Culture of Albania
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The Culture of Albania is a term that embodies the artistic, culinary, literary, musical, political and social elements that are representative of Albania and Albanians. It has been shaped by the geography and profound history of Albania. Albanian culture grew from that of the Illyrians, with their pagan beliefs and specific way of life in the wooded areas of far Southern Europe.
The Albanians can be divided into two cultural and linguistic groups such as the northern Ghegs and the southern Tosks. The geographic border between the two groups, based on dialect is the Shkumbin River. The Gheg dialect is mostly spoken, along with the Albanians of Croatia (Arbanasi), Kosovo, Montenegro, and northwestern Macedonia. However, the Tosks includes the Albanians of Greece, (Chams), southwestern Macedonia, and southern Italy (Arbëreshë). The diversity between the Ghegs and Tosks can be substantial, both sides identify strongly with the common national and ethnic culture.
Albania is the name of the country attested in medieval Latin. The name has derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Albanoi and their center Albanopolis, noted by Ptolemy in ancient times. The double-headed eagle is the national and ethnic symbol of all Albanian-speaking people. It appears in a stone carving dating from the 10th century, when the Principality of Arbanon was founded, and was used as a heraldic symbol by a number of noble families in Albania at that time. The eagle appears as a symbol for bravery, valor, freedom and heroism. Later, the Albanians called their country Arbëri or Arbëni and referred to themselves as Arbëreshë or Arbëneshë. In the 16th century the placename Shqipëria and the ethnic demonym Shqiptarë gradually replaced Arbëria and Arbëresh. The terms are interpreted as the Land of Eagles and Children of Eagles.
Thanks to its long history, Albania is home to many valuable cultural and historical landmarks such as the ancient city of Butrint south of Sarandë, the medieval Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastër, the Roman Amphitheatre of Durrës, the Royal Illyrian Tombs of Selca e Poshtme, the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region, the ancient city of Apollonia, Byllis, Amantia, Phoenice, Shkodër and many others.
The Albanian language occupies an independent branch of the Indo-European language tree, most scholars argue that Albanian derives from the ancient Illyrian language. It has two distinct dialects, Tosk spoken in the south, and Gheg spoken in the north. The Shkumbin river is the rough dividing line between the two dialects.
The language is spoken primarily in Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro. Centuries-old communities speaking Albanian-based dialects can be found scattered in Greece (Arvanitika), Southern Italy, Sicily and Calabria (Arbëreshë), Southern Serbia and in Ukraine. However, due to the large Albanian diaspora, the total number of speakers is much higher than the native speakers in Southern Europe. The four dialects include Tosk Albanian, Gheg Albanian, Arbëresh and Arvanitika.
The mythology of Albania consist of myths, legends, folks, fairy tales and gods of the Albanian people. Many characters in its mythology are included in the Songs of the Frontier Warriors (Albanian: Këngë Kreshnikësh or Cikli i Kreshnikëve). It is divided into two major groups such as legends of metamorphosis and historical legends. The Albanian mythology has its origin to the ancient Illyrians, that inhabited the modern area of Albania during the classical time. Some of the legends, songs and characters include Bardha, Baloz, E Bukura e Dheut, E Bukura e Qiellit, En, Perëndi, Prende, Tomor and Zana e malit.
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 the German perople.
The Meshari (The Missal) by Gjon Buzuku, published in 1555 is considered as one of 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 and 17th centuries, the catechism E mbësuame krishterë (Christian Teachings) by Lekë Matrënga in 1592, Doktrina e krishterë (The Christian Doctrine) in 1618 and Rituale romanum in 1621 by Pjetër Budi, the first writer of original Albanian prose and poetry, an apology for George Castriot in 1636 by Frang Bardhi, who also published a dictionary and folklore creations, the theological-philosophical treaty Cuneus Prophetarum (The Band of Prophets) in 1685 by Pjetër Bogdani, the most universal personality of Albanian Middle Ages, were published in Albanian. Today, the most famous Albanian writer is probably Ismail Kadare.
Architecture of Albania is one of the most important evidence of the Albanian history, culture and identity. It has its origins back in the antiquity, richly revealed by archaeological finds. It has kept its original features and has been enriched with Illyrian, Roman, Ancient Greek, Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman and Western elements.
