a crucial influence on the creation of Albanian nationality in the years of 1896−1908 [Тодорова Толева Т., Влиянието на АвстроУнгария за създаването на албанската нация, 1896−1908, София: CIELA, 2012]. This book is based on her Ph.D. dissertation defended at Barcelona University on September 16th, 2008. See also: Schanderl D. H., Die Albanienpolitik Österreich-Ungarns und Italiens 1877−1908, Albanische Forschungen № 9, Wiesbaden: Otto Harassovitz, 1971.

[4] About the problem of relations between national identification and border identities, see [Wilson Th., Donnan H. (eds.), Border Identities. Nation and state at international frontiers, Cambridge, 1998].

[5] However, contemporary German historiography does not mention the Illyrian tribal name Albanoi. The territory of Albania in Greco-Roman times was populated only by one Illyrian tribe, the Taulantii. In addition, neighboring present-day Greek territories were settled by the Illyrian tribe Dassaretii, while in ancient Macedonia by the Paeones and Dardanes, and in Kosovo and Metohija by the Scirtones (Westermann Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte, Braunschweig, 1985, pp. 38–39).

[6] The “Illyrian” linguistic theories of Albanian and South Slavic ethnogenesis have certain similarities with the “Thracian” linguistic theory of the ethnic origin of the Lithuanian nation that was championed by the 19th century Lithuanian linguist and national worker Jonas Basanavičius. The theory was the result of Basanavičius’ linguistic research of ethnogenesis of the 19th century Lithuanian nation. In his book Lietuviškai trakiškos studijos he developed the theory that part of the ancient Tracians emigrated from their Balkan homeland and ultimately settled in the eastern littoral of the Baltic Sea. Basanavičius claimed that these Thracian migrants from the Balkans were the predecessors of the modern Litvanian nation. This theory was based on the fact that the ancient Thracian language was similar to the 19th century Lithuanian language. Both of these languages belong to the family of Indo-European languages. Basanavičius was working for years in Bulgaria and in order to prove his theory collected documents with the Thracian personal names, toponyms and names for different kinds of drinks and then compared them to those of the Lithuanians. He claimed, for example, that Lithuanian name Getas comes from the Thracian tribal name Getai [Basanavičius J., Lietuviškai trakiškos studijos, Shenandoah, PA, 1898, pp. 8–15; Seen A. E., Jonas Basanavičius: The patriarch of the Lithuanian national renaissance, Newtonville, MA, 1980]. According to Basanavičius, the name for the mediaeval Lithuanian capital Trakai was derived from the Greek name for the ancient Thracians, while some of the “Polish” names for the settlements (for instance, Kalisz in the region of Poznan) were not originally Polish: they were of Lithuanian-Thracian origin. Basanavičius concluded that the ancient Thracians were of the same ethnicity as the Lithuanians [Basanavičius J., Lietuviškai trakiškos studijos, Shenandoah, PA, 1898, pp. 21−74].

[7] Before the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, the  population of Albania called themselves Arbërësh/Arbënesh and their country Arbën/Arbër. The South Slavonic name for the people from Albania was Arbanas. The Arnauts (Арнауташи) were Islamized and later Albanized Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija who still did not forget their original ethnicity [Цвијић Ј., Основе за географију и геологију Македоније и Старе Србије, III, Београд, 1911, pp. 1162−1166]. However, during the period of the Albanian national revival movement in the late 19th century the Albanians called themselves Shqipëtarë and the country Shqipëtaria. The name is most probably derived from the word shqipe what means “eagle” referring to the mountainous settlers of the highlands of Albania. However, this word probably comes from the ancient Dacian-Moesian language adopted by the Bulgarians who settled the Roman province of Moesia Inferior in 680/681. In the Bulgarian language “Shqiptars” means the “highlanders”. The popular nickname for the Albanians is the “Sons of the Eagle” and for Albania the “Land of the Eagle”. Two of the most important and powerful Albanian tribal units around 1900 were the Ghegs (the Roman Catholics) in Northern Albania and the Tosks in Southern Albania. The Albanian population was (and is) divided with respect to religion. They are Muslims (the majority of the Albanians), Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox (the minority of the Albanians). The last group occupies South-Eastern Albania around the cities of Korçë and Gjirokastër (Argyrus). For more details see [Hobhouse J. C. (Lord Broughton), Travels in Albania and other provinces of Turkey in 1808 and 1810, I, II, London, 1858; Skendi S., “Religion in Albania during the Ottoman rule”, Südost Forscungen, № 15, Münich, 1956; Hobsbawm E. J., Nations and Nationalism since 1789. Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge, 2000, p. 70].

