Korçë (Albanian: Korçë or Korça) is a major city in the Korçë District of south-eastern Albania, located at 40°37′N 20°46′E. It has a population of around 57,758 people (2008 estimate), making it the seventh largest city in Albania.
It stands on a plateau some 850 m (2,800 ft) above sea level, surrounded by the Morava Mountains. According to the Albanian census of 1989, Albanians comprise 97.8% of the population of the district, Macedonians 2%, and others, less than 0.2%.
Neolithic remains have been found indicating occupation of the site from 4000 BC onwards. The Copper Age lasted from 3000 BC to 2100 BC, and was followed by the Bronze Age.
A town named ‘Coviza’ is mentioned in medieval documents in 1280. The modern town dates from the end of the 15th Century, when Iljaz Hoxha, under the command of Sultan Mehmet II, developed Korçë. The Ottoman occupation began in 1440, and after Hoxha’s role in the siege of Constantinople, in 1453; he was awarded the title, ‘Iljaz Bey Mirahor’. Korçë was a sandjak of the Manastir vilayet in the Ottoman Empire as Görice.
Ottoman rule over Korçë lasted until 1912; although the city and its surroundings were supposed to become part of the Principality of Bulgaria according to the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878, the Treaty of Berlin of the same year returned the area to Ottoman rule. Korçë’s proximity to Greece, which claimed the entire Orthodox population as Greek, led to its being fiercely contested in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. The city was occupied by Greek forces in 6 December 1912. Its incorporation into Albania in 1913 was controversial, as Greece claimed it as part of a region called ‘Northern Epirus’. However, in accordance with the Corfu Protocol signed between Greece and Albania in 1914 and the ethnographic survey that preceded it, the city was included in the newly formed Autonomous Northern Epirus zone, the autonomous status of which, however, never came into being. Northern Epirote forces took over the city on 10 July 1914.
During World War I, the Austro-Hungarians took Korçë, to be followed by the Greeks again and finally by France, which occupied Korçë between 1916-1920. It ultimately remained part of Albania, as determined by the International Boundary Commission, which affirmed the country’s post-war borders.
However a Republic of Korçë was proclaimed there in 1918. This was meant to be a forerunner of the Principality of Pindus and Voivodship of Macedonia which was supposed to become an autonomous Vlach or Aromanian state.
During the inter-war period, the city became a hotbed of Communist agitation. Albania’s future dictator, Enver Hoxha, lived there and was both a pupil and a teacher at the town’s French school. Korçë’s underground Communist movement became the nucleus of Hoxha’s Albanian Party of Labour. During the 1930s, the Bank of Athens had a branch in the city.
Italian forces occupied Korçë in 1939, along with the rest of the country. After the outbreak of the Greco-Italian War, the Greek Army entered the city in November 1940, which remained under Greek sovereignty until the German attack in April 1941. After Italy’s withdrawal from the war in 1943, the Germans occupied the town until October 24, 1944.
During the occupation, the city became a major center of Communist-inspired resistance to the Axis occupation of Albania. The establishment of the Albanian Party of Labour – the Communist Party – was formally proclaimed in Korçë in 1941. Albanian rule was restored in 1944 following the withdrawal of German forces.
The area suffered from Hoxha’s dictatorial regime like the rest of Albania, although it is arguable whether it was to as great an extent. Hoxha mainly fought against the rich, despite the fact that they had often fought against the Nazi and Fascist occupations. Thousands of people from Korçë were sent to concentration camps or executed for disagreeing with Hoxha’s regime. Hundreds of people fled to Boston, USA, joining a community of Albanians who had previously emigrated there.
After 1990 Korçë was one of the six cities where the New Democratic Party won all the constituencies. Popular revolts in February 1991 ended with the tearing down of Hoxha’s statue.
Korça is named differently in other languages: Aromanian: Curceaua or Cоrceaо; Bulgarian: Корча, Korcha or Корче, Korche; Greek: Κορυτσά, Koritsá; Italian: Corizza; Macedonian: Горица, Gorica; Turkish: Görice.
Christian Orthodox Church of Saint George in Korçë
Korçë has been an important religious center for Orthodox Christians for centuries. It has the largest Orthodox community in Albania, centering the large Orthodox Church. It is the seat of an Orthodox metropolitan bishop. There is also a sizeable Sunni and Bektashi Muslim community in and around Korçë. The main center of the Bektashis of the area is the Turan Tekke.
During the Ottoman period it became one of the centres of the growing Albanian identity. The first school teaching in the Albanian language was established there in 1887, followed by Albania’s first school for girls in 1891. The school, started by Gjerasim Qiriazi a Protestant pastor and evangelist, was later run by his sisters, Sevasti and Parashqevi. Later collaborators were the Rev. & Mrs. Grigor Tsilka and Rev & Mrs. Phineas Kennedy of the Congregational Misson Board of Boston.
Korça is called the city of museums. The National Museum of Medieval Art, has the richest arkive in all Europe (ca. 6500 icons and 500 other objects in textile, stone and metal). The National Museum of Archeology. The first Albanian School. The house of the painter Vangjush Mio and his gallery. The Bratko Museum or the Oriental one. Korca is also called “The city of serenates” and the 2008 brand was “The city of Fests”
Korçë is famous for the high level of education of its high schools, mostly in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and foreign languages. Some of them are: Shkolla e Mesme e Pergithshme ” Raqi Qirinxhi”, “Themistokli Germenji”, “Preca College”, “Gjuhet e Huaja”, “Shkolla Bujqesore”, etj. Students with a degree from these schools are ready to attend brightly all the best Universities of Europe and USA. The city is also home of “Fan S. Noli University” which offers several degrees in humanities, business, and sciences.
During the 20th century, Korçë gained a substantial industrial capacity in addition to its historic role as a commercial and agricultural centre. The plateau on which the city stands is highly fertile and is one of Albania’s main wheat-growing areas. Local industries include the manufacture of knitwear, rugs, textiles, flour-milling, brewing, and sugar-refining. Deposits of lignite coal are mined in the mountains nearby such as Mborje-Drenove.
The football (soccer) club is KS Skënderbeu Korçë, Albanian Champions in 1933.
Famous people from Korçë
Gjerasim Qiriazi, founder of the first modern Albanian school in Korça
Ioannis Pangas (1814-1895), entrepreneur and benefactor.
Kiço Blushi, writer
Konstandin Kristoforidhi, leader of Albanian resistance during the First World War, military head of the Autonomous Republic of Korça
Mihal Grameno, leader of Albanian resistance during the First World War, head of the Autonomous Republic of Korça
Parasqevi Qiriazi, founder of the first modern Albanian school in Korça
Sevasti Qiriazi, founder of the first modern Albanian school in Korça