Around 1920, there was a witty story circulating in Tirana: the word went that God, descended on Earth in order to admire his creation, could no longer distinguish what he had formed in the beginning, so intrusive had been the hand of man. Tired and at a complete loss, after protracted peregrinations, he arrived in Albania, where, searching around, he expostulated: "At last! The first country that I can recognize: it has stayed the way I first created it!" (Andrea Riccardi, p. 184).
It was the aftermath of the war, while the Italian troops were still in the country. The French had just backed away from Salonic and the district of Korçë, the Greeks from the North Epir and the Serbs from the regions of Shkodra and Durrës.
The Congress of Lushnjë had barely managed to bring a bit of harmony among the disunited local seigniorage and to form a government, under the lead of Suleiman Delvina. A certain Ahmet Pasha Zogu had been appointed Minister of the Interior; he would later become president and king of Albania.
That same year, in Bucharest, Tache Papahagi published the book of essyas entitled The Romanians of Albania, the result of a trip he had made in the company of General C. Iliescu a year before, as Secretary of the Aromanian delegation at the Paris Peace Convention. They had passed through Italy and had circulated everywhere under protection and with aid from the Italian military administration.
1920. The centennial of Ali-Pasha Tepelenli's death.
Ali-Pasha, the Albanian bey who stepped into history as a mutineer, fighting and often looting, sometimes with the Vallachian armatols by his side, risen against the Ottoman rulers that had usurped their rights. Ali-Pasha, the governor of Tessalia and Epir, who stepped out of history as firmanli, defended to his deathbed by the Vallachians that he had so much oppressed, and who was eventually killed by the men of Kurshid-Pasha.
A hundred years during which the other Balkan peoples had won their independence, founded national states and took the road of europeanization.
What about Albania? Had it stayed the way Ali-Pasha had left it? Or the way God had?
The Italians, encouraged by their own government to settle business ties with Albania, discovered the country with the enthusiasm of a colonizer faced with virgin soil: "? we have bestowed all there was on those lands, yet took nothing back; we overhauled this ancient and infertile soil with roads, bridges, solid constructions, aqueducts, schools, and rendered it fertile with ploughs from our own land and seedlings from our own granaries." (Andrea Riccardi, 1999, p. 187)
Assuredly, it was not the same mentality of a civilizing hero that animated Papahagi when he came to Albania. An Aromanian himself, he came first of all home, to his own people, whom he found fallen from their rights and oppressed, often disunited by the interests of neighboring states. All these, believed Papahagi, originated in the times of Ali-Pasha himself: "This social decadence surely has to be envisaged since the times of the satrapic Ali- Pasha of Tepeleni. The cruelty that this tyrant used against Christendom is notorious. (?) The only people that vigilently withstood the plans of Ali-Pasha, ascertaining their legendary heroism, was that of the Aromanians of Pind and of the farseroti. It was only natural, then, that this Pasha, with all his islamicized Albanians, would assail the Aromanians in all his fury, just like - to quote the metaphor a friend used - a thunder that assails the most beautiful and most resistent tree on the mountain crests." (T. Papahagi, 1920, pp. 20-22)
The unquenched thirst for property, the carnal passions, the urge to power - all seemed to T. Papahagi causes that propelled the oppression that Ali-Pasha had unchained against the Aromanians and that his progeny continued. The abusive raise in taxes, the confiscation of land, their disposition from petty offices held by tradition and their replacement with Albanians, as well as the interdiction for the Aromanians to build solid houses in easily defensible places are only part of the abuses that, ever since the age of Ali-Pasha, the Albanian beys wrought against the Vallachians in order to limit their power, to pauperize them and eventually to conquer them.
The looting of herds, the disposition from their lands or the transformation of former village communities in cifliks, the pillaging of settlements and their combustion were current practices that continued well into the 20th century.
Therefore, for Papahagi, the last hundred years did not seem to have brought any amelioration in the state of the Aromanians. He was most particularly concerned with the condition of the Aromanians, enslaved on the properties of the beys and ever prone to the abuse of the latter. Yet, if we were to recall all the Aromanian settlements destroyed on Ali-Pasha's order, we will understand that the problem was of serious consequence for the Aromanians in general: Pisuderi, Suli, Moscopole, Linotope, Niculita, Gradistea, Sipisca, Jarcani, Gramostea. The destruction of all these settlements - if we accept that a settlement is an imago mundi - was equivalent for the Aromanians, on a symbolical level, to the annulment of cosmic order and the disintegration of the center around which their collective identity could be structured. It is only natural for an identity going through a crisis of the sort to activate negative representations of the other. Becoming the Opponent, the Other will resuscitate the archetype of the Hero, the Redeemer that will regain the Center for himself and for his community. This simple algebra of relations holding between identity and alterity does little else than describe the therapeutic value of the myth. The quoted Aromanian writers themselves mark their return to the Balkans as a return to an origin, while the description of this itinerary has more to do with the actualization, by means of the tale, of the encounter with the origin, rahter than with the attestation, by means of testimony, of some reality. We lack accounts by Aromanian travelers of the times of Ali-Pasha, yet collective memory has retained all these events under the guise of folk songs:
"Una nil'e di-Arbinesi      "One thousand Albanians
Si-alt ahînt armatuladz      And as many armatols
S'duc si calca Linatopea,      Set off to pillage Linotope,
Linatopea s'Niculita       Linotope and Niculita
S-giumate di Muscopol'e."      And half of Moscopole too."