[8] Oxford Dictionary of World History. The world’s most trusted reference books, New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 253.

[9] For instance, see: Marmullaku R., Albania and Albanians, London, 1975, p. 6; Miridita Z., Istorija Albanaca (“Iliri i etnogneza Albanaca”), Beograd, 1969, p. 9.

[10] Fine J., The Early Medieval Balkans, Ann Arbor, 1994, p. 10.

[11] See, for instance [Noel M., Kosovo: A Short History, New York: New York University Press, 1999, pp. 22−40].

[12] This opinion is also shared by some Serbian scholars. For instance, Ferjančić B., Istorija Albanaca (“Albanija do XII veka”), Beograd, 1969, p. 29. The champions of the Illyrian theory frequently cited the words of Milovan Đilas, one of the leading Yugoslav communists after the Second World War (and a war criminal) from Montenegro who wrote: “The Albanians are the most ancient Balkan people – older than the Slavs, and even the ancient Greeks” (cited from: [Costa N., Albania: A European Enigma, New York, 1995, p. 1]), or French scholar Andre Malraux who wrote that “Athens was, alas no more than an Albanian village” [Malraux A., Anti-Memoirs, New York, 1968, p. 33].

[13] Marmullaku R., Albania and Albanians, London, 1975, p. 8; Ferluga J, “Sur la date de la création du thème de Dyrrhachium”, Extrait des Actes du XII Congrès International des Etudes Byzantines, vol. 2, Beograd, 1964, pp. 83−92. Regarding the borders of the Byzantine Theme Dyrrhachium see: Engel J. (ed.), Groβer Historischer Weltatlas. Mittelalter, München, 1979, p. 14.

[14] Ismajly R., “Albanians and South-Eastern Europe (Aspects of Identity)”, Conflict or Dialogue. Serbian-Albanian relations and integration of the Balkans. Studies and Essays, Subotica, 1994, p. 269.

[15] For example, Protest of the Population of Shkodra, Podgorica, Shpuza, Zhabjak, Tivar, Ulqin, Gruda, Kelmend, Hot and Kastrat addressed to the Ambassador of France in Istanbul against the annexation of Albanian lands by Montenegro (Shkodra, May 8th, 1878), Archives du Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Paris, Fund of the French Embassy at the Sublime Porte, Turkey, vol. 417, pp. 51–54, supplement to the report № 96. Original in French. English translation in Pollo S., Pulaha S. (eds.), Pages of the Albanian National Renaissance, 1878–1912, Tirana, 1978, pp. 12–13; Contents of the coded telegram sent by Dervish Pasha from Shkodra (December 27th, 1880), Basbakanllik Arsive, Istanbul, Fund of Jilldiz esas evraki, 14 88/16 88 12. Original in Turkish. See figure 2. For the Albanian scholars, of course, any project of creation of a Greater Albania is only the myth [Kola P., The Myth of Greater Albania, New York: New York University Press, 2003].

[16] However, several written historical sources from different cultural environments (Byzantine, Arab…) clearly say that the Albanians arrived in the Balkans in 1043 from the Eastern Sicily and that their  original home was in Caucasus Albania which is mentioned in several ancient sources as an independent state with its own rulers. The Caucasus Albania was neigboring the Caspian Sea, Media, Iberia, Armenia and Sarmatia Asiatica (see figure 4). The most important source which mentions that the Balkan Albanians came from Eastern Sicily in 1043 is the Byzantine historian Michael Ataliota [Ataliota M., Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantine, Bonn: Weber, 1853, p. 18]. This historical fact is recognized and by some of Albanian historians like Stefang Pollo and Arben Puto [Pollo S., Puto A., The History of Albania, London-Boston-Hebley: Routledge & Kegan, 1981, p. 37].

