Albania facts & history
Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Map of Albania
Albania is a Mediterranean country in southeastern Europe.
It is bordered by Montenegro in the north, Kosovo
in the north-east - both still formally part of
Serbia-Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia in the
east, and Greece in the south, has a coast on the
Adriatic Sea in the west, and a coast on
the Ionian Sea in the southwest.
The country is an emerging democracy
and is formally named the Republic of
Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipėrisė).
National motto (not verified):
Feja e Shqiptareve ėshtė Shqiptaria
(The religion of the Albanians is
Albanian national consciousness)
Official language: Albanian
("Shqip" or "gjuha shqipe" in Albanian).
Capital: Tirana (Tiranė)
Population: 353,400 (2003)
Coordinates: 41°20' N 19°48' E
Head of State: President
Head of Government Prime Minister
Area: 28,748 km²
Independence: From the Ottoman Empire - November 28, 1912
National Day: 28 November
Religions: Muslim 70%, Greek Orthodox 20%, Roman Catholic 10%
Currency: Lek (Lk) = 100 qindarka ("cents")
Time zone: UTC+2:00
National anthem: Hymni i Flamurit (/Rreth Flamurit tė pėrbashkuar)
Albanian: Hymn to the Flag (/United around the Flag)
Internet TLD: .al
Calling Code: 355
It should be noted that Albania is a name
given to the country by foreigners.
In the native language, Albania is called
Shqiperi (meaning "eagle's nest");
Albanians themselves are called Shqipetare
and the language itself Shqip.
Albania probably derives from the same
Indo-European source as the name of the
Alps, which also appears in the Scottish
"Albainn", for "highlands".
Alternatively, "Albania" may derive from the
ancient Indo-European root *albho, meaning "white",
which also gave the name Albion,
the ancient name of England.
The first known occurance of the word
Albanoi as the name of an Illyrian tribe
in what is now north-central Albania goes
back to 130 AD, in a work of Ptolemy.
Albanopolis of the Albani is a place located
on the map of Ptolemy and also named on
an ancient family epitaph at Scupi (near Skopje),
which has been identified with the Zgėrdhesh
hill-fort near Kruja in northern Albania.
Arbanon is likely to be the name of a district -
the plain of the Mat has been suggested -
rather than a particular place.
An indication of movement from higher altitudes
in a much earlier period has been detected
in the distribution of place-names ending in -esh
that appears to derive from the latin -enisis
or -esis, between the Shkumbin and the Mat
rivers, with a concentration
between Elbasan and Kruja.
The term "Albanoi" may have been slowly spread
to other Illyrian tribes until its usage became
universal among all the Albanian people.
According to the Albanian scholar Faļk bey
Konitza, the term "Albania" did not displace
"Illyria" completely until the end of the
The word "Alba" or "Arba" seems to be connected
with the town Arba (modern Rab, Croatia),
in prehistoric times inhabited by the
first mentioned in 360 BC.
Approximately a millennium later, some
Byzantine writers used the words "Albanon"
and "Arbanon" to indicate the region of Kruja.
Under the Angevine rulers, in the 13th
century, the names "Albania" and "Albanenses"
indicated the whole country and all
the population, as is demonstrated by
the works of many ancient Albanian writers
such as Budi, Blanco and Bogdano.
We first learn of Albanians in their native
land as the Arbanites of Arbanon in Anna
Comnenas' account (Alexiad 4) of the
troubles in that region caused by the
Normans during the reign of her father
Alexius I Comneus (1081-1118).
In the History written in 1079-1080,
Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates
was first to refer to the Albanoi as
having taken part in a revolt against
Constantinople in 1043 and to the
Arbanitai as subjects of
the duke of Dyrrachium.
The Italo-Albanians and the Albanian
minorities still present in Greece
have been known by different names
over time: Arbėnuer, Arbėnor,
Arbėneshė, Arbreshė, Arbėreshė.
There seems to be no doubt that the
root alb- or arb- is earlier than
shqip-, from which the modern name
of the state (Shqipėria) derives, a
name which appears only in the
time of the Turkish invasions.
The Albanian name of the country,
Shqipėria, translates into English
as "Land of the Eagles", hence the
two-headed bird on the national
flag and emblem, and because of
the large presence of these animals
in the mountainous zones of Albania.