As to the description of the ruins of Moscopole, we possess the testimony of Ioan Nenitescu (1895, p. 342), traveler through the Albanian regions a quarter of a century before Tache Papahagi:
"The road advances for a while upwards, only to reveal a high tumulus where one can see the majestic polis of Voscopole, situated on five large hills, which are today covered by ruins alone. The scene fills the heart of the traveler with grief, and unawares he starts to condemn the memory of Ali Pasha, who, driven by greed, had beaten to the ground the flourishing center of the Aromanians in Voscopole."
Somewhat later, the Aromanian poets would invest a great deal of pathos in taking up this theme, while the tragedy of Moscopole, at least, seems to have stayed an open wound to the conscience of many (Ioan Foti, N.C. Velo, Nida Boga, C. Colimitra, Marcu Beza, N. Caratana, Nico Ogeacli, a.s.o.). All of them captured the clichés already constituted and circulated by collective mentality at moments of crisis: arbinesi far' de camesi, canil'i di pangani, pusta di Arbinisie, gheganil'i maratl'i, etc. Hâciu's testimony (1936, pp. 76-77) of the collaboration of the Aromanians with Ali Pasha to the disadvantage of other Aromanians does not find its place in fiction. The bankers, gold-mongers, secretaries, dragomans, landlords, military commanders, in one word, "the instruments that the fearful Pasha used for domination" had been, in their majority, Aromanians and they must have obtained some privilege from oppressing their own kin. None of these facts surfaces into the texts of the enumerated authors. Collective identity, founded on the most profound subjectivity, defends its exemplary status that makes it consubstantial with the mythical model: the chosen people. Although the syntagm was not used as such, all the associated marks are present: the wealth, the purity and the beauty of a golden era, the valiance, the will to sacrifice, the generosity of martyrdom, the belief in a destiny that would repay for history's injustice. On the side of the Albanians, all these qualities are opposed by primitivism, blood thirst, shrewdness, cupidity, cruelty, incommensurate pride, lack of loyalty etc.
The avarice of the Pasha, however, was not the one and only cause that lead to the breakdown of Moscopole (which did resist, though, to some twenty years of Albanian raids, between 1769-1788). The contention to other commercial settlements and even the rivalry of the muhtars of the twelve slums need not be excluded either. Neither can the plotting by which the powerful merchants of the city tried to belittle the Pasha in the eyes of the Padishah, so that they could free themselves from the oppression of the bey.
The certain thing is that all along this century the prosperous settlements of the Vallachians proved attractive to the looters, be they Muslim or Christian. It is also the case with one of the many Aromanian villages that Nenitescu crossed - Trestinic. A village of 400 souls, "located on a hill left of the Crusova mountain (?) with diligent and money-earning people, the property of whom is always on the way up. This is precisely the cause of their being often pillaged by bandits." (Ioan Nenitescu, 1895, p. 87). But he dutifully gives the example of the Albanian village of Adalciani, a pack of thieves from around Crusova:
"A few years ago, the people of Adalciani were the terror of their neighbours and even of more remote areas. Terribly poor, but daring, courageous and driven by starvation, they would rob in broad daylight and even murder the travellers. The town of Crusova and its inhabitants were under threat day and night. But the inhabitants of Adalciani were in their turn hounded like wild beasts, banned from the world and damaged by numerous revenges. As they paid with their own blood, without being able to eliminate poverty and lack, nine or ten years ago, they set their minds on labour and started agricultural work on the beautiful and fertile fields that surrounded them. This said and done, the inhabitants of Adalciani became well-to-do and demure people."
Burileanu, an Aromanian this time, who published his travel impressions in 1906, gives a picture of a similarly disastruous situation, evoking a truthlike siege:
"In its last few days, there was vent in Moscopole of the looting feats of the Muslim Albanians from the region of Tomor: that they had pillaged the farseroti in Dusari, that in Ostrovita they had perpetrated the huts of the farseroti, looting for money and clothes, that in Darda they had taken hostage a Romanian celnic and asked for a high ransom in return, and many such stories. In Moscopole as well, they had mugged cattle and some chasers could notice suspect persons in the neighboring forests; two days short of my departure, a dweller of Moscopole had a narrow escape from some bandits who had crossed his way, somewhere between Moscopole and Sipsca. As it were, the people of the region are so much accustomed to these feats of looting, that they are not so easily impressed. (?)
And it is not only isolated packs that pollute the region spanned by Tomor and the lakes, but even entire villages of Muslims are notorious for their thieves. For example: Dusari, Grabova and the neighboring regions, 'a hell hole', as the Turks call it, and above all Griba, where, the Muslims themselves admit, everyone is a bandit!" (C. Burileanu, 1906, pp. 20-21)
This was the state of affairs encountered by Burileanu wherever he went in his voyage through Albania, yet the Albanians were not in a position of monopoly. Around that time, Lunca, an Aromanian settlement, sieged by the Albanian Fezu-Feta (dispatched by Petru Rovina, an Aromanian from Pogradet in order to kill the priest of Lunca), was the headquarters of the Cocones Vallachian bandit family:
"Notorious bandits in Albania, from father to son, by heritage, as tradition and reality have it (?). The father of contemporary Cocones, Tuna Cocones, passed away last year in Cavaia. From what I have heard, he was the terror of all Albanians, as his fame accrued on account of his thieving, while both Turks and Christians would tremble hearing his name mentioned; and it is only seldom that he would spare the lives of the Romanians." (C. Burileanu, 1906, p. 65)
As always, ours have to be better than theirs, more gentleman-like, more valiant, better-to-do etc. How would the difference be created otherwise? The self-image is merely another facet of the image of the other. Unfortunately, the manner of representing the world gives rather an account of ourselves, than of the world we live in.
