|16th Prime Minister of Albania|
December 4, 1941 – January 19, 1943
|Preceded by||Shefqet Vërlaci|
|Succeeded by||Eqrem Libohova|
|Born||March 15, 1887|
Akçahisar, Scutari Vilayet, Ottoman Empire (modern-day Krujë, Albania)
|Died||December 27, 1958 (aged 71)|
Niagara Falls, New York, United States
|Political party||Albanian Fascist Party|
Mustafa Merlika-Kruja (March 15, 1887, Akçahisar, Ottoman Empire (modern-day Krujë, Albania) – December 27, 1958, Niagara Falls, New York) was one of the signatories of the Albanian Declaration of Independence. He served as Prime Minister of Albania during the Italian occupation from December 4, 1941 to January 19, 1943.
He was born Mustafa Asim Merlika, son of Mehmed. His family was Bektashi. His father was a local administrator of the lands of Essad Pasha, who from his side sponsored the education of Mustafa. According to Albanian sources he studied at the local Rüştiye, then in Yannina, before going to the today's Faculty of Political Science, Ankara University ("Mekteb-i Mülkiye") which he finished in 1910. According to Turkish author Çankaya, he studied at the local school in Elbasan, then in Mercan idadisi in Istambul before entering the Mülkiye. There he learned Turkish and French.
As a student in the Ottoman capital he joined the Revolutionary League ("Cemiyet-i İnkılabiye") against the autocracy of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. After the Young Turk Revolution he worked for supporting the Albanian language at the Mülkiye, and posted articles in the liberal press against the Committee of Union and Progress using the signature "Asim Cenan". Contrary to what Essad Pasha had in mind for him, instead of becoming Kaymakam he preferred a career in education. In 1910 he was appointed secretary of the administration, in the Ministry of Public Education in Istanbul. A year later he was appointed director of the Public Education for the Sanjak of Elbasan, Manastir Vilayet.
After participating as a volunteer in Ottoman army during the Italo-Turkish War in 1912, he joined the Albanian Independence movement. Merlika-Kruja participated in the Assembly of Vlorë of 28 November 1912, and his name appears in the list of signatories of the Independence Act. In 1913 he joined the Ministry of Education and in 1914 became an adviser of the Ministry of Public Education.
In 1918 he participated in the Congress of Durrës, favored an Italian protectorate over Albania, and was elected Minister of Posts and Telegraphs. According to Sejfi Vllamasi's (1883–1975) memories, there Kruja would be the main opponent of the Congress of Lushnjë event together with Fejzi Alizoti, Myfit Libohova, and Sami Vrioni. These include the assassination of the Prefect of Durrës (and delegate to Lushnjë) Abdyl Ypi (1876-1920) by Sul Mërlika, himself cousin of Kruja, the prohibition of Krujë delegates to join the congress, the attempts to stop the delegates of Committee for the National Defence of Kosovo, as well as failed attempts of Fejzi Alizoti and Myfid Libohova to stop other delegates from north and south of the country even involving Italian militia.
In 1921 he was elected to the Albanian parliament where he belonged to a progressive trend, openly opposing Ahmet Zogu's clan, and close with connections to the Committee for the National Defence of Kosovo which would be officially banned by Zogu later. In 1922, he was involved in a coup d'état attempt against the government of Xhafer Ypi together with the north-east Dibra clan of Cen Elezi and Elez Isufi, and had to temporarily flee from Albania to Yugoslavia. He was placed in an internment camp there. Kruja asked permission to visit Vienna for personal reasons and was granted temporary pass-out. He did not return to Yugoslavia, breaking his agreement and placing himself in the "black list" of the Yugoslav authorities. In 1924 he was appointed prefect by Noli's government.
As an active participant of the June Revolution in 1924, he had to flee the country and moved to Zadar, Vienna, and later settled in Switzerland. There he joined the KONARE ("Revolutionary National Committee") established by Noli. During these exile years, Kruja would be pro-Italian and prominent Zog opponent, keeping also ties with the "Bashkimi Kombëtar" ("National Union") organization and other exile personalities as Hasan Prishtina, Sejfi Vllamasi, Ali Klissura, Qazim Mulleti, Aziz Çami, Rexhep Mitrovica, etc.
