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Essad Pasha Toptani

Essad Pasha Toptani or Esad Pasha Toptani (Albanian: Esad Pashë Toptani; 1863/4[1] or 1875[2] – 13 June 1920), mainly known as Essad Pasha, was an Ottoman army officer who served as the Albanian deputy in the Ottoman Parliament. He was a prominent politician in early 20th-century Albania. Toptani cooperated with the Balkan League after the Balkan Wars[3] and established a state in central Albania, based in Durrës, called the Republic of Central Albania.[4]

Essad Pasha Toptani
Essad Pasha Toptani.jpg
4th Prime Minister of Albania
In office
5 October 1914 – 24 February 1916
Preceded byTurhan Pashë Përmeti
Succeeded byTurhan Pashë Përmeti
Personal details
Tirana, Ottoman Empire
Died13 June 1920
Paris, France
Military service
Allegiance Ottoman Empire
Branch/service Ottoman Army


Early lifeEdit

Essad Pasha surrendering Shkodra to Montenegrins

Essad Pasha was born in 1863 in Tirana, Ottoman Empire (modern Republic of Albania), the son of Ali Bey Toptani and Vasfije Alizoti.[5] He was a member of the Toptani, a prominent landowning family who founded the current city of Tirana.[6] During Ottoman rule, Toptani served as a kaymakam and had command of the gendarmerie in Tirana.[7] In 1908, having served as gendarmerie commander in Janina, he joined the Young Turks (CUP) and became a member of the Ottoman parliament as the deputy for Durrës.[5][8] In the aftermath of the Ottoman counter-coup of 1909, on 27 April 1909 four CUP members went to inform sultan Abdul Hamid II of his dethronement, with Toptani being the main messenger saying "the nation has deposed you".[7] As a result, the focus of the sultan's rage was toward Toptani whom Abdul Hamid II felt had betrayed him.[7] The sultan referred to him as a "wicked man", given that the extended Toptani family had benefited from royal patronage in gaining privileges and key positions in the Ottoman government.[7]

First Balkan WarEdit

In 1912 during the Albanian revolt and aftermath of the Ottoman parliamentary elections, parliamentarians Toptani and Syrja Vlora represented the Albanian side in a parliamentary discussion with the Young Turks.[9] Both called for the cessation of government force and implementation of good governance to alleviate the situation in Albanian lands.[9] Amidst the Albanian Revolt of 1912 Essad Pasha Toptani obliged himself to organize the uprising in Central Albania and Mirdita.[10] On 30 January 1913, Hasan Riza Pasha, commander of Shkodër, was ambushed and killed by unknown people,[11] thought to be Osman Bali and Mehmet Kavaja,[12] two Albanian officers of Essad Pasha.[11] Riza Pasha wanted to keep up the defense of the besieged city, and after his death Essad Pasha continued his resistance until April 1913. He turned the fortress of Shkodër over to Montenegro, only in April 1913 after a prolonged war and great heroism of Albanian and Turkish soldiers. Essad Pasha was allowed in return to leave the town with his army and all their weaponry to become involved in the struggle over power in central Albania.[3]

In July 1913 he was persuaded by the Vlora family to accept a position of minister of the interior in the provisional government, but on 16 October 1913, to frustrate Ismail Qemali, Toptani who depicted Qemali as a Greek agent, set up a rival government of his own in Durrës, called the Republic of Central Albania. Officially Serbia simultaneously helped a number of other small tribal chiefs who resisted Ismail Qemali's government, directing them towards cooperation with Essad Pasha.[3]

Peasant RevoltEdit

He reluctantly stepped down when forced to do so by the Great Powers on 1 February 1914, being given as a consolation prize the right to lead the Albanian delegation that travelled to Neuwied on the Rhine, in Germany, to offer the Albanian throne to Prince Wilhem zu Wied. Back in Albania, relations between the Prince and the scheming Toptani, now minister of war and minister of the interior soon soured. Essad Pasha led a faction of his own in the Peasant Revolt in Albania against Prince Wilhem. He was the only person in Albania to have a self-contained army of his own, and strove to grab as much of the country as he could. On 9 January, his men tried to take Elbasan, but they were repulsed by the governor of the town, Aqif Pasha Elbasani.[13]