"The hajduks of Pind were Aromanians at that time, as always, for more than a century. They were the discontent of the Empire because of their suffering, of their loss of privilege, which had been denied them for one whole century, while the memory of such things made them sigh for the independent times' sake." We have quoted Pericle Papahagi. In 1881, in the paternal abode of Avdela, he had met the fierce thief chaser Fezu-Dirvenaga:
"The proud, handsome and valiant Fezu, sitting there, with a serious yet composed figure, and a sever look, in the company of four of his dependable soldiers, four Sarcaceans , tried in battle and armed to the teeth, eager to carry out any order from the fierce Albanian, gathered all the celnics of Avdela, imperiously demanding them not to shelter the hajduks, who had become the pest of the small people and of the Empire, and to blow up their covers, as he and his men would see to the rest." (Pericle Papahagi, 1925, p. 51)
The answer of the celnics was an example of diplomacy of how to survive in the Balkans. In exchange for divulging the hiding places of the hajduks, the Aromanian leaders asked for protection warrants, in case not all the reprobates were caught, which was altogether unlikely, given that at the very moment of negotiations between the Albanian and the Aromanians, the celnics would privily dispatch their confidence men in order to trumpet the peril to the hajduks. The quiescence and welfare of their settlements would have been the proper price of betrayal, yet how could the misers turn in their own brothers, cousins, or nephews!
Fezu understood that there was no assistance to conjure from the Vallachians and after a two days' stay in the village, he set off by himself to search the vicinity for hajduks, with the sole reinforcement of the celnics' regret of not having convinced him of the bounty of subduing the hajduks instead of obliterating them.
"The mere fact that during their stay, Fezu's soldiers had not been on the rampage in the village, with beating and torturing, as was the way of the other alay-beys, turned Fezu into a character deer to the Aromanians. His visible magnanimity and his dispassionate judgment of court-cases and legal absolution, as well as his incorruptible nature, his lack of greed, unlike the other alay-beys', had put him under a good light in the eyes of my conationals, rendering him also loveable." (Pericle Papahagi, 1925, p. 54)
The hajduks were the victors of Baiasa, and this proved to be a disaster to Ottoman domination. These were the facts that both the Greeks and the Aromanians would later sing of in the "Ballad of Fezu-Dirvenaga".
And we should not forget that in a 1912 opuscule entitled "The Aromanians from a Historical and Cultural Standpoint", Pericle Papahagi referred to the relations of the Romanians and Albanians: "We have always harmonized with this element."
That same year, in autumn, when the denouement of the first Balkan war became predictable, Nusi Tulliu was in Macedonia as escort to the retreating Ottoman army troops. He had thus the opportunity of being an onlooker to the encounter between a pack of farserot shepherds on their way to the place of transhumance and a band of Albanian thieves:
"O Ghiza! O Ghiza! Anculea cu ficiorli, ca va na lia oili albinesli!  And all stood by them. A terrible fight set off. Shooting could be heard, bang! bang! (?) It may well have lasted for half an hour. The Albanians were completely rejected and it all became quiet (?).
Rainclouds on the second day. The forest stirred and the trees cracked with the wind. I once more visited the brave farserot people in order to be informed on what had happened on the eve.
"Hey, what's new? What happened last night?"
"Hmm! What could it be! A band of meager Albanians wanted to loot us!"
"And they left just as they came. We captured two of them. There they are, like two beaten curs! (?)"
"And what are you going to do with them?"
"We take them uphill as hostage and set them free. We could not possibly kill them, how could we? We would debase us to do so!"
In 1967, in the folklore anthology he issued, Tache Papahagi slightly mitigated Pericle's affirmation: "Historically speaking, good and normal interconnections bound the Aromanians and the Christian Albanians, interconnections that were discontinued with the islamicized Albanians. And were we to take into account that the reprobate becomes more fierce and more perilous than his conquerer, one can better understand the havoc that these islamicized Albanians caused among the Aromanians, especially with beasts like Ali Pasha as their leader."
It is nonetheless clear that the entire scale of delinquency regulated the connection of the Aromanians and the Albanians, especially the islamicized ones; some were the victims, while some others were the perpetrators. Vallachian mentality as to conational Albanians wavered between revolt quenched by a sense of futility and the despair exhibited in ego-boosting:
"The Turk's only business is to steal the outcome of your work. (?)"
"Well, Sir, not that we have any consideration for the Turk, but there is nothing we can do, as he is the one that sways over this country, he is the Lord, while we are his meager slaves! Poverty gets at us, or otherwise we could not stand their oppression, yet poverty desists us! (?)"
"It is here," and he pointed to a spot, "that Ismail and sixteen of his kin waylaid us and after discharging their guns into some of our mules, they took from us so many thousands of piastres?"
"And isn't there a cure for this thieving?"
"What can we do, Sir, because it is not that we are afraid of one or two, but twenty, thirty or more of them can waylay us, all armed, and they will see the end of us all. And if they prowl from a blind side, we can't even see where the shooting comes from! Yet none of these has happened so far. If they want to harm us, they simply kill our mules, but they won't seize us."
"And why is that?"
"Well, they well know who we are," some farserot answered, frowning the brow. "Should they harm one of us, they would have a difficult time surviving, because we cannot let them live after having harmed one of us." (Burileanu, 1906, p. 128)
Folkloric texts as well bring on the theme of the necessity to revenge: 
" (?)     "(?)
"Patru gioni di Dol'iani  Four young men of Doliani
Suntu di Turtil'i vatamatî  Were murdered by the Turks.
Luata armurli si fudzitî  Take up arms and run
S-la Turtilor s-lu platitî"  To get revenge on the Turks."
