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In order to book an accommodation in Albania enter the proper dates and do the hotel search. If needed, sort the found Albania hotels by price, star rating, property type, guest rating, hotel features, hotel theme or hotel chain. Then take a look at the found hotels on Albania map to estimate the distance from the main Albania attractions and sights. You can also read the guest reviews of Albania hotels and see their ratings.

When a hotel search in Albania is done, please select the room type, the included meals and the suitable booking conditions (for example, "Deluxe double room, Breakfast included, Non-Refundable"). Press the "View Deal" ("Book Now") button. Make your booking on a hotel booking website and get the hotel reservation voucher by email. That's it, a perfect hotel in Albania is waiting for you!

Hotels of Albania

A hotel in Albania is an establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis. Facilities provided may range from a basic bed and storage for clothing, to luxury features like en-suite bathrooms. Larger in Albania hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference facilities and social function services. Hotel rooms in Albania are usually numbered (or named in some smaller hotels and B&Bs) to allow guests to identify their room. Some Albania hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. Hotel operations vary in size, function, and cost. Most Albania hotels and major hospitality companies that operate hotels in Albania have set widely accepted industry standards to classify hotel types. General categories include the following:

Upscale luxury hotels in Albania
An upscale full service hotel facility in Albania that offers luxury amenities, full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and the highest level of personalized and professional service. Luxury Albania hotels are normally classified with at least a Four Diamond or Five Diamond status or a Four or Five Star rating depending on classification standards.

Full service hotels in Albania
Full service Albania hotels often contain upscale full-service facilities with a large volume of full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and a variety of on-site amenities such as swimming pools, a health club, children's activities, ballrooms, on-site conference facilities, etc.

Historic inns and boutique hotels in Albania
Boutique hotels of Albania are smaller independent non-branded hotels that often contain upscale facilities of varying size in unique or intimate settings with full service accommodations. Albania boutique hotels are generally 100 rooms or less. Some historic inns and boutique hotels in Albania may be classified as luxury hotels.

Focused or select service hotels in Albania
Small to medium-sized hotel establishments that offer a limited amount of on-site amenities that only cater and market to a specific demographic of Albania travelers, such as the single business traveler. Most Albania focused or select service hotels may still offer full service accommodations but may lack leisure amenities such as an on-site restaurant or a swimming pool.

Economy and limited service hotels in Albania
Small to medium-sized Albania hotel establishments that offer a very limited amount of on-site amenities and often only offer basic accommodations with little to no services, these facilities normally only cater and market to a specific demographic of travelers, such as the budget-minded Albania traveler seeking a "no frills" accommodation. Limited service Albania hotels often lack an on-site restaurant but in return may offer a limited complimentary food and beverage amenity such as on-site continental breakfast service.

Guest houses and B&Bs in Albania
A bed and breakfast in Albania is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and inclusive breakfast. Usually, Albania bed and breakfasts are private homes or family homes offering accommodations. The typical Albania B&B has between 4 and 11 rooms, with 6 being the average. Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen. Often the owners of guest house themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms.

Hostels in Albania
Albania hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge, and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many Albania hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.

Apartment hotels, extended stay hotels in Albania
Extended stay hotels are small to medium-sized Albania hotels that offer longer term full service accommodations compared to a traditional hotel. Extended stay hotels may offer non-traditional pricing methods such as a weekly rate that cater towards travelers in need of short-term accommodations for an extended period of time. Similar to limited and select service hotels, on-site amenities are normally limited and most extended stay hotels in Albania lack an on-site restaurant.

Timeshare and destination clubs in Albania
Albania timeshare and destination clubs are a form of property ownership also referred to as a vacation ownership involving the purchase and ownership of an individual unit of accommodation for seasonal usage during a specified period of time. Timeshare resorts in Albania often offer amenities similar that of a Full service hotel with on-site restaurant(s), swimming pools, recreation grounds, and other leisure-oriented amenities. Destination clubs of Albania on the other hand may offer more exclusive private accommodations such as private houses in a neighborhood-style setting.

Motels in Albania
A Albania motel is a small-sized low-rise lodging establishment similar to that of a limited service hotel, but with direct access to individual rooms from the car park. Common during the 1950s and 1960s, motels were often located adjacent to a major road, where they were built on inexpensive land at the edge of towns or along stretches of highways. They are still useful in less populated areas of Albania for driving travelers, but the more populated an area becomes the more hotels fill the need. Many of Albania motels which remain in operation have joined national franchise chains, rebranding themselves as hotels, inns or lodges.

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Travelling and vacation in Albania

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Albanian Republic
Republika e Shqipërisë (Albanian)
Flag of Albania
Coat of arms of Albania.svg
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Ti Shqipëri, më jep nder, më jep emrin Shqipëtar
You Albania, give me honour, give me the name Albanian
Anthem: Himni i Flamurit
"Albanian National Anthem"
Location of  Albania  (green)in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]
Location of Albania (green)

in Europe (dark grey) – [Legend]

Location of Albania
Capital
and largest city
Tirana
 / 41.317; 19.817
Official languages Albanian
Demonym Albanian
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
• President
Bujar Nishani
• Prime Minister
Edi Rama
Legislature Kuvendi
Formation
• Principality of Arbanon
1190
• Anjou Kingdom of Albania
February 1272
• Princedom of Albania
1368
• League of Lezhë
2 March 1444
• Proclamation of independence from the Ottoman Empire
28 November 1912
• Principality of Albania (Recognised)
29 July 1913
• Albanian Republic (1st republic)
31 January 1925
• Albanian Kingdom
1 September 1928
• People's Republic of Albania (2nd republic)
11 January 1946
• People's Socialist Republic of Albania (3rd republic)
28 December 1976
• Republic of Albania (4th republic)
Current constitution
29 April 1991

28 November 1998
Area
• Total
28,748 km (11,100 sq mi) (143rd)
• Water (%)
4.7
Population
• January 2017 estimate
2,876,591
• 2011 census
2,821,977
• Density
98/km (253.8/sq mi) (63rd)
GDP (PPP) 2017 estimate
• Total
$36.241 billion
• Per capita
$12,582
GDP (nominal) 2017 estimate
• Total
$12.876 billion
• Per capita
$4,470
Gini (2013) 34.5
medium
HDI (2015) Increase 0.764
high · 75th
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
  1. Aromanian, Greek, Macedonian and other regional languages are government-recognised minority languages.

Albania (Listen/ælˈbniə, ɔːl-/, a(w)l-BAY-nee-ə; Albanian: Shqipëri/Shqipëria; Gheg Albanian: Shqipni/Shqipnia or Shqypni/Shqypnia), officially the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë, pronounced [ɾɛpuˈblika ɛ ʃcipəˈɾiːsə]), is a country in Southeastern Europe. Albania spans 28,748 square kilometres (11,100 square miles) and had a total population of almost 3 million people as of 2016. Tirana is the nation's capital and largest city, followed by Durrës and Vlorë. It is located in the south-western part of the Balkan peninsula, bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast. The country has a coastline on the northern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, the Adriatic Sea to the west and the Ionian Sea to the southwest where the Albanian Riviera begins. Albania is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which connects the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.

During the classical times, the modern area of Albania was home to several Illyrian, Thracian and Greek tribes, as well as several Greek colonies established on the Illyrian coast. In the 3rd century BC, the area was annexed by Rome and became part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia, Macedonia and Moesia Superior. In 1190, the first Albanian entity, the Principality of Arbanon was established by archon Progon in the region of Krujë, within the Byzantine Empire. The territory of Albania was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, of which it remained part of for the next five centuries. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Europe, following the Balkan Wars, Albania declared its independence in 1912 and was recognized the following year. The Kingdom of Albania was invaded by Italy in 1939, which formed Greater Albania, before becoming a Nazi German protectorate in 1943. 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 in the communist era, as well as isolation from much of the international community. In 1991, the Socialist Republic was dissolved and the Republic of Albania was established.

