This article is about Albania, the country on the Adriatic coast of the Balkans. For other historic uses, see Albania (disambiguation).
Republika e Shqipërisë
Republic of Albania
Flag of Albania Coat of arms of Albania
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Himni i Flamurit
"Hymn to the Flag"
Location of Albania
Capital Tirana
Largest city Tirana
Official language Albanian
Government Republic
 - President Alfred Moisiu
 - Prime Minister Sali Berisha
Independence from the Ottoman Empire 
 - Date November 28 1912 
 - Total 28 748 km² (139th)
11,100 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 4.7
 - 2005 estimate 3,581,655 (130th)
 - Density 123/km² (63)
318.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2007 estimate
 - Total $19.818 billion[1] (112th)
 - Per capita $6,259 (100th)
HDI  (2003) 0.784 (medium) (73rd)
Currency Lek (ALL)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 - Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Internet TLD .al
Calling code +355

The Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë, IPA [ɾɛˈpubliˌka ɛ ˌʃcipəˈɾis]) is a Balkan country in Southeastern Europe. It borders Montenegro to the north, the Serbian province of Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia in the east, and Greece in the south. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west and a coast on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. Despite having a troubled history, the country has been classified as an emerging democracy since the 1990s.






Most scholars consider that Albanians are direct descendants of an Illyrian tribe that was named "Albanoi," which was located in modern-day Albania[citation needed]. Some scholars dispute this while others claim that Albanians and Illyrians are descendants of the ancient Pelasgians, making their history go back at least four thousand years before Christ. Their presence can be traced back to the formulation of their political structure in the seventh and sixth centuries BC. Excellent metal craftsmen and fierce warriors, the Illyrians formed warlord-based kingdoms that fought amongst themselves for most of their history. Only during the sixth century BC did the Illyrians venture significant raids against their immediate neighbours: the kingdom of the Molossians in southern Albania, the kingdom of Macedon, and the kingdom of Paionia.

The lands that are today inhabited by Albanians were first populated in the Paleolithic Age (Stone Age), over one hundred thousand years ago. The first zones that were initially settled were those with adequate geographical conditions. In Albania, the earliest settlements have been discovered in the Gajtan cavern (Shkodra), in Konispol, at mount Dajti, and at Xara (Saranda)[citation needed]. Primitive peoples lived in secluded groups, mainly in dry caves that would also protect from the wind. They used stones and bones as their tools. Places such as caverns and terrains close to rivers were used to work on stone. In any case, the tools from this age were simple and created primarily from stone. Paleolithic peoples fed on collected products from plants and hunted wild animals. Because of the harsh conditions that they lived in, they had a short lifespan of around twenty-one to thirty years, with higher youth mortality. The fight against harsh living conditions led to strengthened connections among the members of each group and in a change of organization of primitive peoples. At the end of the Paleolithic Age, the primitives transformed into a grouping among bloodlines where the origins were traced to the mother. Thus a matriarchal society developed, which became common in later periods in the Neolithic age (New Stone Age). The inhabitation of Albanian lands increased in the Neolithic age. People began to abandon caverns and settle in open areas. Neolithic people were more prone to build their settlements in open fields or next to rivers. A large number of such settlements are discovered in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, and the Republic of Macedonia. Aboriginals gradually developed stable settlements and started an agricultural economy. They knew how to plant barley, millet, and rice. This was associated with the development of matriarchy and this epoch saw the beginning of paired marriages.[2]


Aboriginal discoveries

Among the most prominent inventions during the Paleolithic Age was the discovery of fire, which aided ancient inhabitants in cooking food and provided warmth. The cooking of food by fire brought qualitative changes to the digestive organs of humans. Economic changes and social organization of the epoch influenced other technical inventions. Humans learned to work with mud and make utensils, which were frequently artistically decorated. They also learned to work with fabric and build huts made of canes and layered with mud for protection against the wind. Tools in the Neolithic epoch were far superior to those of earlier times.

