Presenting Pogradec: Prof. Dr. Gjergj Pekmezi

Presenting Pogradec: Prof. Dr. Gjergj Pekmezi

Apr 14, 2023

As a child, I used to listen to the story of the coins from my oldest relatives During the years 1912-1913, the most important and powerful countries in Europe decided and defined the borders of the Albanian State. At that crucial moment, neighbouring countries tried to claim as much Albanian land as possible. Representatives from Europe and Albania were visiting Korça, where Greek neighbours had worked hard to force Korça’s inhabitants to speak the Greek language to convince the International Boundary Committee that the land belonged to Greece rather than Albania. However, when the people answered in Greek, a man took a handful of coins and threw them to the children playing in the square. The children forgot the Greeks' orders and started cursing each other in their mother tongue, Albanian. That smart man was professor Gjergj Pekmezi from Pogradec.

Later, I received a book written by a friend of my father, Ilia Llakmani, entitled “The history of the Llakmani brotherhood.” I learned that Gjergj Pekmezi comes from Llakmani family, born in Tushemisht, a village  nearby Pogradec, on April 23, 1872. At that time, Pogradec had only an elementary school and the excellent pupils used to go for further secondary studies in Ohrid and Monastery (Bitola), as Pekmezi did.

He worked as the first teacher of Albanian language in the villages of Mokër (1887) before going to Belgrade and Vienna to pursue university studies and graduated in 1898 in philosophy and philology. His multifaceted personality is an invaluable asset for Albania and the Albanian cause.

Secondary school in Pogradec. Prof. Dr. Gjergj Pekmezi!  University of Vienna!

What connects Gjergj Pekmezi with a secondary school in Pogradec and the Albanology Department at University of Vienna? Both bear his name!

The truly important people contribute to the promotion of their own country even after death. Last November, Gjergj Pekmezi's last will was fulfilled when his remains were repatriated to his homeland after 84 years of his passing.

Gjergj Pekmezi worked as a professor at the University of Vienna, in the Albanian Language Department, until February 24, 1938, when he suddenly passed away.

He lived, got married and worked in Austria. In 1903 he was appointed Head of the Department of Albanian Language at the Oriental Languages Institute at the University of Vienna. Professor Pekmezi started his patriotic activity in parallel with his academic work.

He was appointed Consul General of Albania to the Republic of Austria from 1920-1924.

Prof. Pekmezi knew almost all Slavic languages, the ancient Greek, Latin, French, and his knowledge of these languages enabled him to make comparative studies.

Faik Konica; Gjergj Pekmezi; Fan Noli (Vienna 1915)

In this picture Pekmezi brought together Fan Noli, the Archbishop, Metropolitan, and founder of the Albanian Orthodox Church and the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America who served as Prime Minister and regent of Albania in 1924 during the June Revolution; and Faik Konica, a great Albanian patriot, Harvard graduate, president of Vatra, the Pan-Albanian Federation of America, and Albanian ambassador to the United States (1929-1939).

Researching Professor Pekmezi's life led me to interesting facts and names that demonstrate the value and interest in the Albanian language and the involvement of Austrian and German professors who studied and wrote about Albanian language, dialects, grammar, folklore, and translation with Pekmezi.

In 1904, he established the Patriotic Cultural Society under the name “DIJA” (The Knowledge). In 1908 he published the “Albanian Grammar” in German language in Vienna; in 1909 he was co-author and published the first Albanian Bibliography, (“Bibliographija shqype / Albanesische Bibliographie”).

The University of Vienna and the Austrian - Hungarian Academy of Sciences sent him to Albania several times to study the dialects of Albanian. In collaboration with his Austrian colleague Maksimilian Lambertz, he published books for learning the Albanian language as well as a dictionary with 3000 words, Albanian-German and German-Albanian (“Lehr und Lesebuch des Albanischen”, 1913), and a study about dialects of Elbasan (“Vorläufiger Bericht über das Studium der albanesischen Dialekte von Elbasan”, 1901).

Prof. Maximilian Lambertz; professor for comparative linguistics in Austria and Germany.

The most famous quote from Professor Lambertz is: “The true story of mankind will be written only when Albanians participate in its writing.”

Pic: Members of the "Dija" society in Vienna. In the middle Gjergj Pekmezi, on his left Anton Paluca, on his right standing Kolë Rrota.

Members of the "Dija" society in Vienna. In the middle Gjergj Pekmezi, on his left Anton Paluca, on his right standing Kolë Rrota.

Professor Kolë Rrota from Shkodra, was appointed head of the Chair of the Albanian Language at the Institute of Indo-Germanic Languages at the University of Vienna following Professor Pekmezi.

In his honour, The Chair of Albanology of the University of Vienna is named after "Prof. Dr. Gjergj Pekmezi".

Gjergj Pekmezi contribution to the Albanian language and patriotic issues:

  • Codification of spelling problems, rules etc., of the two Albanian dialects by Gjergj Pekmezi, together with Ndre Mjeda, Ndua Paluca, Luigj Gurakiqi, Sotir Peci, Gjergj Fishta, Luigj Naraçi and Hilë Mosi. Bringing the two literary variants closer together.
  • In 1916 he was the chairman of the “Komsia Letrare e Shkodrës” (Literary Committee of Shkodra); a council formed by the most vocal intellectuals  on the issue of the Albanian language, like Luigj Gurakuqi, Gjergj Fishta, Ndre Mjeda; and albanologists like Maksimilian LamberciRajko Nahtigal.
  • In 1927, he was elected editor-in-chief of the cultural magazine, “Dialëria” (The Boyhood); the edition of Albanian Students in Vienna.