Albanians in Hungary: The Clementines living along the Sava River

Albanians in Hungary: The Clementines living along the Sava River
Sava River
 In Hungary, especially in the southern part of Szerémség, once the Kingdom of Hungary, today the territories of Croatia and Serbia (Vojvodina), along the lower course of the river Sava (Száva), lived a community of Albanians. According to historical sources, after the Turkish occupation of the XV century, an ethnic group called Klementinas settled mainly in two villages: in Herkócán (Hrtkovci) and Nyéken (Nikinci). Below we see this ethnographic curiosity, the history of the only "island" inhabited by Albanians in Hungary!

In the province, or "Committee" of Szerèm, in southern Hungary, until the period before the First World War, these two villages continued to exist: Hrtkovce and Nikinci.

(The Committees of the Kingdom of Hungary, in Hungarian, vármegye, was the main administrative divisions of the kingdom for many centuries. After the last administrative reform of 1867 these were 71, eight of which belonged to the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia.)

Albanians in Hungary: The Clementines living along the Sava River
Two Clementine women in Vojvodina, 1920
If we had gone to these places, around 1850, we would have been surprised because we would have suddenly felt somewhere else: in places inhabited by a tribe with customs different from those of the country and speaking a different language.

These two villages were inhabited by a prosperous Albanian population, of war shepherds origin. They later distinguished themselves as skilled farmers and ranchers. Among them were winemakers who were known for producing good wine, known as Salaksia.

Salaksia wine, aged and with a dry taste was no different, for its extraordinary quality, from the wines of Malaga. (List měsečni horvatsko-slavonskoga Gospodarskoga Družtva, 1847, Zagreb. Monthly Gazette of the Croatian-Slavonic Economic Society p. 87).

According to the famous Hungarian agronomist Ferenc Schams (b. 1780 - d. 1839) Karlóca was the second region after Tokaj, in 14 historical regions of wine production. Aszú wine was produced here (with clusters of dried grapes hit by the botrytis cinerea mold), from the Kadarka grape variety originating from Shkodra. At the time of the Turkish occupation, the vineyards and wine production were severely damaged.

Even their sheep, which they had received from Albania, were famous throughout Slavonia and were called Klementines.

The name Klementinas could also be a title for the tragic history of these Albanian emigrants.

It is thought that a captain of the army of the Albanian hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skërderbej, named Klement, at the time of the occupation of Sultan Murad II, in the middle of the XV century, at the head of two thousand Albanians, emigrated from his homeland, going to establish a small independent state between the mountains of the Serbo-Hungarian border. Regarding the name Kelmend, the Albanologist Zef (Giuseppe) Valentini, talks about the tribe of Kelmendi, which we find in documents since 1242. While as a documented adjective was found in 1353, Gjergji, son of Gjergj Kelmendi from Spasa (vend), (dominus Georgius fulius Georgii Clementi de Spasso).

In the geographical dictionary published by Elek Fényes in 1840, the number of "Klemetinas" is determined in 1600 souls, who at that time all lived in two villages, in Szerèm.

According to Palóczi Edgár another variant of the name Kelmend, according to the tradition of this Catholic ethnic group, is that of a shepherd named Klement, who was the founder of the great Kelmendi tribe. To him were born seven sons, each of whom was founded by a clan - among them we find, for example, the Martinovics tribe. This name sounds familiar; Ignác Martinovics took his name from his father and is a distant descendant of this clan. This Franciscan monk, who preached the doctrines of the Hungarian Jacobins, never lived in this area, he was born in Pest in 1755, but his father was certainly from present-day Albania.

Klement, klementinas or kelmendas, it is thought that the name of this tribe comes from the Latin word Clemens- (tis), i.e. merciful, and we later find this as the name of the person Clemens. In the writings of foreign scholars, the name is found transcribed in "Clement, Clement, Clementine" etc., and in Albanian "Kelmen, Klemente, Kelmendi". For the first time, in the present sense, we encounter Pope Clement I (90-101 AD) and the Saint of the Catholic Church. The Kelmendis have worshiped him as the protector of their tribe throughout their history by dedicating their prayers and churches to this saint.

So first the small capital of this settlement was named Clement, and then the whole colony. Later, however, in order to preserve their freedom, the Clementines were forced by the High Gate to pay a tribute of 4,000 florins a year.

