/al bay"nee euh, -bayn"yeuh/, n.
1. a republic in S Europe, in the Balkan Peninsula, W of Macedonia and NW of Greece. 3,293,252; 10,632 sq. mi. (27,535 sq. km). Cap.: Tirana.
2. Obs. Scotland.

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Introduction Albania
Background: In 1990 Albania ended 44 years of xenophobic communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven difficult as corrupt governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, a dilapidated infrastructure, widespread gangsterism, and disruptive political opponents. International observers judged local elections in 2001 to be acceptable and a step toward democratic development, but identified serious deficiencies which should be addressed through reforms in the Albanian electoral code. Geography Albania -
Location: Southeastern Europe, bordering the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea, between Greece and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Geographic coordinates: 41 00 N, 20 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 28,748 sq km water: 1,350 sq km land: 27,398 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland
Land boundaries: total: 720 km border countries: Greece 282 km, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 151 km, Yugoslavia 287 km
Coastline: 362 km
Maritime claims: continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: mild temperate; cool, cloudy, wet winters; hot, clear, dry summers; interior is cooler and wetter
Terrain: mostly mountains and hills; small plains along coast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Adriatic Sea 0 m highest point: Maja e Korabit (Golem Korab) 2,753 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, timber, nickel, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 21.09% permanent crops: 4.45% other: 74.45% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 3,400 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: destructive earthquakes; tsunamis occur along southwestern coast; floods; drought Environment - current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution from industrial and domestic effluents Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: strategic location along Strait of Otranto (links Adriatic Sea to Ionian Sea and Mediterranean Sea) People Albania
Population: 3,544,841 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 28.8% (male 528,678; female 493,531) 15-64 years: 64% (male 1,094,034; female 1,175,024) 65 years and over: 7.2% (male 111,524; female 142,050) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.06% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 18.59 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 6.49 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.46 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/ female total population: 0.96 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 38.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.1 years female: 75.14 years (2002 est.) male: 69.27 years
Total fertility rate: 2.27 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: less than 0.01% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ less than 100 (2000 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Albanian(s) adjective: Albanian
Ethnic groups: Albanian 95%, Greek 3%, other 2% (Vlach, Gypsy, Serb, and Bulgarian) (1989 est.) note: in 1989, other estimates of the Greek population ranged from 1% (official Albanian statistics) to 12% (from a Greek organization)
Religions: Muslim 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, Roman Catholic 10% note: all mosques and churches were closed in 1967 and religious observances prohibited; in November 1990, Albania began allowing private religious practice
Languages: Albanian (Tosk is the official dialect), Greek
Literacy: definition: age 9 and over can read and write total population: 93% (1997 est.) male: NA% female: NA% Government Albania
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Albania conventional short form: Albania local short form: Shqiperia former: People's Socialist Republic of Albania local long form: Republika e Shqiperise
Government type: emerging democracy
Capital: Tirana Administrative divisions: 36 districts (rrethe, singular - rreth) and 1 municipality* (bashki); Berat, Bulqize, Delvine, Devoll (Bilisht), Diber (Peshkopi), Durres, Elbasan, Fier, Gjirokaster, Gramsh, Has (Krume), Kavaje, Kolonje (Erseke), Korce, Kruje, Kucove, Kukes, Kurbin, Lezhe, Librazhd, Lushnje, Malesi e Madhe (Koplik), Mallakaster (Ballsh), Mat (Burrel), Mirdite (Rreshen), Peqin, Permet, Pogradec, Puke, Sarande, Shkoder, Skrapar (Corovode), Tepelene, Tirane (Tirana), Tirane* (Tirana), Tropoje (Bajram Curri), Vlore note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)
Independence: 28 November 1912 (from Ottoman Empire)
National holiday: Independence Day, 28 November (1912)
Constitution: a constitution was adopted by popular referendum on 28 November 1998; note - the opposition Democratic Party boycotted the vote
Legal system: has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branch: chief of state: President of the Republic Rexhep MEIDANI (since 24 July 1997) head of government: Prime Minister Pandeli MAJKO (since 22 February 2002) cabinet: Council of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and approved by the president election results: Rexhep MEIDANI elected president; People's Assembly vote by number - total votes 122, for 110, against 3, abstained 2, invalid 7 elections: president elected by the People's Assembly for a five-year term; election last held 24 July 1997 (next to be held NA July 2002); prime minister appointed by the president
Legislative branch: unicameral People's Assembly or Kuvendi Popullor (140 seats; 100 are elected by direct popular vote and 40 by proportional vote for four- year terms) election results: percent of vote by party - PS 41.5%, PD and coalition allies 36.8%, NDP 5.2%, PSD 3.6%, PBDNJ 2.6%, PASH 2.6%, PAD 2.5%; seats by party - PS 73, PD and coalition allies 46, NDP 6, PSD 4, PBDNJ 3, PASH 3, PAD 3, independents 2 elections: last held 24 June with subsequent rounds on 8 July, 22 July, 29 July, 19 August 2001 (next to be held NA June 2005)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (chairman is elected by the People's Assembly for a four- year term) Political parties and leaders: Agrarian Party or PASH [Lufter XHUVELI]; Albanian National Front (Balli Kombetar) or PBK [Shptim ROQI]; Albanian Republican Party or PR [Fatmir MEDIU]; Albanian Socialist Party or PS (formerly the Albania Workers Party) [Fatos NANO, chairman]; Christian Democratic Party or PDK [Zef BUSHATI]; Democratic Alliance or PAD [Nerltan CEKA]; Democratic Party or PD [Sali BERISHA]; Group of Reformist Democrats [Leonard NDOKA]; Legality Movement Party or PLL [Ekrem SPAHIA]; Liberal Union Party or PBL [Teodor LACO]; New Democratic Party or NDP [Genc POLLO]; OMONIA [Vagjelis DULES]; Party of National Unity or PUK [Idajet BEQUIRI]; Social Democratic Party or PSD [Skender GJINUSHI]; Unity for Human Rights Party or PBDNJ [Vasil MELO, chairman] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization ACCT, BSEC, CCC, CE, CEI, EAPC,
participation: EBRD, ECE, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNOMIG, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Dr. Fatos TARIFA chancery: 2100 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 FAX: [1] (202) 628-7342 telephone: [1] (202) 223-4942 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Joseph
US: LIMPRECHT embassy: Rruga Elbasanit, Labinoti #103, Tirana mailing address: U. S. Department of State, 9510 Tirana Place, Washington, DC 20521-9510 telephone: [355] (4) 247285 FAX: [355] (4) 232222
Flag description: red with a black two-headed eagle in the center Economy Albania -
Economy - overview: Poor and backward by European standards, Albania is making the difficult transition to a more modern open-market economy. The government has taken measures to curb violent crime and to revive economic activity and trade. The economy is bolstered by remittances from abroad of $400-$600 million annually, mostly from Greece and Italy. Agriculture, which accounts for 52% of GDP, is held back because of frequent drought and the need to modernize equipment and consolidate small plots of land. Severe energy shortages are forcing small firms out of business, increasing unemployment, scaring off foreign investors, and spurring inflation.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $13.2 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 7.3% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $3,800 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 52% industry: 21% services: 27% (2001 est.) Population below poverty line: 30% (2001 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 1.283 million (not including 352,000 emigrant workers and 261,000 domestically unemployed) (2000 est.) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 50%, industry and services 50%
Unemployment rate: 17% officially (2001 est.); may be as high as 30%
Budget: revenues: $697 million expenditures: $1.5 billion, including capital expenditures of $368 million (2002 est.)
Industries: food processing, textiles and clothing; lumber, oil, cement, chemicals, mining, basic metals, hydropower Industrial production growth rate: 9% (2000 est.) Electricity - production: 4.738 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 3% hydro: 97% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 5.378 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 100 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 1.072 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: wheat, corn, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, sugar beets, grapes; meat, dairy products
Exports: $306 million (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: textiles and footwear; asphalt, metals and metallic ores, crude oil; vegetables, fruits, tobacco
Exports - partners: Italy 70%, Greece 12%, Germany 6%, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2%, Austria 1% (2001)
Imports: $1.1 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, textiles, chemicals
Imports - partners: Italy 32%, Greece 26%, Turkey 6%, Germany 6%, Bulgaria 2% (2001)
Debt - external: $1 billion (2000) Economic aid - recipient: $315 million (top donors were Italy, EU, Germany) (2000 est.)
Currency: lek (ALL)
Currency code: ALL
Exchange rates: leke per US dollar - 140.16 (November 2001), 143.71 (2000) 137.69 (1999), 150.63 (1998), 148.93 (1997); note - leke is the plural of lek
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Albania Telephones - main lines in use: 120,000 (2001) Telephones - mobile cellular: 250,000 (2001)
Telephone system: general assessment: Albania has the poorest telephone service in Europe with fewer than two telephones per 100 inhabitants; it is doubtful that every village has telephone service domestic: obsolete wire system; no longer provides a telephone for every village; in 1992, following the fall of the Communist government, peasants cut the wire to about 1,000 villages and used it to build fences international: inadequate; international traffic carried by microwave radio relay from the Tirana exchange to Italy and Greece Radio broadcast stations: AM 13, FM 4, shortwave 2 (2001)
Radios: 1 million (2001) Television broadcast stations: 3 (plus 58 repeaters) (2001)
Televisions: 700,000 (2001)
Internet country code: .al Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 10 (2001)
Internet users: 12,000 (2001) Transportation Albania
Railways: total: 447 km standard gauge: 447 km 1.435-m gauge (2001 est.)
Highways: total: 18,000 km paved: 5,400 km unpaved: 12,600 km (1998 est.)
Waterways: 43 km note: includes Albanian sections of Lake Scutari, Lake Ohrid, and Lake Prespa (1990)
Pipelines: crude oil 196 km; petroleum products 55 km; natural gas 64 km (1996)
Ports and harbors: Durres, Sarande, Shengjin, Vlore
Merchant marine: total: 7 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 13,423 GRT/20,837 DWT ships by type: cargo 7, includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Croatia 1, Honduras 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 11 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 3 2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 8 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 under 914 m: 4 (2001) 914 to 1,523 m: 2 over 3,047 m: 1
Heliports: 1 (2001) Military Albania
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces, Interior Ministry Troops, Border Guards Military manpower - military age: 19 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 888,086 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 727,406 (2002 est.)
service: Military manpower - reaching males: 35,792 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $56.5 million (FY02)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.49% (FY02)
GDP: Transnational Issues Albania Disputes - international: the Albanian Government supports protection of the rights of ethnic Albanians outside of its borders in the Kosovo region of Yugoslavia and in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia while continuing to seek regional cooperation; many Albanians illegally transit neighboring states to emigrate to western Europe
Illicit drugs: increasingly active transshipment point for Southwest Asian opiates, hashish, and cannabis transiting the Balkan route and - to a far lesser extent - cocaine from South America destined for Western Europe; limited opium and growing cannabis production; ethnic Albanian narcotrafficking organizations active and rapidly expanding in Europe

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officially Republic of Albania

Country, western Adriatic coast of the Balkan Peninsula.

Area: 11,082 sq mi (28,703 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 3,108,000. Capital: Tiranë . Language: Albanian (official). Ethnic Albanians are the Gegs (Ghegs) and the Tosks. Religions: Islam; Christianity (minority; Greek Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism). Currency: lek. Albania may be divided into two major regions, a mountainous highland and a western coastal lowland that contains the country's agricultural lands and most of its population. It has a developing free-market economy that until 1991 was shaped by a socialist system of state ownership. The Albanians are descended from the Illyrians, an ancient Indo-European people who lived in central Europe and migrated south by the beginning of the Iron Age (see Illyria). Of the two major Illyrian migrating groups, the Gegs settled in the north and the Tosks in the south, along with Greek colonizers. The area was under Roman rule by the 1st century BC; after AD 395 it was connected administratively to Constantinople. Turkish invasion began in the 14th century and continued into the 15th century; though the national hero, Skanderbeg, was able to resist them for a time, after his death (1468) the Turks consolidated their rule. The country achieved independence in 1912 and was admitted into the League of Nations in 1920. It was briefly a republic (1925–28), then became a monarchy under Zog I, whose initial alliance with Benito Mussolini deteriorated into Italy's invasion of Albania in 1939. After the war a socialist government under Enver Hoxha was installed, and gradually Albania cut itself off from the nonsocialist international community and eventually from all other countries, including China, its last political ally. By 1990 economic hardship had fomented antigovernment demonstrations that led to the election of a noncommunist government in 1992 and the end of Albania's international isolation. In 1997 the country plunged into chaos brought on by the collapse of pyramid investment schemes. In 1999 it was overwhelmed by ethnic Albanians seeking refuge from Yugoslavia (see Kosovo conflict). In the early 21st century Albania faced the challenges of reforming its economy and maintaining good relations with its European neighbours.

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▪ 2009

28,703 sq km (11,082 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 3,194,000
Chief of state:
President Bamir Topi
Head of government:
Prime Minister Sali Berisha

      On April 3, 2008, Albania reached a key goal in its efforts to achieve Euro-Atlantic integration when it was invited (along with Croatia) to join NATO; the overture was made at the alliance's summit meeting in Bucharest, Rom. The NATO Council and the foreign ministers of both countries signed the accession protocols on July 9. The invitation reflected both Albania's progress in developing stable democratic institutions and rule of law and its achievements in transforming the military into a small professional force able to contribute to NATO's collective defense. The government pledged to contribute 2% of its GDP for defense spending by 2009. Albania also increased its contributions to international peacekeeping operations. On July 16 Defense Minister Gazmend Oketa announced that the number of troops serving in Mosul, Iraq, would be raised from 120 to 215. Albania also continued its involvement with small army units in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Afghanistan and pledged to send troops to Chad and the Central African Republic as part of an EU mission to protect refugees streaming in from Darfur, a region in The Sudan. (See The Sudan: Sidebar (Combating the Crisis in Darfur ), below.)

