The Croats in Albania



Vladimir Markotic


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Journal of Croatian Studies, I, 1960, pages 25-31  – Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y., Electronic edition by Studia Croatica, by permission. All reserved by the Croatian Academy of America.

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There exist two schools of thought about the coming of the Croats in today's Croatia. The older and the dominant one maintains that they came together with other Slavs in the 6th Century. The other, that is rapidly gaining ground, says that the Croats came after the Slavs cca. 626 A.D.


A Byzantine emperor and an unknown priest describe the regions originally occupied by the Croats. Constantine Porphyrogenitus said that after the Croats came to Dalmatia "a part split off and possessed themselves of Illyricum and Pannonia[1]. The Priest of Dioclea wrote that the Coastland was divided into two parts: the western called White, and southern called Red, Croatia.[2] However there are other Croatian places that do not fit in this picture. Such are, for example, Arvati near Donja Prespa in the South Slavic Macedonia, Harvati in Attica, and in the county Mycenae near Argos in Peleponnese, and Harvata in the county Khania in Crete.[3] In addition, recently, a book published in Turkey mentions Croatian localities in Albania[4].


The title of the book is: Hicrî 835 Tarihli Süret-i Defter-i Sancak-i Arvanid, and the English translation is: The Copy of the Register of the Albanian Province Dated 835 (1431 A.D.). It deals with the sanjak (province) of Albania. There were two original copies. One was kept in Adrianople and is now lost. The other one was maintained by the Governor General of the Balkans and is now in the Basbakanlik Archives in Constantinople. The document comprises a list of timars or fiefs, which consisted of villages or parts thereof, along with the number of households in each, the names of fiefholders, and the amount of money paid to them. It covers a period of 25 years from 1431-1456. The register is not only important as the oldest document of such kind in Turkish history, but it is an indispensable historical and ethnic source of Albanians and other Balkan nations. It mentions all the localities that were administratively included in Turkish Albania. Professor Inalçik tried to identify them on a map with modern names put in brackets. A pertinent part of the map is reproduced in our article.


At first I discovered in the book two Croatian villages. One Asagi Hirvate, or Lower Hirvate, consisted of 27 households, paid 2035 aksa yearly, and was part of timar.[5] The village was also mentioned under the name Hirvat[6].  The other village was Hirvatova and the timar 256 had a part of it. It consisted of 17 households and paid 1422 aksa[7]. Since the Lower Hirvate was mentioned, an Upper Hirvate must have existed too. Whether this was Hirvatova or not cannot be ascertained from the register. Asagi Hirvate and Hirvatova were both in Muzakije, between the Rivers Sémeni (Seman) and Shkumbini (Shkumbi), but only Asagi Hirvate can be identified. It is now called Kruatje. Later, when I studied the map in more detail, I discovered in the northwest corner another locality called Kasaz, the modern Kazaz.


The name occurs widely and there is already a considerable literature about it. Kasegs were known in Old Slovenia where they lived together with Croats. In middle Styria we find the Croatian names, Krowot near Weiz, Kraubat near Stainz, Krabaten, Krabatenberg and Krabersdorf near Straden. In Slovenian Styria there was Chrowate. In Carniola we have Charwacsach and in Carinthia Kraut (Chrouuat), north of Spittal. Southwest of Leoben in Styria is the modern village Kraubat, and Chrowat is known near Lobming. This region was called "pagus Chrouuat". The county (Grafschaft) Freibach, from Treffen to Villach in Carinthia, has been known as such only since 1016; before, it was called "pagus Chrouuati", and in it were located Kroatenberg and Krobaten. Here, it seems, was the center of the Croats.[8] All those names are surrounded and accompanied by Edling and Kaseg. Edling is simply the German translation of Kaseg, and occurs as a locality and as a personal name.[9] We shall therefore not describe the various Edlings but shall mention only the name Kaseg. It occurs as Kajzice, Kazaze, Kajzaze, Kazda, Kazize, Kassasse (Kassese, Slovenian Kasaze). In the documents it is also written as Kasses, Kosses, Khasess, Khasses and Khases[10].


The names are so interspersed that we have to accept the theory that the Croats and Kasegs were at that time ethnically identical[11]. The name was variously explained. Ramovš assumed it derived from the Lombard name Gausing and suggested as a possibility that a group of Lombards accompanied the Croats from the North. Vasmer traces the origin to the Old Germanic *Kasing in Scandinavia and England[12]. Kelemina interpreted it as deriving from Latin through Furlanic; casa (house) to casagium (domnicatum, domus principalis), supposedly the juridical title for property[13]. Oštir traced it to the name of one of seven aboriginal Croatian tribes, Kosences (Kasegz, Kasedz). With this Hauptmann agreed and explained it as the Ossetian Käsäg, Russian Kasog, meaning Czerkess, a possibility already entertained by Lessiak[14]. Dvornik suggested that if the Kasegs were of Germanic origin then perhaps they were originally a Gothic tribe that joined the Croats to escape from the Huns and who later came with them to Dalmatia[15].