(Padioti, 1998, p. 40)
The truth is that the freebooters, too, could claim revenge for some feat of thieving on the part of the caravaneers. That such dishonoring acts could also be attributed to the noble guild of caravaneers, the volume of another Aromanian, Petru Vulcan's Icons of Life, stands testimony:
"The caravaneers would earn considerable amounts of money, and it was not always in honorable principle, since money was entrusted to them by husbands from abroad in order to transmit it to the latters' wives, and sufficed it that the caravaneer be of bad faith and that he devised a lie, such as being pillaged by thieves, and the poor wife resigned in her virtue and prayed the Lord above for good health for the husband, so the second coming of the caravaneer would bring her some money. (?) Such cases were frequent by then (1878, the author's note)." (Vulcan, 1912, p. 12)
It is precisely such situations that generated and rendered necessary special instruments of endorsing trust; the association of Albanians and caravaneers, so that the latter be beneficiary of non-aggression treaties  between the brigand tribe and the Albanian escort, treaties that were guaranteed by the besa, or the besa directly conferred to the Aromanian caravaneers as a return of complicity (for instance, the furnishing of arms and ammunition - Burileanu, 1906, p. 133) or merely the employment for the security of the convoy of armed people, more often than not thieves that accomplished their mission by knowledge of, or parentage to, the opposing camp.
While rejecting the idea that the Albanian of the turn of the 20th century was spiteful by nature, we have to consider, though, that he was forced into vendetta by custom - a defining feature when it comes to character. It is Nenitescu that we will quote once more, since we have not come across equally conclusive reference to the institution of the vendetta with the Aromanian authors. Nevertheless, according to Caragiani's say, quoted by Nenitescu, revenge was as personal with the farserot people as it was with the Albanians. The concise reference of the former, that "revenge operates more with the farserot people than it does with the Albanians" is enhanced by Nenitescu to the dimensions of the following paragraph:
"One of the characteristic traits of the farserot people is revenge by retaliation for offences or encroachment of rights, that is, the vendetta, which is also customary with the Albanians. The right of revenge is sacred with the farserot people and is often concluded with assistance of the celnic that sees to the restriction of the dimensions of the vendetta. This restriction of the vendetta thoroughly depends on the judgment and the sentence of the celnic, since the vendetta is even more widespread among the Aromanian farserot people than among the Albanians." (Nenitescu, 1995, p.179)
"Revenge does not only happen between tribes, but also as an individual enterprise. If for instance an individual from a tribe is murdered for whatever reason by another from a different tribe, then the relatives of the dead, and sometimes even the tribe to which the dead belongs are bound, by Albanian custom, to chase the murderer or one of the latter's family, and when the murderer has no relatives, then the revenge falls on one member of the tribe of the murderer." (Nenitescu, 1895, p. 476-477)
So far, the Aromanians have spoken of the Albanian as of an enemy, notwithstanding their sharing the same social organization, many customs, the same founding myths (most significantly the common descendence from Alexander the Great, together with the Greeks and the Slaves), or precisely because of this common heritage.
Let us look at the portrait of this enemy, first of all in his extreme hypostasis: "(?) approaching the group before me, I was surprised to notice the dishonest figures that were staring at me? Two of these, gun over shoulder, and a double breast of cartridges, seemed even suspect, the more so as they were pale and emaciated, wearing bedraggled kilts, which must have been white once, but now were covered in an oily shade of grey." (Burileanu, 1906, p. 130)
The figures of these harmits (bandits) did not much differ from that of ordinary Albanians, the honest subjects of the sultan: "(?) Tough men, on whose faces I could not see one endearing look, all of a solid built, carabines over shoulder, and pistols and cartridge belts?
Almost all would wear the characteristic black cloak (fashioned by the Aromanian tailors, the author's note) as mourning sign for Skanderbeg, while many had their heads shaven and only wore a braid at the back, hanging out of the white fez or enmeshed with a kerchief over the nape. These Muslims made me the impression of savages, of the sort I would not want to run into at night." (Burileanu, 1906, p.204)
Surprising as it may be, yet the thief is not the only social category (how fitting is the syntagm to that type of society!) encountered in Albania. As with the Aromanians, yet in minor figures, the Albanian people may be craftsmen (Burileanu, p.155), caravaneers, farmers, or shepherds. This latter category is of special concern to Burileanu: "The Albanian shepherds I have encountered on the way with their sheep were not of a less curious sight: one man walked in front of the sheep herd, carrying after him a big shepherd's dog in a chain, then the sheep came, and behind them there was another Muslim, with one or two dogs, chained as was the first one. And these Muslim shepherds wore crewcut, covered with a fez that once had been white, out of which there wayed out a single braid, the only hair that was spared, and they were particular by their lack of hygiene, because they were more unwashed than the farserot caravaneers that transport oil from Berat to Corita." (Burileanu, 1906, p. 204)
The self-image of the Vallachian caravaneers was certainly different: "Encountering a few Turks on the way, women as well as men dressed wretchedly, almost in scraps, and noticing that they (the farserot men, the author's note) were better dressed, they set off lamenting again over the Turks, saying: 'We, Sir, are always on the road, as you can well see, and weren't we dressed in warm clothes, we would not be able to suffer the roads in winter, beacause bad weather is on its way, rainfalls, snow; and what would become of us, who we live outdoors, if we were dressed poorly. Our wives are diligent, they weave our clothes, as they do theirs, at home. The Turk is not as productive as us, Sir, this is why they are so wretchedly dressed; their wives don't know how to weave, as our wives know, and they have no one to preserve them well dressed.' " (Burileanu, 1906, p. 126-127)
 In the description that Bolintineanu, in his time, made of the Albanians, there is a natural predominance of the typically Romantic glorification: common ethnonyms are mixed together with the names of ancient tribes, their characteristics are extreme, while the gradual effect is attained by syntactical construction rather than by lexical modalities. One should retain however the distinction he operates between the members of dissimilar tribes: 
"The most savage are the Ghegs. Handsome men, black eyes full of pride, the regularity of the features, the short and strong teeth, the thick beard announce their Caucasian origin, as Chopin says; their face is of the same shade as that of the Greeks. They are sound, five and a half feet tall generally, they wear red garments, their gaze and their gestures are proud and grand, while their bodies are large, which makes of them the finest cavalry. They are valiant at war. The catholic Mirdit Albanians are more judicious in manners, yet not as imposing. The Tocsids are more obedient than the Greeks. They are wealthier and more open to foreign civilization. Their attire is of heroic posture: the coturna, the clamida, the belt, the girdle, the knee-long tunic, and the long hair. They are the most handsome and the most elegant. The Iapids dwell in the Acrocerauni Mountains, they are the laziest of all Albanian tribes. The Macris, grim, small, with grave looks. They wear the same attire as the Tocsids and fezzes. The Himariots and the Arghirocastrits are less barbarian and their garments are exceptionally clean. The Hamids live on the shores of the Ionian Sea, amid the forestal valleys of Tesprota. Their hair is a light chestnut, their figures are pleasant and their look endearing.