Albanian names, like all nouns,
appear under two forms "indefinite"
Hence Tiranė/Tirana, Krujė/Kruja,
Elbasan/Elbasani, Durrės/Durrėsi, etc.
The definite form is the equivalent
of adding the article "the"
in front of the noun.
The common scholarly usage is to mention
feminine names in the definite form,
while the masculine are mentioned in
the indefinite: Tirana, Kruja, Elbasan,
But it is not always the case.
Since Albanian territories have long
been under foreign rule, historical
documents may mention Albanian
place-names in their Greek,
Latin, Italian (Venetian), Turkish,
Slavic, or even French versions.
For instance, Durrės has been
called Dyrrachion, Dyrrachium,
Durazzo, Draē, Drac and Duras.
Another source of confusion from
historical sources may come from
a transformation of "-n-" into "-r-",
called "rhotacism", which took
place in the Southern (Tosk) dialects
and prevails in the literary language.
Hence, the Greek/Latin "Avlona" which
gave the Italian Valona" is now "Vlora".
In the area that is today Albania, human
activity has been present since
the beginning of human history.
The earliest inhabitants were probably
part of the pre-Indo-European populace
that occupied the coastline of most
parts of the Mediterranean.
However, their physical remains are scarce
and concentrated in the coastal region.
Soon, these first inhabitants were overrun by
the Proto-Hellenic tribes that gradually occupied
modern-day Greece, southern Macedonia and the
southern part of present-day Albania.
This process was completed over the second
millennium BC and did not really affect northern
or central Albania, an area that at the time
presented the image of a political
vacuum (in essence a historical paradox).
Illyrians were relative late
comers to the Balkan arena.
Though their presence can be traced back to
900 BC, their political structure was
formulated in the 7th and 6th 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 6th century BC did the Illyrians
venture significant raids against their
immediate neighbours, the Greek kingdom of
the Mollosoi in northern Epirus (present
southern Albania), the kingdom of
Macedonia and the kingdom of Paionia (now
in northern Republic of Macedonia).
Probably their most important success was
the slaughter of Perdiccas III, king of Macedonia.
Unfortunately for the Illyrians, Perdiccas
was succeeded by Philip II, father of Alexander
the Great, who effectively
terminated the Illyrian aggresion.
The Illyrians were also traders of agricultural
products and metal works.
Their culture was influenced by the
Greek-Macedonian culture (mainly the south
Greek influence was spread further by the
presence of several ancient Greek
colonies along the Albanian coast.
Albania became part of the Roman and
Byzantine Empires before succumbing to a
wave of invaders in the Middle Ages,
losing most of its original population and
finally becaming a part of the Ottoman
Empire in 1478.
Although its most famous leader Gjergj
Kastrioti Skenderbeg, the Albanian National
Hero, put up years of resistance to Ottoman
rule, the Ottomans nonetheless secured control
of the country and held it
for the next 450 years.
During this time, many of its
people were converted to Islam.
After the First Balkan War, Albania declared
its independence from the Ottoman Empire
in 1912, becoming a principality.
In 1914, the great powers agreed to
try and unify Albania under a neutral
prince, but Prince William of Weid proved an
unsuccessful leader and came into conflict with
his War Minister, Essed Pasha (a former warlord
who had ruled much of central Albania).
Essed was supported by Italy and Serbia and the
prince by Austria-Hungary, and the resulting
rebellion saw Essed flee to Italy, then return
as his men beseiged Prince William in Durrės.
Prince William left Albania in September 1914,
only six months after his arrival, while bands of
Greek bandits effectively
ruled the south of the country.
From 1928 on, the country was ruled
by King Zog I until 1938, when
it was annexed by Italy.
During World War II, the Italians tried to invade
Greece from Albania in October 1940.
The invasion was a fiasco that had to be rescued by
the Germans, whose invasion of Yugoslavia in April
1941 enabled Italy to annex the Albanian-inhabited
territories of Kosovo and Western Macedonia.
The Albanians resented Italian occupation but
generally welcomed the incorporation of the
Albanian-inhabited parts of Yugoslavia.
As a result, a violent form of fascism set in most
of the country, especially in the northern provinces.
The Italians and later the Germans - who had occupied
northern Kosovo in 1941 as part of a rump Serbian
state and took over in Albania after the Italian
capitulation of September 1943 - found some
collaborators to fight local nationalist
and communist insurgents.
