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Fan Noli’s Revolution: Oil and the World Outside the Balkans

Robert C. Austin

When he seized power in June 1924, Fan S Noli placed his greatest hopes in Great Britain and to some extent the United States as defenders of his “revolution” . His early experience at the League of Nations, where British support proved so vital on a number of issues, shaped his opinion. In a September 1924 interview in Geneva with the Times, Noli declared that the Albanians would not soon forget that their country’s admission to the League was due chiefly to Britain’s and the Dominions’ support.[i] Great Britain, he reasoned, was a disinterested power in a good position to help without undermining Albania’s sovereignty – the same could not be said for Italy or any of Albania’s neighbors –Greece and Yugoslavia. The US also showed promise, after all, Noli had lived there and showed great respect for its institutions and type of government. As one who had toppled what was essentially a feudal regime, how could the United States not embrace him? In the end, he did not win anyone over.

In the years that preceded Noli’s revolution in June 1924, Britain had not only helped to maintain Albanian sovereignty, but had also ensured itself a paramount role in the country. The British embassy recommended British military officers, such as Colonel W.F. Stirling, to aid in the reorganization of Albania’s gendarmerie and Interior Ministry.[ii] Stirling had tried to secure a position with the Albanian government in the spring of 1924 and, in a letter to then Prime Minister Illias Vrioni, noted that because of the many friends and relatives who held ‘high positions’ in the British government and army, he hoped ‘to influence English public opinion in favour of Albania.’[iii]  While the process of securing Stirling’s assistance broke down with Noli’s seizure of power, Noli’s government was eager to maintain this connection. Interior Minister Shala wrote Stirling on July 17: ‘If you have no serious family obligations I shall be very much obliged to have you come to Tirana, in order to take up with us the organization of our administration.’[iv] 

However, while Noli sought strong ties with Great Britain, he was continually frustrated by British intransigence on the question of recognition. Prior to Noli’s seizure of power, Great Britain, through its minister in Durrës, Harry Eyres, had established a good working relationship with Ahmed Bey Zogu. Eyres, who played a key role in shaping British policy toward Noli, did not greet the new government with enthusiasm. According to Eyres, Zogu had brought much-needed stability, and Noli’s group appeared poised to undermine this, especially vis-à-vis relations with neighbouring Yugoslavia. The quest for an oil concession, which Great Britain’s Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) pursued, also helped shape London’s attitude.

In the days and weeks preceding Noli’s seizure of power, Eyres had already worked in favour of the previous regime. Thus, when Noli assumed power, he had already developed a suspicious attitude toward Eyres, whom he identified as a partisan of Zogu. Neither could hide his dislike for the other. As an American diplomat noted, Eyres had said often that Noli ‘ought to be hanged,’ while Noli had adjured his friends to ‘knock Mr. Eyres down for me when you see him.’[v] Early on, Eyres had been identified by American diplomats in Tirana as a man who possessed profound influence with Zogu. Maxwell Blake, the U.S.commissioner to Albania, noted that Eyres was ‘clean but slippery,’[vi] and the American consul in Trieste added in April 1922 that Eyres was ‘universally liked and has much influence in the councils of state. Undoubtedly the situation will result favourably to England in the matter of concessions for minerals and oil.’[vii] It is true that Eyres had provided invaluable assistance to Zogu in the events of March 1922; and in early 1924, he had helped Zogu win over dissident elements after the 1923 elections, while during the upheaval of June, Eyres had intervened and implored the rebel contingent to return to the government. Eyres even took the step of travelling to Shkodër to meet Luigi Gurakuqi in order to convince him to return to Tirana and cooperate with the government.[viii] When that failed, Eyres adopted a hostile attitude toward the new government in Tirana. What seemed to concern Eyres the most was not the progressive character of Noli’s domestic policy, but the prospects for both Albanian and overall Balkan stability with a government like Noli’s in power.

Eyres had no faith in either Noli or his twenty-point program. Low expectations had long figured in Britain’s Albania policy, as made clear as early as 1921 by Harold Nicolson in the Foreign Office:

I submit that our general line should be to contribute towards Albania being given a fair start, while being very careful not to assume any responsibility for future developments. It is to be expected that once all external menace has been removed, the Albanians will revive their religious and tribal feuds to an extent which will render civilized government difficult if not impossible. On the other hand they do not themselves particularly care for civilized government and it is not for us to impose it upon them.[ix]

Eyres held similar views.

While Eyres worked against Noli’s attempts to secure recognition, the Albanian government was just as steadfast in its attempt to secure British support. Immediately after assuming power, Noli telegraphed British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald, noting that the country’s Regency Council had empowered him to form a new government. Since MacDonald was the prime minister of a Labour government and thus shared, as far as Noli was concerned, a progressive outlook, Noli assumed that recognition was a fait accompli. However, Noli did not receive an immediate response, and it appeared that Great Britain had formed a very ‘negative opinion on the people that had taken part in the revolution against Zogu and his regime.’[x] Eyres successfully convinced his government that Noli led not a revolution but instead a coup.

One way that Noli could have secured British recognition was through elections, as most powers maintained that the previous government was still legitimate. By the end of June, the attitude of the Great Powers toward Noli had already become solidified, as his first actions sent out the wrong message. From the very beginning, the British were extremely cautious. What concerned British representatives especially was the call for harsh measures against the members of the old regime. As well, the release of Beqir Walter, the young man who had made an attempt on Zogu’s life in February 1924, deeply angered the British government, which interpreted the move as condoning assassination.[xi] Eyres, in a conversation on June 23 with Harold Nicolson, made these concerns clear and suggested that recognition be delayed pending the evolution of the attitude toward the old government and a solution to the fact that Noli’s government was unconstitutional.[xii]

Mehmet Konica in London struggled to effect a change in British policy. Konica was optimistic that de jure recognition was forthcoming and that British public opinion supported Noli’s government.[xiii] Konica, like Noli, was strongly pro-British in his sympathies.[xiv] Although Konica was no doubt a progressive and did serve Noli’s government well, he found himself often at odds with Noli’s agenda and more than once was left in the dark with regard to important decisions in Tirana. His ‘pressure’ on the British government, albeit well-intentioned, did not meet with success, and on one occasion actually succeeded in angering the British Foreign Office.

Konica rather desperately sought a meeting with Ramsay MacDonald in order to better outline the new government’s agenda. On 3 July 1924 he wrote to MacDonald noting that in the past ten days he had made ‘vain’ efforts to secure a personal interview with him in order to make a verbal and personal communication on behalf of Noli.[xv] The Foreign Office replied almost immediately and advised that, owing to the amount of work for the prime minister, any communication should be in writing.[xvi] Konica followed the instructions and communicated the new government’s position to MacDonald. In his letter, Konica noted that a personal interview would have been better in order to avoid ‘recording certain unpleasant facts.’[xvii] The new Albanian government, he wrote, took issue with the British position that recognition would be withheld until the government had received a vote of confidence from the Constituent Assembly. Konica argued, although they are doubtless Noli’s words, that this would mean that the government would have to reinstate ‘the feudal cabinet, abolish law and order, sanction the state of slavery of the people and assist in the dismemberment of Albania.’[xviii] Konica also argued that immediate recognition from Great Britain ‘would have great importance in the execution of social and economic reforms,’ and that non-recognition ‘would be a dangerous weapon in the hands of the expelled feudals and an indirect encouragement to them for endeavouring to return to power.’[xix]

Konica, in the long run, should have ended his plea there. Instead, he went further and openly criticized Eyres. One Albanian historian notes that Eyres ‘openly developed an enemy activity against the democratic regime as [did] no other diplomat in Albania, [and] the government of Noli tolerated that and did not take any action for his removal.’[xx] The reality was somewhat different, as the government did attempt to remove Eyres. The secretary general of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Xhafer Villa, had approached U. Grant-Smith and asked him if he would inform the British government of Eyres’s activity.[xxi] Konica also informed MacDonald that based on information from a person of high integrity present during the events of June, Eyres had intervened in the struggle.[xxii] He argued that while the old government had been prepared to submit and put an end to the fighting, ‘the British representative strongly advised them to continue their resistance and thereby has been the cause of further loss of lives and money.’[xxiii] The accusations came directly from Noli, who felt that MacDonald, with his leftist sympathies, would certainly share his concerns and would recall Eyres immediately and replace him with a more sympathetic figure.[xxiv] However, Noli’s gamble failed. The accusations were not well received and did not serve to enhance the position of the Albanian government.