The Albanian women are different from one another and resemble mostly the folks of their tribe. The wives of the Ghegs are remarkable by their proud look, by their prancing, and by the pistols worn at their belts. M. Chopin says that these overconfident women do not search for avengers, but retaliate themselves the evil one has done to them, and apprehension seems to be unknown to children that were raised by these women. They follow their men in battle with other tribes. They do not wear veils. Their courage seems sufficient to shield them from all passion. The Tocsid women are the most fine-looking and refined. The women of Acroceraunia are ugly, while the Hamid women have beautiful hair and eyes, being of a dark complexion and delicate." (Bolintineanu, 1985, p.348-349)
A description of the children is suggested by Tache Papahagi: "We are crossing the Muslim Albanian village Ceprat: some forty houses, their majority one-storied, built in stone, with small windows. Some little Albanians, as black as crows, a bag to their necks, with bread crumbs instead of books, would attend school, as it were." (Tache Papahagi, 1920, p.18)
And since there is word of villages, on the plains, in the bey's cifliks, one could find unhygienic cottages, similar to the cottages of Romanian slaves. In the mountains, villages were composed of one-storied stone houses, with narrow windows and loggias over the entrance, so one could fire guns from there. The distance between two such cottages always exceeded a gunshot (see Nenitescu as well, p. 479). The stone houses were neither clean nor comfortable.
As for school, at the time when Tache Papahagi wrote, the bases for primary education in the Albanian language had been laid, since the Albanians could provide teachers for the farserot villages as well, as the author noticed (Tache Papahagi, 1920, p.8). Yet at the turn of the century, when Burileanu visited these sites, the attempts at a cultural life in a national language were only reserved, although efforts were certainly being made:
"Both the Orthodox and particularly the Muslims learn how to write in Albanian and are eager to absorb their national culture, although there is nobody to instruct them in this respect. All can write in Albanian, which is not permitted in Turkey, and they ask the Romanians to provide them with Albanian books. It is not to wonder, then, that a dependable Romanian of Corita said to me, bewailingly: 'See, Sir, we could not teach the Romanians with all the propaganda and all the books, while the Albanians, without schooling and who knows what else, know how to write and to read!'" (Burileanu, 1906, p.26-27)
Wherever they did not have the possibility of learning their maternal tongue, the Albanian children would attend the schools of the other ethnic groups, just as the Aromanian children would attend Turkish or Greek schools, according to the circumstances (Beza, 1938).
On their returning home, the children would gather by the side of their mothers who had been working in the fields (out there it was mostly the women who worked the soil) and their fathers, on their way home from some fight, hunting or vendetta. Men would eat supper aside from the rest of the family, while women and children would eat the left-overs of the master's repast, and if the former had visitors, the supper would lengthen into the night, handsomely drenched in alcohol, which was a habit with this branch of Muslims. One would generally eat at a squat and round wooden table, too old or dirty to need a wrapper. More often than not, the wrapper was soiled, too, and swarming with bugs. The potage was eaten with wooden spoons, from a common pot, while the sauced steak was served directly on the table, after everyone had chosen a morsel from the frying pan with the hand, in case the host had not already served one. If plates and cutlery were completely missing, the water carafe and the basin for washing were always available, bindingly before and after supper. The supper came to an end with dairy products and tobacco: "?should they see you rolling your cigarette, there is always someone to be ahead of you and offer you his cigarette, and you are bound to accept it, before finishing to prepare your own, and you have to puff from it no matter how it had been sealed, that, of course, if you are not presented with a pipe!