Albania is a democratic and developing country with an upper-middle income economy. The service sector dominates the country's economy, followed by the industrial and agriculture sector. After the fall of communism in Albania, free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania has a high HDI and provides universal health care system and free primary and secondary education to its citizens.

Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATO, WTO, World Bank, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It is also an official candidate for membership in the European Union. Albania 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 home to the largest lake in Southern Europe and one of the oldest lakes in Europe.

Albania: Etymology

The name "Albania" is the Medieval Latin name of the nation. It may be derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Albani (Albanët) recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria, who drafted a map in 150 AD, that shows the city of Albanopolis located northeast of the city of Durrës. The name may have a continuation in the name of a medieval settlement called Albanon or Arbanon, although it is not certain that this was the same place. In his History written in 1079 to 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. During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country "Arbëri" or "Arbëni" and referred to themselves as "Arbëreshë" or "Arbëneshë".

Albanians today call their country "Shqipëri" or "Shqipëria". 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".

Albania: History

Albania: Prehistory

The Cave of Pëllumbas near Tirana, was inhabited during the Paleolithic period.

The first traces of human presence in Albania, dating to the Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic eras, were found in the village of Xarrë, near Sarandë and Mount Dajt near Tiranë. The objects found in a cave near Xarrë include flint and jasper objects and fossilized animal bones, while those found at Mount Dajt comprise bone and stone tools similar to those of the Aurignacian culture. The Paleolithic finds of Albania show great similarities with objects of the same era found at Crvena Stijena in Montenegro and north-western Greece.

Several Bronze Age artefacts from tumulus burials have been unearthed in central and southern Albania that show close connection with sites in south-western Macedonia and Lefkada, Greece. Archaeologists have come to the conclusion that these regions were inhabited from the middle of the third millennium BC by Indo-European people who spoke a Proto-Greek language. A part of this population later moved to Mycenae around 1600 BC and founded the Mycenaean civilisation there. Another population group, the Illirii, probably the southernmost Illyrian tribe of that time that lived on the border of Albania and Montenegro, possibly neighbored the Greek tribes.

Albania: Antiquity

The Monument of Agonothetes in Apollonia. (6th century BC)

In ancient times, the territory of modern Albania was mainly inhabited by a number of Illyrian tribes. This territory was known as Illyria, corresponding roughly to the area east of the Adriatic sea to the mouth of the Vjosë river in the south. The first account of the Illyrian groups comes from Periplus of the Euxine Sea, an ancient Greek text written in the middle of the 4th century BC. The south was inhabited by the Greek tribe of the Chaonians, whose capital was at Phoenice, while numerous colonies, such as Apollonia, Epidamnos and Amantia, were established by Greek city-states on the coast by the 7th century BC.

One of the most powerful tribes that ruled over modern Albania was the Ardiaei. The Ardiaean Kingdom reached its greatest extent under Agron, son of Pleuratus II. Agron extended his rule over other neighboring tribes as well. After Agron's death in 230 BC, his wife Teuta inherited the Ardiaean kingdom. Teuta's forces extended their operations further southward into the Ionian Sea. In 229 BC, Rome declared war on Illyria for extensively plundering Roman ships. The war ended in Illyrian defeat in 227 BC. Teuta was eventually succeeded by Gentius in 181 BC. Gentius clashed with the Romans in 168 BC, initiating the Third Illyrian War. The conflict resulted in Roman victory and the end of Illyrian independence by 167 BC. After his defeat, the Roman split the region into three administrative divisions.

Albania: Middle Ages

The city of Krujë was the capital of the Albanian State in the Middle Ages.

During the medieval period, the area what is now known as Albania, remained under Byzantine control until the Slavs began to overrun the country from the 7th century. Later it was captured by the Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century. After the weakening of the Byzantine Empire and the Bulgarian Empire in the 13th century, some of the territory of modern 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.

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 (Arbër or Arbëria), was the first Albanian entiy during the Middle Ages, it was established by archon Progon (Progoni i Krujës) in the region of Krujë, in 1190. Progon, was succeeded by his sons Gjin and Dhimitri, the latter which attained the height of the realm. After the death of Dhimiter, the last of the Progon family, the principality came under the Greek Gregory Kamonas Lord of Krujë, and later Golem. The Principality was dissolved in 1255. 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).

The Kingdom of Albania (Mbretëria e Arbërisë) was established by Charles of Anjou (Karli Anzhu) in the Albanian territory. In 1271, he conquered from the Despotate of Epirus. One year later in February 1272, he took the title of King of Albania. The kingdom extended from the region of Dyrrhachium (modern Durrës), south along the coast to Butrint. After the creation of the kingdom, a catholic political structure was a 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 also in Serbia. From 1331 to 1355, the Serbian Empire wrestled control over Albania. After the dissolution of the Serbian Empire, several Albanian principalities were created, and among the most powerful were the Balsha, Thopia, Kastrioti, Muzaka and Arianiti. In the first half of the 14th century, the Ottoman Empire invaded most of Albania. In 1444, the Albanian principalities were united under George Castrioti Skanderbeg (Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu), who became the national hero of the Albanian medieval history.

Albania: Ottoman Period

After serving the Ottoman Empire for 20 years Skanderbeg deserted and began a rebellion that halted Ottoman advance into Europe for 25 years. (left) Ali Pasha of Tepelena was notably one of the most powerful autonomous Muslim Albanian rulers, he ruled over the Pashalik of Yanina, and even attempted to rival the Dey of Algiers in the seas. (right)

At the dawn of the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in southeastern Europe, the geopolitical landscape was marked by scattered kingdoms of small principalities. The Ottomans erected their garrisons throughout southern Albania in 1415 and occupied most of the country in 1431. However, in 1443 a great and longstanding revolt broke out under the lead of the Albanian national hero George Castrioti Skanderbeg (Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu), 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, Venice, Ragusa and the Papacy. With the arrival of the Ottomans, the Islam was introduced in country as a third religion. This conversion caused a massive emigration of Albanians to other Christian European countries, especially the Arbëreshë of Italy. 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.

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; and later Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt.

The Historic Centres of Berat (left) and Gjirokastër (right) are an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both cities have been inhabited continuously since antiquity.

During 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). The city of 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 throughout Europe.

Albanians could also be found throughout the empire in Iraq, Egypt, Algeria and across the Maghreb, as vital military and administrative retainers. 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.

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 Shkodër, by this period the countryside was also embracing the new religion. 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. Albania remained under Ottoman control as part of the Rumelia province until 1912, when independent Albania was declared.

Albania: Albanian National Awakening

The League of Prizren building in Prizren from inside the courtyard.

The National Renaissance (Rilindja Kombëtare) began in the 1870s and lasted until 1912, when the Albanians declared their independence. The League of Prizren (League for the Defense of the Rights of the Albanian Nation) (Lidhja e Prizrenit) was formed on June 1878, in the old town of Prizren, Kosovo Vilayet. At first the Ottoman authorities supported the League, whose initial position was based on the religious solidarity of Muslim landlords and people connected with the Ottoman administration. The Ottomans favoured and protected the 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' (Komiteti i Myslimanëve të Vërtetë). 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 against the troops of the Bulgarian, Serbian and Montenegrin Kingdoms. However, it was signed by 47 Muslim deputies of the League on June 18, 1878. 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.

The letters of Naum Veqilharxhi's alphabet (Alfabeti i Vithkuqit) published in 1845.

