Naum Veqilharxhi
Veqilharxhi in a c. 1844 illustration
Veqilharxhi in a c. 1844 illustration
BornNaum Panajot Bredhi
December 6, 1797
Vithkuq, Korçë, southern Albania, then Ottoman Empire
Died1846[1][2] (Aged 57)
Istanbul, Turkey, then Constantinople, Ottoman Empire[3]
Notable worksEvëtor

Naum Veqilharxhi (born Naum Panajot Bredhi; 1797–1846)[1][2] was an Albanian lawyer and scholar. In 1844, he published using a unique alphabet for the Albanian language with characters he had created himself, the Vithkuqi script. Veqilharxhi is one of the most prominent figures of the early Albanian National Awakening, and is considered by Albanians as its first ideologue.[4][5]


Early life

Naum Veqilharxhi was from the village of Vithkuq, near Korçë, southern Albania and was born on 6 of December 1797.[6] His family inherited the name Veqilharxhi (Vekilharç lit. meaning steward) since his father Panajot Bredhi was a supplier to the court of Ali Pashë Tepelena, the ruler of the Pashalik of Janina.[7] After the destruction of Vithkuq in 1819, he sought a better life in the Danubian Principalities.[8][9] As a student he took part in the Wallachian uprising of 1821.[2] A few years later he worked in Brăila as a lawyer, became wealthy and used his money to promote the ideas of the Albanian National Awakening.[10] In Brăila he joined an intellectual organization of Albanians, who considered the development of Albanian language and culture necessary for the Albanian National Awakening.[10][11]

Activism and works

Abetare by Naum Veqilharxhi

In 1824 or 1825[8] he started the creation of his alphabet of the Albanian language.[12] The final version of his thirty-three-letter Vithkuqi alphabet, whose characters were invented by Veqilharxhi, was printed as part of primer in 1844-5 titled Ëvetari Shqip Fort i Shkurtër ("The most Useful and Concise Albanian Alphabet").[13][12][2] Veqilharxhi avoided the use of Latin, Greek or Arabic alphabets and characters because of their religious associations and the possibility of causing divisions among Albanians of different religions.[14][12] Veqilarxhi's Ëvetar first distributed in Korçë and later westwards as far as Berat, where it reached great success.[15][12][2] It was also circulated in Përmet.[16] On April 22, 1845 Athanas Paskali, one of the notable people of Korçë, along with others sent him a letter requesting as many more copies as possible.[15] Among Albanian historians this publication by Veqilharxhi is considered as the beginning of the Albanian national awakening.[2]

In 1845 Veqilharxhi sent a polemic open letter written in the Greek language to his nephew, who had called his patriotic ideas chimera: the letter is considered to be one of the first written documents to record the main ideas of the Albanian National Awakening movement.[17] His death is thought to have been from poisoning by orders from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.[18] The cause of his death, and the date or place are unknown. It is believed that he died shortly after the summer of 1846, when the last information on him was published by the Wallachian media.[19] In a testament from Brăila, already by 1849 he is mentioned as deceased.


Bust of Naum Veqilharxhi, Korçë

Outside of his native land Veqilharxhi in Wallachia was a figure that thrived within the security of the Albanian diaspora where both worlds became linked together, a dynamic that led thereafter to the development of Albanianism by other Albanians.[2]

Veqilharxhi lamented the "backwardness" of his homeland and attributed it to centuries of Ottoman rule, and argued that a new unifying Albanian alphabet was necessary to overcome the stagnation and unify the country.[8] He was concerned by the lack of Albanian schools, and saw the development of written Albanian as a necessary precursor to cultural and political development.[20][21] Veqilharxhi felt that education in one's mother tongue was important toward acquiring knowledge and "culture".[11][2] In one preface written to Albanian schoolboys, he berates Albanian children who did "not know their own heritage; not only are they unable to write in their own language, they cannot even pray to the Lord in the language each of them tasted with his mother’s milk", and for learning only the languages of foreigners and not their own. He urged Albanian boys to study their own language in order to "join the civilized world, prove that our land is idle no longer and show ourselves as men of great honor",[22] and compared the Albanian nation to a "larva" that may one day become a butterfly.[23]

