Albanian Rebellion of 1997

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Albanian Rebellion of 1997
970315-N-0000S-008 NEO Operations USMC.jpg
Evacuation of U.S. citizens during Operation Silver Wake
Date March 1997
Location Albania
Causes Pyramid schemes failure, economic crisis
Result New Parliamentary Elections[1]
Parties to the civil conflict

Albania Rebels

Units involved
AlbaniaUnknown

Albania 30,000 soldiers


Italy 7,000 soldiers
Greece 803 soldiers[3][4]

Germany > 100 soldiers
Casualties
3,800, civilians and members of army, police and secret police
During the riots in the city of Vlorë, men broke rocks to hurl them at police.

The Albanian Rebellion of 1997, also known as the Albanian Unrest of 1997 (Albanian: Rebelimi i vitit 1997), or the Pyramid Crisis or (improperly) the Albanian Anarchy of 1997,[5] was an uprising sparked by Ponzi scheme failures. Albania descended into civil disorder and violence in which the government was toppled and 2,000 people were killed.[6][7]

By January 1997 the people of Albania, who had lost $1.2 billion (out of a small population of three million), took their protest to the streets. Beginning in February, thousands of citizens launched daily protests demanding reimbursement by the government, which they believed was profiting from the schemes. On 1 March, Prime Minister Aleksandër Meksi resigned and on 2 March, President Sali Berisha declared a state of emergency. On 11 March, the Socialist Party of Albania won a major victory when their leader Bashkim Fino was appointed prime minister. However, the transfer of power did not halt the unrest, and protests spread to northern Albania. Although the government quelled revolts in the north, the ability of the government and military to maintain order began to collapse, especially in the southern half of Albania, which fell under the control of rebels and Socialist forces.[8]

All major population centers were engulfed in demonstrations by 13 March and foreign countries began to evacuate their citizens. These evacuations included Operation Libelle and Operation Silver Wake. The United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1101, authorized a force of 7,000 on 28 March to direct relief efforts and to restore order to Albania. The UN feared the unrest would spread beyond Albania's borders and send refugees throughout Europe. On 15 April, the 7,000 troops launched Operation Sunrise, an Italian-led mission that helped restore rule of law.[8] After the unrest, over 25 000 guns were transported to Kosovo and the guerrilla forces of the ethnic Albanian, Kosovo Liberation Army received considerable armaments.[9]

Causes[edit]

In 1992, the Democratic Party of Albania won the nation's first free elections and Sali Berisha became president. In the mid-1990s, Albania was becoming a liberalized economy, after years under Communism. The rudimentary financial system became dominated by Ponzi schemes and government officials endorsed a series of pyramid investment funds. By January 1997, the schemes (actually fronts for laundering money and arms trafficking) could no longer make payments. The number of investors who had been lured by the promise of getting rich quick grew to include two-thirds of Albanians.[6][10] It is estimated that close to $1.5 billion was invested in companies offering monthly interest rates ranging from 10 to 25 percent, while the average monthly income was around $80. People sold their homes to invest. Immigrants working in Greece and Italy transferred additional resources to the schemes.[11]

Political situation[edit]

On 26 May 1996, general elections were held and the Democratic Party won by a large margin. The Socialists (PS) accused the government of fraud and rejected the results. PS left the counting process and boycotted the parliament. On October 20, 1996, local elections were held. The Democratic Party won again, but the Socialists also rejected this result.

Pyramid schemes[edit]

The pyramid schemes started operations in 1991. Their activity was based on making payments to old investors using money contributed by new investors. The first scheme was that of Hajdin Sejdisë, who later fled to Switzerland with several million dollars. It was followed by "Sudja" of Maksude Kadëna in 1993, who had previously worked as a worker in a shoe factory. Then came "Populli" foundations run by an opposition politician and "Xhaferri". By the end of 1996, the schemes peaked. The interest rates that they offered were very tempting; Sudja offered 100% interest. The schemes were not criticized immediately because of a banking law adopted in 1994, which – on International Monetary Fund (IMF) advice – contained no provision that the National Bank of Albania act as a supervisor of commercial banks. The IMF changed two years later, after the consequences had become visible. Despite IMF advice to close these schemes, the government continued to allow their activities, often participating in them.[citation needed] Between 8 and 16 January 1997, the schemes collapsed. On 22 January, the government froze the Xhaferri and Populli firms. Gjallica, another firm, was nearly bankrupt, while Vefa, which had invested in Albanian hotels, fuel and factories, continued normal activity. The economic crisis was the worst in Albanian history.[citation needed]

The first protest was on 16 January in the South. On 19 January, in Tirana demonstrators protested the Sudja creditors. On 24 January, the de facto rebellion began.

