Sanjak of Dibra

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Sanjak of Dibra
Debre Sancağı
Sanxhaku i Dibrës
Дебарски санџак
Sanjak of the Ottoman Empire
Coat of arms
Sanjak of Dibra, Ottoman Balkans (late 19th century).png
Capital Debar
 Treaty of London (1913)
30 May 1913
Succeeded by
Principality of Albania Albania 1914 Flag.svg
Kingdom of Serbia Civil Flag of Serbia.svg
Today part ofFlag of Albania.svg  Albania
Flag of North Macedonia.svg  North Macedonia

The Sanjak of Dibra, or the Sanjak of Debar, (Turkish : Debre Sancağı, Albanian : Sanxhaku i Dibrës, Macedonian : Дебарски санџак, romanized: Debarski sandžak) was one of the sanjaks of the Ottoman Empire. Its capital was Debar, Macedonia (modern-day North Macedonia). [1] Today, the western part of its territory belongs to the Republic of Albania (Lower Dibra and Mat) and the eastern part to the Republic of North Macedonia (Reka and Debar).


Extent and subdivisions

Besides Debar, the territory of the Sanjak of Dibra included part of northern Albania, namely Krujë and areas between the Mat and Black Drin rivers. [2] In 1440, Skanderbeg was appointed as sanjakbey of the Sanjak of Dibra. [3] [4]

Since the mid-19th century, the Sanjak of Dibra had consisted of two kazas: Debar and Reka. [5] By the time of its dissolution in 1912, it had four kazas: Debar, Reka, Mat and Lower Dibra. [6]

Culture and demographics

In the late Ottoman period, the Sanjak of Dibra had a population of 200,000. Debar, the main town and capital, had 20,000 inhabitants, 420 shops, 9 mosques, 10 madrasas, 5 tekkes, 11 government-run primary schools, 3 Christian primary schools, 1 secondary school, and 1 church. Due to its strategic position as the seat of a sanjak, an Ottoman army division was stationed within the town. [7]

Albanian tribes known as the "Tigers of Dibra" held power in the mountainous areas of the sanjak, along with much of the valley. These tribes, known as malësorët (highlanders), were mostly of Muslim faith, and governed themselves according to the Kanun, a set of traditional Albanian laws last codified by Skanderbeg. The customs of these malësorët were deeply steeped in a sense of personal honor, and they were known to place great value in the concept of besa (a pledge of honor), and were also known to blood feud (gjakmarrja). [7]

One of the largest tribes of the malësorët was the Mati tribe, numbering 1,200 households. One of the most prominent of the Mati families were the Zogolli, who are most notable for being the clan from which Ahmed Zogu, future king of Albania, descended. The Zogolli also produced many pasha (senior Ottoman officials). [8]

By the 1880s, the Sanjak of Dibra was culturally seen to be a part of Gegënia

1897 Demographic Survey

In 1897, the Russian Consul in the Monastir Vilayet, A. Rostkovski, completed a very limited demographics survey [9] of the Sanjak of Dibra. Most portions of the survey do not add up, and of note is the highly unlikely number of Albanians represented in particular regions. This is most likely attributable to an error resulting from categorizing individuals by both ethnicity and religion; the total number of Albanians is purported to be 52,144, but only 9,408 of those are represented in sub-totals due to religious affiliation, with the rest being unaccounted for.

1897 Demographics Survey of Kazas of the Sanjak of Dibra
Sanjak of DibraUpper Dibra (Debar)RekaLower Dibra/Mat
Ethnic Group52,144 Albanians, 28,015 Slavs, "No Ottoman Turks"3,548 Albanians, 15,993 Slavs5,860 Albanians, 12,022 Slavs"No Slavs"
ReligionN/A3,548 "Christians," 12,355 Exarchists, 3,638 Patriarchists 3,518 Muslims, 2,342 "Christians," 11,850 Exarchists, 172 PatriarchistsN/A

Administrative mergers (Vilayets)

In 1867, the Sanjak of Dibra merged with the Sanjak of Prizren and Sanjak of Scutari to become the Scutari Vilayet. In 1871, it was joined with the Sanjak of Prizren, Sanjak of Skopje and Sanjak of Niš into one vilayet, the Prizren Vilayet, which later became part of the Kosovo Vilayet in 1877. [10] [11]

The Sanjak of Dibra was separated from the Kosovo Vilayet and joined to the Monastir Vilayet after the Congress of Berlin in 1878. [12] The sanjak became well-connected with the rest of the Monastir Vilayet, and in period before its dissolution, more than half of its imports came from Skopje and a quarter from Bitola. [13]


On 4 September 1912, the successful Albanian Revolt of 1912 led to part of the Sanjak of Dibra being permitted to move to the newly proposed Albanian Vilayet, as a result of the Revolt's demand for greater autonomy. However, the Albanian Vilayet would not be realized, due to the outbreak of the First Balkan War (1912-1913), one month later.