The history of architecture in the country is one that begins with the Neolithic age with the discovery of prehistoric dwelling and the sancient styles of the ancient Illyrians, Romans and Greeks, then to the revival of the Byzantine era. In the 5th century BC, the Roman colonies of Apollonia and Dyrrachium flourished, while a number of Illyrian cities emerged such as Byllis, Shkodër, Amantia, Dimali, Albanopolis, and Lissus. During the middle ages a variety of architecture styles developed in the form of dwelling, defense, worship, and engineering structures. Some inherited historic structures were damaged by invading Ottoman forces.
In the 13th century, the consolidation of the Albanian principalities gave rise to 'Varosha', or neighborhoods outside city walls. Examples of such developments are the Arbëreshë principalities centred in Petrele, Krujë and Gjirokastra originating from the feudal castle.
In the 18th century, the great Pashaliks of the period such as the Bushati Family, Ahmet Kurt Pasha, and Ali Pashe Tepelena reconstructed several fortifications such as the Castle of Shkodra, Berat, and Tepelena respectively. It is important to note that Ali Pashe Tepelena embarked on a major castle building campaign throughout Epirus. The first half of the 20th century begins with the Austro-Hungarian occupation, continues with Fan Noli’s government, King Zog’s kingdom, and ends with the Italian invasion. During this time, Albanian medieval towns underwent urban transformations by Austro-Hungarian architects, giving them the appearance of European cities.
The period after the fall of communism is often described negatively in terms of urban development. Kiosks and apartment buildings started to occupy former public areas without planning, while informal districts formed around cities from internal migrants leaving remote rural areas for the western lowland. Decreasing urban space and increased traffic congestion have become major problems as a result of lack of planning.
Albanian Art has a long and eventful history dating back to antiquity. 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 13th century and generally estimated that their artistic peak reached in the 18th century. Among the most prominent representatives of the Albanian iconographic art were Onufri and David Selenica. The museums of Berat, Korçë and Tirana good collections remaining icons. By the end of the Ottoman period, the painting was limited mostly to folk art and ornate mosques.
Paintings and sculpture arose in the first half of the 20th century and reached a modest peak in the 1930s and 1940s, when the first organized art exhibitions at national level. Contemporary Albanian artwork captures the struggle of everyday Albanians, however new artists are utilizing different artistic styles to convey this message. Albanian artists continue to move art forward, while their art still remains distinctively Albanian in content. Though among Albanian artist post-modernism was fairly recently introduced, there is a number of artists and works known internationally. Among most famous Albanian post-modernist are considered Anri Sala, Sislej Xhafa, and Helidon Gjergji.
The cooking traditions of the Albanian people are diverse, due to of geographical factors such as climatic conditions suitable for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits. Albania's cuisine is characterized by the use of Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, mint, basil, rosemary and more in cooking meat and fish, but also chilli pepper and garlic. Vegetables are used in almost every dish.
The main meal of the Albanians is lunch, which usually consists of gjellë (stew), the main dish of slowly cooked meat with various vegetables, and a salad of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and olives. The salad is dressed with salt, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice.
In the Middle Ages, as the cities of Albania grew larger in size and the food markets developed, the culinary exchange of ideas progressed & people got acquainted with new dishes and recipes. In high elevation localities, smoked meat and pickled preserves are common. Animal organs are also used in dishes such as intestines and the head among other parts, which are considered a delicacy. Dairy products are integral part of the cuisine usually accompanied with ever-present bread and alcoholic beverages such as Raki. Albanians on the coastal cities including Durrës, Sarandë and Vlorë are especially passionate about their seafood specialties. Popular seafood dishes include calamari, octopus, cuttlefish, red mullet, sea bass, gilt-head bream and so on.
The Albanian music is very diverse. Folk music is divided into two major groups, the northern Ghegs 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.