During the first thirty years of the 18th century, the Clementines were under the protection of King Charles III, who had a very strong influence in the Balkans, so the colony flourished and lived peacefully without worries.

The Clementines first migrated to some desert mountains on the border with Serbia, to escape persecution by the Turks. A few years later the Bishop Arsenije IV Jovanović Šakabenta, in 1737, persuaded them to abandon those barren mountains to go and live in Serbian territory. In fact, there were twenty thousand Albanians and Serbs preparing to go to Vailovánál (Vallicovo) when the Turks, after the fate of the war had turned against the Germans, attacked the emigrants, committing a terrible massacre.

Suffice it to say that out of twenty thousand that were, only one thousand survived, among which only three hundred Clementine Albanians.

As they fled, the deserts, persecuted by the cruel Turkish revenge, crossed the Sava River and King Charles II gave them the opportunity to settle in the territory of his kingdom, where they founded the two villages of Hrtkovce and Nikinci.

In those lands, the agile Clementines created prosperity and lived peacefully, thus stabilizing themselves while preserving their customs and traditions.

For more than a hundred years they remained unmixed, as an ethnic group, in language and customs, even though they shared religion with their compatriots, as the Serbs were Orthodox.

Thus, always marrying each other, for a long time, there were no penetrations of other ethnicities; thus the moral, traditional and linguistic heritage of the ancestors was not affected.

During the first fifty years of the 1800s, they remained Albanians, and there are many travelers and scientists, especially Hungarians, who describe the life and customs of these strange peoples who had entered the heart of Hungary without being assimilated, over many generations.

But when Maria Teresa established a special military-type order (in German Militär-Maria-Theresien-Orden), which included all the inhabitants of the border areas, the main interest was directed by the Hungarian Albanians. At that time, since they were skilled fighters, they were organized in military units to guard the border, and it was at that time that their perversion began.

A Hungarian scientist, Danielis Cornides, visited them in 1777 to study their customs and traditions, and thoroughly examined every detail, which he then described. He found all the most ancient customs and traditions and was present during the traditional Albanian dances. He describes one of these dances that was organized outdoors: women and men, in their Albanian costumes, were placed in two rows, each resting their left arm on the other's shoulder and singing and dancing, according to the rhythm, to the ancient songs of Albania, inherited mysteriously from generation to generation by fathers. Between the two rows came out jumping two men with swords in their hands, and dancing, playing, and rotating the gun, at a wild pace. The women then raised a silk scarf with their hands, always standing in one place in the middle of the wonderful movements, sometimes addressing one dancer and sometimes another dancer. In the end, instead of music, only the girls' song sounded, praising the glory of the old heroes, especially Skanderbeg.

Their habits are still rude, sometimes they get suddenly angry driven by the thought of revenge, but the careful observer notices that they are honest, loyal, and reserved. They marry at a young age. Men 20 years old and women 13-14 years old. They are tall with regular and nice features. Young women are known for their beauty and their husbands are proud and jealous to the extreme. Researcher Danielis Cornides recommends that no one talks to women without making friends in advance, because anything can be expected from their husbands…

Persons of a family usually live together in one house, so families with 30-40 members are formed. Both villages are well built; the churches are of the Roman rite, as they are Catholic to the last point. Their homes are large and clean. The food is of better quality than the Serbs, cheeses are the main food. Their favorite drink is brandy which they mix with honey. Women also like to drink.

Even Elek Fènyes, in 1842, many years later, describes in detail the typical Albanian customs and traditions of the inhabitants of the two villages: Their clothing is special, the color red plays an important role. The man wears a red hat, a short jacket tucked behind the body, of a thick fabric, decorated with black fur and braids, a colorful tights and socks turned upside down, a black scarf (like a tie) and a dark red apron over which there is another brighter colored apron decorated with fringe. The man tightens his waist with a cloth belt, in which he holds a pistol and a knife. The sword hangs sideways, while the iron mace with a half-meter-long tail is held it in his right hand.

The women have beautiful black hair gathered in a bun, leaning over the shoulders, forward; on the back, caught above the head, have a silk veil decorated with ribbons. The neck is surrounded by shining ornaments. In addition to the long shirt, which stops them from taking big steps, they wear a vest with fringe embellished with money, and the colorful apron hangs from the colorful belt with a copper chain strap. The outerwear consists of a red dress with fur, fringe, and stitching, the sleeves of which reach only up to the elbows. Their varied socks are similar to those of men.

