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Albania (Albanian: Shqipëri/Shqipëria, Gheg Albanian: Shqipnia or Shqypnia), officially the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë, ), is a Mediterranean country in South Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Montenegromarker to the north, Kosovomarker to the northeast, Macedoniamarker to the east and Greecemarker to the southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Seamarker to the west, and on the Ionian Seamarker to the southwest. It is less than from Italymarker, across the Strait of Otrantomarker which links the Adriatic Seamarker to the Ionian Seamarker.

Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATOmarker, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation, Organisation of the Islamic Conference and one of the founding members of the Union for the Mediterranean. Albania has been a potential candidate for accession to the European Union since January 2003, and it formally applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009.

Albania is a parliamentary democracy and a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tiranamarker, is home to approximately 895,000 of the country's 3.6 million people, and it is also the financial capital of the country. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure.

Etymology

Albania is the Medieval Latin name of the country which is called Shqipëri by its inhabitants. In Medieval Greek, the country's name is Albania besides variants Albaētia, Arbanētia.The ultimate origin of the root Alb- has been traced to an Illyrian word (alb "white"). In the 2nd century BC, Polybius's History of the World mentions a tribe named Arbon in present-day central Albania. The people who lived there were called Albanoí and Arbanitai..

Another suggestion is derivation from the Illyrian tribe of the Albani recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandriamarker who drafted a map at 150 AD of remarkable significance for the history of Illyria. This map shows the city of Albanopolis (located Northeast of Durrës) which was later called Albanon and Arbanon though it is not certain this is the same city.

In his History written in 10791080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates was the first to refer to Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinoplemarker in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium. During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country Arbër or Arbën and referred to themselves as Arbëresh or Arbnesh. As early as the 16th century, a new name for their home evolved among Albanian people: Shqipëria, popularly interpreted as "Land of the Eagles" or "Land of the Mountain Eagle" hence the two-headed bird on the national flag, though most likely the origin lies in Skanderbeg's use of the Byzantine double-headed eagle on his seals. The national flag of Albania with white cross on red backed shield was believed by many to be derived from original surviving flags carried by the foot soldiers of the Byzantine army that defended Constantinople, what some call the "Byzantine Infantry" flag. The Byzantine army flags were said to have been created in red and blue backgrounds representative of both Holy Empires, Rome and Byzantium. These versions of the double eagle flag are different from the Byzantine flag which is still used by the Greek Orthodox Church and by the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Byzantine or "Eastern" Orthodox Church and the Patriarchy which was re-established in what is now Istanbul still use a yellow background variation of the flag.

History

Prehistory

The question regarding the origin of the Albanians is still a matter of controversy among ethnologists.The fact that history and legend afford no record of the arrival of the Albanians in the Balkan Peninsula has rendered the question of their origin a particularly difficult one to answer.

300
The area of today's Albania has been populated since prehistoric times. In antiquity, much of it was settled by Illyrian tribes, possible of today's Albanians.

The rediscovered Greek city of Bothrotamarker (modern Butrint) is probably more significant today than it was when Julius Caesar used it as a provisions depot for his troops during his campaigns in the 1st century BC. At that time, it was considered to be an unimportant outpost, overshadowed by the Greek colonies, Apolloniamarker and Dyrrachion (modern-day Durrësmarker).

Formal investigation and recording of Albania's archaeological monuments began with François Pouqueville, who was Napoleon's consul-general to Ali Pasha's court, and Martin Leake, who was the British agent there. A French mission, led by Len Rey, worked throughout Albania from 1924 to 1938 and published its results in Cahiers d'Archéologie, d'art et d'Histoire en Albanie et dans les Balkans (Notes of Archaeology, Art, and History in Albania and in the Balkans).

Archaeologists today are finding remains from all periods, from the Stone Age to the early Christian era.

Antiquity

The territory of Albania in antiquity was mainly inhabited by Illyrian tribes, who, like other ancient people, were subdivided into tribes and clans. The region was also inhabited by Bryges, a Phrygian people and the Chaones, an ancient Greek people.

Roughly parallel with the rise of Greek colonies, Illyrian tribes began to evolve politically from relatively small and simple entities into larger and more complex ones. At first they formed temporary alliances with one another for defensive or offensive purposes, a few times kingdoms under powerful warlords like Bardyllis.

Illyrian tribes that resided in the region of modern Albania were the Taulantii the Parthini, the Abri, the Caviii, the Enchelei, and several others.

