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This article is about the modern state. For other uses, see Albania (disambiguation).
Republic of Albania
Republika e Shqipërisë (Albanian)
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: (official)
  • "Ti Shqipëri, më jep nder, më jep emrin Shqipëtar" (Albanian)
  • "You Albania, give me honour, give me the name Albanian"
Location of  Albania  (green)in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Albania  (green)

in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]

and largest city
41°20′N 19°48′E / 41.333°N 19.800°E / 41.333; 19.800
Official languages Albaniana
Demonym Albanian
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
 •  President Bujar Nishani
 •  Prime Minister Edi Rama
 •  Chairman of the Parliament Ilir Meta
Legislature Kuvendi
 •  Principality of Arbanon 1190 
 •  Anjou Kingdom of Albania February 1272 
 •  Princedom of Albania 1368 
 •  League of Lezhë 2 March 1444 
 •  Independence from the Ottoman Empire 28 November 1912 
 •  Principality of Albania (recognized) 29 July 1913 
 •  Albanian Republic (the 1st republic) 31 January 1925 
 •  Albanian Kingdom 1 September 1928 
 •  Albania (under Italy & Nazi Germany) 7 April 1939
29 November 1944 
 •  People's Republic of Albania (the 2nd republic) 11 January 1946 
 •  People's Socialist Republic of Albania (the 3rd republic) 28 December 1976 
 •  Republic of Albania (the 4th republic)/Current constitution 29 April 1991
28 November 1998 
 •  Total 28,748 km2 (143rd)
11,100 sq mi
 •  Water (%) 4.7
 •  2015 estimate 2,893,005[1]
 •  2011 census 2,821,977[2]
 •  Density 98/km2 (63rd)
254/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2015 estimate
 •  Total $32.259 billion[3]
 •  Per capita $11,700[3]
GDP (nominal) 2015 estimate
 •  Total $14.520 billion[3]
 •  Per capita $5,261[3]
Gini (2013) 34.5[4]
HDI (2013) Increase 0.716[5]
high · 95th
Currency Lek (ALL)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 •  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Date format dd/mm/yyyy
Drives on the right
Calling code 355
ISO 3166 code AL
Internet TLD .al
a. Aromanian, Greek, Macedonian, and other regional languages are government-recognized minority languages.

Albania (Listeni/ælˈbniə/, al-BAY-nee-ə, or sometimes /ɔːlˈbniə/, awl-BAY-nee-ə; Albanian: Shqipëri/Shqipëria; Gheg Albanian: Shqipni/Shqipnia, Shqypni/Shqypnia[6]), officially known as the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë; Albanian pronunciation: [ɾɛpuˈblika ɛ ʃcipəˈɾiːs]), is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo[a] to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which connects the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.

Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organization. It is one of the founding members of the Energy Community, Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the Union for the Mediterranean. It is also an official candidate for membership in the European Union.[7]

The modern-day territory of Albania was at various points in history part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia (southern Illyricum), Macedonia (particularly Epirus Nova), and Moesia Superior. The modern Republic became independent after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Europe following the Balkan Wars.[8] Albania declared independence in 1912 and was recognized the following year. It then became a Principality, Republic, and Kingdom until being invaded by Italy in 1939, which formed Greater Albania. The latter eventually turned into a Nazi German protectorate in 1943.[9] The following year, a socialist People's Republic was established under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour. Albania experienced widespread social and political transformations during the communist era, as well as isolationism from much of the international community. In 1991, the Socialist Republic was dissolved and the Republic of Albania was established.

Albania is a parliamentary republic. As of 2011, the capital, Tirana, was home to 421,286 of the country's 2,893,005[1] people within the city limits, 763,634 in the metropolitan area.[10] Tirana is also the financial capital of the country. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure.[11][12][13] Albania has a high HDI[5] and provides a universal health care system and free primary and secondary education. Albania is an upper-middle income economy (WB, IMF)[14] with the service sector dominating the country's economy, followed by the industrial sector and agriculture.


Albania is the Medieval Latin name of the country, which is called Shqipëri by its people, from Medieval Greek Ἀλβανία Albania, besides variants Albanitia or Arbanitia.

The name may be derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Albani recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria who drafted a map in 150 AD[15] that shows the city of Albanopolis[16] (located northeast of Durrës).

The name may have a continuation in the name of a medieval settlement called Albanon and Arbanon, although it is not certain this was the same place.[17] In his History written in 1079–1080, the Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates was the first to refer to Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the Duke of Dyrrachium.[18] During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country Arbëri or Arbëni and referred to themselves as Arbëresh or Arbënesh.[19][20]

As early as the 17th century the placename Shqipëria and the ethnic demonym Shqiptarë gradually replaced Arbëria and Arbëresh. The two terms are popularly interpreted as "Land of the Eagles" and "Children of the Eagles".[21][22]


Main article: History of Albania
Albanian Peasants costumes - illustration by Percy Anderson for Costume Fanciful, Historical and Theatrical, 1906


The history of Albania emerged from the prehistoric stage from the 4th century BC, with early records of Illyria in Greco-Roman historiography. The modern territory of Albania has no counterpart in antiquity, comprising parts of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia (southern Illyricum) and Macedonia (particularly Epirus Nova).

Middle Ages

The territory now known as Albania remained under Roman (Byzantine) control until the Slavs began to overrun it from 548 and onward,[23] and was captured by Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century. After the weakening of the Byzantine Empire and the Bulgarian Empire in the middle and late 13th century, some of the territory of modern-day Albania was captured by the Serbian Principality. In general, the invaders destroyed or weakened Roman and Byzantine cultural centers in the lands that would become Albania.[24]

The territorial nucleus of the Albanian state formed in the Middle Ages, as the Principality of Arbër and the Kingdom of Albania. The Principality of Arbër or Albanon (Albanian): Arbër or Arbëria, was the first Albanian state during the Middle Ages , it was established by archon Progon in the region of Kruja, in c. 1190. Progon, the founder, was succeeded by his sons Gjin and Demetrius, the latter which attained the height of the realm. After the death of Dhimiter, the last of the Progon family, the principality came under Gregory Kamonas, and later Golem. The Principality was dissolved in 1255.[25][26][27] Pipa and Repishti conclude that Arbanon was the first sketch of an "Albanian state", and that it retained semi-autonomous status as the western extremity of an empire (under the Doukai of Epirus or the Laskarids of Nicaea).[28] The Kingdom of Albania was established by Charles of Anjou in the Albanian territory he conquered from the Despotate of Epirus in 1271. He took the title of "King of Albania" in February 1272. The kingdom extended from the region of Durrës (then known as Dyrrhachium) south along the coast to Butrint. After the creation of the kingdom, a Catholic political structure was a good basis for the papal plans of spreading Catholicism in the Balkans. This plan found also the support of Helen of Anjou, a cousin of Charles of Anjou, who was at that time ruling territories in North Albania. Around 30 Catholic churches and monasteries were built during her rule in North Albania and in Serbia.[29]

Ottoman Albania

Main article: Ottoman Albania
After serving the Ottoman Empire for 20 years Skanderbeg deserted and began a rebellion that halted Ottoman advance into Europe for 25 years.

