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Vlora War

Clockwise from top: Italian base; Albanian soldiers; Italian cannons captured by Albanian irregulars during one of the battles
DateJune 4 – August 2, 1920

Treaty of Tirana between Italy and Albania (2 August 1920), confirmed by the Conference of Ambassadors (9 November 1921).

  • Victory of Albanian independentists[1]
  • Italy gives up plans to establish a mandate over Albania, while retaining a diplomatic protection to guarantee the country's independence.[2]
Vlorë relinquished to Albania by Italy and the Saseno Island formally annexed by Italy
Principality of Albania Albania Kingdom of Italy Italy
Commanders and leaders
Qazim Koculi
Ahmet Lepenica
Selam Musai 
Spiro Jorgo Koleka
Fani Shuka
Aristidh Ruçi
Giovanni Giolitti
Settimio Piacentini
Enrico Gotti 
10,000 troops, of which 3,000–4,000 engaged[3] About 7,000 troops,[4] with only a fraction engaged due to an outbreak of malaria[5]
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Vlora War was a military conflict in the Vlorë region of Albania between the Kingdom of Italy and Albanian nationalists. The war ended with Albanian nationalists forcing Italy to abandon its plans to make Albania a mandate and ceding Vlorë to Albania. Italy retained diplomatic protection over Albania to ensure its independence, while annexing the island of Saseno. The armistice agreement was ratified a year later by the Conference of Ambassadors of the League of Nations. The Vlora War is considered an important moment in the history of Albanian independence.[6][7][8]


Before joining the Triple Entente as an ally in World War I, the Kingdom of Italy signed the secret Treaty of London. Under this agreement, Italy promised to declare war on Germany and Austria-Hungary within one month in exchange for territorial gains at the end of the war. Articles 6 and 7 of the treaty dealt with the promised territories in Albania that Italy would receive:[9]

Article 6 Italy shall receive full sovereignty over Valona, the island of Saseno and surrounding territory....

Article 7 Having obtained the Trentino and Istria by Article 4, Dalmatia and the Adriatic islands by Article 5, and also the gulf of Valona, Italy undertakes, in the event a small, autonomous, and neutralized state being formed in Albania Italy not to oppose the possible desire of France, Great Britain, and Russia to repartition the northern and the southern districts of Albania between Montenegro, Serbia, and Greece. The southern coast of Albania, from the frontier of the Italian territory of Valona to Cape Stilos, is to be neutralized. The Italy will be conceded the right of concluding the foreign relations of Albania; in any case, Italy will be bound to secure for Albania a territory sufficiently extensive to enable its frontiers to join those of Greece and Serbia to the west of Lake Ochrida ..

In 1920, the Allies at the Paris Peace Conference had not yet decided on the future of Albania, but Italy's claims to sovereignty over Vlorë had never faced a significant challenge. Prime Minister Francesco Saverio Nitti also sought a mandate over the rest of the country following the secret Treaty of London.[10]

Orders of battle

Albanian order of battle

Albanian order of battle
Forces from Shullëri Commander Kalo Telhai
Forces from Kutë Commander Rrapo Çelo and Halim Rakipi
Forces from Dukat Commander Sheme Sadiku and Hodo Zeqiri
Forces from Lumi i Vlorës Commander Sali Vranishti
Forces from Fëngu Commander Muço Aliu
Forces from Kanina Commander Beqir Velo
Forces from Salari Commander Selam Musai
Forces from Kurvelesh Commander Riza Runa
Forces from Fterra Commander Xhaferr Shehu
Forces from Mallakastër Commander Bektash Çakrani and Halim Hamiti
Forces from Skrapar Commander Riza Kodheli
Forces from Berat Commander Seit Toptani and Izedin Vrioni and Fani Shuka
Forces from Peqin Commander Adem Gjinishi
Forces from Gjirokastër Commander Javer Hurshiti and Xhevdet Picari
Forces from Çamëria Commander Alush Seit Taka and Muharrem Rushiti
Forces from Korça Captain Ferit Frashëri and Tosun Selenica
Forces from Tirana Captain Ismail Haki Kuçi
Albanian-American Volunteers Captain Aqif Përmeti and Kareiman Tatzani