The Ottomans cancelled their support when the League, under the influence of Abdyl Bey Frashëri, became focused on working toward the Albanian autonomy and requested merging of four Ottoman vilayets, which includes 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. 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 southern Vlorë, on November 28, 1912.

Albania: Independence

The proposed boundaries of the newly established Albanian state in 1913 to 1914.

At the All-Albanian Congress in southern Vlorë on 28 November 1912, the participants constituted the Assembly of Vlorë. The assembly of eighty-three leaders, declared the nation as an independent country and set up a provisional government. The Provisional Government was established on the second session of the assembly on 4 December 1912. Furthermore, it was a government of ten members led by Ismail Qemali, until his resignation on 22 January 1914. However the Assembly also established the Senate (Pleqësi), with an advisory role to the government, consisting of 18 members of the Assembly.

The independence of Albania was recognized by the Conference of London on 29 July 1913. 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. Its headquarters were in Vlorë. The International Gendarmerie was established as the first law enforcement agency of the Principality of Albania. In November, the first gendarmerie members arrived in the country. Prince of Albania Wilhelm of Wied (Princ Vilhelm Vidi) was selected as the first prince of the principality. On 7 March, he arrived in the provisional capital of Durrës and started to organise his government, appointing Turhan Pasha Përmeti to form the first Albanian cabinet.

The city of Skopje after being captured by Albanian revolutionaries in August 1912 after defeating the Ottoman forces holding the city.

In November 1913, the Albanian pro-Ottoman forces had offered the throne of Albania to the Ottoman war Minister of Albanian origin, Ahmed Izzet Pasha. 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.

In February 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. Meanwhile, 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. In order to gain support of the Mirdita Catholic volunteers from the northern part of Albania, Prince 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 was joined by Isa Boletini and his men, mostly from Kosovo, and northern Mirdita Catholics, were defeated by the rebels who captured most of Central Albania by the end of August 1914. The regime of Prince Wied collapsed and later he left the country on 3 September 1914.

Albania: Republic and Monarchy

Wedding of Zog I with Geraldine of Albania in 1938.

The short-lived principality (1914–1925) was succeeded by the first Albanian Republic (1925–1928). In 1925 the four-member Regency was abolished and Ahmed Zogu was elected president of the newly declared republic. Tirana was endorsed officially as the country's permanent capital. Zogu led an authoritarian and conservative regime, the primary aim of which was the maintenance of stability and order. Zogu was forced to adopt a policy of cooperation with Italy. A pact had been signed between Italy and Albania on 20 January 1925 whereby Italy gained a monopoly on shipping and trade concessions.

The Albanian republic was eventually replaced by another monarchy in 1928. In order to extend his direct control throughout the entire country, Zogu placed great emphasis on the construction of roads. Every male Albanian over the age of 16 years was legally bound to give ten days of free labor each year to the state. King Zogu remained a conservative, but initiated reforms. For example, in an attempt at social modernization, the custom of adding one's region to one's name was dropped. Zogu also made donations of land to international organisations for the building of schools and hospitals. The armed forces were trained and supervised by Italian instructors. As a counterweight, Zogu kept British officers in the Gendarmerie despite strong Italian pressure to remove them. 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.

Albania: World War II

Albanian partisans march in Tirana 29 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, as well as Western Macedonia, the town of Tutin in Central Serbia and a strip of Eastern Montenegro. In November 1941, the small Albanian Communist groups established an Albanian Communist Party in Tirana of 130 members under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and an eleven-man Central Committee. The party at first had little mass appeal, and even its youth organization netted few recruits.

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. 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.The communist partisans had regrouped and gained control of much of southern Albania in January 1944. However, they were subject to German attacks driving them out of certain areas. In the Congress of Përmet, the NLF formed an Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation to act as Albania's administration and legislature. By the last year in World War II Albania fell into a civil war-like state between the communists and nationalists. The communist partisans however defeated the last Balli Kombëtar forces in southern Albania by mid-summer 1944. Before the end of November, the main German troops had withdrawn from Tirana, and the communists took control by attacking it. The partisans entirely liberated Albania from German occupation on 29 November 1944. A provisional government, which the communists had formed at Berat in October, administered Albania with Enver Hoxha as prime minister.

Albania: Communist Period

A Cultural Revolution poster depicting the Albanian-Chinese cooperation featuring Enver Hoxha and Mao Zedong.
The two leaders met only twice: in 1956 during Hoxha's visit to China, and in 1957 at the Moscow meeting of communist and workers parties.

By the end of the second World War, the main military and political force of the nation, the Communist party sent forces to northern Albania against the nationalists to eliminate its rivals. They faced open resistance in Nikaj-Mërtur, Dukagjin and Kelmend led by Prek Cali. 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 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. The Kelmend region was almost isolated by both the border and by a lack of roads for another 20 years, the institution of agricultural cooperatives brought about economic decline. Many Kelmendi people fled, some were executed trying to cross the border.

After the liberation of Albania from the Nazi occupation, the country became a Communist state. Afterwards, the People's Republic of Albania (renamed "People's Socialist Republic of Albania" in 1976) was founded, which was led by Enver Hoxha and the Labour Party of Albania. 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 one being completed eight months later. New land reform laws were passed granting ownership of 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.

An old communist bunker overlooking the peaks of Valbona Valley. By 1983 approximately 173,371 concrete bunkers were scattered throughout the country.

During this period, Albania became industrialized and saw rapid economic growth, as well as unprecedented progress in the areas of education and health care. The average annual increase in Albania's national income was 29% higher than the world average and 56% higher than the European average.. The nation incurred large debts, first with Yugoslavia until 1948, then the Soviet Union until 1961, and China from the middle of the 1950s. The communist constitution did not allow taxes on individuals; instead, taxes were imposed on cooperatives and other organizations, with much the same effect. Religious freedoms were severely curtailed during the communist regime, 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, along with the ulema and many priests, were arrested and executed. In 1949, a new Decree on Religious Communities required that all their activities be sanctioned by the state alone.

After hundreds of mosques and dozens of Islamic libraries, containing priceless manuscripts, were destroyed, Enver Hoxha proclaimed Albania the "World's first atheist state" in 1967. The churches had not been spared either, and many were converted into cultural centers for young people. A 1967 law banned all "fascist, religious, warmongerish, antisocialist activity and propaganda". Preaching religion carried a three to ten-year prison sentence. Nonetheless, many Albanians continued to practice their beliefs secretly. The Hoxha dictatorship's anti-religious policy attained its most fundamental legal and political expression a decade later: "The state recognizes no religion," states Albania's 1976 constitution, "and supports and carries out atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people." Enver Hoxha's political successor, Ramiz Alia oversaw the dismemberment of the "Hoxhaist" state during the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the late 1980s.

Albania: Post-Communism

In 1988, the first outsiders were allowed to walk into the Skanderbeg Square, the main plaza in Tirana.

After the protests beginning in 1989, reforms were made by the communist government in 1990, the People's Republic of Albania was dissolved in 1992 and the Republic of Albania was founded. The communists retained a stronghold in the National Assembly, after popular support in the 1991 elections. 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 the Government. The schemes swept up somewhere between one-sixth to one-third of the Albanian population. Despite the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warnings in late 1996, 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. 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 1997 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 and of refugees.

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, the 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 the Albanian Police. The Socialist Party won the 1997 parliamentary elections, 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.

Albania: Present-day

Albania joined the 2010 NATO Headquarters summit in Brussels.

After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, Albania started to develop closer ties with Western Europe. At the 2008 Bucharest summit, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) invited Albania to join the alliance. In April 2014 Albania became a full member of the NATO. Albania was among the first southeastern European countries to join the Partnership for peace programme. Albania applied to join the European Union, becoming an official candidate for accession to the European Union in June 2014.