At the dawn of the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in Southeast Europe, the geopolitical landscape was marked by scattered kingdoms of small principalities. The Ottomans erected their garrisons throughout southern Albania by 1415 and occupied most of Albania by 1431.[30] However, in 1443 a great and longstanding revolt broke out under the lead of the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg, which lasted until 1479, many times defeating major Ottoman armies led by the sultans Murad II and Mehmed II. Skanderbeg united initially the Albanian princes, and later on established a centralized authority over most of the non-conquered territories, becoming the ruling Lord of Albania. He also tried relentlessly but rather unsuccessfully to create a European coalition against the Ottomans. He thwarted 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.[31]

With the arrival of the Turks, Islam was introduced in Albania as a third religion. This conversion caused a massive emigration of Albanians to the Christian European countries.[32] Along with the Bosniaks, Muslim Albanians occupied an outstanding position in the Ottoman Empire, and were the main pillars of Ottoman Porte's policy in the Balkans.[33]

Köprülü Mehmed Pasha was the most effective and influential Ottoman Grand Vizier of Albanian origin.[34]

Enjoying this privileged position in the empire, Muslim Albanians held various high administrative positions, with over two dozen Grand Viziers of Albanian origin, such as Gen. Köprülü Mehmed Pasha, who commanded the Ottoman forces during the Ottoman-Persian Wars; Gen. Köprülü Fazıl Ahmed, who led the Ottoman armies during the Austro-Turkish War (1663–1664); and, later, Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt.[35]

Ali Pasha of Tepelena was notably one of the most powerful Muslim Albanian rulers.He ruled over the Pashalik of Yanina from 1788 to 1822

In the 15th century, when the Ottomans were gaining a firm foothold in the region, Albanian towns were organised into four principal sanjaks. The government fostered trade by settling a sizeable Jewish colony of refugees fleeing persecution in Spain (at the end of the 15th century). Vlorë saw passing through its ports imported merchandise from Europe such as velvets, cotton goods, mohairs, carpets, spices and leather from Bursa and Constantinople. Some citizens of Vlorë even had business associates in Europe.[35]

Albanians could also be found throughout the empire in Iraq, Egypt, Algeria and across the Maghreb, as vital military and administrative retainers.[36] This was partly due to the Devşirme system. The process of Islamization was an incremental one, commencing from the arrival of the Ottomans in the 14th century (to this day, a minority of Albanians are Catholic or Orthodox Christians, though the vast majority became Muslim). Timar holders, the bedrock of early Ottoman control in Southeast Europe, were not necessarily converts to Islam, and occasionally rebelled; the most famous of these rebels is Skanderbeg (his figure would rise up later on, in the 19th century, as a central component of the Albanian national identity). The most significant impact on the Albanians was the gradual Islamisation process of a large majority of the population, although it became widespread only in the 17th century.[37]

Mainly Catholics converted in the 17th century, while the Orthodox Albanians followed suit mainly in the following century. Initially confined to the main city centres of Elbasan and Shkoder, by this period the countryside was also embracing the new religion.[37] The motives for conversion according to some scholars were diverse, depending on the context. The lack of source material does not help when investigating such issues.[38]

Albania remained under Ottoman control as part of the Rumelia province until 1912, when independent Albania was declared.

Era of nationalism and League of Prizren

League of Prizren delegates 1878
Map outlining the Albanian Vilayet requested by the League of Prizren

The League of Prizren was formed on 1 June 1878, in Prizren, Kosovo Vilayet of Ottoman Empire. At first the Ottoman authorities supported the League of Prizren, whose initial position was based on the religious solidarity of Muslim landlords and people connected with the Ottoman administration. The Ottomans favoured and protected Muslim solidarity, and called for defense of Muslim lands, including present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was the reason for naming the league The Committee of the Real Muslims (Albanian: Komiteti i Myslimanëve të Vërtetë).[39] The League issued a decree known as Kararname. Its text contained a proclamation that the people from "northern Albania, Epirus and Bosnia" are willing to defend the "territorial integrity" of the Ottoman Empire "by all possible means" from the troops of the Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro. It was signed by 47 Muslim deputies of the League on 18 June 1878.[40] Around 300 Muslims participated in the assembly, including delegates from Bosnia and mutasarrif (sanjakbey) of the Sanjak of Prizren as representatives of the central authorities, and no delegates from Scutari Vilayet.[41]

The Ottomans cancelled their support when the League, under the influence of Abdyl bey Frashëri, became focused on working toward Albanian autonomy and requested merging of four Ottoman vilayets (Kosovo, Scutari, Monastir and Ioannina) into a new vilayet of the Ottoman Empire (the Albanian Vilayet). The League used military force to prevent the annexing areas of Plav and Gusinje assigned to Montenegro by the Congress of Berlin. After several successful battles with Montenegrin troops such as in Novsice,under the pressure of the great powers,the League of Prizren was forced to retreat from their contested regions of Plav and Gusinje and later on,the league was defeated by the Ottoman army sent by the Sultan.[42] The Albanian uprising of 1912, the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan Wars and the advance of Montenegrin, Serbian and Greek forces into territories claimed as Albanian, led to the proclamation of independence by Ismail Qemali in Vlora, on 28 November 1912.


Ismail Qemali and his cabinet during the celebration of the first anniversary of independence in Vlorë on 28 November 1913.

At the All-Albanian Congress in Vlorë on 28 November 1912[43] Congress participants constituted the Assembly of Vlorë.[44] The assembly of eighty-three leaders meeting in Vlorë in November 1912 declared Albania an independent country and set up a provisional government. The Provisional Government of Albania was established on the second session of the assembly held on 4 December 1912. It was a government of ten members, led by Ismail Qemali until his resignation on 22 January 1914.[45] The Assembly also established the Senate (Albanian: Pleqësi) with an advisory role to the government, consisting of 18 members of the Assembly.[46]

Albania's independence was recognized by the Conference of London on 29 July 1913, but the drawing of the borders of the newly established Principality of Albania ignored the demographic realities of the time. The International Commission of Control was established on 15 October 1913 to take care of the administration of newly established Albania until its own political institutions were in order.[47] Its headquarters were in Vlorë.[48] The International Gendarmerie was established as the first law enforcement agency of the Principality of Albania. At the beginning of November the first gendarmerie members arrived in Albania. Wilhelm of Wied was selected as the first prince.[49]

In November 1913 the Albanian pro-Ottoman forces had offered the throne of Albania to the Ottoman war minister of Albanian origin, Izzet Pasha.[50] The pro-Ottoman peasants believed that the new regime of the Principality of Albania was a tool of the six Christian Great Powers and local landowners that owned half of the arable land.[51]

Zog I, King of Albania

In February 28, 1914, the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus was proclaimed in Gjirokastër by the local Greek population against incorporation to Albania. This initiative was short lived and in 1921 the southern provinces were finally incorporated to the Albanian Principality.[52][53] Meanwile, the revolt of Albanian peasants against the new Albanian regime erupted under the leadership of the group of Muslim clerics gathered around Essad Pasha Toptani, who proclaimed himself the savior of Albania and Islam.[54][55] In order to gain support of the Mirdita Catholic volunteers from the northern mountains, Prince of Wied appointed their leader, Prênk Bibë Doda, to be the foreign minister of the Principality of Albania. In May and June 1914 the International Gendarmerie joined by Isa Boletini and his men, mostly from Kosovo,[56] and northern Mirdita Catholics were defeated by the rebels who captured most of Central Albania by the end of August 1914.[57] The regime of Prince of Wied collapsed and he left the country on 3 September 1914.[58]

The short-lived monarchy (1914–1925) was succeeded by an even shorter-lived first Albanian Republic (1925–1928), to be replaced by another monarchy (1928–1939). The kingdom was supported by the fascist regime in Italy and the two countries maintained close relations until Italy's sudden invasion of the country in 1939. Albania was occupied by Fascist Italy and then by Nazi Germany during World War II.

World War II

Kingdom of Albania during WWII
Albanian Partisans in Tirana after liberating it, 28 November 1944

After being militarily occupied by Italy, from 1939 until 1943 the Albanian Kingdom was a protectorate and a dependency of Italy governed by the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III and his government. After the Axis' invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, territories of Yugoslavia with substantial Albanian population were annexed to Albania: most of Kosovo,[a] as well as Western Macedonia, the town of Tutin in Central Serbia and a strip of Eastern Montenegro.[59] After the capitulation of Italy in 1943, Nazi Germany occupied Albania too. The nationalist Balli Kombetar, which had fought against Italy, formed a "neutral" government in Tirana, and side by side with the Germans fought against the communist-led National Liberation Movement of Albania.[60] The Center for Relief to Civilian Populations (Geneva) reported that Albania was one of the most devastated countries in Europe. 60,000 houses were destroyed and about 10% of the population was left homeless.

