Albanian History

Figure 1.--Here we see an unidentified Albania tribesman, we think in the early-20th century. Note the 18th century flintlock musket. After centuries of Ottoman rule, Albania was perhaps the most backward corner of Europe. Men like this were primarily cioncerned about their family and clan. There was virtually no concept iof an Albanian nation.

The origins of modern Albanians are onscure, but almost certainly developed from the ancient Illyranians. Although conquered by Rome the Illyrians resisted Romanization. And the southern Illyrians or Albanians in their mountaneous land reisted assimilation by the Slavs. The Byzantines introduced the feudal system which evolved into largely independent principalities that exerted their independence from Byzantium. A series of invadeers occupied Albania. The history of Albanian is a struggle for independence from larger more powerful empires and countries. Albania like much of the Balkans was incororated inro the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman conquest proved especially difficult in Albania. The Ottoman's finally conquered Albania in the 15th centiry. Many Christians Albanians fled west. More than in any other area of the Balkans, however, the Albanians who remained converted to Islam. Albania achieved its independence afyer World war I. The Albanian president declared himself king--King Zog. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini throughout the 1930s tried to seize control of Albania. The President of Albania had himself declared King Zog. He resisted Mussolini's efforts until the Italians actually invaded in 1939. King Zog had to flee Albania in 1939 when the Italians invased. Italian King Victor Emanuel was granted the Albanian crown. After World War II Albania was taken over by the Partisans, but proved to be a renegade in Stalin's Eastern European empire. It becme one of the most reclusive countries in the world and aligned with Communist China. Like the rest of Eastern Europe, a democratic government replaced the Communist Government.

Neolithic Era

Illyria (20th-2nd centuries BC)

The origins of the Albanian people is not know with any certainty. Most historians believe that the bulk of linguistic, archaeological, and anthropological evidence suggest that Albanians are the descendants of the ancient Illyrians. This is notable because many Balkan peoples are the descdents of peoples who migrated into the Balkans after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Perhaps the rugged mountain teraine helped the Illyrians and their descendents to survive. The Albanian language hasevolved from the Illyrian language, a strong iindicator that the ancient Illyrians are the origins of the modern Albanian people. Linguists believe that the modern Albanian language developed at the end of the Roman era (4th-6th centuries AD). Illyrian culture is believed to have evolved from the original Neolithic peoples of the Balkans and Illyrian archeological finds finds in Albania date from the early Bronze Age (2000 BC). The Illyrians were a tribal people with no central organization. They dominated the western Balkans from Epirus (central Greece) as far north to what is now Slovenia. The Illyrians in Albania because of the ruggesd terraine seem tohave been somewhat isolated from the other Illyrian tribes. Gradually an Illyrian kingdom developed which controoled the western Balkans (much of Albania, Dalmatia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, and much of Serbia). The capital was Shkodra (Scutari) in northern Albania. The earliest recorded king of Illyria was Hyllus (The Star) (???-1225 BC). Classical authors generally kind to the Illyrians, in sharp contrat to other defeated peopkes like the Catheginians. They are described as sociable and hospitable and brave in war. Illyrian women had high status compated to most other ancient peoples. They seem to have had almost equal staus with men, including rising to tribal chiefdoms. The Illyrians believed in an afterlife and buried their dead along with arms and other personal belonings. The lIllyria had important natural resources and craftsmen became skilled in mining and working with metals. They also became skilled boat builders and sailors. They built fast galleys called liburnae. They were so well designed that the Romans adopted them, calling them Liburnian. The Illyrian kingdom reached its peak of power under Bardhylus (White Star) ((4th century BC). He was among the most important Illyrian kings. Under his rule Epirus and large parts of Macedonia were part of the kingdom. It was during Bardhylus' rule that King Philip of Macedon began expanding his territory, taking parts of Illyria. This began a long period of decline. One of the last important Illyrian ruler was Queen Teuta. At this time Illyrian ships were seizing merchants ships of the rising Roman Republic. The Roman Senate declared war (232 BC). Rome dispacted a huge army and naval force to subdue the Illyrians. It was commanded by Santumalus and Alvinus who launched an attack into what is now central Albania. After 2 years of fighting, Queen Teuta sued for peace (227 BC). Illyria's last king was was Gentius. Roman armies invaded and conquered Illyria. Gentius was brought back to Rome as a captive with war booty (165 BC).