      The NATO invitation was overshadowed, however, by a series of explosions on March 15 in an arms-conversion plant in the village of Gerdec; 26 people were killed, more than 300 were injured, and more than 5,500 homes were destroyed or damaged. Defense Minister Fatmir Mediu, who took personal responsibility for the blast, resigned two days later. Media reports claimed that unqualified personnel, including children, were employed to dispose of ammunition that dated back several decades. The investigation was supported by FBI experts from the U.S. but had not concluded by the end of the year.

      The Albanian government continued to pursue EU integration, and during an interview on September 11, Prime Minister Sali Berisha said that the country could apply for membership as early as 2009. Four days later, however, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn stressed that more needed to be done in Albania to foster democratic culture, the independence of institutions, rule of law, and the fight against organized crime and corruption. Nevertheless, Rehn acknowledged improved cross-party cooperation on judicial and electoral reform as well as the country's steady economic growth. On November 20 the governing Democrats and the rival Socialists joined forces to pass a new electoral law based on regional proportional representation. Cooperation between the two main parties was short-lived, however. On December 22 the Democrats passed a law banning from public office any persons linked to the communist-era secret service. The Socialists opposed this law, arguing that it would remove attorneys investigating the Gerdec tragedy and an ongoing corruption case against Foreign Minister Lulezim Basha. During 2008 unemployment stood at 13%, down slightly from 13.2% in 2007; real GDP growth remained at 5%. In relation to Kosovo, the government perceived its diplomatic efforts as successful following the widespread recognition of the region as a sovereign state by Western countries. Albania recognized Kosovo's sovereignty on February 18, one day after its declaration of independence. In other news, on September 4 Albania introduced a visa-free travel regime with neighbouring Macedonia.

Fabian Schmidt

▪ 2008

28,703 sq km (11,082 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 3,176,000
Chief of state:
Presidents Alfred Moisiu and, from July 24, Bamir Topi
Head of government:
Prime Minister Sali Berisha

 Early in 2007 the political scene in Albania was dominated by a dispute between the government and the opposition, led by the Socialist Party of Albania (SPA), over rules and procedures to be followed in local elections. After both sides agreed on a compromise designed to prevent double voting, the opposition dropped its threat to boycott the February 18 vote. Prime Minister Sali Berisha's Democratic Party of Albania (DPA) argued that the balloting was a show of support for his reforms. (Berisha's coalition received 47.86% of the countrywide votes for town and city mayors.) The opposition, however, managed to win the majority of large municipalities, including Tirana, where Socialist mayor Edi Rama was reelected. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn contended that procedural shortcomings in preparation and conduct had marred the polls, specifically referring to the inability of the Albanian government to prepare a new voter registry prior to the elections. Both political camps accepted the validity of the election results, however.

      On March 12 Berisha reshuffled his government, giving the health portfolio to his coalition ally, Christian Democratic Party leader Nard Ndoka. Analysts described the move as an attempt by Berisha to secure support for DPA candidate Bamir Topi in the upcoming presidential elections. In the fourth round on July 20, Topi won the presidency, defeating Neritan Ceka of the Democratic Alliance, a small opposition party. Though the SPA and its allies urged their deputies to boycott the vote, at least seven did not obey the call. Foreign Minister Besnik Mustafaj resigned unexpectedly on April 24 and was succeeded by former transport minister Lulzim Basha.

      The opening on March 21 of a new airport terminal in Tirana marked a symbolic milestone in Albania's modernization of its infrastructure. The €50 million (about $65 million) terminal, built by a German-American consortium, opened prior to the landmark visit to Tirana on June 10 of U.S. Pres. George W. Bush, who declared that days of “endless dialogue” over the future of neighbouring Kosovo were over and that the mainly ethnic-Albanian-inhabited region should become independent.

      The government presented its ambitious economic-reform program, which included lower taxes and the introduction by early 2008 of a 10% corporate and income flat tax. Efforts to increase transparency, fight corruption, and attract foreign investors had resulted in a tripling since 2002 of foreign direct investment.

      In preparation for future membership in NATO, Albania planned to spend 2% of GDP for defense in 2008 and in July destroyed its last stockpiles of chemical weapons. In addition, the government successfully cracked down on organized crime, breaking up numerous groups, and allowed the stationing in the country of an organized-crime task force of American FBI agents. The government, which in 2006 banned the private ownership and use of powerful motorboats, also effectively put an end to the smuggling in speedboats of illicit drugs and humans across the Adriatic and Ionian seas.

Fabian Schmidt

▪ 2007

28,703 sq km (11,082 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 3,161,000
Chief of state:
President Alfred Moisiu
Head of government:
Prime Minister Sali Berisha

 After three and a half years of negotiations, on June 12, 2006, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha signed an Association and Stabilization Agreement (SAA) with the European Union in Luxembourg. The European Parliament ratified the document on September 6. A crucial step for Albania on its way to full EU membership, the SAA was designed to foster economic and political relations but did not fix a date for admission.

      Since taking office in September 2005, Berisha's conservative government had prided itself foremost on fighting corruption and organized crime. On January 27 a law was passed making it illegal for the relatives of high officials to hold jobs in the same state sector. Further, Berisha made it clear that customs and tax officials would be fired if found to have ties to politicians. The Albanian Helsinki Committee criticized the legislation, however, saying that it “will infringe the legitimate rights of citizens.”

      Following a two-month investigation, the parliament voted on July 24 to recommend to President Alfred Moisiu the removal of Prosecutor-General Theodhori Sollaku. Berisha accused Sollaku of incompetence and failure to prosecute organized crime. Moisiu, however, declined to sack Sollaku, in view of opposition complaints that the investigation of Sollaku's activities was illegal and violated parliamentary procedures.

      On April 3 the parliament banned speedboats and other small vessels from Albania's coastal waters. In another move to stem trafficking of humans and drugs, on August 22 the government signed a $17 million contract with Lockheed Martin to build and install a maritime radar-surveillance system.

      The political opposition was focusing much of its energies on the local elections scheduled for early 2007. Laying aside their threat to boycott the ballot, the Socialists agreed with Berisha's Democratic Party on August 31 to make a number of important electoral changes as well as to add four opposition members to the National Council of Radio and Television (KKRT). Fatos Lubonja, a writer and newly appointed head of the KKRT, resigned in protest. He argued that the KKRT should remain free of political appointees. Albania's opposition lost a prominent member when former deputy prime minister Gramoz Pashko died in a helicopter crash in the Adriatic Sea on July 16.

      Albania enjoyed a 5.5% growth in GDP in 2005 and expected 5% growth in 2006. In January the World Bank approved a $196 million loan for a period of three years, but a bank representative stressed that Albania had managed a previous $130 million loan poorly and demanded that the new loan be used more efficiently. The government took steps to overcome the shortage of electrical energy by signing import contracts with neighbouring countries and upgrading domestic power grids.

      Cooperation with the U.S. remained at a high level in 2006. Albania offered political asylum to five ethnic Uyghurs released from U.S. custody in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on May 8, declining demands from China to turn over the men. On July 23 the government froze the bank accounts of Abdul Latif Saleh, a businessman whom U.S. authorities suspected of involvement in Osama bin Laden's terror network.

Fabian Schmidt

▪ 2006

28,703 sq km (11,082 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 3,130,000 (not including Albanians living abroad)
Chief of state:
President Alfred Moisiu
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Fatos Nano and, from September 11, Sali Berisha

 Albania experienced a major political turnaround in 2005 when on July 3 the centre-right coalition of former president Sali Berisha won the general elections. Berisha had led the opposition to the governing Socialist Party of Prime Minister Fatos Nano since he was ousted as president in 1997. His Democratic Party won the 2005 elections largely by charging the Nano government with nepotism and by pledging to root out corruption and organized crime. Furthermore, Berisha promised tax cuts and the creation of attractive conditions for foreign direct investment. His coalition received 81 of the 140 seats in the parliament. The Socialist-led centre-left coalition received the remaining 59 seats. International observers approved the conduct of the election campaign and of the elections. The appointment of the new government was delayed, however, because voting in three constituencies had to be repeated owing to irregularities. Pres. Alfred Moisiu presented Berisha's new government on September 7, and the parliament approved it three days later. Berisha appointed the writer Besnik Mustafaj of his Democratic Party the new foreign minister, and the party received nine other key ministries. Leaders of four smaller coalition parties were given portfolios in the new government. Fatmir Mediu (Republican Party) took defense, Genc Pollo (New Democratic Party) received education, Lufter Xhuveli (Agrarian Party) was given environment, and Kosta Barka (of the mainly ethnic Greek Human Rights Union Party) took on social affairs. Nano resigned as chairman of the Socialist Party and was succeeded by Edi Rama, the mayor of Tirana.

      The new government said it would increase its efforts to pursue Euro-Atlantic integration. Albania had begun negotiations for an EU Association and Stabilization Agreement in 2003, but the European Commission repeatedly postponed the signing, arguing that Albania had to show better results in fighting corruption and organized crime. An agreement with the EU was signed in Luxembourg on April 14 that obligated Albania to take back illegal migrants who had entered the EU via its territory.

      Albania continued to pursue regional military cooperation. Defense Minister Pandeli Majko signed a memorandum on military cooperation with his Bulgarian and Macedonian counterparts on May 17. Along with Macedonia and Croatia, Albania was a founding member of the U.S.-backed Adriatic Charter, which promoted NATO membership. Furthermore, Albania participated in two international peacekeeping missions. On March 7 Majko and the EU high representative for common foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, signed an agreement on Albania's participation in EUFOR, the EU's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Albanian government also increased its military contingent in Mosul, Iraq, by 50 troops, reaching a force level of 120 in April. Joint military exercises with the U.S. were overshadowed by the crash of a U.S. C-130 transport plane on March 31, in which nine people were killed.

Fabian Schmidt

▪ 2005

28,703 sq km (11,082 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 3,136,000 (not including Albanians living abroad)
Chief of state:
President Alfred Moisiu
Head of government:
Prime Minister Fatos Nano

      Albanian domestic politics in 2004 remained focused on the decade-old power struggle between Socialist Prime Minister Fatos Nano and his rival, former president Sali Berisha (of the Albanian Democratic Party [PD]). On February 7, police had to prevent several thousand PD protesters from entering government buildings in Tirana. Berisha called on Nano to leave office voluntarily to avoid being driven out, as Pres. Eduard Shevardnadze had been in Georgia. Two weeks later about 50,000 protesters took to the streets of the capital in what amounted to the biggest demonstration since the countrywide unrest in 1997. Nano faced tough challenges not only from the opposition but also within his own party. Ilir Meta, who had been prime minister in 2000–02, announced in September that he and 10 other parliamentary deputies had left the Socialist Party to found the Socialist Movement for Integration, which would compete with the Socialists in the 2005 general elections.

      A foreign-policy blow was dealt when NATO's Istanbul summit in June ended without any firm membership date's being promised to Albania. Within the framework of the U.S.-Adriatic Charter, however, Albania was actively developing its defense cooperation with the U.S., Macedonia, and Croatia. The slow pace of domestic reforms rang alarm bells within the EU, and the government of The Netherlands, which held the rotating EU presidency, warned Albania in a statement on September 14 that more would have to be done to fight crime, corruption, and trafficking in drugs and humans and that Tirana would have to reform its electoral process if it intended to pursue an EU Stabilization and Association agreement.

      In January an inflatable rubber boat carrying 32 illegal emigrants from Vlora, Alb., to the Italian coast capsized, and 21 people drowned. Police raided suspected human traffickers in Tirana and detained 24 suspected would-be immigrants. Italian and Albanian law-enforcement officers cooperated again in August when villagers from the traditionally rebellious town of Lazarat fired gunshots at an Italian police helicopter that was searching for cannabis fields.

      Albanian-Macedonian relations improved as Macedonia pursued reforms to strengthen rights of its minorities, notably ethnic Albanians. The two foreign ministers agreed in Skopje on May 6 to open more border checkpoints and accelerate the construction of a highway and pipeline between the two countries. Prime Minister Nano and Pres. Alfred Moisiu visited Kosovo, the heavily ethnic Albanian province of the former Yugoslavia, on March 2 and April 22, respectively. Moisiu warned that delays in defining Kosovo's political status would strengthen extremists in the region, while Nano declined to support Kosovo's call for independence. In June Albania arrested two Kosovar extremists, and in July a Tirana court convicted another man of inciting ethnic hatred in Kosovo and gave him an 18-month sentence.