A Illyrian King Bardyllis in 4th century BC, after uniting some Illyrian tribes engaged in conflict with Macedonia, but he was defeated. Bardyllis was succeeded by Grabos then Bardyllis II and Cleitus the Illyrian that was defeated by Alexander the Great. Later on in 229 BC Queen Teuta of the Ardiaei clashed with Romans initiating this way the Illyrian Wars which brought the whole of Illyria to an end in 168 B.C. when King Gentius was defeated by a Roman army.



The lands comprising modern-day Albania were occupied by the Romans in 168 BC and incorporated into the empire as part of the province of Illyricum above the river Drin and Roman Macedonia (specifically as Epirus Nova) below it. The western part of Via Egnatia, was inside modern Albania. Illyricum was later divided into the provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia.

When the Roman Empire divided into east and west in 395, the territories of modern Albania became part of the Byzantine Empire. Starting in the first decades under Byzantine rule (until 461), the region suffered the devastation of raids by Visigoths, Huns, and Ostrogoths. Not long after these barbarian invaders swept through the Balkans, the Slavs appeared.

The territory of what is now Albania would remain under Byzantine and Bulgarian Kingdom rule until the fourteenth century AD, when the Ottoman Turks began to make incursions into the Empire. The Ottomans captured Constantinople in 1453 and by 1460 most former Byzantine territories were in the hands of the Turks.

Medieval era

The new administrative system of the themes, or military provinces created by the Byzantine Empire, contributed to the eventual rise of feudalism in Albania, as peasant soldiers who served military lords became serfs on their landed estates. Among the leading families of the Albanian feudal nobility were the Thopia, Shpata, Muzaka, Dukagjini, and Kastrioti. The first three of these rose to become rulers of principalities that were practically independent of Byzantium.



Ottoman era

In the Middle Ages, the name Arberia (see Origin and history of the name Albania) began to be increasingly applied to the region now comprising the nation of Albania.Beginning with late 14th century the Ottoman Turks expanded their empire from Anatoliamarker to the Balkans. By the 15th century, the Turks had brought under subjection nearly all of the Balkan Peninsula except for a small coastal strip which is included in present-day Albania. The Albanians' resistance to the Turks in the mid-15th century won them acclaim all over Christian Europe. Albania became a symbol of resistance to the Ottoman Turks but suffered an almost continuous state of warfare.Library of Congress Country Study /lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/altoc.html> of Albania

One of the most successful resistances against the invading Ottomans, was led by Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg from 1443 to 1468. Under a red flag bearing Skanderbeg's heraldic emblem, an Albanian force of about 30,000 men held off Ottoman campaigns against their lands for twenty-four years. The leadership of Skanderbeg was invincible, and even Mehmet II, the Conqueror, was ambushed by an Albanian guriella party at Krujamarker in 1466. Skanderbeg then re-embraced Roman Catholicism and declared a holy war against the Turks.Library of Congress Country Study /lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/altoc.html> of Albania Thrice the Albanians overcame sieges of Krujë (see Siege of Krujë). Skanderbeg was unable to receive any help from the new crusade promised by the popes. He abandoned Christianity and died in 1468 leaving no worthy successor. After the death of Skanderbeg, resistance continued until 1478, although with only moderate success. The loyalties and alliances created and nurtured by Skanderbeg faltered and fell apart, and the Ottomans conquered the territory of Albania shortly after the fall of Krujemarker's castle. Albania then became part of the Ottoman Empire.
Engraving of an Albanian assault on a Turkish camp.


During the era of Ottoman rule many Albanians fled to neighboring Italymarker, mostly to Calabria and Sicily, giving rise to the modern Arbëreshë communities. The majority of the remaining Albanian population converted to Islam during this time. The main reason for such a large Muslim impact in Albania, exchanging the Christian religion for Islam was in order to gain considerable advantages in the Ottoman bureaucracy and army. Many Turkish historical figures were in fact of Albanian origin, and one of them rose to become the first Pasha of Egypt; Mehmet Ali Pasha. On the other hand there were numerous uprisings beginning with the son and nephew of Skanderbeg in 1500 AD, during the Ottoman–Venetian Wars, Ottoman–Habsburg wars, against Tanzimat reforms and during National Renaissance of Albania (1831–1912). This period also saw the rising of semi-autonomous Albanian ruled Pashaliks and Albanians were also an important part of the Ottoman army and Ottoman administration like the case of Köprülü family. Albania would remain a part of the Ottoman Empire as the provinces of Shkodra, Manastir and Yanyamarker until 1912.

