Muhaxhir (Albanians)

Muhaxhir and Muhaxher (plural: Muhaxhirë and Muhaxherë, meaning "Muslim refugees") are terms borrowed from Ottoman Turkish: muhacir and derived from Arabic muhajir.[1][2][3][4] The term Muhaxhir(ë) refers to Ottoman Albanian communities that left their homes as refugees or were transferred, from Greece, Serbia and Montenegro to Albania, Kosovo and to a lesser extent North Macedonia during and following various wars.

The term is used for Muslims (including Turks, Bosniaks, Circassians and Romani)[5][6] and Muslim Albanians whom were expelled by the Serb army from most parts of the Sanjak of Niş and fled to the Kosovo Vilayet during and after the Serbian–Ottoman War (1876–78).[7] An estimated 60–70,000 to as low as 30,000[8][9][10][11][12]

With the establishment of the Republic of Albania in 1912, a large influx of Albanians, as well as other Muslims, from Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Greece, Egypt, Bulgaria and Serbia continued to arrive in the region, most of which settled in north and central Albania. Today, between a third and a quarter of Albania's and Kosovo's population have ancestry from these Muhaxhirs.


The displacement of Albanians began earlier in northern Albania. The first known deportations date back to the 1877s. At this time, Albanians living in the northernmost parts of the New Bazaar, Kurshumlija and also the Nis vilayet were deported. At this time all those who could not escape were killed, massacred by various Serbian-Montenegrin forces. Thus, a profound change has been made to the demographic map of the region.

Albanians were either expelled, fled and/or retreated from the captured areas seeking refuge in Ottoman Kosovo.[7] During the Balkan Wars, Muslim Albanians were deported from Christian territories, and settled in the Ottoman Empire, as far as the Middle East.


Albanians until the second half of the 19th century lived also in the cities, towns and villages of the Sanjak of Niš. The majority of Albanians were concentrated in the District of Toplica, which included the regions of Jablanica, Kosanica, Prokupje and the town of Prokuplje, the District of Nis, which included the regions of Vlasotinca, Leskovac, Nis and the city of Nis, the District of Vranje with regions of Masurica, Polanica, Pcinj and the city of Vranje and Pirot District (Nisava). Albanian residents were also in other places, especially in cities, like Qupri, Paracin, Uzice, Krushec, Aleksinc, Karanovc (Kraljevo) and even in Belgrade. In the Serbia lived 30-70 thousand Muslims (Albanians, Circassians, Bosniaks and Turks). Ilia Gracanin createt a platform and a program for the expulsion of the Albanians and Muslims from Serbia. After 16 December 1877, the Serbian army started the a campaign in the Balkans area against the defenseless Albanian population of Sanjak of Nis. The Serbian army attacked the civilian population, killing and massacring elders, women, children and others. They set fire to Albanian and Muslim settlements, burned houses and other objects of the Albanian owners.[13]

Serbian prince Milan I of Serbia, in order to achieve this goal, had distributed to his Serbian soldiers a proclamation saying: "... the fewer Albanians left in the territories liberated from Turkey, the more you contribute to the state. The more displaced Albanians, the greater merits for your country. " Serbian writer Jovan Hadži-Vasiljević explains the Serbian government's intentions of invading territories in the South. He writes that the expulsion of Albanians was intended to "make Serbia a pure nation state" and to create the possibility "that the Serbian actions in the future be directed towards parts of Kosovo".[14]

The Muhaxhirs were settled mostly in the areas neighboring the border of today's Serbia, in the territory of Kosovo Vushtrri , Podujevo , Gjilan and Ferizaj. Many others Muhaxhirs families also settled in the Republic of Albania.[15]


In 1877, Nikšić was annexed by the Montenegrins in accordance with the Treaty of Berlin.[16][17] American author William James Stillman (1828–1901) who traveled in the region at the time writes in his biography of the Montenegrin forces who, on the orders of the Prince, began to bomb the Studenica fortress in Nikšić with artillery. Around 20 Albanian nizams were inside the fortress who resisted and when the walls breached, they surrendered and asked Stillman if they were going to be decapitated. An Albanian accompanying Stillman translated his words saying they were not going to be killed in which the Albanians celebrated.[18] Shortly after the treaty, the Montenegrin prince began expelling the Albanians from Niksic, Zablyak and Kolasin who then fled to Turkey, Kosovo (Prishtina)[19] and Macedonia.[20] The Montenegrin forces also robbed the Albanians before the expulsion.[21] After the fall of Niksic, Prince Nikola wrote a poem of the victory.[22]