The Ghegs are known for a distinctive variety of sung epic poetry. Many of the songs are about the ancient history of the Albanians but also the national hero Skanderbeg, who led the struggle against the Turks, and the constant Albanian themes of honour, hospitality, treachery and revenge. Tosk music is soft and gentle, and polyphonic in nature. South Albania is also known for funeral laments with a chorus and one to two soloists with overlapping, mournful voices. Its instrumental music includes the sedate kaba, an ensemble-driven by a clarinet or violin alongside accordions and lahutës. The kaba is an improvised and melancholic style with melodies that Kim Burton describes as "both fresh and ancient", "ornamented with swoops, glides and growls of an almost vocal quality", exemplifying the combination of passion with restraint that is the hallmark of Albanian culture. Several gramophone compilations were recorded in those years by this genial trio of Albanian artists which eventually led to the recognition of the Himariot Isopolyphonic Music as an UNESCO World Heritage.
The contemporary music artists Rita Ora, Dua Lipa, Action Bronson, Ermonela Jaho, Inva Mula, Bebe Rexha and Era Istrefi, have achieved international recognition for their music. Sporano Ermonela Jaho has been described by The Economist as "the world’s most acclaimed soprano". One widely recognised musician from Elbasan is Saimir Pirgu, an Albanian international opera singer. He was nominated for the 2017 Grammy Award in the category of Best Opera Recording.
Albania's recorded history of clothing goes back to the classical times. The traditional clothing includes more than 200 different kinds of clothings in all Albania and all Albanian-speaking territories (including Arbëreshë, Arvanites and Arbanasi). Almost each cultural and geographical region has its own specific variety of costume that vary in style, material, color, shape, detail and form. It is one of the factors that has differentiated this nation from other European countries, dating back to the Illyrian period. The dress is often decorated with symbolic elements of Illyrian antique pagan origin, like suns, eagles, moons, stars, and snakes. Presently, the national costumes are most often worn with connection to special events and celebrations, mostly at ethnic festivals, religious holidays, weddings, and by dancing groups. Some conservative old men and women mainly from the high Northern as well as Southern Lands and wear traditional clothing in their daily lives.
The clothing was made mainly of products from the local agriculture and livestock such as leather, wool, linen, hemp fiber and silk. Today, the Albanian traditional textiles are still embroidered in very claborate ancient patterns. Among the most important parts of clothing includes the Qeleshe (Plis), the Albanian hat, the Qylafë, the Fustanella, the Xhubleta, the Xhamadan, the Brez, the Çorape, the Opinga and others.
Traditional Albanian clothing includes more than 200 different kind of clothings in all Albania and Albanian speaking territories. The Albanian folk dress is often decorated with symbolic elements of antique pagan origin, like suns, eagles, moons, stars, and snakes. Almost every region in Albania has its own traditional dress with women clothing being particularly colorful and rich in detail.
Traditional Albanian clothing, dances, and folklore are showcased in several festivals including the Gjirokaster National Folklore Festival in Gjirokaster, Sofra Dardane every June in Bajram Curri, Oda Dibrane in Peshkopi, Logu i Bjeshkeve every August in Kelmend, Cham Dance Festival in Saranda, and other festivals in various Albanian cities. Today the daily clothing of Albanians is the same with that of the other European countries.
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are Albania's traditional religions. The Constitution of Albania extends freedom of religion to all citizens and the government generally respects this right in practice. It declares no official religion and provides for equality of all religions.
Christianity has a long history in Albania. It is one of the most ancient countries of christianity. There are thought to have been about seventy christian families in the city of Durrës as early as the time of the Apostles. The 'Archbishopric of Durrës' having been founded by Paul the Apostle while preaching in Illyria and Epirus. The Albanians first appeared in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the 11th century. At this point, they were already fully christianized. The first known Bishop of Albania was Bassus, that was made Bishop of Scutari in 387 in Shkodër. The history of Judaism in Albania goes back to the classical era. Jewish migration from Roman empire is considered the most likely source of the first Jews on Albanian territory. It may have first arrived in Albania in 70 B.C. They build the first synagogue in the southern port city of Sarandë in the early 5th century.
In the 16th century, there were Jewish settlements in most of major cities such as Berat, Elbasan, Vlorë, Durrës and as well as in Kosovo region. Albania was the only country in Europe where Jewish population experienced growth during the Holocaust. After the mass emigration to Israel since the fall of Communist regime, only 200 Albanian Jews are left in the country today. In 2010, a new synagogue "Hechal Shlomo" started providing services for the Jewish community in Tirana.