Communist Albania

Enver Hoxha in 1971

By the end of World War II, the main military and political force in the country, the communist party, sent forces to northern Albania against the nationalists to eliminate its rivals. They faced open resistance in Nikaj-Mertur, Dukagjin and Kelmend (Kelmendi was led by Prek Cali).[61] On 15 January 1945, a clash took place between partisans of the first Brigade and nationalist forces at the Tamara Bridge, resulting in the defeat of the nationalist forces . About 150 Kelmendi[62] people were killed or tortured. This event was the starting point of many other issues which took place during Enver Hoxha's dictatorship. Class struggle was strictly applied, human freedom and human rights were denied.[citation needed] Kelmend region was isolated both by the border and by lack of roads for another 20 years, the institution of agricultural cooperative brought about economic decline. Many Kelmendi people fled, some were executed trying to cross the border.[citation needed]

Symbol of the Labour Party of Albania.

After the liberation of Albania from Nazi occupation, the country became a Communist state, the People's Republic of Albania (renamed "the People's Socialist Republic of Albania" in 1976), which was led by Enver Hoxha and the Labour Party of Albania.[citation needed]

The socialist reconstruction of Albania was launched immediately after the annulling of the monarchy and the establishment of a "People's Republic". In 1947, Albania's first railway line was completed, with the second completed eight months later. New land reform laws were passed granting the land to the workers and peasants who tilled it. Agriculture became cooperative, and production increased significantly, leading to Albania's becoming agriculturally self-sufficient. By 1955, illiteracy was eliminated among Albania's adult population.[63] During this period Albania became industrialized and saw rapid economic growth, as well as unprecedented progress in the areas of education and health.[citation needed] The average annual rate of Albania's national income was 29% higher than the world average and 56% higher than the European average.[64] Albania's Communist constitution did not allow taxes on individuals; instead, taxes were imposed on cooperatives and other organizations, with much the same effect.[65]

An old communist bunker overlooking the spectacular peaks of Valbona Valley. An estimated 700,000 concrete bunkers were built by Hoxha's regime.

Religious freedoms were severely curtailed during the Communist period, with all forms of worship being outlawed. In August 1945, the Agrarian Reform Law meant that large swaths of property owned by religious groups (mostly Islamic waqfs) were nationalized, along with the estates of monasteries and dioceses. Many believers, with the ulema, and many priests were arrested, tortured and executed. In 1949, a new Decree on Religious Communities required that all their activities be sanctioned by the state alone.[66]

In 1967 Hoxha proclaimed Albania the 'world's first atheist state'. Hundreds of mosques and dozens of Islamic libraries — containing priceless manuscripts — were destroyed.[67] Churches were not spared either, and many were converted into cultural centers for young people. The new law banned all "fascist, religious, warmongerish, antisocialist activity and propaganda." Preaching religion carried a three to ten years prison sentence. Nonetheless, many Albanians continued to practice their belief secretly.

Hoxha's political successor Ramiz Alia oversaw the dismemberment of the "Hoxhaist" state during the breakup of the Eastern Bloc in the later 1980s.

Post-Communist Albania

After protests beginning in 1989 and reforms made by the Communist government in 1990, the People's Republic was dissolved in 1991–92 and the Republic of Albania was founded. The Communists retained a stronghold in parliament after popular support in the elections of 1991. However, in March 1992, amid liberalization policies resulting in economic collapse and social unrest, a new front led by the new Democratic Party took power.

In the following years, much of the accumulated wealth of the country was invested in Ponzi pyramid banking schemes, which were widely supported by government officials. The schemes swept up somewhere between one-sixth to one-third of the country's population.[68][69] Despite IMF warnings in late 1996, then president Sali Berisha defended the schemes as large investment firms, leading more people to redirect their remittances and sell their homes and cattle for cash to deposit in the schemes.[70] The schemes began to collapse in late 1996, leading many of the investors into initially peaceful protests against the government, requesting their money back. The protests turned violent in February as government forces responded with fire. In March the police and Republican Guard deserted, leaving their armories open. They were promptly emptied by militias and criminal gangs. The resulting crisis caused a wave of evacuations of foreign nationals[71][72] and of refugees.[73]

The crisis led Prime Minister Aleksandër Meksi to resign on 11 March 1997, followed by President Sali Berisha in July in the wake of the June General Election. In April 1997, Operation Alba, a UN peacekeeping force led by Italy, entered the country with two goals: assistance in evacuation of expatriates and to secure the ground for international organizations. This was primarily WEU MAPE, who worked with the government in restructuring the judicial system and police. The Socialist Party won the elections in 1997, and a degree of political stabilization followed.

In 1999, the country was affected by the Kosovo War, when a great number of Albanians from Kosovo found refuge in Albania.

Post-reconstruction Albania

Albania became a full member of NATO in 2009, and has applied to join the European Union. In 2013, the Socialist Party won the national elections. In June 2014, the Republic of Albania became an official candidate for accession to the European Union.


The Albanian republic is a parliamentary democracy established under a constitution renewed in 1998.[74] Elections are held every four years to the 140-seat unicameral Assembly of the Republic of Albania. In June 2002, a compromise candidate, Alfred Moisiu, former Army General, was elected to succeed President Rexhep Meidani. After parliamentary elections in July 2005, Sali Berisha, the leader of the Democratic Party, became prime minister, while on 20 July 2007 Bamir Topi became president. The current Albanian president Bujar Nishani was elected by Parliament in July 2012.

The Euro-Atlantic integration of Albania has been the ultimate goal of the post-communist governments. Albania's EU membership bid has been set as a priority by the European Commission.

Albania, along with Croatia, joined NATO on 1 April 2009, becoming the 27th and 28th members of the alliance.[75]

Executive branch

Cabinet of Albania Logo

The head of state in Albania is the President of the Republic. The President is elected to a 5-year term by the Assembly by secret ballot, requiring a 50%+1 majority of the votes of all deputies. The current President of the Republic is Bujar Nishani elected in July 2012.

The President has the power to guarantee observation of the constitution and all laws, act as commander in chief of the armed forces, exercise the duties of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania when the Assembly is not in session, and appoint the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (prime minister).

Executive power rests with the Council of Ministers (cabinet). The Chairman of the Council (prime minister) is appointed by the president; ministers are nominated by the president on the basis of the prime minister's recommendation. The People's Assembly must give final approval of the composition of the Council. The Council is responsible for carrying out both foreign and domestic policies. It directs and controls the activities of the ministries and other state organs.

President Bujar Nishani PD 24 July 2012
Prime Minister Edi Rama PS 15 September 2013

Legislative branch

The Assembly of the Republic of Albania (Kuvendi i Republikës së Shqipërisë) is the lawmaking body in Albania. There are 140 deputies in the Assembly, which are elected through a party-list proportional representation system. The President of the Assembly (or Speaker), who has two deputies, chairs the Assembly. There are 15 permanent commissions, or committees. Parliamentary elections are held at least every four years.

The Assembly has the power to decide the direction of domestic and foreign policy; approve or amend the constitution; declare war on another state; ratify or annul international treaties; elect the President of the Republic, the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General and his or her deputies; and control the activity of state radio and television, state news agency and other official information media.

Armed forces

Main article: Military of Albania
Patrol boat Iliria of the Albanian Navy.
Albanian special forces in Afghanistan 2013

The Albanian Armed Forces (Forcat e Armatosura të Shqipërisë) were first formed after independence in 1912. Albania reduced the number of active troops from 65,000 in 1988[76] to 14,500 in 2009[77] and the military now consists mainly of a small fleet of aircraft and sea vessels. In the 1990s, the country scrapped enormous amounts of obsolete hardware, such as tanks and SAM systems from China.[citation needed]

Today it consists of: the General Staff, the Albanian Land Force, the Albanian Air Force and the Albanian Naval Force. Increasing the military budget was one of the most important conditions for NATO integration. Military spending has generally been lower than 1.5% since 1996 only to peak in 2009 at 2% and fall again to 1.5%.[78] Since February 2008, Albania has participated officially in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea.[79] It was invited to join NATO on 3 April 2008,[80] and it became a full member on 2 April 2009.