On 19 May 1914, when Toptani refused to lay down his weapons, armed forces under Dutch gendarmerie officer Johan Sluys surrounded and shelled his house in Durrës, forcing him to surrender. He was arrested for conspiracy, though after consultations with Prince zu Wied, he was not court-martialled but sent to Bari in southern Italy and banned from returning to Albania.[14][15]

Exile and the Treaty of NišEdit

Essad Pasha in Salonika

From exile in Rome, he maintained close links with the Serbian and Montenegrin governments. After the outbreak of the First World War, Toptani travelled to Niš, Kingdom of Serbia, where he and Serbian prime minister Nikola Pašić signed the secret Treaty of Serbian-Albanian Alliance on 17 September 1914.[16] With Italian and Serbian financial backing he established armed forces, Toptani invaded Dibër on 20 September, and by 3 October 1914 he had taken Durrës without a fight. Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić ordered that his followers be aided with money and arms.[3]

His power base in central Albania was weakened in November 1914 by an uprising of Muslim rebels who turned against him, but he managed, with Italian support, to hold on to the town of Durrës. When Serbian forces invaded Albania in mid-June 1915, swiftly occupying Pogradec, Elbasan, Tirana and Kavaja, Toptani was put in place as ruler of central Albania from Durrës. Though his rule was not stable because of the First World War. In the end of 1914, Essad secretly agreed with the Greek government to support the annexation of the southern provinces, known to Greeks as Northern Epirus, to the Kingdom of Greece.[17] He soon declared war on Austria-Hungary to show support for the Entente, and profited from the situation enormously by taxing all the Allied supplies sent to the Serbs. When Austro-Hungarian forces swept through much of central and northern Albania in the spring of 1916, Toptani fled to Salonika from there went to France, to represent Albania at the Paris Peace Conference.

For the next two years, Essad Pasha remained in Paris, attempting to organize recognition for Albania from the Great Powers and reject the secret pact of London, which planned the division of Albania. During this time Tirana and much of central Albania was controlled by his Field Commander, Osman Bali and his most trusted adviser Ramazan Biba, member of a prominent Tirana family.[citation needed]


On 13 June 1920, Avni Rustemi assassinated Essad Pasha in Paris when he left the Hotel Continental. Essad Pasha was buried in the Serbian Military Cemetery in Paris,[18][4] after staying for a long time unburied in the mortuary.[19]


Awards in his lifetimeEdit

For his service in the Greco-Turkish War (1897) the High Porte awarded him with the Order of Osmanieh of 2nd Class and afterwards he was ranked Miralay.[20] Furthermore, for his contribution in the Macedonian front as an ally of the Entente, he was awarded with the title Officier of the Legion of Honour and with the Croix de Guerre.[21] He was awarded Order of the White Eagle.[22]


Essad Pasha had a reputation as an unscrupulous opportunist,[5] Edith Durham viewed Essad Pasha as "a strange relic of the middle ages ... one with the handsome swashbucklers who sold themselves and their services to the rival monarchs, princelings and dukes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and cheerfully transferred themselves to the enemy if he offered better pay – men in whom the sense of nationality was not developed at all, and whose sense of honour was, to put it mildly, deficient."[23]


It is remembered among Albanians as one of the most negative historical figures and the symbol of treason.[24][25][26]

In 2014, the Serbian Minister of Labor, Aleksandar Vulin paid homage at his grave, for his contributions to Serbia.[27]


Two shots in Paris (sq:Dy krisma në Paris) is a drama by Sheri Mita, Pëllumb Kulla with the subject of Essad Pasha Toptani murder in Paris and trial of Avni Rustemi [28]