A bonanza of new tools were invented. Spades for working the land and hammers were made out of deer horns. Fishing increased and was improved with the creation of fishing nets and hooks. Tools for hunting wild animals were also invented or refined. The economy was further expanded with the taming of wild animals. Although primitive, hunting enabled people of this epoch to tame the sheep, goat, horse, and dog. All of these circumstances forced the connection of generic groups, improved connections with other groups and stimulated exchanges even in far away regions. In the Bronze Age (c.3000-2100 BC) new changes came about. The stockbreeding and agricultural economies separated, enabling specific groups to master either stockbreeding or agriculture. Shepherds were more nomadic and began to live again in caves. New settlements were founded and people began to build settlements next to rivers, with the foundations being in the rivers. Tools were now made from bronze and sparked a variety of new techniques. Domesticated animals helped to cultivate the land. The stockbreeding economy gave an advantage to men and the matriarchal system began to weaken. This epoch produced the patriarchal system, which was further strengthened in the Iron age.[3]



The Bronze Age is characterized with shifting demographics. Stockbreeding people came from the east around the mid 3000s B.C. to the early 2000s B.C. They mixed with the indigenous peoples and thus created the Indo-European peoples of the Balkans. This population is believed to be the ancient Pelasgians, which have been mentioned frequently by ancient writers such as Homer, Herodotus, and Thucydides. The Pelasgians are known as the most ancient inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula, living before Illyrian or Greek times. From their first appearance in the region, the Pelasgians adopted a matriarchal system. Several different opinions arise when their ethnicity is analyzed. From the seventeenth century, specifically from the Albanian Rilindja (Rebirth), the theory that the Pelasgian language was connected with Albanian was dominant among Albanian and foreign researchers. The most active supporter of this theory was Austrian linguist Hahn.

The differentiation of populations by ethnicity began during the Bronze Age. Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian in the fifth century BC, writes about the Pelasgians that continued to live in Greece. According to him, the language of the Pelasgians was different from Greek. They dealt with agriculture and the sea and were excellent builders. The Pelasgians built the wall around the Acropolis of Athens and were rewarded with lands in Attica by the Athenians. These worthless lands were turned into excellent agricultural resources by the Pelasgians.[4]



The Illyrians created and developed their culture, language and anthropological features in the western part of the Balkans, where ancient writers mention them in their works. The regions that the Illyrians inhabited are considerably expansive. They include the entire western peninsula, north to central Europe, south to the Ambracian Gulf (Preveza, Greece), and east around the Lyhind Lake (Ohrid Lake). Other Illyrian tribes also migrated and developed in Italy. Among them were the Messapii and Iapyges. The name 'Illyria' is mentioned in works since the fifth century BC while some tribe names are mentioned as early as the twelfth century BC by Homer. The ethnic formation of the Illyrians, however, is much older.

The beginning of Illyrian origins in by the fifteenth century BC, from the mid-Bronze Age, when Illyrian ethnic features began to form. By the Iron Age, the Illyrians were fully distinct and had inherited their developing anthropological features and language from the Neolithic and Bronze ages. The old theory that the Illyrians came from Central Europe during the seventh to ninth centuries has been disproved and disbanded by studies performed following World War II. The fact that graves with urns, characteristic of Central Europe, are not found in Illyrian settlements severely damage the theory. Central European influence on the Illyrians is a result of cultural exchanges and movement of artisans.[5]


Roman and Byzantine rule

After being conquered by the Roman Empire, Illyria was reorganized as a Roman province. Illyricum was later divided into the provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia, the lands comprising modern-day Albania mostly being included in the former. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire governed the region. It was also ruled by the Bulgarian and the Serbian Empire at various points in the Middle Ages.


Ottoman rule

Statue of Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg. Skanderbeg is considered the national hero of Albania.
Statue of Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg. Skanderbeg is considered the national hero of Albania.

In the Middle Ages, the name Albania (see Origin and history of the name Albania) began to be increasingly applied to the region now comprising the nation of Albania. From 1443 to 1468 Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg led a successful resistance against the invading Ottomans. After the death of Skanderbeg, resistance continued until 1478, although with only moderate success. The loyalties and alliances created and nurtured by Skanderbeg faltered and fell apart, and the Ottomans conquered the territory of Albania shortly after the fall of Kruje's castle. Albania then became part of the Ottoman Empire. Following this, many Albanians fled to neighboring Italy, mostly to Calabria and Sicily. The majority of the Albanian population that remained converted to Islam. They would remain a part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912.


Effects of the Balkan Wars

After the Second Balkan War, the Ottomans were removed from Albania and there was a possibility of some of the lands being absorbed by Serbia and the southern tip by Greece. This decision angered the Italians, who did not want Serbia to have an extended coastline, and it also angered the Austro-Hungarians, who did not want a powerful Serbia on their southern border. Despite Serbian, Montenegrin, and Greek occupation forces on the ground, and under immense pressure from Austria-Hungary, it was decided that the country should not be divided but instead consolidated into the Principality of Albania. From 1925, the country was ruled by President Ahmet Zogu, who in 1928 became King Zog I.


