Kelmendi (tribe)

This article is about the historical region. For the municipality in Albania, see Kelmend (municipality).
Catholic church in Nikç, municipality of Kelmend

Kelmendi (Albanian: Kelmendi) is a historical tribe and region (Kelmendi mountains, Malet e Kelmendit) in the mountainous borderlands of Albania towards Montenegro, of the wider Malësia-region. Part of the region lies within the Kelmend municipality, and is composed of a Roman Catholic majority and Muslim minority. The Kelmendi speak a subdialect of Gheg Albanian as the other northern Albanian tribes.

Families hailing from Kelmendi can also be found in Plav, Montenegro and Rugova, Kosovo[a], where they are Muslim. The name is derived from Saint Clement, the patron saint of the region.


Early history

The Kelmendi are first mentioned in an Ottoman defter (tax registry) of 1497, along with the tribes of Hoti, Kuči and Piperi.[1] They are recorded as having 152 households divided by five small shepherding communities.[1] Robert Elsie thus assumes that they were known as a tribe from the last decades of the 15th century.[1] The defter mentions them as derbendci, mountain-pass keepers, and having tax privileges.[1] The derbendci guarded the Shkodër–Altun-li and Medun–Kuči roads.[1] The defter bears witness to the fact that the tribes of Klimenti, Hoti and Kuči were flooded with pure Serb katuns or families, among whom were Miholjani, Pobrežani, Brežani, Ljubicite, Pavlovići, Petrovići, Lješovići, and others.[2]

As early as 1538, the Kelmendi rose up against the Ottomans.[3] In 1565, the Kelmendi, Kuči and Piperi rose up against the Ottomans.[4] In the mid-1580s, the Kelmendi seemed to have stopped paying taxes to the Ottomans.[4]

17th century

Venetian documents from 1609 mention the Kelmendi, Dukagjini, and others having a conflict with the Sultan for 4 years.[5] In April the same year the Dukagjini and others attacked not only the Ottomans, but other northern Albanian tribes who did not support them.[5] The local Ottomans were unable to counter them and were thus forced to ask the Bosnian Pasha for help.[5]

Old man of Shoshi by Edith Durham prior to 1909

Marino Bizzi (1570-1624), the Archbishop of Bar, mentions them in 1610 as "almost all are Catholics, speaking Albanian and Dalmatian [Serbian]" (popoli quasi tutti latini, e di lingua Albanese e Dalmata).[6] Bizzi reported an incident in 1613 in which an Ottoman commander, Arslan Pasha, raided the villages of the Kelmendi and started taking prisoners, until an agreement was reached with the Kelmendi clans. According to the agreement, the Kelmendi would surrender fifteen of their members as slaves, and pay a tribute of 1,000 ducats to the Ottomans. However, as Arslan Pasha waited for the payment of the tribute, the Kelmendi ambushed part of his troops and killed about thirty cavalrymen. After this incident the Ottoman troops retreated to Herceg Novi (Castelnuovo).[7] Mariano Bolizza recorded the "Climenti" in his 1614 report as being a Roman rite village, describing them as "an untiring, valorous and extremely rapacious people", with 178 houses, and 650 men in arms commanded by Smail Prentashev and Peda Suka.[8] In 1614, they, along with the tribes of Kuči, Piperi and Bjelopavlići, sent a letter to the kings of Spain and France claiming they were independent from Ottoman rule and did not pay tribute to the empire.[9][10] Clashes with the Ottomans continued through the 1630 and culminate in 1637-38 where the tribe would repel an army of 12,000 (according to some sources 30,000) commanded by Vutsi Pasha of the Bosnia Eyalet. Ottoman casualties vary from 4,000 to 6,000, based on different sources. The legend of Nora of Kelmendi would come to life during this epic struggles.[11]

In the Cretan War the Kelmendi played a tactical role between the Ottomans and the Venetians. In 1664, Evliya Celebi mentioned Kelmendi Albanians among the "infidel warriors" he saw manning Venetian ships in the harbour of Split. The Kelmendi promised support to whichever side would fulfil their requests. in 1666, for instance some of the Kelmendi supported the Ottomans on condition that they be exempted from paying tribute for five years. Some of them also converted to Islam.[12]

In 1651, they aided the army of Ali-paša Čengić, which attacked Kotor; the army raided and destroyed many monasteries in the region.[13] In 1658, the seven tribes of Kuči, Vasojevići, Bratonožići, Piperi, Klimenti, Hoti and Gruda allied themselves with the Republic of Venice, establishing the so-called "Seven-fold barjak" or "alaj-barjak", against the Ottomans.[14]