Fabian Schmidt

▪ 2004

28,703 sq km (11,082 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 3,166,000 (not including Albanians living abroad)
Chief of state:
President Alfred Moisiu
Head of government:
Prime Minister Fatos Nano

      Politics in Albania in 2003 focused largely on local elections that took place on October 12. The governing Socialist Party claimed victory in 36 of the country's 65 largest towns, including the capital, Tirana. Final results could not be published, since the opposition refused to sign the ballot protocols, charging the Socialists with “fixing the results.” After the ballot, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission chief Robert Barry noted “progress toward compliance with OSCE, Council of Europe, and other international standards,” however. In the run-up to the voting, Prime Minister Fatos Nano strengthened the influence of his conservative wing of the Socialist Party through a government reshuffle on July 23 following the resignation of his rival, the foreign minister and former prime minister Ilir Meta, from office. On July 28, however, the Assembly rejected Nano's nomination of Marko Bello to succeed Meta, showing that support for Meta, who belonged to the reform wing of the party, was still strong among the majority of the Socialist legislators.

      On February 13 in Tirana, the integration minister, Sokol Nako, and European Union representatives held the first round of talks on the Stabilization and Association Agreement. In March, in its second annual report on the stabilization and association process, the European Commission warned Albania to speed up legal and administrative reforms, fight corruption and organized crime, and start the restitution of or compensation for land expropriated during the communist regime. On August 7 Nano announced the return of property to the family of Leka Zogu, the son of the late King Zog. At the same time, the Assembly began debating a law on restitution sponsored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

      Albania sent a contingent of 70 soldiers in April to join the U.S.-led coalition in the Iraq war. The foreign ministers of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia signed the U.S.-Adriatic Charter with the U.S. secretary of state in Tirana on May 2 to promote mutual cooperation.

      Albania's relations with neighbouring countries and regions generally improved in 2003. Following an outbreak of ethnic Albanian separatist violence in northern Macedonia in late August, Albanian Pres. Alfred Moisiu expressed his full support of the Macedonian authorities' fight against “extremist groups.” On September 12 the defense ministers of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia signed a declaration stressing the need for a joint fight against organized crime and terrorism. In mid-July the presidents of Albania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia held a series of meetings on infrastructure cooperation, focusing on the east-west transport Corridor VIII and a joint pipeline project. Albania also opened new border crossings with Macedonia and Montenegro. A free-trade agreement between Albania and Kosovo was signed in Pristina, the capital of the Serbian province, on July 7.

      Relations with the newly renamed Serbia and Montenegro deteriorated, however, after the Serbian parliament approved a declaration on August 27 reaffirming its claim to Kosovo and a draft constitution for Serbia and Montenegro referred to Kosovo as a part of Serbia. The Albanian parliament declared that this resembled “a dangerous return…to nationalist policies.”

      Unemployment was on the decline in Albania and was about 15% in 2003. GDP growth remained about 5% in 2003, while the budget deficit decreased to about 6% of GDP.

Fabian Schmidt

▪ 2003

28,703 sq km (11,082 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 3,108,000 (not including Albanians living abroad)
Chief of state:
Presidents Rexhep Meidani and, from July 24, Alfred Moisiu
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Ilir Meta, Pandeli Majko from February 22, and, from July 31, Fatos Nano

      The major development in Albania in 2002 was the return in July of Socialist Party (PS) Chairman Fatos Nano as prime minister. His appointment marked the end of a power struggle between the party leader and his two younger challengers, Ilir Meta and Pandeli Majko, both of whom had served as prime minister since Nano resigned the post during a period of civil unrest in 1998. Nano's return followed a government crisis in February 2002, during which Majko had succeeded Meta and had begun his second short-lived term as prime minister on February 22. Meta was named foreign minister and Majko defense minister in the new cabinet.

      Media analysis suggested that Nano had elbowed Meta and Majko aside in a grab for power after realizing that he was too controversial a figure to aspire to the presidency. The European Parliament had urged Albanian legislators to elect a president who would be acceptable to both the governing coalition and the opposition. Moreover, Meta and the outgoing president, Rexhep Meidani, both openly opposed Nano's candidacy for the presidency. The election of Alfred Moisiu on July 24 essentially sealed the PS legislators' compromise with the opposition, led by the Democratic Party (PD). Nano and PD Chairman Sali Berisha said that the deal signaled that the two rival party leaders had put years of fighting behind them. Moisiu, a 73-year-old retired general, had served as president of the Albanian North Atlantic Treaty Association and was considered friendly by the opposition.

      Albania's relations with neighbouring countries were dominated by efforts to increase cross-border cooperation within the framework of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. In 2002 Albania was working to conclude free-trade agreements with Macedonia, Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's chief of mission, Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, praised Albania in his end-of-mission address to the OSCE Permanent Council on August 29, reporting that the country was “in the forefront of reform in the region” and adding that recent achievements had “brought Albania to the threshold of opening negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union.” Finnish diplomat Osmo Lipponen succeeded Ahrens on September 1.

      The Albanian economy suffered a slight setback in 2002. The budget deficit reached 8.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), according to September Finance Ministry estimates. Ministry officials said they expected to reduce the deficit to 6.2% in 2003. Unemployment remained at 13.5% but continued to creep up during the year. A United Nations Development Project report estimated that one-third of the population lived in poverty, earning less than $1 per capita per day. Large segments of the population lived from subsistence agriculture and did not receive unemployment benefits. The expected growth of GDP was 6%, and it was estimated that the inflation rate would reach about 4% by the end of the year.

Fabian Schmidt

▪ 2002

28,703 sq km (11,082 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 3,091,000 (not including Albanians living abroad)
Chief of state:
President Rexhep Meidani
Head of government:
Prime Minister Ilir Meta

      Relations with neighbouring Macedonia, where members of the large ethnic Albanian minority staged an armed rebellion in March, were of prime concern in Albania in 2001. Although Prime Minister Ilir Meta supported international peace negotiations, which led to a truce and a peace settlement in late August, there was evidence to suggest that Albanian border guards had at first failed to seal the border completely to arms smugglers supplying the rebels in Macedonia.

      The focus of domestic politics was on the country's fourth democratic general elections, held June 24 and July 8. The Socialist Party (PS— the former Communists), with a reform-oriented program, gained an absolute majority in the parliament with 73 of the 140 seats. The opposition coalition Union for Victory (BpF), dominated by the Democratic Party (PD) of former president Sali Berisha, received only 46 seats. The opposition had been split since 2000, when the New Democrat Party split off from the PD. Its leader, Genc Pollo, charged Berisha with failing to offer convincing answers to the country's essential problems. His leadership appealed to many PD voters who were looking for a group among the opposition that could demonstrate some political competence. The new party won six seats in the new parliament. Berisha and PD legislators continued to boycott the parliament and called for early elections. In September the BpF itself launched a new boycott of the parliament, charging the government with having manipulated the elections. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe dismissed suggestions, however, that irregularities during the voting had affected the overall outcome. It took the parliament nearly three months—until September 12—to give Prime Minister Meta's new coalition government a vote of confidence. The delays were due to vote recounts in some districts.

      Within the governing coalition the PS controlled all key ministries. Arta Dade became the first woman in Albanian history to serve as foreign minister. Former prime minister Pandeli Majko became defense minister. The interior, justice, public economy, and finance portfolios all went to Socialists as well. The chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Skender Gjinushi, took charge of labour and social affairs, while another Social Democrat, former foreign minister Paskal Milo, became minister of Euro-Atlantic integration. Former justice minister Arben Imami became minister of local government and decentralization, pledging to focus on strengthening the role of cities and towns; Niko Kacalidha (of the Union Party, which represents many ethnic Greeks) was appointed to the new post of state minister for minorities and the diaspora. For his part, Prime Minister Meta pledged to upgrade power supplies, proceed with privatization, fight corruption and organized crime, improve ties with Western Europe and neighbours in the Balkan region, and promote free trade.

      Albania's economy suffered a slight recession in 2001. The national statistical institute expected an inflation rate of 2–4% at the end of the year and 7.3% growth in gross domestic product, just slightly less than the 7.8% registered in 2000. Nonetheless, unemployment dropped from 17.1% in 1999 to 13.3% in 2001, thanks to a government-supported job-creation program that included infrastructure-development projects within the framework of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe.

Fabian Schmidt

▪ 2001

28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 3,490,000 (not including about 650,000 Albanians living abroad)
Chief of state:
President Rexhep Meidani
Head of government:
Prime Minister Ilir Meta

      Albania's political life in 2000 was dominated by the rivalry between the governing Alliance for the State coalition, led by the Socialist Party, and the opposition, dominated by the Democratic Party of former president Sali Berisha. Throughout the year the opposition focused attention on rallying support for its candidates in local elections on October 1 and 15. They accused the Alliance for the State of corruption and smuggling, charges that the coalition dismissed. The Alliance, for its part, highlighted its efforts to combat corruption through institutional reforms. The most significant success in administrative reform had come with the passage of a new law on the civil service on Nov. 11, 1999, designed to stop the practice of political appointments and to increase the independence and integrity of career civil servants. Implementation of the law and the creation of a workable institutional framework occupied much of the year.

      In addition to its reform efforts, the government could point to a significant increase in infrastructure development in Albania, most notably those projects that were financed within the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, the 28-nation agreement signed in 1999 to restore peace, stability, and prosperity to the region. Under the “quick start” package launched in March, Albania received about €112 million (about $109 million) for the rehabilitation of roads, railroads, harbours, power and water lines, and the airport in Tirana, the capital. The Stability Pact earmarked an additional €320 million (about $311 million) for near-term infrastructure projects to be implemented subsequently.

      In municipal elections held in October, the Socialist Party won in 50 municipalities and 218 communities, whereas the Democrats won only in 11 municipalities and 80 communities after calling for a partial boycott of the vote in the runoff. Two municipalities and 17 communities went to smaller parties and independent candidates.

      The Stability Pact also dominated Albania's foreign-policy agenda. Numerous projects designed to enhance cooperation between Albania and other southeastern European countries in the fields of human rights, democracy, and security were launched. Pres. Rexhep Meidani traveled to Kosovo on May 24, the first visit ever by an Albanian head of state to that heavily ethnic Albanian-populated province in Yugoslavia. Meidani emphasized Albania's commitment to the creation of “a Europe of the regions” (that is, rather than a continent based on traditional nation-states) and spoke against the desirability of creating a “Greater Albania” that would include ethnic Albanians in neighbouring countries, while stressing the need for closer regional and European integration. Following the election in October of Vojislav Kostunica as president of Yugoslavia, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo made the resumption of regular bilateral relations dependent on Serbia freeing Kosovo Albanian prisoners and recognizing its responsibility for crimes against humanity in the Kosovo war.

Fabian Schmidt

▪ 2000

28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 3,365,000
Chief of state:
President Rexhep Mejdani
Head of government:
Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and, from October 27, Ilir Meta

      Developments in Albania in 1999 were determined by the war in neighbouring Kosovo. During the 78 days of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia from March until June, about 450,000 of the total 750,000 Kosovar refugees expelled by Yugoslav forces fled into Albania. That figure was equal to almost 15% of Albania's total population. The hostilities turned Albania into a key operational theatre for international relief agencies and NATO forces in Albania, called KFOR, which launched a humanitarian relief operation. In addition, within the framework of the NATO air campaign, U.S. forces deployed 24 Apache antitank helicopters and long-range artillery pieces in northern Albania.

      The northern Albanian border regions of Kukës and Tropojë bore the brunt of the refugee influx and military operations. Supplying the refugees and transporting them to other parts of the country created immense logistic difficulties for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other relief agencies. The region also saw ongoing border clashes between Yugoslav forces, who continually shelled Albanian border villages, and Kosovo Liberation Army fighters operating in part from support bases inside Albania. The border area remained heavily mined after the fighting subsided.

      The arrival of NATO troops in Kosovo on June 12 and the end of the fighting paved the way for the return of the opposition Democratic Party (PDS) to Albanian political life after 10 months of boycotting of the People's Assembly. (The party began a sustained boycott after a PDS delegate, Azem Hajdari, was killed in September 1998.) At an extraordinary party congress in Tiranë on July 17, PDS leader Sali Berisha declared that its return was a gesture of gratitude to the U.S. for its engagement on behalf of the Kosovars. Until that time the PDS had been strongly under the control of Berisha, but late in the year the reformists in the PDS openly clashed with Berisha's supporters over party strategy. The reformers argued that the parliamentary boycott was leading to political isolation of the party. Similarly, in the governing Socialist Party, former prime minister Fatos Nano won the party leadership from Prime Minister Pandeli Majko. Majko subsequently resigned as prime minister and was replaced by the former deputy prime minister, Ilir Meta. On September 15 Nano accused Majko of having allowed Kosovar guerrillas to smuggle arms through Albanian territory.

      A measure of normalcy descended on civilian life in the north as well. Newly appointed Interior Minister Spartak Poci managed to break up 12 criminal gangs throughout the country, most notably those in Tropojë, where special police units restored order in September. Because of frequent armed robberies, Tropojë earlier had been a “no-go” area for international aid agencies. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe closed its office there on June 16 after gunmen killed two of its local staff.

      With the end of the fighting in Kosovo, Albania's relations improved with its neighbours—Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece, and the new UN administration in Kosovo, with whom the Albanian Foreign Ministry planned a series of joint regional development projects within the framework of the European Union–funded Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. Early accomplishments included the installation of a powerful microwave-telephone connection between Albania and Kosovo and the signing of infrastructure development projects with Montenegro.