Konica received an immediate response from Prime Minister MacDonald on July 30. MacDonald noted that in the letter he had made ‘serious allegations against His Majesty’s Minister at Durazzo [Durrës].’[xxv] MacDonald went on to note that foreign representatives accredited to the Court of Saint James’s are not ‘at liberty to transmit statements regarding the conduct of His Majesty’s Representatives abroad except on the instructions of their governments.’[xxvi] The letter was returned to the Albanian legation in London. Realizing that his démarche had served no end, Konica appealed to Delvina for advice and undertook to defuse the situation. In late October, he wrote to MacDonald and tried to clarify his position. He noted that he regretted the fact that Great Britain had not offered recognition to the Albanian government and that he understood the British government’s position. However, he felt that he had done his best to approach a difficult subject which involved interference in the internal affairs of his country. He had, however, made the allegations owing to an official request from his government, but had done so with ‘reluctance.’[xxvii] The Foreign Office advised Konica on November 5 that he was not in any way ‘personally to blame for the procedure by which this matter was adopted.’[xxviii]

Small blunders like this aside, there were fundamental differences between Great Britain and Albania, and the accusations against Eyres did little to improve an already bad situation. In response to Konica’s pleas for recognition, the Foreign Office advised its legation in Durrës on July 28 that the British government’s attitude had been shaped by the fact that Noli’s government came to power by violence; recognition would be withheld until there was some ‘clear expression of the national will that the Albanian government enjoys the confidence of the country.’[xxix] This point, which was later adopted by the majority of the Great Powers and Albania’s neighbours, was to haunt Noli, and the failure to appreciate the link between elections and recognition was critical in his overall failure to appease the international community.

The question of oil was significant, and while not the primary factor in shaping British policy, it was of great importance. Albania’s occupation during the First World War had led to the discovery of what appeared to be rich oil reserves, and the struggle among the world’s leading oil companies began in earnest after the war. It was the British who were the first to take seriously the exploration of prospective zones.[xxx] However, in the war’s aftermath, since Albania lacked not only an organized government but also a formal policy on foreign investment and a concessionary system, the struggle for a government-approved oil concession was characterized by chaos as each of the concerns, backed by their respective governments, tried to secure an agreement from constantly changing Albanian governments. The result was that the Albanian government succeeded in promising something to everyone while ratifying no contracts.

While essentially four countries competed for the concession, it was APOC that emerged as the main contender and managed to out-manoeuvre the other competitors. By March 1921, when Illias Vrioni was in power, the APOC and the Albanian government came to an agreement for a 200,000 hectare concession, which in effect amounted to a monopoly. With the decision to award the concession to APOC, several other companies entered the fray. In August 1922 an Italian concern, Compagnia Italiana di Petroli, and the U.S.-based Sinclair Oil called for a concession, and in October 1922, Standard Oil of the United States put forth its own bid. Owing to both governmental incompetence and the intrigues of the competing powers, the APOC contract never received ratification by the Albanian assembly, and the question was still on the books when Noli took power. Some pro-American elements hoped to promote U.S. interests, while others felt that the terms given to the British amounted to a monopoly. As well, there was a strong pro-Italian lobby in the Albanian government. Outside Albania, Italy, France, and the United States argued that APOC was getting both a monopoly and preferential treatment. 

The debate on the oil concession reached its peak in the fall of 1923 when the Albanian assembly attempted to ratify the contract with APOC. Liberal forces in the assembly, especially Gurakuqi, opposed the agreement with APOC and were able to secure its rejection in the assembly. The government’s main argument in favour of the contract was that it was merely standing by agreements that had already been made by a previous government. However, some opposition members rejected the agreement as inconsistent with Albania’s needs and called for the acceptance of the U.S. proposals as put forth by either Standard Oil or Sinclair. Not only was there pressure from within to block the APOC deal, but other interested parties, especially the United States, cried foul at the APOC concession as a clear violation of the open-door principle.

With the fate of the concession still undecided, throughout early 1924 the Albanian government was under pressure to make a decision. The French legation, on behalf of Crédit Général des Pétroles, wrote the Albanian Foreign Ministry on 7 February 1924 advising it that the French government was displeased with the plans to award the concession to APOC. They argued that to award the concession to APOC would constitute a monopoly and would be a violation of  ‘open door’ principle.[xxxi] The Italian government, however, owing to what it determined to be its paramount interests in Albania, was by far the most hostile to the APOC contract. By the end of 1922, the Italian legation had already identified in Eyres a potential threat to its interests and complained that he had been encouraging nationalist elements in Albania ‘in their opposition to Italian policy.’[xxxii] Eyres, in response to these accusations, argued that the Italian minister at Durrës ‘had used every effort to prevent any concessions being granted to British subjects’ and that he had succeeded in blocking the oil concession.[xxxiii] That the Italian government attached great significance to the oil concession there is no doubt. In a November 1921 meeting in Rome between British and Italian representatives, the head of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Albanian section noted that Italy ‘must have the majority share in any oil concession granted by the Albanian Government.’[xxxiv]

British concern about the fate of this potentially lucrative concession is obvious. What probably concerned the British the most was that after the arrival of Noli, Luigi Gurakuqi was finance minister. Gurakuqi, who was considered by Eyres to be an ‘Italophile,’[xxxv] was already on record by September 1923 as being opposed to awarding of the concession to APOC. During the attack on the APOC contract in the fall of 1923, Gurakuqi was the main spokesman for abandoning the agreement. Through the Shkodër paper Ora e Maleve, Gurakuqi had attacked the terms of the contract with the British. While he did support an ‘open door’ policy on foreign investments, he hoped that Albania would get the best possible deal out of the concession. What this meant was that Albania would retain control over her vital oil reserves since oil was of ‘great importance for the economic life of Albania.’[xxxvi] Gurakuqi also suggested that the refinement of the oil should take place on Albanian soil so as to aid in the creation of other industries in the country.[xxxvii]

Gurakuqi’s assessment of the APOC contract was correct, as it offered little to Albania. Moreover, Gurakuqi argued that the contract would have guaranteed the British interests a monopoly, which, with insufficient returns for Albania, meant ‘death for Albanian industry.’[xxxviii]. An even more direct attack came when he drew attention to the fact that the U.S. concerns offered the Albanian state a higher percentage of the oil produced, and that the American companies were prepared to build a refinery and had asked for a shorter concessionary term.[xxxix] It is possible that by the fall of 1923 the British had already taken exception to the country’s progressives, such as Gurakuqi, who had opposed the ratification of the APOC contract in the Albanian assembly.[xl]

For Noli, when the British government adopted its policy of non-recognition, he hoped to use the concession as a means to win over Britain. According to British sources, one of Noli’s emissaries, Xhafer Villa,[xli] attempted to use the oil concession as a means to encourage Britain to offer diplomatic recognition. In a June 1924 conversation with Robert Parr at the British legation,[xlii] Villa attempted just that, but he did not succeed. In a note to the Foreign Office on June 18, Parr noted that he ‘ignored the proffered bribe and told him [Villa] that I had as yet received no instructions but that my personal opinion was that His Majesty’s Government would be guided in this matter by considerations of the degree to which [the] revolutionary government was accepted by the Albanian people generally and of its intention to rule decently as manifested in its acts.’[xliii]  It remains unclear whether Villa was acting on his own, or under the instructions of Noli. Regardless, the démarche failed to yield results, and Noli’s government remained unrecognized. Throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall, the question of the oil concession remained unresolved, despite the best efforts of the interested parties. One of the main dilemmas, however, was that any concession of this magnitude needed the approval of the Albanian assembly, which had been disbanded pending new elections.