In 1685, Süleyman, sanjak-bey of Scutari, annihilated the bands of Bajo Pivljanin that supported Venice at the Battle on Vrtijeljka.[15] Süleyman was said to have been aided by the Brđani (including the Klimenti[13]), who were in feud with the Montenegrin tribes.[16] The Klimenti lived off of plundering. Plav, Gusinje, and the Orthodox population in those regions suffered the most from the Klimenti's attacks.[16] The Klimenti also raided the Peć area, and they were so powerful there that some villages and small towns paid them tribute.[16] In March 1688, Süleyman attacked the Kuči tribe;[17] the Kuči, with help from Klimenti and Piperi, destroyed the army of Süleyman twice, took over Medun and got their hands of large quantities of weapons and equipment.[14] In 1692, Süleyman defeated the Montenegrins at Cetinje, once again with the help of the Brđani.[16]

In 1689 the Kelmendi volunteered in the Imperial Army of the Holy Roman Empire during the Kosovo campaign. Initially they were serving Süleyman, but after negotiations with a Venetian official, they abandoned the Ottoman ranks.[18] In October 1689, Arsenije III Čarnojević allied himself with the Habsburgs, gaining the title of Duke. He met up with Silvio Piccolomini in November, and put under his wings a large army of Serbs, including some Klimenti.[6]

18th century

In 1700, the pasha of Peć, Hudaverdi Mahmut Begolli, resolved to take action against the continuing Kelmendi depredations in western Kosovo. With the help of other mountain tribes, he managed to block the Kelmendi in their homelands, the gorge of the upper Cem river, from three sides and advanced on them with his own army from Gusinje, In 1702, having worn them down by starvation, he forced the majority of them to move to the Pešter plateau. Only the people of Selcë were allowed to stay in their homes. Their chief had converted to Islam, and promised to convert his people to. A toltal of 251 Kelmendi households (1,987 people) were resettled in the Pešter area on that occasion. Other were resettled in Gjilan Kosovo. However five years later the exiled Kelmendi managed to fight their way back to their homeland, and in 1711 they sent out a large raiding force to bring back some other from Pešter too. [19]

In the 18th century, Hoti and Kelmendi assisted the Kuči and Vasojevići in the battles against the Ottomans; after that unsuccessful war, a part of the Klimenti fled their lands.[20] After the defeat in 1737, under Archbishop Arsenije IV Jovanović Šakabenta, a significant number of Serbs and Kelmendis retreated into the north, Habsburg territory.[21] Around 1,600 of them settled in the villages of Nikinci and Hrtkovci, where they later adopted a Croat identity.[22]

Late modern period

Albanian bajraks (1918).

On May 26, 1913, 130 leaders of Gruda, Hoti, Kelmendi, Kastrati and Shkreli sent a petition to Cecil Burney in Shkodër against the incorporation of their territories into Montenegro.[23] Franz Baron Nopcsa, in 1920, puts the Klimenti as the first of the Albanian clans, as the most frequently mentioned of all.[24]

Contemporary history

By the end of the Second World War, the Albanian Communists sent its army to northern Albania to destroy their rivals, the nationalist forces. The communist forces met open resistance in Nikaj-Mertur, Dukagjin and Kelmend, which were anti-communist. Kelmend was headed by Prek Cali. On January 15, 1945, a battle between the Albanian 1st Brigade and nationalist forces was fought at the Tamara Bridge. Communist forces lost 52 soldiers, while in their retaliation about 150 people in Kelmend people were brutally killed.[25] Their leader Prek Cali was executed.

This event was the starting point of other dramas, which took place during Enver Hoxha's dictatorship. Class struggle was strictly applied, human freedom and human rights were denied, Kelmend was isolated both by the border and by lack of roads for other 20 years, agricultural cooperative brought about economic backwardness, life became a physical blowing action etc. Many Kelmendi people fled, some others froze by bullets and ice when trying to pass the border.[26]



There are various theories on the origin of the Kelmendi. Several anthropologists and historians have recorded various founding myths.