Greece and Macedonia

The Greeks began founding colonies along the northern Adriatic, including areas in Illyria before the kingdom was well established (8th centyry BC). Two of the most important were Epidamnus (Durrės) and Apollonia (Vlorė). These colonies introduced the still tribal Illyrians to a more advanced culture and was a factor in the deveklopment of the kingdom. The Greek colonies eventually declined (3rd century BC). At about the same time the Greeks apoeared, the Illyrian tribes began to evolve more complex political structures. This began with tribal alliances and eventually into federariins and kingdoms. The major Illyrian kingdoms were Enkalayes, the Taulantes, the Epirotes, and the Ardianes. The major threat to theIllyrian was King Philip of Macedonia and then Alexander (4th century BC). But them Alexander's gaze turned east toward Persia. Then the Illyrians were forced to confront an expanding Rome.

Rome (2nd century BC-4th century AD)

The Roman Republic was antagonized by Illyrian attacks on its shipping. Rome attcked Illyria (229 BC). As in many of Rome's conquests, they benefitted by the fact that they did not face a united Illyria with a central goverbnment, but rather a number of quarelsome tribal-based kingdoms. The Romans after a 2-year campaign defeated, but did not destroy the forces under Queen Teuta. A subsequent campaign gave Rome control over Illyria (168 BC). Rome converted Illyria into a dependency consisting of the Enkalayes, the Taulantes, the Epirotes, and the Ardianes. These dependencies were created from three independent republics with capitals at Scodar(Shkoder), Epidamnus (Durres) and Dulcigno (todays' Ulqin in Montenegro). Illyria became the province of Illyricum which Rome ruled for 6 centuries. The province florished under Roman rule. The economy prospered with the infusion of Roman technology and economic system as well as stability. Art and culture also florished. Apollonia with its school of philosophy was highly regarded. Unlike other regions of the Empire, however, the Illyrians resisted Roman culture and were not Romanized as were other areas (Iberia, Gaul, Anatolia, ect.). Strong evidence of this is the survival of the Illyrian language, although with the addition of Latin words. This combination is the origin of modern Albania. Christianity reached Illyria during the early imperial period (mid-1st century AD). The Illyrian religion as well as Mithra and other Eastern cults. The inclusion of Illyria into the Empire had resultec in greater contacts with the East. Christianity first made inroads in Dyrrhachium (Epidamnus). The first bishopric was created here (58 AD). Subsequently episcopal seats were established in Apollonia, Buthrotum (Butrint), and Scodra (Shkodrė). Illyria became very important in the later years of the Empire. Several emperors were from Illyria (Gaius Decius, Claudius Gothicus, Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian, and Constantine the Great).

Byzantium (5th century AD)

The besiged Roman Empire divided itself (395 AD). The Eastern Empire evolved into Byzantium and unlike the Western Empire managed to survive into medieval times. What is now modern Albania fell within the territory of the Eastern Empire. As had been the case in the old Roman Empire, men of Illyrian origins gained important positions in the Byzantine Empire. Three of the early Byzantine emperors were of Illyrian origins (Anastasius I, Justin I, and by far the most important--Justinian I.). The Byzantines were unable to prevent barbarian depredations. The area of Illyria suffered the drepredations of invading tribes: Visigoths, Huns, and Ostrogoths. Byzantium at times controlled whatvis now Albania and exercized their authoriyu, but they would have at least nomimsl jurisdiction for over 1,000 years.