Administrative divisions

Albania is divided into 12 administrative counties (Albanian: qark or prefekturë). Since June 2015, these counties are divided into 61 municipalities (Albanian: bashki). These counties were further divided in 36 districts (Albanian: rreth) which became defunct in 2000.[81] The government introduced a new administrative division to be implemented in 2015 whereby municipalities are reduced to 61 in total, while rural ones called komuna are abolished. The defunct municipalities will be known as Neighborhoods or Villages (Albanian: Lagje / Fshat).[82][83] There are overall 2980 villages/communities (Albanian: fshat) in all Albania, formerly known as localities (Albanian: lokalitete). The municipalities are the first level of local governance, responsible for local needs and law enforcement.[84]

As part of the reform, major town centers in Albania are being physically redesigned and façades painted to reflect a more Mediterranean look.[85][86]


Main article: Geography of Albania
A satellite image of Albania

Albania has a total area of 28,748 square kilometres (11,100 square miles). It lies between latitudes 39° and 43° N, and mostly between longitudes 19° and 21° E (a small area lies east of 21°). Albania's coastline length is 476 km (296 mi)[87]:240 and extends along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The lowlands of the west face the Adriatic Sea.

The 70% of the country that is mountainous is rugged and often inaccessible from the outside. The highest mountain is Korab situated in the district of Dibër, reaching up to 2,764 metres (9,068 ft). The climate on the coast is typically Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and warm, sunny, and rather dry summers.

Inland conditions vary depending on elevation, but the higher areas above 1,500 m/5,000 ft are rather cold and frequently snowy in winter; here cold conditions with snow may linger into spring. Besides the capital city of Tirana, which has 420,000 inhabitants, the principal cities are Durrës, Korçë, Elbasan, Shkodër, Gjirokastër, Vlorë and Kukës. In Albanian grammar, a word can have indefinite and definite forms, and this also applies to city names: both Tiranë and Tirana, Shkodër and Shkodra are used.

The three largest and deepest tectonic lakes of the Balkan Peninsula are partly located in Albania. Lake Shkodër in the country's northwest has a surface which can vary between 370 km2 (140 sq mi) and 530 km2, out of which one third belongs to Albania and rest to Montenegro. The Albanian shoreline of the lake is 57 km (35 mi). Ohrid Lake is situated in the country's southeast and is shared between Albania and Republic of Macedonia. It has a maximal depth of 289 meters and a variety of unique flora and fauna can be found there, including "living fossils" and many endemic species. Because of its natural and historical value, Ohrid Lake is under the protection of UNESCO. There is also Butrinti Lake which is a small tectonic lake. It is located in the national park of Butrint.


The Albanian Riviera, panoramic view

With its coastline facing the Adriatic and Ionian seas, its highlands backed upon the elevated Balkan landmass, and the entire country lying at a latitude subject to a variety of weather patterns during the winter and summer seasons, Albania has a high number of climatic regions relative to its landmass. The coastal lowlands have typically Mediterranean climate; the highlands have a Mediterranean continental climate. In both the lowlands and the interior, the weather varies markedly from north to south.

The lowlands have mild winters, averaging about 7 °C (45 °F). Summer temperatures average 24 °C (75 °F). In the southern lowlands, temperatures average about 5 °C (9 °F) higher throughout the year. The difference is greater than 5 °C (9 °F) during the summer and somewhat less during the winter.

Inland temperatures are affected more by differences in elevation than by latitude or any other factor. Low winter temperatures in the mountains are caused by the continental air mass that dominates the weather in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Northerly and northeasterly winds blow much of the time. Average summer temperatures are lower than in the coastal areas and much lower at higher elevations, but daily fluctuations are greater. Daytime maximum temperatures in the interior basins and river valleys are very high, but the nights are almost always cool.

Average precipitation is heavy, a result of the convergence of the prevailing airflow from the Mediterranean Sea and the continental air mass. Because they usually meet at the point where the terrain rises, the heaviest rain falls in the central uplands. Vertical currents initiated when the Mediterranean air is uplifted also cause frequent thunderstorms. Many of these storms are accompanied by high local winds and torrential downpours.

Landscape of Albanian countryside

When the continental air mass is weak, Mediterranean winds drop their moisture farther inland. When there is a dominant continental air mass, cold air spills onto the lowland areas, which occurs most frequently in the winter. Because the season's lower temperatures damage olive trees and citrus fruits, groves and orchards are restricted to sheltered places with southern and western exposures, even in areas with high average winter temperatures.

Lowland rainfall averages from 1,000 millimeters (39.4 in) to more than 1,500 millimeters (59.1 in) annually, with the higher levels in the north. Nearly 95% of the rain falls in the winter.

Rainfall in the upland mountain ranges is heavier. Adequate records are not available, and estimates vary widely, but annual averages are probably about 1,800 millimeters (70.9 in) and are as high as 2,550 millimeters (100.4 in) in some northern areas. The western Albanian Alps (valley of Boga) are among the wettest areas in Europe, receiving some 3,100 mm (122.0 in) of rain annually.[88] The seasonal variation is not quite as great in the coastal area.

The higher inland mountains receive less precipitation than the intermediate uplands. Terrain differences cause wide local variations, but the seasonal distribution is the most consistent of any area.

In 2009, an expedition from University of Colorado discovered four small glaciers in the "Cursed" mountains in North Albania. The glaciers are at the relatively low level of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), almost unique for such a southerly latitude.[89]

Flora and fauna

The lynx still survives in Albania.[90]

Although a small country, Albania is distinguished for its rich biological diversity. The variation of geomorphology, climate and terrain create favorable conditions for a number of endemic and sub-endemic species with 27 endemic and 160 subendemic vascular plants present in the country. The total number of plants is over 3250 species, approximately 30% of the entire flora species found in Europe.

Over a third of the territory of Albania – about 10,000 square kilometres (3,861 square miles);– is forested and the country is very rich in flora. About 3,000 different species of plants grow in Albania, many of which are used for medicinal purposes. Phytogeographically, Albania belongs to the Boreal Kingdom, the Mediterranean Region and the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region. Coastal regions and lowlands have typical Mediterranean macchia vegetation, whereas oak forests and vegetation are found on higher elevations. Vast forests of black pine, beech and fir are found on higher mountains and alpine grasslands grow at elevations above 1800 meters.[91]

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature and Digital Map of European Ecological Regions by the European Environment Agency, the territory of Albania can be subdivided into three ecoregions: the Illyrian deciduous forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Dinaric Alpine mixed forests. The forests are home to a wide range of mammals, including wolves, bears, wild boars and chamois. Lynx, wildcats, pine martens and polecats are rare, but survive in some parts of the country.

Golden eagle–the national symbol of Albania.[92]

There are around 760 vertebrate species found so far in Albania. Among these there are over 350 bird species, 330 freshwater and marine fish and 80 mammal species. There are some 91 globally threatened species found within the country, among which the Dalmatian pelican, pygmy cormorant, and the European sea sturgeon. Rocky coastal regions in the south provide good habitats for the endangered Mediterranean monk seal.

