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‘Bajraktar’ Portrait


Zef Sokoli is the ‘ Bajraktar’ (literally ‘standard bearer’) of Shala. The ‘Bajraktars’ are the highest officials and chief interpreters of the ‘Kanun’. In the past they were responsible for ensuring the ‘Kanun’s’ laws were upheld and, in times of war, commanding the men in battle. Today their role in the community is diminished to settling local land and water disputes and, more importantly, organizing the reconciliation of blood feuds. Zef’s great grandfather (in the photo he holds) was killed by Zog, Albania’s first dictator. Zog, who ruled from 1925-1939 (declaring himself king in 1928), had to unofficially accept the ‘Kanun’ as a parallel authority to that of the state in the highlands. However Hoxha, who killed Zef’s father in the fifties, had no intention of doing so, although many of the ‘Kanun’s’ practises did continue, in secret until 1967. Zef himself spent much of his youth in prisons and labour camps simply because he had inherited the title of ‘Bajraktar’. Nicaj village.