The Slavs (6th century)

The Slavs arrived in large numbers (6th-8th century AD). They settled large areas of the Balkans, including areas of Illyria. The Slavs in large areas assimilated or displaced the native Illyrian population (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia). The tribes in more mountaneous southern Illyria (especially modern Albania) resisted assimilation as can be observed in the survival of the Ilyrian-based Albanian language.

The Rise of Albania

The Illyrians over time were hanged by contats with first Greece and then Rome and Byzantium. The Slvs who arrived in large number also had a powerful impact even on the southern Illyrian tribes in modern Albania. Thus beginning in the 8th century as the Slavic influence became particularly pronounced, a new people were formed. One of the major tribes of southern Illyria were the Albanoi. They were first mentioned by the geographer Ptolemy of Alexandria in the 2nd century AD. The Albanoi lived in central Albania. The Illyrian population in what is now Albania gradually began to see themselves as Albanians rather than Illyrians (8th-11th centuries AD). They wre not exclusively disc=dents of the Albanoi tribe, but rather most of the southern Illyrian tribes. The Albanians began to see themselves as living together and sharing a common lnguage and culture as compared to the more assimilated northern Illyrians and Slavs. The Albanians began using the term Shqiperia (16th century). The origins of this term are obscure, but seems to be the Albania word fir eagle--shqipe. Christianity before the Slavs were Christinized had become thoroughly established throughout Albania. Despite its inclusion in the Eastern Empire, the Albanians maintained their connection with the papacy and Western Church. Iconoclast Byzantine emperor Leo III who still ruled Albania was furious with the Albanian archbishops for supporting the papacy in the Iconoclastic Controversy. He formally detached the Albanian church from the Roman pope (732 AD). He ordered that Albania be subjected to the authoity of the patriarch in Constantinople. This was inperfectly accomplished. The Christian church finally split into the Roman west and the Orthodox east (1054). At thus time Albania split between the East and West. Southern Albania remained loyal to the patriarch. Northern Albania which had never throughly transferred ints aliegance to the patriarch, transg=ferred its alegiance to the papacy.

Medieval Albania

Some historians report that Albania in the medival period before the Renaisance had cities with urban cultures similar to that in Italy and Greece. Commerce flotished, both foreign and domestic. Albanian merchants were known to have set up agencies in Venice, Ragusa (Dubrovnik), and Thessalonica (Thessaloniki). They participated in the prosperity of Europe as it emerged from the Dark Ages. The result was developments in education and the arts. As in the rest of Europe, the vernaculr language was notvused in schools, churches, and official government business. Rather Greek or Latin was used. The Byzantines introduced the administrative system of the themes These were military provinces. The neww system introduced the feudal system in Albania. Thepeasantry became serfs on the landed estates of the nobility. The leading families that emerged in under the feudal system were the Thopias, Balshas, Shpatas, Muzakas, Aranitis, Dukagjinis, and Kastriotis. Rather than improve the security of the empire, the system allowed the developmentb of principalities that were able to exert their independence from the Byzantine Empire. Military reversals at the Hands of first thecArabs and than the Selejuk Turks greatly weakened the militaru power of the Byzantines and their ability to project it into the Balkans. The Bzantines were subject to other military chalkenges. The Byzantines were as a result challenged (9th century AD). The Albanians were occupied by a series f forign invaders (Bulgarians, Norman crusaders, the Angevins of southern Italy, Serbs, and Venetians). The Serbs led by Stefan Dusan occupied Albania (1347). The invasions a depredations on civilins caused a massive migration from Albania, many seeking refuge in Greece or the Aegean islands. Even nomimal Byzabtine rule ended (mid-14th century).

Ottomon Empire

Gradually the Otomon Turks became the dominate power in the Islamic world. The Ottomons presed on the Byzatines, taking Constanople in 1453. They then conquered the Balkans, driving deep into Europe, only beeing stopped at the gates of Vienna. The Ottoman Turks in 1453 seized Constantinople and by 1460 controlled most of Greece. Thousands of Greeks went into exile in Christain Europe and had an important influence on the European Renaissance. The Ottomons conquered Mesopotamia in 1533. For the next three centuries, the regional Christan powers (Venice, Austria, and Russia) warred intermitently with the Turks and Greece changed hands several times.