[17] The League (Lidhja e Prizrenit) was established in the town of Prizren in Metohija for the very political purpose: to claim that this old Serbian town is in fact an Albanian one. However, Prizren was at that time consisted of 70% Serbs and 30% Albanians. The town was a capital of Serbia in the 14th century (called by Serbs as “Imperial City”). It was the location of the royal-imperial court and the Orthodox cathedral (саборна црква) built in 1307. Today, only several Serbian houses remain in the town of Prizren. Metohija is a term of the Greek origin (μετόχι). It refers to the land owned by the Orthodox church. As the Serbian medieval rulers granted huge portions of land between the towns of Peć, Prizren, Mitrovica and Priština to the Serbian Orthodox Church the western part of Kosovo came to be called Metohija [Батаковић Т. Д., Косово и Метохија у српско-арбанашким односима. Друго допуњено издање, Београд, Чигоја штампа, 2006, p. 10]. This province is called by the Serbs, Kosovo and Metohija, while the Albanians purposely refer to it only as Kosova/Kosovë. However, the word Kosovo/Kosova/Kosovë is of Slavic origin (kos = type of eagle), but not of Albanian, what means that Albanians even do not have their own (Albanian) name for Kosovo. The Albanians, of course, do not mention Metohija at all.

[18] For example [The Activity of the Albanian League of Prizren in the vilayet of Kosova (1880), Consul-General Blunt to the Marquis of Salisbury, Public Record Office, Foreign Affairs, London, № 195/1323; The British Museum, London, Fund of Accounts and Papers (43), 1880, LXXXII, 82, 77–78]. The document is published in [Rizaj S., The Albanian League of Prizren in British Documents, 1878–1881, Prishtina, 1978, pp. 279–280].

[19] Stipčević A., Every Story About the Balkans Begins with the Illyrians, Priština, 1985; Buda A., “The Southern Illyrians as a Problem of Historiography”, Historical Writings, vol. 1, pp. 13–15. During the last decades many scholars have claimed that the Balkan Illyrians (and Thracians) were nothing else but ethnolinguistic Serbs [Бајић Ј., Блажени Јероним, Солинска црква и Србо-Далмати, Шабац, 2003; Деретић И. Ј., Антић П. Д., Јарчевић М. С., Измишљено досељавање Срба, Београд: Сардонија, 2009; Милановић М., Историјско порекло Срба, Београд: Admiral Books, 2011; Земљанички Б., Срби староседеоци Балкана и Паноније у војним и цивилним догађајима са Римљанима и Хеленима од I до X века, Београд: Стручна књига, 1999]. In other words, they claim, that the Serbs, but not the Albanians, are the only autochthonous people (nation) on the Balkan Peninsula, according to the historical sources of the time.

[20] Islami S., Anamali S., Korkuti M, Prendi F., Les Illyriens, Tirana, 1985, p. 5; Anamali S., “The Illyrians and the Albanians”, Prifti K., Nasi L., Omari L., Xhufi P., Pulaha S., Pollo S., Shtylla Z. (eds.), The Truth on Kosova, Tirana, 1993, p. 5; Cabanes P., Les Illyriens de Bardylis à Genthios, IV–II siècles avant J.C, Paris, 1988, p. 17. The borders of geographical distribution of the Illyrian population in Antique Balkans are primarily reconstructed according to the writings of the Greek historians Herodotus who lived in the 5th century B.C. and wrote Historiae and Appianus who lived in the 2nd century A.D. and wrote Illyrica.

[21] The most outstanding Illyrian tribes were: Iapudes, Dalmatae, Autariatae, Docletae and Taulantii.

[22] The Praefectura of Illyricum was subdivided into the following Provinces: Dacia Ripensis, Dacia Mediterranea, Moesia Superior Margensis, Dardania, Praevalis, Macedonia Prima, Macedonia Secunda, Epirus Nova, Epirus Vetus, Thessalia, Achaia and Creta.

[23] Ростовцев М., Историја старога света: Грчка и Рим, Нови Сад: Матица српска, 1990, pp. 383−384.

[24] Regardless of the fact that the Latin language did not replace the Illyrian one in the territory of Albania during Roman rule, Latin did not become the language of the common people. The Illyrian language was Romanized to a certain degree and the Latin alphabet was later chosen by the Albanian national leaders as the national script of the Albanians (one of the reasons for such a decision was purely political). For sure, the Roman culture and Latin language participated in the process of the ethnogenesis of the Albanians. However, the proponents of the Illyrian theory of Albanian ethnogenesis refute this opinion emphasizing that the number of Latin inscriptions found in Albania is small when compared with the number found in the other provinces of the Roman Empire. Their total number is 293. Half of these inscriptions are found in and around the Roman colony located in the ancient city of Dyrrhachium. Theodore Mommsen thought that people used exclusively the Illyrian language in the interior of Albania during the Roman occupation [Mommsen T., The Provinces of the Roman Empire, vol. 1, Chicago, MCMLXXIV, pp. 202–203]. Dardania was one of the least Romanized Balkan regions  and its native population preserved its ethnic individuality and consciousness. Subsequently, the Dardanians, who escaped Romanization and survived the South Slavic migrations to the Balkans, emerged in the Middle Ages with the name of the Albanians. Nevertheless, Latin terminology in modern Albanian and the place-names in Albania are evidence of the Illyrian-Albanian Romanization/Latinization.