Although Albania received candidate status for the European Union membership in 2014 (based on its 2009 application), the European Union has twice rejected full membership. The European Parliament warned the Government leaders in early 2017 that the 2017 parliamentary elections in June must be free and fair before negotiations could begin to admit the country into the union.

Albania: Environment

Albania: Geography

Albania seen from the space taken by NASA Terra satellite showing scattered fires.
The Gjipe Canyon in southern Albania, where the Adriatic sea meets the Ionian sea.

Albania has a total area of 28,748 square kilometres (11,100 square miles). The country is located in Southern Europe, bordering Montenegro to the north-west, Kosovo to the north-east, Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south. It lies between latitudes 42° and 39° N (Vermosh-Konispol) and between longitudes 21° and 19° E (Sazan-Vernik). Albania's coastline length is 476 km (296 mi) 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 Dibër County, reaching up to 2,764 metres (9,068 ft). It is located around the border triangle of Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia. 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 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) 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 more than 700.000 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. The Lake Shkodër in the country's northwest has a surface which can vary between 370 km (140 sq mi) and 530 km, out of which one third belongs to Albania and the 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 metres (948 feet) 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 Lake Butrint which is a small tectonic lake. It is located in the National Park of Butrint. Albania has also a total of 13 islands. The majority of them are small in size with only two being larger than a square kilometer such as Sazan and Kunë.

Albania: Climate

Albania map of Köppen climate classification.
Hot Mediterranean climate
Warm Mediterranean climate
Subtropical climate
Oceanic climate
Continental climate
Subartic climate
Mediterranean climate in Ksamil.

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 south-eastern Europe. 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.

Subarctic climate on Albanian Alps.

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. 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. 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 the University of Colorado discovered four small glaciers in the Cursed mountains in Northern Albania. The glaciers are at the relatively low level of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), almost unique for such a southerly latitude.

Albania: Biodiversity

Many endemic plants can be found in the North Albanian Alps, including the Albanian Tulip. (Tulipa albanica)

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 1,800 metres (5,900 feet).

The Golden eagle is Albania's national symbol. (Shqiponja e Malit)
The lynx still survives in Albania.
(Rrëqebulli)

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. 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 – 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. The north and eastern mountains of the country are home to the last remaining Balkan lynx – a critically endangered population of the Eurasian lynx.

Albania: Demographics

Albania: Population

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

According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) Census of 2011, the total population of Albania was approximately 2,821,977 with a low Fertility rate of 1.49 children born per woman. The last census, was conducted in 1989. 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%).

The fall of the Communist regime in 1990, Albania was accompanied with massive migration. External migration was prohibited outright in Communist Albania while internal migration 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. 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. According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) as of 1 January 2015, the population of Albania is 2,893,005.

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 Aromanians) have often questioned the official data, claiming a larger share in the country's population.

Albania recognizes almost three national minorities, Greeks, Macedonians and Montenegrins, and two cultural minorities: Aromanians and Romani people. 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)." The Albanian government puts the number at only 24,243." The CIA World Factbook estimates the Greek minority at 0.9% of the total population and the US State Department uses 1.17% for Greeks and 0.23% for other minorities. However, the latter questions the validity of the data about the Greek minority, due to the fact that measurements have been affected by boycott.

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. 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". 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.

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. 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.

Albania: Urbanization

About 53.4% of Albania's population living in cities. According the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), the three largest counties account for half of the population. Over 1 million people lives in the Tirana and Durrës, making it the largest urban area in Albania. The capital Tirana, is one of largest cities in the Balkan Peninsula and ranks 7th with a population about 800,000. The second largest is the port city of Durrës, with a population of 201.110, followed by Vlorë, the largest city in southern Albania, with 141.513 inhabitants.

Largest urban areas of Albania
(INSTAT Population and Housing Census 2011)

Tirana
Tirana
Durrës
Durrës
Rank City Population Rank City Population
Gjirokastër
Gjirokastër
Sarandë
Sarandë
1 Tirana 418,495 11 Kavajë 20,192
2 Durrës 113,249 12 Gjirokastër 19,836
3 Vlorë 79,513 13 Sarandë 17,233
4 Shkodër 78,703 14 Laç 17,086
5 Elbasan 77,075 15 Kukës 16,719
6 Fier 55,845 16 Patos 15,937
7 Korçë 51,152 17 Lezhë 15,510
8 Berat 32,606 18 Peshkopi 13,251
9 Lushnjë 31,105 19 Kuçovë 12,654
10 Pogradec 20,848 20 Krujë 11,721

.

Albania: Language

Map showing the various dialects of the Albanian in Albania and all surrounding countries.

Albanian is the official language of the Republic 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. The 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 Aromanian, Serbian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Gorani, and Roma. Macedonian is official in the Pustec Municipality in East Albania.

Bilingual roadsign, in Albanian and Greek in southern 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. Greek is the second most-spoken language in the country, with two thirds of families having at least one member that speaks Greek. 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. In Italy, the Arbëresh language derives from the Tosk dialect (spoken in southern of Albania), and is spoken in Southern Italy in the regions of Calabria, Molise, Apulia, Basilicata, Campania, Abruzzi, and Sicily. All dialects of Arbëresh are closely related to each other but are not entirely mutually intelligible.

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).

Albania: Religion

The leaders of Albania's four main denominations in Paris, France after the Charlie Hebdo attacks from 2015 (From left to right: Sunni, Orthodox, Bektashi, and Catholic.)

According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) Census of 2011, 58.79% of Albanians adhere to Islam, making it the largest religion in the country; Christianity is practiced by 17.06% of the population, and 24.29% of the total population is either non-religious, belongs to other religious groups, or are 'undeclared'. Both the Albanian Orthodox church and the Bektashi Sufi order refused to recognize the 2011 census results regarding faith, with the Orthodox claiming that 24% of the total population are Albanian Orthodox Christians rather than just 6.75%. Before World War II, 70% of the population were Muslims, 20% Eastern Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholics. 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. A 2012 Pew Research Center study found that 65% of Albanian Muslims are non-denominational Muslims. According to 2008 statistics from the religious communities in Albania, there are 1119 churches and 638 mosques in the country. The Catholics declared 694 churches, the Orthodox 425 churches, the Muslim community 568 mosques and the Bektashi 70 tekkes.

Albania is one of the most ancient countries of Christianity. There are thought to have been about seventy Christian families in the port town of Durrës as early as the time of the Apostles. The Archbishopric of Durrës having been founded by the apostle Paul while preaching in Illyria and Epirus.[1] The Albanians first appeared in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late 11th century. At this point, they were already fully Christianized. Islam came for the first time in the 9th century to the region which is known as Albania today. It 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.

Fan Noli was the founder of the Albanian Orthodox Church. (left) Pope Clement XI was the Pope from 1700 to 1721. He was born to an Albanian father descended from the noble Albani family from the region of Malësi e Madhe in Albania. (right)

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. 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.

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, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jehovah's Witnesses also have a number of adherents in Albania.

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.

Albania: Education

The University of Tirana is the largest and highest ranking university in the country.

After the fall of communism in Albania, a reorganization plan was announced in 1990, that would extend the compulsory education program from eight to ten years. The following year, major economic and political crisis in Albania, and the ensuing breakdown of public order, plunged the school system into chaos. Widespread vandalism and extreme shortages of textbooks and supplies had a devastating effect on school operations, prompting Italy and other countries to provide material assistance. In the late 1990, many schools were rebuilt or reconstructed, to improve learning conditions. Most of the improvements have happened in the larger cities of the country especially in Tirana, Durrës and Shkodër.