Ottoman Conquest of Albania

The Ottomn Turks began expanding into the Balkans (14th century). They had not yet destroyed Byzatium, but they had kargely reduced into to a beleagered outpost surviving behind the powerful city walls. The Christian Albanian ruler of Durrės invited Ottoman forces to intervene against a rival in 1385. Ottoman armied invaded Albania (1388). Christian Albanians joined the Serbian-led Balkan army that was defeated by Ottoman forces at the Battle of Kosovo Polje (1389). The Ottomans took about four decades to complete the occupation of Albania (1430). The most notable Albanian military leader was Gjergj Kastrioti (1405-68) who became known as Skanderbeg. He organized a resistance to the Ottomans among the Albanian princes. Skenderbeg lost a battle near Nis (1443). He and a band of Albanian warriors rose against the Ottoman army and returned to Kruja. The different Albanian principalities unite at Lezha under Skenderbeg, who is proclaimed chief of Albanian resistance (1444). Albanians, under Skenderbeg, routed Ottoman forces under Sultan Murat II (1449). Skenderbeg based in a secure mountaun stronghold of Kruj was able to resist Ottoman efforts to reconquer Albania. He became greatly admired in the West and received support from Naples, the papacy, Venice, and Ragusa. This was extremely frustrating for the Ottomans. They had envisionedusing bases in Albania to launch attacks into Italy and Western Europe. Skenderbeg died leaving Albania free of the Ottomans (1468). After his death, however, the Ottomans renewed their conquest of Albania and no leader of comparable abilities arose to resist them. Kruja fell to the Ottomans (1478). Shkodra fell the next year (1479). The Ottomans were incomplete control of Albania (1506). Many Albanians rather than submit to the Oyyomans fked to Italy, easing the pricess of conquest. Those 60 years, however, were very important. The Ottomans in the 16th century faced increasingly powerful westen nations.

Ottoman Rule

One of the consequences of Ottoman rule was that Albania did not share many of the experiences and movements that shaped much of the rest of Western Europe. The Ottoman invasion began just as the Renaissance was beginning to reach the Balkans. Under Ottoman rule Albania and the Balkans did ot experience eother the Reformation or the Enlightenment. There were no universities estanlished in Albania and the country did not paticipate in the European inteectual ferment. Just as the Countetr Revolution and Inquisition discouraged speculation and free thought in Portugal and Spain, so did Islam in the Balkans.

Albanian Conversion to Islam

Many Albanian Christian fled to southern Italy, Greece, Egypt, and elsewhere. Many who remained in Albania converted to Islam. Albanians who converted to Islam pursued careers in the Ottoman government and military. By the 18th century, about two-thirds of Albanians had converted to Islam.

Balkan National Liberation Struggle

Ottoman control of the Balkans declined as a result of the increasing development of nationalist and anti-Ottomon sentiments, especially after the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century. This occured througout the Balkans which despite several centuries of Ottoman rule were still largely Christian. And while the Ottoman Empire was not involved in the Napoleonic Wars, the ideals of the Frencj Revolution did began to affect thinking in the Balkans, at least among the educated classes. The trends varied from province to province. The Greek War of Independence (1818-32) was the first syccessful national liberation struggle against the Ottomans. The Ottomans persued a program of reform and brutal force to stem the nationlist movements. Their efforts to stem the Empire's disintegration failed. The image of the "Turkish yoke" in the minds of the Christian people of the Balkans failed. Left in isolation the Ottomans had the capability of maintaining their Balkan provinces. The situation was affected by the decline of Ottoman military power and the rise of Russian ppwer.

