Kanun: Blood should be repaid with blood

The tradition of blood feud has very deep roots in Albanian world, starting from a code of honor called “Kanuni i Leke Dukagjinit”. Unfortunately this tradition still remains present despite the flow of time.

The “Kanun”, or code, was written down in the fifteenth century by an Albanian prince named Leke Dukagjini. It contains laws according to which the Albanians have lived for decades. Even though many years have passed and the Albanian society experienced a profound social transformation, some traditions still stand strong on the Albanian soil. Blood feud still holds a firm grasp over the Albanian society. Today, these laws continue to exist in the northern Albania and in Kosovo. These laws have touched the lives of people of different ages, but according to the Kanun, women and children are not included in a blood feud.


A phenomenon which has strong ties to blood feud is the isolation from everything. In order to get away from the feud, people stay isolated in their home, which according to the Kanun is the only place in which the feuder is forbidden to enter, therefore making it the only place which is considered safe. On the Albanian soil, there are near one thousand families which suffer from the fear of death. There are cases in which people stay shut up in their homes for many years, not leaving their house for even a split of a second hoping that perhaps the feuder will forgive them, and forget about the past. However, the question lies in why does this happen? According to a study made by the association “Drejtesi dhe Paqe”, 56% of the people interviewed said that they would seek revenge in order to protect their family’s honor, and 44% of them will do so because they do not have faith in the justice system.

Possible hope

As long as this so-called law existed and was being used by people, others would always try to stop and prevent this tradition. Nowadays, there are many people and NGOs who dedicate their work to the reconciliation of families that are in a blood feud, and help bring peace among them. However, in most cases their efforts are unsuccessful and people continue this tradition.

Arbër Maliqi