The Lombardic or Old Germanic attribution cannot hold, for other Kaseg places are known in East Prussia, Bohemia and Sylesia[16]. Deduction from Latin through Furlanic is difficult, for the name is known in Croatia, too. It is found in Lika as Kasezi, genitive plural Kaseg[17]. It has also recently been discovered as Kosežina, by Oskovac, outside of Lika, near Varaždin[18], and on an archaeological map of Duvno, in West Hercegovina, I found the ruin Kazaginac[19]. The Albanian Kasaz is another negative proof. Therefore the Latin origin can also be discarded. I personally think that the Oštir-Hauptmann theory may be correct. At any rate it is the best one that we have so far.


What explanations are offered for the Croats in Macedonia and Greece? The usual one is that they came with other Slavs, for the name is very wide spread among the Slavs and had nothing to do genetically with the Croats of today. -The historians tell us that the Slavs came to Albania from the Vardar Valley[20], and in reality the bulk of the Slavic names appears in South Albania, south of the Sémeni River, around Berat (Belgrad), and even further southeast. Between the- Rivers Sémeni and Shkumbini, where the two Croatian villages resided, there were few Slavic names, and north of the Shkumbini River, where Kasas lay, hardly any. Kasas itself is surrounded by non-Slavic names. Thus the geography confirms that, as in Croatia, there were also two Migrations to Albania. First the Slavic from the East and later the Croatian along the coast from the North.


How do we account for Croats in Albania? Can perhaps the previously mentioned Croatian territories be directly connected with them? Carinthia, Pannonia, and even the White Croatia are geographically too far from Albania. Thus only Red Croatia and Illyricum remain as possibilities. The priest of Dioclea stated that the southernmost point of Croatia was Polonia and, when Croatia was divided, Red Croatia extended to Bambalona[21]. Polonia was identified with old Appolonia[22] and Bambalona with La Valona or Valona[23]. The priest also explicitly says that Bambalona, was in his day called Dyrrhachium (present-day Durazzo). Thus, because of the geographical distance, the problem is whether Durazzo or Valona is the right locality. Kasaz itself was situated south of Durazzo and the two other Croatian villages were about halfway between Durazzo and Valona. This shows that the border should be regarded as Valona rather then Durazzo; this is all the more likely since Polonia (Appolonia) also was near Valona. Bambalona is one more proof that the priest used oral and written sources in addition to folktales. That there were two places nearby of which he had mutually inconsistent information shows that he was using more than one source, and this confirms even further the exactness of these sources.


The Illyricum of Porphyrogenitus was identified as Bosna by Dümmler[24] and Dvornik[25] among others, and also as Dioclea by Hauptmann because the Croats were mentioned there by Byzantine writers of the eleventh and twelfth centuries[26]. The priest himself, at a later point of his chronicle, identified Dioclea with Red Croatia. He said that a war was waged against the Ban of Prevalis (Dioclea) and, when the Ban died during the war, all of Red Croatia was taken[27]. Albanian coast from Himare south of Vijose River till Budva in Montenegro was determined as Illyricum and a part of Red Croatia[28], and Nicephorus Bryennius clearly says that Dyrrhachium is the capital of Illyricum[29].


There seems to be a contradiction between the priest and the emperor and between two passages of the priest's writings. The contradictions are easily explained. The Croats occupied both territories, as the priest first stated after using some, to him, not very clear sources. Later Croatia disappeared from Albania, but Dioclea remained. In his time the priest knew exactly where Red Croatia was for he lived there and his equating of it with Dioclea is confirmed by the Byzantine writers, too.


With regard to Greece we have, as far as I know, information only about Harvati in Attica which was visited by Županič. In the beginning of the present century it consisted of some twenty families, who spoke Albanian and who did not have any tradition of their origin. Historical documents such as the letter of Pope Innocent III in 1208 to the Latin Archbishop mention twenty five places in Attica, but Harvati was not included. The same is true of the register of the Orthodox Church before the Latin Empire[30]. For the explanation, Županič suggested that perhaps when Attica was conquered by the Turks, it was so devastated that the Turks brought slaves from Croatia and Southeast Carniola to settle there, and thus the name Croat was introduced[31]. We may also add, as a possibility, that perhaps the Albanians brought the name from Albania. But by reading carefully the names that are mentioned in the letter of 1208, we discern a place bearing greatly on our problem, which has been previously overlooked. It is the locality, or monastery, Cassas. The place existed two and a half centuries before the Turks arrived and the great Albanian migrations started only after this. Therefore both, possibilities have to be rejected. Besides, they could not explain other Croatian names outside of Attica.


The origin of Kasegs is still debated, but at the present moment it is completely irrevelant to our problem whether the Kasegs are traced to Lombardic, Old Germanic or Latin sources. It does not matter if they were originally Lombardians, Czerkess, or Goths, and it is not even important if they were one of the Croatian tribes mentioned by Porphyrogenitus. But it is certain that where there are Kasegs we find Croats, as in Albania, Lika, Hercegovina, Carniola, Styria and Carinthia. The possibility suggested by Grafenauer that Kasegs in Lika, because of their small number, developed from the Old Slovenia[32] cannot be plausible, for now we know Kasegs existed outside of Lika and Old Slovenia; the documents and geography clearly show that the original center must have been Croatia. Their smaller number there is due to migrations.