Fabian Schmidt

▪ 1999

      Area: 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 3,331,000

      Capital: Tiranë

      Chief of state: President Rexhep Mejdani

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Fatos Nano and, from October 2, Pandeli Majko

      Albania in 1998 continued to suffer from its harsh political polarization. The opposition Democratic Party (PDS) of former president Sali Berisha ended a parliamentary boycott that it had started the previous year, demanding the resignation of the Socialist-dominated coalition government. Ignoring calls by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe, the PDS declined to participate in the parliamentary commission that was working on a draft constitution. Following widespread allegations of government inefficiency and corruption in his administration, Socialist Prime Minister Fatos Nano reshuffled his Cabinet in mid-April, reducing the number of ministers. Local by-elections on June 21 and 28 confirmed continuing popular support for his coalition, which won in five municipalities and six smaller communities. The opposition won in two municipalities and three communities.

      In late August police arrested former defense minister Safet Zhulali, former interior minister Halit Shamata, former chairman of state control Blerim Cela, and three other former officials of Berisha's government on charges of crimes against humanity in conjunction with their alleged roles in the suppression of unrest in 1997. General Prosecutor Arben Rakipi charged the six with having ordered the use of chemical weapons, airplanes, and helicopters against civilians. Subsequently, Berisha called on his supporters to bring down the government "with all means," saying that the arrests were politically motivated. On September 14, after the killing of a Berisha aide, Berisha supporters seized government buildings in Tiranë. Government forces counterattacked and reoccupied the buildings, and on September 15 Berisha surrendered two tanks posted outside his headquarters after the government threatened to use force if his followers did not give up their weapons.

      Intraparty squabbling led to Prime Minister Nano's resignation on September 28, and he was replaced by 30-year-old Socialist Pandeli Majko a few days later. Pres. Rexhep Mejdani signed into law Albania's first post-communist constitution on November 28.

      More than 13,000 refugees fled into Albania after the eruption in February of civil war between the Serbian police and army and the ethnic Albanian separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) in the neighbouring province of Kosovo. The Albanian Foreign Ministry repeatedly charged Yugoslavia with border violations that included shelling and sniping and with conducting massacres of Kosovo's civilian population. It also called for NATO military intervention to stop the fighting.


▪ 1998

      Area: 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 3,293,000

      Capital: Tiranë

      Chief of state: Presidents Sali Berisha until July 23 and, from July 24, Rexhep Mejdani

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Aleksander Meksi until March 2, Bashkim Fino from March 11, and, from July 24, Fatos Nano

      The year 1997 would go into the books as one of the most tragic in Albanian history. In February the country suddenly plunged into chaos, and by March public order had broken down entirely. The drama was triggered by the collapse of pyramid investment schemes, which overnight rendered one out of three Albanians penniless. With astonishing speed the entire military establishment melted away, the security service dissolved, and the people broke into military depots and armed themselves with every type of weapon, including Kalashnikovs and even tanks—an estimated 650,000 weapons were seized. Most of the southern half of the country fell into the hands of ragtag rebels and criminal gangs. More than 10,000 persons fled to Italy, which in turn caused a governmental crisis in Rome. Calls came from all sides demanding the resignation of Pres. Sali Berisha. Albania became virtually without state rule, and several high government officials, including Defense Minister Safet Zhulali, fled abroad.

      On March 2 the People's Assembly proclaimed a state of emergency. Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi and his Democratic Party of Albania (PDS) Cabinet resigned and were replaced by a national reconciliation government headed by Bashkim Fino. New national elections were set for June 29. In late March the UN Security Council approved dispatching a multinational military force to Albania to oversee the distribution of international humanitarian aid and maintain order. Some 7,000 troops from eight European countries under Italian leadership participated in "Operation Alba."

      The Socialist Party of Albania (PSS; the former Communist Party) and its allies won a landslide victory in the relatively peaceful June elections. Berisha resigned, and former physics professor Rexhep Mejdani, secretary of the PSS, was elected president in July. A new 20-member multiparty Cabinet (excluding the PDS) was formed, with Fatos Nano, a PSS leader, as prime minister.

      The Albanian economy also suffered grievously. Unemployment soared over the 25% mark, and inflation had risen 28% by July. Gross domestic product, which had registered 8-11% increases in the previous few years, dropped by 7%. The currency was devalued from 108 to more than 150 leks to the dollar.


      This article updates Albania, history of (Albania).

▪ 1997

      A republic in the western Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe, Albania is situated on the Adriatic Sea. Area: 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 3,249,000. Cap.: Tiranë. Monetary unit: lek, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 108.10 leks to U.S. $1 (170.29 leks = £ 1 sterling). President in 1996, Sali Berisha; prime minister, Aleksander Meksi.

      The third postcommunist parliamentary elections, held on May 26, 1996, plunged Albania into its deepest political crisis since the demise of communist rule in 1991. The opposition, led by the Socialist Party (the former Communist Party), charged that Pres. Sali Berisha's Democratic Party of Albania (DPA) used intimidation and fraud to capture a large election majority. Riot police violently broke up a protest rally, and the opposition parties boycotted all further activities related to the national elections, giving the DPA de facto control over the People's Assembly, the executive, and the judiciary.

      On July 11 a new Cabinet was formed comprising 16 ministries (1 without portfolio), 7 state secretaries, and 1 Cabinet secretary-general. The enlarged new executive body had four female members, the widest female representation in the history of the country.

      Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an estimated 8%, while inflation rose by about 4-5%, mainly owing to the introduction of a value-added tax. Unemployment dropped to a total of 170,000, or about 13%. The agricultural and especially the construction and private-service sectors continued to register robust two-digit growth. The Albanian economy nevertheless remained unproductive, since GDP was primarily attributable to the growth of small businesses and not to industry. Remittances from Albanian émigrés in Greece, Italy, Germany, and the U.S. still accounted for an estimated 20% of GDP. Early in the year Albania received an aid package from the U.S. worth $100 million.

      The nation's relationship with Greece was improved when a high-ranking Greek official visited Albania, and a number of important cooperation agreement were signed. The impasse between Tiranë and Belgrade continued, although ethnic Albanians from Kosovo were allowed to travel to Albania. Tiranë dispatched a 33-man peacekeeping force to the German contingent of IFOR (the NATO-led Implementation Force) in Croatia, the first time in the country's history that Albanian troops had been stationed abroad. (LOUIS ZANGA)

      This article updates Albania, history of (Albania).

▪ 1996

      A republic in the western Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe, Albania is situated on the Adriatic Sea. Area: 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 3,412,000. Cap.: Tirana. Monetary unit: lek, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 93.65 leks to U.S. $1 (148.05 leks = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Sali Berisha; prime minister, Aleksander Meksi.

      Pres. Sali Berisha's ruling Democratic Party (PDS) withstood the damaging effects of defeat in the November 1994 constitutional referendum but still faced formidable political, economic, and social problems in 1995. Following the referendum defeat, the PDS replaced incompetent and corrupt personnel at all party levels. The leading opposition Socialist Party (the former communist party) threatened the PDS's hold on power, while the PDS cited notable successes in economic and foreign affairs and predicted victory in the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 1996.

      Albania's admission as the 36th member to the Council of Europe was a huge political success and came after the country proved it had made substantial progress in implementing economic, political, and social reforms. At the same time, the administration came under sharp criticism for not allowing the judiciary to function independently. A new penal code and penal procedure came into force, however, enhancing the country's commitment to upholding human rights. Among the 49 new legislative decisions approved by the People's Assembly in 1995 were land and property laws that positively affected the flow of domestic and foreign investments, especially in the field of agriculture. The process of privatization continued, with some 1,400 small-sized enterprises privatized (only some middle- and large-sized companies awaited privatization). Albania's $700 million foreign debt was substantially reduced. As a result of an agreement between Albania and 41 Western banks, the country's debt owed to those institutions dropped from $500 million to $100 million on September 1.

      On the domestic front gross domestic product grew by an estimated 6%, and the budget deficit was expected to be reduced to 7%. Inflation dropped to about 10%; the national currency, the lek, stabilized ($1 to 90 leks); and unemployment hovered at 260,000 (about 18%), despite the fact that an estimated 500,000 workers were employed abroad. The agricultural, construction, and private-service sectors registered high rates of growth—15%, 90%, and 25%, respectively. The industrial sector remained the weakest economic link, with continued production losses. Exports also lagged.

      Continued progress was made in foreign affairs, with the exception of an impasse between Tirana and Belgrade. A slight improvement in Greek-Albanian relations was evidenced, and a first-ever meeting between U.S. and Albanian heads of state occurred in September. U.S.-Albanian military cooperation developed quickly. Joint projects in 1995 included U.S. intelligence-gathering flights to Bosnia and Herzegovina from bases in Albania, exchanges of high-level military delegations, medical and military exercises, and the construction of Albania's only military hospital.


      This updates the article Albania, history of (Albania).

▪ 1995

      A republic in the western Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe, Albania is situated on the Adriatic Sea. Area: 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 3,374,000. Cap.: Tirana. Monetary unit: lek, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 100.09 leks to U.S. $1 (159.20 leks = £1 sterling). President in 1994, Sali Berisha; prime minister, Aleksander Meksi.

      During 1994 Albania's postcommunist recovery continued but with more progress in some areas than others. Greek-Albanian relations deteriorated, and Athens blocked European Union loans to Tirana, impeding Albania's much-needed integration into Europe.

      Domestically, Albania not only halted economic decay but registered growth; gross domestic product grew by 8%, agricultural production increased an estimated 8% over 1993 levels, and inflation continued its downward spiral. Unemployment, however, remained the country's Achilles' heel; more than 300,000 workers were unemployed. Some $400 million sent home by Albanian emigrants played a vital role in boosting the domestic economy by increasing the volume of disposable income. For most, economic hardship and widespread poverty were the norm. Albania's foreign debt continued to soar and was expected to exceed $600 million.

      The political climate was relatively stable, but hostility between ruling and opposition forces continued to surface. The Socialist Party of Albania (PSS) and other political groups accused Pres. Sali Berisha of becoming increasingly authoritarian. Berisha sought to end a constitutional impasse in October, however, when he called for a national referendum, the first of its kind. Surprisingly, the November vote went against Berisha, perpetuating the deadlock with the Socialists and likely delaying moves toward closer ties with Western Europe. The trials of PSS leader Fatos Nano and former communist leader Ramiz Alia resulted in prison terms of 12 and 9 years, respectively.

      Albania made considerable progress in foreign affairs, although relations with some of its neighbours continued to be fraught with problems. The impasse in relations between Belgrade, Yugos., and Tirana persisted, but ties with Bulgaria, Turkey, Macedonia, and Italy further improved. Relations with Greece raised worries about a new Balkan flash point. Following a raid on an army training camp in which two Albanian conscripts were killed, Tirana arrested five ethnic Greeks, found them guilty of espionage and illegal possession of weapons, and sentenced them to between six and eight years in prison. Angered by the verdict, Athens reportedly expelled as many as 70,000 of the 300,000 Albanians living in Greece. (LOUIS ZANGA)

      This updates the article Albania, history of (Albania).

▪ 1994

      A republic in the western Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe, Albania is situated on the Adriatic Sea. Area: 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 3,422,000. Cap.: Tirane. Monetary unit: lek, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 109.20 leks to U.S. $1 (165.44 leks = £1 sterling). President in 1993, Sali Berisha; prime minister, Aleksander Meksi.

      Having begun its difficult transition from paralysis to democracy in March 1992, Albania in 1993 entered a new, postemergency period. A relative economic recovery was manifested by an 8% growth in gross national product, the highest in Eastern Europe; inflation was brought down to a monthly rate of 1.3%; and the agricultural sector showed new vitality as a result of privatization. The pace of recovery was acknowledged by international bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

      By 1993 the Albanian government had gone beyond its former passive approach to a more active program to stabilize the economy. Serious unemployment, the high cost of living, and the slow rate of foreign investment were the major problems. Albania's economic situation remained precarious, and the country would still have to rely on foreign aid to ensure the successful completion of the reform process. Nonetheless, the period of total reliance on foreign emergency aid gradually gave way to a situation that began to attract foreign investment and saw the beginnings of Albanian economic cooperation with the outside world.

      Former Communist leader Ramiz Alia, almost all former Politburo members, and the Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano were under arrest in 1993 awaiting trial on charges of abuse of office. Ties with the European Community and other international bodies, as well as with such neighbouring countries as Turkey and Italy, improved, and Albania joined the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Tirane even expressed interest in joining NATO. Pope John Paul II made a historic visit in April. (The last pope to travel to Albania—in 1464—died en route.) Relations with Greece deteriorated, however, as a result of Albania's expulsion of an Orthodox cleric and Greece's subsequent deportation of thousands of illegal Albanian migrant workers. The shooting of Albanian citizens on the Macedonian and Serbian borders and the continued violation of human rights of the ethnic Albanian population in the Serbian province of Kosovo served to further undermine Albania's efforts at peaceful regional cooperation. (LOUIS ZANGA)

      This updates the article Albania, history of (Albania).

* * *

Albania, flag of   country in southern Europe, located in the western part of the Balkan (Balkans) Peninsula on the Strait of Otranto, the southern entrance to the Adriatic Sea. The capital city is Tirana (Tiranë (Tirana)).

      Albanians refer to themselves as shqiptarë, meaning “sons of eagles,” and to their country as Shqipëria. They are descendants of the ancient Illyrians (Illyria), who lived in central Europe and migrated southward to the territory of Albania at the beginning of the Bronze Age, about 2000 BCE. They have lived in relative isolation and obscurity through most of their difficult history, in part because of the rugged terrain of their mountainous land but also because of a complex of historical, cultural, and social factors.