After the Balkan wars, new territories inhabited by Albanians became part of Montenegro. Montenegro then gained a part of Malesija, respectively Hoti and Gruda, with Tuzi as center, Plav, Gusinje, Rugovo, Peć and Gjakova.[23] During World War I, Albanian immigrants from Nikšić who had been expelled to Cetinje sent a letter to Isa Boletini saying that they risked starving if he did not send them money for food.[24]

Montenegrin Albanians, Bosniaks and Muslims which were expelled from Montenegro were resettled in Northern and central Albania in Cities like Shkodër, Pukë, Lezhë and Tirana.


During the summer of 1944, the head of the local resistance organization, Napoleon Zervas, asked the Cham Albanians to join EDES in its fight against the left-wing ELAS, but their response was negative.[25] After that and in accordance to orders given specifically to EDES by the Allied forces to push them out of the area, fierce fighting occurred between the two sides.[25] According to British reports, the Cham collaborationist bands managed to flee to Albania with all of their equipment, together with half million stolen cattle as well as 3,000 horses, leaving only the elderly members of the community behind.[26] On 18 June 1944, EDES forces with Allied support launched an attack on Paramythia. After short-term conflict against a combined Cham-German garrison, the town was finally under Allied command. Soon after, violent reprisals were carried out against the town's Muslim community,[27] which was considered responsible for the massacre of September 1943.

Maximum extent of Cham Albanian dialect: 19th century till 1912/1913 (Hatched line). Population (irrespective of linguistic background) shown by religion: Muslim majority (Brown), Orthodox majority (Pink), Mixed (Light Brown). Colored areas do not imply that Albanian-speakers formed the majority of the population.

Moreover, two attacks took place in July and August with the participation of EDES Tenth Division and the local Greek peasants, eager to gain revenge for the burning of their own homes.[25] According to Cham claims, which are not confirmed by British reports,[26] the most infamous massacre of Albanian Muslims by Greek irregulars occurred on 27 June 1944 in the district of Paramithia, when this forces captured the town, killing approximately 600 Muslim Chams, men women and children, many having been raped and tortured before death.[27] British officers described it as "a most disgraceful affair involving an orgy of revenge with the local guerrillas looting and wantonly destroying everything". British Foreign Office reported that "The bishop of Paramythia joined in the searching of houses for booty and came out of one house to find his already heavily laden mule had been meanwhile stripped by some andartes. After the expulsion of the Muslim Chams from Greece, they were spread throughout Albania. The majority of Muslim Chams settled in the outskirts of Vlorë, Durrës and Tirana. Several hundred Chams moved into properties along the Himara coast and to existing villages along the coast such as Borshi, or established entirely new villages, such as Vrina, near the Greek border.


Many Albanians and Muslims left Bosnia due to discrimination in the newly founded Kingdom of Yugoslavia. They settled in Albania where they enjoyed religious freedoms. The cities of Tirana, Durres, Shkoder and Shijak were particularly popular destinations for immigrants.


The events of the Circassian genocide, namely the ethnic cleansing, killing, forced migration, and expulsion of the majority of the Circassians from their historical homeland in the Caucasus,[23] resulted in the death of approximately at least 600,000 Caucasian natives[28] up to 1,500,000[29] deaths, and the successful migration of the remaining of 40,000-100,000 Circassians which immigrated to Kosovo and Albania due to intermittent Russian attacks from 1768 to 1917.[30]

The Circassians quickly assimilated into the Muslim Albanian culture and have only limited contact with the Circassian diaspora today. The Circassians founded many villages in Kosovo like Hajvalia in Prishtina. They settled in Cities like Prishtina, Ferizaj and Podujeve and were known by the Albanian society as brave and honest people.[31]

North MacedoniaEdit

Mother Teresa's family lived in Skopje until 1934, when they moved to Tirana.

Shortly after the defeat of Turkey by the Balkan allies, a conference of ambassadors of the Great Powers (Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Italy) convened in London in December 1912 to settle the outstanding issues raised by the conflict. With support given to the Albanians by Austria-Hungary and Italy, the conference agreed to create an independent state of Albania, which became a reality in 1913. However, the boundaries of the new state were drawn in such a way that large areas with Albanian populations remained outside of Albania, including the area that would go on to become the Socialist Republic of Macedonia.

