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5.3.1.1 Demography

We can document all of these processes through several types of analysis, each of which tends to reinforce the overall conclusions. The first method is simply demographic; normally one would like to begin with at least sporadic census data to establish basic demographic trends. Shala's successful autonomy under the Ottomans makes such an attempt highly problematic, as does the corruption of even the most modern records during the Communist era. Fortunately we do have some demographic data: information from 20th-century travellers; a 1918 Austro-Hungarian attempt at a highly accurate census for which the manuscript details survive; and very recent census counts. Edith Durham claimed that the Bajrak of Theth in 1908 contained 180 houses (Durham 1985 [1909]). Then in 1918 the Austrian military occupying Albania commissioned a complete census of the country, and laid very careful groundwork to avoid old habits of not counting women (Seiner 1922; see recent analysis by Gruber 2001). For Theth (including the outlying neighbourhood of Nderlysaj) the census recorded 98 houses and 131 households, and a total population of 769. Our 2005 field survey found 173 houses (the majority abandoned) and then added the houses surveyed in Nderlysaj in 2006 for a total of 194. Local officials provided the 2004 family (or household) count of 290, although that list includes all families with property ties to the village, many of whom have emigrated (Table 5).

Several issues arise from even these sparse data. First, there is the apparent anomalous 'dip' in house count from 180 in 1908 to 98 in 1918, and then back up to a very similar number in 2005 (n=173). It seems likely that when Durham asked her question about 'houses' the answer she got was not about the number of buildings, but instead the number of households, more than one of which could be living under one roof. This was a linguistic problem of which we also eventually became aware, as the word for house (shpi) is often used interchangeably with the English definition of household. Assuming the 1918 census is accurate, it yields a house to household ratio of 1:1.34. Using that same ratio for Durham, and assuming she was told about households not houses, her figure of 180 becomes approximately 134 houses. The 1918 reduction in households may reflect wartime losses or out migration, thus producing a skewed house to household ratio, explaining why our calculated number of houses for Durham still seems too high. It is also possible that the Bajrak of Theth in 1908 may have comprised additional neighbourhoods that now fall under different administrative divisions. Even if we ignore Durham's figures and merely compare the rate of increase in the number of houses to the rate of increase in households from 1918 to 2005 there is a strong suggestion of intense pressure on living space in the village over the course of the 20th century (the annual growth rate in households is <1%). Furthermore, there is a tradition recounted in interviews conducted in 2006 that the village of Rrogam, further up and east into the mountains, was founded as an expansion from Theth around 1940. (N.B. it is possible that some settlement may have existed at Rrogam prior to 1940, since the toponym is shown on older maps. However, the settlement clearly expanded into a proper village after WWII. British intelligence summaries from the Naval Intelligence Division 1945 also noted that many families from Shala had migrated to Peç in Yugoslavia (now Peja in Kosova), but they do not indicate when that movement occurred. Post-1918 national and regional demographic information is available in various formats, but applying any of the larger trends to a small region is problematic because the Shala Valley was administratively grouped with Shkodër, and its urban pattern dominated the demographics of that administrative district; see Sjöberg 1991).

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