Although it seems that Noli continued to support the British bid, the Italians entered the scene with greater intensity in the fall of 1924. The Italian oil interest, like its U.S. counterparts, cried foul at the terms offered to the British and insisted that it had the better proposal. In October 1924, Albania’s legation in Rome outlined the concerns of the Compagnia Italiana di Petroli, a joint U.S.-Italian venture based in Milan.[xliv] In the letter, Tefik Mborja, Albania’s minister in Rome, advised the Foreign Ministry that during an October visit to Rome, Gurakuqi had met with representatives of the company and that the conditions proposed by this company were ‘much better’ than those offered by either Anglo-Persian or Standard Oil.[xlv] The Italian company sought greater details from the Albanian government as to the terms of the contract with the British and assured the Albanians that, unlike the British, they did not seek a monopoly on Albania’s oil reserves.

Since confusion was the general state of affairs in the Albanian government, it is difficult to gauge just what Noli intended to do about the contract. By the fall of 1924, it appears that Noli was leaning toward the British, while Gurakuqi was prepared to defend the Italian bid. Progressive forces in the country, through the newspaper Politika, argued against the British bid.  While Noli and others had pointed out that it was Britain that supported Albania’s entry into the League and defended Albanian interests against Serbia, Kostandin Boshnjaku[xlvi] wrote in Politika that the British government had also signed the Secret Treaty of London in 1915 and had insisted that parts of southern Albania should have been given to Greece.[xlvii] In addition, the progressive press noted that it was Britain that seemed to be defending the interests of the old government and was flagrantly pursuing a colonialist policy toward Albania.[xlviii]

Key support for the British bid, however, came from Konica in London. Early in his career he had already defended the British position on the basis that the Albanian government should stand by agreements made by previous governments. Konica had later argued that Great Britain was potentially the only true protector of Albanian interests. As to the U.S. concern, Konica was able to see the picture within a broader perspective, and he questioned whether the United States would come to the aid of Albania in the event of an invasion from the side of either Greece or Serbia.[xlix] Since the United States was at the time playing a limited role in Europe, especially because it was not a member of the League, Konica felt that Albania could be better protected by a more globally active power.

With so many trends inside the Albanian government and considerable pressure brought to bear on the government itself, it is not surprising that Noli’s government was unable to find a solution that would satisfy so many divergent interests. Such an end required not only unity of purpose within the government but also an appreciation that the whole business just might have to be decided outside Albania’s borders. By the fall of 1924, it seems that Noli had decided to reopen the whole question. In an August 1924 telegram, Konica had asked Noli whether the contract with APOC had been annulled because of opposition from Italy.[l] The Foreign Ministry responded immediately that the Albanian government was continuing the policy of the ‘open door’ and awarding concessions to the companies that made the best offer.[li] The British thus had considerable reason to fear that APOC would have been outdone by the U.S.-based Standard Oil, which did, as already noted, offer the better terms for the Albanian government.

While oil did have some effect on the British attitude, their position on Noli had taken shape long before Noli’s government had formulated its stance on the oil concession. Moreover, Noli at no point articulated a position to the British representative. Hence, it is fair to say that the oil question did not determine the attitude of the Great Powers toward Noli. His failure, however, to stand by the previous agreement probably served to distance Noli from Great Britain. But the British had far greater concerns, and the bulk of the pressure on Noli had more to do with his failure to hold new elections, the potential threat he posed to overall Balkan stability, and his later flirtation with the Soviets. By far the key determinant of British policy was not some kind of ideological aversion to Noli, but instead that his often erratic behaviour threatened to undermine Balkan stability. In a December 1924 conversation between Britain’s ambassador to Rome, Sir Eyre Crowe, and Yugoslav foreign minister Nincic, the latter stated that he did not feel that Noli’s government ‘offered any prospect of stability.’[lii] Crowe noted the British Foreign Office was in full agreement.[liii]

Italy, which had concrete territorial and economic goals in Albania, sought to exploit Noli’s weak position to extract concessions. While Noli had received a very positive telegram from Mussolini on June 20, which the Albanians interpreted as an act of recognition, the Italians later followed the British lead and instead opted to wait for Noli to legitimize his position through elections. Immediately following Noli’s victory, Italian policy was less than clear, as both Zogu and Noli vied to obtain Italian support. However, Mussolini wavered and in the end chose to follow the British lead. The key determinant of Italian policy was just which Albanian politician — Noli or Zogu – could be bought. The Italian minister in Durrës identified Zogu as a patron of Yugoslavia, but Mussolini later decided that Zogu was the right man.[liv]

Since Noli had been given cause for optimism because of Mussolini’s telegram, in mid-July the Albanian representative in Rome had an interview with the Duce to pass on a letter from Noli regarding the formation of the new government. Mborja met with Mussolini for a quarter of an hour and was extremely pleased with his reception.[lv] Mborja, on Noli’s behalf, explained that one of the country’s key problems was the nagging question of borders, and that Albania desperately needed Italian support in the battle with the Yugoslavs over Vermosh and Saint Naum. Mussolini declared his support for the Albanian position, and added that it would be easier to offer support if Albania and Italy had a ‘patto politico.’[lvi]

Mussolini suggested that his government was prepared to offer a loan of 100 million lire to Albania, but that the initiative had to come from Albania. Hoping to gain further control, Mussolini noted that he was confident that a guarantee for the money could be easily arranged.[lvii] Noli, however, remained wary of Italian intentions, but did not let the matter drop. In an attempt to better understand the Italian position, Mborja sought an interview with Baron Indelli, the chief of the Italian Foreign Ministry’s section for Albania, Bulgaria, and Greece. Mborja tried to keep the discussion focused on three main points: new elections, a loan, and the problem posed by Kosovo irredentists in Noli’s government. Indelli informed Mborja that he was speaking only academically and not in an official capacity. He stressed that Albania must move toward new elections, especially because Great Britain’s attitude on this point was unwavering.[lviii] Indelli also noted that through the Italian minister in Durrës, Luigi Gurakuqi had made it clear that Albania desperately needed a loan. In an effort to move Albania closer to the Italian sphere, Indelli argued that Albania would face severe difficulties securing a loan from the League, owing to the huge demands placed on its resources by the reconstruction of Austria and Hungary. Indelli again stressed that it would be very difficult to get a loan when Noli’s regime remained ‘revolutionary.’[lix] Elections, Indelli argued, would not only legitimize the government in the eyes of the rest of the world, but would also help to eliminate the impression that the government would not last long.[lx]

Italy’s overall position on Albania was not lost on Mborja, as he identified in Indelli’s suggestions the Italian desire to give Albania a loan. Mborja felt that Italy did not want Albania to secure a loan from the League but from Italy instead, so that Italy would have the ‘main influence in the financial and economic life of the country.’[lxi] Aware of how desperately Albania needed arms to thwart any attempt by Zogu to return, Indelli added that there were ways that Italy could supply arms to the Albanian army without causing suspicion among other interested parties.[lxii] Mborja’s assessment of Italian ambitions was confirmed by the American consul in Florence, Joseph Emerson Haven, who met with Mborja to discuss developments. According to Haven, Italy was fixated on the idea of obtaining Albania as Italian territory, and its policy was to wait until Albania begged for a loan and then demand concessions.[lxiii] Haven argued further that Italy relied on remittances from emigrants abroad, and that Albania was ripe for Italian colonial penetration, especially since the United States was ‘practically closed.’[lxiv] In Haven’s opinion, since Albania was six hundred years behind the times, Italy could supply everything from ‘shovels to streetcars.’[lxv]