This is the course of eating practices with the Albanians and the Romanians of Central Albania, as well as with a series of Muslim beys." (Burileanu, 1906, p.167-168)
Burileanu sees barbarian manners in what may have in reality be connected to manifestations of hospitality. However, from his text we can grasp that not all the Albanians had such table manners, but we can also understand that at least part of the Aromanians did. The inhabitants of Moscopole certainly did not, since they were familiar to the European fashion: high stools, plates, knives, and forks. Their wardrobe was Turkish, though: large shirts, belts and Turkish slippers. Other Aromanians certainly adopted the Albanian costume, while dressing their wives as harem wives:
"Because of the bandits, these Romanians dress like the Muslim Albanians do, so they should be no different from these and so that they should not be recognized while traveling; and for fearing them, they would learn all the salutes of Turkish etiquette, and should a Turk come their way, they pass for Turks, by their costume, by their language, their salutes and their conduct." (Burileanu, 1906, p.121; see also pp. 211, 217, 220)
"They acknowledge that it is not without fear that they travel, yet they are sure to arrive home safely. (?) As soon as they leave Gradvo behind, they freshen up in the attire of harem wives, veiling their faces as is the way with the Turkish women, and they can safely arrive home. Thieves and killers usually cross their path, but be they Turkish, be they Bulgarian, or be they Albanian, no one would harm them, because the Muslim woman is respected; had they not been dressed as such, they would have had a hard time." (Nenitescu, 1897, p.25)
We would not want one to believe, however, that all Aromanians would dress as Turks or Albanians, just as not all Aromanians had the Albanians' table manners and not all Aromanians banqueted their weddings in the manner of Albanians. It is only the case of the inhabitants of Moscopole, Burileanu affirmswho were also more likely to become relatives with the Albanians, yet they were not the only ones. The most reluctant to exogamy ties, as was always the case when it came to respecting tradition, were the farserot people. Yet, and this is a strange fact, it is precisely the farserot people that were most effortlessly mistaken for the Albanians, despite this attitude of total segregation. Their polyglossia must have played an important part, but not an exclusive one, in this confusion. Songs, played in a different manner than that of the inhabitants of Moscopole, yet similar to the Albanian way of singing, must have contributed as well:
"The songs of the inhabitants of Moscopole differ from those of the farserots both by melody and by the fact that the former sing of one voice, in choir, in the fashion of the Gheg Albanians form the North; while the farserot people, as already shown, sing in the fashion of the Albanians from the region of Berat. The same fashion is adopted by men as well as women." (Burileanu, 1906, p.118)
The inhabitants of Moscopole and the farserot people - the two extreme modes of being of the Aromanians: the former, sedentarized city-dwellers consistently given to commerce, craftsmanship, and banking, the latter nomads, people of the mountain, most significantly employed in sheep husbandry and as armatols. Between these two manners of existing as an Aromanian, an affluent polytropia, to borrow a term from Irina Nicolau (2001, p. 159), would be deployed. As a "total man" (I. Nicolau, ibidem) of the Balkans, the Aromanian institutes a paradigm, and this is why it is proper to say that the others get to resemble him, instead of him resembling the others.
What else would the Aromanians and the Albanians have in common? A share of their legends, beliefs and customs, but above all, the Law. Of course, we firstly consider the Orthodox Albanians (the "lealeni", as were labeled those from Muzachia by the Aromanians, that is, "ne'er-do-well people"), who must have been once Aromanians, but were later denationalized (Burileanu, 1906, pp. 207-208, 261). The attitude towards them varies from scorn on the one hand and good will and solidarity on the other; the mark of this attitude is granted by the availability to commit to interethnic marriage (Burileanu, 1906, p.184, 210). The feeling, needless to say, was mutual.
When we speak of sharing the same confession we have in mind the islamicized Aromanians as well, who, in the times of Burileanu, still held intimate relations within the Orthodox communities. It was the case with the beys of Corita, Cortesi, Butca, Zavaleni, Fraseri (Nenitescu, 1897, p.505; Burileanu, 1906, pp.229-230). They would say to the Aromanians: "We, Muslims, are divided from you, Romanians, merely by a cigarette-paper" (Burileanu, 1906, p.28).
"In Upper and Lower Beala, North of Ohrida Lake, where the islamicized Romanians abide, who are, nonetheless, Romanians, one can notice this. And one can comprehend that it is not only the Romanians of these villages that were islamicized, yet these were the only ones of the region to salvage themselves from the complete obliteration that had an adverse effect on others of their kin." (Burileanu, 1906, p.210)
The Albanian thieves that passed for public servants on the road that connected Nicea and Lunca claimed that: "The Vallachians and the Albanians are of the same kin, this is why the Albanians call us Vallachians, since the Albanian word for 'brother' is 'vla' (sic!) ." (Burileanu, 1906, p.58)
 The general opinion of those who had known the Albanians held that it was not religious fervor that characterized them in the first place. As Muslims, they would observe a non-Orthodox rite, Bektashianism, with a strong Christian influence: "Muslims of the region worship too and believe in Jesus Christ, whom they call Azaret Issa, while Saint Nicholas is called Aidâr-Baba. They observe neither the Ramadan, nor the Bairam, they merely abstain from drinking water for twelve days during the Ramadan." (Burileanu, 1906, p.103)
Bolintineanu (1985, p.353) identifies Catholic Aromanians in the region of Scutari - Antivari - Dulcigno, i.e. in a region of a compelling Catholic presence among the Albanian population (for instance the Midrit tribe, the name of which he translates by 'valiant'  and to which he attributes a dazzling descendence, as is the case of the other Albanian tribes too.)
The canon of hospitality, sacred to both the Albanians and the Aromanians, marks the reduction of any interconfessional barrier. In Drisa, Burileanu passes a memorable night in the party atmosphere entertained by the choir assembled by the host, a farserot, and by the other guests, some of whom were islamicized Albanians. In Bracula he becomes blood brother of the local Albanian bey, in whose abode he spent the night (Burileanu, 1906, p.146; p.167-169). The same hospitality had been encountered by Bolintineanu as well.
