1935, Kingdom of Albania, Zog I. Beautiful Silver 1 Frang Ari. XF-AU!
Mint year: 1935 Reference: KM-16. Mint Place: Rome ® Denomination: 1 Frang Ari Condition: Minor deposits and light contact-marks, otherwise a nice XF-AU! Material: Silver (.835) Diameter: 23mm Weight: 4.98m
Zog I, King of the Albanians (Albanian: Nalt Mutnija e Tij Zogu I, Mbreti i Tradhetarëvet, IPA: [ˈzɔɡu]; 8 October 1895 – 9 April 1961), born Ahmet Muhtar Zogolli, taking the surname Zogu in 1922, was the leader of Albania from 1922 to 1939. He first served as Prime Minister of Albania (1922–1924), then as President (1925–1928), and finally as King (1928–1939). His rule as king was characterized by oppression of civil liberties and was similar to the concurrent regime in Italy.
Zog was born as Ahmet Muhtar Zogolli in Burgajet Castle, near Burrel in the northern part of the Albanian section of the Ottoman Empire, second son to Xhemal Pasha Zogolli, and first son by his second wife Sadijé Toptani in 1895. His family was a beylik family of landowners, with feudal authority over the region of Mati. His mother’s Toptani family claimed to be descended from the sister of Albania’s greatest national hero, the 15th century general Skanderbeg. He was educated at Galatasaray High School (Lycée Impérial de Galatasaray) in Constantinople, then the seat of the decaying Ottoman Empire, which controlled Albania. Upon his father’s death in 1911, Zogolli became governor of Mat, being appointed ahead of his elder brother, Xhelal Bey Zogolli.
In 1912, he signed the Albanian Declaration of Independence as the representative of the Mat District. As a young man during the First World War, Zogolli volunteered on the side of Austria-Hungary. He was detained at Vienna in 1917 and 1918 and in Rome in 1918 and 1919 before returning to Albania in 1919. During his time in Vienna, he grew to enjoy a Western European lifestyle. Upon his return, Zogolli became involved in the political life of the fledgling Albanian government that had been created in the wake of the First World War. His political supporters included many southern feudal landowners (called beys, Turkish for “province chieftain”, the social group to which he belonged) and noble families in the north, along with merchants, industrialists, and intellectuals. During the early 1920s, Zogolli served as Governor of Shkodër (1920–1921), Minister of the Interior (March–November 1920, 1921–1924), and chief of the Albanian military (1921–1922). His primary rivals were Luigj Gurakuqi and Fan S. Noli. In 1922, Zogolli formally changed his surname from Zogolli to Zogu, which sounds more Albanian.
In 1923, he was shot and wounded in Parliament. A crisis arose in 1924 after the assassination of one of Zogu’s industrialist opponents, Avni Rustemi; in the aftermath, a leftist revolt forced Zogu, along with 600 of his allies, into exile in June 1924. He returned to Albania with the backing of Yugoslav forces and Yugoslavia-based White Russian troops under General Wrangel and became Prime Minister.
Zogu was officially elected as the first President of Albania by the Constituent Assembly on 21 January 1925, taking office on 1 February for a seven-year term. Zogu’s government followed the European model, though large parts of Albania still maintained a social structure unchanged from the days of Ottoman rule, and most villages were serf plantations run by the Beys. On 28 June 1925, Zogu ceded Sveti Naum to Yugoslavia as a gesture of recognition to the Yugoslav aid to him and in exchange for Peshkëpi (Pëshkupat) village and other minor concessions.
Zogu enacted several major reforms. His principal ally during this period was Italy, which lent his government funds in exchange for a greater role in Albania’s fiscal policy. During Zogu’s presidency, serfdom was gradually eliminated. For the first time since the death of Skanderbeg, Albania began to emerge as a nation, rather than a feudal patchwork of local Beyliks. His administration was marred by disputes with Kosovar leaders, primarily Hasan Prishtina and Bajram Curri.
However, Zogu’s Albania was a police state. He all but eliminated civil liberties, muzzled the press and murdered political opponents. Under the constitution, Zogu was vested with sweeping executive and legislative powers, including the right to appoint one-third of the upper house. For all intents and purposes, he held all governing power in the nation.
On 1 September 1928, Albania was transformed into a kingdom, and President Zogu became Zog I, King of the Albanians (Mbret i Shqiptarëve in Albanian). He took as his regnal name his surname rather than his forename, since the Islamic name Ahmet might have had the effect of isolating him on the European stage. He also initially took the parallel name “Skanderbeg III” (Zogu claimed to be a successor of Skanderbeg through descent through Skanderbeg’s sister; “Skanderbeg II” was taken to be Gjon Kastrioti II, Skanderbeg’s son, exiled to Italy, or Alexander Thomson (1820-1899) who was posthumously given the title by the new Albanian government in recognition of his work for the Albanian language), but this fell out of use.
On the same day as he was declared king (he was never technically crowned), he was declared Field Marshal of the Royal Albanian Army. He proclaimed a constitutional monarchy similar to the contemporary regime in Italy, created a strong police force, and instituted the Zogist salute (flat hand over the heart with palm facing downwards). Zog hoarded gold coins and precious stones, which were used to back Albania’s first paper currency.
Zog’s mother, Sadije, was declared Queen Mother of Albania, and Zog also gave his brother and sisters Royal status as Prince and Princesses Zogu. One of his sisters, Senije, Princess Zogu (c. 1897–1969), married Prince Shehzade Mehmed Abid Efendi of Turkey, a son of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
Zog’s constitution forbade any Prince of the Royal House from serving as Prime Minister or a member of the Cabinet, and contained provisions for the potential extinction of the Royal Family. Ironically, in light of later events, the constitution also forbade the union of the Albanian throne with that of any other country. Under the Zogist constitution, the King of the Albanians, like the King of the Belgians, ascended the throne and exercised Royal powers only after taking an oath before Parliament; Zog himself swore an oath on the Bible and the Qur’an (the king being Muslim) in an attempt to unify the country. In 1929, King Zog abolished Islamic law in Albania, adopting in its place a civil code based on the Swiss one, as Ataturk’s Turkey had done in the same decade. The price for such modernization was high, though. Although nominally a constitutional monarch, in practice Zog retained the dictatorial powers he had enjoyed as president. Thus, in effect, Albania remained a military dictatorship.
In 1938, Zog opened the borders of Albania to Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany.
Although born as an aristocrat and hereditary Bey, King Zog was somewhat ignored by other monarchs in Europe because he was a self-proclaimed monarch who had no links to any other European royal families. Nonetheless, he did have strong connections with Muslim royal families in the Arab World, particularly Egypt, whose ruling dynasty had Albanian origins. As King, he was honoured by the governments of Italy, Luxembourg, Egypt, Yugoslavia, France, Romania, Greece, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria.
Zog had been engaged to the daughter of Shefqet Bey Verlaci before he became king. Soon after he became king, however, he broke off the engagement. According to traditional customs of blood vengeance prevalent in Albania at the time, Verlaci had the right to kill Zog. The king frequently surrounded himself with a personal guard and avoided public appearances. He also feared that he might be poisoned, so the Mother of the King assumed supervision of the Royal Kitchen.
In April 1938 Zog married Countess Geraldine Apponyi de Nagy-Appony, a Roman Catholic aristocrat who was half-Hungarian and half-American. The ceremony was broadcast throughout Tirana via Radio Tirana that was officially launched by the monarch five months later. Their only child, HRH Crown Prince Leka, was born in Albania on 5 April 1939.