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The Albanian diaspora encompasses Albanians outside of Albania, Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. The greatest concentrations are found in Italy, Greece, Germany, Switzerland and Turkey. There are also growing communities in Austria, Canada, France, Romania, Belgium, Russia, Scandinavia, Ukraine, UK, and the USA. The Albanian diaspora is present throughout the world and is large in numbers.
The Albanian exodus, caused by the collapse of the communist regime in 1991 and the ensuing economic crisis, has been the largest emigration movement in Europe since the population movements after World War II. Between 1989 and 2001, roughly 800,000 people have migrated out of Albania, about 440,000 of them settling in Greece, where Albanians make up 60% of immigrants. This number has grown and Greek and Albanian estimates the number of immigrants to be as high as 700,000.  350,000 Albanians have migrated to Italy over the 1990s to 2000s, however the number has increased substantially. The situation in Kosovo is similar. More than a million Albanians have left Kosovo since the late 1980s permanently, not counting those fleeing the Kosovo War who have subsequently returned. Important destinations for emigrating Albanians from Kosovo have been Switzerland and Germany.
In Albania, emigration dates back to the 15th century when many Albanians emigrated to Calabria in Southern Italy after the defeat of the country by Ottoman forces. Other popular destinations were Turkey, Bulgaria, and later the United States and South America. Following the communist take over after World War II, emigration was outlawed and violations severely punished. At the same time, Albanian birth rates in both Albania and Kosovo were among the highest in Europe (see Demographics of Albania and Kosovo), and the economies were among the weakest (especially under the Hoxha regime), leading to a huge young population in both regions and a consequently huge demand for emigration once the borders were opened in the 1990s. Two major emigration waves in the 1990s were:
- The Albanian population in Turkey was created in three large waves of emigration in different period times. The first one was the deportation of Albanian from Kosovo in 1910, when 120.000 thousand Albanians were deported in Turkey by the Serbian authority. The second one was in 1926-1938, when under agreements by Yugoslavia and Turkey, about 400.000 emigrated to Turkey. The last one was after World War II, in 1953-1966, when nearly 400.000 were forced to emigrate to turkey from Kosovo.
- Post-1990 wave prior to the collapse of communism in Albania in the form of break-ins at foreign embassies and departures by ship, esp. to Italy.
- Post-1997 wave following the 1997 unrest in Albania and the Kosovo War (1998–99).
The preference for Italy, Greece and Western European countries during the first waves of emigration has given way to Canada and the United States due to stricter European immigration laws.
The rate of emigration has gradually decreased during the later 2000s, with a sudden increase in 2014-15.
In Albania, it is estimated that emigrant remittances account for 18% of GDP or $530 million annually, though declining in the late 2000s. Those who have come back have opened micro-enterprises, while the proximity of Greece and Italy to Albania where more than half of immigrants are located has contributed to continuous labor mobility. Recently, following the 2010–2011 Greek Crisis, many Albanian emigrants have returned either temporarily or permanently to Albania.
The mass emigration of the 1990s to early 2000s has resulted in massive brain drain to Albania. In the period 1990–2003, an estimated 45% of Albania's academics emigrated, as did more than 65% of the scholars who received PhDs in the West in the period 1980–1990. In 2006, a "brain gain" program compiled by Albanian authorities and the UNDP was put into action to encourage the skilled diaspora to contribute to the country's development, though its success remains to be seen.
In 1636, the Mandritsa, a typical village in Bulgaria, was found by Eastern Orthodox Albanian dairymen who supplied the Ottoman Army. They were allowed to pick a tract of land and were freed from taxes. In the 2001 census of Bulgaria, it was estimated that 278 Albanians live in the country.
There are Albanian immigrants, who have entered Greece in large numbers since the fall of the Socialist People's Republic of Albania, forming the largest single expatriate group in the country today. After the fall of communism throughout Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a large number of economic refugees and immigrants from Greece's neighboring countries, Albania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, as well as from more distant countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia, arrived in Greece, mostly as illegal immigrants, to seek employment. The vast majority of the Albanians in Greece is estimated to be between 65–70% of the total number of immigrants in the country. According to the 2001 census, there are 443,550 holders of Albanian citizenship in Greece, with the total of Albanian immigrants in Greece numbering well over 650,000. It is an estimated that 189,000 Albanian nationals in Greece belong to the Greek National Minority of Albania. Albanians in Greece are by far the most integrated, legal and settled community.