Russia and the Great Powers

Russia after defeating Napoleon had become the most powerful country in Europe and was using that power to seize Ottoman lands. A major Russian goal was eventually the Dardenelles. The Greek War of Independence clearly showed the extentto which Ottomon power had declined as did a war between the Russians and and the Ottomans. The Ottoman Empire might have desintegrated and been partitioned like Poland in the eaely 19th century. The reason it was not was that the Great Powers coulf not agree on how to partition it. None of the other Great Powers wanted the Rissians to seize the Dardenelles are Ottoman territort that would put them cose to the Dardanelles. Thus the Great Powers (especially Britain and France) joined with the Ottomans in the Crimean War to prevent further Russian incursions (1854-56).

Russo-Turkish War (1878)

Russian and the Ottomans fought a series of Balkan Wars. In each the Russians gained ground. The Ottoman Empire would have collpased early in the 19th century, had the major European powers not differed on how to carve it up. Concerned about the Russian succeeses, Britain and France intervened in the Crimean War to support Turkey. The last Russo-Turkish War occurred in 1877-78. It was also the most important one. Tsarist Russia in 1877 came to the aid of its fellow Christian Orthodox ally Serbia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bulgaria in local rebellions against Ottoman rule. The Russians attacked diretly through Bulgaria toward Turkey and gained considerable success. After completing the Siege of Pleven, the Russians advance into Thrace, taking Adrianople (now Edirne, Turkey) in January 1878. The Ottomans conceded and in March 1878 agree to the Treaty of San Stefano with Russia. This treaty liberated Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro from Ottoman rule. It granted autonomy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and created a Bulgaria (much larger than modern Bulgaria) under Russian protection. The great powers, especially Britain and Austria-Hungary, were concerned with the massive Russian gains confirmed by the treaty. Here the British were coflicted. Public opinion had been aroused against Ottoman attricities against Christians in the Balkans, yet Queen Victorian was stongly anti-Russian and many officials were concerned about the Russians mocing south toward Suez. The great powers this compelled Russia to accept more limited gains under the Treaty of Berlin (July 1878). Russia's gains from the war were sharply reduced.

Balkan Christian Kingdoms

The Great Powers at the Congress of Berlin forced the Russians to give back many of their gains in the war. As part of their assault on the Ottomans, the Russians through a combination of empathy with the Slavic and Orthodox Christians of the Balkans and shrewd self interest, promoted the independence movements. And the Great Powers despite their concern over Russian expaniionism, could hardly oppose the creation of independent Christian kingdims in the Balkans. This meant by 1879: Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia.

League of Prizren (1878)

Sespite the receeding Ottoman power in the Balkans, the large Muslim population in Albania, helped the Ottoman's retain contol until 1913. The Albanians because of the Islamic link with the Ottomans and internal social divisions, became the last of the Balkan peoples to move toward independence. Islam was an important connection with the Ottomans, especially as the Sultan was both a political, but also an Islamic religious leader. The Albanian Muslims also had to be concerned about maintain control in a region surrounded by larger, more powerful Christian states. Albanian agreed to form the League of Prizren with the support of Sultan Abdulhamid II (1879). The Albanians within the League persued territorial autonomy within the Ottoman Empire and resisting territorial encroachments from their neigbors. There was, however, no real national consensus and there was considerable discent and occasional disorder in Ottoman Albania.

Balkan Wars (1911-13)

