Protection of Plave and Guci
Protection of Plave and Guci (October 1879-January 1880)

The history of Plave and Guci:

With an armed revolt in Gjakova and diplomatic action in the spring of 1879, the League of Prizren has taken away the Ottoman Porte de facto right to speak on behalf of Albania. In addition, with its vigorous resistance it made to swarm and not implemented immediately two important decisions of the Congress of Berlin, which affect the national interest of Albania, one in favor of Montenegro (Article 28 of the Treaty) and the other the benefit of Greece (Protocol no. 13 Congressional).
However, the League of Prizren had not yet met its program. Neither were the six Great Powers they were not inclined to cancel the decisions that were taken at the Berlin Congress, as two neighboring Balkan states not intend to give up the territories that they had promised the Great Powers. Consequently, the struggle to protect the Albanian territories has not yet ended, on the contrary, it was foreseen that it took the bloody forms.
After the assassination of Marshal Gjakova Mehmet Ali Pasha, the Ottoman Porte was given to understand that the Great Powers was too difficult to accomplish against Montenegro's territorial obligations deriving from the Treaty of Berlin. But Montenegrin Prince Nikola did not want to know about any excuse.  Fearing that over time the international decision can be changed to its own detriment, continually sought intervention, Cetinje the capital city of Montenegro continuously demanded great powers to force the Ottoman Empire to surrender as soon as possible the provinces of Podgorica, the Shpuz, the Zhabjak, the Plava and Gucia,  Rugova. In addition, as a counterweight to what is delay the delivery of Ulqin, the Dinosha and Buna Coast, which kept occupied since the war, but that under the Treaty of Berlin had to return to the Ottoman Empire.
Stronger pressure on the Ottoman Empire practiced Tsarist Russia, which continued to have conditions for drawing its occupying armies from the trachea with the submission of the provinces that were promised to Montenegro. Other major powers joined tsarist pressure after watching with concern the attitude of the Russian armies continued near Istanbul. Thus, in late 1878, the Porte decided to enforce territorial obligations towards Montenegro.
The decision of the Istanbul lifted  the Albanians again. To examine the new situation was convened immediately, in early January 1879, the National Committee of the League, which reaffirmed its position given previously. According to this line, the League of Prizren will not impede the delivery of Podgorica, the Shpuz of Zhabjak, as they mixed populations lived there Slav-Albanian, but would defend with weapons Plave and Guci , whose population  was Albanian. Decision of the National Committee endorsed the two committee’s province vilayet of Shkodra, and Kosova, which was in January 1879 together their extraordinary assemblies, almost at that time that held its proceedings the Assembly province of Preveza. Since the Guci and Plave vilayet were in Kosovo, the burden of leadership and organization to fight for their defense took over Committee province of Prizren, which in turn formed a separate military headquarters, with Ali Pasha of Guci as a Army leader.
In the village Virpazar, close to Lake Skadar, the Turkish-Montenegrin Commission met, which signed on February 2, 1879 bilateral agreement on the formalities of delivery within one week of the regions of Shkodra vilayet, they met each other under the Treaty Berlin. Fear of the uprising of the Albanians, Porte refused to include in the agreement of submission of Plave and Guc, leaving their case to be resolved later. Under the agreement, the delivery of Podgorica, the Shpuz and Zhabjak by Turkish authorities was carried out without difficulty. It also became the submission of Ulqin, the Dinosha and Buna Coast by Montenegrin authorities.

Borders before Plave and Guci was detached from Motherland Albania

But Montenegro refused to leave the work to be extended further. Prince Nikola immediately addressed the great powers, asking them to force the Ottoman Empire to surrender two province (Plave and Guci) to Montenegro. The Ottoman Porte  urged to send in Plave and Guci an international committee to be convinced of the difficulties that the Albanians find infuriating the injustices of the Congress of Berlin. Instead they sent the International Commission for the determination of the boundary line, consisting of representatives of the six Great Powers and the two states concerned. The Commission became operational in May 1879 and for several months was made by assigning points to the Turkish-Montenegrin border in the Shkoder vilayet. But during the summer when the International Commission wanted to go in Plave and Guci, representatives of the Committee of Prizren,  Great Powers have introduced on August 22, 1879, a written note, which stated that they would not recognize any change border with Montenegro in the International Commission without the participation of leaders of the Albanian League and saw his decisions were adopted by the "whole" Albania. Following this strict note, the International Commission suspended its work, suspended his trip to Plave and Guci.
In this case began again protests Montenegro and the interference of great powers to force the Ottoman Empire as soon as possible to resolve the issue of Plave and Guci. Porte tried to convince residents of the two border provinces to give up further resistance, promising families who did not want to live under the rule of Montenegro, it would give ground on new settlements and would redeem them from taxes for ten years. But the Albanians were not swayed by their decision. Then Prince Nikola began to threaten that he would resolve this issue by means of armed struggle and that in such  case would not annex the Plave and Guci only, but also other Albanian territories.
In these circumstances, the Albanian-Montenegrin relations came by constantly deteriorated. During October 1879 Montenegro began concentrating his army on the border, bringing their number to 5600 soldiers. The Prizren League responded by putting in combat readiness of its armed forces.
According to the decision that the General Council of the League had taken on October 3, 1879, a Military Committee Military Staff, under the chairmanship of Ali Pasha of Guci, created by the League Province of Albanian -Kosova declared for the area of Plave and Guci state of war.
 All men of Plave and Guci, capable fighters were put on the alert and would remain in their homes. On October 2 thousand armed fighters from Gjakova left for Guci. In late October the volunteers arrived here from Shkodra and Malesia. Ottoman Porte, to avoid armed conflict, met with Prince Nikola in Cetinje and proposed that instead of a province of Plave and Guci to give some Slavic areas of Herzegovina. But the proposal of Istanbul, which opposed the Austro-Hungary, Montenegro did not accept. They were determined to Take Plave and Guci from Albania.