It has been argued that, in his formative earlier years, Veqilharxhi was influenced by Greek nationalism[24] and was a member of the Filiki Eteria.[25] In his later years, he warned that "Greek schools are organized to illuminate Greek youth and not to illuminate the Albanian people", and felt that native language education was necessary to prevent Hellenisation.[26]

Veqilharxhi is considered to be the first written ideologue of Albanian nationalism[8][21][27] and the first to formulate its ideals,[8][28][23] as well as the first enlightener of the Albanian National Awakening.[27] Attached to his Ëvetar was a primer addressed to Orthodox Albanians, which became the first programme document of the Albanian national movement.[21]

Veqilharxhi conceived of Albania as a nation with its own language, customs and history, and its own territory.[29] His conception of Albania included a harmony between the different faiths practiced by Albanians, with each faith being practiced by Albanians a little bit differently than it would be by non-Albanians, which would evolve into the Albanian national ideal of religious harmony.[30] He also helped Albanian nationalism take its ultimate course of using language, rather than religion as other Balkan nationalisms did, as its primary unifier.[31]

The original alphabet he invented

Main article: Vithkuqi script

Letters from the original script of Veqilharxhi (red). The missing gj, rr, xh and zh are marked as X.

Veqilharxhi invented an original script for his Albanian primers. The script sometimes considered to be similar to the Armenian alphabet, was most probably developed sometime around 1825. The books by Veqilharxhi were lithographed in Bucharest by George Venrich, as was recently discovered.[32] Though the script was lithographed, in 1847 it was also cut for typographic use in Vienna, by the Austrian philologists and punchcutter Alois Auer.[33] The script by Veqilharxhi, is also known as Vithkuqi script, because of the place of birth of its author. It was briefly used in some parts of Albania, but never managed to become popularised.

This was not the first original script to be developed for the Albanian language. However, according to Robert Elsie it remains the first one to be printed, though only lithographed, as shown above. The typeface of Vithkuqi is the first known original Albanian script to by cut in type. It was briefly used by Carl Faulmann at the end of the 19th century. No instance of its usage by any Albanian author is known to date.