The Balkans Wars are very complicated and involved extensive assaults and killing of civilians by all sides. Italy began the assault on the Ottomon Empire by declaring war in this case to secure a new colony in North Africa--Libya. The Italo-Turkish War (1911-12) also fought a war with the Ottomons, While fought outside the Balkans, it further weaked Ottomon troops. In this case the Ottomons largely ceeded ton Italian demands because of the worsening situation in the Balkas. The First Balkan War (1912) was essentially a continuation of the wars for independence from the Ottoman Empire. This meant by the 20th century dividing up the spoils of the Ottomon territories in Europe. The new Balkan states (Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia) combined to drive the Ottomans from Eastern Roumelia (Lower Thrace and Macedonia). Unfortunately for the people of Macedonia and other Balkan lands, there was no agreed plan for partitioned the territory liberated from the Ottomans. Which lead to the Second Balkan War (1913). This time the primary target was Bulgaria. Romania joined this war to get a slice of Bulgaria--Southern Dobrudža. Even the Ottomns attacked Bulgaria which had occupied areas desired by its neighbors. The First Balkan War had been fought by the Balkan states obstensibly to liberate Cgristian peoples from Muslim Turkis rule. The Second Balkan War was largely fought among those Christian states and involved attrocities and ethnic cleaning that still affect the people of the Balkans today. While not active participants, the Wars also involved Russia and Austria-Hungary. The rivalries involved were probably a factor in the ability of the two Emoires to contain the escalating conflict after the assasination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand which finally led ton World War I. In the end, Bulgaria was outraged by the territories that it had to surender. In particular it had to renounce its claims to Macedonia and cede Southern Dobrudža back to Romania. This left an embittered Bulgaria, once World War I (1914) broke out, willing to join the Central Powers to regain these territories.

Independence (1912-14)

Albanians just before World War I finally moved to form an independent state. Albanians in the Albanian Ottoman territories staged a major uprising (1912). Albania had for centuries been part of the Ottoman Empire and to a greater degree than elsewhere in the Balkans, Albanians converted to Islam. After the Balkan states defeated the Ottomans in the First Balkan War (1912). The Ottomans did not have the military capability to defend their already weakeed position in Albania. And Albania was targeted by the Serbians who wanted an outlet to the Adriatic Sea. Austria-Hungary was determined, however, toprevent this, seeing Serbian expansion as a threat. The Great Powers (Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia) convened in London to negotiate a range of issues issues raised by the Balkan conflict (December 1912). Austria-Hungary and Italy supported the creation of an independent Albania. Borders for the new state proved controversial. Serbia demanded and was awarded Kosovo, depite the large Albanian population there. Greece received ?Mameria. This left about half of etnic Albanians in neighboring countries. The problem was further compounded by the fact that the Albanian-populated areas assigned to Greece and Serbia were the more productive lands (food grains) and livestock than than the territory assigned to Albania itself. A small Greek community was included within Albania, creating future problems between the two countries, primarily because the Greek claimed the Greek community was much larger than it in fact was. British MP Aubrey Herbert was a fervent advocate for an independent Albania. Herbert spoke so passinately about Albania that he was offered the crown of a new Albanian kingdom. British prime minister H.H. Asquith disuaded Herbert from accepting the offer. The Great Powers at the 1912 London Conference finally selected a German prince, Wilhelm zu Wied, to rule newly independent Albania. Wilhelm arrived in Albania a year later (March 1914), just before the outbrek of World War I. Wilhelm knew nothing about the country or people and setting up a new government did not go smoothly. Some Albanians rebelled against the German monarch imposed upon them by the Great Powers. The new Albanian kingdom collapsed immediately following the outbreak of World War I.

World War I (1914-18)

When World War I broke out, King Wilhelm returned to Germany to serve in the Army. This essentially left Albania without a government during the War. Albania also had no army of its owm. It was invaded and occupied by Austria-Hungary, France, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, and Serbia. The Serbs and Montenegrans occupied nothern Albania. The Greeks and Italians the south. This allowed the defeated Serbian Army to execute their Great Retreat through Albania (1916). The Austrians and Germans moved south after the Serbian retreat. With no government or national political leadership, Albania was in chaos by the end of the War. The Allies (Britain, France, and Italy) at the Versailles Peace Conference wanted to partition Albania among neighboring states. President Wilson opposed partition, largely because of his commitment to national self-determinstion.