20th century

After five hundred years of Ottoman domination, an independent Albania was proclaimed on the 28 November 1912.

1913 to 1928

The initial sparks of the first Balkan War in 1912 were ignited by the Albanian uprising between 1908 and 1910 which were directed at opposing the Young Turk policies of consolidation of the Ottoman Empire. Following the eventual weakening of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, Serbiamarker, Greecemarker, and Bulgariamarker declared war and sought to aggrandize their respective boundaries on the remaining territories of the Empire. Albania was thus invaded by Serbia in the North and Greece in the south, restricting the country to only a patch of land around the southern coastal city of Vlora. In 1912 Albania, still under foreign occupation declared its independence and with the aid of Austria-Hungary, the Great Powers drew its present borders leaving more than half of the Albanian population outside the new country.

The border between Albania and its neighbors was delineated in 1913 following the dissolution of most of the Ottoman Empire's territories in the Balkans. The delineation of the new state's borders left a significant number of Albanian communities outside Albania. This population was largely divided between Montenegro and Serbia (which then included what is now the Republic of Macedonia). A substantial number of Albanians thus found themselves under Serbian rule. On the other hand an uprising in the country's south by local Greeks, led to the formation of an autonomous regionmarker inside its borders (1914). After a period of political instability caused during the World War I, the country adopted a republican form of government in 1920.

1928 to 1946

Starting in 1928, but especially during the Great Depression, the government of King Zog, which brought law and order to the country, began to cede Albania's sovereignty to Italy.Despite some strong resistance, especially at Durrësmarker, Italy invaded Albania on 7 April 1939 and took control of the country, with the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini proclaiming Italy's figurehead King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy as King of Albania. The nation thus became one of the first to be occupied by the Axis Powers in World War II. As Hitler began his aggressions, the Mussolini decided to occupy Albania as a means to compete with Hitler's territorial gains. Mussolini and the Italian Fascists saw Albania as a historical part of the Roman Empire, and the occupation was intended to fulfill Mussolini's dream of creating an Italian Empire. During the Italian occupation, Albania's population was subject to a policy of forced Italianization by the Kingdom's Italian governors, in which the use of the Albanian language was discouraged in schools while the Italian language was promoted. At the same time, the colonization of Albania by Italians was encouraged.

Mussolini, in October 1940, used his Albanian base to launch an attack on Greece, which led to the defeat of the Italian forces and the Greek occupation of Southern Albania in what was seen by the Greeks as the liberation of Northern Epirus. While preparing for the Invasion of Russia, Hitler decided to attack Greece in December 1940 to prevent a British attack on his southern flank.

Albanian bunkers built during Hoxha regime to prevent possible external invasions


During World War II, the Party of Labour was created on 8 November 1941. With the intention of organizing an partisan resistance, they called a general conference in Pezë on 16 September 1942 where the Albanian National Liberation Front was set up. The Front included nationalist groups, but it was dominated by communist partisans.

In December 1942, more Albanian nationalist groups were organized under Visar Kola. Albanians fought against the Italians while, during Nazi German occupation, Balli Kombëtar allied itself with the Germans and clashed with Albanian communists, which continued their fight against Germans and Balli Kombëtar at the same time.

With the collapse of the Mussolini government in line with the Allied invasion of Italy, Germany occupied Albania in September 1943, dropping paratroopers into Tirana before the Albanian guerrillas could take the capital. The German army soon drove the guerrillas into the hills and to the south. The Nazi German government subsequently announced it would recognize the independence of a neutral Albania and set about organizing a new government, police, and military. Many Balli Kombëtar units cooperated with the Germans against the communists, and several Balli Kombëtar leaders held positions in the German-sponsored regime.The partisans entirely liberated Albania from German occupation on November 28, 1944. The Albanian partisans also liberated Kosovo, part of Montenegro, and southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. By November 1944, they had thrown out the Nazi Germans, one of the few East European nations to do so without any assistance from Sovietmarker troops. Enver Hoxha became the leader of the country by virtue of his position as Secretary General of the Albanian Communist Party.

Albania was one of the European countries occupied by the Axis powers that ended World War II with a larger Jewish population than before the War. Some 1,200 Jewish residents and refugees from other Balkan countries were hidden by Albanian families during World War II, according to official records.