Thousands of people in Lushnja, marched on city hall in protest against the government's support of the schemes. The protest quickly descended into violence. Police forces were routed and the city hall and adjoining cinema were burnt. One day later, on 25 January, Democratic Party Tritan Shehu chair was sent to Lushnje to resolve the situation. On his arrival, Shehu was held hostage for several hours at City Stadium and assaulted by the protesters. State Special Forces intervened in the city to extract Shehu. In the morning, every government institution in the city was looted and destroyed.

On 26 and 27 January, violence erupted in other southern towns, such as Vlora. On 30 January, the Forum for Democracy was formed by opposition parties to lead the protests. Anger was also directed against Berisha and the government for allowing the schemes to continue despite IMF advice.[citation needed] As allegations grew that Berisha and others in government had personally profited from the schemes,[citation needed] many[who?] became convinced that the Democratic Party had to be removed by force. This was especially true in Vlora. On 4 February, distribution of a portion of lost money began at the counters of the National Commercial Bank, owned by the state. Rather than subduing the protests, this action increased people's suspicion. A check of $550,000 paid by "Gjallica " firm on 7 January to the Socialist Party accelerated the firm's collapse. On 5 February, Gjallica declared bankruptcy and on 6 February violent protests resumed in Vlora. On 9 February, State Police were attacked in Vlora, and a day later, also in the South, fifty Special Force soldiers attacked and brutally dispersed protesters.[citation needed]

Hunger strike at the University of Vlora[edit]

Students of the University of Vlora began a hunger strike on campus on 20 February 1997 including about 50 students. They demanded the government's resignation and the full return of invested money. On 22 February, the Forum for Democracy declared its support of the strike. Students from Gjirokastër and Elbasan came to give their support. They were then driven by the FRESSH (Youth Wing of Socialist Party) activists of Vlorë to Tirana.

In contrast the students of University "Luigj Gurakuqi" in Shkodra, whose Students Union declared: "The students share the pain of the citizens of Vlora in losing money in pyramid schemes, but on the other hand, think that freedom and democracy, homeland and nation have a higher price".

On 26 February, thousands of people surrounded the building of the University to defend from feared attack by The National Intelligence Service SHIK (Shërbimi Informativ Kombëtar). The same day, a group of strikers requested more medical help, raising doubts about the doctors near them. On 27 February in Vlora Shkodra, mayor Bahri Borici of the United Right declared his support for the hunger strike. On 28 February 1997 was a decisive moment in Albanian history. After strengthening their perimeter around the building of the university, the rebel forces, without warning, attacked the SHIK building. In fighting between the rebels and government forces, nine people were left dead – six officers and three civilians. The killings of 28 February marked the start of a ten day civil war and a year of violence in southern Albania.

Ten-day civil war[edit]

Angry protesters throwing stones at law enforcers

Demonstrators would never have succeeded in overpowering the Vlora police if they had not been armed and organized by local mafia bosses and former members of the Communist-era secret police (Sigurimi), who saw this as their chance to damage the new political system. Typical of the latter was Albert Shyti, who returned from Greece with a private arsenal and set himself up as the head of the Vlora "Committee of Public Salvation" – a pattern replicated in other towns and cities in southern Albania.