King Zog Ist, 13 Years of the First Albanian Monarchy

After the Albanian Government changed hands for a few years, Ahmet Zogu came to power. After ruling Albania for a few years, he declared himself the First Albanian Monarch. He brought stability to the country after 450 years of the Ottoman rule. His task was very difficult since the Turkish mentality was in "good health" among the albanians. He styled himself as an european king, married a Hungarian Princess, and introduced the european style of life to the Albanian people after centuries of living an eastern lifestyle. Aftr the communist took power, they used the whole Albanian propaganda machine to demonize him. Even today he is very little known to the albanians themselves.


World War II and rule of Enver Hoxha

Enver Hoxha
Enver Hoxha

Italy invaded Albania on 7 April 1939, meeting little resistance, and took control of the country. During this time, the Italians annexed parts of Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Northern Epirus to the country. This led to an ironic situation for the nationalists: although the country was occupied, the dream of a Greater Albania was realized. Albanian communists and nationalists actively fought a partisan war against the Italian and German invasions in World War II. The socialists (most often called communists) took over after World War II. In November 1944, the communists gained control of the government under the leader of the resistance, Enver Hoxha. The Communist Party was created on November 8, 1941 with the help of Bolshevik Communist Parties, under the guidance of the Yougoslavian Communist Party..

For the many decades under his totalitarian domination, Hoxha created and destroyed relationships with Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and China. Towards the end of the Hoxha era, Albania was isolated, first from the capitalist West (Western Europe, North America and Australasia) and later even from the communist East. In 1985, Hoxha died.


Ramiz Alia - Albania's quiet Gorbachev

The signs of democracy had already started in Eastern Europe. Mikhail Gorbachev had appeared in the Soviet Union with new policies (glasnost and perestroika).

After Hoxha's death, Ramiz Alia, considered the most inteligent and the most liberal-minded among the communist government took power. It was his guidance that stopped the bloodshed in Albania during 1990-1991 when Albanians rose, like the rest of Eastern Europe, against the communism. Thanks to him Albanian did not have the same fate as the Romanians where 60,000 were killed before Nicolae Ceauşescu, the communist leader of Romania, was executed in 1989. Alia signed the United Nations Helsinki Agreement, which had already been signed by many other countries in 1975, that respected some human rights. While in power, Ramiz Alia allowed the people to vote freely. He also allowed pluralism, and even though his party won the election of 1991, it was clear that change would not be stopped. In 1992 general elections were held again and won by the new Democratic Party with 62% of the votes. Alia resigned and Sali Berisha was the first post-communist president elected.


The Rise of Democracy

In the general elections of June 1996 the Democratic Party tried to win an absolute majority and manipulated the results [citation needed], winning over 85% of parliamentary seats. In 1997 an epidemic of pyramid schemes sent shockwaves through the entire country's economy, which resulted in widespread riots. Police stations and military bases were looted of millions of Kalashnikovs and other weapons. Anarchy prevailed,[6] and militia and even less-organized armed citizens controlled many cities. Even American military advisors left the country for their own safety. The government of Aleksander Meksi resigned and a government of national unity was built. In response to the anarchy[citation needed], the Socialist Party won the early elections of 1997 and Berisha resigned the Presidency.

However, stability was far from being restored in the years after the 1997 riots. The power feuds raging inside the Socialist Party led to a series of short-lived Socialist governments. The country was flooded with refugees from neighboring Kosovo in 1998 and 1999 during the Kosovo War. In June 2002, a compromise candidate, Alfred Moisiu, a former general, was elected to succeed President Rexhep Meidani. Parliamentary elections in July 2005 brought Sali Berisha, as leader of the Democratic Party, back to power, mostly owing to Socialist infighting and a series of corruption scandals plaguing the government of Fatos Nano.[citation needed]

The Euro-Atlantic integration of Albania has been the ultimate goal of the post-communist governments. Albania's EU membership bid, along with the rest of the Western Balkans, has been set as a priority by the European Commission. On 2006 Albania signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, thus completing the first major step towards joining the bloc[citation needed]. Albania, along with Croatia and Macedonia, is also expected to receive an invitation to join NATO in 2008.[citation needed]

The workforce of Albania has continued to migrate to Greece, Italy, Germany and other parts of Europe, and North America. However, the migration flux is slowly decreasing, as more and more opportunities are emerging in Albania itself.