The collaborators were of limited use, however;
the "Skanderbeg Division" of the Waffen SS had under
three thousand men, with low morale and discipline.
The Albanian Communist Party, created by Tito in
1941 and led by the Serbs Dusan Mugosa and Miladin
Popovic, had few followers among the Albanians and
achieved little until the Germans retreated in 1944.
It took over the country in November 1944
under the leadership of Enver Hoxha.
Tito intended to include Albania, with Kosovo,
in a Yugoslav and possibly Balkan federation,
but the Albanian Communists followed Stalin as
they broke with Tito in June 1948.
After its break with Yugoslavia, Albania
remained a client state of the Soviet Union.
Following the Soviet Union's rejection of
Stalinism beginning in 1956, Albania turned
away from Moscow and found a new benefactor
in the People's Republic of China.
When China ended its international isolation
in the 1970s, Albania turned away from its
Asian patron as well, and adopted a strict
policy of autarky - aiming to cut itself
off from the rest of the world.
The paranoid Hoxha feared invasion from both
the West and the Warsaw Pact and responded
by building over 700,000 concrete bunkers
across Albania, costing more than twice
as much to build as France's infamous Maginot Line.
In 1985, Hoxha died and Ramiz Alia took his place.
Initially, Alia tried to follow in Hoxha's footsteps,
but Eastern Europe was already changing: Mikhail
Gorbachev had appeared in the Soviet Union with new
policies (glasnost and perestroika).
The totalitarian regime was pressured by
the US and Europe and the hate of its own people.
After Nicolae Ceausescu (the communist leader of
Romania) was executed in a revolution, Alia
knew he would be next if changes were not made.
He signed the Helsinki Agreement (which was
signed by other countries in 1975) that
respected some human rights.
He also allowed pluralism, and even though
his party won the election of 1991 it
was clear that the change would not be stopped.
In 1992 the general elections were won by
the Democratic Party with 62% of the votes.
In the general elections of June 1996 the
Democratic Party tried to win an absolute
majority and manipulated the results.
In 1997 the fraud of the pyramid schemes
shocked the entire government and riots started.
Many cities were controlled by
militia and armed citizens.
This anarchy and rebellion caused the
socialist party to win
the early elections of 1997.
Since 1990 Albania has been oriented
towards the West, was accepted in the
Council of Europe, is included in NATO's
Partnership for Peace program and is a
candidate to NATO membership.
The workforce of Albania has continued to
emigrate to Greece, Italy,
Europe and North America.
Albania is a Parlamentary Republic.
The head of state is the president,
who is elected by the Parlament,(called
Kuvend in the native language), or the
Assembly of the Republic of Albania.
The main part of the Assembly's 140
members is elected every 4 years.
100 of the parliament's members are chosen
by the people with a direct vote,
while the other 40 members are chosen
using a proportional system.
The president is assisted by a council of ministers,
who are appointed by the president.
Constitution was adopted by popular
referendum on 28 November 1998.
There are currently two major political parties.
The Democratic party, which was founded by
people who contributed to the struggle
against communism in 1991, and the
Socialist Party that
currently governs the state.
The first free elections in 1991 established
the Democratic Party as the winner,
allowing Albania to begin
its national recovery.
Districts and Counties of Albania
Albania is divided into 36 rrethe (districts).
Several districts are then grouped into a qark
(county or prefecture), of which there are 12.
The capital city, Tiranė, has a special status.
The districts are: 1 Berat, 2 Bulqizė, 3 Delvinė,
4 Devoll, 5 Dibėr , 6 Durrės, 7 Elbasan, 8 Fier,
9 Gjirokastėr, 10 Gramsh, 11 Has, 12 Kavajė,
13 Kolonjė, 14 Korēė, 15 Krujė, 16 Kuēovė, 17 Kukės,
18 Kurbin, 19 Lezhė, 20 Librazhd, 21 Lushnjė,
22 Malėsi e Madhe, 23 Mallakastėr, 24 Mat, 25 Mirditė,
26 Peqin, 27 Pėrmet, 28 Pogradec, 29 Pukė, 30 Sarandė,
31 Shkodėr, 32 Skrapar, 33 Tepelenė, 34 Tiranė,
35 Tropojė, 36 Vlorė.
Albania is a Mediterranean country
in southeastern Europe.