  • 1 March—the city of Vlora had no functioning government. The news of the massacre of SHIK officers had shaken the government. Rebels took control of the Albanian Navy Pasha Liman Base. The Albanian government reacted by declaring a state of emergency and sent more troops to areas around Vlora and the town of Tepelena. In response, rebels set up cannons at the entrance of the city and pointed them towards Tirana.
  • 2 March—Alexander Meksi's government resigned after failing to resolve the crisis. The event was celebrated in the south by thousands firing AK-47s into the air. Parliament appointed Bashkim Gazidede to try to restore order. Immediately, Gazidede ordered closure of schools throughout the country and imposed restrictions on the press and on consumer goods.
  • 3 March—The DP re-elected Berisha as President with votes of DP members of the parliament alone. This led to massive riots in southern and central Albania. The city of Saranda was also captured by rebels, with fighters based out of Vlora arriving by boat and burning every government building in the city, including the city library. They also broke into the local detention facility and took more than 400 guns. Gunmen burned down the Vocational Training Centre in Vlora. Meanwhile, SHIK tried to contain the rebellion to Vlora, Saranda and Delvina to stop it from spreading to the rest of the country.
  • 4 March—The Committee of Public Salvation formed in Vlore, headed by Albert Shyti. This committee began to act as a parallel government. Snipers occupied every building in Vlore and every street put up barricades to prevent attacks by SHIK. The Mifoli Bridge over the river Vjosë was blocked and mined. This bridge will become a symbol of rebellion by becoming the bridge that separates two parts of Albania. As students ended their hunger strike, in Saranda gunmen used navy boats to plunder weapons caches. Gangs patrolled the sea using Albanian Navy ships. Outside the city of Saranda, one member of SHIK was burnt alive and another was taken hostage, while two others escaped. Fifty soldiers joined the rebels and two Albanian Air Force pilots defected and flew their planes to Italy. The pilots claimed they were ordered to attack civilians. Gazidede's plan to isolate the insurgency in Vlora failed, as it spread across the south. After fierce fighting in Delvina, the rebels forced the army to pull back. In Saranda, the rebels put up roadblocks.
  • 6 March—Berisha held a meeting with representatives of political parties who all signed a statement condemning the massive plunder of military warehouses and calling for surrender of weapons. Six hours later, leaders of SP and DAP denied any responsibility and obligation towards the statement that they had earlier described as a "political success".
  • 7–8 March—the rebels from Saranda, in collaboration with local army forces, entered Gjirokastra, and took members of Albanian Special Forces as hostages. The leaders of the revolt in Gjirokastra were members of PAD, Arben Imami (appointed Defense Minister later in 2009) and Ridvan Pëshkëpia. With the fall of Gjirokastra, the entire south of the country fell out of government control. Weapons continued to spread around the country. Tirana's Rinas International Airport was attacked by villagers from the surrounding area, and the Agricultural University of Tirana was looted.
  • 9 March—A government of National Reconciliation Unity was formed in Tirana, headed by Bashkim Fino, the mayor of Gjirokastra. The new government called on former army members to contribute towards restoring peace and order. the President appeared on television making a statement to the nation where he called for "reconciliation, faith, unity and calm".
  • Unopposed on the battlefield, rebels in the south launched a wave of extraordinary destruction. In Gramsh, the rebels attacked a local police station, in Fier, they took control of the streets. Berat fell into the hands of gangs and became one of the main centers of rebellion. Polican and Këlcyra fell into the hands of criminals. In Kuçovë, rebels took control of 19 Soviet-made MiG combat aircraft. The rebellion spread to the north.
  • Prominent crime figures escaped from prison and organized gangs, effectively taking control of many areas. Gangs looted banks, took hostages, and grabbed businesses. The chaos was total and the whole country (with the exception of the capital Tirana) was completely paralyzed.

Opening of the depots[edit]

Weapon depots looting in 1997

The Opening of the depots (Albanian: Hapja e depove) was the opening of weapon depots in the north, for protection against the violence of the south. The decision was taken by President Berisha. When in southern Albanian bases were looted, it was estimated that, on average, every male from the age of ten upwards possessed at least one firearm and ample ammunition.[12] In order to protect the civilians in north and central Albania, the government allowed civilians to arm themselves from government arms depots. During the rebellion 656,000 weapons of various types, along with 1.5 billion rounds of ammunition, 3.5 million hand grenades, and 1 million land mines were looted from army depots.[13]

International intervention[edit]

On 28 March the United Nations adopted Resolution 1101 for humanitarian aid to Albania and on 15 April Operation Alba forces began to arrive. About 7,000 soldiers in the multinational Italian-led UN mission came to Albania to restore order and rule of law. The first forces were deployed in Durrës. Normality first returned to Tirana.

Snap elections[edit]

In the run-up to the 29 June snap election for Parliament, more than 60 people were killed. Socialist Party allies won the election, including in Tirana. Many members of the "Rescue Committee" stood for office, despite earlier promises to remain out of politics. The same election included a referendum on the form of governance. Republican government outpolled the monarchy by 65-35.

North-South conflict[edit]

One of the main themes of Western media and analysts during the March riots was the North-South division. Various newspapers and TV stations claimed that the rebellion was not just a showdown between the two main political forces, but was also a clash between the northern (Ghegs) that supported Berisha and southern (Tosk) who supported the Socialist Party.

Gangs[edit]

Taking advantage of difficult situations, criminal groups armed themselves and took control of entire cities. Most had been imprisoned in Greece, but suddenly escaped and returned to Albania. The most famous case is that of Zani Caushi, who escaped from a high security prison of Larissa in February 1997 and, with a group of friends, established the gang of Coles in Vlora.

In Vlora, five gangs were created, but two ruled the city: the gang of Zani and the gang of Gaxhai. Movement in the city started at 10:00, when people gathered in Flag's Square to hear the Committee of Rescue, and ended at 13:00. After that hour the streets were deserted and the only people who moved were gang members. Gangs announced through speakers and flyers that other people were not to go out as there would be fighting. Each night brought attempted attacks with explosives and shooting, along with dozens of dead. In Berat, Altin Dardha's rule was even more severe. In Lushnje, Aldo Bare's gang had control. The worst crime that this gang committed was to behead an opponent. Cities ruled by gangs were Vlora, Berat, Tepelena, Memaliaj, Ballshi, Saranda, Gjirokastra, Lushnja, Pogradec, Cerrik and Tropoja.