During the days of Nenitescu the slogan "The Religion of Albania is Albania" ("Fea Shquipëtarit është Shquipërija") had already been released, yet in 1906, when Burileanu got there, things were somewhat more complicated than that: the Muslims Albanians were separated into Ottomanists and nationalists, just as the Orthodox Albanians were separated into phylo-Greeks and nationalists, like the Aromanians. The nationalists of all sorts, be they Muslim, Orthodox, or Aromanian had a common discourse, as did the Albanians and the Aromanians phylo-Greeks. The Ottomanists continued to be loyal to the Sultan and to ensure the functioning of the state apparatus which the phylo-Greeks used in their attempts to counter over the nationalists. Schooling in the Albanian tongue suffered as much as schooling in the Romanian tongue. We exemplify by a case of solidarity taken from Nenitescu's volume (1895, pp. 371-373):
"After one minute an islamicized Albanian entered the room, his hair fairly silvery, yet well-built, stout and tall like a giant. He stretched his colossal arm over the table and, grasping my right hand, clutched to it so friendly, that for a few moments I had the impression that he had smashed my fingers, then spoke to me loudly in Aromanian:
'I am Sali-Aga, otherwise known as Salce, as your Aromanians ? endearingly call me? I have always loved the Aromanians, so have my parents and my grandparents before them. My parents were born in lower Albania, where we lived at peace with the Aromanians. I have preserved my old manners with the Aromanians here as well, granting them bessa-bess to their death, and all was done. Isn't that so, father?'
'It is so. When we speak of Salce, we call him our Salce, since he is like a brother to us,' father Sgala, the one addressed, retorted.
'You know what bessa-bess is. (?) I have grown old and I haven't yet lied once?even as a child. When I did not like something, I kept silent, and I have never once spoken but what was on my mind.' "
As a matter of fact, Nenitescu (1895, p. 482) insists on the honesty and honor that are ranking first in the Albanian ethical code: "Lie is punished with children, this is why every Albanian should be a man of honor. He must know how to respect humanness and hospitality, and not to break the word of confidence: bessa-bess. Betrayal and cowardice are considered by the Albanian as the most pitiful of all dangers. (?) The young man coming of age solemnly swears to keep his word under death penalty, to never draw back and always fight for his kin's sake, also to revenge any insult brought upon his family or his village."
Function of time and space, this code of honor has been altered. However, the code institutes crime by the provisions relating to the vendetta. The Albanian places as much stock on his own life as he did on the lives of others. A heroic death could repay in his eyes a life of misery for which, in the absence of more concrete values, one's own honor became the supreme value. The unremitting ensnaring of death, in the shadow of which he lived, built for him a professional's mentality with respect to criminal activities, whether he practiced or combatted them. "Look at us, how pale and emaciated we are? we expect nothing more out of life? we are destined to die, as the encounter with Fezu-Feta could be any minute now." (Burileanu, 1906, p.58)
It is not material profit that mattered to the Albanian brigand, but the confrontation as such, the feel of the game. At least this is the image endorsed by Nenitescu. On various occasions, both Nenitescu (1895, pp. 58, 89, 199, 312, 478) and Burileanu (1906, pp. 4, 46, 58) admit to the loyalty and sense of duty displayed by the Albanian guides or escorts who accompany them.
Yet the Aromanians have a saying. "Arbineslu-i besă pri dzinucl'iu." (The Albanian's faith does not rise above his knees.) (Tache Papahagi, 1922, pp.5-7), with the variant: "Arbineslu are pistea pri dzinucl'iu." (The Albanian's honor does not rise above his knees.) The same expression is used for easy women: "are pistea pri dzinucl'iu."
The general image that the Aromanians have formed with regard to the Albanians is diminished by this deficit of trust. As a consequence, the mission of treasuring honor, honesty, and loyalty impinges on the Vallachians, as does the associated ethical concept: besa (Saramandu, 1982, p.97), a notion that is generally ascertained as essential to the Albanian ethos.
In connection to the social and historical context that determined the nature of the relations of Aromanians and Albanians, alongside denominations marking confessional differences (turti, purinti, pangani), belongingness to a tribe (dibrani, coloniati, mirditi, malisori, ghegani) or official status (bei, pase, nizani, satrazani, bactari), the Aromanians would also use, in order to identify the Albanians, a term that most explicitly defines the reports between these two ethnic groups: liufteanil'i = "the looters" (Tache Papahagi, 1922, p.7). Additionally, there is a saying that pertains to the same symbolical field: "Pri iu treate arbineslu, l'i seaca mana." (Wherever the Albanian shall pass, may his hand desiccate). Saramandu also amasses a curse: "Ianina s-ti-ardza." (May Ianina burn you), by which collective mentality identifies Hell as the residence of the heinous Ali Pasha.
In the times of Bolintineanu (1985, p. 333) the image of the brigand gentleman Albanian was in vogue among the Westerners as well: "The Romanians are wiser than the Albanians, while the latter are more cavalier and more belligerent than the Romanians." This image is dimmer, yet still vivid with Nenitescu. Here he describes a ritual that apparently duplicates the cavalier investiture ceremonial: "At the consecration of coming of age of the Albanian youth, there is the assortment of some facts of religious nature; and sometimes the hodja, at other times the Orthodox or Catholic priest, depending on the youth's confession, holds the floor and heartens the young men to be valiant, by showing that God has made man so the latter should fight, and defend his honor and that of the distressed, and keep his promises, as well as friendship and hospitality." (Nenitescu, 1895, p. 483)
Heroism and nobility, as expected, exclude the penchant for too humble dealings, such as work, because in open field, an implacable bullet can be discharged from anywhere: "The Albanian is not quite industrious, yet as his education advances, he is sure to become more industrious as well, as even today it would be untrue to say that he has labor in loath, yet the talent of valiance restricts him from taking a wider look at practical life and from understanding it?" (Nenitescu, 1895, p. 483)
The difference of material status between the Albanians and the Aromanians, always in favor of the latter, is intensely marked by two other denominations that the Aromanians use to refer to the former: lealeni = "the unworthy" and ghiusmapingani = "half a wader".