Communist state

The former Enver Hoxha Museum in Tirana


Tirana's Skanderbeg Square in 1988


Albania became an ally of the Soviet Union, but this came to an end in 1960 over the advent of de-Stalinization. A strong political alliance with China followed, leading to several billion dollars in aid, which was curtailed after 1974. China cut off aid in 1978 when Albania attacked its policies after the death of the Chinese ruler Mao Zedong. Large-scale purges of officials occurred during the 1970s.

Enver Hoxha, a dictator who ruled Albania for four decades with an iron fist, died on 11 April 1985. Eventually the new regime introduced some liberalization, and granting the freedom to travel abroad in 1990. The new government made efforts to improve ties with the outside world. The elections of March 1991 left the former Communists in power, but a general strike and urban opposition led to the formation of a coalition cabinet that included non-Communists.

Recent history (1992 to present)

Albania's former Communists were routed in elections March 1992, causing economic collapse and social unrest. The blood feud has returned in rural areas after more than 40 years of being abolished by Albanian communists, with nearly 10,000 Albanians being killed due to blood feuds since 1991. Sali Berisha was elected as the first non-Communist president since World War II. The next crisis occurred in 1997, during his presidency, as riots ravaged the country. The State Institutions collapsed and an EU military mission led by Italymarker was sent to stabilize the country. In summer 1997, Berisha was defeated in elections, winning just 25 seats out of a total of 155.His return to power in the elections of 3 July 2005 ended eight years of Socialist Party rule. In 2009, Albania – along with Croatiamarker – joined NATOmarker.

Government, politics and military

The Albanian republic is a parliamentary democracy established under a constitution renewed in 1998. Elections are now held every four years to a unicameral 140-seat chamber, the People's Assembly. In June 2002, a compromise candidate, Alfred Moisiu, former Army General, was elected to succeed President Rexhep Meidani. Parliamentary elections in July 2005 brought Sali Berisha, as leader of the Democratic Party, back to power. The Euro-Atlantic integration of Albania has been the ultimate goal of the post-communist governments. Albania's EU membership bid has been set as a priority by the European Commission.

Albania, along with Croatia, received in 3 April 2008 an invitation to join NATOmarker. Albania and Croatia joined NATO on 1 April 2009 becoming the 27th and 28th members of the alliance.

The workforce of Albania has continued to migrate to Greece, Italy, Germany, other parts of Europe, and North America. However, the migration flux is slowly decreasing, as more and more opportunities are emerging in Albania itself as its economy steadily develops.

Executive branch

The head of state in Albania is the President of the Republic. The President is elected to a 5-year term by the Assembly of the Republic of Albaniamarker by secret ballot, requiring a 50%+1 majority of the votes of all deputies. The next election will run in the year 2012. The current President of the Republic is Bamir Topi.

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

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

President Bamir Topi 20 July 2007
Prime Minister Sali Berisha PD 9 September 2009


Legislative branch

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

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

Armed forces

Albanian Navy Ship Iliria


The Albanian Armed Forces (Forcat e Armatosura të Shqipërisë) first formed after independence in 1912. Albania reduced the number of active troops from a 1988 number of 65,000 to a 2009 number of 14,500 with a small fleet of aircraft and sea vessels. In the 1990s, the country scrapped enormous amount of obsolete hardware, such as tanks and SAM systems of Chinese manufacture.

Today it is made up of the General Staff Headquarters, the Albanian Joint Forces Command, the Albanian Support Command and the Albanian Training and Doctrine Command. One of the most important conditions to fulfill due to NATOmarker integration, was the increasing of the military budget. Military spending accounted for about 2.7% of GDP in 2008. Since February 2008, Albania participates officially in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Seamarker and received a NATO membership invitation on 3 April 2008. Albania became a full member of NATO on 1 April 2009.

Geography

Satellite image of Albania.


Albania has a total area of 28,748 square kilometers. Its coastline is 362 kilometers long and extends along the Adriaticmarker and Ionian Seasmarker. 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 Korabmarker situated in the district of Dibra, reaching up to . The country has a continental climate at its high altitude regions with cold winters and hot summers. Besides the capital city of Tiranamarker, which has 800,000 inhabitants, the principal cities are Durrësmarker, Korçëmarker, Elbasanmarker, Shkodërmarker, Gjirokastërmarker, Vlorëmarker and Kukësmarker. In Albanian grammar, a word can have indefinite and definite forms, and this also applies to city names: both Tiranë and Tirana, Shkodër and Shkodra are used.