Salvation Committees (Albanian: Komiteti i Shpëtimit Publik) were alleged criminal organizations set up during the rebellion in many regions, particularly the south. The committees periodically de facto usurped the functions of the Albanian state.[14]

Chronology of events[edit]

January[edit]

  • 8–16 January:[15] Multiple pyramid schemes fail: "Kamberi", "Cenaj", "Silva", "Malvasia", "Kambo", "Grunjasi", "Dypero", "Bashkimi", "Beno", "Pogoni", "B&G", "Kobuzi", "Arkond", "Adelin", "A.Delon", "Agi", "M.Leka Company", "Global Limited Co.", "Çashku" dhe "Sudja". City of Vlora hit, as the main center such schemes. Government froze the assets of "Vefa Holding" and "Gjallica".
  • 15 January :[16] Hundreds gathered at the palace where Maksude Kadëna, owner of "Sudes", lived. Among them were the leaders of the opposition. They confronted the police.
  • 16 January:[17] Maksude Kadëna, owner of "Sude" arrested. The Socialist newspaper "Voice of the People" states: "From Tirana to Vlora across the country in revolt" referring to about 6000 vlonjate protests held in the Flag Square.
  • 18 January:[18] An emergency meeting of the Democratic National Council, created a parliamentary committee to investigate.
  • 19 January:[19] A protest against "Sudes" held in the Square. Opposition leaders attempted to lead the protest against the government.
  • 20 January:[20] 1500 people gather at bankrupt scheme "People-Xhaferri Democracy" to get their money.
  • 22 January:[21] Trial begins against "charitable donations" (in fact pyramid schemes) "People's Democracy-Xhaferri" and "People" both directed by people with close ties to Communist State Security (Rrapush Xhaferri and Bashkim Driza). Kërxhaliu, administrator of "Gjallicës, was arrested.
  • 23 January:[22] Police arrested 50 employees of "People" and "Xhaferri. The newspaper "Albania" wrote: "Surely that is the work by Hajdin Sejdia. He left with several million dollars in 1991 but returned unexpectedly in 1996 and began to distribute money to creditors him. The truth is that he received $ 3 million from "Xhaferri" and "People" and this led to increased confidence of citizens in these schemes. As a result of Sejdisë arrival had an increase of some tens of millions of dollars in deposits of citizens to these schemes within 2–3 months. This avoided the premature failure of these schemes."
  • 24 January: Lushnja City Hall and a cinema were burned by demonstrators angry about the arrest of Xhaferri.
  • 25 January:[23] Demonstrators came from villages surrounding Lushnja to burn and destroy any state institution in Lushnje. Tritan Shehu was held hostage for several hours at the City Stadium. City of Lushnje was burned by the crowd led by local SP leaders. Other clashes take place in Elbasan, Memaliaj, Laç, Kuçovë.
  • 26 January:[24] A demonstration of the Socialist Party in downtown Tirana degenerated into a violent clash between police and opposition supporters. Some socialist leaders were injured by police forces. The opposition destroyed "National History Museum", "Palace of Culture", "Et'hem Bey Mosque" and the Municipality of South Tiranës. An angry mob burned the city hall. Albpetrol was burned in Patos by terrorist groups.
  • 27 January:[25] An angry crowd burned the hall of Peshkopi and the Police Station. Four policeme were seriously injured.
  • 29 January:[26] Police arrested 140 people in Berat and 20 in Poliçan for involvement in violent demonstrations and illegal.
  • 30 January:[27] The Forum for Democracy was formed by opposition parties, led by Daut Gumeni, Fatos Lubonja from the Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC was known for anti-Berisha positions) and Kurt Kola, president of the Association of the Politically Persecuted, (also indebted to "the people"). Soon this "Forum" began organizing anti-government protests.
  • 31 January:[28] Newspaper Koha Jone asked the creditors of "Gjallicës" go to the firm to get money on 6 February. The aim was to promote violent demonstrations as "Gjallica".

February[edit]

