Today is the 80th anniversary of the death of Albanian friar, poet, educator, politician, translator, and writer, Gjergj Fishta.
Born on 23 October 1871 and dying in 1940, he is considered one of the most influential Albanian writers of the 20th Century and is most famous for his epic masterpiece “Lahuta e Malcis” (The Highland Lute). He was also the editor of two of Albania’s most famous magazines, following the country’s independence; Posta e Shypnies and Hylli i Drite.
Fishta was also the Chairman of the Commission of the Congress of Monastir which is where and when the Albanian alphabet, as we know it today, was sanctioned. Fishta was also part of the Albanian delegation to the Versailles Conference in 1919 and in 1921 he became deputy chairman of the Albanian parliament.
He was born in the village of Fishte in the Zadrima region of what is now Lezhe County, Albania, but was then a part of the Ottoman Empire. He attended the Franciscan school in Shkodra before attending the Troshan College in 1880. Young Fishta studied philosophy and in 1902 he was made the Head of the Franciscan college in Shkodra.
He wrote his main work, the Lahuta e Malcis while a student in monasteries in Austria-Hungary. The piece consisted of 30 cantos and 17,000 verses that focused on the League of Prizren which had become a key event in the Albanian national awakening.
During his political career, he supported Fan Noli’s dream of democracy but after the establishment of the King Zog regime, he went into voluntary exile in Italy.
He received several awards during his lifetime, including the Order of Franz Joseph by the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Benemerenza from the Holy See, the Order of the Phoenix by Greece, and following the Italian invasion of Albania, he became a part of the Royal Academy of Italy.