Logu i Bjeshkeve Beauty Festival taking place every August in Qafa Bordolecit

During Easter processions in Selcë and Vukël the kore, a child-eating demon, was burnt symbolically.[39] In Christmas time alms were placed upon ancestors' graves. As in other northern Albanian clans the Kanun (customary law) that is applied in Kelmend is that of The Mountains (Albanian: Kanuni i Maleve). According to Franz Baron Nopcsa's researches the Kelmendi were the most numerous and notable of the northern Albanian clans.[40]


The region consists of six primary villages: Boga, Nikç, Selcë, Tamarë, Vermosh and Vukël, all part of the Kelmend Municipality. Their clan neighbours are the Kuči and Hoti, to the west, and the Vasojevići to the north. The following lists are of families in the Kelmend region by village of origin (they may live in more than one village):


The following families come from the Vermosh area:

  • Kelmendi
  • Bujaj
  • Tinaj
  • Miraj
  • Cali
  • Hasanaj
  • Hasangjekaj
  • Hasani
  • Hysaj
  • Lelçaj
  • Lekutanaj
  • Lumaj
  • Macaj
  • Mitaj
  • Mrnacaj/Mernaçaj
  • Naçaj
  • Peraj
  • Pllumaj
  • Preljocaj (also Tinaj)
  • Racaj
  • Selmanaj
  • Shqutaj
  • Vukaj
  • Vuktilaj
  • Vushaj


The following families come from Vukël:

  • Kelmendi
  • Daka (or in Selcë)
  • Bardhecaj
  • Pepushaj
  • Vukli
  • Nilaj
  • Vucinaj
  • Vucaj
  • Mirukaj
  • Gjikolli
  • Drejaj
  • Martini
  • Aliaj
  • Dacaj
  • Gjelaj
  • Nicaj
  • Kajabegolli

The following families come from Tamarë:

  • Kelmendi
  • Rukaj
  • Mrnacaj/Mernaçaj
  • Lelcaj
  • Vukaj
  • Cekaj


The following families come from Nikç:

  • Kelmendi
  • Delaj
  • Djala
  • Smajlaj
  • Preldakaj
  • Nikçi
  • Rukaj
  • Gildedaj
  • Prekelezaj
  • Hasaj
  • Nikac
  • Kapaj
  • Ujkaj
  • Alijaj
  • Hutaj
  • Bikaj[26]

The following families come from Selcë:

  • Kelmendi
  • daka (or in Vukël)
  • Miraj
  • Tinaj
  • Mrnacaj/Mernaçaj
  • Vushaj
  • Pllumaj
  • Lekutanaj
  • Vukaj
  • Rugova



Krajina / Kraje / Shestan

The families of Đomboljaj (alb. Gjonbalaj/Gjombalaj), Uljaj (alb. Ulaj), Ahmetaj and Vučetaj (alb. Vuçetaj) had previously the surnames of Đombolić, Uljević, Ahmetović and Vučetović.[41]