Education for primary (arsimi fillorë), secondary (arsimi i mesëm), and tertiary (arsimi universitarë) levels are mostly supported by the state. The academic year is much similar to that as in the United States, clases starts in September or October and ends in June or July. Albanian is the primary language of instruction in all public schools. Education takes place in three stages, the primary, secondary, and pre-university education. The primary education is obligatory from grade 1 to 9. Students must pass the graduation exams at the end of the 9th grade in order to continue their education. After the primary school, the general education is provided at the secondary schools. Students get prepared for the Matura examination, allowing them to obtain their matura diploma, which grants admission to higher education. The country follows the Bologna model in accordance with the 2007 Law on Higher Education. These institutions can be public or private, and may offer one, two or three levels of higher education depending on the institution.

The School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education) of Albania is 16 years. The nation ranks 25th out of 167 countries. In 2015, the overall literacy rate in Albania was 98.7%; the male literacy rate was 99.2% and female literacy rate was 98.3%. With large population movements in the 1990s to urban areas, the provision of education has undergone transformation as well.

Albania: Health

Health care in Albania is used to be dominated by a centralised state system to be run by the Ministry of Health. As of the World Health Organization (WHO), Albania ranked in 2000 as having the world's 55th best healthcare performance. The system has been in a steep decline since the collapse of communism in the country, but a process of modernization has been taking place since 2000. There were a total of 51 hospitals in 2000 in the country, including a military hospital and specialist facilities. 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. The leading causes of death are cardiovascular disease, trauma, cancer, and respiratory disease. Albania has successfully eradicated diseases such as malaria.

The life expectancy is estimated at 77,8 years (compared to 38 years at the end of second World War) ranking 37th worldwide, and outperforming a number of European Union countries, such as Slovenia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. Albania's infant mortality rate, estimated at 12 per 1,000 live births in 2015.

Albania: Politics

Albania: Government

Ilir Meta, Foto.jpg Edi Rama exhibiting at Michael Schultz Gallery Berlin in 2015.jpg
Ilir Meta
President
Edi Rama
Prime Minister
Kryeministria (Council of Ministers) in Tirana, the official workplace of the Prime Minister of Albania.

Albania is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic established under a constitution renewed in 1998. Elections are held every four years to the 140-seat unicameral Assembly.

The President (Presidenti) is the head of state and represents the unity of the Albanian people. The President is elected to a five-year term by the Parliament by a majority of three-fifths of all its members. The President has the power to guarantee observation of the constitution and all laws, act as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Albania, exercise the duties of the Parliament, when the parliament is not in session, and appoint the Prime Minister. The current President is Ilir Meta, elected in April 2017. The executive power of Albania is exercised by the Prime Minister (Kryeministri). The Prime Minister serves as the head of government and is appointed by the President. Ministers are nominated as well as by the President on the basis of the Prime Minister's recommendation. The parliament must give final approval of the composition of the Council. He is responsible for carrying out both foreign and domestic policies. It directs and controls the activities of the ministries and other state organs.

Outer Fascade of the Albanian Assembly.

The Parliament of Albania (Kuvendi i Republikës së Shqipërisë) or the legislative branch is elected by people for a four-year term and is the lawmaking body in the country. There are 140 deputies in the parliament, which are elected through a party-list proportional representation system. The Chairperson has two deputies and chairs the parliament. There are 15 permanent commissions, or committees. Parliamentary elections are held at least every four years. The parliament 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, the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General and their deputies; and control the activity of state radio and television, state news agency and other official information media.

Albania has a multi-party system. The last Albanian parliamentary election took place on 23 June 2013. This parliamentary election was the 8th since the 1991 first multi-party election. The result was a victory for the Alliance for a European Albania led by the Socialist Party (PS) and its leader Edi Rama. The 140 members of National Assembly (Kuvendi i Shqipërisë) were elected in twelve multi-member constituencies analogous to the country's twelve counties. The 2017 election will be held on 18 June 2017.

Albania: Foreign relations

The Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz in Vienna, May 5, 2014.

Foreign relations are conducted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tirana. The current minister is Ditmir Bushati. Since the collapse of Communism in 1990, Albania has extended its responsibilities and position in European and international affairs, supporting and establishing friendly relations with other nations around the world.

The main objectives of the Albanian foreign policy are; the Accession of Albania to the European Union, the International recognition of Kosovo, the recognition of Expulsion of Cham Albanians, helping and protecting of the rights the Albanians in Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece, southern Serbia, Italy and the Albanian diaspora. Albania has a network of 40 foreign embassies and 46 diplomatic missions abroad. Albania was among the first eastern European countries to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Major Albanian politicians considered admission to NATO as a top priority for the country. Since 1992, it has been extensively engaged with NATO, and has maintained its position as a stability factor and a strong ally of the United States and European Union in the troubled and divided region of the Balkans. At the April 2008 summit in Bucharest, NATO agreed to the accession of Albania and Croatia. One year later in April 2009, both countries joined the alliance.

Albania is a member of numerous international organizations, including the United Nations, Council of Europe, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), International Organization for Migration, World Health Organization (WHO), Union for the Mediterranean, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and La Francophonie.

Albania: Law

The current Constitution of Albania (Kushtetuta e Shqipërisë) is the supreme law of the country and was ratified by a popular referendum in 1998. The nation was constituted in 1913 as a monarchy, briefly a republic in 1920, then into a democratic monarchy in 1928. Succeeding, it became a socialist republic, until the restoration of capitalism and democracy, after the collapse of communism in Albania.

Albania's judicial system is a civil law system divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and administrative courts. Albanian law is codified and based on the French law. Major institutions of the branch include the Supreme Court (Gjykata e Lartë), the Constitutional Court (Gjykata Kushtetuese), the Court of Appeal (Gjykatat e Apelit), and the Administrative Court (Gjykata Administrative), which are all located in the capital city of Tirana. Law enforcement in the nation is primarily the responsibility of the Albanian Police (Policia e Shtetit). It is the main and largest state law enforcement agency in the country. It carries nearly all general police duties thath includes criminal investigation, patrol activity, traffic policing and border control.

In 2014, the Ministry of Internal Affairs started a modernization process of the Albanian police, to modernize it's equipment and methods. The first step was the acquisition of new police vans and cruisers, the next one was the installment of body cameras on police officers to improve their service and to be analysed after an operation. Uniforms of the every uniformed department of the police were overhauled and the logo was changed also. The agency are organised under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs which consist primarily of the national police force. RENEA is the main counter-terrorist and critical incident response unit. The responsibilities of the unit are rescue operations, hostage situations, counter-terrorism and response to particularly violent forms of crime.

Albania: Military

Soldiers of the Albanian Army (Forca Tokësore) in Afghanistan.

The Albanian Armed Forces (Forcat e Armatosura të Shqipërisë) are the military and paramilitary forces of Albania, under the President of Albania as supreme commander. In times of peace, the President's powers as a commander are executed through the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister. The armed forces consist the General staff (Shtabi i Përgjithshëm), the Albanian Land Force (Forca Tokësore), the Albanian Air Force (Forca Ajrore) and the Albanian Naval Force (Forca Detare). The Military were first formed after the Albanian declaration of independence in 1912.

Albania reduced the number of active troops from 65,000 in 1988 to 14,500 in 2009. 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 from China, such as tanks and SAM systems. 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%. Since February 2008, Albania has participated officially in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea. It was invited to join NATO on 3 April 2008, and it became a full member on 2 April 2009. The Global Peace Index ranked Albania 54th out of 163 countries in 2016.