  • 4 February:[29] Partial returns of deposits began based on a government decision. The opposition criticized Democrats for delaying the start of the process. "Forum for Democracy proposes the creation of a technical government to resolve the crisis."
  • 5 February: The bankrupt firms Gjallica were taken over by the former State Security. The cities most affected by the bankruptcy of the firm are Flora (145 million $ U.S.) and Kukes (16 million $ U.S.). Protests begin in Vlora.
  • 6 February:[30] Thousands join violent protests in Vlora. Kukes formed a "Committee" with the firm's creditors are seeking a legal solution to this issue. They seek to become shareholders of this firm. Similar committees established in Gjirokastra and Berat.
  • 7 February:[31] Protesters block road in Memaliaj.
  • 8 February:[32] Continues anti-government protests in Vlore.
  • 9 February:[33] Gone are the days of Vlora. Police Station attacked by armed crowd. 1 dead and injured. Forum for Democracy declares that the only solution of the crisis is through protests against the government.
  • 10 February:[34] Violence continued in the South. DPA headquarters were burned by armed groups. President and Government resigned. A group of about 50 Special Forces personnzel were viciously attacked by a mob of thousands of people. EuroNews broadcast footage of the police siege. The rebellion spread throughout southern Albania. A state of emergency was proposed in the South.
  • 11 February:[35] Artur Rustemi, the first victim of the rebellion, was buried in Vlora. His funeral turned into an anti-government demonstration that burned ADP headquarters in Vlora. Alarm spread over the lack of bread in the city. The "Forum for Democracy" called for dialogue with President Berisha kuzhtëzuar.
  • 12–15 February:[36] Multiple kidnappings occurred. Schools closed and shops were allowed to sell up to 9 o'clock.
  • 13 February:[37] Kurt Kola was accused as a traitor and collaborator of communist executioners.
  • 14 February:[38] Anti-government protests developed in Fier.
  • 17 February:[39] The Legality Movement condemned the violence and refused dialogue with the "Forum for Democracy." Ministers meet in Tirana.
  • 18 February:[40] President Berisha met with citizens of Lushnja. He promised to do everything to resolve the crisis. The National Front sought resignation of the government.
  • 20 February:[41] Hunger strike began at University "Ismail Kamal" of Vlora. Approximately 50 students joined the strike and demanded the resignation of the government. Forum for Democracy organized a violent demonstration in Tirana. 5 policemen were seriously injured. A group of students met with President Berisha, Vlora and agreed to resolve the crisis peacefully.
  • 22 February: Trial began against leaders of the "Gjallicës. Forum for Democracy supported student hunger strike Vlora.
  • 24 February:[42] Angry crowds attacked state institutions in the South.
  • 26 February:[43] As part of the Presidential tour, areas affected by the crisis, Berisha met citizens of Gjirokaster and promised to make all efforts to resolve the crisis. Thousands surrounded University "Ismail Kamal" to protect against an "attack" by state forces.
  • 28 February:[44] 46 students joined a University of Gjirokastra hunger strike. Their demands were similar to those of students in Vlora. Armed crowds attacked and burned a SHIK branch. 3 agents burned in the flames, while 3 others were massacred by the crowd. 3 others were killed in the ranks of the crowd.
  • 29 February: Socialists proclaimed as "undesirable" the leadership of the Democratic Party in South Albania. The newspaper "Koha Jone" writes that "Flora" is enjoying the freedom for which he received the goods."

March[edit]