[25] However, the proponents of the theory of Serbian Balkan origin claim that all Balkan-born Roman emperors (arround 20) were ethnic Serbs. Diocletian and Constantine the Great are the most important among them.

[26] Among the South Slavs, and in part among the Poles and Russians, the Illyrian theory of Slavic origin was widespread from the early 16th century to the early 19th century. According to this theory, the South Slavs were the autochthonous population in the Balkans originating from the ancient Illyrians. Furthermore, all Slavs formerly lived in the Balkans and were known by the ancient authors as the Illyrians. At the beginning of the Middle Ages they split into three groups: one group migrated to Central Europe (the Western Slavs), another group went to Eastern Europe (the Eastern Slavs) while the last group remained in the Balkans (the South Slavs). According to several medieval chronicles, the South Slavic ascendants were the ancient Illyrians, Thracians and Macedonians. Thus, Alexander the Great, Constantine the Great, Diocletian and St. Hieronymus were of South Slavic origin. In the time of Humanism, Renaissance, Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, a number of Dubrovnik (Ragusian) writers became the most prominent champions of this theory. They included Vinko Pribojević (On Origin and History of the Slavs, published in Venice in 1532), Mavro Orbini (De Regno Sclavorum, published in Pesaro in 1601) and Bartol Kašić (Institutiones Linguae Illyricae, published in 1604). Pribojević claimed that all Slavs spoke one common language, which originated in the Balkans. For him, the Russians spoke a Dalmatian dialect of the common Slavic language. This common Slavic language was named by Dubrovnik writers as “Our”, “Illyrian” or “Slavic” one. Subsequently, all Slavs who spoke “Our” language belonged to “Our” people. The influence of the Illyrian theory of (the South) Slavic origin can be seen in: 1) the work of Serbian noblemen from Transylvania, Count Đorđe Branković (1645–1711) who in 1688 wrote the first political program of the South Slavic unification into a free and independent state which he called the “Illyrian Kingdom”; in 2) the fact that Orbini’s De Regno Sclavorum was translated into Russian in 1722; and in 3) that the Croatian movement of national renewal from the time of the first half of the 19th century was officially called as the “Illyrian Movement”.

[27] Miridita Z., Istorija Albanaca (“Iliri i etnogeneza Albanaca”), Beograd, 1969, pp. 9−10; Qabej W., Hyrje në historinë e gjuhës shipe, Prishtinë, 1970, pp. 29–32; Prifti K., Nasi L., Omari L., Xhufi P., Pulaha S., Pollo S., Shtylla Z. (eds.), The Truth on Kosova, Tirana, 1993, pp. 5–73; Dobruna E., “On some ancient toponyms in Kosova”, Onomastika e Kosoves, Prishtina, 1979; Anamali S., “The problem of the formation of the Albanian people in the light of archaeological information”, The National Conference on the formation of the Albanian people, their language and culture, Tirana, 1988; Çabej E., “The problem of the autochthony of Albanians in the light of place-names”, Buletini i Universitetit Shteteror te Tiranes, № 2, 1958, pp. 54–62.  

[28] For instance, see [Ћоровић В., Историја Срба, Београд: БИГЗ, 1993, pp. 3−66; Ферјанчић Б., Византија и Јужни Словени, Београд: Завод за издавање уџбеника Социјалистичке Републике Србије, 1966, pp. 20−26; Kont F., Sloveni. Nastanak i razvoj slovenskih civilizacija u Evropi (VI−XIII vek), Beograd: Zavod za izdavačku delatnost „Filip Višnjić“, 1989, pp. 14−43; Пипер П., Увод у славистику, 1, Београд: Завод за уџбенике и наставна средства Београд, 1998, pp. 81−96].

[29] The name for the Albanians – “Арбанаси” is derived from the Latin name for the Albanians as the “Arbanenses”.

2. Sotirovic 2013

Prof. Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović

© Vladislav B. Sotirović 2017