Administrative subdivisions

Counties of Albania
Counties of Albania

Albania is divided into twelve counties (Albanian: official qark/qarku, but often prefekturë/prefektura), sometimes translated as prefecture). Each county is subdivided into several districts:

County Districts Capital
1 Berat Berat, Kuçovë, Skrapar Berat
2 Dibër Bulqizë, Dibër, Mat Peshkopi
3 Durrës Durrës, Krujë Durrës
4 Elbasan Elbasan, Gramsh, Librazhd, Peqin Elbasan
5 Fier Fier, Lushnjë, Mallakastër Fier
6 Gjirokastër Gjirokastër, Përmet, Tepelenë Gjirokastër
7 Korçë Devoll, Kolonjë, Korçë, Pogradec Korçë
8 Kukës Has, Kukës, Tropojë Kukës
9 Lezhë Kurbin, Lezhë, Mirditë Lezhë
10 Shkodër Malësi e Madhe, Pukë, Shkodër Shkodër
11 Tiranë Kavajë, Tiranë Tiranë
12 Vlorë Delvinë, Sarandë, Vlorë Vlorë


Map of Albania
Map of Albania
Albania's Adriatic coastline
Albania's Adriatic coastline

Albania consists of mostly hilly and mountainous terrain, with the highest mountain, Korab in the district of Dibra, reaching up to 2,753 metres (9,032 ft). The country mostly has a continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. Besides the capital city of Tirana, which has 800,000 inhabitants, the principal cities are Durrës, Elbasan, Shkodër, Gjirokastër, Vlorë, Korçë and Kukës. In Albanian grammar, a word can have indefinite and definite forms, and this also applies to city names: both Tiranë and Tirana, Shkodër and Shkodra are used.



Albania has a very rich blend of religions and cultures[1]. The majority of the population is comprised of ethnic Albanians. Other minorities include Greeks, Serbs, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Roma (Gypsies), Vlach, and Italians. The dominant language is Albanian, with two distinct dialects, Gheg and Tosk. Many Albanians are also fluent in English, Greek and Italian.

As a part of the Ottoman Empire, Albania was forced to become a Muslim territory. During the communist era religion was prohibited, and Albania has been proclaimed as the only officially atheist country in the world, claiming the religion to be Albanianism. Today, with the freedom of religion and worship, Albania consists of numerous religions and denominations; however religious affiliation is hard to determine as most people prefer to be identified as secularists or non-religious. Statistics vary from different sources: around 70% are said to be nominally Muslim, 20% Roman Catholic, and 10% Orthodox Christian. Though small, other main religions of the world also have some representation in Albania. Religious fanaticism has never been a problem[7], with people from different religious groups living in peace and even inter-marrying. Intermarriage across religions is very common, and an immensely strong sense of Albanian identity has tended to bind Albanians of all religious practices together.[8]



Since the fall of communism in 1989, Albania has launched economic programs towards a more open-market economy[citation needed]. The democratically elected government that assumed office in April 1992 launched an ambitious economic reform program to halt economic deterioration and put the country on the path toward a market economy[citation needed]. Key elements included price and exchange system liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a firm income policy[citation needed]. These were complemented by a comprehensive package of structural reforms, including privatization, enterprise, and financial sector reform, and creation of the legal framework for a market economy and private sector activity. Most prices were liberalized and are now approaching levels typical of the region[citation needed]. Most agriculture, state housing, and small industry were privatized, along with transportation, services, and small and medium-sized enterprises[citation needed]. After severe economic contraction following 1989, the economy slowly rebounded, finally surpassing its 1989 levels by the end of the 1990s. GDP per capita. Since prices have also risen, however, economic hardship has continued for much of the population. In 1995, Albania began privatizing large state enterprises. Since 2000, Albania has experienced a more rapid expansion of its economy.[citation needed]

Following the signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in June/July 2006, EU ministers urged Albania to push ahead with reforms, focusing on press freedom, property rights, institution building, respect for ethnic minorities and observing international standards in municipal elections.

Albania's coastline on the Ionian Sea, especially near the Greek tourist island of Corfu, is becoming increasingly popular with tourists due to its relatively unspoiled nature and its beaches. The tourism industry is growing rapidly.


Notes and references

  1. Source for Albania GDP information IMF Albania Data
  2. "The Aboriginals" The Aboriginals and Their Way of Life
  3. "The Aboriginals" Aboriginal Discoveries
  4. "The Aboriginals" Pelasgians
  5. "The Illyrians"

See also


External links

Official government websites

Black Sea Economic Cooperation
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