Independence (1920)

Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece had all laid claim to Albanian-populated Ottoman territory during the First Balkan War. The Great Power before World War I had endorsed an independent Albania, byt the kingdom they set up collapsed after the outbreak of World war I. The entire Balkans were soon engulfed the Balkans Wars which essentially bled into World War I. Albania was without a Goverment during the War. The Central Powers occupied Serbia and Albania, but was forced to withdraw as Allied armies rentered the Balkans and each of the Cental Powers requested an armistice. The Albanians declared independence fom the dictates of the Allies. A local warlord, Haji Qamil, established a Muslim regime, although the authority of his regime was very weak. The country was dominated by a number of local warlords or clan chieftans. The United States supported an independent Albania at Versailles, basically because of its commitment to national self-determination. The Albanians held a national congress at Lushnje (January 1920). The Albanians applied and were granted admission to the League of Nationss (December 1920). The country was one of the poorest in Europe with little economic and social development. There was considerable political instability because of the lack of any national consensus and to a large degree a feeling odf Albanian natioinal identity. This permitted both Italy and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (soon to become Yugoslavia) to meddle in Albanian affairs. Yugoslavia provided military assistance to Ahmed Bey Zogu , the son of a an important clan Chieftain. This helped Zogu dominate rival warlords and declared a republic (late-1924). Zogu once in power, persued an independent ourse. He largely spurned the Yugoslavs Italians and moved toward Benito Mussolini who had seized power in Italy. Zogu was apparently impressed by Mussolini's showy Fascist state craft. In addition, he was suspicious about Yugoslavia because it had seized Kosovo with a substatial Albanian population. Albania joined an Italian-sponsored Coalition against Yugoslavia (Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria) (1924-27). Each of these countries had territorial claims on Yugoslavia. When Britain and France backed Yugoslavia, the Italian Coalition collapsed.

King Zog (1928-39)

Albanian President Zogu seized control (928). The Albanian Parliament declared Albania a kingdom and after declaring Zogu the first King as King Zog I, disolved itself (1928). Aconstituent assembly made major changes to the country's constitution. Albania was made a king and Zogu became Zog I, "King of the Albanians." Most European governments recognized the new government. The new constiution abolished the Senate and created a unicameral legislture. The King dominated the Parliament and thus ruled with dictatorial powers. King Zog, after he was crowned, broke off his engagement to Shefqet Bey Verlaci's daughter. As a result, Verlaci began plotting against King Zog. The King continued to acquire enemies. In the clan dominated society of Albania , the King's enemies continued the tradition of blood feuds. The King became one of the most heavily guarded European leaders. The King's supporters attempted to disarm the Albania's clans (tribes), except for his own Mati clan and their allies, the Dibra. On a state visit to Vienna, Austria in 1931, the Ling was attacked and there was a gun battle on the steps of the Vienna Opera House steps. Mussolini encouraged Italian investment in Albania. King Zog was a conservative ruler, but there were some efforts at modernization. Here Italian incestment helped. One social reform was ending the custom of adding one's region to their name. Land was provided for schools and hospitals. King Zog persued a a close relatinship with Italy. The Italian Army trained Albania's small army, which although small (less than 15,000 men) was a major strain on the budget. The Italian presence also angered many Albanians. King Zog, as a check on the Italiands, used British officers in the Gendarmerie even though the Italians objected. The King in 1931 refused to renew the 1926 First Treaty of Tiranė. Feeling the impact of the worldwide Depression, Albania was unable to make payments on loans from the Society for the Economic Development of Albania. Many of the creditors were Italians.

World War II (1939-45)

Mussolini ordered the invasion of Albania as part of his efforts to build an Italian Empire in the Mediterrean (April 7, 1939). Although not given great attention at the time, because of the greater focus on the Germans and Czechoslovakia. The Italians deposed King Zog. There was no real Albanian resistance to the Italians. Albania did not participate in the war as an independent country because it was annexed to Italy (1940). Mussolini then used Albania to launch an invasion of Greece (1940). This was an action of some importance because it would then deaw the Gdrmans into the Balkans. The Greeks resisted and pushed the Italians back into Albania. The Italians were ultimately rescued by the NAZI invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece (1941). Under Italian occupation a ressistance movement dominated by the Communists. The Italians did not persue the Holocaust against Albania's small Jewish population. After the Italian surrendr and German occupation (1943) the Jews were argetted, but many were sheltered by Albanians. The Germans reeling from Red Army offensives withdrew from the Balkans (1944). Guerilla leader Enver Hoxa seized power and established a Communist dictatorship, the most reclusive of the post-War Communist countries.

