Independence Day or Flag Day is celebrated annually on the 28 of November in Albania and the diaspora.
It marks the day on which in 1912, the Albanian flag was raised in Vlora, coinciding with the same day that national hero Skanderbeg raised the same flag in Kruje in 1443.
On the same day the declaration of independence of Albania from the Ottoman Empire was also signed. Six days later, the Assembly of Vlore formed the first government of Albania which was led by a council of elders and Ismail Qemali.
Albania’s independence came following the Albanian Revolt of 1912 which sent a strong message to other countries in the region that the Ottoman Empire was weak. The Kingdom of Serbia opposed the plan and put forward a plan to partition the European territory of the Ottoman Empire among four Balkan allies.
On 28 November 1912, 40 delegates met in Vlore and declared that Albania was an independent country. The text of the declaration was composed in the Albanian dialects of Gheg, Tosk, and with some in Ottoman Turkish. It read:
“In Vlorë on 15/28 of the third Autumn 1328/1912. After the words spoken by Mr. Chairman Ismail Kemal Bey, in which he told of the great danger Albania is in today, all the delegates with one voice decided that Albania today is to be on its own, free and independent.”
Albanian independence was then recognised on 17 December 1912at the London Conference of Ambassadors but it wasn’t until after the Second Balkan War in July 1913 that the international community recognised it as an independent and sovereign state.
Vlore newspaper, the Perlindja wrote:
“The National Assembly, composed of delegates from all over Albania and convening here in Vlora, opened today at four in the afternoon at the house of Xhemil bey. Ismail Kemal bey, as the prime initiator of the gathering, took the floor and explained to the delegates the purpose of the assembly, that is, that they all must strive to do what is necessary to save Albania from the great perils it is now facing.
The chairman, Ismail Kemal Bey, then took the floor and, in an ardent, fluid and reasonable speech, stated that although they had always been faithful to the Ottoman Empire, the Albanians had never forgotten their own language and nationality, the best proof of this being the endeavours and uprisings that had taken place from time to time, in particular over the last four years, to preserve their rights and customs. The Ottoman Government had never taken their interests into consideration and had never been willing to recompense the Albanians for the great services they had rendered. It had recently shown some interest in coming to an understanding with our people, but had not given proof of good faith and had not taken all the steps needed to appease and satisfy the Albanians. War had recently broken out with four countries in the Balkans that were seeking change and rights for their peoples, united by their ethnicity and religion.
Later, these countries put aside their initial objective and, as the war was going well for them, they agreed to divide the Empire up among themselves, including Albania. Realizing that the Turkish army had been defeated and that the Empire would not survive, the Albanians, who had played a greater role in the fighting than the soldiers, hastened to take requisite steps in their own interests as owners of the country. For this reason, Ismail Kemal bey departed for Istanbul and, having come to an understanding with the Albanians of Bucharest, too, set off for Vienna, where he reached an agreement with the Great Powers that had vital interests in the Balkans. As there was no more hope of saving Albania by means of arms, the only road to salvation was to separate Albania from Turkey. Ismail Kemal bey promoted this idea and objective, that was well received by all the Great Powers, in particular by Austria and Italy. It was only Russia that remained somewhat hostile to the idea because of the Slavs, but it did not deny the existence of Albania and an Albanian people. To realise this objective, he invited all Albanians to gather in Vlora and was delighted today to see that his call had not been in vain, and that delegates had been sent from all parts of Albania to reflect together on ways to save the Fatherland. According to Ismail Kemal Bey, the most urgent measures that the Albanian nation must take today are these: that Albania be independent under a provisional government; that a council of elders be elected to assist and supervise the government; and that a commission be sent to Europe to defend Albanian interests among the Great Powers.
The delegates unanimously agreed with the words of Ismail Kemal bey and resolved that Albania, as of today, should be on her own, free and independent under a provisional government.
The meeting was adjourned until the following day and the delegates went out and greeted the flag that was raised at five thirty in the afternoon.”
The day remains a public holiday in Albania.
Both EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca and US Ambassador Yuri Kim marked the day.
Happy Independence Day #Albania🇦🇱! This year we pay tribute to the Albanians that lost their battle against #COVID19 and to the sacrifice of Albanian doctors and nurses that are in the frontline every day. The #EU 🇪🇺 stands by the Albanian🇦🇱 people.#StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/QlErJavkqk
— Luigi Soreca🇪🇺 (@LSorecaEU) November 28, 2020
Soreca used the day to remind Albanians of all those who have lost their lives from COVID-19 including doctors and nurses.
On Nov 28, 1912, Ismail Qemali raised the #kuqezi, declaring 🇦🇱 independence from the Ottoman Empire. Long live independent Albania! Long live the courageous spirit of Qemali & Skanderbeg! Happy Independence Day, dear Albanian friends!
— Ambassador Yuri Kim (@USAmbAlbania) November 28, 2020
Kim wished Albanians a happy independence day and a long life to Albanian’s courageous spirit.
Prime Minister Edi Rama used a quote from Qemali himself to commemorate the day;
“Our flag, in our free homeland. Long live the flag, long live Albania.”
President Ilir Meta called on Albanians to protect the country’s flag.
“Let us work and commit every day to protect our sacred and unifying symbol, to wave proudly in these lands, pure and untouched, just like the blood shed for it, by the best sons and daughters of the nation.” He added that Albania must be like all of Europe.