  • 1 March: Vlora was controlled by gangs and traffickers. Mass exodus began. In Lushnje police were brutally beaten. Emergency declared. Rebels took Pashaliman base, a state symbol of resistance. A massive explosion destroyed an arms storage facility. Himarë was burning, including police buildings in Gjirokastra. Hundreds of prisoners were freed.
  • 2 March: Alexander Meksi's government resigned. In Vlora, thousands of weapons hit the skies in a sign of victory. Parliament approved the chief of Gazideden Union to restore order. Immediately Gazidede ordered indefinite closure of schools throughout the country. Restrictions were placed on the press and consumer goods. In Kavaja, bastion of PD, over 5000 people voluntarily armed to defend the city from an envisioned attack by armed gangs. Italian news agency ANSA commented: "The whole scenario is emerging as a politico-military strategy and not as a manifestation of spontaneous popular. To gather people in the Flag Square are available for days special machines."
  • 3 March: President Berisha was re-elected with the votes from the members of the DP. The remaining warehouses exploded and remaining bands of the military formed committees. Destruction and killings continued throughout southern Albania. The seven million dollar Vocational Training Centre in Vlora was burned, which had cost the Albanian government. A group of approximately 100-member "Adipetrol" was held responsible and their compound in Gjirokastra was raided. Masked raiders captured a warship and rebels attacked Saranda, where police and government buildings were burned. Criminals engineered a prison break, releasing hundreds of prisoners, seized 400 weapons and set fire to the town library. In Kuçovë, a bread shortage was announced. The army recovered control of Fier and begam to disarm the population.
  • 4 March: In the South, more depots exploded. Rebels placed snipers in mansions, locked the Mifolit bridge and raised barricades to prevent entry of the military and SHIK. In Shkodra, the army capitulated and the hunger strike ended. In Saranda, organized gangs raided an Albanian Navy base and captured thousands of weapons. Gangs patrol the sea using Navy ships. 50 soldiers joined the rebels. 2 Air Force pilots desert and go to Italy. The Public Salvation Committee of Vlore was formed. It began to act as a parallel government by conducting a "de facto" coup. Its leader was Albert Shyti. The main collaborator of the "Committee" was Myrteza Caushi, known as Zani "The strongman of Vlora". Under the example of Vlora, Shyti created "Salvation Committees" everywhere in Albania.
  • 5 March: Warehouses in Memaliaj and other places were blown up. Rebels burned police buildings in these cities. Greek TV "Mega" stated, "Today, armed groups in southern Albania for the first time raised the banner of Vorio Epirus. They require sharing the southern part of the rest of the country ranging from Tepelena, thus proclaiming the autonomy of southern Albania. Albania's early problem was that of the North-South autonomy that is divided between the river Shkumbin."
  • 6 March: President Berisha and the political parties gathered to sign a statement, condemning the destruction of the warehouses and calling for surrender of weapons. 6 hours later, the SP and DAP leaders denied any responsibility. Greek TV "Sky" News stated, "A few minutes have emerged from the meeting the leaders of armed groups of Saranda, who have decided to attack tonight at Gjirokastra. They will not leave and anxiously await today's popular trial will be done with three prisoners captured in the main square of Sarande, who allegedly attacked SHIK employees and northern ethnics that increases the balance of victims in Vlora."
  • 7 March: Albanian Army soldiers defected to rebels in Gjirokastra. Military assets were taken by gangs and the city's military committee. With Gjirokastra in the hands of rebels, the entire south of the country was out of control. Weapons continued to spread. National Rinas Airport was attacked by villagers from the surrounding areas.
  • 8 March: President Berisha organized a meeting with all parties concerned with the creation of the new government. Leaders of the Gjirokastra division were vetëdorëzuar and had taken the lead of rebellion in this city. Gangs kidnapped a number of auxiliary military forces of Tirana and had blocked several tanks and a helicopter. At midnight attack and spoiled milk processing factory in Libohova.
  • 9 March: A Government of National Reconciliation Union was created, headed by Gjirokastra mayor Fino. The new government called on former army members to contribute to restoring peace and order. President Berisha appeared on VAT in a statement to the nation where he called for "reconciliation, faith, unity and calmness".
  • 10 March: In Gramsh rebels attacked the police building, and took control of Fier's streets. Berat fell into the hands of gangs and became the main center of rebellion after Vlora. Polican, Këlcyra and Skrapari fell. In Kuçovë rebels took control of 19 MiGs. "Vlora Rescue Committee" welcomed the agreement of 9 March. American Foundation for Eastern Europe directed a letter to the Albanian Embassy in America stating, "It's great naivety not understand that the Committee of Vlora and its leaders are inspired by communist mafia-type the KGB." Letters to the conclusion stated: "Mr. Berisha must decide by any means the rule of law, using military force may even". On the evening of 10 March, the U.S. Embassy welcomed the agreement.
  • 11 March: Birth of the "Committee of the South" that rejected Berisha and the return of lost money. If the Committee proposed the formation of a new state separate from Tirana. Army depots in Kukës were looted and scores of armed looters damaged state institutions. The citizens of Kukes abandon the town for one day due to an announcement that the Serbian army had crossed the border. The revolt spread to the north, the army capitulated everywhere and a huge weapons depot was captured in Shkodra.
  • 12 March: President Berisha decreed a Government of National Reconciliation. Revolt broke out in the South.
  • 13 March: President Berisha and Prime Minister Fino requested international military assistance. Tirana was on the verge of invasion by the rebels. Curfew was declared. Several hundred volunteers mainly from the North, protected the capital. Berisha experienced what he felt was the most dangerous night of his life. The last to emerge from prison are Fatos Nano and Ramiz Alia. More revolts in the South. In Lezha rebels burned a police building. Ismail Kadare appeared in a message the Albanians in the Voice of America. He stated, "The clock was turned back in Albania's civil war between the nationalists and communists in the years 1943–44". He criticized foreign media and political elite, and calling on his compatriots calm to overcome the crisis. The French news agency Air France Press claimed, "The riots in Albania were a military coup."
  • 14 March: Franz Vranitski was appointed to solve the Albanian crisis. The US Ambassador appeared on VAT, stating that its diplomatic mission will not leave and that the American people supported the Albanian people. In Tirana, the population began to disarm. A tobacco plantation and a Coca Cola factory were attacked. The SHIK chief resigned. Rebels occupied the port of Durrës.
  • 15 March: Rinas airport was recovered by the government. Parliament approved the "Government of National Reconciliation." A "Committee for the Protection of Durres" was formed.
  • 16 March: A massive rally in Tirana called for peace and cooperation. A day of national mourning in honor of victims of the rebellion was decreed. In Fier radioactive material was looted. President Berisha decreed amnesty for 51 prisoners.
  • 17 March: A Presidential decree released Fatos Nano, opposition leader jailed since 1993 on charges of corruption. The President left the country in a U.S. military helicopter. Fatos Nano held a press conference stating his support for the new government.
  • 18 March: A Committee for the Rescue of North and Middle Albania threatened the new government if it recognized the committees of the South. As a result the government did not recognize any committees.
  • 20 March: The Assembly of Public Salvation Committee demanded the removal of Berisha and proposed the creation of Federation of South. Rinas Airport reoponed.
  • 21 March: Greece sought to enter Albanian territory on the pretext of protecting minorities. Berisha requests Turkish military aid. The Turkish government states that if Greek troops entered Albania, then Turkey would immediately invade Greece and capture Athens. The Turkish government demanded that the mistakes made in Bosnia not be repeated in Albania. The head of Gazidede Union, at a hearing in the Albanian Parliament accused anti-Albanian Greek circles, Albanian Socialists, military and criminals. He stated, "The integrity of Albania no longer exists" and "the rebellion was directed towards the destruction of any historic and cultural facility, with long-term goal to eradicate any historical evidence autoktonitetit the Albanians".
  • 22 March: Armed gangs rule Saranda and Gjirokastra under a regime of violence and terror. Dozens of people were killed.
  • 23 March: Control of the Port of Durrës was reestablished. Berat was ruled by gangs. Numerous attacks were attempted attacks with explosives.
  • 25 March: 3 policemen were killed in Vlore.
  • 26 March: Called back to parliament, former chief of Gazidede Union points to a Greek government plan called "Lotos", which had the goal of "Liberation Vorio-Epirus by the Albanian side rule of an armed rebellion". He accused Greece and the U.S. as well as Nicholas Gage (accused of financing the massacre of Pëshkëpisë) as sponsoring this plan. He also accused Kico Mustaqin, former commander of the army and Gramoz Ruci of giving secret information to ASFALISË (the Greek Secret Service) concerning the organization of the Albanian Army.
  • 27 March: The Democratic Party claimed that relations between Greek and Albanian peoples had always been excellent and the Greek extremist groups did not represent all Greek people.
  • 28 March: In the Otranto channel an Albanian ship run by a Vlora gang was rammed and sunk by an Italian naval vessel by mistake. 82 refugees died. A "National Assembly of Committees of the South" was held. Opposition political figures participated. They demanded the President's resignation. They rejected the "Government of National Reconciliation." The leaders of these committees were former exponents of the Enver Hoxha regime. In the village of Levan, the biggest massacre of the affair occurred. 24 people were killed by clashes between Arixhinjve and a gang. A total of over 110 died. United Nations adopted resolution no. 1101 for humanitarian aid.
  • 29 March: 5 were killed in South and Berat.
  • 30 March: President Berisha and Prime Minister Fino sent condolences to the families of Otranto victims. Albania requested an international investigation of Otranto.
  • 31 March: Proclamation of national mourning in honor of the Otranto victims. Ismail Kadare stated in Italian media, "it is shocked by this tragedy and that the authority of government and the President need to Resume in place."