The Albani were an aristocratic Roman family, members of which attained the highest dignities in the Roman Catholic Church, one, Clement XI, having been Pope. They were ethnic Albanians who originally moved to Urbino from the region of Malësi e Madhe in Albania. and had been soldiers of Scanderbeg against the Ottoman Empire. Though eventually assimilated in their Italian environment, Clement XI's Albanian antecedents were evident in his having commissioned, during his reign as a Pope, the famous Illyricum Sacrum. Today it is one of the main sources of the field of Albanology, with over 5000 pages divided in several volumes written by Daniele Farlati and Dom. Coletti.
There is an Albanian community in southern Italy, known as Arbëreshë, who had settled in the country in the 15th and the 16th century, displaced by the changes brought about by the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. Some managed to escape and were offered refuge from the repression by the Kingdom of Naples and Kingdom of Sicily (both under Aragonese rule), where the Arbëreshë were given their own villages and protected. The Arbëreshë were estimated as numbering at a quarter million in the 1976.
After the breakdown of the communist regime in Albania in 1990, Italy had been the main immigration target for Albanians leaving their country. This was because Italy had been a symbol of the West for many Albanians during the communist period, because of its geographic proximity. Italy reacted to the migration pressure by introducing the "Martelli" law, stipulating that any immigrant who could prove that he or she had come into the country before the end of 1989 be granted a two-year residency permit. From March 1997, Italy instituted a strict patrol of the Adriatic in an attempt to curb Albanian immigration. As a result, many Albanian immigrants in Italy do not have a legal status. Out of an estimated 450,000 Albanian immigrants in Italy in 1998, only some 82,000 were registered with authorities. In total there are 800,000 Albanians in Italy.
The Italian Government has housed significant numbers of Albanians from Kosovo in the Arbëresh settlements, most notably in Piana degli Albanesi in Sicily.
Turkey has about five million citizens of full or partial Albanian descent, and most still feel a connection to Albania. There is also a strong Turkish minority in Kosovo. The bond between these two nations stems from historical reasons, especially since many Albanians embraced Islam, the official religion of the Ottoman Empire.
Albania was the last nation in southeastern Europe to claim independence from the Ottoman Empire, on 28 November 1912. To this day, relations between the two countries are excellent, with Turkey being one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo, and with polls showing that Turks are one of the best-received ethnic groups in Albania.
Many Albanians emigrated to Turkey between 1950 and 1970. In that period, Islam in Yugoslavia was repressed, and both Albanians and Muslim Slavs were encouraged to declare themselves Turkish and emigrate to Turkey. In the 1990s, Turkey received a wave of Kosovar refugees, fleeing from conflict. Today, the number of ethnic Albanians in Turkey is estimated to be around 500,000.
There are an estimated 300,000 Albanians living in Germany. They mostly migrated to Germany from Kosovo during the 1990s.
There are an estimated 250,000 ethnic Albanians in Switzerland, most of them from Kosovo, a sizeable minority arriving from Macedonia. Albanians have migrated to Switzerland since the 1960s, but bulk of immigration took place during the 1990s, especially during 1998–1999. They account for about 2% of total Swiss population, making them the third largest immigrant community in Switzerland, after the Italian and German ones. The Albanian language is the second largest immigrant language spoken in Switzerland, following Serbo-Croatian. About 40,000 have been naturalized as Swiss citizens during the 1990s and 2000s, while an estimated 150,000 remain registered as nationals of either Serbia and Montenegro (carrying passports issued during the existence of that country, 1992–2006), the Republic of Kosovo (34,000 Kosovar passports registered with the Swiss authority by August 2010), the Republic of Macedonia, or Albania.
It is estimated that 22,395 Albanians live in Canada (2006 Census). The first Albanians arrived in Canada at the beginning of the 20th century, following internal pre-war revolutionary upheavals. Few immigrated to Canada after WWII. Most of the post-war Albanian immigrants settled in either Montreal or Toronto. Some found jobs in Calgary and a few in small communities in Ontario (e.g., Peterborough). After the inter-ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia between ethnic Albanians and Serbian military and police forces, many Albanians left Kosovo as refugees. Some have come to Canada, and in 1999 the Canadian government created a program to offer safe haven to 7000 Kosovar Albanian refugees. However, they continue to appreciate their ethnic heritage and their Albanian national history, even though their ancestors may have left Albania several decades ago. Those Albanians from Albania proper are active in their business and social organizations.
Albanians began to settle in the USA in the early 1920s from Greece, Turkey, Southern Italy and Kosovo, and in the 1990s from Albania, Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia, and refugees of war. The largest Albanian American (incl. Kosovar Albanian) populations are in New York City, Boston, Detroit, and Chicago. Another Albanian American community in Southern California such as the Los Angeles area. The Inland Empire (Riverside/San Bernardino) area of California includes Kosovars who entered the United States at the March Joint Air Reserve Base in Riverside. The Albanian-American population is currently 113,661 or 0.04% of the US population.