Some of the most significant bird species found in the country include the golden eagle – known as the national symbol of Albania[92]  – vulture species, capercaillie and numerous waterfowl. The Albanian forests still maintain significant communities of large mammals such as the brown bear, gray wolf, chamois and wild boar.[91] The north and eastern mountains of the country are home to the last remaining Balkan lynx – a critically endangered population of the Eurasian lynx.[93]


Main article: Economy of Albania
Tirana the capital and economic hub of Albania.
Industrial Area on SH2 highway between Tirana and Durrës

Albania's transition from a socialist centrally planned economy to free-market capitalism has been largely successful.[94] There are signs of increasing investments, and power cuts are reduced to the extent that Albania is now exporting energy.[95] In 2012, its GDP per capita (expressed in Purchasing Power Standards) stood at 30% of the EU average, while AIC (Actual Individual Consumption) was 35%.[96] Still, Albania has shown potential for economic growth, as more and more businesses relocate there and consumer goods are becoming available from emerging market traders as part of the current massive global cost-cutting exercise. Albania, Cyprus, and Poland are the only countries in Europe that recorded economic growth in the first quarter of 2010.[97][98] International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted 2.6% growth for Albania in 2010 and 3.2% in 2011.[99]

Albania and Croatia have discussed the possibility of jointly building a nuclear power plant at Lake Shkoder, close to the border with Montenegro, a plan that has gathered criticism from Montenegro due to seismicity in the area.[100] In addition, there is some doubt whether Albania would be able to finance a project of such a scale with a total national budget of less than $5 billion.[8] However, in February 2009 Italian company Enel announced plans to build an 800 MW coal-fired power plant in Albania, to diversify electricity sources.[101] Nearly 100% of the electricity is generated by ageing hydroelectric power plants, which are becoming more ineffective due to increasing droughts.[101] However, there have been many private investments in building new hydroelectric power plants such as Devoll Hydro Power Plant and the Ashta hydropower plant.

The country has large deposits of petroleum and natural gas, and produced 26,000 barrels of oil per day in the first quarter of 2014 (BNK-TC).[102][103] Natural gas production, estimated at about 30 million m3, is sufficient to meet consumer demands.[8] Other natural resources include coal, bauxite, copper and iron ore.Albania has the largest onshore oil reserves in Europe. Albania's crude output amounted to more than 1.2 million tonnes in 2013, including 1.06 million by Canada's Bankers Petroleum, 87,063 tonnes from Canada's Stream Oil and 37,406 tonnes by Albpetrol on its own. Three foreign firms produced the rest.[104]

Agriculture is the most significant sector, employing a significant proportion of the labor force and generating about 21% of GDP. Agriculture in Albania employs 47.8% of the population and about 24.31% of the land is used for agricultural purposes. Domestic farm products accounted for 63% of household expenditures and 25% of exports in 1990. As part of the pre-accession process of Albania to the EU, farmers are being aided through IPA 2011 funds to improve Albanian agriculture standards.[105] Albania produces significant amounts of tobacco,olives, wheat, maize, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, sugar beets, grapes; meat,honey, dairy products, and traditional medicine and aromatic plants,figs (13th largest producer in the world)[106] and sour cherries.[107] Albania's proximity to the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea give the underdeveloped fishing industry great potential. World Bank and European Community economists report that Albania's fishing industry has good potential to generate export earnings because prices in the nearby Greek and Italian markets are many times higher than those in the Albanian market. The fish available off the coasts of Albania are carp, trout, sea bream, mussels, and crustaceans.

"Tourism is gaining a fair share of Albania's GDP with visitors growing every year. As of 2014 exports seem to gain momentum and have increased 300% from 2008, although their contribution to the GDP is still moderate ( the exports per capita ratio currently stands at 1100 $ ) . Although Albania's growth has slowed in 2013 tourism is expanding rapidly and foreign investments are becoming more common as the government continues the modernization of Albania's institutions."[94]


Main article: Tourism in Albania
Kol Idromeno street in Shkodër
Golem beach near Durres
Beach in Himarë on the Albanian Riviera
Spectacular Lake Koman Ferry only comparable to the Scandinavian fjords
Blue eye natural phenomenon
Seaside town of Saranda across from Corfu

A large part of Albania's national income comes from tourism. Tourism - as of 2013 - funds 10% of its gross domestical product, and this is expected to increase. Albania welcomed around 4.2 million visitors in 2012, mostly from neighbouring countries and the European Union. In 2011, Albania was recommended as a top travel destination, by Lonely Planet.[108] In 2014, Albania was nominated number 4 global touristic destination by the New York Times.[109] The number of tourists has increased by 20% for 2014 as well.

The bulk of the tourist industry is concentrated along the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea coast. The latter has the most beautiful and pristine beaches, and is often called the Albanian Riviera. Albanian seaside has a considerable length of 360 km, including even the lagoon area which you find within. The seaside has a particular character because it is rich in varieties of sandy beaches, capes, coves, covered bays, lagoons, small gravel beaches, sea caves etc. Some parts of this seaside are very clean ecologically, which represent in this prospective unexplored areas, very rare in Mediterranean area.[110]

The increase in foreign visitors is dramatic, Albania had only 500,000 visitors in 2005, while in 2012 had an estimated 4.2 million tourists, an increase of 740% in only 7 years. Several of the country's main cities are situated along the pristine seashores of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. An important gateway to the Balkan Peninsula, Albania's ever-growing road network provides juncture to reach its neighbors in north south, east, and west. Albania is within close proximity to all the major European capitals with short two or three hour flights that are available daily. Tourists can see and experience Albania's ancient past and traditional culture.[111]

Seventy percent of Albania's terrain is mountainous and there are valleys that spread in a beautiful mosaic of forests, pastures, springs framed by high peaks capped by snow until late summer spreads across them.[112]

Albanian Alps, part of the Prokletije or Accursed Mountains range in Northern Albania bearing the highest mountain peak. The most beautiful mountainous regions that can be easily visited by tourists are Dajti Mountain, Thethi, Voskopoja, Valbona, Kelmend, Prespa, Lake Koman, Dukat and Shkrel.

National parks and World Heritage Sites

Valbona valley in autumn, part of the Albanian Alps
UNESCO World Heritage Site of the ancient city of Butrint
Ruins of Apollonia
UNESCO World Heritage Site of Berat
Skanderbeg castle, Krujë

Albania offers many places for hiking, the most spectacular landscapes being those of the national parks.

One of the most impressive mountain national parks is the 4,000-hectare (9,900-acre) Tomorr National Park, established south of the Shkumbin river in the Tomorr Range just east of the beautiful museum-city of Berat, and overlooking the city of Polican. Other important mountain national parks are: Theth (Thethi) National Park in the Shale basin around Theth (2630 hectares)[113] Dajti (Daiti) National Park, 3300 hectares of the mountain overlooking the capital, Tirana and Valbona Valley National Park, in the Valbona Gorge from the gorge entrance through to Rrogam and the surrounding mountains.[114]

Although relatively small, Albania is home to a large number of lakes. Three of the largest lakes are Shkodra, Ohrid and Prespa.[115]

There are a number of associations of the tourism industry such as ATA, Unioni, etc.[116][117]

Albania is home to two World Heritage Sites (Berat and Gjirokastër are listed together)

Gjirokastër, the city of stone, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The following is the UNESCO Tentative List of Albania:[118]

Most of the international tourists going to Albania are from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, and Italy.[119] Foreign tourists mostly come from Eastern Europe, particularly from Poland, and the Czech Republic, but also from Western European countries such as Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Scandinavia, and others.[120]

Crime and law enforcement

Albanian Police Logo

Law enforcement in Albania is primarily the responsibility of the Albanian Police. Albania also has a counter-terrorism unit called RENEA. On a list of 75 countries, Albania listed at 17th lowest crime rate ahead of many western nations such as Denmark, the United Kingdom, Sweden and France.[121] However, homicide is still a problem in the country, especially blood feuds in rural areas of the north and domestic crime.[122] In 2014 about 3000 Albanian families were estimated to be involved in blood feuds and this had since the fall of Communism led to the deaths of 10,000 people.[123]

Science and technology

From 1993 human resources in sciences and technology have drastically decreased. Various surveys show that during 1991–2005, approximately 50% of the professors and research scientists of the universities and science institutions in the country have emigrated.[124]

However, in 2009 the government approved the "National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation in Albania"[125] covering the period 2009–2015. It aims to triple public spending on research and development (R&D) to 0.6% of GDP and augment the share of gross domestic expenditure on R&D from foreign sources, including via the European Union's Framework Programmes for Research, to the point where it covers 40% of research spending, among others.