Albania: Administrative divisions

Albania is divided into 12 administrative counties (Qark or Prefekturë). Since June 2015, these counties are divided into 61 municipalities (Bashkia). These counties were further divided in 36 districts (Rrethe), that became defunct in 2000. 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 (Lagje or Fshat). There are overall 2980 villages (or communities) in all Albania, formerly known as localities (lokalitete). The municipalities are the first level of local governance, responsible for local needs and law enforcement. As part of the reform, major town centers in Albania are being physically redesigned and façades painted to reflect a more Mediterranean look.

Albania Counties Named Colored.svg

Coat County Albanian Name Seat Population Area
Stema e Qarkut Berat.svg Berat County Qarku i Beratit Berat 139,815 1,798 km2
ALB Qarku i Dibrës COA.png Dibër County Qarku i Dibrës Peshkopi 134,153 2,586 km2
Stema e Qarkut Durrës.svg Durrës County Qarku i Durrësit Durrës 278,775 766 km2
Stema e Qarkut Elbasan.svg Elbasan County Qarku i Elbasanit Elbasan 298,913 3,199 km2
ALB Qarku i Fierit COA.png Fier County Qarku i Fierit Fier 312,448 1,890 km2
Stema e Qarkut Gjirokastër.svg Gjirokastër County Qarku i Gjirokastrës Gjirokastër 70,331 2,884 km2
Stema e Qarkut Korçë.svg Korçë County Qarku i Korçës Korçë 221,706 3,711 km2
Stema e Qarkut Kukës.svg Kukës County Qarku i Kukësit Kukës 84,035 2,374 km2
Stema e Qarkut Lezhë.svg Lezhë County Qarku i Lezhës Lezhë 135,613 1,620 km2
Stema e Qarkut Shkodër.svg Shkodër County Qarku i Shkodrës Shkodër 215,483 3,562 km2
Stema e Qarkut Tiranë.svg Tirana County Qarku i Tiranës Tirana 811,649 1,652 km2
Stema e Qarkut Vlorë.svg Vlorë County Qarku i Vlorës Vlorë 183,105 2,706 km2

Albania: Economy

Albania Export Treemap

Albania's transition from a socialist centrally planned economy to a capitalist mixed economy has been largely successful. "Formal non-agricultural employment in the private sector more than doubled between 1999 and 2013," notes the World Bank, with much of this expansion powered by foreign investment. With 14.7% (2016) Albania has the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the Balkans. Albania's largest trading partners are Italy, Greece, China, Spain, Kosovo and the United States.

In 2012, Albania's GDP per capita (expressed in purchasing power parity) stood at 30% of the EU average, while AIC (Actual Individual Consumption) was 35%. Albania, Cyprus, and Poland were the only countries in Europe to record an economic growth in the first quarter of 2010. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted 2.6% growth for Albania in 2010 and 3.2% in 2011.

Tirana and Durrës build both the financial and business heart of the country. However, Tirana is the major centre for trade, real estate, banking and finance, retailing, transportation, new media as well as traditional media, advertising, legal services, accountancy, insurance, and fashion. Many roads and railways pass through Tirana and Durrës connecting the northern part of the country to the south and the west with the east.

Tirana is the capital city and economic hub of Albania. It is home to most major national and international companies operating in the country.

Well-known companies include the petroleum Taçi Oil, Albpetrol, ARMO and Kastrati, the mineral AlbChrome, cement Antea, the investment BALFIN Group (among the largest in southeastern Europe) and the technology Albtelecom, Vodafone, Telekom Albania and more other companies. According to the Forbes as of December 2016, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was growing at 2.8%. The country had a trade balance of −9.7% and unemployment rate of 14.7%. The Foreign direct investment has increased significantly in recent years as the government has embarked on an ambitious program to improve the business climate through fiscal and legislative reforms. The Government is focused on the simplification of licensing requirements and tax codes, and it entered into a new arrangement with the International Monetary Fund for additional financial and technical support.

The Economy is expected to expand in the near term, driven by a recovery in consumption and robust investments. Growth is projected to be 3.2% in 2016, 3.5% in 2017, and 3.8% in 2018. The medium-term outlook depends on the pace and depth of the structural reforms and on additional fiscal consolidation measures to reduce debt, sustained reforms in the energy and financial sectors, improvements in the management of public investments, and the recently approved reform of the judiciary, which has implications for the investment climate and credit growth."

Albania: Primary sector

Albania is the 11th largest producer of Figs in the world.

Agriculture in the country is based on small to medium-sized family-owned dispersed units. It remains a significant sector of the Economy of Albania. It employs 47.8% of the population, and about 24.31% of the land is used for agricultural purposes. As part of the pre-accession process of Albania to the European Union, farmers are being aided through IPA 2011 funds to improve Albanian agriculture standards. Albania produces significant amounts of tobacco, olives (17th), wheat, maize, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, sugar beets, grapes (36th), meat, honey, dairy products, and traditional medicine and aromatic plants, figs (11th) and sour cherries (22nd largest producer in the World). Albania's proximity to the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea give the underdeveloped fishing industry great potential. The 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.

Albania has one of Europe's longest histories of viticulture. The today's region was one of the few places where vine was naturally grown during the ice age. The oldest found seeds in the region are 4,000 to 6,000 years old. In 2009, the nation produced an estimated 17,500 tonnes of wine During the communism, the production area expanded to some 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres).

Albania: Secondary sector

The Antea factory in Fushë-Krujë.

The secondary sector of Albania have undergone many changes and diversification, since the collapse of the communist regime in the country. It is very diversified, from electronics, manufacturing, textiles, to food, cement, mining, and energy. The Antea Cement plant in Fushë-Krujë is considered as one of the largest industrial greenfield investments in the country. Albanian oil and gas is represents of the most promising albeit strictly regulated sectors of its economy. Albania has the second largest oil deposits in the Balkan peninsula after Romania, and the largest oil reserves in Europe. The Albpetrol company is owned by the Albanian state and monitors the state petroleum agreements in the country. The textile industry has seen an extensive expansion by approaching companies from the European Union (EU) in Albania. According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) as of 2016, the textile production marked an annual growth of 5,3% and an annual turnover of around 1,5 billion euros.

Albania is a significant minerals producer and is ranked among the world's leading chromium producers and exporters. The nation is also a notable producer of copper, nickel and coal. The Batra mine, Bulqizë mine, and Thekna mine are among the most recognised Albanian mines that are still in operation.

Albania: Tertiary sector

The Ksamil Islands are four small islands located in southern Albania.

The service industry represents the fastest growing sector of the Albanian economy. A significant part of Albania's national income derives from tourism. In 2014, it directly accounted for 6% of GDP, though including indirect contributions pushes the proportion to just over 20%. 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. In 2014, Albania was nominated number 4 global touristic destination by the New York Times. The number of tourists has increased by 20% for 2014 as well. With a total of 3.8 million visitors, Albania is the 25th (out of 47 countries) most visited country in Europe.

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. The Albanian coastline has a considerable length of 360 kilometres (220 miles). The coast has a particular character because it is rich in varieties of sandy beaches, capes, coves, covered bays, lagoons, small gravel beaches, sea caves and others.

The Koman Lake is one of the most popular ferry rides in southern Europe.

Some parts of this seaside are very clean ecologically, which represent in this prospective unexplored areas, very rare in Mediterranean area. The Albanian Alps, part of the Prokletije or Accursed Mountains range in Northern Albania bearing the highest mountain peak. The southernmost glaciers in Europe were recently discovered in the Albanian part of the range. The most beautiful mountainous regions that can be easily visited by tourists are Dajti Mountain, Thethi, Tropojë, Voskopoja, Valbona, Kelmend, Prespa, Lake Koman, Dukat and Shkrel.