      Because of its location on the Adriatic Sea, Albania has long served as a bridgehead for various nations and empires seeking conquest abroad. In the 2nd century BCE the Illyrians were conquered by the Romans, and from the end of the 4th century CE they were ruled by the Byzantine Empire. After suffering centuries of invasion by Visigoths (Visigoth), Huns (Hun), Bulgars (Bulgar), and Slavs (Slav), the Albanians were finally conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. Ottoman rule cut off Albania from Western civilization for more than four centuries, but in the late 19th century the country began to remove itself from Ottoman influence and to rediscover old affinities and common interests with the West.

      Albania was declared independent in 1912, but the following year the demarcation of its boundaries by the great powers of Europe (Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia) assigned about half its territory and people to neighbouring states. Ruled as a monarchy between the World Wars, Albania emerged from the violence of World War II as a communist (communism) state that fiercely protected its sovereignty and in which almost all aspects of life were controlled by the ruling party. But with the collapse of other communist regimes beginning in 1989, new social forces and democratic political parties emerged in Albania. This shift reflected the country's continuing orientation toward the West, and it accorded with the Albanian people's long-standing appreciation of Western technology and cultural achievements—even while retaining their own ethnic identity, cultural heritage, and individuality.

 Albania is bounded by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east, Greece to the southeast and south, and the Adriatic and Ionian (Ionian Sea) seas to the west and southwest, respectively. Albania's immediate western neighbour, Italy, lies some 50 miles (80 km) across the Adriatic Sea. Albania has a length of about 210 miles (340 km) and a width of about 95 miles (150 km).

  Albania has a mountainous geography. About three-fourths of its territory consists of mountains and hills with elevations of more than 650 feet (200 metres) above sea level; the remainder consists of coastal and alluvial lowlands. The North Albanian Alps, an extension of the Dinaric Alps, cover the northern part of the country. With elevations approaching 8,900 feet (2,700 metres), this is the most rugged part of the country. It is heavily forested and sparsely populated.

      In contrast to the Alps, the central mountain region, which extends north-south from the Drin River to the central Devoll and lower Osum rivers, is more densely populated and has a generally less rugged terrain. In the region's easternmost portion, the imposing gypsum block of Albania's highest peak, Mount Korab, rises to 9,030 feet (2,752 metres).

      South of the central mountain region is a series of northwest-southeast-trending mountain ranges with elevations up to 8,200 feet (2,500 metres). Composed of limestone rock, the ranges are separated by wide valleys. Unlike the Alps and the central region, which are covered with dense forests, the mountains of the southern region are either bare or have a thin covering of Mediterranean shrubs, oaks, and pines. They serve essentially as pasture for livestock.

      Stretching along the Adriatic coast over a distance of nearly 125 miles (200 km) and penetrating some 30 miles (50 km) into the interior are the low, fertile plains of western Albania. This is the most important agricultural and industrial region of the country—and the most densely populated.

      The longest river in Albania is the Drin (about 175 miles [280 km]), which originates in Kosovo. Other main rivers are the Seman, Shkumbin, and Vjosë, all of which drain the central part of the western plains. Albania also has many lakes, the most important of which are Lake Scutari (Scutari, Lake) (known in Albania as Lake Shkodër) in the northwest and Lakes Ohrid (Ohrid, Lake) and Prespa (Prespa, Lake) along the eastern border.

      Like other Mediterranean countries, Albania has characteristically warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Local climatic variation can occur, however, from one region to another. The western part of the country, which is under the influence of warm maritime air from the Adriatic and Ionian seas, has more-moderate temperatures than the rest of Albania. For example, Sarandë, on the southern coast, has average daily temperatures in the mid-70s F (about 24 °C) in July and in the upper 40s F (about 9 °C) in January. The eastern part of the country, on the other hand, is mainly under the influence of continental air and is characterized by mild summers (owing to the high elevations) and cold winters. Peshkopi, in the eastern mountains, has temperatures that average in the mid-70s F in July and in the lower 30s F (about −1 °C) in January.

      Rainfall in Albania is abundant, but it occurs unevenly across the country and throughout the year. Average annual precipitation varies from more than 100 inches (2,500 mm) in the North Albanian Alps to less than 30 inches (760 mm) along much of the eastern border. Some 40 percent of the annual precipitation falls in the winter. The southwestern part of the country suffers from summer droughts.

Plant and animal life
      Only a small part of Albania is completely without vegetation. Forests cover about one-third of the total area. The coastal lowlands are characterized by Mediterranean shrubs such as laurel and myrtle. Above the lowlands, oak forests predominate. Above the oak belt, beginning at about 3,000 feet (900 metres), is a stretch of beeches and pines, and Alpine pastures lie above the timberline.

      Unrestricted hunting has taken a heavy toll of Albanian wildlife, but hunting laws were introduced and nature preserves were established in the 1990s to protect the remaining jackals, wolves, and foxes and the even rarer wild boars, bears, and chamois. The mild coastal climate attracts great numbers of migratory birds, such as swallows, storks, ducks, geese, and pelicans. Sardines and mullet are among the fishes found in Albanian coastal waters, and trout are found in the streams and lakes of the mountains.

People (Albania)

Ethnic groups
      Albania has one of the most homogeneous populations in Europe, with non-Albanians accounting for less than one-tenth of the total population. The largest minorities are Vlachs; Greeks, concentrated mainly in the southeast; and Macedonians, living along the eastern border.

      The two main subgroups of Albanians are the Gegs (Ghegs) in the north and the Tosks in the south. Differences between the two groups were quite pronounced before World War II. Until the communist takeover in 1944, Albanian politics were dominated by the more numerous Gegs. Renowned for their independent spirit and fighting abilities, they traditionally opposed outside authority, whether that of foreign invaders or that of the Albanian central government. Traditional Geg society was based on tribal groups, each one led by a clan chieftain, or bajraktar. Under the communist regime, this clan system largely disappeared from Albania, but the patriarchal families characteristic of the Gegs are still evident among ethnic Albanians in Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

      Because their southern territories were easily accessible to the outside world, the Tosks were more subject to foreign influence than the Gegs. Before World War II, theirs was a mostly semifeudal society. The peasantry, which made up most of the population, lived at the subsistence level, while a small group of large landowners controlled about two-thirds of the land. The communist movement drew most of its initial support from Tosks in the south.

      The Albanian language, called shqip or shqipe by Albanians, is of interest to linguists because, as a descendant of the extinct Illyrian tongue, it is the only surviving member of its branch of the Indo-European language family (Indo-European languages). Influenced by centuries of rule by foreigners, the Albanian vocabulary has adopted many words from the Latin, Greek, Turkish, Italian, and Slavic tongues. There are two principal dialects: Geg, spoken north of the Shkumbin River, and Tosk, spoken in the south. Geg dialects are also spoken in Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia, and Tosk dialects, though somewhat archaic as a result of centuries of separation from their place of origin in Albania, are prominent in the Albanian communities of Greece and Italy. Although there are variations even within these two dialects, Albanians can understand one another with no difficulty.

      Because official business and ecclesiastical functions had long been conducted in Latin or Greek, Albanian did not acquire a definitive orthography until 1908, when a writing system was adopted based on the Roman alphabet. Before this time, publications written in Albania used a mix of different alphabets—namely, Latin, Greek, Turko-Arabic, and Cyrillic. Attempts were then made in following decades to create a unified language based on the Geg dialect of the central Elbasan region; however, all printed materials were published in Tosk until 1972, when a Congress of Orthography was convened in Tirana, and a unified Albanian language based on Tosk was established.

      As a legacy of nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule, Albania is a predominantly Muslim (Islāmic world) country. However, as a result of the rigid enforcement of atheism during the communist regime, today most Albanians are adherents of religious groups in name only and practice largely secular lifestyles. In 1967 the communist party officially proclaimed Albania an atheistic country and commenced to close all places of worship (churches, mosques, and s (zāwiyah)), confiscate their property, and ban religious observances. For the whole of its 45 years of absolute rule, the party engaged in large-scale persecution of believers. Only in 1990, when freedom of worship was restored, did churches and mosques begin reopening.

      In the early 21st century about seven-tenths of the Albanian population was nominally Muslim, more than half of them Sunni (Sunnite) Muslims and the next largest group being the Bektashi sect. Those who identified with Eastern Orthodoxy constituted about one-fifth of the population, and those associated with Roman Catholicism constituted about one-tenth. Muslims are spread throughout the country, although they particularly dominate the centre. Roman Catholics have settled primarily in the northern part of the country, mainly in the city of Shkodër, while Orthodox Christians are prominent in the southern districts of Gjirokastër, Korçë, Berat, and Vlorë. Mother Teresa, a Macedonian-born ethnic Albanian who served as a Roman Catholic missionary to India in the 20th century, is a folk hero in Albania.

Settlement patterns
 Albania's mountain regions, being suitable mainly for pasture, traditionally saw sparse settlement, with small, often almost inaccessible villages of only a few dozen families each. Houses were built of stone and consisted of one or two rooms around a hearth. In the mountain valleys or basins, towns such as Elbasan, Korçë, and Berat developed as centres of local farming and trading.

 Western Albania is much more densely populated, but, as a legacy of Ottoman rule, even such centres of the coastal plain as Tirana, Durrës, and Vlorë long remained small towns with virtually no industry. Following World War II, however, mass migration from the countryside doubled Albania's urban population. During the communist period, planned communities were built in some parts of the countryside to house the workers of huge collective farms, many of which were built around formerly private estates. Following the collapse of communism, these farmers became independent smallholders. Even though rural-to-urban migration accelerated in the 1990s, the country's population is still more than half rural. The urban population is generally evenly distributed among the country's major cities, the largest of which is Tirana. Large apartment blocks, often with several units sharing kitchens and toilets, were built under communist rule, but, because the construction of new residences has been unable to keep pace with the movement from the countryside and with Albania's high birth rate, cities are overcrowded, and there has been a proliferation of shanty dwellings.

Demographic trends
      In the decades following World War II, the birth rate in Albania was consistently the highest in Europe and the death rate one of the continent's lowest. Until the 1990s the Albanian population was increasing four to five times faster than the average annual rate in other European countries. Nearly all of the growth was due to natural increase rather than migration. Even though this explosive growth had slowed by the turn of the 21st century, Albania's population remains one of the youngest in Europe, with about one-fourth of the total under age 15. The country's natural increase rate, though slightly high compared with other European countries, dropped below the world average in the early 21st century.

      At the beginning of the 21st century there were an estimated seven million ethnic Albanians in the world, but fewer than half of them lived within the boundaries of the Albanian state. The largest concentrations of Albanians outside Albania are in the bordering countries of Kosovo (where ethnic Albanians constitute a majority population), Macedonia, and Montenegro. There are also Albanian communities in Greece, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania. Moreover, since the 1970s many Albanians have emigrated to western Europe and the United States.

      During the Kosovo conflict of the late 1990s, the Serbian government responded to rising Kosovar Albanian nationalism with a reprisal decried as ethnic cleansing, which forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians to flee to Albania. By late 1999, however, following the mediation of the conflict, many of them had returned to Kosovo.

      Before 1991 the ruling communist party directed the country's entire economy through a series of five-year plans. All means of production were under state control, agriculture was fully collectivized, industry was nationalized, and private enterprise was strictly forbidden. In addition, a provision of the constitution prohibited the government from seeking foreign aid, accepting loans, or allowing foreign investment, which contributed to Albania's reputation as isolationist. In the postcommunist period, economic decision making was decentralized, and restrictions on private trade were lifted. Foreign investment was pronounced by the mid-1990s, with assistance coming from the United States, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund. By the middle of that decade, Albania boasted the fastest-growing economy on the continent, but, as one of Europe's poorest countries, it was still considered less developed.

      Albania's economic transition stumbled in 1997 when individual investors, constituting perhaps one-third of the country's population, fell prey to a pyramid finance scheme that devastated the national economy and led to weeks of anarchy. A UN-sponsored multinational force was called to restore order. This chaos, compounded by the Kosovo conflict at the end of the decade, led to fractious political polarization that slowed the development of the Albanian economy for several years. Still, economic reform continued, and, at the beginning of the 21st century, Albania was recording modest annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP). Remittances from Albanians working abroad account for a significant amount of revenue. Although more than four-fifths of the economy has been privatized since the 1990s, the transformation process has been slow and uneven.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      The former communist government allocated substantial resources to the development of agriculture. Large-scale programs of land reclamation, soil improvement, and irrigation, as well as increased use of fertilizers, all contributed to a significant expansion of agricultural production. Despite these advances, agricultural production continued to be hindered by the persistence of traditional farming methods and low mechanization, which required a relatively high number of farmworkers. Measures intended to encourage the growth of food processing and agriculture were hampered by chronic shortages of basic foods, a failing infrastructure, a lack of raw materials, a shortage of skilled workers and managers, low productivity, and poor labour discipline. However, agriculture has registered annual growth during the postcommunist period.

      About half of the economically active population is employed in agriculture, which contributes about one-fifth of Albania's GDP. Only one-fourth of the total land area is arable, yet the country meets nearly all its food needs from domestic production. The main crops are wheat, corn (maize), sugar beets, and watermelons. Apples, plums, grapes, walnuts, and chestnuts are also grown. Citrus fruits are cultivated on the southern coast, as are figs and olives wherever there is sufficient irrigation. Major livestock are sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs.

      Forests cover about one-third of Albania. The country has lost much of its forest area, however, due to clearance for agriculture, pasture, and fuel wood, which occurred mainly in the early 1990s. In the mid-1990s the Albanian government joined with Italy and the World Bank to implement a forestry project, which included the strengthening of Albania's environmental institutions and the introduction of sustainable forestry methods.