Table of Albanian population
|Albania||2,753,174 (2011 census)||98.32%|||
|Kosovo[a]||1,616,869 (2011 census)||92.93%|||
|Macedonia||509,083 (2002 census)||25.17%|||
|Italy||502,546 (2015 statistics, Albanian citizenship) to 800,000 [with Arbereshe, dual citizens and undocumented]|
|Turkey||500,000 to 5 million Turks are of Albanian origin(2007)|||
|Greece||480,824 (2011 census, Albanian citizenship) to 600,000||4.45%|||
|United States||ACS)172,149 (2006-2010||0.06%|||
|Switzerland||94,937 (2000 census) to 300,000 (recent estimations)||3.75%|||
|Serbia||60,809 (2011 census)||0.08%|||
|Canada||31,030 (2011 survey)||0.09%|||
|Montenegro||30,439 (2011 census)||4.91%|||
|United Kingdom||28,820 (2011 census)||0.05%|||
|Austria||28,212 (2001 census)||0.35%|||
|France||20,531 (2011 census)||0.41%|||
|Croatia||17,531 (2011 census)||0.41%|||
|Australia||13,142 (2011 census)||0.06%|||
|Finland||8,214 (2014 statistics, mother tongue)||0.15%|||
|Belgium||7,183 (2010 statistics, Albanian/Kosovar citizenship)||0.07%|||
|Slovenia||6,186 (2002 census)||0.31%|||
|Sweden||5,439 (2013 statistics, Albanian/Kosovar citizenship)||0.06%|||
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||4,295 (1991 census)||0.1%|||
|Ukraine||3,308 (2001 census)||0.01%|||
|Denmark||2,560 (2014 statistics, Albanian/Kosovar citizenship)||0.05%|||
|Luxembourg||2,144 (2016 statistics, Albanian/Kosovar citizenship)||0.37%|||
|Ireland||1,764 (2011 census)||0.04%|||
|Netherlands||1,638 (2013 statistics, Albanian/Kosovar citizenship)||0.01%|||
|Norway||1,537 (2014 statistics, Albanian/Kosovar citizenship)||0.03%|||
|Czech Republic||673 (2011 census)||0.01%|||
|Romania||520 (2002 census)||0%|||
|Poland||430 (2011 census)||0%|||
|Bulgaria||278 (2001 census)||0%|||
|New Zealand||246 total deemed at 20,000 including New Zealand Europeans with Albanian roots prior to 1990s immigrants (2013 census)||0.01%|||
|Moldova||204 (1989 census)||0%|||
|Lithuania||14 (2011 census)||0%|||
|Latvia||13 (2014 statistics)||0%|||
|Uzbekistan||16 (1989 census)||0%|||
|Estonia||12 (2011 census)||0%|||
|Iceland||12 (2011 census, Albanian citizenship)||0%|||
|Turkmenistan||6 (1995 census)||0%|||
|Belarus||3 (2009 census)||0%|||
Emigration has been one of the main causes that has driven the decline of the number of Albanian population during 2002-2011. The phenomenon of migration in Albania Immigration has been common. In most cases it has been taken by males, however gender differences in the last census period 2001-2011 are not that pronounced. According to INSTAT during this period about 481.000 Albanians left and 243,000 of them were male. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developing countries most preferred destination for emigrants were Italy and Greece, followed by United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), and Germany. Italy is the country of destination preferred by 47 percent of immigrants, followed by Greece with 43 percent of emigrants, and the United United States (US) coming up as a third destination. Regarding the return, data Population and Housing Census 2011 show that about 139,827 Albanians were returned to Albania in the period 2001-2011, mostly male. Returnees are relatively young and working age. Employment and family reasons dominate among the reasons to return. In this sense, the return migration captured in the census is a snapshot of continuous circular migration. The National Research survey demonstrates that a total of 133,544 Albanian immigrants aged 18 years and above are turning in Albania in 2009-2013, of which 98,414 men and 35,130 women. This is a big difference report of returnees by sex, where men are over represented compared with women, 73.7% and 26.3% respectively. Since 2009 there has been a growing trend of returns, while the majority of the returns occurred in 2012 and 2013 (53.4 percent). Returns, dominated voluntary returns (94 percent) occurred in Greece, 70.8 percent to 23.7 percent followed by Italy and other countries like the UK, Germany, etc. Therefore, it can be argued that returns in Albania are mainly a consequence of the global financial crisis of 2009 that hit the market. The survey findings show that the main reasons for emigration from Albania have been unemployment in the country and opportunities for better employment abroad along with opportunities for higher incomes. No significant gender difference in immigration is a reason, besides family reunion that seems to have been the main reason for migration. On return, the main reasons include loss of employment in the country immigration, the longing for family and country, as well as problems faced by the family in Albania. Other reasons for return include better employment opportunities in Albania, investment plans or health problems.
