The Albanian Revolt of 1843–1844, variously also known as the Revolt of 1844 or the Uprising of Dervish Cara (Albanian: Kryengritja e Dervish Carës), was a 19th-century uprising in northern Ottoman Albania directed against the Ottoman Tanzimat reforms which started in 1839 and were gradually being put in action in the regions of Albania. Some historians include the actions in Dibër of the same time under the same historical name, though the events in Dibër were independent and headed by other leaders.
The Tanzimat reforms began in 1839, and aimed to modernize the Ottoman Empire by introducing European-inspired reforms. Most importantly, it involved a centralization and streamlining of the administration and military. This hurt the old-established feudal order (cf. timariots and sipahis) among the Empire's Muslim communities, and especially the various local leaders who had exercised considerable regional authority and often enjoyed wide-ranging autonomy from the imperial government. The Albanians had long been a source of manpower for the Ottomans, providing both soldiers and statesmen such as the Köprülü family. The Tanzimat reforms however; in particular the replacement of influential local leaders by Ottoman functionaries, the imposition of new taxes, the compulsory recruitment into the regular army, and the attempt to disarm the general population; caused much resentment, and led to a series of disorders throughout the western Balkan provinces in 1840–43.
In the summer of 1843, the inhabitants of Prizren attacked and routed the new officials of the city and their example was followed by the inhabitants of Priştine (now Pristina) and Yakova (now Gjakova). These local insurrections in the cities were immediately suppressed by Ottoman authorities.
The direct cause of the uprising was the arresting and liquidation of the local Albanophone pashas, most notably that of Abdurrahman Pasha of Kalkandelen (now Tetovo) and his two brothers, Havzi Pasha of Üsküb (now Skopje) and Hussein Pasha of Kustendil. The rebels, who were led by Dervish Cara, also had the support of the Christian population and were assisted by other Albanophone pashas. The revolt began in Üsküb in July 1843 and grew strongly when an Ottoman army under Hajredin Pasha, in the process of opposing it, tried to recruit local Albanians into the regular army. In November the rebels liberated Gostivar and in January 1844, after bitter fights with the Ottoman army, they captured Kalkandelen. The leader of the rebels was Dervish Cara, who was assisted by various local leaders. In February 1844 the rebels attacked and captured Üsküb. They created a Great Council led by Dervish Cara which was the supreme body of the newly created administration in the liberated territories. In February 1844 the rebels took Kumanova (now Kumanovo). After Kumanova the rebels captured Preševo, Bujanovac, Vranje, Leskovac and other territories now in Serbia. The rebellion was spread to İpek, Yakova, Prizren and İşkodra (now Shkodër), while in the spring of 1844 the rebellion reached Ohri (now Ohrid) and Manastiri in the south, İşkodra in the west, Vranje and Leskovac in the north and Kumanova in the east. The rebels sent a letter to the Albanians of the Sanjak of Ioannina, recalling them as brothers and asking them not to fight for the Ottoman army.
Fearing a further extension of the rebellion, the Ottoman government tried to gain some time through negotiations. The requests of the rebels were:
The requests of the rebels were not accepted. In a move to disunite the rebels, the Ottoman government declared an amnesty, the abolishment of the new taxes and the postponement of the recruitment process, which would become voluntary in the future. A promise was made by the Ottoman commander in chief Omer Pasha to the Albanians that if they handed over their arms, they would receive the same rights as the Serbs in 1830, which meant autonomy. At the same time an Ottoman army of 30,000 men, led by Omer Pasha, was sent to Monastir. Bib Doda, Kepadan of Mirdita tribe in northern Albania, came with his men to aid to the Ottomans as a sign of loyalty to the Porte, playing an important role in the fights. In May 1844 the Ottoman army attacked the rebels, forcing them to retreat to the areas of Kalkandelen, Üsküb and Kumanova. Heavy fighting took place from 13–17 May 1844 in Katlanovo Pass, and on 18 May in Katlanovo thermals. Given the disparity of numbers and their lack of artillery, the rebels could no longer resist the superior Ottoman army. On 21 May 1844 the Ottoman army entered Üsküb, where many reprisals took place. During May–June, after bitter struggle with the rebels the Ottoman army retook Kumanova, Preševo, Bujanovac, Vranje, Kalkandelen and Gostivar whilst in July the Ottoman army captured all areas ranging from Kačanik to Pristina. Dervish Cara was captured by Ottoman forces in summer 1844.
The capture of Dervish Cara didn't put an end to the rebellion, which continued in the areas of Dibër and İşkodra. The resistance was very strong especially in Dibër under its local leaders. In the fall of 1844, the Ottoman army was concentrated against the rebels in the Sanjak of Dibra. Ottoman forces led by Rexhep Pasha were defeated by the rebels in the field of Mavrova. The rebels in the Sanjak of Dibër were led from Sheh Mustafa Zerqani, a Bektashi priest. In a meeting in November 1844 they declared that the old autonomy of Dibër was not to be changed. The rebel army led by Cen Leka tried to stop the advancing Ottoman army led by Hayredin Pasha. The Ottoman commander declared again an amnesty, the abolishment of the new taxes and the postponement of the recruitment process which would become voluntary in the future. The greatest resistance happened during the Battle of Gjuricë, which lasted for five days. According to the report of a French diplomat in Ioannina, even women and children participated in the battle. The Ottoman army suffered a great number of losses but due to their great superiority in numbers and armaments, they succeeded in forcing the rebels to retreat from the battle. The reprisals from the Ottoman army forced a large number of people to leave their homes. Although the rebellion was crushed, the Ottoman government postponed the application of Tanzimat for the Sanjak of Dibër and Shkodër. Dervish Cara together with other local leaders was sentenced to death, but this punishment was later transformed into a lifetime sentence.
As a sign of appreciation for his support, Bid Doda of Mirdita was decorated and awarded an honorary sabre and pistols. He was given the title "Pasha" and allowed to maintain an army up to 10,000 people.
The song on Hayredin Pasha remembering the Battle of Gjuricë is famous among Albanians and continues to be sung even nowadays.
In his fight against the rebels, the Kapedan of Mirdita, Bib Doda, fulfilled his obligations to the Sultan by providing a contingent of men who played an important role in putting down the uprising. He was decorated on several occasions by the Serasker and awarded an honorary sabre and pistols.
An Albanian army of about 10,000 men was formed between Skopje and Veles (Köprülü) under the command of Dervish Aga Zara.