The increase in foreign visitors has been dramatic. Albania had only 500,000 visitors in 2005, while in 2012 had an estimated 4.2 million – an increase of 740% in only 7 years. Tourism in the summer of 2015 increased by 25 percent in contrast the previous year, accouring to the country's tourism agency. A USAid agency report indicated that the direct contribution of tourism is becoming a significant part of the country's Gross Domestic Product, a full 4.8 percent of it in 2013. The total contribution to the GDP was about 17 percent including wider effects from investment and the supply chain. This is expected to increase in the future.

Albania: Science and technology

Until 1990, after the fall of Communism in Albania, the country was one of the world's most isolated and controlled countries, and installation and maintenance of a modern system of international and domestic telecommunications was precluded. Callers previously needed operator assistance even to make domestic long-distance calls. Internet in Albania is fast and inexpensive in comparison to the rest of Europe. For example, an ISP known as ABcom, offers a 30mbit download package for 306.999 lekë ($2.39579 USD) per month. In the mobile network industry, providers such as Vodafone, Telekom, Albanian Mobile Communications and Eagle Mobile provide both 3G and 4G data plans. 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.

However, in 2009 the government approved the "National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation in Albania" covering the period 2009–15. 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.

Albania: Energy

The Fierza Reservoir was formed as a result of the construction of the Fierza Hydroelectric Power Station in 1978.

Energy in Albania is dependent on Hydroelectricity. Albania is the largest producer of Hydroelectricity in the World, with a percentage of 100%. It is host to five Hydroelectric power stations and a plant. Almost four Hydroelectric power stations: Fierza, Koman, Skavica and Vau i Dejës are situated on the Drin river, the longest in the country with a total length of 335 km (208 mi). Its location, plays a significant role for the production of electricity in Albania.

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. In February 2009 Italian company Enel announced plans to build an 800 MW coal-fired power plant in Albania, to diversify electricity sources.

The Albanian Devoll Hydropower company, owned and operated by Norwegian Statkraft, is currently building two hydroelectricity plants on the Devoll river near Banjë and Moglicë. The Moglicë Hydro Power Plant is anticipated to be the world's highest of its kind upon completion. The Devoll Hydropower Project is one of the largest hydropower investments in the Balkan peninsula. The two plants are expected to be completed in 2016 and 2018. After its completion, it will produce 729 GWh annually, increasing the electricity production in Albania by almost 17%.

Albania: Infrastructure

The airport of Tirana is the 8th busiest airport in the Balkans that handles over 2 million passengers per year.
The A1 Motorway in Northern Albania near Kalimash to Kosovo.
The National Road 3 (SH3) from Lin to Pogradec along the Ohrid Lake.
Scenic National Road 8 (SH8) at Llogara Pass along the Albanian Riviera.

After the fall of communism in Albania, the transportation has undergone significant changes in the past two decades, vastly modernizing the country's infrastructure. Improvements to the road infrastructure, urban transport, and air travel have all led to a vast improvement in transportation.

Currently, there are three main motorways in Albania: the dual carriageway connecting Durrës with Vlorë, the A1 Motorway, and the A3 Motorway. The A1 Motorway connects the port city of Durrës on the Adriatic Sea to Kosovos capital Pristina. Near future, the motorway will link with the Pan-European Corridor X near Niš in Serbia. The project was the biggest and most expensive infrastructure road project ever undertaken in the country. Two additional highways are currently under construction: the A3 Motorway will connect Tirana with the Pan-European Corridor VIII, which will link Albania with the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the east of the Balkans, 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 major Albanian port is the Port of Durrës. As of 2014, the port ranks as one of the largest passenger ports in Albania and the Adriatic Sea, with annual passenger volume of approximately 1.5 million. Passenger transport mainly takes place with Italy and Croatia. Albania's main seaports are Durrës, Vlorë, Sarandë, and Shëngjin.

The highly advantageous geographical location of Durrës makes the port to the biggest port of Albania and among the largest in the Adriatic and Ionian seas.

Albania's only international airport is the Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza. It is the only port of entry for air travelers to the country. The airport offers international connections among many major European cities. In 2016, the Government of Albania reached an agreement with Tirana International Airport on ending its monopoly on flights, opening the way for an airport at Kukës in the north to open.

The Railways in Albania are administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare. The railway system was extensively promoted by the totalitarian communist regime of dictator 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. The new railway line from the capital Tirana via Rinas (Tirana International Airport) to the port city of Durrës, is currently planned to be built. The location of this railway, as the most populated urban areas in Albania, makes it an important economic development project. The opening will take place in 2019.

Albania: Media

Television in Albania began officially 1938, with the founding of RTSH (Radio Televizioni Shqiptar). Since then television has grown in the country. Almost 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). 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. According to the Albanian Media Authority, 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. In Llast years, Albania has organized several shows as a part of worldwide series like Dancing with the Stars, Big Brother, Got Talent, The Voice, and X Factor.

Albania ranked 34th in the 2003 Press Freedom Index report compiled by the Reporters Without Borders. In 2016, it ranked 82nd. In 2016, there were 1.82 million Internet users in the country in percentage 63% of the population.

Albania: Culture

Albania: Architecture

Ancient architecture in Butrint.
(5th century BC)

Due to its long history, Albania is home to many valuable cultural and historical landmarks. From antiquity to the modern period, major cities in the country have evolved from within the castle to include dwellings, religious, and commercial structures, with constant redesigning of town squares and evolution of building techniques.

The country hosts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the ancient city of Butrint south of Sarandë and the medieval Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastër. Five other landmarks, such as the Gashi and Rrajca River (part of Shebenik Jabllanice National Park), the Roman Amphitheatre of Durrës, the Royal Illyrian Tombs of Selca e Poshtme, the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region and the ancient city of Apollonia are on the tentative list.

Many ancient architectural treasures from the Illyrians such as Byllis, Amantia, Phoenice and Shkodër can be found in Albania. Due to the long period of rule of the Byzantine Empire, Albania is home to many Byzantine churches, castles, and monasteries. Albania also has many surviving monuments from the five centuries of Ottoman rule. In the 19th century, Albanian medieval towns underwent urban transformations by Austro-Hungarian and Italian architects, giving them the appearance of European cities. During the Communism, many socialist-styled complexes, wide roads, and factories were constructed, while town squares were redesigned and a number of historic buildings demolished.

Albania: Music

The Albanian dancer by Alexandre Decamps. (1835)

The Albanian folk music falls 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 Albanian medieval 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."

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. The first compilation of Albanian folk music was made by two Himariot song artists Neço Muka and Koço Çakali in 1929 and 1931 in Paris during their interpretations with the Albanian song diva Tefta Tashko Koço. 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 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: Arts

Motra Tone painted by Kolë Idromeno in 1883. (left) The Resurrection of Lazarus Byzantine icon painted by Onufri in the 16th century. Museum of Mediaeval Art in Korçë. (right)

Albania's visual arts tradition has been shaped by the many cultures that have flourished on its territory. 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 mural paintings became prevalent, and no real artistic change occurred until Albanian Liberation in 1912.

Following mosaics and murals from 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, Korçë and Tirana houses 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 twentieth 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.

Albania: Literature

A excerpt from the Meshari (The Missal) written by Gjon Buzuku. (1555)

The Albanian language comprises its own branch of the Indo-European language family. The language is considered an isolate within the Indo-European. The only other languages that are the sole surviving member of a branch of Indo-European are Armenian and Greek. It was proved to be an Indo-European language in 1854 by the German philologist Franz Bopp.