On August 4, 1939, after the personal union of Albania to the crown of Italy, Merlika-Kruja was appointed as a Senator within the Italian Kingdom until August 25, 1944, when he resigned. During his tenure he was a member of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Customs legislature. He is remembered for the public speech held on December 24, 1942, in response of the Anthony Eden's statement in accordance with the communique of the Greek government in London (in exile) which stated that Britain and US would not recognize any border changes established by the Fascists, and that neighboring countries would have the right to claim parts of Albania at the end of the war.
Following the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia (in which Kosovo was occupied by Albania), the Albanian authorities under Mustafa Kruja forcibly expelled 70–100,000 Serb ethnics. Fascist Italy colonized Kosovo and Macedonia with 70,000 Albanians, who carried out religious persecution in the form of damaging and confascating churches and monasteries, and exilement and murder of Orthodox priests. In June 1942, he held a public speech in which he said that Serbs would be sent to concentration camps or killed.
In the spring of 1944 he escaped by boat from Albania to Italy and from there to Egypt. There he met an old rival of his, the Albanian King Ahmed Zogu. After World War II he lived in France. During the last exile period he would join the political organization in exile of the Albanian publicist and writer Ernest Koliqi (1903–1975). This organization was named "Independent National Bloc" and was formed on 6 November 1946, in Rome. The last years of his life were spent in the United States where he died in a hospital in Niagara Falls, New York.
During his life, Kruja would write articles to many Albanian journal within and outside Albania, including Il Corriere delle Puglie (1914), Albanian newspaper of Rome Kuvendi ("The Assembly") (1918), and Mbrojtja Kombëtare ("The national defense") published in Vlora between 1920 and 1923. Since after World War I he worked on a voluminous dictionary of Albanian language. He continued with intellectual studies till the end of life, some of them published in periodicals and books, and some of them being published lately by his descendant after the fall of communism in Albania.
Për ta vënë në jetë projektin e tyre, ata e ftojnë Abdyl Ypin në mbrëmjen e 16 janarit 1920, në shkollë, në Durrës, për një bisedim. Abdyl Ypi, pa të keq, shkon në shkollë në orën e caktuar. Salih Xhuka bën manevra të ndërlikuara në hapjen e derës së shkollës dhe po në atë çast Ypi vritet prej Sul Mërlikës, kushëririt të parë të Mustafa Krujës...
Fejzi Alizoti, në telegramin që i bëri Rexhep Shalës, prefekt i Shkodrës në Lezhë, i shkruante që të merrte masat e nevojëshme për moskalimin e delegatëve të Veriut për Lushnjë, dhe shtonte duke thënë se edhe Abdyl Ypi u vra…
Mustafa Kruja në Durrës e bindi Hysni Currin, i cili ka patur një karakter të lëkundshëm, që të shkojë në Krujë në vend që të shkonte në Lushnjë, ku ish deleguar...
Mustafa Kruja shkon në Krujë dhe urdhëron H. Berberin të mos shkojë ne Lushnjë mbasi Italia, simbas mendimit të tij, qenka e vetmja fuqi që e ndihmon Shqipërinë. Hysni Berberi e kundërshton dhe niset për Lushnjë, por Mustafa Kruja ia pret rrugën dhe me forcën e armëve e ndalon të shkojë...
Myfit Libohova shkoi në Vlorë dhe, në bazë të marrëveshjes së fshehtë të Qeverisë së Durrësit me Komandën e Përgjithëshme Italiane në Shqipëri, mundohet ta bindë gjeneral Piaçentinin të merrte masa ushtarake kundër Kongresit të Lushnjës...
We should endeavor to ensure that the Serb population of Kosovo should be removed as soon as possible ... All indigenous Serbs who have been living here for centuries should be termed colonialists and as such, via the Albanian and Italian governments, should be sent to concentration camps in Albania. Serbian settlers should be killed.
Shefqet Bej Vërlaci
| Prime Minister of Albania
Eqrem Bej Libohova