Islam arrived for the first time in the 9th century to the region, when Muslim Arabs raided the eastern Adriatic. In the 15th century, Islam emerged as the majority religion during the centuries of Ottoman rule, though a significant Christian minority remained. After declaration of independence in November 28, 1912, the Albanian republican, monarchic and later the 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.
The Education System in Albania is secular. The literacy rate for the adult population is 97.6% as well one of the highest in the world. Elementary Education is compulsory (grades 1–9), but most students continue at least until a secondary education (grades 10–12). Students must pass graduation exams at the end of the 9th grade and at the end of the 12th grade in order to continue their education. There are about 5000, mostly public, schools throughout the country and the academic year is divided into two semesters. The school year begins in September and finishes in late May or early June. There are public and private universities all around the country and also an online university, WORLDWIDE University that offers different branch.
Football arrived in Albania early in the 20th century when the inhabitants of the northern city of Shkodër were surprised to see a strange game being played by students at a Christian mission. The sport swiftly grew in popularity in a country then under Ottoman Empire rule. Albania was the winner of the 1946 Balkan Cup and the Malta Rothmans International Tournament 2000, but had never participated in any major UEFA or FIFA tournament, until UEFA Euro 2016, Albania's first ever appearance at the continental tournament and at a major men's football tournament. Albania scored their first ever goal in a major tournament and secured their first ever win in European Championship when they beat Romania by 1–0 in a UEFA Euro 2016 match on 19 June 2016.
The dress of the Muslim bride is characterized by its elegance and transparency, in that of the Catholic one can see full colors. The Catholic bride's dress is characterized by its picturesque effects and harmony. There are two types of Muslim wedding dresses. One is worked on a "shajak" (large piece of wool) and with floral motives worked with "gajtan" (kind of rope) black cotton, sometimes mixed with green. The other one is worked in the same material but with red color. Different from the first here the motifs are enriched with full colors. The difference between this two dresses that at the first dress the motifs occupy all the area, at the second it occupies a little part in the front and back. These dresses have a belt worked with gold and grain necklaces in red, rose, orange creating all together a warm surface. Here the motifs are very small.
This gallery of costumes, richness of colors, sentiments are a big experience of lots of years of a population like ours, not only for the ability to conserve alive the tradition, inheriting it generations after generations, but also for conserving the high technique of elaboration or the high artistic level. .
- Dress of Catholic Shkodran Bride
The dress is tripped from the transparent white, shiny, soft, which spreads all over the body, and is intended to suggest tranquility and a warm purity. This concept of tradition is achieved through the white of the base material and the gold thread over. This dress is composed by the "barnaveke": some kind of very long pants which seem a skirt. In the upper part is worn a shirt and over it a "jelek" (waistcoat).
Ritual songs name various elements which contain "paja" (pronounced paya) of the girl, which are the goods parents give to the daughter to wear, to furnish the house, gifts for her husband and the intimate cousins. Elements are typically made by weaving clothes using looms. The preparation of the "paja" for the parents of the bride is a pleasure which means also accomplishing the obligations toward the daughter. This is also an expression of the love of parents, but is connected with the economical conditions of the family.
"Dhunti" in Shkodra means the gifts that the groom prepares for the bride during the engagement, mainly clothes, jewelry, gold ornaments and tricks, which are sent to her a few days before the wedding. In addition to those received by the family of his father, the bride takes many gifts from the groom and his family. "Dhuntia", which had a considerable monetary value, was prepared with great care by the family of the boy, because in some way embodied respect and love for his young bride, to whom these gifts were made, love for their son that he married at the same time was also a representation of the family in its economic and aesthetic. In "dhunti" there were enough clothes and items for use at all times, in joy and in sorrow, which expressed particular attention to the role of women.
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The Albanian language is divided into two basic dialect groups: Gheg in the north of the country and Tosk in the south. The Shkumbin River in central Albania, flowing past Elbasan into the Adriatic, forms the approximate boundary between the two dialect regions.
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