The Passing of Dr. Robert Elsie

Dear members and friends,

It is with great sadness that today I learned of the passing of Dr. Robert Elsie. Dr. Elsie needs no introduction. He was not only a scholar and a giant, but an institution of Albanian Studies for over 30 years.

His legacy includes over sixty books, including the most recent Albanian Alphabets: Borrowed and Invented (2017) and The Tribes of Albania: History, Society and Culture (2015) as well as translations of Jeton Neziraj: The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower: A Comedy of the Absurd for Four Actors (2017), and the three volume set of Michael Schmidt-Neke: chronology of an Albanian quarter of a century (1990-2015) (2016). He is the author of the magisterial Biographical Dictionary of Albanian History (2013), Historical Dictionary of Kosovo (2011), and Historical Dictionary of Albania (2010) among many, many other books.

In addition to being a translator himself, Dr. Elsie’s own work has been translated into dozens of languages. His personal website,, remains one of the greatest resources for Albanian Studies online and perhaps unmatched by any non-virtual institution.

The Tirana Times pays a full biographical tribute to Dr. Elsie here.

While having communicated with Dr. Elsie on many occasions, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Elsie many years ago when I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, where he came to give a lecture. He was a delightful, open-hearted, generous man. Most recently, I communicated with him about our book award. He graciously accepted my invitation to become a member of the Society for Albanian Studies, calling it “an honor.” 

No words can describe the immensity of this loss. On behalf of the Society for Albanian Studies, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, dearest friends and colleagues, and the scholarly community in Albanian Studies and beyond.

We will hold an In Memoriam for Dr. Elsie at our next meeting at ASEEES in Chicago. We will also plan a series of future commemorative events to remember the life and legacy of Dr. Elsie.


Dr. Besnik Pula

President, The Society for Albanian Studies

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