  1. ^ Dervishi, Kastriot (2012). Kryeministrat dhe ministrat e shtetit shqiptar në 100 vjet. Tiranë: 55. pp. 238–239. ISBN 9789994356225.
  2. ^ Vlora, Eqrem bej (2003). Kujtime 1885-1925. Translated by Afrim Koçi. Tiranë: IDK. p. 604. ISBN 99927-780-6-7.
  3. ^ a b c d Serbian government and Essad Pasha Toptani
  4. ^ a b Robert Elsie, Essad Pasha Toptani Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b c Elsie, Robert (2012). A Biographical Dictionary of Albanian History. I.B Tauris. p. 444. ISBN 978 1 78076 431 3.
  6. ^ Pettifer, James (1 June 2001). "Ihsan Bey Toptani". Retrieved 5 December 2014. The Toptani family were in many ways the founders of contemporary Tirana
  7. ^ a b c d Gawrych 2006, p. 167.
  8. ^ Skendi, Stavro (1967). The Albanian National Awakening. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 361. ISBN 978-1-4008-4776-1.
  9. ^ a b Gawrych, George (2006). The Crescent and the Eagle: Ottoman rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874–1913. London: IB Tauris. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-84511-287-5.
  10. ^ Prishtina, Hasan. Nji shkurtim kujtimesh mbi kryengritjen shqiptare të vjetit 1912. Shkrue prej Hassan Prishtinës [Hasan Bey Prishtina: Brief Memoir on the Albanian Uprising of 1912]. Translated by Elsie, Robert. Shkodra: Shtypshkroja Franciskane. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2011. Essad Pasha assured us that he could manage things in Central Albania and Mirdita.
  11. ^ a b Ikonomi, Ilir (2016). Esat pashë Toptani: njeriu, lufta, pushteti. Tiranë: Uet press. ISBN 978-9928-190-91-8.
  12. ^ Vickers, Door Miranda (1999). The Albanians: A Modern History.
  13. ^ Elsie, Robert. "Albania under prince Wied". Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2011. It was obvious to Wied and the Dutch officers that Essad Pasha had his hand in the unrest.
  14. ^ Heaton-Armstrong, Duncan (2005). "An Uprising in the Six-Month Kingdom". Gervase Belfield and Bejtullah Destani (I.B. Tauris, in association with the Centre for Albanian Studies). Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2011. Essad would be sent into exile, without a trial.
  15. ^ Elsie, Robert. "Albania under prince Wied". Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2011. to exile Essad Pasha to Italy
  16. ^ Bataković, Dušan T., "Serbian government and Essad Pasha Toptani", The Kosovo Chronicles, Belgrade, Serbia: Knižara Plato, ISBN 86-447-0006-5, archived from the original on 6 September 2010, retrieved 19 January 2011, Essad Pasha signed a secret alliance treaty with Pasic on September 17.
  17. ^ George B. Leon. Greece and the First World War: From Neutrality to Intervention, 1917–1918. East European Monographs, 1990, ISBN 978-0-88033-181-4, p. 358: "In return, Essad reconfirmed a promise he had made in the fall of 1914 to support Greece's annexation of North Epirus. However, while he was willing to come to a secret agreement with the Greek government on this question, he indicated that in order to be able to counterbalance the weight of the common adversary, that is Italy, and to stabilize his influence in Albania he could not recognize publicly Greece's claim."
  18. ^ Ikonomi 2016, p. 523.
  19. ^ "ESSAD PASHA'S BODY STILL WAITS BURIAL; Great Albanian, Shot in Paris 14 Months Ago, Lies With Unknowns in the Mortuary.", New York Times, 7 August 1921, retrieved 31 October 2013
  20. ^ Ikonomi 2016, p. 16.
  21. ^ Ikonomi 2016, p. 523.
  22. ^ Acović, Dragomir (2012). Slava i čast: Odlikovanja među Srbima, Srbi među odlikovanjima. Belgrade: Službeni Glasnik. p. 579.
  23. ^ Durham, Edith (2001). Albania and the Albanians: Selected Articles and Letters, 1903-1944. The Centre of Albanian Studies. p. 125. ISBN 1 903616-09-3.
  24. ^ Firma e Esat Pashës për bashkimin e Shqipërisë me Serbinë [Signature of Essad Pasha for annexation of Albania into Serbia] (in Albanian), Bota Sot, 6 April 2013, retrieved 31 October 2013
  25. ^ Puto: Esat Pashë Toptani nuk ka rehabilitim [Puto: There is no rehabilitation for Essad Pasha Toptani] (in Albanian), AMA News, 10 November 2012, retrieved 31 October 2013
  26. ^ Gazeta Zëri (2 October 2014). "Serbia përkujton Esat Pashë Toptanin". Zë (in Albanian). Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  27. ^ GAZETAEXPRESS (15 November 2014). "Më në fund edhe Esat Pashës i bëhen nderimet pranë varrit - nga Serbia". Gazeta Express (in Albanian). Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit


  Media related to Essad Pasha at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by
Turhan Pashë Përmeti
Prime Minister of Albania
5 October 1914 – 24 February 1916
Succeeded by
Turhan Pashë Përmeti