Thursday, May 14, 2015


Abas Kupi (1901-1976) was an Albanian resistance leader during World War II. In 1939, when Mussolini invaded Albania, Mr. Kupi organized and commanded a resistance regiment. In 1942, when the National Liberation Movement was founded, he became one of its leaders, but at the end of 1943 broke with it and headed a royalist legitimist movement calling for the return of King Zog. He chose the name Legaliteti to denote legitimacy and recall the 'Triumph of Legality' of 1924. This was the Zogist resistance, launched at the Congress of Herri on November 23rd. Its manifesto promised not only democratic monarchy but also land reform, social insurance, and the retention of 'Ethnic Albania' (with Kosovo and Chameria).

 He left Albania in 1944. In 1948, he was founder of the Committee for a Free Albania in Paris, which opposed the Communist domination. He came to the United States in 1967.

 He lived in Freeport, Long Island and died at the age of 75 in January of 1976. His wife Hava, and eight children survived him.

During World War II, Albania was the springboard for the Italian invasion of Greece and the scene of anti-Axis guerrilla warfare. Having dominated Albania politically and economically for some time, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini planned a formal annexation of Albania in the spring of 1939. Italian troops invaded the small mountainous country on 7 April 1939 and met only light resistance, although a small force led by Colonel Abas Kupi held the Italians at Durazzo for 36 hours, sufficient time for Albanian King Zog and his family to escape. On 16 April 1939, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy accepted the Albanian crown, and a profascist government was installed. Britain, still hoping to prevent an alliance between Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, acceded to the annexation, but the Greeks prepared to resist an inevitable Italian invasion of their own country, which occurred on 28 October 1940.

Already, earlier in 1940, Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) had attempted to create a united-front movement under Abas Kupi and to stimulate a revolt against the Italians in northern Albania. The effort began well, but it faltered after the German conquest of Yugoslavia in April 1941 and the subsequent transfer of Kosovo Province from Yugoslavia to Albania. However, as Axis fortunes waned in 1943, Albanian resistance revived.

In the mountains of southern Albania, the Communists, encouraged by Tito (Josip Broz), leader of the Yugoslav Partisans, coalesced under Enver Hoxha. Liberal landowners and intellectuals formed the Balli Kombetar (National Front) resistance movement. In central and northern Albania, Abas Kupi and various tribal leaders also formed resistance groups. SOE agents Colonel Neil McLean and Major David Smiley were sent into southern Albania, and they subsequently recommended that the British provide aid to both Hoxha’s partisans and the Balli Kombetar.

The disintegration of the Italian forces in Albania following the overthrow of Mussolini in September 1943 provided the Albanian guerrillas with arms and other supplies captured from or abandoned by the Italians. The Germans quickly sent in troops to clear out the remaining Italian forces, savagely repressed the local population, and “restored Albanian independence.” The Germans created a government under Mehdi Frasheri, but it was able to control only the main towns and coastal plain. The rest of Albania descended into chaos as various guerrilla chieftains fought for power.

The British Balkan Air Force headquarters at Bari controlled the support to anti-Axis guerrillas in the Balkans and was decidedly pro-Partisan, in both Albania and Yugoslavia. The British hoped to use all of the Albanian resistance forces to harass the German withdrawal from Greece, which began in September 1944. But when Hoxha’s Communists attacked the Balli Kombetar and Abas Kupi instead, the British cut off aid to the non-Communist resistance groups, thereby ensuring their defeat. Kupi and the Balli Kombetar leaders were evacuated to Italy with the McLean SOE mission, and the Communists were left to take over Albania. With Yugoslav support, Hoxha seized power on 29 November 1944, and the People’s Republic of Albania was recognized by the Allies. Albanians subsequently developed anti-Western views and supported an isolated Stalinist regime for nearly half a century.

Fischer, Bernd J. Albania at War, 1939–45. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1999.
Swire, Joseph. Albania: The Rise of the Kingdom. New York: Arno Press, 1971.

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