“Castriotto d’Albanie” by Michael Schmidt-Neke
Prepared by: Flora Suldashi
Michael Schmidt-Neke PhD, is a friend of Albanians who for decades is involved in research of historical and actual events about
He had the honor to take part twice (around 1980) in the International Seminar, which the
He was the editor in chief of a scientific manual for
In addition to the book “The origin and development of royal dictatorship in Albania (1912 – 1939)”, he has published all constitutions of Albania in German, many articles and essays on historical and actual events related to Albania, and many terms of Albanian Encyclopedic Dictionary, which is being published by the Academy of Sciences of Albania. He is the editor and regular contributor of the Albanian-German Friendship magazine “Albanische Hefte”, and at the same time deputy chairman of this Association which plays an important role in building bridges of friendship and cooperation between Albanian and German people.
For a long time, Schmidt-Neke deals with the activities and many publications of Stepan Zanovich, a Montenegrin who used a false identity as an instrument – Castriotto d’Albanie, thus leaving dishonest blueprints in high European circles.
Stepan Zanoviç – “The Prince of
The case of Stepan Zanovich is a topic which in Albanian media is very little unfolded, therefore we will pay some attention to it by bringing historical evidence from selected writings of Mr. Schmidt-Neke.
Zanovich exercised an “influence” in high European circles with false identities and his aim was to remain a mystery: We can assume that he did so for a political backdrop, especially when presenting himself to the European officials as Castriotto d’Albanie!
False Albanians in the Mozart opera
STEPAN ZANOVICH – A guy from Venetian Albania
Primislav, Hanibal, Stepan and Miroslav are the sons of count Antun Zanovich. Such titles like count, were freely distributed to the Venetian Senate to secure loyalty of the predecessors in its provinces, despite that Antun is just an infamous player. “Corriger la fortune” (Correcting the fate) has an all too-clear meaning in this era: playing cards.
This history began on
Stepan spent his youth in
An uncertainty began for Stepan who remained homeless and without a family, a life where everything is put on gambling, but fortunately it was a battle for wealth extending throughout
In 1773 both were expelled from Milano, the capital city of
Both brothers had cheated a young English lord in gambling and then forced his family to pay the debt. This activity was understood by the Duke and subsequently both brothers together with the most known adventurer of the century, Giacomo Casanova, were expelled from the city, though Casanova did not have any benefit from this insolence.
Chomel & Jordan Affair – A great fraud leading to the war!
By using a false identity Peovich, the brothers manage to get a letter of recommendation from diplomatic representative of
Acting under the mask of false good behavior, the brothers apologized for this “misunderstanding” and manage to get over to another business by convincing the Dutch bankers to invest in the “Minerva” ship, which would transport wine and expensive aroma under a trade agreement with Peovich company. Indeed, Chomel & Jordan paid out 30,000 Dutch Guldens. The outcome of this transaction led to an international conflict: the Dutch were in vain awaiting the “Minerva” ship to arrive, and it would not arrive because it never existed.
Meanwhile the Zanovichs were deported from the
Chomel & Jordan then made an appeal to the Senate of Venice demanding indemnification to be made from the state budget, because, Kavalli in the position of official representative of Saint Mark Republic had recommended the “Peovichs”. However, the government of
Diplomatic conflict over the issue gets worse. The diplomacy is led by the senator Andrea Tron and senior adviser Engelbert von Berckel, who want the issue to be dealt with and resolved. At the end, after Venetian ships were blocked by the
After this fraud, both brothers end their fruitful cooperation. Primislav disappeared without traces. After spending some years in prison in
Prince Kastrioto of
Stepan is at his height of criminal energy and literary activity. He presented himself as a “philosopher”, not in today’s meaning, but as a wise man in literature who invents false identities one after another. Until 1775 he published some small volumes with poems under his real name “Stefanon Zanovich” then he distributes the false news about his death. In a letter to Voltaire, he warns of himself being close to certain death and also publishes “posthumously works”.
Following “the death” of the count Zanovich, a new hero was brought in: Stepan Hanibal – Prince Kastrioto of
The greatest success is a short biography of Scanderbeg “The Great Kastriot of Albania”, a paperback published in French, German and Russian, and after the author’s death, in Swedish. As a short summary of the life of Gjergj Kastrioti – Scanderbeg, it is not important, but the story is combined with spreading the principles of illumines. According to the story, Scanderbeg in his bed of death advises his son how to defend the citizens’ freedom against the catholic clerks and establish a free newspaper!
At the same time, he uses other identities and positions. He uses the fact that from 1767 to 1773
Many European monarchs were raised with a broad culture, with French being as a language of culture and diplomacy, and had their royal yards with open doors to foreign intellectuals, scholars of philosophy and literature.
Zanovich and his typical foxy wisdom focused on Frederick Guilhelm, who was the son of
Stepan devotes a series of poems and books (the Quran of predicted princes into the throne), in which he prophesized the prince as a forthcoming ideal monarch. It can be assumed that his aim was to get appointed as a high ranking official in the royal yard once the young prince would come to the throne, but he did not enjoy the coming of that day. The prince admired by Stepan ends up as the weakest king in the history of
The king eventually orders the arrest of Stepan, but he escaped from
Poems of Zanovich, mostly written in Italian or French, were often praised for elegance and poetry perfectness, but there were also some other voices. Johann von Mannlih, the official painter at the yard of duke of Zweibricken, noticed that the poems just out of printing house, which the false prince was distributing for free to his visitors, are nothing else just plagiarism of poems by marken Pompinian. This indicates the great difficulties in assessing the works of Zanovich, because his sources of reference were not known well. He wrote during an extremely fruitful era in all literary branches, and there are too few specialists who still recognized such lost authors.
The Odyssey goes on
Zanovich resumes an Odyssey in
However, by the time, his fraudulent activities were weakening and not showing results in royal yards. Now he was living in a bourgeoisie house and implicating new friends in his fraudulent activities, which even several years after Stepan’s death continued with their pamphlets and court proceedings against each other.
In his last efforts, he tried to use political conjunctures. In the late 1784 the government of Lower Countries offered him an award if he was able to impede the entry of Montenegrin forces into the side of Austrian army in the conflict with the
Nevertheless, Zanovich’s charisma attracted and blinded another man; Cloots was impressed by his mysterious personality. Few months later, Cloots published a harsh polemic against Zanovich.
The undignified end of the “Prince”
Zanovich demanded compensation from the Dutch government on the ground that the Montenegrins did not side with the Austrians against the Dutch, maintaining that this was due to his merit. The authorities of
By the end of his life, he remained without any support, friend, and hope. With the last money at disposal he bought a bottle of wine and with the broken glass he cut his own blood veins. On
What is left?
A short life of an adventurer, a series of books and brochures, today very scarce due to nicknames of the authors that are difficult to be identified, the shadow of a suspicious figure in the books and memories of more known contemporaries than himself, from Casanova to Cloots. But, more remains to be revealed: We have referred at the beginning to the echo of Zanovich at “Cosi fan tutte” of Moxart’s opera.
Alfred Doeblin, a German author, published in 1929 perhaps the most important roman during the days, “
Milo Dori, a Yugoslav writer in exile to
And finally, although he was a charismatic manipulator of the first degree and in fact did not have any connection with Albania, Stepan Zanovich, the false and unfortunate prince of Albania, remains an important link to the chain of pan European tradition for Scanderbeg and Albania at the time when Europe did not have further clear ideas to understand the notion “Albania”.
Had there been a “Prince of Albania”, the European public could draw conclusions that he existed in a country with a correct name ALBANIA, which in one beautiful day would be liberated from the Ottoman rule.