During the 20th Century the Albanians and Muslims in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia experienced a period of discrimination. They had neither political rights, let alone religious rights. Characterized by poverty and also by political persecution, many Albanians and Muslims from northern Macedonia settled in the new state of Albania. The immigrants' destinations were Tirana, Elbasan and Shkoder.


Immediately afterwards – with the seizure of power by Gamel Abdel Nasser and the subsequent nationalist Arabization policy in Egypt. Many Albanians left Egypt for Albania and were resettled in Korce, Tirana and Durres. Many Albanian families who decided to stay in Egypt were partly assimilated and partly killed from the Army of Gamel Abdel Nasser.

With the advent of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Arab nationalization of Egypt, not only the royal family but also the entire Albanian community of around 4,000 families became the targets of hostility. They were forced to leave the country, thus closing the Albanian chapter in Egypt.[32] In recent times the number of people estimated to be of Albanian heritage in Egypt is 18,000.[33]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Blumi, Isa (2011). Foundations of modernity: human agency and the imperial state. Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 9780415884648. "Refugees from the Niš region that became Serbia after 1878, for instance, settled in large numbers in the regions of Drenica and Gjakova in Kosova since the late 1870s. They are known today as muhaxhir (derived from Arabic, via Ottoman, meaning exile or sometimes a more neutral, immigrant). Like similar groups throughout the world who have informed the nationalist lexicon—Heimatvertriebene, Galut/Tefutzot, al-Laj’iyn, Prosfyges, Pengungsi, Wakimbizi, P’akhstakanner—the "Nish muhaxhir" constitute a powerful sub-group in present-day Kosova's domestic politics and economy."
  2. ^ Frantz, Eva Anne (2009), "Violence and its Impact on Loyalty and Identity Formation in Late Ottoman Kosovo: Muslims and Christians in a Period of Reform and Transformation", Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 29 (4): 455–468, doi:10.1080/13602000903411366, S2CID 143499467, The displaced persons (Alb. muhaxhirë, Turk. muhacir, Serb. muhadžir) took refuge predominantly in the eastern parts of Kosovo.
  3. ^ Malcolm, Noel (1998). Kosovo: A short history. Macmillan. p. 229. ISBN 9780810874831. "All these new arrivals were known as muhaxhirs (Trk.: muhacir Srb.: muhadžir), a general word for Muslim refugees. The total number of those who settled in Kosovo is not known with certainty: estimates ranged from 20,000 to 50,000 for Eastern Kosovo, while the governor of the vilayet gave a total of 65,000 in 1881, some of whom were in the sancaks of Skopje and Novi Pazar. At a rough estimate, 50,000 would seem a reasonable figure for those muhaxhirs of 1877–8 who settled in the territory of Kosovo itself."
  4. ^ Uka, Sabit (2004). E drejta mbi vatrat dhe pasuritë reale dhe autoktone nuk vjetërohet: të dhëna në formë rezimeje [The rights of homes and assets, real and autochthonous that does not disappear with time: Data given in the form of estate portions regarding inheritance]. Shoqata e Muhaxhirëvë të Kosovës. p. 52. ISBN 9789951408097. "Pra, këtu në vazhdim, pas dëbimit të tyre me 1877–1878 do të shënohen vetëm disa patronime (mbiemra) të shqiptarëve të Toplicës dhe viseve tjera shqiptare të Sanxhakut të Nishit. Kjo do të thotë se, shqiptaret e dëbuar pas shpërnguljes, marrin atributin muhaxhirë (refugjatë), në vend që për mbiemër familjar të marrin emrin e gjyshit, fisit, ose ndonjë tjetër, ato për mbiemër familjar marrin emrin e fshatit të Sanxhakut të Nishit, nga janë dëbuar. [So here next, after their expulsion 1877–1878 will be noted with only some patronymic (surnames) of the Albanians of Toplica and other Albanian areas of Sanjak of Nis. This means that the Albanians expelled after moving, attained the appellation muhaxhirë (refugees), which instead for the family surname to take the name of his grandfather, clan, or any other, they for their family surname take the name of the village of the Sanjak of Nis from where they were expelled from.]"
