A short history of ethnological studies in Albania

A short history of ethnological studies in Albania

During the 19th century and the early 20th century we find the first ethnological studies of the Albanians. Before that we just find some journals of travelers and paintings.

These 19th century studies were made by foreigners like Johann Georg von Hahn (Albanische Studien, Jena, 1854), Franz Baron Nopsca (Albanien, Bauten, Trachten und Geräte Nordalbaniens, Berlin, 1925), later followed by Hugo Bernatzik (Albanien, im Land der Shqipetaren, 1931) and others.

Within Albania the Rilindja (renaissance) at the end of the 19th century, before the independence in 1912, created a larger interest by Albanians in their own culture and resulted in several publications  in some magazines, newspapers or private publications, but still there was no scientific institute and between the independence and WWII there was little to no activity in the field.

This changed after WWII. In 1947 a section for Ethnological Studies was created, being part of the Institute for History and Philology , part of the national Science Institute. Where studies before were often local or regional oriented, now ethnologists started to study the ethnology nationwide.

In 1948 the first ethnographical museums were established. In 1962 there were 10 ethnographical museums in several cities in the country, mostly in traditional big houses.

Rrok Zojzi was one of the leading ethnologists of that time and in the tradition of that time he published two volumes on Albanian ethnology, albums with color paintings of costumes, jewelry and buildings and textile motifs in 1959. These two albums found their way all over the world as they were presented to ambassadors and other foreign people in high positions.

In that same year the Central Committee of the People’s Socialist Party decided to focus on three items, considering the ethnology: an ethnographical atlas of Albania, an open air museum and publications by the institute itself. In the publications samples of the atlas can be found, but a more or less complete atlas was never published. An open air museum was never established, unfortunately, but publications started.

Until 1962 most of the publications on ethnology appeared in the Bulletins of the Science Institute, but in 1962 the first volume of “Etnografia Shqiptare” was published. This volume contained an introduction by Rrok Zojzi. Part of the team were Abaz Dojaka, Andromaqi Gjergji and Hasan Qatipi.

The articles were about the regional/ethnological divisions in Albania, the traditional dwellings in Mullet, utensils and furniture in the Dukagjin region, wood production in Elbasan, costumes from the village of Rëmbec, pistols and arms from Elbasan and a wedding in the Gjakova mountain region.  Summaries of the articles were in French and Russian language.

Volume 18 of “Etnografia Shqiptare” was published in 1999, under direction of Spiro Shkurti and Mark Tirta, with Abaz Dojaka still on board.  These later issues had summaries only in French language.

Also a French edition was published “Ethnographie Albanaise” of which volume 12 was published in 1982.

In 1979 the Folklore Institute was established as section of the new Institute for Folk Culture, the “Instituti i Kulturës popullore”. This change resulted in the publication of another magazine: “Kultura popullore” in 1980. This magazine however had no summaries in whatever language, but a list of contents was given in French, English and Russian.

In 1981 the first issue in French language was published : “Culture populaire Albanaise”. It contained some of the articles of the Albanian counterpart, but not all. Other articles appeared which were not published in the Albanian version.

After the change in 1992, the end of the socialist regime, the publications became less. The “Kulltura popullore” edition of 1996 counts nr 1 and 2 in just one issue, while before there were two or even three issues a year.

The Institute of Folklore had been under the direction of Mrs. Afërdita Onuzi  for a long time and along with her people like Mark Tirta, Alfred Uçi, Ramazan H. Bogdani and Spiro Shkurti as well as Andromaqi Gjergji did most of the important work and published articles on the subjects in which they were specialized. Apart from the magazine articles several of them published important works in books.

The study in the Institute still goes on, but most of the work has been done in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, collecting and recording artifacts, music, songs, dances, rituals etcetera in every possible way of that period, written musical scores, photographs, recorded sound and dances on film.

Part of this unique collection of material was gathered during “expeditions” in the countryside but also at the Gjirokastër festival which is organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports , Tourism and Youth.

In 1994 the Qendra Kombëtare te Veprimtarive Folklorike, the National Centre for Immaterial Folklore was founded. The Institute is under the supervision of the Ministry and responsible for all festivals, including the National Folklore Festival Gjirokastër, contests etcetera. Since 2005 a magazine is published by the QKVF: Gjurmë të Shpirtit Shqiptar (Footprint of the Albanian Spirit (free translation)). The magazine contains short articles on folklorists, ethnologists, singers, dancers, musicians , festival reports etcetera. The QKVF also has recently opened a website which shows the agenda of festivals, pictures and videos  and articles.

In all the study and preservation of the folklore as established during the national-socialist period still continues and is well organized.


Written by: Cees Hillebrand. Last updated: 2012-03-18

Ethnological magazines

7 pictures, last added on 18 March 2012

Post Comment


Please log in to post comments. Don't have a forum account yet? Sign up here