The United States also opted for a similar position, although much of its attitude was shaped by concerns about delays in solving the murders of Robert Lewis Coleman and George B De Long in April 1924.  Initial American interest in Albania in the aftermath of the First World War came primarily as a result of pressure from American missionaries abroad and the determination not to lose out in any potential concessions, especially in oil. The first thrust to increase the American presence in Albania was thus a direct result of economic ambitions. Prior to the dispatch of a formal mission to the country, Charles Telford Erickson, a missionary in Albania and a resident there for over fourteen years, visited the State Department’s Division of Near Eastern Affairs in June 1921. Erickson advised the Americans that Great Britain was moving fast to secure an oil concession and that a British consul was due to arrive shortly in Albania. Erickson was at pains to point out that the United States stood to lose out if the policy of non-recognition was maintained. The State Department, according to an internal memo, was not prepared to recognize Albania since the government did ‘not seem quite far enough advanced’ and that the country lacked a constitution.[lxvi]

As a result of Erickson’s démarche, the Near Eastern Affairs Division suggested that, owing to potential resources in Albania, either the State Department or the Commerce Department should send an expert to investigate Albania’s resources.[lxvii] In another memo to Assistant Secretary of State F.M. Dearing, the Near Eastern Affairs Division advised that Erickson was again encouraging his government to ‘wake up to the fact that there are some things in Albania worth going after.’[lxviii] Erickson called for recognition and encouraged the United States to nominate a representative before any decision was taken on the oil concession. The fear that the British would secure what were assumed to be rich oil reserves also brought the U.S. Commerce Department on side early in the game, as well as the Department of State’s Division of Near Eastern Affairs. 

The road to recognition thus followed a bizarre path from one level of bureaucracy to the other, with Erickson providing the initiative. F.M. Dearing at the State Department in turn advised Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover that owing to reports of rich oil wealth in Albania, it was advisable to ‘inform the principal American oil companies, by means of a confidential communication, regarding the general aspects of the oil situation in Albania.’[lxix] Dearing was especially concerned that the Albanian parliament was on the verge of approving the contract with APOC. The main problem appeared to be the simple fact that the United States had not recognized the Albanian government, which was hampering its attempt to compete effectively with Great Britain. Once aware of the situation, Hoover intervened personally to help speed up the process for recognition. After receiving complaints from American oil interests, Hoover appealed to Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes to deal with the question of recognition. In an April 1922 letter, he asked Hughes to give serious consideration to the recognition of Albania, or ‘if actual recognition appears inadvisable, to the possibility of sending some American government agent into the country who can give a show of interest and support the claims of the Sinclair Oil Company.’[lxx] The situation, according to Hoover, appeared to be ‘a clear case where a little assistance by the government can go far in support of legitimate American enterprise abroad.’[lxxi]

While American business interests were one part of the picture, the United States had not altogether ignored other developments in Albania. In 1919, Joseph Emerson Haven had already been sent to Albania on special detail to help the United States shape a position on Albania at the Paris Peace Conference. As already noted, Haven tended to support the Albanian perspective without question. It was also Haven who suggested that the United States push for a mandate for Albania, owing to what Haven called the pro-American sympathies of the Albanian people. While Haven’s reports never translated into official policy, his mission was followed by the lengthy visit of Maxwell Blake, who headed an American mission to the country. Blake, who arrived in June 1922, was no doubt sent to Albania as a direct result of the need to ensure a more level playing field for U.S. economic interests. The end result was that the United States finally offered de jure recognition on 28 July 1922.

Blake, not unlike his counterparts in the British legation, was also quite impressed with Ahmed Zogu. In his situation report of September 1922, Blake praised Zogu as the ‘one outstanding personality in the country.’[lxxii] Blake did not stop there and declared that Zogu had ‘spirit and courage, qualities which amount for his present position as the popular hero of the day … He is fearless, honest, uncompromising, and malevolent toward his enemies.’[lxxiii] However, despite Blake’s upbeat reports and initially very positive meetings with Albanian officials, as well as pledges from the government to respect the ‘open door’ principle, the United States continued to play second fiddle to the British. As time passed, the United States was continually frustrated in its attempts to secure the oil concession, which over time soured considerably the initially good relations between the United States and Ahmed Bey Zogu.

The United States argued that the British were receiving preferential treatment and that the ‘open door’ policy was being ignored. The State Department was, not surprisingly, under considerable pressure from Sinclair Oil, initially to aid in its bid to secure the concession. In September 1922, Sinclair Oil appealed to Secretary of State Hughes for assistance, stating that foreign interests, especially APOC, were hampering its attempt to secure a contract.[lxxiv] According to Sinclair Oil, in view of ‘the importance of American control of foreign oil supplies,’ it hoped that the State Department would instruct its minister in Tirana ‘to give us the fullest support which it permits it representatives to give in such cases.’[lxxv] Within two days of that appeal, the State Department advised the U.S. representative to ‘render all appropriate assistance to American Oil Companies.’[lxxvi] In fact, judging from the origin of the majority of Sinclair Oil’s telegrams, the U.S. legation fast became the headquarters for the company. Throughout 1922 and 1923, the U.S. government pressed to have the APOC contract rejected. The main problem appeared to be that the British simply had more people in their pay than the Americans, and the United States was unable to undermine Harry Eyres’s profound influence on Ahmed Zogu.

The Albanians, not unmindful of their weak financial position, attempted to use the oil concession as a means to secure a loan, so that the question became even more complicated. Sinclair Oil was especially eager to help Albania secure the loan, and its U.S. office set about to find financial backing in the United States. So sincere was Sinclair’s effort that Maxwell Blake advised the State Department that it seemed apparent that Sinclair would finally obtain the concession.[lxxvii] In October 1922, Sinclair’s representative advised his home office (through the State Department) that hopes of securing the concession were improving, but it was necessary to guarantee a loan of one million dollars within six or eight months.[lxxviii] Despite optimism and agreement on the terms of a contract, Sinclair was stymied by the loan dilemma as the Albanian government, by playing the major interests against each other, altered its loan request to 2 million dollars.[lxxix]

In the long run, Sinclair could not secure a loan on American financial markets and was thus, albeit temporarily, out of the picture. While the American government was disappointed with the setback, as well as the perception that APOC was manipulating Albanian politicians, the United States continued to press its case through legal means. Making matters more difficult for the United States, the entry of Standard Oil also weakened the position of Sinclair Oil. In an internal memo of November 16, Allen Dulles, chief of the State Department’s Near Eastern Division, lamented that the entry of Standard Oil would make it possible for the Albanian government ‘to start with the tactics of bargaining with two American companies which in Persia has been so successfully employed to the detriment of American interests.’[lxxx] Dulles went further to state that while acknowledging it was a departure from State Department policy, he wished it were possible to ‘call off the Standard until the Sinclair has had a fair chance to complete its negotiations.’[lxxxi]

Dulles’s suggestion did not become reality, and the United States was confronted with a much better organized bid from APOC. By the spring of 1923, as noted, the Albanian government was maintaining that it was obligated to adhere to the original 1921 arrangement and award the concession to APOC. The Department of State was outraged at possibly losing out to the British and advised the American legation to inform the Albanian government that the State Department ‘would regret any action which would tend to deny the principle of the Open Door as applied to the development of the natural resources of Albania.’[lxxxii] State Department officials suggested that in this case the United States cooperate with both France and Italy in blocking the APOC contract. However, in the end the United States relied on independent representations, which, so it was argued, would be ‘more forceful.’[lxxxiii]

The Department of Near Eastern Affairs, in an un-submitted memorandum to the assistant secretary of state, argued the success of APOC was based on two key factors: political pressure brought to bear on Albania; and the cooperation of League representatives in furthering British interests.[lxxxiv] More concretely, American officials suspected that the British ‘were using threats bearing on Albanian territorial interests in endeavouring to prevent the granting to an American concern.’[lxxxv] Grant-Smith had made similar accusations in a telegram of 3 March 1923, stating that many Albanian officials felt that a failure to support the APOC concession would bring about the annexation of the disputed provinces of Korçë and Gjirokastër.[lxxxvi]

The suggestion that League representatives were acting on behalf of British interests had caused considerable consternation in Washington. In a memorandum of 8 January 1923, the Division of Near Eastern Affairs suggested that the United States lobby to have an American appointed as financial advisor since the League sought someone who could not be accused of partiality and the United States was ‘the only great power entirely neutral in the Albanian situation.’[lxxxvii] The selection of an American, it was argued, was not only in the best interests of the United States, but also reflected the wishes of the Albanian government.[lxxxviii] In light of the memo, the State Department’s economic advisor suggested that the United States should put forth some names because of the fear that a British advisor would go a long way in supporting British interests.[lxxxix]

Since an American did not obtain the post, the American legation was left with only diplomacy as a means to undermine Britain’s stronger position. As a result, Grant-Smith undertook an aggressive campaign to draw attention to U.S. interests throughout the fall of 1923 and the spring of 1924. On 4 September 1923, in response to U.S. complaints, the Albanian government advised the American legation that under international law the government was forced to honour the signature of Vrioni on the contract with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.[xc] However, the U.S. authorities rejected this interpretation and, in a memo to Zogu, advised him that the U.S. government ‘did not understand why the Albanian government should consider itself bound to give preference to the contract of the Anglo-Persian Company … since this contract has been modified to such an extent that it can no longer be considered the same document that was signed by Illias Vrioni.’[xci] Despite government intransigence, the United States was no doubt heartened by the stand taken by Gurakuqi and the opposition forces in the fall 1923 parliamentary debate. This helps to explain the initially positive attitude of the United States toward Noli’s government. Noli also told the U.S. chargé d’affaires that the majority of the country was against the APOC contract and in favour of the American proposals.[xcii] Noting that he would oppose the APOC concession, Noli added that many feared that if ‘the APOC proposals were accepted … British influence would sooner or later become predominant in the country.’[xciii]

Throughout the spring of 1924, the United States was still unable to effect any change in policy. The U.S. legation was under pressure from both Sinclair and Standard Oil to have their respective proposal brought before the parliament.[xciv]  On 17 April 1924, Grant-Smith wrote Vrioni to complain about the delays vis-à-vis the Standard Oil Company and noted that the delays were amounting to a contravention ‘of the rights and treatment formally guaranteed to American citizens by the government of Albania.’[xcv] In a confidential report to the secretary of state, Grant-Smith explained that delays were attributable in part ‘to a conviction that sooner or later someone will pay handsomely for the privilege of making first choice of the lands to be exploited.’[xcvi] Despite these pleas, both American interests appeared to be sidelined, although the APOC contract remained unratified. The failure to give serious consideration to the U.S. proposals thus had the effect of further souring Grant-Smith’s attitude toward Zogu. That, coupled with the murder of the two Americans, brought U.S.-Albanian relations to new lows. Noli’s seizure of power, it was assumed, brought forth the prospect of positive changes.

There is little doubt that the United States initially greeted Noli’s victory with enthusiasm. The legacy of U.S.-Albanian relations had hitherto not been good, as U.S. interests were clearly taking a back seat to the British. Noli’s seizure of power thus presented the Americans with an ideal opportunity to cement stronger ties and secure the oil contract. For the United States, it appeared that Noli and his finance minister were partial to its interests and could solve the two outstanding problems: justice for the murderers of Coleman and De Long, and new opportunities for American economic interests. In a meeting with Noli in mid-June, Grant-Smith had impressed upon him the importance of both these points, but took no action that would imply recognition.[xcvii] From the outset, the United States opted to wait and see just how Noli would deal with the outstanding problems in American-Albanian relations. Grant-Smith’s distaste for Zogu was already well known, especially because of his attitude toward American oil interests and the foot dragging in the quest for justice. He was unwilling, however, to accept Noli’s seizure of power without question.

In a report to Hughes on June 19, Grant-Smith made some of his reservations clear. He wrote that the authority of Peci to form a new cabinet was questionable; that the French had already expressed doubts about stability; the Greeks and Serbs could be counted on to covertly seek the government’s overthrow; the British representative was strongly opposed; and it was a parliamentary minority that established itself with the aid of the army.[xcviii] But, Grant-Smith added, American interests would seem to lie ‘on the side of continuance of the new regime which is at present favourably disposed towards us and committed against British pretensions.’[xcix] On several other occasions, Grant-Smith went to great lengths to convince the State Department that the United States could expect both a favourable resolution to the murders of Coleman and De Long and respect for the ‘open door’ principle.[c] If Grant-Smith argued that according to the Lushnjë constitution Noli’s regime was wholly illegitimate, he was, nevertheless, a supporter of Noli’s program. In a report of July 2 to Hughes, he noted that while doubting that Noli’s ambitious program could be implemented in such a short space of time, should the government succeed ‘in making a serious break in the wall of ancient privilege, the first real step on the path of political and social progress will have been achieved.’[ci]

Despite obvious reasons for recognizing the new regime, Grant-Smith was extremely cautious. Hughes had already advised him on June 23 that the

question of recognition would not appear to arise unless there has been a change in the head of state. If present government is in your opinion properly constituted and is in control of the country there would be no objection to your continuing to carry on with its relations which you had with its predecessor and the Department authorizes you in your discretion to do so.[cii]

Hughes did add, in a later telegram, that Grant-Smith ‘should impress upon the authorities at present in control the importance which this Government attaches to prompt and vigorous action to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of Coleman and De Long.’[ciii]

Thus, Grant-Smith had considerable latitude to shape the U.S. position on Noli’s government. As Hughes made clear, the key point was the legality of Noli’s seizure of power. As a stickler for details, Grant-Smith decided to leave Noli’s government unrecognized pending some form of legalization. He had originally favoured a policy of recognition but interpreted Hughes’s telegram quite literally and, despite the obvious benefits of recognition, chose instead to follow the lead of the other powers.[civ] Had Noli opted to reconvene the parliament and managed to secure the backing of a majority of the deputies, it is clear that the United States would have offered recognition.[cv]

The problem of the murders also remained a serious obstacle to recognition. While accepting that Zogu had shown no real interest in bringing to justice those responsible, Grant-Smith awaited concrete results from Noli. After seizing power, Noli’s regime made immediate declarations that those responsible would be held accountable, and it did not hide its belief that it was Ahmed Bey who was responsible. However, the slowness of the investigation angered the United States, and the legation lodged a formal protest on September 24. The note stated that the legation ‘has observed with growing concern the lengthening of weeks into months without any news of definite progress toward a satisfactory settlement of the issue raised by the murder of two American citizens … any failure of the Albanian government to take vigorous action in the matter would be viewed with serious concern in Washington.’[cvi] Grant-Smith was not convinced that Zogu was responsible, and he noted that attributing the crime to Zogu suggested the political character of the trial and the nature of the ‘evidence which will doubtless be produced.’[cvii] As the government moved toward formal charges in the Coleman–De Long murders, it became apparent to Grant-Smith that the decision to implicate Zogu was based on politics instead of law. It was doubtless this agenda that did more harm than anything else in undermining Noli’s position with the United States.

Grant-Smith kept a vigilant watch throughout the summer and fall of 1924 on the proceedings against Zogu. As noted previously, Zogu, along with eight others, were tried in absentia, while seven other defendants were in jail., The months between Noli’s seizure of power and the beginning of the trial in October were marked by a wait-and-see attitude pending the evolution of Noli’s regime, the status of the oil concession, and the results of the trial. While there was some confusion as to whether or not the United States had moved to recognize Noli’s regime, no change in policy was undertaken.[cviii] Grant-Smith’s assessment of the trial was accurate: it was little more than a show trial against Zogu and his minions designed to find at least one outside supporter for his permanent exile.

The evidence presented against Zogu was of a limited character and did little to create confidence in Noli’s regime. The key defendant, Veisel Lam Hidri, claimed he had received a letter from Zogu asking him to assemble a group to ambush some foreigners at Mamuras. Grant-Smith doubted this testimony and noted the following: Zogu was too clever to write such an order down; no letter was produced at the trial; and, finally, the letter’s intended recipients were all illiterate.[cix] The trial concluded that Zogu had originally intended the murder of League representative Eugene Pittard in order to create ‘disturbances’ in the region after his departure from the cabinet.[cx] Zogu was denounced as the instigator of the crime because, it was argued, he possessed great influence over the authorities of the region, nothing could be done without his knowledge, and he was actively supporting ‘turbulent elements and fugitive criminals before the elections for the purpose of using them as tools of his personal and political ambitions.’[cxi] Responsibility for the murder of Avni Rustemi was also laid on Zogu’s shoulders, and the court pronounced a verdict of ten years hard labour.

For the unfortunate Hidri, who was hanged on December 22 in central Tirana, it appears that he became an unwilling pawn in a diplomatic game that had little to do with a quest for real justice. Throughout the trial, the underlying political motives became clear. The trial’s president, Major Rexhep Berati, paid an indiscreet and unexpected visit to the U.S. legation on December 11.[cxii] Speaking with the legation’s translator, Kol Kuqali, Berati specifically asked if the United States would support the sentence of death on Zogu should the court make it. According to Berati, it would be sufficient ‘if the United States insist that he at least be expelled from Yugoslavia, the nest of Zogu’s factions.’[cxiii] Berati also claimed that the British were supporting Zogu in order to gain the oil concession. He added that in exchange for American assistance in ensuring Zogu’s removal from the Albanian political scene, U.S. oil companies would obtain the concession.[cxiv]

Placing even more doubt on the validity of the proceedings, the entire transcript was sent to the State Department’s Office of the Solicitor for examination. The conclusions, which were delivered after Zogu’s return to power in late December 1924, confirmed U.S. suspicions about Noli’s real agenda. The solicitor concluded that ‘the prosecution and conviction of Zogu appear to have been based more on political motives than upon any real desire to implicate him in the actual murder of Coleman and De Long.’[cxv] The report also concluded that the evidence produced against Zogu was primarily hearsay that would not be admissible in an American court.[cxvi] The solicitor argued that while Zogu did have political supporters ‘among the bandits infesting the region where Coleman and De Long were murdered, there appears to be no reliable evidence to the effect that Zogu had any direct connection with the murders.’[cxvii]

It seems all too clear, given the nature of Noli’s government and the dearth of recognition from foreign powers, that the move to condemn Zogu was designed to secure support from the United States for his permanent exile. Had Zogu been convicted, with reliable evidence, it is obvious that the United States would not have welcomed his return to power. Lacking support from all sides, Noli decided to use extra-legal means to secure an ally in his battle with Zogu. When the court reported its verdict, time was running out for Noli. It was already obvious that Zogu was preparing for a march on Tirana, so that the court needed to work quickly if the United States was to be brought on side.

Noli was unable to find any substantive allies within the United States. Nevertheless, as in Yugoslavia, where he found support from Stjepan Radić, Noli found one lone American supporter: Joseph Emerson Haven. Owing to his long experience in Albania, and his close friendship with Ali Kolonja, from his position as consul in Florence, Haven urged his government to adopt a new position on Albania. Haven offered a detailed analysis of the situation in Albania and declared that Noli’s government was composed of liberal and democratic elements and was not a ‘government of bolsheviks as some rumours have declared.’[cxviii] Haven felt strongly that Yugoslav agents, with the complicity of Zogu, were responsible for the murder of Coleman and De Long, the motive being to create chaos to aid in Zogu’s return to power.[cxix] As to Noli, whom he dubbed an enthusiastic admirer of America, Haven argued that his program deserved the support of other nations, ‘which should contribute towards its success.’[cxx]

Haven also listed the already well-known charges against Britain, France, Italy, Greece, and Yugoslavia. Great Britain was a determined supporter of Zogu because of the oil concession; France maintained a policy which supported the political program of Yugoslavia; Italy was concentrating on economic penetration through offers of politicized loans.[cxxi] Haven felt it unnecessary to comment on the attitudes of Greece and Yugoslavia, as ‘their policies with respect to Albania are too well known.’ As to the oil concession, Haven considered Noli to be a full supporter of the ‘open door’ principle who was prepared to support the bids of Standard Oil and Sinclair Oil.

Conclusion

Noli realized that the transformation he envisioned could not be obtained by self-reliance, but would require substantial assistance from abroad, especially from Great Britain, the United States, and the League of Nations. Unlike Ahmed Zogu, he was not willing to compromise Albania’s sovereignty to entice foreign capital. In the long run, while economic concerns were not altogether absent, the attitude of the Great Powers was shaped by other concerns, and winning over the Great Powers did not entail the types of sacrifices that would have destroyed Albania’s independence. While there was no middle ground with Italy, Great Britain and the United States might have been induced to support Noli had he been willing to test his revolution at the polls, yet Noli realized only too late the link between recognition and an election.[cxxii] 

In the aftermath of the First World War, for many patriots Great Britain was potentially Albania’s protector. After all, Britain did play a fundamental role in Albania’s entry into the League, and a small coterie of British Albanophiles helped to promote Albanian interests. Britain was also the first country to make concrete steps toward exploitation of Albania’s resources and from the aftermath of the Lushnjë Congress played a prominent role in Albanian domestic affairs. Ahmed Zogu gradually elevated Harry Eyres to the position of unofficial but influential advisor. British interests in Albania stemmed primarily from an economic agenda and the desire to preserve overall Balkan stability. It was the latter concern that eventually dictated British policy toward Fan Noli and Ahmed Zogu. At no point in the four years of democracy and chaos did Great Britain ever develop a policy that put any faith in the Albanians’ ability to establish a parliamentary democracy or carry through on the type of reform Noli envisioned. Fan Noli, according to Eyres, had no legal right to form a government, pushed a program that was at odds with Albanian reality, waged a destructive war against his enemies, and was poised to undermine the fragile stability that characterized Zogu’s leadership because of his inability to achieve a modus vivendi with Albania’s neighbours.

When Noli came to power, he was unwilling to accept that British policy was the result of such cynical assessments. Owing to his own experiences with Britain, he hoped for a warm welcome, a call for Zogu’s arrest, and assistance in implementing his twenty-point program. His decision to seek the removal of Eyres is evidence of his naïveté and his belief that a Labour government would support him. In the long run, it was both his program and his actions that widened the gap between his government and Great Britain. For Harry Eyres, who was the major player in determining London’s attitude, Noli was a transitional figure who could do little more than create instability in the region. While there is little doubt that the British did fear for the oil concession, it was not the major factor in shaping British policy. Above all, it seems clear that APOC could have obtained the contract in exchange for recognition. Britain, which did little to push the APOC bid during Noli’s tenure, calculated that Noli’s position was so weak that it made no sense whatsoever to make any concrete agreements with his regime. That Noli’s government lasted as long as it did came as some surprise to Eyres.

Italy pursued traditional policy goals in Albania that only came to fruition under Ahmed Zogu in the years following the collapse of Noli’s government. In the aftermath of the Lushnjë Congress, Italian influence in Albania waned considerably, and many Albanian patriots viewed Italy with justified suspicion. Italy, like Greece, had concrete designs on Albanian territory, and when the question of territorial gains was closed, Italy sought willing collaborators in successive governments who would help further its position. Since Albania had not yet been relegated to the Italian sphere of influence, Italy faced stiff competition from Britain and, to a lesser extent, the United States. When Noli obtained power, many had judged his success to be a product of Italian influence. This was not the case, and Noli worked hard at keeping Italian influence in the country at manageable limits. Noli did expect recognition from Mussolini, and he was disappointed that the Italian government did not follow that route. Mussolini’s decision to leave Noli’s government unrecognized was less the result of the desire to follow Great Britain’s policy, but more in keeping with the Yugoslav attitude, which opted to avoid recognition. Italy hoped to use the question of recognition as a means to influence Noli’s attitude. This position was made abundantly clear in the negotiations for a loan or for potential Italian support for Albania’s territorial integrity. While Noli was certainly willing to barter for recognition with both Britain and the United States, Italy’s historical legacy in Albania frightened him. With Noli refusing to engage in a barter arrangement, and with Zogu’s emissaries offering him everything, Mussolini preferred to wait for either Noli to come begging or Zogu to return.

The United States, which had yet to come completely to terms with the more cynical side of European diplomacy, was often left on the sidelines. While it is clear that the main motivation for initial U.S. interest in Albania was economic, the United States was never prepared to go the extra mile to become Albania’s benefactor and protector. The legacy of Woodrow Wilson meant that Albanian patriots, especially the American-Albanian community, had argued since the First World War for the entry of U.S. influence and capital. Indeed, had the United States wished it, Albania could have emerged as a key U.S. dependency or even protectorate. However, the United States allowed itself to play second fiddle to British interests and was unable to effect any change in policy.  At the time, the United States had at its disposal only moral arguments about the ‘open door.’ For Albania’s cynical politicians, this was not enough, and U.S. economic interests, during the period of Zogu’s dominance, were sidelined.

Noli’s seizure of power brought new opportunities, and U.S. policy-makers recognized this, above all U. Grant-Smith, who loathed Ahmed Zogu and his British patrons. However, despite an initial willingness to embrace Noli, the United States backtracked. The reason for this was not economic, as Noli would have surely traded recognition for the oil concession, since many of his colleagues were already on record as supporting the U.S. bids. The United States refused recognition because it stood by the policy it adopted toward the Bolshevik regime: Noli’s government had seized power illegally and was acting in contravention of the Lushnjë constitution. Noli’s own actions served to worsen the situation, as he rarely inspired confidence in U.S. diplomats because of his poor grasp of the internal situation. Finally, the United States saw through Noli’s attempt to use the trial against Zogu for political purposes. This act, more than anything, outraged U.S. decision-makers, who attached great significance to convictions in the murders of Coleman and De Long.  In late January 1925, not long after Noli fled and Zogu returned, the U.S. saw no reason to continue withholding recognition.

Robert  Austin is a specialist on East Central and South-eastern Europe in historic and contemporary perspective at the University of Toronto . In the past, Dr. Austin was a Tirana-based correspondent of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; a Slovak-based correspondent with The Economist Group of Publications; and a news writer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto


     Notes:

[i] The Times, 4 September 1924.

     [ii] Upon his return to power in December 1924, Zogu appointed Stirling to help reorganize Albania’s gendarmerie. See Fischer, King Zog and the Struggle for Stability, p. 102.

     [iii] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 17, f. 75-76.

     [iv] Ibid. D. 7, F. 226. Stirling responded on July 25 that he was ill and did not expect to be able to travel until the end of August. He requested that the minister wire his proposals.

     [v] Department of State, Trojan Kodding to the Secretary of State, no. 327, 20 September 1924, 875.01/253.

     [vi] Ibid. Maxwell Blake to the Secretary of State on Albania and the League and political intrigue at Tirana, 5 September 1922, 875.01/235.

     [vii] Ibid. American Consul in Trieste to the Secretary of State on the political situation in Albania, 875.00/74.

     [viii] Živko Avramovski, ‘Qëndrimi i Anglisë ndaj Qeverisë Fan Nolit në Shqipëri ne vitin 1924,’ Gjurmime Albanologjike 2 (1972): 162.

     [ix] DBFP, series 1, vol. 22, no. 609. p. 669.

     [x] Avramovski, ‘Qëndrimi i Anglisë,’ p. 164.

     [xi] DBFP, series 1, vol. 26, no. 170. p. 249. See footnote no. 7.

     [xii] Ibid.

     [xiii] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 140, f. 13-14.

     [xiv] Konica, brother of Faik, had a distinguished career in Albanian politics. In 1912 he was a member of the Vlorë government and was later sent as a delegate to the Conference of Ambassadors in 1913. During the brief government of Prince Wied, he served as minister to Greece. He later proposed that Albanians organize a regiment under the command of Aubrey Herbert to fight as a unit of the British Army in the First World War. In 1922 he was named Albania’s minister in London and was also accredited to Paris. See AQSH, Fondi Personal — Mehmet Konica, #441, D. 165.

     [xv] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 140, f. 10.

     [xvi] Ibid., f. 11.

     [xvii] Ibid., f. 15.

     [xviii] Ibid.

     [xix] Ibid.

     [xx] Shpuza, Revolucioni Demokratike-Borgjez, p. 33.

     [xxi] Department of State, Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, no. 287, 16 June 1924, 875.00/151.

     [xxii] Eyres’s position in the battle was also noted by U.S. minister Grant-Smith, who in a telegram of June 6 to the secretary of state noted that the British minister ‘openly encouraged and supported the government and his protege’ (Department of State, Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, 6 June 1924, 875.00/136). Even the newspaper Tirana lauded Eyres, writing that he did ‘not spare at all his moral assistance in protecting Albania from the dangers into which it has been plunged by some of its own sons who were, unknowingly, made the tools of our enemies’ (Tirana, 6 June 1924).

     [xxiii] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 140, f. 16.

     [xxiv] In a telegram of June 18 to Konica, Noli had made his concerns about Eyres clear, writing that he had proof that Eyres had encouraged the ‘feudal’ government to crush the revolution, and that he was not a suitable person for the development of good relations between Albania and Great Britain. See Puto, Demokracia e Rrethuar, p. 34.

     [xxv] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 198, f. 10.

     [xxvi] Ibid., f. 11.

     [xxvii] Ibid., f. 17.

     [xxviii] Ibid., f. 19.

     [xxix] DBFP, series 1, vol. 26, no. 188, pp. 281-2.

     [xxx] Zenel Hamiti, Historiku i Vajgurit ne Shqipëri (Tirana, 1966), p. 63.

     [xxxi] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 323, f. 15.

     [xxxii] DBFP, series 1, vol. 22, no. 730. p. 796.

     [xxxiii] Ibid.

     [xxxiv] Ibid.

     [xxxv] Ibid., no. 732. p. 799; Avramovski, ‘Qëndrimi i Anglisë,’ pp. 162-3.

     [xxxvi] AQSH, Fondi Personal — L. Gurakuqi, F. 34, D. 11, F. 2.

     [xxxvii] Ibid., f. 6.

     [xxxviii] Ora e Maleve, 22 September 1923.

     [xxxix] APOC offered 13.5 per cent of production to the state, while Standard Oil was prepared to give 15 per cent. Lastly, APOC sought a sixty-year term to Standard Oil’s fifty-year bid.

     [xl] See Puto, Demokracia e Rrethuar, p. 29.

     [xli] Villa was general secretary of the Foreign Ministry under Noli.

     [xlii] Parr was third secretary at Durrës and chargé d’affaires from June 15 until August 26.

     [xliii] DBFP, series 1, vol. 26, no. 170. p. 248.

     [xliv] British representatives had earlier identified such joint U.S.-Italian companies as a mere cloak for the interests of Standard Oil of the United States. See DBFP, series 1, vol. 22, 1921-2, no. 754, p. 819.

     [xlv] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 324, f. 8. The letter was sent to Tirana on October 22.

     [xlvi] Boshnjaku was an unofficial spokesman of Soviet interests in Albania.

     [xlvii] Politika, 10 July 1924;  AQSH, F. 263, V. 1924, D. 131, f. 22-23. It is true that Britain had defended part of the Greek position vis-à-vis southern Albania. However, Harry Eyres had argued in favour of the Albanian position. See DBFP, series 1, vol. 22, no. 731, pp. 797-8, and no. 650, pp. 726-7.

     [xlviii] Ibid. It is interesting to note that the Italian legation in Vlorë picked up this article and passed it along to the legation in Durrës as an example of the partisan politics of England and Harry Eyres. See AQSH, F. 263, V. 1924, D. 131, f. 21.

     [xlix] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1925, D. 154, f. 105. This was an undated letter written to Pandele Evangheli, probably in early 1925.

