Naim Frashëri was an Albanian poet, writer and one of the most prominent patriots of the Albanian national movement for independence from the Ottoman Empire. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Albania. He authored 22 works. Ë
Naim Frashëri was born in 1846 in Frashër, a village of 1500 residents in the Vilayet of Janina. Naim spent his childhood in Frashër, where he began learning Ottoman Turkish, Persian and Arabic. As a member of a family which gave him a strong Bektashi upbringing he spent a part of his time in a Bektashi tekke. After the death of their parents the family moved to Ioannina in 1865. The oldest of brothers, Abdyl, became the family head at the age of 22 and started working as a merchant. That year Naim and Sami enrolled in the Zosimaia secondary school. The education there provided Naim with the basics of a classical education along Western lines. Apart from languages he learned in the Zosiamaia (Ancient and Modern Greek, French and Italian), Naim took private lessons in Persian, Turkish and Arabic from two important local Bektashi. Frashëri showed interest in Bektashism, Persian poetry and Age of Enlightenment. Robert Elsie states that “His education in Janina made of him a prime example of a nineteenth-century Ottoman intellectual equally at home in both cultures, the Western and the Oriental”.
After he finished his studies in 1870, Naim worked for a few months at the press office in Istanbul (1870) but was forced to return to his home village because of tuberculosis. The climate of Frashër helped Naim and soon he started work in the Ottoman bureaucracy as a clerk in Berat and later in Saranda (1872–1877). However, in 1876 Frashëri left the job and went to Baden, in modern Austria to cure his problems with rheumatism in a health resort. In 1879 along with his brother Sami and 25 other Albanians, Naim Frashëri founded and was a member of the Society for the Publication of Albanian Writings in Istanbul that promoted Albanian language publications. Ottoman authorities forbid writing in Albanian that resulted in publications being published abroad and Frashëri used his initials N.H.F to bypass those restrictions for his works.
An Albanian magazine Drita appeared in 1884 under the editorship of Petro Poga and later Pandeli Sotiri with Naim Frashëri being a behind the scenes editor as Muslim Albanians were not allowed by Ottoman authorities to write in Albanian at that time. Naim Frashëri and other Albanian writers like his brother Sami Frashëri would write using pseudonyms in Poga’s publication. Due to a lack of education material Naim Frashëri, his brother Sami and several other Albanians wrote textbooks in the Albanian language during the late 1880s for the Albanian school in Korçë. In a letter to Faik Konitza in 1887, Frashëri expressed sentiments regarding the precarious state of the Ottoman Empire that the best outcome for Albanians was a future annexation of all of Albania by Austria-Hungary.
In 1900 Naim Frashëri died in Istanbul. During the 1950s the Turkish government allowed for his remains to be sent and reburied in Albania.
Through his writings, Frashëri exerted a strong influence on later Albanian literature and society. In particular Albanian Bektashis were influenced by Frashëri’s writings which promoted national unity and nationalism that made Bektashi order in Albania follow patriotic and nationalistic trends. Frashëri himself a Bektashi Muslim desired purity of the Albanian language and had attempted in his lifetime to Albanianize hierarchical terms of the order in his work Notebook of the Bektashis (1896) which also called for an Albanian Bektashism. During Frashëri’s lifetime he published influential works of Albanian literature. His poem Bagëti e Bujqësi (Cattle and Land) in 1886 celebrated the natural beauty of Albania and the simple life of Albanians while expressing gratitude that Albania had bestowed upon him “the name Albanian”.
In 1889, another poem Skenderbeg long in verse celebrated his love for Albania by referring to the medieval battles of Albanians and Ottomans while highlighting Skenderbeg’s Albanian origins and his fight for liberation. In the poem “Our Language” Frashëri called for fellow Albanians to honor their nation and write in Albanian, while in another poem Feja (Religion) he pleaded with Albanians not make religious distinctions among themselves as they all were of one origin that speak Albanian.
The independent Albanian state created an order of merit that bears his name awarded to, amongst others, Mother Teresa. A publishing house in Tirana was named Naim Frashëri. Some Albanian elementary schools are named Naim Frashëri in his honor.
Naim Frashëri is depicted on the obverses of the Albanian 500 lekë banknote of 1992–1996, and the 200 lekë banknote issued since 1996.