Finally there is only one possible explanation left for the occurrence of the Croats in Albania, Macedonia and Greece. After the Croats came to Dalmatia a part split off, occupied Dioclea and Illyricum and then, for some unknown reasons, split up further and settled in various places, possibly making common cause with other Slavs against the Byzantines.


Summary: The Croatian localities in Albania afford proof of the former existence of the Croats there, and they are in agreement with the Red Croatia of the Priest of Dioclea and the Illyricum of Constantine Porphyrogenitus. This settlement by Croatians extended mainly along the coast, south of Durazzo and probably south of Valona. The occurrence of Kasegs together with the Croats provides further -confirmation. The Croatian places in Macedonia and Greece can only be explained as migrations from Red Croatia.



[1] Gy Moravcsik and R. J. H. Jenkins, eds., Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando lmperio. (Budapest 1949), p. 143.

[2] V. Mošin, ed., Ljetopis popa Dukljanina. (Zagreb, 1950), p. 54.

[3] M. Vasmer. "Die Slawen in Griechenland." Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Phil.-hist. Kl. No. 12. (Berlin, 1941), p. 123, 127, 175.

[4] For all the facts concerning this book I wish to express my gratitude to Professor Halil Inalçik who patiently explained all items in which I was interested.

[5] Halil Inalçik, Hicri 835 tarihli Süret-i Defter-i Sancak-i Arvanid. (Ankara, 1954) p. 5.

[6] Ibidem. p. 95.

[7] Ibidem. p. 94.

[8] L. Hauptmann, "Die Herkunft der Kärtner Edlinge," Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- and Wirtschaftsgeschichte (Vienna), vol. 21 (1928), p. 263-73.

[9] P. Lessiak, "Edling-Kazaze", Carinthia (Klagenfurt), vol. I (1913), p. 84; L. Hauptmann, "Kroaten, Goten and Sarmaten," Germanoslavica (Prague), vol. III (1935), p. 347.

[10] P. Lessiak, op. cit., p. 84 ff.

[11] L. Hauptmann, "Kroaten, Goten and Sarmaten," op. cit., p. 347-48.

[12] Ibídem, p. 351.52.

[13] J. Kelemina. "Kazaz, Kosez." Slavistična Revija (Ljubljana). vol. III (1951), p. 465.

[14] L. Hauptmann, "Kroaten, Goten and Sarmaten," op. cit., p. 349, 353; P. Lessiak, op. cit., p. 887.

[15] F. Dvornik, The Slavs. Their Early History and Civilisation (Cambridge, Mass., 1956). p. 64.

[16] P. Lessiak, op. cit., p. 88.

[17] Ibidem. p. 91.

[18] J. Kelemina, op. cit., p. 456.

[19] Wissenschaftliche Mittheilungen aus . Bosnien and der Hercegovina (Wien. 1896) vol. IV p. 136.

[20] L Hauptmann, "Albanija, Povijest," Hrvatska Enciklopedija (Zagreb), vol. I (1941), p. 177-79.

[21] V. Mošin, op. cit., p. 43, 54.

[22] F. Šišić, Letopis popa Dukljanina. (Beograd and Zagreb, 1928), p. 424.

[23] L. Jelić, "Duvanjski sabor," Vjesnik Hrvatskog Arheološkog Društva (Zagreb), New Series, vol. X (1908-9), p. 138; P. Skok, "Zum Balkanlatein IV", Zeitschrift für roman. Philologie, LIV p. 176; D. Mandić, Crvena Hrvatska. (Chicago, 1957), p. 120.

[24] F. Šišić, Povijest Hrvata u vrijeme narodnih vladara. (Zagreb, 1925), p. 462.

[25] F. Dvornik, op. cit., p. 63.-

[26] L Hauptmann, "Konstantin Porfirogenet o porijeklu stanovištva dubrovačkog zaleđa," Zbornik iz dubrovačke prošlosti. Milanu Rešetaru o 70 godišnjici života. (Dubrovnik, 1931), p. 22-23; L. Hauptmann, "Kroaten, Goten and Sarmaten," op. cit., p. 339.

[27] V. Mošin, op. cit., p. 73.

[28] D. Mandić, "Hrvatski Sabor na Duvanjskom polju," Hrvatska Revija (Buenos Aires), vol. VII (1957), p. 12-19. For historical, changes of the term Illyricum see D. Mandić, Crvena Hrvatska. op. cit. p. 54-73.

[29] F. Šišić, Povijest Hrvata ..., p. 533.

[30] N. Županič, "Hrvati kod Atine. Prilozi antropologiji i istoriskoj etnologiji Atike", Starinar (Beograd). Vol VI (1914), p. 100-11.

[31] Ibidem. p. 100.

[32] B. Grafenauer, "Prilog kritici Porfirogeneta," Historijski Zbornik. (Zagreb), vol. V (1952), p. 53.