See also


  1. ^ a b Islami, Selim (1984). "4". Historia e Shqiperise (in Albanian). Vol. 2. Academy of Sciences of Albania. p. 134.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Gawrych, George (2006). The Crescent and the Eagle: Ottoman rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874–1913. London: IB Tauris. p. 20. ISBN 9781845112875.
  3. ^ Elsie, Robert (2012). A Biographical Dictionary of Albanian History. I.B. Taurus. ISBN 978-1-78076-431-3.
  4. ^ Enis Sulstarova, Naum Veqilharxhi dhe lindja e kombit [Naum Veqilharxhi and the birth of the nation] (in Albanian), Pashtriku, retrieved 2014-12-01, Naum Veqilharxhi is considered the avant-garde and first ideologue of the National Awakening, because his work results in one of the first attempts for an original Albanian alphabet (1844 and 1845), as well as contains an embryo form of the ideas which would develop later on during the National Renaissance. [Naum Veqilharxhi është konsideruar si pararendësi dhe ideologu i parë i Rilindjes Kombëtare Shqiptare, sepse vepra e tij përbën një nga përpjekjet e para për një alfabet origjinal të shqipes (1844 dhe 1845), si edhe përmban në trajtë embrionale idetë që do të zhvilloheshin më vonë gjatë periudhës së Rilindjes.]
  5. ^ Fedhon Meksi (2011-10-21), Naum Veqilharxhi, babai i alfabetit dhe abetares shqipe. [Naum Veqilharxhi, the father of Albanian alphabet and ABC-book] (in Albanian), archived from the original on 2014-12-02, retrieved 2014-12-01
  6. ^ Naum Veqilharxhi (1844). Fort i shkurtër e i përdorshim ëvetar shqip, Bucharest, p. 3 "Pjellë mbë 1797 mbë 6 të Deqembvrit."
  7. ^ Trencsényi, Balázs; Kopeček, Michal (2006-06-15). Late Enlightenment: Emergence of the Modern 'National Idea'. Central European University Press. p. 258. ISBN 978-615-5053-84-9.
  8. ^ a b c d e Robert Elsie (2010). Historical Dictionary of Albania. Scarecrow Press, inc.: Plymouth, United Kingdom. pp. 469–470. Nationalist figure. Naum Veqilharxhi was one of the earliest men to devote himself to the creation of a new Albanian alphabet and also one of the first to formulate the ideals and objectives of the Albanian nationalist movement in its budding stages. He was born of a family from the village of Bredh near Vithkuq in the Korça region. It was no doubt after the destruction of Vithkuq in 1819 that Veqilharxhi immigrated to Romania in search of a better life. In 1821, he took part in a Wallachian uprising against the Turks. He spent the rest of his life as a lawyer, as far as is known, in the port of Brăila on the Danube. He died of poisoning in Istanbul, allegedly at the hands of Greek Orthodox fanatics supposedly linked to the patriarch of Constantinople. Whether this is true or not will never be known. However, it is known that the patriarchate was at odds with all expressions of non-Greek nationalism in the Balkans. In a letter in Greek, which Naum Veqilharxhi is reported to have circulated, he pointed to the backwardness and misery of the Albanians as a result of long centuries of Turkish rule and stressed the need for a new Albanian alphabet as a means of overcoming this stagnation and of uniting the country. In 1824 or 1825, Veqilharxhi had already begun working on the 33-letter alphabet of his own invention, which he had printed in an eight-page Albanian spelling book in 1844. This little spelling book was distributed throughout southern Albania, from Korça to Berat, and was received, it appears, with a good deal of enthusiasm. The booklet was augmented to 48 pages in a second edition in 1845 entitled Faré i ri abétor shqip per djélm nismetore (A Very New Albanian Spelling Book for Elementary Schoolboys)... Veqilharxhi stands out as the first man of letters in the 19th century to have expressed the ideals of the growing Albanian nationalist movement.
  9. ^ Skendi 1967, pp. 121, 145.
  10. ^ a b Treptow, Kurt (1992). From Zalmoxis to Jan Palach: studies in East European history. East European monographs. Vol. 328. East European Monographs. p. 98. ISBN 0-88033-225-5.
  11. ^ a b Skendi 1967, p. 121.
  12. ^ a b c d Skendi, Stavro (1967). The Albanian national awakening. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 139. ISBN 9781400847761.
  13. ^ Norris, H.T (1993). Islam in the Balkans: religion and society between Europe and the Arab world. University of South Carolina Press. p. 247. ISBN 0-87249-977-4. Naum Bredhi.
  14. ^ Straehle, Carolin (1974). International journal of the sociology of language. Mouton. p. 5.
  15. ^ a b Michelson, Paul (2002). National development in Romania and southeastern Europe. Center for Romanian Studies. p. 54. ISBN 973-9432-37-9.
  16. ^ Pahumi, Nevila. "The Consolidation of Albanian Nationalism: The League of Prizren 1878-1881". Page 25: "Berat, Korça and Përmet"
  17. ^ Islami, p.137