      With access to both the Adriatic and Ionian seas, the Albanian fishing industry has great potential; however, due to a lack of professional fishermen and the use of antiquated equipment, it has not been fully developed. The catch in the Ionian Sea includes carp, trout, sea bream, mussels, and crustaceans. The country's main fishing ports are at Sarandë, Vlorë, Shëngjin, and Durrës, the last of which is the country's largest and most important. Port facilities have also been developed on inland lakes. The government has attempted to ban fishing of the letnica trout (known as koran in Albania), an endangered pink-meat fish found in Lake Ohrid. Family-run trout farms have increased in importance, as have shrimp farms and hatcheries. Anchovies imported from other Mediterranean countries are canned for export.

Resources and power
      For a small country, Albania is endowed with considerable resources. The southwestern part of the country is rich in petroleum and natural gas. The northeastern and central mountain regions have substantial reserves of metallic mineral deposits, including chromium, copper, and iron-nickel. Deposits of lignite (soft coal) are found near Tirana, and natural asphalt is mined near Selenicë, by the southwest coast. In the 1980s Albania was a world leader in chromium production, but output fell precipitously in the early 1990s during the political transition from communism. Despite increased output by the mid-1990s, mining in all sectors fell again by the century's end because of the poor recovery methods, obsolete machinery and equipment, lack of technical expertise, and poor organization that have characterized Albania's efforts to exploit its resources.

      The country is also rich with rivers and streams that have significant hydroelectric potential. These were exploited quite effectively at the end of the communist era, making the country an energy exporter. A number of huge hydroelectric power plants were built, mainly on the Drin River, and more than half of the country's arable land was irrigated, largely from the artificial reservoirs created upstream of the dams. In the postcommunist period, though, energy exports fell, and internally Albania suffered from inadequate electrical service to large areas of the country. Chronic energy shortages continued into the 21st century.

      The former communist government's policy of rapid industrialization, aimed at making the country as self-sufficient as possible, led to the creation of a relatively modern multibranched industry. Former strengths, however, such as the engineering and chemical industries, have fallen into decline. Manufacturing, together with mining, now generates only about one-tenth of national income and employs only a small percentage of the labour force. Leading manufactures are food and beverages, building materials, petroleum, textiles, and cement. Construction accounts for about one-eighth of Albania's GDP. The economy has become increasingly service-oriented, yet it is often unable to meet the population's demands for various consumer goods.

      The national currency of Albania is the lek, which has been administered by the Bank of Albania since 1992. Prior to that time, numerous currencies had circulated through Albania because of its history of foreign occupation. Greece, Germany, and Turkey are Albania's biggest foreign investors, providing about three-fourths of external investment in the 21st century. There is a stock exchange in Tirana.

      Albania had a growing trade deficit in the early years of the 21st century. Its major trading partners include Italy, Greece, Turkey, Germany, and China. It exports textiles, footwear, and base metals. The principal imports are food products, machinery and equipment, spare parts, textiles, and minerals and metals.

      The service sector contributes about two-fifths of the country's GDP and employs about one-fifth of the economically active population. Albania's tourism sector was virtually nonexistent before 1992, and it remained relatively underdeveloped at the turn of the 21st century compared with the rest of the region, mainly due to poor infrastructure and political instability. Nevertheless, major restorations of architectural and cultural monuments and the construction of hotels and other tourist-oriented facilities along the coastline started to attract large numbers of visitors in the early 2000s. The 290-mile (470-km) coastline along the Adriatic is well known for its splendid beaches. Albania also has many archaeological treasures. A number of excavations in the late 20th and early 21st century have uncovered ruins and artifacts from antiquity. One of these archaeological sites is Butrint—at one time a Greek colony, a Roman city, and a Byzantine port—which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992 and a national park in 2000.

Labour and taxation
 Unemployment in Albania is widespread, and about one-third of the population lives in poverty. Since the early 1990s, many younger Albanians have left the country to find work. The percentage of women in the workforce dropped drastically in the 1990s (from about three-fourths in 1989 to slightly less than half by the mid-2000s). While women have made gains professionally, economic problems and structural changes have eradicated many of their former jobs, leaving them to resort to working at domestic chores or on the family farm. The first independent labour unions and a national labour federation were formed in Albania in 1991. In 2008 Albania adopted a flat tax for both individuals and corporations, which replaced its progressive tax system.

Transportation and telecommunications
      Albania built its first railroad in 1947, and during the next four decades Tirana was linked by rail to other major industrial centres in the country. The road network has been extended even to remote mountain villages, but surface quality can be poor. The leading port is Durrës, on the Adriatic Sea. The main air hub is in Tirana.

      Most of the telecommunications sector in Albania was privatized in the early 21st century, and from the early 1990s to the early 2000s the number of mobile telephone users increased significantly. However, the country still has one of the lowest user-penetration rates for fixed-line telephones and Internet usage in all of Europe. Computer usage and Internet service are still virtually nonexistent in rural areas.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
 The constitution of the Republic of Albania was promulgated on Nov. 28, 1998. It replaced an interim document from 1991 that had first sanctioned a multiparty political system and officially guaranteed Albanian citizens the freedoms of speech, religion, press, and assembly.

      Albania is a parliamentary democracy, with 140 deputies elected to four-year terms in the unicameral People's Assembly. Of those deputies, 100 are elected by direct suffrage, while the remainder are elected by proportional representation. The head of the government, the prime minister, is chosen from the leading party in parliament and selects the Council of Ministers (cabinet). The president, who serves as the head of state, is elected by the People's Assembly for a five-year term and can serve a limit of two consecutive terms.

Local government
      The country is divided into qark (counties), which are further divided into rrethe (districts). Beneath the districts in the administrative hierarchy are komuna (communes) and bashkia (municipalities). The counties are governed by councils, whose members are either representatives of the municipalities and communes from within the county or are chosen by the council. The cabinet appoints a prefect as its representative for each county. Government at the district and lower levels operates through local councils elected by direct vote for three-year terms.

Justice and security
      Albania has a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court, which is the highest court of appeals, and numerous appeal and district courts. The Constitutional Court justices are appointed by the People's Assembly to serve one nine-year term. The Supreme Court has 11 members, each of whom is appointed by the president with the consent of the People's Assembly for a nine-year term. Albania has an army and a navy; Albanians age 19 and older are eligible to serve in the country's volunteer military forces.

Political process
      Suffrage is universal for citizens age 18 and older. In June 1991 the Albanian Party of Labour, at one time described as the “sole leading political force of the state and society,” changed its name to the Albanian Socialist Party (ASP). It had ruled Albania since 1944, when it was first known as the Albanian Communist Party. By the mid-1990s the revamped ASP had distanced itself from its past and broadened its appeal among left-leaning voters to emerge as the governing party at the turn of the 21st century.

      The Democratic Party, a centre-right group that made its debut as the first opposition party in Albania, scored a series of election successes in the early 1990s, but it bore the brunt of the blame for the 1997 economic collapse and fell into opposition. Other political parties of note in the early 21st century were the Social Democratic Party of Albania, the Union for Human Rights Party, and the Albanian Republican Party. There are also several agrarian, ecological, and socialist parties.

Health and welfare
      Albania has a relatively well-developed health care system. The majority of services are provided by the state, though private practice was revived in the early 1990s. At the turn of the 21st century, physicians in Albania had more than twice as many patients as the average European doctor. Nevertheless, there has been a considerable reduction in the incidence of most infectious diseases (including malaria and syphilis, which had been especially widespread), and life expectancy for both men and women in Albania is slightly above the European average, at about 75 and 80 years, respectively. Despite the real improvements in health care, Albania still has a high infant mortality rate—largely a result of poor nutrition and the difficulty of obtaining medical treatment in many rural areas.

      The government has devoted considerable resources to education. Schooling is compulsory between ages 7 and 15. Education at the primary and secondary levels is free, and higher-education fees are based on family income. The University of Tirana (1957) is the country's major institution of higher education. Tirana also has an agricultural and polytechnic university, along with an impressive network of professional and vocational schools. More than nine-tenths of the population age 15 and older is literate.

Cultural life

Cultural milieu
      Cultural development in Albania was handicapped by more than four decades of communist (communism) rule. The government imposed strict censorship on the press, publications, and the performing arts. The succeeding governments have made a conscious effort to encourage and preserve the country's rich folklife. Albania is known for its traditions of hospitality, which are based on the kanun (“code”), a set of unwritten laws devised in the 15th century by Prince Lekë Dukagjin, an Albanian feudal lord. The kanun governs all social relations, including those involving marriage, death, family, and religion. Some Albanians still follow its customary laws, including the right to avenge a killing; gjakmarrje (“blood feuds”) were known to occur in parts of northern Albania into the 21st century.

Daily life and social customs
      In addition to traditional religious holidays, pagan holidays and folklore play a role in Albanian life. Agricultural fairs and religious festivals occur throughout the year and often include competitions that highlight highly skilled sports, which are occasionally contested in the national stadium in Tirana. Dita e Verës (Spring Day) is celebrated in mid-March in Elbasan. Folkloric festivals take place in towns across the country; one of the largest is the National Festival of Folklore held in Gjirokastër, a historic town that was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005. Albania's independence is celebrated throughout the country on November 28.

      Much of Albania's cuisine consists of meat and seafood. Among the most popular dishes are roasts, biftek (beef loin), qebaps (kabobs), and qoftë (meatballs). Fergësë Tirana, a hot dish of meat, peppers, eggs, and tomatoes, is a specialty of Tirana. In southern Albania, kukurec (sheep intestines broiled on a spit) is a common entree. Carp and the revered but rare koran (trout) are the preferred food fish throughout the country. Oshaf, a pudding made from figs and sheep's milk, is a common dessert. The traditional Albanian drink is raki, a local brandy distilled from grapes that is often imbibed before a meal.

The arts
      Albania's traditional arts are rich and varied. They include fine embroidery and lace making, woodworking, and furniture making. Albanians enjoy music and storytelling, especially savouring the epics recounted by traditional singers. These singers often memorize verses hundreds and even thousands of lines long that celebrate the deeds of ancient heroes. Their tradition, however, seems to be in danger of extinction, for few young Albanians have elected to take up this ancient Balkan art form.

      Albanian folk music is national in character but has Turkish and Persian influences. Albanian iso-polyphony, derived from Byzantine church music, is a form of group singing that is performed primarily by men. Albanian iso-polyphony was listed by UNESCO in 2005 as an outstanding example of the world's intangible cultural heritage. Revived in the early 21st century, this folk tradition is still practiced at weddings, festivals, and other social events. Common folk instruments used in Albania include the çifteli (a long-necked two-stringed mandolin) and the gërnetë (a type of clarinet).

      Albania boasts a long literary tradition. The country's best-known contemporary writer is novelist and poet Ismail Kadare (Kadare, Ismail), whose work has been translated into some 30 languages. Notable early 20th-century poets include Gjergj Fishta (1871–1940), Ndre Mjeda (1866–1937), and Asdren (Alexander Stavre Drenova; 1872–1947), the last of whom wrote the lyrics for Albania's national anthem. Fan S. Noli (1882–1965), an Orthodox bishop who served briefly as prime minister, is remembered for his artful turn-of-the-20th-century translations of some of the world's classic works of drama and poetry. (See also Albanian literature.)

Cultural institutions
      Tirana is the home of a number of cultural institutions, including the National Library, the National Theatre, the Opera and Ballet Theatre, the National Museum of History, and the National Museum. There are also numerous city orchestras throughout the country. Skanderbeg's citadel at Krujë has been rebuilt and now houses a museum.

Sports and recreation
      The traditional sporting life of Albanians has been based on pastoralism and warfare (archery, wrestling, and horse racing have all enjoyed prominence). Football (soccer) is modern-day Albania's preferred sport; the country has a number of professional teams, and most cities and towns boast local amateur leagues. Other popular sports include tae kwon do, volleyball, swimming, and weightlifting. Chess is a common pastime. Albania made its debut at the 1972 Olympic Summer Games in Munich but did not return to Olympic competition until the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.

Media and publishing
      During more than four decades of communist rule, the government imposed strict censorship on the press, which was not eased until 1991. Widely circulated newspapers are Zëri i Popullit (“Voice of the People”), the organ of the Albanian Socialist Party; Rilindja Demokratike (“Democratic Revival”), published by the Democratic Party; and Republika (“Republic”), the organ of the Albanian Republican Party. The Albanian Telegraph Agency is the official news source for the country. The state-controlled National Council of Radio and Television oversees licensing. Privately owned radio and television stations have increased since the 1990s.

Elez Biberaj Peter R. Prifti


The Illyrians
      The origins of the Albanian people are not definitely known, but data drawn from history and from linguistic, archaeological, and anthropological studies have led to the conclusion that Albanians are the direct descendants of the ancient Illyrians. Similarly, the Albanian language derives from the language of the Illyrians (Illyrian language), the transition from Illyrian to Albanian apparently occurring between the 4th and 6th centuries CE. Some scholars, however, dispute such theses, arguing that Illyrians were not autochthonous to Albania and that Albanian derives from a dialect of the now-extinct Thracian language.