Main article: Transport in Albania


Main article: Highways in Albania
A1 Highway connecting Albania with Kosovo

Currently there are three main motorways in Albania: the dual carriageway connecting Durrës with Vlorë, the Albania–Kosovo Highway, and the Tirana–Elbasan Highway.

The A1 Albania–Kosovo Highway links Kosovo to Albania's Adriatic coast: the Albanian side was completed in June 2009,[126] and now it takes only two hours and a half to go from the Kosovo border to Durrës. Overall the highway will be around 250 km (155 mi) when it reaches Prishtina. The project was the biggest and most expensive infrastructure project ever undertaken in Albania. The cost of the highway appears to have breached €800 million, although the exact cost for the total highway has yet to be confirmed by the government.

Two additional highways will be built in Albania in the near future: Corridor VIII, which will link Albania with the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria, and the north-south highway, which corresponds to the Albanian side of the Adriatic–Ionian motorway, a larger regional highway connecting Croatia with Greece along the Adriatic and Ionian coasts. When all three corridors are completed Albania will have an estimated 759 kilometers of highway linking it with all its neighboring countries: Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Greece.


The civil air transport in Albania marked its beginnings in November 1924, when the Republic of Albania signed a governmental agreement with German air company Deutsche Luft Hansa. On the basis of a ten-year concession agreement, the Albanian Airlines Company Adria Aero Lloyd was established.[citation needed] In the spring of 1925, the first domestic flights from Tirana to Shkodër and Vlorë began.[citation needed]

In August 1927, the office of Civil Aviation of Air Traffic Ministry of Italy purchased Adria Aero Lloyd. The company, now in Italian hands, expanded its flights to other cities, such as Elbasan, Korçë, Kukës, Peshkopi and Gjirokastër, and opened up international lines to Rome, Milan, Thessaloniki, Sofia, Belgrade, and Podgorica.

The construction of a more modern airport in Laprakë started in 1934 and was completed by the end of 1935. This new airport, which was later officially named "Airport of Tirana", was constructed in conformity with optimal technological parameters of that time, with a reinforced concrete runway of 2,700 m (8,858 ft), and complemented with technical equipment and appropriate buildings.

During 1955–1957, the Rinasi Airport was constructed for military purposes. Later, its administration was shifted to the Ministry of Transport. On 25 January 1957 the State-owned Enterprise of International Air Transport (Albtransport) established its headquarters in Tirana. Aeroflot, Jat Airways, Malév, TAROM and Interflug were the air companies that started to have flights with Albania until 1960.[127]

During 1960–1978, several airlines ceased to operate in Albania due to the impact of the politics, resulting in a decrease of influx of flights and passengers. In 1977 Albania's government signed an agreement with Greece to open the country's first air links with non-communist Europe. As a result, Olympic Airways was the first non-communist airline to commercially fly into Albania after World War II. By 1991 Albania had air links with many major European cities, including Paris, Rome, Zürich, Vienna and Budapest, but no regular domestic air service.[127]

A French-Albanian joint venture Ada Air, was launched in Albania as the first private airline, in 1991. The company offered flights in a thirty-six-passenger airplane four days a week between Tirana and Bari, Italy and a charter service for domestic and international destinations.[127]

From 1989 to 1991, because of political changes in the Eastern European countries, Albania adhered to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), opened its air space to international flights, and had its duties of Air Traffic Control defined. As a result of these developments, conditions were created to separate the activities of air traffic control from Albtransport. Instead, the National Agency of Air Traffic (NATA) was established as an independent enterprise. In addition, during these years, governmental agreements of civil air transport were established with countries such as Bulgaria, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, Russia, Austria, the UK and Macedonia.

The Directory General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was established on 3 February 1991, to cope with the development required by the time. Albania has one international airport, Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza, which is linked to 29 destinations by 14 airlines. It has seen a dramatic rise in passenger numbers and aircraft movements since the early 1990s.


Newly painted T-669 Locomotive of the Albanian Railways at Kashar transit stop

The railways in Albania are administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare (HSH) (which means Albanian Railways). It operates a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) gauge (standard gauge) rail system in Albania. All trains are hauled by Czech-built ČKD diesel-electric locomotives.

The railway system was extensively promoted by the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha, during which time the use of private transport was effectively prohibited. Since the collapse of the former regime, there has been a considerable increase in car ownership and bus usage. Whilst some of the country's roads are still in very poor condition, there have been other developments (such as the construction of a motorway between Tirana and Durrës) which have taken much traffic away from the railways.[citation needed]


Regions with a traditional presence of ethnic groups other than Albanian.
Representation of the distribution of ethnic groups within the Republic of Albania, as according to the 2011 census. Districts colored gray are those where a majority of people did not declare an ethnicity (the question was optional).

According to the 2011 Census results, the total population of Albania is 2,821,977 with a low Fertility rate of 1.49 children born per woman.[128][129] The fall of the Communist regime in 1990 Albania was accompanied with massive migration. External migration was prohibited in Communist Albania while internal one was quite limited, hence this was a new phenomenon. Between 1991 and 2004, roughly 900,000 people have migrated out of Albania, about 600,000 of them settling in Greece.[130] Migration greatly affected Albania's internal population distribution. Population decreased mainly in the North and South of the country while it increased in Tirana and Durrës center districts.[citation needed] According to the Albanian Institute of Statistics, the population of Albania is 2,893,005 as of 1 January 2015.[1]

Issues of ethnicity are a delicate topic and subject to debate. "Although official statistics have suggested that Albania is one of the most homogenous countries in the region (with an over 97 per cent Albanian majority) minority groups (such as Greeks, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Roma and Vlachs/Aromanians) have often questioned the official data, claiming a larger share in the country's population."[131] The last census that contained ethnographic data (before the 2011 one) was conducted in 1989.[132]

Albanian schoolchildren

Albania recognizes three national minorities, Greeks, Macedonians and Montenegrins, and two cultural minorities, Aromanians and Romani people.[133] Other Albanian minorities are Bulgarians, Gorani, Serbs, Balkan Egyptians, Bosniaks and Jews. Regarding the Greeks, "it is difficult to know how many Greeks there are in Albania. The Greek government, it is typically claimed, says that there are around 300,000 ethnic Greeks in Albania, but most western estimates are around 200,000 mark (although EEN puts the number at a probable 100,000)."[134][135][136][137][138] The Albanian government puts the number at only 24,243."[139] The CIA World Factbook estimates the Greek minority at 0.9%[140] of the total population and the US State Department uses 1.17% for Greeks and 0.23% for other minorities.[141] However, the latter questions the validity of the data about the Greek minority, due to the fact that measurements have been affected by boycott.[142]

According to the 2011 census the population of Albania declared the following ethnic affiliation: Albanians 2,312,356 (82.6% of the total), Greeks 24,243 (0.9%), Macedonians 5,512 (0.2%), Montenegrins 366 (0.01%), Aromanians 8,266 (0.30%), Romani 8,301 (0.3%), Balkan Egyptians 3,368 (0.1%), other ethnicities 2,644 (0.1%), no declared ethnicity 390,938 (14.0%), and not relevant 44,144 (1.6%).[2]

Macedonian and some Greek minority groups have sharply criticized Article 20 of the Census law, according to which a $1,000 fine will be imposed on anyone who will declare an ethnicity other than what is stated on his or her birth certificate. This is claimed to be an attempt to intimidate minorities into declaring Albanian ethnicity, according to them the Albanian government has stated that it will jail anyone who does not participate in the census or refuse to declare his or her ethnicity.[143] Genc Pollo, the minister in charge has declared that: "Albanian citizens will be able to freely express their ethnic and religious affiliation and mother tongue. However, they are not forced to answer these sensitive questions".[144] The amendments criticized do not include jailing or forced declaration of ethnicity or religion; only a fine is envisioned which can be overthrown by court.[145][146]

Greek representatives form part of the Albanian parliament and the government has invited Albanian Greeks to register, as the only way to improve their status.[131] On the other hand, nationalists, various intellectuals organizations and political parties in Albania have expressed their concern that the census might artificially increase the number of Greek minority, which might be then exploited by Greece to threaten Albania's territorial integrity.[131][131][147][147][148][149][150][151][152]


Main article: Languages of Albania
Map showing the various dialects of Albanian in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Italy and Greece

Albanian is the official language of Albania. Its standard spoken and written form is revised and merged from the two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk, though it is notably based more on the Tosk dialect. Shkumbin river is the rough dividing line between the two dialects. Also a dialect of Greek that preserves features now lost in standard modern Greek is spoken in areas inhabited by the Greek minority. Other languages spoken by ethnic minorities in Albania include Vlach, Serbian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Gorani, and Roma.[153] Macedonian is official in Pustec Municipality in East Albania.