The three largest and deepest tectonic lakes of the Balkan Peninsula are partly located in Albania. Lake Shkodërmarker in the country's northwest has a surface which can vary between and 530 km2, out of which one third belongs to Albania and rest to Montenegro. The Albanian shoreline of the lake is . Ohrid Lakemarker is situated in the country's southeast and is shared between Albania and Republic of Macedonia. It has a maximal depth of 289 meters and a variety of unique flora and fauna can be found there, including “living fossils” and many endemic species. Because of its natural and historical value, Ohrid Lake is under the protection of UNESCOmarker.

Over a third of the territory of Albania—about 10,000 square kilometers (2.5 million acres)—is forested and the country was 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 and is shared between the Adriatic and East Mediterranean provinces of the Mediterranean Region and the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region. 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 Mountains 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.

Climate



Albanian landscape


Korab chains.


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 for so small an area. The coastal lowlands have typically Mediterranean weather; 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. Summer temperatures average 24 °C. In the southern lowlands, temperatures average about 5 °C higher throughout the year. The difference is greater than 5°C during the summer and somewhat less during the winter.

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

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

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 to more than 1,500 millimeters 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 and are as high as 2,550 millimeters in some northern areas. 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.

Economy

Albania remains a poor country by Western European standards. Its GDP per capita (expressed in PPS—Purchasing Power Standards) stood at 25 percent of the EU average in 2008. Still, Albania has shown potential for economic growth, as more and more businesses relocate there and consumer goods are becoming available from emerging market traders as part of the current massive global cost-cutting exercise. Albania and Cyprus are the only countries in Europe that recorded economic growth in the first quarter of 2009. In its latest report, the International Monetary Fundmarker (IMF) said Albania and Cyprus recorded increases of 0.4% and 0.3%, respectively. However, the country is still of low interest for major foreign investors due to frequent power shortages, occasional lack of water supplies and ubiquitous illegal activities.



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

The country has some deposits of petroleum and natural gas, but produces only 6,425 barrels of oil per day. Natural gas production, estimated at about 30 million cubic meters, is sufficient to meet consumer demands. Other natural resources include coal, bauxite, copper and iron ore.

Agriculture is the most significant sector, employing some 58% of the labor force and generating about 21% of GDP. Albania produces significant amounts of wheat, corn, tobacco, figs (13th largest producer in the world) and olives.

Transport

In the early 1990s, the rock-strewn roadways, unstable rail lines, and obsolete telephone network crisscrossing Albania represented the remnants of the marked improvements that were made after World War II. Enver Hoxha's xenophobia and lust for control had kept Albania isolated, however, as the communications revolution transformed the wider world into a global village. Even internal travel amounted to something of a luxury for many Albanians during communism's ascendancy.

Highways



SH 2—Tirana's Overpass from Durrës


Currently the major cities of the country are linked with first class national roads. There is a four lane highway connecting the city of Durrës with Tirana and the city of Durrës with the city of Lushnje. Albania is partaking in the construction of what it sees as three major corridors of transportation. The major priority as of present is the construction of the four lane Durrës-Pristina highway which will link Kosovomarker with Albania's Adriatic coast. The portion of the highway which links Albania's north east border with Kosovo was completed in June 2009, as a result, cutting the time it takes to get from Kosovo to Durrës from six hours to two. Indeed the roads in northwestern Albania remain in poor condition as of summer 2009. It takes approximately 1H30 to drive the from the border of Montenegro to Shkodër. It is also worth noting that there are no road signs and no traffic lights within and around this city. The second priority is the construction of European corridor 8 linking Albania with the Republic of Macedonia and Greece. The third priority for the government is the construction of the north-south axis of the country; it is sometimes referred to as the Adriatic–Ionian motorway as it is part of a larger regional highway connecting Croatia with Greece along the Adriatic and Ionian coasts. By the end of the decade it is expected that the majority of the sections of these three corridors will have been built. When all three corridors are completed Albania will have an estimated 759 kilometers of highway linking it with its neighbors.

Durrës–Kukës–Morine Highway (Albania to Kosovo)

There has been much discussion, debate and interest in this small section of Albanian highway, which is intended to create a new, super-fast connection between Durrës on the Adriatic coast to Morine at the border of Kosovo.