Italian order of battle

Italian order of battle
Area Military Strength Commander
Vlorë-Kaninë area Center of High Command of 36th division forces Commander: General Settimo Piacentini. Division commander - General Emanuele Pugliese and his aid General De Luca.
Kotë Road, food and hospital center. 4th command of mixed artillery. Alpine battalion, 72nd battalion of Infantry. Command of Carabinieri forces. Commander General Enrico Gotti, Commander of the garrison Cavallo Michele.
Gjorm Center of a machine gun company Commander Captain Bergamaschi
Matohasanaj Castle 72 infantry battalion, infantry regiment, 182nd mountain artillery section 70 mm. Commander major
Tepelenë Castle Infantry battalion, 157th artillery section, carabinieri forces. Commander major Bronzini.
Llogara Pass Part of 35th battalion of 35th regiment of bersaglieri, 105th repart. Commander Captain Boansea
Himarë Center of command of 35th regiment of bersaglieri. Commander general Rossi, Colonel Manganeli.
Selenicë Commander major Guadalupi
Vlora Gulf Battleships "San Mario", "Bruceti", "Dulio", Alkina" Orion, torpedinier "Arcione"
Ujë i Ftohtë region (outskirt south of Vlorë) Aviation forces
Panaja Central magazines of the Italian army
Vajzë - hospital and post command.

Course of war

Illustration of the flag raised during the war

The conflict began on June 4 after Italian General Settimo Piacentini refused to cede control of the Vlora district to the Albanian government. Previously, Albania had successfully expelled most of the Italian occupation from the country. After Italy refused the request of Ahmet Zogu, then Albanian Minister of the Interior, to continue the evacuation, the Albanians formed the National Defense Committee, led by Qazim Koculi, and began recruiting volunteers.[6] Ahmet Lepenica took command of the force, which consisted of about 4,000 soldiers. The Albanian rebels were poorly armed; some did not carry firearms and resorted to sticks and stones. In the area around Vlora there were about 25,000 Italian soldiers equipped with artillery.[6]

The Albanians fought in the Vlora region and were joined by local volunteers, resulting in a force of over 10,000 irregular fighters. Despite the increase in numbers, only up to 4,000 Albanians participated in the conflict. This force included the Banda e Vatrës, an Albanian military band formed in the United States that traveled by boat for 23 days to reach Durrës.[11][6] The advance of the Albanian troops and the communist revolutionary movements, coupled with riots in the Italian army, made it impossible to reinforce the Italian soldiers in Vlora.[12][6] As a result, the Italian soldiers barricaded themselves in Vlora, facing malaria and communist agitation in their ranks, and without receiving any orders.[6][12]

End of hostilities

Italian cannons captured by Albanian irregulars during one of the battles

The military stalemate continued for three months until the Italian and Albanian governments signed the Treaty of Tirana, which ended the conflict.

Italy undertakes to recognize and defend the autonomy of Albania and, retaining only Saseno, abandons Vallona.

It was the first diplomatic agreement between Albania and a foreign country. The pact saved the territory of the Albanian state from further partition. Albania used all its influence and efforts to achieve full and unrestricted recognition by the Western powers of Albania's independence within its 1913 borders.[13]

The armistice, introducing a ceasefire on 5 August, contained these main points:

