First Impressions

Çorraj, like Fterrë, sits on the slope of a low but long valley where a number of ancient villages sit like stars in a constellation. That constellation was once a rich social and commercial route, the points of which moved with some frequency over the centuries, in response to forces of business and war that periodically swept the region. Like so many other villages in the region, the present-day location of Çorraj is only the most recent one, where things settled in modernity. Reflecting the long history of shared culture in the Kuç Valley, Çorraj has a documented history of coexisting religions. Also shared with so many villages of the region, Çorraj is overgrown. It hasn’t been a fully occupied, fully functioning village for twenty-five years, and even before that, in its communist period, the people there were poor and able to perform only very modest repairs on the buildings. Since then, the village has deteriorated elegantly, its raw stacked stone slipping graciously back into the earth.

The People

The people

The peacefulness of the village of Çorraj is evident in the coexistence of residents who are Christian-Orthodox and those who are Muslim. Ever since the partial conversion of residents to Islam, nearly two centuries ago, the two communities have lived in harmony. For example, it is traditional that during Easter, the whole village celebrates together, with half the food prepared according to Halal laws and the other half prepared for the Christian residents.

The roots – the history

Surveys conducted by archaeological teams have found lytic tools dating to the Paleolithic and Mesolithic period within Çorraj and the vicinity. The first written document where Çorraj village is mentioned dates to 1431. In the document, Çorraj is called “Cërnagore,” and is described as consisting of two sections, Lleshani and Çornica. The document counts seventy-four houses in total. In later written documents, from 1551 (during Ottoman rule), the village is said to have forty-four houses. According to this document, the village and its agricultural products were claimed as part of the Province of Himare, in the latter’s attempt to be connected to the alliance with the papacy in 1581 and the Russian Tzar in 1759. However, ethnographically this village is part of the lower unit of Kurvelesh. In the late eighteenth century, during the rule of Ali Pasha, part of the village was converted to Islam. In uprisings against the Tanzimat, the village of Çorraj became a point of resistance. Residents of the village have since been very active in efforts to declare the independence of the Albanian state. Residents of Çorraj are distinguished by their education and intellectual regard. Many have completed higher education and work in different state institutions. Like in the rest of the region, residents sing polyphony. Unique to the song of Çorraj is what is referred to as “Labçe.”

The setting

Urban fabric, architecture Çorraj lies at the foot of the Mount of Vakajve and on the north side is bordered with Kuç, on its east side lies the village of Fterrë, while in the south the rock of Pollacës. The peaks surrounding the village 1,404 meters high (Gjinnikës) and 1,112 meters (Dhri). Scarce lands of the countryside rise to the height of 200 meters above sea level and marine winds create a warm and stable climate. Many ruins are found in the northern part of the village, where streets are paved with cobblestone and there are churches from the medieval period, but studies have not been done yet to date them and to find the cause of the demolition and their abandonment. Dwellings in the village, as well as those of the region, are built with stones from the surrounding landscape. Traditional houses are covered with stone slabs and encircled by walls inside of which farmers usually grow fruit trees and vegetables.

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