  18. ^ Palairet, Michael (2016). Macedonia: A Voyage through History (Vol. 2, From the Fifteenth Century to the Present). Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 114–115. ISBN 9781443888493. A pioneering effort by one Vekilcharje in about 1850 produced an Albanian alphabet, in which a few small books were printed. It flourished briefly at Korçë, but its creator is believed to have been poisoned by the Greek Patriarch.
  19. ^ Yll Rugova (2022). Dëshmi të reja për vendin e shtypit të Ëvetarëve nga Naum Veqilharxhi dhe çështje të tjera, in Seminari ndërkombëtar për gjuhën, letërsinë dhe kulturën shqiptare (40), Prishtina, p. 296–322.
  20. ^ Pahumi, Nevila. "Consolidation of Albanian nationalism". Page 25
  21. ^ a b c Zhelyazkova, Antonina. "Albanian Identities". International Centre for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations (IMIR): Sofia. Page 24:"It is assumed that the beginning of the Albanian Revival was set by Naum Veqilharxhi's activity and his address to the Orthodox Albanians, which, along with his primer published in 1845, was the first programme document of the Albanian national movement. In it Veqilharxhi demanded Albanian schools and development of the Albanian language as a first step to the evolution of the Albanian people side by side with the other Balkan nations."
  22. ^ Pahumi, Nevila (2007). "Consolidation of Albanian Nationalism". University of Michigan. Pages 24-25
  23. ^ a b Misha, Piro. "Invention of Nationalism: Myth and Amnesia". In Schwandner Sievers and Fischer, Albanian Identities: Myth and History. C. Hurst & Co.: Bloomington, Indiana, United States. Page 42: "Naum Veqilharxhi, one remarkable personality of the first period of the Albanian national movement, compared the situation of the Albanians with that of a larva that would one day become a butterfly... Naum Veqilharxhi... was the first ideologue of the Albanian national movement.
  24. ^ Pahumi, Nevila (2007). "Consolidation of Albanian nationalism". University of Michigan. Page 25: "It is safe to assume that Veqilharxhi had probably been influenced by nationalist ideas during the Greek Revolution in which he took part.
  25. ^ Islami, Myslim. Naum Veqilharxhi: Ideologu i Pare i Rilindjes Shqiptar. Pages 133-137
  26. ^ Meksi, Fedhon. "Veqilharxhi, babai i alfabetit dhe abetares shqiptare". 21 October 2011. "N. Veqilharxhi e kishte të qartë se “shkollat greke janë të organizuara për të ndriçuar rininë greke dhe jo për ndriçimin e popullit shqiptar” (Letra dërguar Jani Calit, 1846). Në këto kushte Naum Veqilharxhi ishte i pari që ndjeu nevojën e ngutshme të përhapjes së arsimit në gjuhën amtare për të penguar helenizimin e vendit."
  27. ^ a b Meksi, Fedhon. "Veqilharxhi, babai i alfabetit dhe abetares shqiptare". 21 October 2011. "Përveçse ideologu i parë, Naum Veqilharxhi vlerësohet edhe si iluministi i parë i Rilindjes Kombëtare Shqiptare."
  28. ^ Pahumi, Nevila. "Consolidation of Albanian nationalism". Page 25:" The foundations of Albanian nationalism had been laid by one Naum Veqilharxhi or Naum Panajot Bredhi, a native of Vithkuq in the district of Korce."
  29. ^ Pahumi, Nevila. "Consolidation of Albanian Nationalism". University of Michigan. Page 25: "Part of Veqilharxhi’s grander vision saw an Albanian nation, with its own language, customs and history, as well as territory."
  30. ^ Meksi, Fedhon. "Veqilharxhi, babai I alfabetit edhe abetares shqiptare". 21 October 2011. Panorama. "N. Veqilharxhi kishte ideuar rikonstruksionin e kombit shqiptar që përfshinte myslimanët dhe të krishterët, vërtetuar tashmë nga historia, dhe si aliazh që është, doli më i fortë dhe më rezistent sesa elementët që e përbëjnë. Dora-dorës, populli shqiptar e pranoi porosinë e Naumit dhe krijoi modelin e tij, sipas të cilit besimet fetare do të praktikoheshin në një mënyrë të veçantë, në mënyrën shqiptare, me tone të ulura, jo vetëm pa ngacmuar bashkëkombësit e feve të tjera, po gjithmonë duke i respektuar ato. Kjo është harmonia fetare ose bashkëjetesa shqiptare që ideoi N. Veqilharxhi dhe që sot, falë urtësisë të popullit tonë, përbën një vlerë të veçantë të tij, si një model referimi për popujt e tjerë ballkanikë, si mënyrën e vetme për një të ardhme të përbashkët më të lumtur."
  31. ^ Meksi, Fedhon. "Veqilharxhi, babai i alfabetit dhe abetares shqiptare". 21 October 2011. " Naum Veqilharxhi përcaktoi drejtimin kryesor të nacionalizmit shqiptar, që do të kishte specifikën e tij. Ai do të përpunohej duke u mbështetur kryesisht mbi gjuhën amtare dhe jo mbi fenë, si në rastin e nacionalizmave të tjerë ballkanikë."
  32. ^ Yll Rugova (2022). Tipografia shqiptare 1555–1912, Varg & Berk, Prishtinë, p. 166-167
  33. ^ Yll Rugova (2022). Tipografia shqiptare 1555–1912, Varg & Berk, Prishtinë, p. 170-177