There are, nevertheless, sayings that evoke the obedience and the necessity of adopting a more permissive, more able and more obsequious behavior in the Aromanians' relations to the Muslim beys: "Nu stii sî s-da ginapea la beiu." (He does not know how to give an answer to the bey.); "Ti beiu suma, ti chihaie lâna, s-ti picurari nital'i." (The suma  goes to the bey, the wool goes to the chief and fleece to the shepherd.)
If power is on the side of the Albanians, it is natural that intelligence and diligence be on the side of the Aromanians. It is Bolintineanu who says it (v. supra) and Nenitescu who repeats it (1895, p. 486): "The Aromanians who live in Northern Albania, among the Gheg Albanians, are known under the name of goga Aromanians, and are highly esteemed by the Albanians, on account of their tempestuous valiance, and they are consulted because they are deemed intellectually superior."
What would further be the part of the Albanian?
- Boasting: "Arbineslu-i frate cu-alavdarea." (The Albanian is brother to boasting.) "Se-alavda ca un Arbines." (He is boasting like an Albanian.) (Tache Papahagi, 1922, p.5)
- The impulsive character, generating irremediable situations: "Arbinesu apresu." (A heated Albanian.) (Saramandu, 1982, p.84)
- Lack of order: "Ca turtîl'i tu groapa." (Like Turks in a ditch.) (Saramandu, p.97)
- Dreamless sleep: "Doarmi ca arbinesu." (He sleeps like an Albanian) (Saramandu, 1982, p.102)
We could hardly expect the balance to waver in favor of the collective representation of the Other, since the Other would lose the function of his alterity, and would be merged with the representation of one's own identity. Therefore, the Albanian should be granted the right to speak in his defence:
"Our Turk was not of the grave, suspicious type that is so widespread in this country. He was cheerful, eloquent, open, around the age of forty-five: a ruddy and rounded face, his fez fallen onto the nape, and a short forehead (?).
'Are you Albanian?' I asked.
'Albanian, yes, by birth,' he answered, 'an islamicized Albanian. The majority of Albanians are Muslim, and they are the most honest, dependable and cavalier. The Christian Albanians have become Hellenized or Romanized, and have ceased being proud of their origin. They have no word to say," he continued, "while this people is grand and will never desist. It will have its day, and that day might be far yet, but it is bound to come." (Bolintineanu, 1985, p.313)
In opposition to the image that the Aromanian has of the Albanian, the latter's self-image surfaces as a positive qualification by traits that render it identical to the Aromanian's self-image.
"Its day" was favorably at hand in 1919, when, as we have shown in the beginning of our study, Tache Paphagi enterprised his research trip in Albania, as secretary to the Macedonian and Romanian delegation at the Peace Conference in Paris. On working out its independence again, in 1920,  Albania entered the sphere of influence of Italy until 1938, when the fascist state invaded it. From a cultural, economic and political point of view, this invasion had been prepared from the onset of the 20th century. At approximately the same time that Burlieanu published his impressions (1906), the Italian Ugo Ojetti too had his volume of correspondence published by the daily "Corriere della Sera" from Albania (1902): "(?) the Albanian, diligent, industrious, sober, sincere, honest, proud, enthusiastic without abandoning himself, who always bears on his figure and in his heart the austere solace of his mountain, and who is sure of his rifle alone (?) is content of his personal freedom, of his personal hatred and love, content of what he can sell or buy at the bazaar." (apud Riccardi, 1999, p.181)
Those who, on reaching the closure of this study, somehow have the tendency to settle comfortably within the condition of their own ethnicity are kindly directed to Chapter 8, "The Romanians' Social Behavior", in Klaus Heitmann's study The Image of the Romanians in the German Linguistic Space (1995). They are not to find major differences between the way the Aromanians portray the Albanians and the way that the Germans portray the Romanians, the more so as the background underlying the representation of alterity was so different for the two identity formulas.
The rapport of identity to alterity are, by their nature, rapports of subordination, ordered on the vertical axis of the relation between identity and subjectivity, where by subjectivity we have designated that enduring nucleus of collective identity, reckoned by collective imagination as being the Center, or Source. The formulation may well seem a paradox, but the Center itself is a domain of the paradox: an a-dimensional space that can become actual in a multiplicity of dimensions, simultaneously internal and external. The restoration of  a collective identity in the aftermath of a crisis always presupposes a following of this symbolical ascending trajectory toward the Origin, with its prestige and plenitude.
That state of collective crisis of which we have spoken, that break with the center, is for the most part plastically rendered by the image employed by an Aromanian in order to describe the state of his ethnic group: him oarfani noi, n-avem tata! Sa stim noi ca baneadza tata-l nostru, si atunci sa ne vedeti! (We are but orphans, but should we know that our father is out there chasing, then you should see us!) (Burileanu, 1906, p.121)
The image of the father is at the same time an image of center and of subjectivity: "In modern imagologic research", Heitmann demonstrates, "the opinion that the representations a people forms of an other have a predominantly negative character is the general rule; even more, negativity is as constitutive to national heterostereotypes as is subjectivity."
This truth is even more viable for peoples that live in perpetual vicinity. In the case of the Aromanians and the Albanians, it was more than mere vicinity, it was cohabitation: both are branches of the same Thracian-Illyrian trunk, while one of them was pruned by the Roman gene: the two communities are bound to reflect one another precisely in the image that each build for the other. And it is precisely the fact that collective representations deal with extreme values that does not leave room for the intervention of extrinsic value judgments.    
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