Records exist that trace their evolution from the ancient Illyrians. The Illyrians, who are believed to have evolved directly from the Stone Age, occupied the western area of the Balkans, from modern Slovenia to approximately half of the way through modern Greece. Shkodra, now the most important city of northern Albanian, was the capital. Unfortunately, the evolution was hampered by what would become a continuous string of foreign attacks. Seeing Albania as a valuable entrance to the Adriatic Sea, Rome attacked and defeated the Illyrians in 229 B.C. The Romans rules for six centuries, a time in which art and culture flourished. The Illyrians, however resisted assimilation and allowed their language and traditions to survive.
Eventually, the Roman Empire did fall, dividing Albania into halves, and allowing the Byzantine Empire to assume control. Under the rule of the Byzantines, the Illyrians suffered constant devastation by raids from the Visigoths, Huns and Ostrogoths. Once again, however, the Illyrians allowed their language to survive by resisting all attempts by their attackers at assimilation.
Although possessing a common territory, language, and culture, the Illyrians lacked the unity of a name until geographer Ptolemy of the Albanoi tribe prompted the name of his central Albanian tribe to be used across the land. Thus the name Shqiperia (Albania in the native language) was created, meaning the land of eagles. However, as the ruling of the Byzantine Empire weakened, Albania was attacked by more foreign powers. The Bulgarians, Norman crusaders, Serbs and Venetians all wreaked havoc on the Albanians until the conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1388. Although the Turks brought about oppression and violence unseen by the Albanians before, it also brought a change. In 1443, an Albanian military genius, Gjergj Kastrioti (Skanderberg), rallied the Albanians together and drove out the Turks. Although Kastrioti’s death meant the eventual return of the Turks in 1468, the 25 years of resilience gained two accomplishments for the Albanians. Recognizing the successful fight against the most powerful empire of the time, Maples, Venice and Ragus granted monetary and military aid to the Albanians. More importantly, though, this success gave the Albanians an everlasting symbol of strength and an inspiration for a quest for independence. A statue of Skanderberg stands at the back of Skanderberg Square in Albania’s capital, Tirana, today. Albanian rebellions were numerous throughout the time. Many Albanians refused to pay taxes, surrender their arms or serve in the army. The Turks, recognizing the disobedience, thought that by converting the Christian population to Muslim, the Albanians would be brought together and spiritually closer to Albanian. Two-thirds of the population converted many fearing violence and exploitation if they did no do so.
The drive for independence was still strong within the Albanians. Throughout the 19th Century, resisting the Turks attempts as assimilation, leaders led their country with the rallying cry, â€œThe religion of Albanians is Albanianism!â€ The leaders formed the Albanian League in 1878 to unite the country and develop the native language, literature, education and to adopt a new alphabet. In 1908, the Albanians fought again, and by 1912, they succeeded in making the Turks agree to their demands for autonomy.
Albanians in Montenegro live in the south-east country, adjoining northern Albania. The regions of Albanians inhabit in Montenegro are those of Plave-Guci, Rozhaje, Tuz (Malesi), Ana e Malit, Kraje and Ulqin. The Albanians in Montenegro are an indigenous population of the region in which they live. The predominantly Albanians inhabited southern region was cede to Montenegro following the Congress of Berlin in June 1878. The inhabitants of Ulqin protested vigorously against the cession. The Albanian districts of Hoti, Gruda, Koja, Trieshi, Plava and Gucia at the center of the crises were engages and contested in the fierce fighting. At the time, Albanians were to be found in considerable numbers in the towns of Tivari (Bar), Podgorica, Spuzh, Zhablak and in the valleys of the Moracha River.
The conference of Ambassadors held in London in December 1912, awarded the Balkan allies further areas of Albanian territory, regardless of its ethnic composition, like Ana e Malit, Kraja, Hoti, Gruda, Trieshi, Koja, Plave and Guci. Large parts of northern and western Albanian went to Serbia and Montenegro, Greece received the large southern region of Cameria. More that half of Albanian population was left outside the new Albanian state. For years to come, under the Yugoslavian kingdom state, Albanians would be brutally treated, executed, persecuted and discriminated against. The end of Balkan Wars in 1912, 1,250 Albanians in Previja were executed at the hands of Montenegrin General Gavro Cemovic. However, following the 1919 peace settlement and subsequent creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1928); tensions remained high between the Montenegrin and the Albanians. In the 1930s, we have a mass expulsion of Albanians from Montenegro to Turkey, where Serbia negotiated â€œThe Agreement on the Rule of Emigration of the Turkish Population from the Regions of Southern Serbiaâ€-an agreement that initiated the expulsion of all Albanians who were Muslim from Serbia (which at the time included Macedonia and Montenegro) to Turkey. In 1945, Serbian genocide happened against Albanians including the marching of 2000-3000 Albanians who had volunteered to join the Yugoslav army to â€œfight facismâ€ from Kosova to Tivar (Bar), Montenegro, where they were summarily executed.
After World War II through out the four decades of Communist rule, Albanians were oppressed and treated unequally. During the period thousand of Albanians have fled Montenegro from political oppression and lack of economic opportunities. Even after the collapse of Communism, when political pluralism was establishes, did not bring much positive change of status of Albanians in Montenegro. They still have limited economic opportunities, no higher education no official communication in their own language, and minimal representation in government, the judiciary, the police and the mass media. They lack equal political and civil status under the law.