During the First Balkan War, the Sanjak of Dibra was occupied by the Kingdom of Serbia, along with the rest of the sanjaks set to become the proposed Albanian Vilayet. Due to the occupation, Albanian leaders petitioned Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary for support for Albania's independence, but all he conceded was support for Albanian autonomy within the Ottoman Empire.

Despite this, in 1912 Independent Albania was declared at the All-Albanian Congress, and it petitioned the London Conference of 1913 for recognition on the basis of the ethnic rights of Albanians, but its claims of wider sovereignty were ignored.

In the Treaty of London (1913), many of the Albanian sanjaks were partitioned between the Kingdom of Greece, the Kingdom of Montenegro, and the Kingdom of Serbia. [14] Consequently, the Sanjak of Dibra was dissolved, and its territory was divided between Serbia and the newly established Principality of Albania.


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  1. Vickers, Miranda; Pettifer, James (2007). The Albanian question: reshaping the Balkans. I.B.Tauris. p. 7. ISBN   978-1-86064-974-5. Dibra and its surrounding became separate sanjak
  2. Zhelyazkova, Antonina. "Albanian identities" (PDF). Retrieved 3 April 2011. portion of the north Albanian lands was included in the sancak of Debar, namely Kruja, Debar and the areas lying between the rivers of Mat and Black Drin
  3. Zhelyazkova, Antonina. "Albanian identities". Archived from the original on 3 April 2011. In 1440, he was promoted to sancakbey of Debar
  4. Hösch, Peter (1972). The Balkans: a short history from Greek times to the present day, Volume 1972, Part 2. Crane, Russak. p. 96. ISBN   978-0-8448-0072-1.
  5. Aleksandar Matkovski (1959). Ǧurčin Kokaleski. p. 73. ..До првата половина на XIX век „Деборија" админи- стративно припаѓала во Дебарскиот пашалак, покасно кон Дебарскиот санџак (дебре - санџаги) кој се делел на Дебарска каза со седиште во дебар и на Реканска каза со
  6. Ivan Ivanić (1910). Maćedonija i maćedondži. Štampa Savića i Komp. p. 30. Дебарски санџак има четири казе: Дебарску, матску, доњодебарску и речку (Река)
  7. 1 2 Gawrych 2006 , pp. 35–36.
  8. Gawrych 2006 , pp. 34–36.
  9. "Jedna statistika iz srednje Maćedonije". Nova Iskra (15–16): 251. 26 July 1899.
  10. Akşin Somel, Selçuk (2001). The modernization of public education in the Ottoman Empire, 1839–1908. Netherlands: Brill. p. 234. ISBN   90-04-11903-5. the vilayet of Prizren was founded in 1871
  11. Grandits, Hannes; Nathalie Clayer; Robert Pichler (2010). Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans The Great Powers, the Ottoman Empire and Nation-building. Gardners Books. p. 309. ISBN   978-1-84885-477-2. In 1868 the vilayet of Prizren was created with the sancaks of Prizren, Dibra, Skopje and Niš; it only existed till 1877
  12. Apostoloski, Mihailo (1978). Makedonija vo istočnata kriza 1875–1881. Skopje: Makedonska akademija na naukite i umetnostite. p. 187. After the Berlin Congress other administrative reforms were carried out. So the Debar Sanjak was separated from Kosovo Vilayet and was added to the Bitola vilayet...
  13. Brastvo. Društvo sv. Save. 1940. p. 176. Уопште Дебарски санџак се, у последње време до осло- бођења, трговачким артиклима са 50°/» снабдевао из Скопља а са 25°/» из Битоља.
  14. Vickers, Miranda (1999). The Albanians: a modern history. I.B.Tauris. pp. 77, 78. ISBN   978-1-86064-541-9.
  15. British and Foreign State Papers. H.M. Stationery Office. 1897.