The “Discovery” of Albanians and Their Culture from Western Europe

  • Agron Mesi Ph.D. Researcher. Academy of Albanological Studies, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Art Studies, Tirana, Albania.Lecturer. Polis University, Faculty of Architecture and Design, Tirana, Albania.


Although Albanian inhabited areas are almost at the gates of Western Europe, historically, this country’s fate, identity and culture were ignored by Western Europe for almost five centuries, a period when Albanian territories existed as the periphery of the imperial Ottoman domination.The incipience of modernity, in the nineteenth century, was the time to restore the attention of Western Romantic Europe to Albanians and their culture, to their particular language, to the multifarious folk art, to the many crafts, the “magnificent” clothing and the archaic customs of this nation, as well as to the geography of the “majestic” and “virgin” landscape, the “impressive” architectural typologies of cities and dwellings. Interest in Albania at that time was related to the awareness (although delayed) that the Western Europe had to regain this Orientalised territory, which previously belonged both administratively and culturally to it. Albania’s destiny, to some extent, was linked from its beginnings, to European chancelleries and primarily their political and economic interests, and certainly their cultural interests as well, over this precious “threshold” territory (or “at the border”).The territory inhabited by Albanians was crisscrossed from the beginning of this century and on from all the categories of visitors. The first Europeans who reached the Albanian territories were diplomats, politicians, soldiers, merchants, and simultaneously many exploration anthropologists, historians, linguists, geologists, archaeologists, botanists, poets, painters and even thrill-seeking adventurers.This paper aims to provide evidence on the growing interest shown by Europe to Albania in the XIX century, an interest that will be examined in this case, focusing on its cultural and ethnological components rather than its political element. In particular, attention will be paid to how these foreigners explored and identified the autochthonous characteristics, intertwined with many influences from the foreign Ottoman culture. In the landscape geography, in the typologies of architectural constructions, urban organisation of inhabited centres, in the traditional crafts, traditional costumes and in the overall lifestyle, there aren’t represented straight aspects of cultural production and architectural creativity, but idiosyncratic phenomena generated by cultural interferences and a mix of superimposed or layered factors such as in a “palimpsest”, that are all mixed together representing the wealth classified nowadays as the material culture of our nation in that particular historical period, when Albania more than ever was perceived as a “frontier” territory, culturally more “East” and geographically more “West”.
Sep 25, 2019
How to Cite
MESI, Agron. The “Discovery” of Albanians and Their Culture from Western Europe. European Journal of Social Science Education and Research, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 3, p. 64-80, sep. 2019. ISSN 2312-8429. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 14 july 2020. doi: