Malësia (Albanian Malësia e Madhe, Serbian: Малесија) is a geographical region in northern Albania and eastern Montenegro. It consists of the large area of land that stretches from the southeast of Podgorica to northern shores of Lake Scutari, and includes much of the Malësi e Madhe District of Albania.
visit the Malesia Portal Shkembi.com site
The histories of the respective tribes (and hence the whole region) are amalgamations of both historical events and genealogies passed along by oral transmission.
Gruda is a tribe of Malësia that, along with Hoti was instrumental during the Ottoman resistance. The mountain of Dechiq (Dečić), where the famed battle against the Ottoman conquerors took place, is located here, as is Tuzi, the de facto "capital" of Malësia. Gruda is mostly Roman Catholic but with a sizeable Muslim minority (20-30%). The Church of Gruda, known as Prifti, is the oldest church in the region, and it is not only an Albanian landmark, but it, having been built in 1528, provides the most concrete date for tracing back ancestry.
Kelmendi is located in the northern-most region of Albania (on the eastern shores of Lake Scutari. The tribe is mostly Roman Catholic although there are some sizable Muslim populations on the outskirts of Kelmendi, such as in Rugova (located in Kosovo) or in the Vuthaj and Martinaj regions (located in Montenegro)
Kastrati, lies entirely within the political borders of Montenegro. It traces its descent from the famous fighting stock, Drekalović of Kuči, which in turn derives from Berisha, by tradition one of the oldest of all Albanian surnames. The people of Kastrati are Catholic and Muslim; and though they retain their Slavic names (most notably Popović) it is generally accepted that they are of Albanian origin.
Triesh is commonly considered the "younger brother" of Hoti, as they share a common ancestor, Keq Preka of Herzegovina. The people of Triesh were, along with their Hoti brethren, known for their role during the Ottoman resistance. Specifically, they are said never to have given in to political or religious suppression by the Ottomans; and, as a result, they not only retained an overwhelmingly Catholic population, but they never willingly paid any taxes or tribute to the Ottoman pashas. (It should be stated that there were some houses in Triesh that converted to Islam during the Ottoman occupation, though they were either exiled or left willingly shortly thereafter).
Koja e Kuçit, is a Catholic Albanian tribe near the Montenegrin Kuči tribe. The people of Koja have been praised for their resistance to the Slavic expansion, guarding their borders with life and blood from advancing Slavs into the Albanian Malesia region. Not one house in Koja was converted to Islam after nearly 500 years of the Ottoman occupation in the region. Pretash Zeka Ulaj Bajraktari Kojes was honored by the leaders of the other six malesia tribes and given the Albanian flag to mount on top of Dečić as a symbol of unity amongst the seven tribes after finally defeating the Ottoman Turks.
On April 6, 1911, the Malsia fighters reached the top of the strategic high hill of Dečić (Deçiq). Many of them died that day, but they were able to crush the Ottoman resistance and raise the Flag of Albania after 442 years of occupation. This was the first time Albanians raised their Flag since the Castle of Shkodër had fallen in 1469. About a year and a half later, with the help of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Albanian Flag was risen officially in the southern town of Vlona.
Anton Harapi, Albania's most distinguished Christian philosopher, dedicated his masterpiece "Andrra e Pretashit" (Pretash's Dream), initially called “The Wise Men along Cemi River” to the people of Malcia.
The oldest book of modern Albania was written by a Maltsia Priest, four and a half centuries ago. He, Gjon Buzuku, was a Catholic priest, who in the tradition of Martin Luther had decided to bring Reformation to Albania. The only copy of the book, written in the dialect of Kelmendi Rugova, and Kastrati, that survives has a few pages missing.
In 1908, anthropologist Edith Durham visited the Malesia region and catalogued her findings in her ethnographic work "High Albania," which was, for nearly a century, the most trusted source of information about the Albanian highlanders.
Albanian anthropologist Kole Berisha wrote, among other books, the four-volumes ethnography entitled "Malcia e Madhe" written between 1900 and 1945
Malësia’s Most Famous Two Gangs
They two main “gangs” of the mystic region of Yútbinah are the one led by Gjeto Basho Muji and the other led by the elder Dizdar Osman Aga. The warriors come from those Valleys and they do not fight each other. They are all from Jutbina.
Accursed Highlands (Bjeshket e Namuna)
Malësia people were relatively independent from the Ottoman empire, meaning they did not pay taxes, did not give them solders and did not acknowledge their law. Hence, their enemy was the one that had been their “enemy” for a millennium before the appearance of the ottomans – namely Slavs. For this reason the majority of the confrontations in the “Knight Songs” happen among the Albanians and the Slavs.
The songs have been preserved as an authentic cultural heritage against musical heritage introduced by the Turkish occupying army in the low lands. The Turkish music is accompanied by “çiftelia”, a two string musical instrument in rural areas, and “aheng” a small gypsy orchestra in urban areas. In the Kosovo region developed another kind of music which also was brought into Balkans by the occupying Turks. The music is accompanied by an instrument with many strings, called “shargia”. It sounds like the classical Persian music of Iran.
There have been very few changes in the way the Albanian Lute is used. The main drive was to save themselves from “trukization” through “çiftelia” “shargia” and “aheng” music.
A lot of information has been lost too, but there are a few names that affirm the authenticity of the epic as having been developed in Maltsia/Rugova region. The city of the Slavs is the New Kotor. Kotor is the name for a nearby Montenegrin city by the Adriatic sea. Accursed Highlands stretch from Maltsia to Rugova. The smiths/horse-shoe makers are from the city of Shkodra.
Robert Elsie has translated the “Lute of Malcia” in English (he titled it the Highland Lute) and about 30 songs from the “Albanian Epic”.