The Ghegs or Gegs are one of two major ethnic subgroups of Albanians (the other being the Tosks) differentiated by their cultural, linguistic, social and religious characteristics. The Ghegs live in Albania (north of the Shkumbin river), Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro. The name Gheg is derived from the term initially used by Orthodox population of pre-Ottoman Albania for confessional denotation when referring to their Catholic neighbors who converted to Catholicism to better resist the Orthodox Serbs. The Ghegs speak Gheg Albanian, one of the two main dialects of Albanian language. The social organization of the Ghegs was traditionally tribal, with several distinct tribal groups of Ghegs.
The Ottoman Empire annexed and ruled the Tosk-inhabited south at the beginning of the 15th century, while territory populated by Ghegs remained out of the reach of the regular Ottoman civil administration until the beginning of the 20th century. As a consequence, the Ghegs evolved isolated from the Tosks. Similarly, the Islamization of the Ghegs was incomplete, with a large area of northwestern Albania remaining Catholic. The Ottomans never completely subdued the northern Albanian tribes of Ghegs because they were more useful to them as a stable source of mercenaries. Instead, they implemented the bayraktar system, and granted some privileges to the bayraktars (banner chiefs) in exchange for their obligation to mobilize local fighters to support military actions of the Ottoman forces. After establishment the state of Albania in the 20th century its politics has been centered on the constant rivalry for superiority between the Tosks and the Ghegs.