Notable people

See also


a.   ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has received recognition as an independent state from 110 out of 193 United Nations member states.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Elsie 2015, p. 27.
  2. Vukčević, Nikola (1981). Etničko porijeklo Crnogoraca. pp. 123–124.
  3. Bešić 1975, p. 97.
  4. 1 2 Elsie 2015, p. 28.
  5. 1 2 3 Bešić 1975, p. 98.
  6. 1 2 Grothusen 1984, p. 146
  7. Elsie, Robert (2003). Early Albania: a reader of historical texts, 11th-17th centuries. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 159. ISBN 978-3-447-04783-8. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  8. Bolizza (1614). "Mariano Bolizza, report and description of the sanjak of Shkodra (1614)".
  9. Kulišić, Špiro (1980). O etnogenezi Crnogoraca (in Montenegrin). Pobjeda. p. 41. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  10. Lambertz, Maximilian (1959). Wissenschaftliche Tätigkeit in Albanien 1957 und 1958. Südost-Forschungen. S. Hirzel. p. 408. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  11. François Lenormant (1866). Turcs et Monténégrins (in French). Paris. pp. 124–128. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
  12. Robert Elsie. p. 32.
  13. 1 2 Bartl, Peter (2007). Albania sacra: geistliche Visitationsberichte aus Albanien. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 139. ISBN 978-3-447-05506-2. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  14. 1 2 Mitološki zbornik. Centar za mitološki studije Srbije. 2004. pp. 24, 41–45.
  15. Zbornik za narodni život i običaje južnih slavena. 1930. p. 109.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Karadžić. 2–4. Štamparija Mate Jovanovnića Beograd. 1900. p. 74. Дрногорци су пристали уз Турке против Клемената и њихових савезника Врћана20), а седамдесет и две године касније, 1685. год., СулеЈман паша Бушатлија успео је да продре на Цетиње само уз припо- моћ Брђана, који су били у завади с Црногорцима.*7! То исто догодило се 1692. год., кад је Сулејман-пагаа поново изишао на Цетиње, те одатле одагнао Млечиће и умирио Црну Гору, коЈ"а је била пристала под заштиту млетачке републике.*8) 0 вери Бр- ђани су мало водили рачуна, да не нападају на своје саплеме- нике, јер им је плен био главна сврха. Од клементашких пак напада нарочито највише су патили Плаво, Гусиње и православнн живаљ у тим крајевима. Горе сам напоменуо да су се ови спуштали и у пећки крај,и тамо су били толико силни, да су им поједина села и паланке морали плаћати данак.
  17. Zapisi. 13. Cetinjsko istorijsko društvo. 1940. p. 15. Марта мјесеца 1688 напао је Сулејман-паша на Куче
  18. Malcolm, Noel (1998). Kosovo: a short history. Macmillan. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-333-66612-8. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  19. Robert Elsie. p. 32.
  20. Mita Kostić, "Ustanak Srba i Arbanasa u staroj Srbiji protivu Turaka 1737-1739. i seoba u Ugarsku", Glasnik Skopskog naučnog društva 7-8, Skoplje 1929, pp. 225, 230, 234
  21. Albanische Geschichte: Stand und Perspektiven der Forschung, p. 239 (German)
  22. Borislav Jankulov (2003). Pregled kolonizacije Vojvodine u XVIII i XIX veku. Novi Sad - Pančevo. p. 61.
  23. Pearson 2004, p. 43.
  24. Südost Forschungen, Vol 59-60, p. 149, (German)
  25. Ndue Bacaj (Gazeta "Malësia") (March 2001), Prek Cali thërret: Rrnoftë Shqipnia, poshtë komunizmi (in Albanian),, retrieved 2013-12-25
  26. 1 2 Luigj Martini (2005). Prek Cali, Kelmendi dhe kelmendasit (in Albanian). Camaj-Pipaj. p. 66. ISBN 9789994334070.
  27. Elsie, Robert. "Karl Gottlieb von Windisch: On the Kelmendi in Syrmia". Robert Elsie.
  28. Santayana, Manuel Pardo de; Pieroni, Andrea; Puri, Rajindra K. (2010-05-01). Ethnobotany in the new Europe: people, health, and wild plant resources. Berghahn Books. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-84545-456-2. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  29. Augustin Theiner (1875). Vetera monumenta Slavorum meridionalium historiam illustrantia maximam partem nondum edita ex tabulariis vaticanis deprompta collecta: A Clemente VII. usque ad Pium VII. (1524-1800) cum addimentia saec. XIII. et XIV. Tomus Secundus. Academia scientiarum et artium slavorum meridionalium. p. 218. Clemente, primo stipite, fu di padre serviano da Moraccia fiume, che scaturisce da Monte Negro sopra Cattaro, e di madre detta Bubesca, figlia di Vrijabegna da Cucci
  30. Elsie 2015, p. 23.
  31. Jovičević 1923, pp. 60–61.
  32. Milan Šufflay, Povijest sjev. Arb., Arhiv za arbanašku stranu II, 2, Beograd 1924, p. 197 (Croatian)
  33. Đoko M. Slijepčević (1983). Srpsko-arbanaški odnosi kroz vekove sa posebnim osvrtom na novije vreme. D. Slijepčević.
  34. Hyacinthe Hecquard, "Histoire et description de la Haute Albanie ou Ghégarie", Paris 1859, pp. 178-180 (French)
  35. Miloš Velimirović (1892). Na Komovima. Bratstvo 5. Beograd. p. 24.
  36. Grigorije Božović (1930). Sa sedla i samara. Štamparija "Jedinstvo". p. 123.
  37. Jovan N. Tomić, "O Arnautima u Staroj Srbiji i Sandžaku /About the Albanians in the Old Serbia and Sanjak", Belgrade, Geca Kon. (1913), p. 74 (Serbian)
  38. Brastvo. 16. Društvo sv. Save. 1921. p. 176. Клименти су били пореклом Срби прво православни ...
  39. Elsie, Robert (2001). A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology and folk culture. C. Hurst. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-85065-570-1. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  40. Elsie 2015.
  41. Vojska, Volume 8, Issues 405-414 (in Serbian). Vojnoizdavački i novinski centar. 1999. p. 48. Џомбољај, Уљај, Ахметај, Вучетај... Али оне су пре десетак и више година има- ли презимена Џомболић, Уље- вић, Ахметовић, Вучетовић
  42. Bunjaj, Nikë (2000). Nora e Kelmendit. Botimet Toena. ISBN 99927-1-294-5. OL4014711M.
  44. Institut za historiju radničkog pokreta Hrvatske, "Magazine of contemporary history, vol 19", 1987, pp. 165-168
  45. The New York Times, November 1, 1987, Late City Final Edition (p. 14) -"In Yugoslavia, Rising Ethnic Strife Brings Fears of Worse Civil Conflict" By David Binder


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kelmend.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.