Albanians are considered a polyglot nation and people. Due to immigration and past colonialism, Albanians generally speak more than 2 languages. English, Italian and Greek are by far the most widely spoken foreign languages, which are increasing due to migration return, and new Greek and Italian communities in the country. La Francophonie states 320,000 French speakers can be found in Albania. Other spoken languages include Serbian, Romanian, German, Turkish and Aromanian. Albanians in neighbouring Kosovo and Macedonia are often fluent in Albanian and Serbian, Turkish, Slavic Macedonian, and other former Yugoslav languages.

According to the 2011 population census, 2,765,610 or 98.767% of the population declared Albanian as their mother tongue ("mother tongue is defined as the first or main language spoken at home during childhood").[2]


Main article: Religion in Albania
Albanian census 2011
(Sunni) Islam
Bektashi Islam
Eastern Orthodox Christianity
Catholic Christianity
Other Christian

According to 2011 census, 58.79% of Albania adheres to Islam; Christianity is practiced by 17.06% of the population, making it the 2nd largest religion in the country; and 24.29% of the total population is either irreligious or belongs to other religious groups.[154] The Albanian Orthodox church refused to recognize the 2011 census results regarding faith, saying that 24% of the total population are Albanian Orthodox Christians rather than just 6.75%.[155] Before World War II, 70% of the population were Muslims, 20% Eastern Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholics.[8] According to a 2010 survey, religion today plays an important role in the lives of only 39% of Albanians, and Albania is ranked among the least religious countries in the world.[156] A 2012 Pew Research Center study found that 65% of Albanian Muslims are non-denominational Muslims.[157]

Albanian Catholic sister Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her efforts to help the poor.
Resurection of Christ cathedral in Korçë

The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late 11th century. At this point, they were already fully Christianized. Islam later emerged as the majority religion during the centuries of Ottoman rule, though a significant Christian minority remained. After independence (1912) from the Ottoman Empire, the Albanian republican, monarchic and later Communist regimes followed a systematic policy of separating religion from official functions and cultural life. Albania never had an official state religion either as a republic or as a kingdom. In the 20th century, the clergy of all faiths was weakened under the monarchy, and ultimately eradicated during the 1950s and 1960s, under the state policy of obliterating all organized religion from Albanian territories.

The Communist regime that took control of Albania after World War II persecuted and suppressed religious observance and institutions and entirely banned religion to the point where Albania was officially declared to be the world's first atheist state. Religious freedom has returned to Albania since the regime's change in 1992. Albania joined the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in 1992, following the fall of the communist government, but will not be attending the 2014 conference due a dispute regarding the fact that its parliament never ratified the country's membership.[158] Albanian Muslim populations (mainly secular and of the Sunni branch) are found throughout the country whereas Albanian Orthodox Christians as well as Bektashis are concentrated in the south and Roman Catholics are found in the north of the country.[159]

Leaders of Albania's four main denominations in Paris,France after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, 2015. From left to right: Sunni, Orthodox, Bektashi, and Catholic
Et'hem bey mosque in Tirana

The first recorded Albanian Protestant was Said Toptani, who traveled around Europe, and in 1853 returned to Tirana and preached Protestantism. He was arrested and imprisoned by the Ottoman authorities in 1864. Mainline evangelical Protestants date back to the work of Congregational and later Methodist missionaries and the work of the British and Foreign Bible Society in the 19th century. The Evangelical Alliance, which is known as VUSh, was founded in 1892. Today VUSh has about 160 member congregations from different Protestant denominations. VUSh organizes marches in Tirana including one against blood feuds in 2010. Bibles are provided by the Interconfessional Bible Society of Albania. The first full Albanian Bible to be printed was the Filipaj translation printed in 1990.

Seventh-day Adventist Church,[160][161] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,[162] and Jehovah's Witnesses[163] also have a number of adherents in Albania.

Albania was the only country in Europe where Jewish population experienced growth during the Holocaust.[164] After the mass emigration to Israel since the fall of Communist regime, only 200 Albanian Jews are left in the country today.[165][166]

According to 2008 statistics from the religious communities in Albania, there are 1119 churches and 638 mosques in the country. The Roman Catholic mission declared 694 Catholic churches. The Christian Orthodox community, 425 Orthodox churches. The Muslim community, 568 mosques, and 70 Bektashi tekkes.[167][168]

Largest cities


Main article: Culture of Albania


"The Resurrection of Lazarus." Byzantine icon painted by Onufri (Onouphrios). 16th century. Museum of Mediaeval Art in Korça.

Albanian art has a long and eventful history. Albania, a country of southeastern Europe, has a unique culture from that of other European countries. The Ottoman Empire ruled over Albania for nearly five centuries, which greatly affected the country's artwork and artistic forms. After Albania's joining with the Ottoman Empire in 1478, Ottoman influenced art forms such as mosaics and muralpaintings became prevalent, and no real artistic change occurred until Albanian Liberation in 1912.

Following mosaics and murals of antiquity and the Middle Ages, the first paintings were icons Byzantine Orthodox tradition . Albanian earliest icons date from the late thirteenth century and generally estimated that their artistic peak reached in the eighteenth century . Among the most prominent representatives of the Albanian iconographic art were Onufri and David Selenica . The museums of Berat, Korca and Tirana good collections remaining icons . By the end of the Ottoman period, the painting was limited mostly to folk art and ornate mosques.[169]

Paintings and sculpture arose in the first half of the twentieth century and reached a modest peak in the 1930s and 1940s, when the first organized art exhibitions at national level.[169]

Southern Albanian fustanella

Music and folklore

Albanian folk music falls into three stylistic groups, with other important music areas around Shkodër and Tirana; the major groupings are the Ghegs of the north and southern Labs and Tosks. The northern and southern traditions are contrasted by the "rugged and heroic" tone of the north and the "relaxed" form of the south.

These disparate styles are unified by "the intensity that both performers and listeners give to their music as a medium for patriotic expression and as a vehicle carrying the narrative of oral history", as well as certain characteristics like the use of rhythms such as 3/8, 5/8 and 10/8.[170] The first compilation of Albanian folk music was made by Pjetër Dungu in 1940.

Albanian folk songs can be divided into major groups, the heroic epics of the north, and the sweetly melodic lullabies, love songs, wedding music, work songs and other kinds of song. The music of various festivals and holidays is also an important part of Albanian folk song, especially those that celebrate St. Lazarus Day, which inaugurates the springtime. Lullabies and vajtims are very important kinds of Albanian folk song, and are generally performed by solo women.[171]

Albanian language and literature

Frontispiece showing the most original writer of early Albanian literature Pjetër Bogdani at prayer. From Bogdani's "Cuneus Prophetarum", Padua 1685
Ismail Kadare at a reading, 2007

Albanian was proved to be an Indo-European language in 1854 by the German philologist Franz Bopp. The Albanian language comprises its own branch of the Indo-European language family.

Some scholars believe that Albanian derives from Illyrian[172] while others[173] claim that it derives from Daco-Thracian. (Illyrian and Daco-Thracian, however, might have been closely related languages; see Thraco-Illyrian.)