  1. The Italian Government completely acknowledged the independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of Albania, within the frontiers defined in 1913 by the Conference of Ambassadors in London.
  2. The Italian government relinquished its protectorate proclaimed in 1917 and the occupation and administration of Vlorë and its hinterland, and renounced all claims against Albania and all interference in Albanian political affairs, and abandoned the idea of a mandate over the country.
  3. The Italian government agreed to withdraw its war materials from Vlorë and its hinterland, to evacuate all its holdings on the Albanian mainland, and to repatriate at an early date the Italian troops actually stationed in Vlorë and on the littoral, and all its forces still remaining in other parts of Albanian territory with the exception of the garrison on the island of Sazan at the entrance of the Vlorë bay; Italy retained the permanent possession only of the island of Sazan, but remained in temporary occupation of Cape Linguetta and cape Treporti, both dominating Vlorë bay, with the right to fortify them; the detachment of troops at Shkodër was also to remain in that town.
  4. There would take place an exchange of prisoners, the liberation of arrested persons under a general mutual amnesty, and the settlement of outstanding questions concerning the private interests of Albanian and Italian subjects.

The Treaty of Tirana was ratified by the League of Nations Conference of Ambassadors in November 1921. It recognized Italian special interests in Albania while reaffirming Albanian independence. Giovanni Giolitti, the Italian Prime Minister at the time, expressed his satisfaction with the treaty in these words:

What really interests us is that Vallona cannot form a base of operations against us; and this aim was achieved with the occupation of the islet of Sasseno, which lies at the mouth of the bay itself... For these reasons, I decided to renounce the mandate conferred on us by the Paris Conference on Albania, which would have represented an enormous liability without any profit, and to limit our action to the diplomatic protection of Albania against the aims of other States, and to abandon Vallona, ensuring however recognition of the possession of Sasseno

However, Benito Mussolini referred to Vlora as the "Albanian Caporetto".[1] Upon taking power, he also ensured Albanian independence, but caused the Corfu Crisis after a border disagreement with Greece.


  1. ^ a b Arhire, Sorin; Roşu, Tudor, eds. (2019). The Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920) and Its Aftermath: Settlements, Problems and Perceptions. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 112. ISBN 9781527543959. ... the political quarrel turned into an armed conflict, which ended with the unexpected victory of the Albanians.
  2. ^ Giovanni Giolitti "Memorie della mia vita", Milan: F.lli Treves, 1922.)
  3. ^ Krasniqi, Kolë (2019). Islamist Extremism in Kosovo and the Countries of the Region. Cham: Springer. ISBN 978-3-030-18569-5. OCLC 1119613159.
  4. ^ Marmullaku, Ramadan (1975). Albania and the Albanians. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books. ISBN 0-208-01558-2. OCLC 1963173.
  5. ^ Vincenzo Gallinari, l'esercito italiano nel primo dopoguerra, 1918-1920, p.157
  6. ^ a b c d e f Albanian identities: myth and history Authors Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers, Bernd Jürgen Fischer Editors Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers, Bernd Jürgen Fischer Edition illustrated Publisher C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2002 ISBN 1-85065-572-3, ISBN 978-1-85065-572-5
  7. ^ Ruggero Giacomini, La rivolta dei bersaglieri e le Giornate Rosse - I moti di Ancona dell'estate del 1920 e l'indipendenza dell'Albania, Assemblea legislativa delle Marche, Ancona 2010.
  8. ^ Paolini M., I fatti di Ancona e l'11º Bersaglieri (giugno 1920), in "Quaderni di Resistenza Marche", n. 4 novembre 1982.
  9. ^ Southern Albania, 1912-1923 Publisher Stanford University Press ISBN 0-8047-6171-X, 9780804761710 p.61
  10. ^ Italy from liberalism to fascism, 1870-1925 Author Christopher Seton-Watson Edition illustrated Publisher Taylor & Francis, 1967 ISBN 0-416-18940-7, ISBN 978-0-416-18940-7 p. 578
  12. ^ a b "Gli Italiani si ritirano dall'Albania". Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  13. ^ Albania and King Zog: independence, republic and monarchy 1908-1939 Volume 1 of Albania in the twentieth century, Owen Pearson Volume 1 of Albania and King Zog, Owen Pearson Author Owen Pearson Edition illustrated Publisher I.B.Tauris, 2004 ISBN 1-84511-013-7, ISBN 978-1-84511-013-0 page 151 [1]

Further reading