After some sporadic border matches that took place in October, Prince Nikola finally decided to cross the open attacks. On October 31 and November 1, 1879 Montenegrin forces, wanting to attract the attention of great powers and simultaneously, to measure the pulse of the Albanians, conducted two raids against the defensive line to force the League, by attacking the village of Pepaj and Arzhanicë. In the attack they  killed 30 villagers by surprise and burned many houses, but after several hours of fighting Montenegrins forces were expelled by the Albanian fighters. In fact these were demonstrative attacks, which the Albanians without any difficulties faced. Although it failed, Montenegrin attack triggered a huge wave of mobilization in other parts of Albania. With thousands of other volunteers ran into the regions of Gjakova, Peja, Dibra  and Shkodra. Readiness of the Albanians became so massive with Military Headquarters of the League of Prizren, located in Guci.
In early December the main Montenegrin forces were lined up during the boundary line, in the villages Murinë, Pepaj, Arzhanicë of Velika. Albanian forces in villages facing Guci, Kolenivicë, Martinaj, Plava Nokshiq. Between Montenegrin and Albanian forces in the northeastern river Lim passed only with a wooden bridge. Montenegro was mainly mountainous areas, while in the Albanian dominated the plateau of Plave.

On December 4, 1879, the best part of the Montenegrin army of four thousand soldiers under the command of Mark Milan, launched a furious attack at Nokshiq sector. Albanian Military Headquarters of the League, made up of Ali Pasha of Guci (chairman), Jakup Ferri, Sulejman Vokshi, Haxhi  Zeka, Filip Çeka, Jusuf  Sokoli and others, among whom there were few career officers, responded by jumping on the attack about 2 thousand fighters. The most severe fighting took place in Nokshiq valley, where many Montenegrin troops were involved. Fighters clashed so fiercely with each other, as both sides put aside rifles and started fighting with their yataghan’s, clashed with each other body against the body. Fighting continued for several hours. Albanian League volunteer forces stopped the Montenegrin army attack and defeated Mark Milans Army at Nokshiq and caused heavy damage in his Army thus forcing them to retreat within the borders of Montenegro. The Montenegrins had about  300 killed and drowned in the river of Limi during withdrawal, while the Albanians 300-400 people. In these fights was killed by one of the prominent commanders of the army of the League, Jakup Ferri.
Determination of the Albanians to fight until the end  and their persistence to continue to oppose Cetinjes attacks,  alarmed the Great Powers, as well as the Ottoman Empire. Fearing the implications of Ottoman Porte decided to settle the delivery of two border provinces Plave e Guci at any cost. For this purpose Ottomans sent immediately to Kosova Marshal Ahmed Mukhtar Pasha, who was then commander of Ottoman Army Rumelia, based in Bitola. Marshal, accompanied by 11 battalions (about 6000 soldiers), newly arrived in Prizren called the meeting members of the National Committee of the League to convince them to submit to the decision of the sultan. But they refused. On December 14, 1879 issued a proclamation, in which Albanians urged to consider the critical situation of the Ottoman Porte and not to impede delivery of two border provinces, since their resistance is to cause destruction of the Ottoman Empire, but neither prayers or threats yielded no result. On December 15, 1879 The Assembly met in Guci representatives of the Kosova Committee, which decided to oppose and defend with weapons  the submission of  Gucia’s castle. "We, the residents of Guci - Plav - said in a memorandum approved by the Assembly, - did not recognize the treaties of the European countries that attempting to give to Montenegro our Albanian lands inherited from our parents. We will oppose with arms the surrender our lands. “According to the message I had given Ottoman Porte, Ahmed Mukhtar Pasha took military action to prevent Albanian volunteers from going to Plave and Guci. For this purpose he brought from Mitrovica 7 other battalions, which were placed in the paths of roads. After that he went to Djakova, where he found a more aggravated Albanians than in Prizren. He was warned by the Albanians that if it continued beyond the road to the border, he would suffer the fate of Mehmet Ali Pasha Madzari. When he saw that Peja had blocked the road to the Plave and Guci , Marshal of the Ottoman Empire ceased its mission, dropped going to Guci and returned to Prizren. The failure of Ahmed Mukhtar Pasha mission convinced the Prince Nikola not to hope or rely on the intervention of the Great Powers. Consequently, he decided to take action against the forces of the Albanian League. A general offensive, which took place the first week of January 1880. This offensive was launched with almost the entire Montenegrin army, 25 battalions with about 9 thousand, which were lined in front of Plave and Guci.
