The Rise of a National Army or a Colonial One? Albanian Troops in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I

Anastas Bezha
Doctoral School of History, University of Szeged
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 1  (2022):141-168 DOI 10.38145/2022.1.141

The article discusses the under-researched topic of the Albanian troops in the Austro-Hungarian military during World War One. The topic represents a forgotten moment in World War One Balkan historiography, and it is also an unstudied colonial example. Based on English, Hungarian, and German archival and secondary sources, the article first provides a short historical description of the Albanian fighting units under the Ottoman Empire, their organization, and their infamously bellicose nature, up until the independence of the country. The paper then analyzes how these units became part of the Great War (despite the fact that the country itself remained neutral) under the Austro-Hungarian Army; first, as irregular fighting troops (Freischärler Albanien) between 1914 and 1916 and later as ethnical regimental units (Albanisches Korps or Albanische Abteilungen) between 1916 and 1918. Finally, the article compares the Albanian troops to other colonial forces of the time, including how these Albanian units were recruited, trained, and used in the battlefields with the purpose of creating a sense of loyalty to the Habsburg Monarchy. The case study of the Albanian Corps is a prime example of how the inability to ensure safety by force in a newly created state met with the geo-strategic and war necessities of a Great Power through colonial martial practices disguised as transnational help.
Keywords: World War I, Austria-Hungary, Albania, national and transnational army, colonial army, colonial practices

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