April[edit]

  • 1 April: Leaders of the Democratic Party debated the resignation of Berisha and Shehu. Fino urged the Socialist Party to withdraw from the 28 March agreement with the Committee of the South.
  • 3 April: Police made gains in restoring order in Tirana. Special Forces take control of Berat.
  • 4 April: U.S. Embassy states that it would not meet with any Salvation Committee and that the only legitimate institutions are the government and president.
  • 5 April: Armed gangs rule Pogradec.
  • 7 April: Dozens of people in Fier had been wounded and 5 killed, including two children. The Haklaj family led the riots. 3 were killed in Durrës.
  • 8 April: In Gramsh clashes broke out between local gangs and another from Laçi. The city had become a center of arms sales.
  • 12 April: Leka Zog arrived in Tirana, along with the royal court. Dozens of mentally ill escape from Elbasan.
  • 13 April: Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi visited Vlore with Albanian Zani Çaushi as his bodyguard.
  • 15 April: "Alba Mission", an international army of 7000 troops under the direction of Italy began to arrive in Albania. The first forces deployed in Durrës. Normality returned to Tirana. Held a successful operation to apprehend criminals Gramsh and collecting looted weapons.
  • 17 April: Political parties agreed to hold elections on 29 June.
  • 18 April: A bomb exploded in the courtyard of the University of Portland.
  • 19 April: A repository rocket explodes in Gjirokastra. Fino met with Leka Zog.
  • 21 April: Multinational forces deployed in Vlora. Criminal gangs attacked and spoiled the city of Gramsh and terrorized citizens in Çorovodë.
  • 22 April: A bomb exploded near ex local "Flora" in Tirana.
  • 23 April: International forces choose not to work with any "committee of the South."
  • 24 April: Police Station Attacked in Elbasan. Leka Zog visited Vlore.
  • 26 April: Council of Europe demanded the disarmament of "illegal" Salvation Committees. 4 children injured by a bomb in Gjirokastra. In Shpërthehen 35 meters of train tracks were demolished.
  • 28 April: In Lushnje, a crowd of roughly 4,000 gathered to protest. The protest was initiated by the Committee of Public Salvation. Demands included Berisha's resignation, reform of the electoral process, emergency parliamentary elections then scheduled for 2001, and reimbursement of 100% of all financial loses. Leaders of the Committee joined the rally.
  • 29 April: Schools reopened in the North. Vlora continued under the power of the gangs.
  • 30 April: 27 people left dead by the explosion of a weapons depot in Burrel. Three warehouses exploded in Berat.

