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Republika e Shqipërisë
Republic of Albania
Flag of Albania Coat of arms of Albania
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Hymni i Flamurit
("Hymn to the Flag")
Location of Albania
(and largest city)
41°20′N 19°48′E
Official languages Albanian
Government Emerging democracy
 - President Alfred Moisiu
 - Prime Minister Sali Berisha
Independence From Ottoman Empire 
 - Date November 28, 1912 
 - Total 28 748 km² ( 139th)
11,100 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 4.7%
 - 2006 estimate 3,581,655 ( 134th)
 - Density 123/km²/km² ( 63)
318.6/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $16.9 billion ( 112th)
 - Per capita $5,405 ( 100th)
HDI  (2003) 0.780 (medium) ( 72nd)
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, Serbia 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.




Many historians believe Albanians to be the direct descendants of Illyrians. Some, however, disagree over the origin of the Illyrians. Some maintain that the Illyrians descended from the Pelasgians while other scholars place them in the later wave of Indo-European invasions. Their presence can be traced back to the formulation of their political structure 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 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 100,000 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). 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 21-30 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.

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, 3000-2100 B.C., 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.


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 17th 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 5th century B.C., 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.


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 5th century B.C. while some tribe names are mentioned as early as the 12th century B.C. by Homer. The ethnic formation of the Illyrians, however, is much older.

The beginning of Illyrian origins in by the 15th century B.C., 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 7th-9th 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.

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

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.

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.

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 1928, the country was ruled by Ahmet Zogu, who renamed himself King Zog I.

World War II and Enver Hoxha rule

Enver Hoxha
Enver Hoxha

Italy invaded Albania on 7 April 1939, meeting little resistance, and took control of the country. 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.

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.

The fall of communism, and democratic Albania

In 1985, Hoxha died and Ramiz Alia took his place. Initially, Alia tried hard to follow in Hoxha's footsteps, but in Eastern Europe changes had already started: Mikhail Gorbachev had appeared in the Soviet Union with new policies ( glasnost and perestroika). The Albanian totalitarian regime was under pressure from the United States, Europe, and the anger and despair of its own people. After Nicolae Ceauşescu, the communist leader of Romania, was executed in a revolution 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. 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.

In the general elections of June 1996 the Democratic Party tried to win an absolute majority and manipulated the results , 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, 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, 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.

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. Albania, along with Croatia and Macedonia, is also expected to receive a NATO membership invitation within 2008.

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.


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.


Unusual among Balkan nations, indeed anywhere in the world, Albania is a nearly homogeneous country with only small minorities. Most of the population, roughly 95%, is ethnically Albanian. Many ethnic Albanians also live in the bordering countries of Serbia, Montenegro, and the Republic of Macedonia. These amount to over 2,000,000; of that, about 1,800,000 reside in Kosovo), 60,000 in Montenegro, and roughly 500,000 live in the Republic of Macedonia (see Demographics of the Republic of Macedonia). Since 1991, large numbers of Albanians have emigrated to Greece, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and other European countries.

The dominant language is Albanian. Many Albanians are also fluent in English, Greek and Italian. Albanians are mostly non-denominational believers. During the communist era religion was prohibited. Since that time Albania has been proclaimed as the only officially atheist country in the world, claiming the religion to be Albanianism. The most widely-practiced religions are Islam (70%), Albanian Orthodoxy (20%), Catholicism (10%), the percentages are estimates; there are no available current statistics on religious affiliation. Though small, other main religions of the world also have some representation in Albania. Religious fanaticism has never been a problem, 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.


A poor country by Western European standards, Albania is making the difficult transition to a more open-market economy. The collapse of communism in Albania came later, was more chaotic than in other east European countries, and was marked by a mass exodus of refugees to Italy and Greece in 1991 and 1992. Attempts at reform began in earnest in early 1992 after real GDP fell by more than 50% from its peak in 1989.

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. Key elements included price and exchange system liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a firm income policy. 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. As a result, GDP per capita expanded by a remarkable 85% in the nineties. Most prices were liberalized and are now at or near international levels. Most agriculture, state housing, and small industry were privatized. Progress continued in the privatization of transport, services, and small and medium-sized enterprises. In 1995, the government began privatizing large state enterprises.

Despite many institutional and legislative problems, Tirana is committed to joining the EU. In June (July) 2006, the country signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement as a first step toward joining the European Union. 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 is one of the poorest European states, with a GDP per capita half that of Bulgaria and almost one tenth that of the United Kingdom. It is poorly linked by road and rail to its neighbours and between its own cities. In Albania, half of the economically active population is engaged in agriculture and a fifth works abroad.

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 still in its infancy but is growing rapidly.

Neighbouring countries

Flag of Montenegro Montenegro Flag of Serbia Serbia
Flag of Italy Italy  Image:Template CanadianCityGeoLocation West.png  Adriatic Sea North Republic of Macedonia Republic of Macedonia
West   Flag of Albania Albania    East
Ionian Sea
Mediterranean Sea
Flag of Greece Greece

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