  5. ^ "olsi-jazexhi-ne-emisionin-maqedonas" (in Albanian). Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  6. ^ "eni-koci/biografia/". tekste (in Albanian). Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  7. ^ a b Jagodić, Miloš (1998). "The Emigration of Muslims from the New Serbian Regions 1877/1878". Balkanologie. Revue d'Études Pluridisciplinaires. Balkanologie (Vol. II, n° 2). para. 29. "The Albanian refugees (Turk. muchageers)"
  8. ^ Pllana, Emin (1985). "Les raisons de la manière de l'exode des refugies albanais du territoire du sandjak de Nish a Kosove (1878–1878) [The reasons for the manner of the exodus of Albanian refugees from the territory of the Sanjak of Nish to Kosovo (1878–1878)] ". Studia Albanica. 1: 189–190.
  9. ^ Rizaj, Skënder (1981). "Nënte Dokumente angleze mbi Lidhjen Shqiptare të Prizrenit (1878–1880) [Nine English documents about the League of Prizren (1878–1880)]". Gjurmine Albanologjike (Seria e Shkencave Historike). 10: 198.
  10. ^ Şimşir, Bilal N, (1968). Rumeli’den Türk göçleri. Emigrations turques des Balkans [Turkish emigrations from the Balkans]. Vol I. Belgeler-Documents. p. 737.
  11. ^ Elsie, Robert (2010). Historical Dictionary of Kosovo. Scarecrow Press. p. XXXII. ISBN 9780333666128.
  12. ^ Stefanović, Djordje (2005). "Seeing the Albanians through Serbian eyes: The Inventors of the Tradition of Intolerance and their Critics, 1804–1939." European History Quarterly. 35. (3): 470.
  13. ^ "Debimi nga Sanxhaku i Nishit" (PDF) (in Albanian). Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Debimi nga Sanxhaku i Nishit" (PDF) (in Albanian). Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Debimi nga Sanxhaku i Nishit" (PDF) (in Albanian). Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  16. ^ Qosja, Rexhep (1999). Kosova në vështrim enciklopedik (in Albanian). Botimet Toena. p. 81. ISBN 978-99927-1-170-5. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  17. ^ Houtsma, M. Th (1993). E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936. BRILL. p. 559. ISBN 978-90-04-09791-9. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  18. ^ Stillman, William James (1877). The Autobiography of a Journalist, Volume II by William James Stillman – Full Text Free Book (Part 3/5). Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  19. ^ Malcolm, Noel (1998). Kosovo: A Short History. Macmillan. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-333-66612-8. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  20. ^ Kultura popullore (in Albanian) (Translation: 118/5000 the process of expelling Albanians from their lands in Koloshin, Niksic Field, Zabjak and elsewhere ”. ed.). Akademia e Shkencave e RSH, Instituti i Kulturës Popullore. 1991. p. 25. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  21. ^ Maloku, Enver (1997). Dëbimet e shqiptarëve dhe kolonizimi i Kosovës (1877–1995) (in Albanian) (Montenegrin army violence and property theft forced them to flee from Kolasin, Niksic, Shpuza, ... ed.). Qendra për Informim e Kosovës. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  22. ^ ILLYRIAN LETTERS. 1878. p. 187. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  23. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference :0 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  24. ^ Gjurmime albanologjike: Seria e shkencave historike (in Albanian). Instituti. 1988. p. 251. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  25. ^ a b c Cite error: The named reference Mazower was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  26. ^ a b Hermann Frank Meyer. Blutiges Edelweiß: Die 1. Gebirgs-division im zweiten Weltkrieg Bloodstained Edelweiss. The 1st Mountain-Division in WWII Ch. Links Verlag, 2008. (in German) ISBN 978-3-86153-447-1, p. 620
  27. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference v2002 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  28. ^ Richmond, Walter (9 April 2013). The Circassian Genocide. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813560694.
  29. ^ Ahmed, Akbar (27 February 2013). The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 9780815723790.
  30. ^ "historia-e-popullit-cerkez-ne-kosove" (in Albanian). Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  31. ^ "historia-e-popullit-cerkez-ne-kosove" (in Albanian). Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  32. ^ Cite error: The named reference Asllani was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  33. ^ Saunders 2011, p. 98. "Egypt also lays claim to some 18,000 Albanians, supposedly lingering remnants of Mohammad Ali's army."