May[edit]

  • 4 May: Dozens were killed in Shkodra, Berat, Tirana and Durrës.
  • 10 May: Special Forces struggled with armed gangs in Gramsh. Gramsh Rescue Committee prevented distribution of newspapers in the city.
  • 14 May: Kakavisë attacked the border. Remains blocked the Berat-Lushnje road. A military post was attacked in Berat.
  • 15 May: A warehouse in Gjirokastra exploded, injuring 14 people and killing 4 others. An entire family was killed in Pogradec.
  • 19 May: Violence continued in the south. Killings continued in Vlora. In Memaliaj police and Rescue Committee joined forces against one of the gangs.
  • 21 May: Continued attacks against bridges in Gjirokastra. Violence continued in Saranda, Vlora, Shkodra and Durrës.
  • 23 May: In Cerrik city gangs attacked a Special Forces armored vehicle. 6 effective Special Forces were killed by grenade attacks. 3 others captured hostage.

Socialist victory and Berisha's fall[edit]

  • June: The Democrat leadership was unable to operate a normal campaign in southern Albania. Their campaign was accompanied by riots in those cities, leaving behind more than 60 people killed.
  • 29 June: Parliamentary elections were held. Socialist Party allies won while the Democrats suffered the biggest loss in their history. Many of the members of the "Rescue Committee" came out for leftist candidates though they promised they would not get a government position without resolving the crisis. On election day a referendum was held over the form of governance. The Republic prevailed over monarchy with 65% of the votes.
  • 3 July: Leka Zogu I organized a demonstration accusing CEC of rigging the result. Five people were killed in a clash between demonstrators and police.
  • July: Gangs continue to rule cities with fear and terror. Murders, robberies and trafficking of weapons, people and drugs increased.
  • 24 July: Berisha resigned. He had promised that if the Socialists won he would leave because they could not endure "institutional cohabitation" with them. Rexhep Meidani was elected President.

Massive gunfire in Tirana celebrated Berisha's resignation. The insurgency ended.

  • 11 August: International forces left the country.

Aftermath[edit]

Damage from the rebellion was estimated at 200 million dollars and some 3700 to 5000 wounded. Lawsuits were filed against the bosses of the rogue firms. Various members of the government, including Safet Zhulali and Agim Shehu, were sentenced in absentia.

In elections in June and July 1997, Berisha and his party were voted out of power, and the left coalition headed by the Socialist Party won. The Socialist party elected Rexhep Meidani as President of the Albanian Republic. All UN forces left Albania by 11 August.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Albanian Parliamentary Elections in 1997
  2. ^ Tayfur, M. Fatih (2003). Semiperipheral development and foreign policy : the cases of Greece and Spain. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-7546-1964-2. 
  3. ^ Merriman, John (2010). A history of modern Europe : from the Renaissance to the present (3rd ed. ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. p. 1206. ISBN 978-0-393-93433-5. 
  4. ^ "Επιχειρήσεις στα Πλαίσια του NATO & της Ε.Ε. » Αλβανία". Hellenic Army General Staf. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  5. ^ Anarchy in Albania: Collapse of European Collective Security?
  6. ^ a b Christopher Jarvis, The Rise and Fall of Albania's Pyramid Schemes, Finance & Development: A Quarterly Magazine of the IMF, March 2000.
  7. ^ Crisis in Albania. Public Broadcasting Service
  8. ^ a b John Pike. "Albanian Civil War (1997)". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  9. ^ "Kosovo: Background to crisis (March 1999)". Archived from the original on 15 May 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2010. 
  10. ^ "On War article". On War article. 27 November 2003. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ Profile of Albania
  13. ^ UNDP, Albanian Human Development Report 1998. Tirana: United Nations Development Program, 1999.
  14. ^ "Albania 1997-1998 — Defence Academy of the United Kingdom". Da.mod.uk. Retrieved 2014-07-30. 
  15. ^ *Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :13 Janar, 14 Janar , 15 Janar, 16 Janar
  16. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :15 Janar
  17. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :16 Janar
  18. ^ *Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :18 Janar
  19. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :19 Janar
  20. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :20 Janar
  21. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :22 Janar
  22. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :23 Janar
  23. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :25 Janar
  24. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :26 Janar
  25. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :27 Janar
  26. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :29 Janar
  27. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :30 Janar
  28. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :31 Janar
  29. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :4 February
  30. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :6 February
  31. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :7 February
  32. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :8 February
  33. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :9 February
  34. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :10 February
  35. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :11 February
  36. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :12 February, 13 February
  37. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :13 February
  38. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :14 February
  39. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :17 February
  40. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :18 February
  41. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :20 February
  42. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :24 February
  43. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :26 February
  44. ^ Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare :28 February

Further reading[edit]