It can be said that their real assimilation or rather "Croatianization" begins after the 1850s, and more than anything else because of the "fault" of schools, where young people, learning to speak a new language, forgot about theirs. And it is known that language is the foundation on which the building of an ethnic group is based, which is composed of many, many things, from clothes to music, from food to superstitions, but more than anything else from the social group itself, which tends to disperse and melt.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, only the elderly, now, spoke the Albanian language, or perhaps only understood it.

Many interests now connected the inhabitants of those lands with each other, who "polluted" each other, forgetting, because of a force that could not be defeated, the historical heritage of direct origin from Kastriot, which perhaps had unknowingly guarded until then.

Budapest's Pesti Hirlap also writes about their history, and says, among other things, that the inscriptions on the tombs collected in the ancient cemeteries of the two Clementine countries testify quite well to the fidelity and love that the peoples of southern Greater Hungary maintained for their motherland..

When László Réthy, the famous numismatist, paid a visit in 1895, only a few elderly people still spoke the ancient language. Réthy was one of the first scholars to see the manuscript of the late priest Antal Vozsenilek in the church of Hrtkovce, entitled "Sermones Albanici dicti per Antonium Voxenileg Parochum Hrtkovcensem".

Gradually the last Albanian word has almost disappeared in the Albanian settlements in Hungary, but Cornides and Réthy have been careful not to lose track of the Albanian language. Both have compiled a dictionary and have faithfully transcribed our Aty our prayer into Albanian, as Albanians at the time told them. These monuments of Hungarian Albanians from 1777 to 1895 are interesting variants and will necessarily serve the sciences of albanology which are in development.

The treaties of the great powers did not take into account the existence of this community and, mutilating the Hungarian land, they included in the Serbian territories the two villages of those Albanians who in ancient times, in order to escape the Turkish yoke, had chosen with their will to be Hungarian citizens. But those statesmen who divided the lands in the geographical atlas, like the children who play with each other, had no knowledge or were indifferent, that in the beautiful Hungarian land there were still Albanian minorities loyal to their Hungarian brothers.

About the author: Dr. Gino LUKA, was born in Shkodra where he spent part of his life. He currently lives in Florence. He graduated from the University of Florence with a degree in Translation Theory and Practice, Faculty of Literature and Philosophy. Today he is devoted to translation and another passion: writing.

Bibliographic references:

Bóró Nopcsa Ferenc Úti jegyzetek egy amatőr-ethnográfus naplójából. Népélet (Ethnographia) XXXIV – XXXV. évf. (1923–1924) [1924!] 65–74. (Baron Ferenc Nopcsa, Travel notes from the diary of an amateur ethnographer. Ethnography XXXIV - XXXV. Year (1923–1924) [1924!] 65–74.

Franco V. Dionisi - Le colonie clementiane, Le vie dell ’1928. Anno V - N. VII (Clementine colonies, Roads of birth, 1928. Year V. N. VII).

Hetzmann Róbert, Albánok a Szerémségben, (Albanians in Szerémség) Aracs: newspaper of the Hungarians of the South, 2018. - Világ-Krónika (Chronicle from the world) IV, 1880. N. 27, 210.
Ignac Martinovics

Ignác Romsics, Historian, Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences The treaty of Trianon and its repercussions, 2020.
Palóczi Edgár, Albán telepek Magyarországon, Eredeti kiadás: Pesti Hírlap XXXVI. évf. 132. sz. (1914. j 7.n. 7.) 65–66. (Albanian settlements in Hungary), Original edition: Gazeta e Pestit year XXXVI No. 132 (June 7, 1914) 65-66.

Szegh Dezső, Az albánok. Katholikus Szemle évf. (1913) 7. sz. 787–800 (Albanians. Catholic Magazine XXVII. Year (1913) No. 7. pp. 787–800).

İskender Bey kimdir? - Encyclopedia of Religious Foundation of Turkey. (Who is Skanderbeg? - Encyclopedia of the Islamic Religious Foundation of Turkey).

KSKENDER BEY Arnavut bey's struggle against the Ottomans. Âslâm Encyclopedia (The nobleman who fought against the Ottomans. Encyclopedia of Islam)..
Albanians in Hungary: The Clementines living along the Sava River Albanians in Hungary: The Clementines living along the Sava River Sunday, February 28, 2021 Rating: 5
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