Establishing longer relations, Albanian is often compared to Balto-Slavic on the one hand and Germanic on the other, both of which share a number of isoglosses with Albanian. Moreover, Albanian has undergone a vowel shift in which stressed, long o has fallen to a, much like in the former and opposite the latter. Likewise, Albanian has taken the old relative jos and innovatively used it exclusively to qualify adjectives, much in the way Balto-Slavic has used this word to provide the definite ending of adjectives.

The cultural renaissance was first of all expressed through the development of the Albanian language in the area of church texts and publications, mainly of the Catholic region in the North, but also of the Orthodox in the South. The Protestant reforms invigorated hopes for the development of the local language and literary tradition when cleric Gjon Buzuku brought into the Albanian language the Catholic liturgy, trying to do for the Albanian language what Luther did for German.

Excerpt from Meshari by Gjon Buzuku 1555
Pantheist and romanticist writer Naim Frasheri

Meshari (The Missal) by Gjon Buzuku, published in 1555, is considered the first literary work of written Albanian. The refined level of the language and the stabilised orthography must be the result of an earlier tradition of written Albanian, a tradition that is not well understood. However, there is some fragmented evidence, pre-dating Buzuku, which indicates that Albanian was written from at least the 14th century.

The earliest evidence dates from 1332 AD with a Latin report from the French Dominican Guillelmus Adae, Archbishop of Antivari, who wrote that Albanians used Latin letters in their books although their language was quite different from Latin. Other significant examples include: a baptism formula (Unte paghesont premenit Atit et Birit et spertit senit) from 1462, written in Albanian within a Latin text by the Bishop of Durrës, Pal Engjëlli; a glossary of Albanian words of 1497 by Arnold von Harff, a German who had travelled through Albania, and a 15th-century fragment of the Bible from the Gospel of Matthew, also in Albanian, but written in Greek letters.

Albanian writings from these centuries must not have been religious texts only, but historical chronicles too. They are mentioned by the humanist Marin Barleti, who, in his book Rrethimi i Shkodrës (The Siege of Shkodër) (1504), confirms that he leafed through such chronicles written in the language of the people (in vernacula lingua) as well as his famous biography of Skanderbeg Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi Epirotarum principis (History of Skanderbeg) (1508).The History of Skanderbeg is still the foundation of Scanderbeg studies and is considered an Albanian cultural treasure, vital to the formation of Albanian national self-consciousness.

During the 16th to 17th centuries, the catechism E mbësuame krishterë (Christian Teachings) (1592) by Lekë Matrënga, Doktrina e krishterë (The Christian Doctrine) (1618) and Rituale romanum (1621) by Pjetër Budi, the first writer of original Albanian prose and poetry, an apology for George Castriot (1636) by Frang Bardhi, who also published a dictionary and folklore creations, the theological-philosophical treaty Cuneus Prophetarum (The Band of Prophets) (1685) by Pjetër Bogdani, the most universal personality of Albanian Middle Ages, were published in Albanian. The most famous Albanian writer is probably Ismail Kadare.


Main article: Education in Albania
University of Tirana was established in 1957

Before the establishment of the People's Republic, Albania's illiteracy rate was as high as 85%. Schools were scarce between World War I and World War II. When the People's Republic was established in 1945, the Party gave high priority to wiping out illiteracy. As part of a vast social campaign, anyone between the ages of 12 and 40 who could not read or write was mandated to attend classes to learn. By 1955, illiteracy was virtually eliminated among Albania's adult population.[174]

Today the overall literacy rate in Albania is 98.7%; the male literacy rate is 99.2% and female literacy rate is 98.3%.[8] With large population movements in the 1990s to urban areas, the provision of education has undergone transformation as well. The University of Tirana is the oldest university in Albania, having been founded in October 1957.


Panoramic view of Elbasan Arena

Football is the most popular sport in Albania, both at a participatory and spectator level. The sport is governed by the Football Association of Albania (Albanian: Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit, F.SH.F.), created in 1930, member of FIFA and a founding member of UEFA. Other sports played include basketball, volleyball, tennis, swimming, rugby union, and gymnastics.


RTSH Headquarters in Tirana
Radio Televizioni Shqiptar is the public broadcaster of Albania.

Radio Televizioni Shqiptar (RTSH) is the public radio and TV broadcaster of Albania, founded by King Zog in 1938. RTSH runs three analogue television stations as TVSH Televizioni Shqiptar, four digital thematic stations as RTSH, and three radio stations using the name Radio Tirana. In addition, 4 regional radio stations serve in the four extremities of Albania. The international service broadcasts radio programmes in Albanian and seven other languages via medium wave (AM) and short wave (SW).[175] The international service has used the theme from the song "Keputa një gjethe dafine" as its signature tune. The international television service via satellite was launched since 1993 and aims at Albanian communities in Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and northern Greece, plus the Albanian diaspora in the rest of Europe. RTSH has a past of being heavily influenced by the ruling party in its reporting, whether that party be left or right wing.

According to the Albanian Media Authority, AMA, Albania has an estimated 257 media outlets, including 66 radio stations and 67 television stations, with three national, 62 local and more than 50 cable TV stations. Last years Albania has organized several shows as a part of worldwide series like Dancing with the Stars, Big Brother Albania, Albanians Got Talent, The Voice of Albania, and X Factor Albania.


Health care has been in a steep decline since the collapse of socialism in the country, but a process of modernization has been taking place since 2000.[176] In the 2000s, there were 51 hospitals in the country, including a military hospital and specialist facilities.[176] Albania has successfully eradicated diseases such as malaria.

Life expectancy is estimated at 77.59 years, ranking 51st worldwide, and outperforming a number of European Union countries, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic.[177] The most common causes of death are circulatory diseases followed by cancerous illnesses. Demographic and Health Surveys completed a survey in April 2009, detailing various health statistics in Albania, including male circumcision, abortion and more.[178]

The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tirana is the main medical school in the country. There are also nursing schools in other cities. Newsweek ranked Albania 57 out of 100 Best Countries in the World in 2010.[179]

The general improvement of health conditions in the country is reflected in the lower mortality rate, down to an estimated 6.49 deaths per 1,000 in 2000, as compared with 17.8 per 1,000 in 1938. In 2000, average life expectancy was estimated at 74 years, compared to 38 years at the end of World War II. Albania's infant mortality rate, estimated at 20 per 1,000 live births in 2000, has also declined over the years since the high rate of 151 per 1,000 live births in 1960. There were 69,802 births in 1999 and the fertility rate in 1999 was 2.5 while the maternal mortality rate was 65 per 100,000 live births in 1993. In addition, in 1997, Albania had high immunization rates for children up to one year old: tuberculosis at 94%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 99%; measles, 95%; and polio, 99.5%. In 1996, the incidence of tuberculosis was 23 in 100,000 people. In 1995 there were two reported cases of AIDS and seven cases in 1996. In 2000 the number of people living with HIV/AIDS was estimated at less than 100. The leading causes of death are cardiovascular disease, trauma, cancer, and respiratory disease.

Alternative medicine is also practiced among the population in the form of herbal remedies as the country is a large exporter of aromatic and medicinal herbs.


Traditional food showcase in Valbona Valley National Park in the Albanian Alps
Main article: Albanian cuisine

The cuisine of Albania – as with most Mediterranean and Balkan nations – is strongly influenced by its long history. At different times, the territory which is now Albania has been claimed or occupied by Greece, Serbia, Italy and the Ottoman Turks and each group has left its mark on Albanian cuisine. The main meal of Albanians is the midday meal, which is usually accompanied by a salad of fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and olives with olive oil, vinegar and salt. It also includes a main dish of vegetables and meat. Seafood specialties are also common in the coastal cities of Durrës, Sarandë and Vlorë. In high elevation localities, smoked meat and pickled preserves are common.

See also


  1. ^ a b Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has been recognised as an independent state by 108 out of 193 United Nations member states.


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Further reading

  • History of the Party of Labor of Albania. Tirana: Institute of Marxist–Leninist Studies, 1971. 691 p.

External links

Coordinates: 41°N 20°E / 41°N 20°E / 41; 20