Notable Albanians from the Diaspora
- Sedefkar Mehmed Agha- Albanian architect of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the "Blue Mosque") in Istanbul.
- Fatmire Bajramaj- Famous Woman Albanian Football player. She has announced to move to 1. FFC Frankfurt for the 2011–12 season. The transfer is the most expensive in women's Bundesliga history
- Giorgio Basta- Italian general of Arbëreshë descent, employed by the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II to command Habsburg forces in the Long War of 1591–1606 and later to administer Transylvania as an Imperial vassal to restore Catholicism as a predominant religion in Transylvania.
- James Belushi- Albanian-American famous Hollywood actor
- John Belushi- Albanian-American famous Hollywood actor
- (Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu)Mother Teresa – was a Catholic nun of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship, who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta.
- Ermal Frasheri - International law and development expert. He received his S.J.D. from Harvard Law School, and is a fellow at the Center for International Development at Harvard Kennedy School.
- Lorik Cana- Famous Albanian Football player
- Edgar Cani-Footballer
- Francesco Crispi- Italian politician of Albanian Arberesh ancestry. He was instrumental in the formation of the united country and was its 17th and 20th Prime Minister from 1887 until 1891 and again from 1893 until 1896.
- Joe DioGuardi- Albanian-American certified public accountant and a Republican politician.
- Tie Domi- Canadian professional ice hockey player of Albanian heritage. During a sixteen-year NHL career when he was known for his role as an enforcer, he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets.
- Eliza Dushku- American-Albanian actress known for her television roles.
- Lee Elia- Albanian-American former professional baseball player and manager in Major League Baseball.
- Farouk I of Egypt- (11 February 1920 – 18 March 1965), Tenth ruler (Muhammad Ali Dynasty) and penultimate King of Egypt and Sudan, 1936, was of Albanian descent as well as native Egyptian and Turkish
- Mit’hat Frashëri- Albanian diplomat, writer and politician. The son of Abdyl Frashëri, one of the most important activists of the Albanian National Awakening in 1908 he participated in the Congress of Monastir
- Mark Gjonaj - United States politician in the New York State Assembly.
- Antonio Gramsci- Arbereshe writer, politician, political theorist, linguist and philosopher.
- William G. Gregory- First American-Albanian in space.
- Ismail Kadare- Famous Albanian writer
- Kledi Kadiu- Dancer and choreographer
- Giorgio Kastriota Scanderbeg (~Iskander Bey)- as a 15th-century Albanian lord[D], who as leader of the federation of the League of Lezhë defended the region of Albania against the Ottoman Empire for more than two decades.
- Luan Krasniqi- German boxer of Kosovo Albanian descent.
- Mirela Manjani- is a retired Albanian javelin thrower that represented Greece.
- Aleksander Moisiu- Famous Albanian stage actor.
- Elliott Moglica - poet, novelist, biographer, educator, academic, essayist, visual artist, critic, freelance journalist/ interpreter/ translator, & human rights activist. (in Canada).
- Inva Mula- Inva Mula is an Albanian opera soprano. She comes from an artistic family. She began her soprano career at a very early age.
- Ferid Murad- Albanian-American physician and pharmacologist, and a co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
- Muhammad Ali Pasha- Regarded as the founder of modern Egypt, was an Albanian commander of the Ottoman Sultan's, Mahmud II, army sent to drive Napoleon's forces out of Egypt, upon French withdrawal, became Governor of Egypt (1805), then Khedive (Viceroy) of Egypt and Sudan. He founded a dynasty.
- Klaudio Ndoja- Basketballer
- Anna Oxa- Singer born as Anna Hoxha, niece of Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha
- Regis Philbin- Albanian-American media personality, actor and singer, known for hosting talk and game shows from the 1960s to the present.
- Rexhep Qosja- prominent Albanian politician and literary critic.
- Oruç Reis- Oruç Reis (also called Barbarossa or Redbeard) was a Turkish privateer and Ottoman Bey (Governor) of Algiers and Beylerbey (Chief Governor) of the West Mediterranean with Albanian descent
- Girolamo de Rada (Arbëresh: Jeronim de Rada) (1814–1903) was an Italian writer of Italo-Albanian literature of Arbëreshë descent he was the foremost figure of the Albanian National Awakening in 19th Italy.
- Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani – a prominent Muslim cleric
- Rita Ora - Kosovar Albanian singer born in Prishtina, Kosovo (then Yugoslavia). Ora's family emigrated to London in 1991, when she was a year old.
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