      Illyrian culture is believed to have evolved from the Stone Age and to have manifested itself in the territory of Albania toward the beginning of the Bronze Age, about 2000 BCE. The Illyrians were not a uniform body of people but a conglomeration of many tribes that inhabited the western part of the Balkans, from what is now Slovenia in the northwest to (and including) the region of Epirus, which extends about halfway down the mainland of modern Greece. In general, Illyrians in the highlands of Albania were more isolated than those in the lowlands, and their culture evolved more slowly—a distinction that persisted throughout Albania's history.

      Authors of antiquity relate that the Illyrians were a sociable and hospitable people, renowned for their daring and bravery at war. Illyrian women were fairly equal in status to the men, even to the point of becoming heads of tribal federations. In matters of religion, Illyrians were pagans who believed in an afterlife and buried their dead along with arms and various articles intended for personal use.

      The land of Illyria was rich in minerals—iron, copper, gold, silver—and Illyrians became skillful in the mining and processing of metals. They were highly skilled boatbuilders and sailors as well; indeed, their light, swift galleys known as liburnae were of such superior design that the Romans incorporated them into their own fleet as a type of warship called the Liburnian.

      From the 8th to the 6th century BCE the Greeks founded a string of colonies on Illyrian soil, two of the most prominent of which were Epidamnus (modern Durrës) and Apollonia (near modern Vlorë). The presence of Greek colonies on their soil brought the Illyrians into contact with a more advanced civilization, which helped them to develop their own culture while they in turn influenced the economic and political life of the colonies. In the 3rd century BCE the colonies began to decline and eventually perished.

      Roughly parallel with the rise of Greek colonies, Illyrian tribes began to evolve politically from relatively small and simple entities into larger and more complex ones. At first they formed temporary alliances with one another for defensive or offensive purposes, then federations and, still later, kingdoms. The most important of these kingdoms, which flourished from the 5th to the 2nd century BCE, were those of the Enkalayes, the Taulantes, the Epirotes, and the Ardianes.

      After warring for the better part of the 4th century BCE against the expansionist Macedonian state of Philip II and Alexander the Great, the Illyrians faced a greater threat from the growing power of the Romans. Seeing Illyrian territory as a bridgehead for conquests east of the Adriatic (Adriatic Sea), Rome in 229 BCE attacked and defeated the Illyrians, led by Queen Teuta, and by 168 BCE established effective control over Illyria.

The Roman Empire (ancient Rome)
      The Romans ruled Illyria—which now became the province of Illyricum—for about six centuries. Under Roman rule Illyrian society underwent great change, especially in its outward, material aspect. Art and culture flourished, particularly in Apollonia, whose school of philosophy became celebrated in antiquity. To a great extent, though, the Illyrians resisted assimilation into Roman culture. Illyrian culture survived, along with the Illyrian tongue, though many Latin words entered the language and later became a part of the Albanian language.

       Christianity manifested itself in Illyria during Roman rule, about the middle of the 1st century CE. At first the new religion had to compete with Middle Eastern cults—among them that of Mithra, Persian god of light—which had entered the land in the wake of Illyria's growing interaction with eastern regions of the empire. For a long time it also had to compete with gods worshipped by Illyrian pagans. The steady growth of the Christian community in Dyrrhachium (the Roman name for Epidamnus) led to the creation there of a bishopric in CE 58. Later, episcopal seats were established in Apollonia, Buthrotum (modern Butrint), and Scodra (modern Shkodër).

      By the time the empire began to decline, the Illyrians, profiting from a long tradition of martial habits and skills, had acquired great influence in the Roman military hierarchy. Indeed, several of them went on from there to become emperors. From the mid-3rd to the mid-4th century CE the reins of the empire were almost continuously in the hands of emperors of Illyrian origin: Gaius Decius (Decius), Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II Gothicus), Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian, and Constantine the Great (Constantine I).

From Illyria to Albania
      When the Roman Empire divided into East and West in 395, the territories of modern Albania became part of the Byzantine Empire. As in the Roman Empire, some Illyrians rose to positions of eminence in the new empire. Three of the emperors who shaped the early history of Byzantium (reigning from 491 to 565) were of Illyrian origin: Anastasius I, Justin I, and—the most celebrated of Byzantine emperors— Justinian I.

      In the first decades under Byzantine rule (until 461), Illyria suffered the devastation of raids by Visigoths (Visigoth), Huns (Hun), and Ostrogoths (Ostrogoth). Not long after these barbarian invaders swept through the Balkans, the Slavs (Slav) appeared. Between the 6th and 8th centuries they settled in Illyrian territories and proceeded to assimilate Illyrian tribes in much of what is now Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. The tribes of southern Illyria, however—including modern Albania—averted assimilation and preserved their native tongue.

      In the course of several centuries, under the impact of Roman, Byzantine, and Slavic cultures, the tribes of southern Illyria underwent a transformation, and a transition occurred from the old Illyrian population to a new Albanian one. As a consequence, from the 8th to the 11th century, the name Illyria gradually gave way to the name, first mentioned in the 2nd century CE by the geographer Ptolemy of Alexandria, of the Albanoi tribe, which inhabited what is now central Albania. From a single tribe the name spread to include the rest of the country as Arbëri and, finally, Albania. The genesis of Albanian nationality apparently occurred at this time as the Albanian people became aware that they shared a common territory, name, language, and cultural heritage. (Scholars have not been able to determine the origin of Shqipëria, the Albanians' own name for their land, which is believed to have supplanted the name Albania during the 16th and 17th centuries. It probably was derived from shqipe, or “eagle,” which, modified into shqipëria, became “the land of the eagle.”)

      Long before that event, Christianity had become the established religion in Albania, supplanting pagan polytheism and eclipsing for the most part the humanistic world outlook and institutions inherited from the Greek and Roman civilizations. But, though the country was in the fold of Byzantium, Albanian Christians remained under the jurisdiction of the Roman pope until 732. In that year the iconoclast Byzantine emperor Leo III, angered by Albanian archbishops because they had supported Rome in the Iconoclastic Controversy, detached the Albanian church from the Roman pope and placed it under the patriarch of Constantinople. When the Christian church split in 1054 between the East (Eastern Orthodoxy) and Rome, southern Albania retained its tie to Constantinople while northern Albania reverted to the jurisdiction of Rome. This split in the Albanian church marked the first significant religious fragmentation of the country.

Medieval culture
      In the latter part of the Middle Ages, Albanian urban society reached a high point of development. Foreign commerce flourished to such an extent that leading Albanian merchants had their own agencies in Venice, Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik, Cro.), and Thessalonica (now Thessaloníki, Greece). The prosperity of the cities stimulated the development of education and the arts. Albanian, however, was not the language used in schools, churches, and official government transactions. Instead, Greek and Latin, which had the powerful support of the state and the church, were the official languages of culture and literature.

      The new administrative system of the themes (theme), or military provinces created by the Byzantine Empire, contributed to the eventual rise of feudalism in Albania, as peasant soldiers who served military lords became serfs on their landed estates. Among the leading families of the Albanian feudal nobility were the Thopias, Balshas, Shpatas, Muzakas, Aranitis, Dukagjins, and Kastriotis. The first three of these rose to become rulers of principalities that were practically independent of Byzantium.

The decline of Byzantium
      Beginning in the 9th century, partly because of the weakness of the Byzantine Empire, Albania came under the domination, in whole or in part, of a succession of foreign powers: Bulgarians, Norman Crusaders, the Angevins of southern Italy, Serbs, and Venetians. The final occupation of the country in 1347 by the Serbs, led by Stefan Dušan, caused massive migrations of Albanians abroad, especially to Greece and the Aegean islands. By the mid-14th century, Byzantine rule had come to an end in Albania, after nearly 1,000 years.

      A few decades later the country was confronted with a new threat, that of the Turks, who at this juncture were expanding their power in the Balkans. The Ottoman (Ottoman Empire) Turks invaded Albania in 1388 and completed the occupation of the country about four decades later (1430). But after 1443 an Albanian of military genius—Gjergj Kastrioti (1405–68), known as Skanderbeg—rallied the Albanian princes and succeeded in driving the occupiers out. For the next 25 years, operating out of his stronghold in the mountain town of Krujë, Skanderbeg frustrated every attempt by the Turks to regain Albania, which they envisioned as a springboard for the invasion of Italy and western Europe. His unequal fight against the mightiest power of the time won the esteem of Europe as well as some support in the form of money and military aid from Naples, the papacy, Venice, and Ragusa. After he died, Albanian resistance gradually collapsed, enabling the Turks to reoccupy the country by 1506.

      Skanderbeg's long struggle to keep Albania free became highly significant to the Albanian people, as it strengthened their solidarity, made them more conscious of their national identity, and served later as a great source of inspiration in their struggle for national unity, freedom, and independence.

The Ottoman Empire
The nature of Turkish rule
      The Turks established their dominion over Albania just as the Renaissance began to unfold in Europe. Cut off from contact and exchanges with western Europe, Albania had no chance to participate in or benefit from the humanistic achievements of that era. Conquest also caused great suffering and vast destruction of the country's economy, commerce, art, and culture. Moreover, to escape persecution by their conquerors, about one-fourth of the country's population fled abroad to southern Italy, Sicily, and the Dalmatian coast.

      Although the Turks ruled Albania for more than four centuries, they were unable to extend their authority throughout the country. In the highland regions, Turkish authorities exercised only a formal sovereignty, as the highlanders refused to pay taxes, serve in the army, or surrender their arms—although they did pay an annual tribute to Constantinople.

      Time and again Albanians rose in rebellion against Ottoman occupation. In order to check the ravages of Albanian resistance—which was partly motivated by religious feelings, namely defense of the Christian faith—as well as to bring Albania spiritually closer to Turkey, the Ottomans initiated a systematic drive toward the end of the 16th century to Islamize (Islāmic world) the population. This drive continued through the following century, by the end of which two-thirds of the people had converted to Islam. A major reason Albanians became Muslims was to escape Turkish violence and exploitation, an instance of which was a crushing tax that Christians would have to pay if they refused to convert.

      Islamization aggravated the religious fragmentation of Albanian society, which had first appeared in the Middle Ages and which was later used by Constantinople and Albania's neighbours in attempts to divide and denationalize the Albanian people. Hence, leaders of the Albanian national movement in the 19th century used the rallying cry “The religion of Albanians is Albanianism” in order to overcome religious divisions and foster national unity.

      The basis of Ottoman rule in Albania was a feudal military system of landed estates, called timars, which were awarded to military lords for loyalty and service to the empire. As Ottoman power began to decline in the 18th century, the central authority of the empire in Albania gave way to the local authority of autonomy-minded lords. The most successful of these lords were three generations of pashas (pasha) of the Bushati family, who dominated most of northern Albania from 1757 to 1831, and Ali Paşa Tepelenë of Janina (now Ioánnina, Greece), a colourful despot who ruled over southern Albania and northern Greece from 1788 to 1822. These pashas created separate states within the Ottoman state until they were overthrown by the sultan.

      After the fall of the pashas, in 1831 Turkey officially abolished the timar system. In the wake of its collapse, economic and social power passed from the feudal lords to private landowning beys (bey) and, in the northern highlands, to tribal chieftains called bajraktars, who presided over given territories with rigid patriarchal societies that were often torn by blood feuds. Peasants who were formerly serfs now worked on the estates of the beys as tenant farmers.

      Ottoman rule in Albania remained backward and oppressive to the end. In these circumstances, many Albanians went abroad in search of careers and advancement within the empire, and an unusually large number of them (in proportion to Albania's population) rose to positions of prominence as government and military leaders. More than two dozen grand viziers (similar to prime ministers) of Turkey were of Albanian origin.

      By the mid-19th century Turkey was in the throes of the “Eastern Question,” as the peoples of the Balkans, including Albanians, sought to realize their national aspirations. To defend and promote their national interests, Albanians met in Prizren, a town in Kosovo, in 1878 and founded the Albanian League. The league had two main goals, one political and the other cultural. First, it strove (unsuccessfully) to unify all Albanian territories—at the time divided among the four vilāyets, or provinces, of Kosovo, Shkodër, Monastir, and Janina—into one autonomous state within the framework of the Ottoman Empire. Second, it spearheaded a movement to develop Albanian language, literature, education, and culture. In 1908, in line with the second program, Albanian leaders met in the town of Monastir (now Bitola, Maced.) and adopted a national alphabet. Based mostly on the Latin (Latin alphabet) script, this supplanted several other alphabets, including Arabic and Greek, that were in use until then.

      The Albanian League was suppressed by the Turks in 1881, in part because they were alarmed by its strong nationalistic orientation. By then, however, the league had become a powerful symbol of Albania's national awakening, and its ideas and objectives fueled the drive that culminated later in national independence.

      When the Young Turks, who seized power in Istanbul in 1908, ignored their commitments to Albanians to institute democratic reforms and to grant autonomy, Albanians embarked on an armed struggle, which at the end of three years (1910–12) forced the Turks to agree, in effect, to grant their demands. Alarmed at the prospect of Albanian autonomy, Albania's Balkan neighbours, who had already made plans to partition the region, declared war on Turkey in October 1912, and Greek, Serbian, and Montenegrin armies advanced into Albanian territories. To prevent the annihilation of the country, Albanian national delegates met at a congress in Vlorë. They were led by Ismail Qemal, an Albanian who had held several high positions in the Ottoman government. On Nov. 28, 1912, the congress issued the Vlorë proclamation, which declared Albania's independence.