Albanian is often held to be related to the Illyrian languages, a language spoken in the Balkans during classical times. Scholars argue that Albanian derives from Illyrian while some others claim that it derives from Daco-Thracian. (Illyrian and Daco-Thracian, however, might have been closely related languages; see Thraco-Illyrian.)

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 northern of Albania, 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 Martin Luther did for the German language.

Naum Veqilharxhi lawyer and scholar (1797–1854)
Parashqevi Qiriazi teacher and feminist (1880–1970)

Meshari (The Missal) written by Gjon Buzuku was published in 1555 and is considered as one of the first literary work of written Albanian during the Middle Ages. 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 Siege of Shkodër (Rrethimi i Shkodrës) from 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) from 1508. The History of Skanderbeg is still the foundation of Skanderbeg studies and is considered an Albanian cultural treasure, vital to the formation of Albanian national self-consciousness.

During the 16th and the 17th centuries, the catechism (E mbësuame krishterë) (Christian Teachings) from 1592 written by Lekë Matrënga, (Doktrina e krishterë) (The Christian Doctrine) from 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 in the 20th and 21th century is probably Ismail Kadare. He has been mentioned as a possible recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature several times.

Albania: Mythology

Albanian mythology 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). The Albanian mythology 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.

Albanian folk tales, were first recorded in the middle of the 19th century by scholars including Johann Georg von Hahn, Karl H. Reinhold, Giuseppe Pitrè and other scholars among them well-known Indo-European linguists such as Auguste Dozon, Jan Jarnik, Gustav Meyer, Holger Pedersen, Gustav Weigand and August Leskien.

Albania: Clothing

Albanians wearing the Fustanella (1875). (left) Albanian Peasants costumes – illustration by Percy Anderson from 1906. (right)

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.

Albania: Cuisine

Tavë me oriz a traditional meal served in an oven-baked clay bowl. (left) Cannoli is very popular in Arbëreshë Regions. (right)

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 Ancient Greece, Romans, Byzantine 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. Though it is used in several dishes, pumpkins are more commonly displayed and traditionally given as gifts throughout Albania, especially in the region of Berat. 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.

Albania: Cinema

Albanian-American actress Eliza Dushku produced the documentary Dear Albania with a crew from Travel Channel and Lonely Planet, promoting tourism in Albania.

The history of Cinema in Albania dates back to 1911 and 1912 with the first showings of foreign films and few documentaries in the pre-war and inter-war period. The first public showing to occur in Albania was a little-known title, Paddy the Reliable, a comical story. The publication of foreign films began in the cities of Shkodër and Korçë. The first Albanian films were mostly documentaries; the first was about the Monastir Congress that sanctioned the Albanian alphabet in 1908. During the communism in the country, the Albanian Film Institute that later became known as Kinostudio Shqipëria e Re was founded with Soviet assistance, focusing mostly on propaganda of wartime struggles. By 1990, about 200 movies had been produced, and Albania had over 450 theaters. With the economic transition after the collapse of communism in the 1990s, the Kinostudio was broken up and privatised. A new National Center of Cinematography was established, while cities built modern cinema theatres showing mostly American movies.

After 1945, the communist government founded the Kinostudio Shqipëria e Re in 1952. This was followed by the first Albanian epic film, Skënderbeu, a cooperation with Soviet artists chronicling the life and fight of the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg. The film was awarded from the Cannes Film Festival. Notable Albanian film directors include Andamion Murataj, Besim Sahatçiu, Xhanfize Keko, Dhimitër Anagnosti, Kujtim Çashku, Luljeta Hoxha, Saim Kokona, Saimir Kumbaro, Kristaq Mitro, Leon Qafzezi and Gjergj Xhuvani. Famous actors in Albania: Nik Xhelilaj, Klement Tinaj, Masiela Lusha, Blerim Destani, Aleksandër Moisiu, Tinka Kurti, Pjetër Malota, Sandër Prosi and Margarita Xhepa.

The Tirana International Film Festival was established in 2003 and has become the premier and largest film festival in the country as well as in the Balkans. Durrës hosts the International Film Summerfest of Durrës, the second largest international film festival in the country which takes place every year in late August or early September in Durrës Amphitheatre.

There are also internationally renowned actors in the Albanian diaspora, such as the Albanian-Americans Eliza Dushku, Jim and John Belushi, Kosovo-Albanians Bekim Fehmiu and Arta Dobroshi and Turkish-Albanian Barish Arduç.

Albania: Sports

Lorik Cana is Albania's most capped player of all time. He captained the French Olympique de Marseille, as well as the Albanian national team. (left) Lorenzo Boriçi captained Albania in winning the 1946 Balkan Cup. (right)

Albania participated at the Olympic Games in 1972 for the first time. The country made their Winter Olympic Games debut in 2006. Albania missed the next four games, two of them due to the 1980 and 1984 boycotts, but returned for the 1992 games in Barcelona. Since then, Albania have participated in all games. Albania normally competes in events that include swimming, athletics, weightlifting, shooting and wrestling. The country have been represented by the National Olympic Committee of Albania since 1972. The nation has participated at the Mediterranean Games since the games of 1987 in Syria. The Albanian athletes have won a total of 43 (8 gold, 17 silver and 18 bronze) medals from 1987 to 2013.

Popular sports in Albania include Football, Weightlifting, Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis, Swimming, Rugby, and Gymnastics. Football is by far the most popular sport in Albania. It is governed by the Football Association of Albania (Albanian: Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit, F.SH.F.), which was created in 1930 and has membership in FIFA and UEFA. 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 Albania national football team, ranking 51th in the World in 2017 (highest 22nd in August 22, 2015) have won 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 most successful football clubs in the country are Skënderbeu, KF Tirana, Dinamo Tirana, Partizani and Vllaznia.

Weightlifting is one of the most successful individual sport for the Albanians, with the national team winning medals at the European Weightlifting Championships and the rest international competitions. Albanian weightlifters have won a total of 16 medals at the European Championships with 1 of them being gold, 7 silver and 8 bronze. In the World Weightlifting Championships, the Albanian weightlifting team has won in 1972 a gold in 2002 a silver and in 2011 a bronze medal.

Albania: Diaspora

Since antiquity, Albanians have established communities in many regions throughout southern Europe. The modern Albanian diaspora was formed largely in the 15th century, when many Albanians emigrated to southern Italy, especially in Sicily and Calabria also to Greece, to escape either various socio-political difficulties and the Ottoman conquest. Other destinations includes Turkey, United States, Argentina and Chile. After the fall of communism in 1991, many Albanians have migrated out of Albania to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Notable people of Albanian origin includes Mother Teresa, Ferid Murad, Rita Ora, Bebe Rexha, Dua Lipa, Tony Dovolani, Fadil Berisha, Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Mateo Musacchio, Ernesto Sabato, Cecilia Bolocco and many others. (See also: List of Albanians)

Albania: International rankings

The following are international rankings of Albania, including those measuring life quality, health care quality, stability, press freedom, and income.

Albania: See also

  • Outline of Albania
  • Index of Albania-related articles
  • Bibliography of Albania
  • Albania – Wikipedia book

Albania: Notes

  1. 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 received formal recognition as an independent state from 111 out of 193 United Nations member states.

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Albania: Further reading

  • History of the Party of Labor of Albania. Tirana: Institute of Marxist–Leninist Studies, 1971. 691 p.
  • Abrahams, Fred (2015). Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy in Europe. NYU Press. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-8147-0511-7.
  • Official website
  • Albanian Tourism Official Portal
  • "Albania". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.
  • Albania from UCB Libraries GovPubs
  • Wikimedia Atlas of Albania
  • Albania at DMOZ
  • Guide To Albania
  • Geographic data related to Albania at OpenStreetMap
  • Key Development Forecasts for Albania from International Futures

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