Lek Dukagjini Legacy

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The Gjomarkajs have been the leaders of Mirdita since the beginning of their sovereignty, which dates to the 12th c. They are the direct descendants of Lek Dukagjini.

The Princes of Dukagjini were one of the most powerful and most ancient noble families from Albania. Their principle is well established only towards the end of the 12th c., but its origin seems to be from a much earlier time. The estates of this family were wide, encompassing all territories of the north; between the then Serbia and the Adriatic Sea.

These countries, in the complex and strong events of the history of Albania, were always free and independent and, while the Turks ruled nearly all of Albania, they obeyed the laws that had a Dukagjin code. The Dukagjini ruled wisely and always defended the character and spirit of their people, deeply Catholic, religion and autonomy were able to survive even in the face of repeated assaults by the Turks, and the memory of the brave princes remains, to this date, vivid in Albania. The highest legacy that the Dukagjini left to their own people is a compilation of laws which is called “The Lekës Kanun” or “Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit”. From all points of view, this law is the most precious heritage to the race. All of Northern Albania, which also bears the name of “leket”, is filled with the spirit: The “Lekët and Malsis” are the children or descendants of Dukagjini.

Once the entire occupation of Albania was completed by the Turks c.1495, suddenly the name of Dukagjini disappeared and instead, in the territories of this family, the name of Gjon Marku (John Mark) began to surface, which, as the Dukagjini, they came to enjoy the same manner of loyalty and respect of the people. There are no known documents that shed light on this succession, but, according to reliable sources Gjon Marku would be the same Dukagjini, and to avoid retaliation by the Turks against the name, which was hated and persecuted, they decided to abolish it and replace it with the surname: Gjon Marku, hence it would be the name of Gjon Dukagjini Mark. The hypothesis is supported by factual evidence, and one can believe that Gjon Marku (today Gjomarkaj) derives directly from Dukagjini.

While Albania was being asserted by the Turks, in Mirdita the Gjomarkajs obtained self-government and freedom of worship and pledged to help the Sultan of Constantinople in the event of war, provided that the enemies were not other Albanians; that the Mirditore would not wear Turkish uniforms nor would they fight under the command of Turkish generals; and that the general of Mirdita would always be a Gjomarkaj Prince. Several times the Mirditore fought for the Sultan and in every field of battle they were full of valor, standing out among other warriors to heroism and war tactics, and gaining the admiration of the Turks. Because on several occasions it was their weapons which acted favorably for the Ottomans, the Sultan, in recognition of their valor, bestowed upon Gjomarkaj the title of “Kapidan”, which reinforced the merits of the Prince to his faithful.  On the door of Constantinople it was written in a steel plate, by order of the Sultan:

 “All Gjomarkaj males, generation after generation, from cradle to grave, will hold the title of Kapidan”.

While in the 15th and 16th century the Muslim religion absorbed the greater part of the population, the Catholic religion remained a minority for Albanians. It was preserved almost exclusively in Mirdita, observed with all its values of love and humanity. To defend Catholicism and independence the Mirditore always lived among wars and blood and the Gjomarkajs were always ready to facilitate any attempt at national unity against foreigners. Wherever their help was required, for an attempt at unification with Albania, they rushed with their advice and their support; wherever there was a call for a leader, they reached for their sword.

They endured imprisonment, fought in thousands of death-defying battles, preferring exile rather than submit to injustice; never dominated, never defeated, leaving in the path of history forever their names, names of heroes: Lleshi i Zi, Gjon Marku, Bibe Doda, Preng Bib Doda, Kapidan Marka Gjonj, Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni, Kapidan Mark Gjon Marku, Kapidan Ndue Gjon Marku, Kapidan Llesh Gjon Marku, Kapidan Dede Gjon Marku, Kapidan Nikoll Gjon Marku.

[1] written by Maria Greco

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