The Human Price of a Centuries-Old Vendetta- page 5 | History | Smithsonian
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Emin Spahija was head of the Peace Missionaries Union, working to end blood feuds in Albania. He was murdered in August 2004. (Guillaume Herbaut / Institute)
An abandoned cemetery on the outskirts of Shkodra. (Guillaume Herbaut / Institute)
The father of the Peta family was murdered. At the time this photo was taken, his brother (right) was waiting for the children to grow up before he took revenge. (Guillaume Herbaut / Institute)
Entrance to the home of a family living shut away because of a blood feud. (Guillaume Herbaut / Institute)
Eliola, seen here at age 10, dreamed of revenge after her father was killed in front of the door to their home. (Photo by Guillaume Herbaut / Institute.)
Thousands of Albanians currently live in isolation, confined to their homes for fear of being killed in blood feuds. The tradition is rooted in a 15th-century code of conduct called the Kanun, which was revived after the fall of communism in 1990. In many regions, it commands more authority than contemporary criminal law.

Arguments, slights and long-standing rivalries escalate into fights that engulf entire families, including children. A French photographer named Guillaume Herbaut traveled to northern Albania to document the lives of people in hiding. Children such as Christian and Alexander Vukai (above), he says, “can’t imagine a future.” The boys, then ages 8 and 10, had never gone to school and had no contact with the outside world. “They live with a law stronger than their destiny,” Herbaut says. “For them, time is stopped.” (Photo by Guillaume Herbaut / Institute.)

Mustapha Daija, a blood feud negotiator. (Photo by Guillaume Herbaut / Institute.)

The Human Price of a Centuries-Old Vendetta

In Albania, the revival of a 15th-century code has trapped families in multigenerational blood feuds

Thousands of Albanians currently live in isolation, confined to their homes for fear of being killed in blood feuds. The tradition is rooted in a 15th-century code of conduct called the Kanun, which was revived after the fall of communism in 1990. A French photographer named Guillaume Herbaut traveled to northern Albania to document the lives of people in hiding. “They live with a law stronger than their destiny,” Herbaut says. “For them, time is stopped.”

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