Cold War (1945-92)

The Germans, after the Italian surreder to the Allies in World War II, occupied Albania (1943). The resistance to the Italian and German occupation during World War II came primarily from Communist Partisan forces led by Enver Hoxha. Reverses in the East and West forced the Germams to withdraw from the Balkans (1944). Hoxa and the Partisabs were the only organized military force in Albania, Hoxa in the wake of the German withdrawl thus became head of the Albanian government. The Communisrs declared a people's republic (1946). The Communists confiscated private land holdings and nationalized the country's limited industries. Hoxa proved to be a paranoid renegade in Stalin's Eastern European empire. Hoxa made Albania into one the most reclusive countries in the world. Marshal Tito and the much stronger Yugoslav Army was in a position to control Albania. When Yugoslavia left the Soviet bloc in 1948, Albania broke its ties with that country and became first an ally of the Soviet Union. This essentially protected him from a possible Yugoslav invasion. Hoxa , joined the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact when it was formed (1955). Hoxha subsequently broke with the Soviets a Chinese ally when the two Communist superpowers split (1961). China's primary advantage in Hoxa's eyes was thst it was far away. Ties with China were severed in 1978. Hoxa proved to be the longest serving (ruleig is perhaps more accurate t his death in 1985 Hoxha was the longest-serving head of a Communist country. Albania was a poor country before World War II. Hoxa's Communist economic policies made it even poorer. He turned Albania into a hermit kingdom. Under Hoxa and Communism the economy became a disaster. Even commecial relatiins with neigboring countries with discouraged. Vast amounts of money were spent on pointless military projects preparing for an invasion that never came. Concrete pill boxes still litter the countryside. He maintained a policy of isolation until he died (1985). His principal achievement was leavibng the country desperately poor--the porest in Europe. His successor was Ramiz Alia who slowly began to moderate Albania's isolation and reengage with Europe. Alia established diplomatic relations with many countries. Albania began to particvipate in Balkan affairs. By this time, however, Communism in Eastern Europe had begun to lose power. The process accelerated after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989). After decades of disaterous Communist rule, Albania was an ecomonic basket case. Once Communist police state border controls were lifted, thousands of Albanians fled accross the Adriatic to Italy seeking jobs (August 1991). The Italians returned most of them to Albania. Sali Berisha, a heart surgeon, was elected Albania's first non-Communist president since World War II (April 1992). In perhaps the last chapter of the Cold war, Serbia conducted ethnic cleansing military operations in Kosovo (a Serbian province) driving Kosovars (ethnic Albanians) out of Kosovo into Albania (1999). More than a million Kosovars were displaced. After American-led NATO actions, the Serbs withdrew from Kosovo and the Kosovars were able to return to their homes.

Democratic Government (1991- )

Like the rest of Eastern Europe, a democratic government replaced the Communist Government. The Government allowed the the Democratic Party to form (December 1990). was established. Albania held the first multiparty elections in 68 years (March 1991). The Albania people voted mostly for non-Communist parties. The new parliament formed a non-Communist multiparty government (June 1991). This government fell (December 1991). Albanians elected Sali Berisha, a heart surgeon, as the country's first non-Communist president since World War II (April 1992). After Hoxa's represive regime, adjusting to democracy and free exterprise is requiring a major adjustment. Many Albanians were hurt in a massive Ponzi scheme. A reader writes, "Long isolated by a repressive Communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, Albania now welcomes visitors to a beautiful, unspoiled land. Tirana, the capital city, has a population of more than 600,000 people and many bright, colorful buildings that symbolize the new, hopeful spirit of the people. The Albanians are very hospitable and strongly pro-American, remembering U.S. assistance in the Kosovo War."


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Crerated: 7:25 PM 11/26/2007
Last updated: 12:17 AM 7/2/2014