Martin and Mirash Ivanaj were the youngest of 8 siblings born to a well known family of the area known as Malësia of Shkodra since the time that it was part of the Ottoman Empire. Their father was Dodë Ivani Ivanaya, a wealthy land owner in Beqaj which belonged to the Tribe of Triepsh. Their mother, Zogë Nickea (Eoghe Nickine), was born in the Tribe of Grudë. Having been politically persecuted and condemned to death by the Turks, Dode relocated his family to Podgoriça, together with his brother Leka, around 1882.

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Villa Ivanaj - 1938 (click for more pictures)

Their paternal and maternal families consisted of a great number of people (50 to 70 members) of Illyrian and Albanian patriarchal ancestry. After the occupation of Podgoriça, their uncle Leka who had represented his region at the Congress of Prizren in 1878, was killed in Shkodra in 1894 while attempting to relocate his family because he had refused Montenegro’s Prince Nikolla offer to be his representative for Malësia of Shkodra.

The two young brothers

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Martin and Mirash’s household continued to preserve an old, typical Illyric way of life reflected in legends and myths about the heroes of their tribes. The same can be said about the religious conservation of names and events of past generations of their family, which formed an unbroken chain for hundreds of years. They were brought up well, in a classic, full sense, Albanian system, based on traditions of bravery, courtesy, and honesty. These were the well-known qualities of the Albanian tribes, which their family belonged to, devoted to the Code of Leka (old Canon of Law).

Within their own family circle, among other things, they understood in detail the perpetuation of various well-known ceremonies, thousands of years old, and very well conserved, such as the ones related to matrimony and death, because their sisters, although with only elementary education, were united in marriage to other tribes (Hoti and Grudë) of Malësia of Shkodra. Both the national original dresses and language were very well preserved throughout the entire families existence.

In Podgoriça Martin and Mirash began learning Slavic. Thanks to their newly acquired language, their father was able to send them to Belgrade to attend high school, because there was no such level of education in Montenegro at the time.

The two brothers continued their higher education abroad, even after their parents’ demise (father in 1913 and mother in 1916) and obtained in the 1920’s their degrees in Jurisprudence and Letters/Phylosophy at the University of Rome in Italy, known today as “La Sapienza”. 

Ivanaj Brothers - Mementos

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They lived and remained together, serving their country, for the rest of their lives, but died in different places under very different circumstances. Since 1995, however, their remains have been reunited and they now rest in peace in Tirana’s main cemetery, the motherland they worked for and loved so much. Their biographies follow.

Dr. Martin Ivanaj


Bio. of Dr. Martin Ivanaj



Bio. of Prof. Dr. Mirash Ivanaj