Independent Albania
Creating the new state
      Shortly after the defeat of Turkey by the Balkan allies, a conference of ambassadors of the great powers (Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Italy) convened in London in December 1912 to settle the outstanding issues raised by the conflict. With support given to the Albanians by Austria-Hungary and Italy, the conference agreed to create an independent state of Albania. But, in drawing the borders of the new state, under strong pressure from Albania's neighbours, the great powers largely ignored demographic realities and ceded the vast region of Kosovo to Serbia, while in the south Greece (Greece, history of) was given the greater part of Çamëria, a part of the old region of Epirus centred on the Thíamis River. Many observers doubted whether the new state would be viable with about one-half of Albanian lands and population left outside its borders, especially since these lands were the most productive in food grains and livestock. On the other hand, a small community of about 35,000 ethnic Greeks was included within Albania's borders. (However, Greece, which counted all Albanians of the Orthodox faith—20 percent of the population—as Greeks, claimed that the number of ethnic Greeks was considerably larger.) Thereafter, Kosovo and the Greek minority remained troublesome issues in Albanian-Greek and Albanian-Yugoslav relations.

      The great powers also appointed a German prince, Wilhelm zu Wied, as ruler of Albania. Wilhelm arrived in Albania in March 1914, but his unfamiliarity with Albania and its problems, compounded by complications arising from the outbreak of World War I, led him to depart from Albania six months later. The war plunged the country into a new crisis, as the armies of Austria-Hungary, France, Italy, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia invaded and occupied it. Left without any political leadership or authority, the country was in chaos, and its very fate hung in the balance. At the Paris Peace Conference after the war, the extinction of Albania was averted largely through the efforts of U.S. Pres. Woodrow Wilson (Wilson, Woodrow), who vetoed a plan by Britain, France, and Italy to partition Albania among its neighbours.

      A national congress, held in Lushnje in January 1920, laid the foundations of a new government. In December of that year Albania, this time with the help of Britain, gained admission to the League of Nations (Nations, League of), thereby winning for the first time international recognition as a sovereign nation and state.

Bishop Noli and King Zog
      At the start of the 1920s, Albanian society was divided by two apparently irreconcilable forces. One, made up mainly of deeply conservative landowning beys and tribal bajraktars who were tied to the Ottoman and feudal past, was led by Ahmed Bey Zogu (Zog I), a chieftain from the Mat region of north-central Albania. The other, made up of liberal intellectuals, democratic politicians, and progressive merchants who looked to the West and wanted to modernize and Westernize Albania, was led by Fan S. Noli, an American-educated bishop of the Orthodox church. In the event, this East-West polarization of Albanian society was of such magnitude and complexity that neither leader could master and overcome it.

      In the unusually open and free political, social, and cultural climate that prevailed in Albania between 1920 and 1924, the liberal forces gathered strength, and by mid-1924 a popular revolt forced Zogu to flee to Yugoslavia. Installed as prime minister of the new government in June 1924, Noli set out to build a Western-style democracy in Albania, and toward that end he announced a radical program of land reform and modernization. But his vacillation in carrying out the program, coupled with a depleted state treasury and a failure to obtain international recognition for his revolutionary, left-of-centre government, quickly alienated most of Noli's supporters, and six months later he was overthrown by an armed assault led by Zogu and aided by Yugoslavia.

      Zogu began his 14-year reign in Albania—first as president (1925–28), then as King Zog I (Zog I) (1928–39)—in a country rife with political and social instability. Greatly in need of foreign aid and credit in order to stabilize the country, Zog signed a number of accords with Italy. These provided transitory financial relief to Albania, but they effected no basic change in its economy, especially under the conditions of the worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s.

      The social base of Zog's power was a coalition of southern beys and northern bajraktars. With the support of this coalition—plus a vast Ottoman-style bureaucracy, an efficient police force, and Italian money—King Zog brought a large measure of stability to Albania. He extended the authority of the government to the highlands, reduced the brigandage that had formerly plagued the country, laid the foundations of a modern educational system, and took a few steps to Westernize Albanian social life.

      On balance, however, his achievements were outweighed by his failures. Although formally a constitutional monarch, in reality Zog was a dictator, and Albania under him experienced the fragile stability of a dictatorship. Zog failed to resolve Albania's fundamental problem, that of land reform, leaving the peasantry as impoverished as before. In order to stave off famine, the government had to import food grains annually, but, even so, thousands of people migrated abroad in search of a better life. Moreover, Zog denied democratic freedoms to Albanians and created conditions that spawned periodic revolts against his regime, alienated most of the educated class, fomented labour unrest, and led to the formation of the first communist groups in the country. Italy, on the other hand, viewed Albania primarily as a bridgehead for military expansion into the Balkans. On April 7, 1939, Italy invaded and shortly after occupied the country. King Zog fled to Greece.

      In October 1940 Italian forces used Albania as a military base to invade Greece, but they were quickly thrown back into Albania. After Nazi Germany defeated Greece and Yugoslavia in 1941, the regions of Kosovo and Çamëria were joined to Albania, thus creating an ethnically united Albanian state. The new state lasted until November 1944, when the Germans—who had replaced the Italian occupation forces following Italy's surrender in 1943—withdrew from Albania. Kosovo was then reincorporated into the Serbian portion of Yugoslavia, and Çamëria into Greece.

      Meanwhile, the various communist (communism) groups that had germinated in Zog's Albania merged in November 1941 to form the Albanian Communist Party and began to fight the occupiers as a unified resistance force. After a successful struggle against the fascists and two other resistance groups that contended for power with them—the National Front (Balli Kombëtar) and the pro-Zog Legality Party (Legaliteti)—the communists seized control of the country on Nov. 29, 1944. Enver Hoxha (Hoxha, Enver), a college instructor who had led the resistance struggle of communist forces, became the leader of Albania by virtue of his post as secretary-general of the party. Albania, which before the war had been under the personal dictatorship of King Zog, now fell under the collective dictatorship of the Albanian Communist Party. The country became officially in 1946 the People's Republic of Albania and in 1976 the People's Socialist Republic of Albania.

Socialist (socialism) Albania
The Stalinist state
      The new rulers inherited an Albania plagued by a host of ills: pervasive poverty, overwhelming illiteracy, gjakmarrje (“blood feuds”), epidemics of disease, and gross subjugation of women. In an attempt to eradicate these ills, the communists drafted a radical modernization program intended to bring social and economic liberation to Albania, thus completing the political liberation won in 1912. The government's first major act to “build socialism” was swift, uncompromising agrarian reform (land reform), which broke up the large landed estates of the southern beys (bey) and distributed the parcels to landless and other peasants. This destroyed the powerful class of the beys. The government also moved to nationalize industry, banks, and all commercial and foreign properties. Shortly after the agrarian reform, the Albanian government started to collectivize (collectivization) agriculture, completing the job in 1967. As a result, peasants lost title to their land. In addition, the Hoxha leadership extended the new socialist order to the more rugged and isolated northern highlands, in turn bringing down the age-old institution of the blood feud and the patriarchal structure of the family and clans and thus destroying the semifeudal class of bajraktars. The traditional role of women—namely, confinement to the home and farm—changed radically as they gained legal equality with men and became active participants in all areas of society.

      In order to obtain the economic aid needed for modernization, as well as the political and military support to enhance its security, Albania turned to the communist world: Yugoslavia (1944–48), the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) (1948–61), and China (1961–78). Economically, Albania benefited greatly from these alliances: with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and credits and with the assistance of a large number of technicians and specialists sent by its allies, Albania was able to build the foundations of a modern industry (industrialization) and to introduce mechanization into agriculture. As a result, for the first time in modern history, the Albanian populace began to emerge from age-old backwardness and, for a while, enjoyed a higher standard of living.

      Politically, Hoxha was disillusioned with his communist allies and patrons and broke with each one, charging that they had abandoned Marxism-Leninism and the cause of the proletariat for the sake of rapprochement with the capitalist West. Alienated from both East and West, Albania adopted a “go-it-alone” policy and became notorious as an isolated bastion of Stalinism.

      Hoxha's program for modernization aimed at transforming Albania from a backward agrarian country into a modern industrial society, and, indeed, within four decades Albania had made respectable—in some cases historic—strides in the development of industry, agriculture, education, the arts, and culture. A notable achievement was the drainage of coastal swamplands—previously breeding grounds for malarial mosquitoes—and the reclamation of land for agricultural and industrial uses. Also symbolic of the change was a historic language reform that fused elements of the Geg and Tosk dialects into a unified literary language.

      Political oppression (human rights), however, offset gains made on the material and cultural planes. Contrary to provisions in the constitution, during Hoxha's reign Albania was in effect ruled by the Directorate of State Security, known as the Sigurimi. To eliminate dissent, the government periodically resorted to purges, in which opponents were subjected to public criticism, dismissed from their jobs, imprisoned in forced-labour camps, or executed. Travel abroad was forbidden to all but those on official business. In 1967 the religious establishment, which party leaders and other atheistic Albanians viewed as a backward medieval institution that hampered national unity and progress, was officially banned, and all Christian and Muslim houses of worship were closed.

Collapse of communism
      After Hoxha's death in 1985, his handpicked successor, Ramiz Alia (Alia, Ramiz), sought to preserve the communist system while introducing gradual reforms in order to revive the economy, which had been declining steadily since the cessation of aid from former communist allies. To this end he legalized some investment in Albania by foreign firms and expanded diplomatic relations with the West. But, with the fall of communism in eastern Europe in 1989, various segments of Albanian society became politically active and began to agitate against the government. The most alienated groups were the intellectuals and the working class—traditionally the vanguard of a communist movement or organization—as well as Albania's youth, which had been frustrated by years of confinement and restrictions. In response to these pressures, Alia granted Albanian citizens the right to travel abroad, curtailed the powers of the Sigurimi, restored religious freedom, and adopted some free-market measures for the economy. In December 1990 Alia endorsed the creation of independent political parties, thus signaling an end to the communists' official monopoly of power.

      With each concession to the opposition, the state's absolute control over Albanian society weakened. Continuing economic, social, and political instability led to the fall of several governments, and in March 1992 a decisive electoral victory was won by the anticommunist opposition, led by the Democratic Party. Alia resigned as president and was succeeded by Sali Berisha, the first democratic leader of Albania since Bishop Noli.

Democratic Albania
      Albania's progress toward democratic reform enabled it to gain membership in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (now the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (Security and Co-operation in Europe, Organization for)), formally bringing to an end its isolation. Efforts to establish a free-market economy caused severe dislocations, but they also opened the road for Albania to obtain large amounts of aid from developed countries. Albania thus began integrating its politics and institutions with the West, which Albanians have historically viewed as their cultural and geographic home.

      In 1997 the economy collapsed when many Albanians lost their savings in various pyramid investment schemes. United Nations peacekeeping troops were brought in to quell the resulting civil disorder, and the Albanian Socialist Party won by a landslide in legislative elections later that year (and maintained power in elections in 2001 at the head of the Alliance for the State coalition). In 1999 some 450,000 ethnic Albanians sought refuge in Albania from the war in the Kosovo region of Serbia.

      Ethnic turmoil also strained Albania's relations with Macedonia in 2001 when that country's large Albanian minority staged an armed rebellion. Tensions had cooled by 2003, and the two countries, along with Croatia, agreed to join together to fight organized crime. That same year Albania began to implement economic and social changes in order to gain membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including taking measures to lower its high rates of crime and deterring corruption and drug trafficking. In 2008 Albania was formally invited to join NATO.

Peter R. Prifti

Additional Reading

General works
William E. Griffith, Albania and the Sino-Soviet Rift (1963), is an excellent overview of Tirana's break with Moscow and subsequent alliance with Beijing. Elez Biberaj, Albania and China: A Study of an Unequal Alliance (1986), based on primary sources from Albania, analyzes the formation, development, and disintegration of the Albanian-Chinese alliance, while his Albania: A Socialist Maverick (1990) gives an overview of Albania from 1945 to 1990, focusing on trends in Albanian politics, economics, and diplomacy during the 1980s. Robert Elsie, Dictionary of Albanian Literature (1986), is a basic reference work with succinct biographical and bibliographical entries on Albanian writers. Shaban Demiraj, The Origin of the Albanians: Linguistically Investigated (2006; originally published in Albanian, 1999), is an impressive scholarly inquiry by a leading Albanian philologist. M. Edith Durham, High Albania (1909, reissued 2000), a classic, recounts the travels of a non-Albanian in the rugged mountains of northern Albania at the turn of the 20th century.

Edwin E. Jacques, The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present (1995), is a panoramic yet detailed and generally objective study of Albanian history, based on an impressive amount of source material. Miranda Vickers, The Albanians: A Modern History (1995), a competent work, focuses on Albanian developments in the 20th century, including data on the postcommunism years. Stavro Skendi, The Albanian National Awakening, 1878–1912 (1967), provides a comprehensive study of the rise and development of Albanian nationalism. Bernd Jürgen Fischer, King Zog and the Struggle for Stability in Albania (1984), is an absorbing account of Albania between the World Wars, although it suffers from some inconsistencies. Renzo Falaschi, Ismail Kemal Bey Vlora—His Thought and Work from the Italian Documents (1985), by an Italian diplomat, examines the life and career of the “father of modern Albania” in Italian, Albanian, and English. Peter R. Prifti, Socialist Albania Since 1944: Domestic and Foreign Developments (1978), is especially useful for readers who are mainly interested in domestic developments in socialist Albania. Nicholas C. Pano, The People's Republic of Albania (1968), is a pioneer work on socialist Albania, with the accent on foreign affairs.Peter R. Prifti

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Universalium. 2010.

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