Once the Albanians found out about the Prince Nikola’s military preparations, the Albanian Military Staff strengthened safeguards. By calling the Albanian League to mobilized thousands of volunteers from all over Albania, the Plave, Guci, Peja, Prizren, Djakova, Shkodra, Dibra and most remote provinces of southern Albania as well. But military staff, headed by Ali Pasha of Guci, who himself took over the combat operations, concentrated in the border area with the Plave and Guci gathered four thousand soldiers and three thousand local volunteers, a total of seven thousand.
Montenegrin Command had lined up on the front line volunteer forces commanded by Mark Milan, who will begin their attack on the traditional tactics that always had success against the Ottoman armies. Montenegrin forces were concentrated in a narrow sector (Velika-Pepaj), in order to shatter Albanians to attack first, with a surprise attack. But the Military Staff of Albanian has taken the initiative in an unexpected way from Montenegrins. On January 6 and 7 1880 small units Albanians, in order to attract the attention of the Montenegrin military command, launched two attacks in the northeast of Montenegro, by the Sandzak and Novi Pazar. Montenegrin military command, believing that the Albanians would continue to attack from the Northeast, turned back their forces from the South and sent northward. Taking advantage of this circumstance, the Albanian forces, listed in the Plave sector, erupted on January 8 a furious attack against enemy positions that were in Velika in Pepaj in Arzhanicë.

Attack was launched with Nokshiq fighters commanded by Kurt Aslani and Nure Kurti. Storming was furious and after heavy fighting Montenegrin forces, consisting of four thousand warriors, were forced to withdraw. After breaking the Montenegrin units commanded by Mark Milani, the armies of the League, entered the Montenegrin land, they took up Arzhanicën, Velikën of Pepaj and headed for the Murinë. Bloodiest fighting took place in Velika in Pepaj. Montenegrin army withdrew to Sutjeska. But Albanian Staff had no intention to continue the progress in land depth of Montenegro. On 9 January, Ali APasha  ordered the Albanian forces, ig they do not encountered any opposition from the Montenegrin army, to withdraw to the old Albanian border.

During the battle of Velik - Pepaj, both sides had losses, but, according to different sources, the Montenegrins were more numerous. Albanians in this battle lost two brave captains, the Kurt Aslanin and  Nuro Kurtin.
The patriotic war that Albanians did  in Nokshiq -Velika - Pepaj where they harvests the victory against the much larger and stronger Montenegrin Army on January 8, 1880, it left deep impression on international opinion. Few days later Austro-Hungarian head consul in Shkodra, Shmuker, which closely followed the development of the battle, reported to his government: "Montenegrins admitted themselves that in war the Nokshiq – Pepaj – Velik  Albanians were brave, fought and won the battle. And indeed, the power of the Albanian League (Prizren - St.'s Aut.) Broke the Montenegrin army who has always been able to resist Turkish forces. Albanians fought driven by national idea. " After that, European public opinion began to be interested in the history of the Albanian people and its national rights. In addition, some publicists who criticized the Congress of Berlin had not disregarded the rights of a nation so brave and so freedom-loving, as the Albanian people.

With victory in Nokshiq, in Velika Pepaj the Albanians gave European diplomacy to understand that, even though Albania was ruled by Ottoman Empire for five centuries, they are still and they will never be her land lords and the inhabitants of these territories were Albanians. The defeat that Montenegrin government suffered made them realize that Montenegro alone was not able to break the resistance of the Albanian League through armed struggle. For this reason Prince  Nikola immediately announced that it had suspended hostilities on the border and that the implementation of the Treaty of Berlin at this point is left in the hands of the Great Powers. He even asked the British consul in Shkodra to intervene with authorities vilayet government, to insure that the Albanians will suspend further military actions as well.

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