     [l] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 324, F. 1. The telegram was sent on July 16 and received in Tirana on the 17th.

     [li] Ibid., f. 2.

     [lii] DBFP, series 1, vol. 26, no. 285. p. 432.

     [liii] Ibid. Austen Chamberlain, as foreign secretary, in a margin note, agreed with Ninćić ‘s statement.

     [liv] Alan Cassels, Mussolini’s Early Diplomacy (Princeton, 1970), p. 243.

     [lv] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 246, f. 5. The details of the meeting were sent from Rome on July 20.

     [lvi] Ibid., f. 6.

     [lvii] Ibid.

     [lviii] The interview took place in July, and the report was sent from Rome to Albania’s Foreign Ministry on August 1st. See AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 246, f. 9.

     [lix] Ibid.

     [lx] Ibid. The notion that Noli’s government had a short life expectancy came, according to Indelli, direct from Mussolini.

     [lxi] Ibid.

     [lxii] Ibid., f. 10.

     [lxiii] Department of State, enclosure in U.S. embassy in Rome to the Secretary of State, no. 159, 3 September 1924, p. 3.

     [lxiv] Ibid.

     [lxv] Ibid.

     [lxvi] Department of State, Division of Near Eastern Affairs to F.M. Dearing, 18 June 1921, 875.6363/9.

     [lxvii] Ibid.

     [lxviii] Department of State, enclosure in Ambassador Child in Rome to the Secretary of State, 22 May 1922, 875.00/76.

     [lxix]Ibid., F.M. Dearing to the Secretary of Commerce, 13 July 1921, 875.6363/8.

     [lxx]Ibid., Hoover to the Secretary of State, 25 April 1922, 875.6363/21.

     [lxxi] Ibid.

     [lxxii] Department of State, Maxwell Blake to the Secretary of State, 16 September 1922, 875.00/79.

     [lxxiii] Ibid.

     [lxxiv] Department of State, Sinclair Oil Exploration Company to the Secretary of State, 19 September 1922, 875.6363/29.

     [lxxv] Ibid.

     [lxxvi] Department of State, Secretary of State to the Albanian Commissioner, 22 September 1922, 875.6363/29.

     [lxxvii] Ibid., Maxwell Blake to the Secretary of State, 26 October 1922, 875.6363/33.

     [lxxviii] This was the text of a telegram from Mr Soper in Albania to Sinclair Oil Company in New York. See Department of State, Maxwell Blake to the Secretary of State, 26 October 1922, 875.6363/33.

     [lxxix] Ibid., Soper to Sinclair Oil; see Blake to Secretary of State, 29 October 1922, 875.6363/34.

     [lxxx] Department of State, Division of Near Eastern Affairs to the Secretary of State, 16 November 1922, 875.6363/43.

     [lxxxi] Ibid.

     [lxxxii] Department of State, Hughes to the American Legation, 27 February 1923, 875.6363/49.

     [lxxxiii] Ibid.

     [lxxxiv] Department of State, memorandum from the Division of Near Eastern Affairs to the Secretary of State, 12 March 1923, 875.6363/72.

     [lxxxv] Ibid.

     [lxxxvi] Department of State, Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, 3 March 1923, 875.6363/57. Grant-Smith claimed to have the information from reliable official and unofficial sources.

     [lxxxvii] Department of State, Division of Near Eastern Affairs, memorandum, 8 January 1923, 875.51A/14.

     [lxxxviii] Ibid.

     [lxxxix] Department of State, Office of the Economic Advisor, memo to the Assistant Secretary, 30 January 1923, 875.51A/27.

     [xc] AQSH, F. 251, V. 1923, D. 230, f. 96.

     [xci] Ibid., f. 98.

     [xcii] Department of State, Merrit-Swift to the Secretary of State, 13 September 1923, 875.00/97.

     [xciii] Ibid.

     [xciv] On 16 April 1924, Mr E.S. Sheffield of Standard Oil had asked Grant-Smith to ‘make the strongest proper representations to the Albanian government to have the proposals referred to the Albanian parliament at the earliest possible moment’ (AQSH, F. 251, V. 1924, D. 323 f. 40).

     [xcv] Ibid., f. 36.

     [xcvi] Department of State, Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, 27 March 1924, 875.6363/145. Charges and counter-charges of bribery were rife in this period. U.S. officials speculated that Zogu had received 30,000 pounds in the fall of 1923, while other sources suggested that the U.S. interests were subsidizing an unnamed Albanian paper in hopes of influencing public opinion. See Department of State, report of the U.S. Vice-Consul in Salonika on the economic situation in Albania, 27 February 1924, 875.50/10.

     [xcvii] Department of State, Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, 22 June 1924, 875.01/244.

     [xcviii] Ibid., Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, 19 June 1924, 875.00/10.

     [xcix] Ibid. In a telegram of June 25 to Hughes, Grant-Smith wrote that it had largely been through the intermediary of the Nationalists ‘while in opposition that the efforts of Ahmet Bey Zogu to disregard American rights to equal opportunity were thwarted’ (Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, no. 292, 25 June 1924, 875.01/246).

     [c] Department of State, Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, no. 296, 2 July 1924, 875.01/247.

     [ci] Ibid.

     [cii] Department of State, Hughes to Grant-Smith, 23 June 1924, 875.01/243.

     [ciii] Ibid., Hughes to Grant-Smith, 25 June 1924, 875.01/244.

     [civ] The United States eventually applied the same standard to Noli’s government that was adopted toward Bolshevik Russia. Noli’s regime remained unrecognized because it was a ‘regime functioning in a country as the government thereof which has attained its control by force and in opposition to a local constitution in the absence of ample evidence that the change has been in fact supported by the people’ (Department of State, Office of the Solicitor, memo, 3 October 1924, 875.00/157).

     [cv] Department of State, Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, no. 285, 13 June 1924, 875.00/150.

     [cvi] AQSH, F. 251, D. 17, V. 1924, f. 207.

     [cvii] Department of State, Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, no. 288, 19 June 1924, Coleman and De Long, 385.1123/c and d/79.

     [cviii] In a telegram of September 16, the U.S. legation advised the State Department that ‘at no time since the minister’s [Grant-Smith was on leave] departure have conditions been so changed as to justify on my part reopening the question of recognition’ (Department of State, Trojan Kodding to the Secretary of State, 16 September 1924, 875.00/157).

     [cix] Department of State, Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, no. 340, 27 October 1924, Coleman and De Long, 375.1123/c and d/98.

     [cx] Ibid., enclosure no. 1, p. 3, in Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, no. 377, 2 January 1925, 376.1123/Coleman and De Long/114. The enclosure offers a translation of the court’s verdict.

     [cxi] Ibid. The court claimed to have secret documents from the Interior Ministry. I was unable to locate any such documents. It is worth noting that the court also concluded that the murder was undertaken with the aid of Yugoslavia.

     [cxii] As the verdict of the trial was delivered on December 14, Berati’s visit was well timed.

     [cxiii] Department of State, enclosure no. 1 in Grant-Smith to the Secretary of State, no. 264, 13 December 1924, 375.1123/Coleman and De Long/111.

     [cxiv] Ibid.

     [cxv] Department of State, Office of the Solicitor to the Secretary of State, 9 January 1925, 375.1123/Coleman and De Long/117.

     [cxvi] Ibid. This conclusion was also reached by the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.

     [cxvii] Ibid. This report was necessary so as to decide the U.S. position on Zogu’s seizure of power on 24 December 1924.

     [cxviii] Department of State, enclosure no. 1, p. 7, in Haven to the Secretary of State, no. 226, 6 October 1924, 875.00/161.

     [cxix] Ibid., p. 6.

     [cxx] Ibid.

     [cxxi] Ibid., p. 8.

     [cxxii] Živko Avramovski suggested that during his September trip to the League, Noli met with both French prime minister Herriot and British prime minister MacDonald. It appears that only after these meetings did Noli understand the link between elections and recognition. See Avramovski, ‘Qëndrimi i Anglisë,’ p. 177.

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