|Born||Naum Panajot Bredhi|
December 6, 1797
Vithkuq, Korçë, southern Albania, then Ottoman Empire
|Died||1846 (Aged 57)|
Istanbul, Turkey, then Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Naum Veqilharxhi (born Naum Panajot Bredhi; 1797–1846) was an Albanian lawyer and scholar. In 1844, he created a unique alphabet for the Albanian language using 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.
Naum Veqilharxhi was from the village of Vithkuq, near Korçë, southern Albania and was born on 6 of December 1797. 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. After the destruction of Vithkuq in 1819, he sought a better life in Romania. As a student he took part in the Wallachian uprising of 1821. 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. In Brăila he joined an intellectual organization of Albanians, who considered the development of Albanian language and culture necessary for the Albanian National Awakening.
In 1824 or 1825 he started the creation of his alphabet of the Albanian language. 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 Evëtori Shqip Fort i Shkurtër (English: The most Useful and Concise Albanian Alphabet). 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. Veqilarxhi's Evëtor first distributed in Korçë and later westwards as far as Berat, where it reached great success. It was also circulated in Përmet. 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. Among Albanian historians this publication by Veqilharxhi is considered as the beginning of the Albanian national awakening.
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. His death is thought to have been from poisoning by orders from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Outside of his native land Veqilharxhi in Romania 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.
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. 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. Veqilharxhi felt that education in one's mother tongue was important toward acquiring knowledge and "culture". 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", and compared the Albanian nation to a "larva" that may one day become a butterfly.
It has been argued that, in his formative earlier years, Veqilharxhi was influenced by Greek nationalism and was a member of the Filiki Eteria. In 1821, he took part in the Romanian uprising in Wallachia during his stay there. 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.
Veqilharxhi is considered to be the first written ideologue of Albanian nationalism and the first to formulate its ideals, as well as the first enlightener of the Albanian National Awakening. Attached to his Evëtor was a primer addressed to Orthodox Albanians, which became the first programme document of the Albanian national movement.
Veqilharxhi conceived of Albania as a nation with its own language, customs and history, and its own territory. 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. He also helped Albanian nationalism take its ultimate course of using language, rather than religion as other Balkan nationalisms did, as its primary unifier.
Main article: Vithkuqi script
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. Though the script was lithographed, in 1847 it was also cut for typographic use in Vienna, by the Austrian philologists and punchcutter Alois Auer. 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.
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.]
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.
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.