It is bordered by Serbia and Montenegro in
the north, and north-east, the Republic of Macedonia
in the east, and Greece in the south, has a
coast on the Adriatic Sea in the west, and a
coast on the Ionian Sea in the southwest.
The country is an emerging democracy and is
formally named the Republic of Albania
(Albanian: Republika e Shqipėrisė).
Albania consists of mostly hilly and mountainous
terrain, the highest mountain, Korab in the
district of Dibra reaching up to 2,753 m.
The country has a mild,
but generally wet climate.
Annual rainfall is the highest of any
country in Europe, reaching well over 2000mm
(80 inches) in the north
and 1190mm (47 inches) at Tirana.
Most of the rain falls between October and
May - Gjirokastėr averages over 300mm (12 inches)
in January alone - with the summers being fairly dry.
Temperatures in the summer are generally
quite hot, averaging around 29°C (84°F) in
Tirana in July, whilst in the winter they
are cold, with minimums below 0°C
(32°F) except near the coast.
Besides the capital city Tirana, with
520,000 inhabitants, the principal cities
are Durrės, Elbasan, Shkodėr,
Gjirokastėr, Vlorė and Korēė.
Albania after the communist regime was
overthrown, as all the ex-communist countries,
the country was left with an obsolete industrial
base and a pattern of industrial
capacity wholly unsuited to its needs.
Till '96 Albania's Growth Domestic Product
was nearby 9% with a dynamic economy.
But in 1997 the "Pyramidal Schemes" caused
a regression of Albanian Economy.
Almost half of the economically-active
population still engaged in agriculture
and a fifth said to be working abroad.
The country has almost no exports, and
imports many goods from Greece and Italy.
Money for imports comes from financial
aid and from the money that refugees
working abroad bring to Albania.
Albania is working to fulfil European
standards on its way to "The Stability Pact".
Albania has coastline on two of Europe's
seas, the Ionian and the Adriatic.
The Ionian Sea is known for clean, clear water
and forms the southwest coast of Albania,
from Vlorė to the Greek border.
The Adriatic Sea forms the Albanian coastline
from Vlorė to the border
with Serbia and Montenegro.
It is famous throughout the Balkans
for its rich, sandy beaches.
Until as recently as 2000, Ionian beaches
were heavily populated but only by residents,
with very few tourists.
Between 1990 and 2000, the country went through
political, economic, and social upheaval.
Since then, however, Albania has had improving
employment and decreasing corruption,
which in turn has increased tourism.
According to some sources, 95% of the population
is Albanian, with a Greek minority of 3%.
Many ethnic Albanians also live in bordering
Kosovo - (SCG) (around 2.8 million), FYR Macedonia
(around 800,000), Serbia (over 350,000,
mainly in southern Serbia) and
Montenegro (around 150,000).
Over 600,000 Albanians have emigrated to Greece
since 1990; many others have
left for other countries.
The language is Albanian, although Greek is also
spoken by the Greek minority in the
southern regions of the country.
A Slavic language called Gorani is also spoken
around Gorė, in the Kukės district, the only
part of the world where this language is used.
The village of Shishtavec is the main
centre of the Gorani language.
Other linguistic and cultural groups
include the Vlach and Roma (Gypsies).
Since the occupation by the Ottomans, the
majority of Albanians have been Muslim (70%),
even though religion was
prohibited during the Communist era.
The Eastern Orthodox Church (20%) and
Catholicism (10%) are the other main
religions in Albania, though in Albania
religious fanaticism has never been a
serious problem, with people from different
religions living in peace and even
getting married without any problem.
(Note that these percentages are estimates;
no official statistics are available.)
20% of the total Muslim population is Bektashi,
people who follow a faith originating in the
Turkish migrations into Turkey, which came
to Albania through the Ottoman Janissaries.
It has outwardly Shi'ite Islamic elements,
but is really a Shamanic-Pantheistic faith.
The main prophet of the Bektashi order is
Haxhi Bektash Veliu, and it is currently
headed by Baba Flamur Shkalla, the successor
of Baba Rexhep, based in Madison, USA.
This page was retrieved and condensed from
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albania) July 2005
All text is available under the terms of the
GNU Free Documentation License (see
Copyrights for details).
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