The current drive time between Kukës and Durrës is 6–7 hours, but once the new highway is completed the drive time will only be two hours. The expected completion is the end of 2009. The whole road will be around , when completed to Pristina.

The objective for constructing the road, according to the transport ministry, is to reduce transport costs and accidents, and improve traffic flow. It is the biggest, most expensive infrastructure project undertaken in Albania.

There has been much controversy and scandal surrounding this project as well, due to the spiralling cost of construction leading to various corruption allegations. Originally the highway was forecast to cost around EUR400 million, and now the cost appears to have breached EUR800 million, although the exact cost for the total highway has yet to be confirmed by the government.

The Morine to Pristina section is expected to start construction in spring 2009.

Currently there is a display in Tirana’s centre on Bvld Dëshmorët e Kombit.

Airways



In 1977 Albania's government signed an agreement with Greece, opening the country's first air links with non-communist Europe. As a result, Olympic Airways was the first non-communist airline to fly into Albania. By 1991 Tiranamarker had air links with many major European cities, including Parismarker, Romemarker, Zürichmarker, Viennamarker, and Budapestmarker. Tirana was served by a small airport, Tirana International Airport Nënë Terezamarker, located twenty-eight kilometers from the capital at the village of Rinas. Albania had no regular domestic air service. A Franco-Albanian joint venture launched Albania's first private airline, Ada Air, in 1991. The company offered flights in a thirty-six-passenger airplane four days each week between Tirana and Barimarker, Italymarker, and a charter service for domestic and international destinations.

As of 2007 Albania has one international airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Terezamarker. The airport is linked to 29 destinations by 14 airlines. It has seen a dramatic rise in terms of passenger numbers and aircraft movements since the early 1990s. In September 2009 it served 1.8 million passengers and had 44 landings and takeoffs per day.

Train in Durrës–Tiranë line


Railway

The railway system was extensively promoted by the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha, during which time the use of private transport was effectively prohibited. Since the collapse of the former regime, there has been a considerable increase in car ownership and bus usage. Whilst some of the country's roads are still in a very poor condition, there have been other developments (such as the construction of a motorway between Tirana and Durrës) which have taken much traffic away from the railways. The railways in Albania are administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare (HSH) (which means Albanian Railways). It operates a gauge (standard gauge) rail system in Albania. All trains are hauled by Czechmarker-built ČKD diesel-electric locomotives.

Demographics

Ethnic composition of Albania, according to the 1989 census (prior to the fall of communism):





The Albanian population is considered a very young population, with an average age of 28.9 years. After 1990 the Albanian population hasfaced new phenomena like migration, which greatly affected the distribution by districts and prefectures. Districts in the North have seen a decreasing population, while Tiranamarker and Durrësmarker districts have increased their population. Albania's population was 3,152,600 on 1 January 2007 and 3,170,048 on 1 January 2008. Alternative sources estimate the population in July 2009 at 3,639,453 with an annual growth rate of 0.546%. Albania is a largely ethnically homogeneous country with only small minorities. The vast majority of the population is ethnically Albanian (98.6%). Minorities include Greeks 1.17% and others 0.23% (Vlachs, Macedonians, Roma, Bulgarians, Balkan Egyptians, Serbs and other former Yugoslavians). The size of the Greek minority is contentious, with the Albanian government claiming it is only 60,000, while the Greek government is claiming 300,000. CIA Factbook gives the Greek minority 3% of the total population.The dominant language is Albanian, with two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk. Many Albanians are also fluent in English, Italian, Greek, Turkish or German.

Religion



Church of Virgin Mary.
It was built in the 10th century


According to some estimates, a majority of Albanians do not practice any religion, classified as irreligious.

According to Operation world's statistics, 41% of Albanians are Christian (24% Orthodox, 16% Roman Catholic and other Protestant or independent minorities), and 38.7% are Muslims (both Sunni and Bektashis).

A recent Pew Research Center demographic study put the percentage of Muslims in Albania at 79.9%, and the other Christian.

A third study of religion in Albania under the International Religious Freedom Report 2009, performed by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the United States's State Departmentmarker, found that a majority of Albania's population is nonreligious.

The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late 11th century. At this point, they are already fully Christianized. Christianity was later overshadowed by Islam, which kept the scepter of the major religion during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule from the 15th century until year 1912. 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 1940s and 1950s, under the state policy of obliterating all organized religion from Albanian territories.

The Communist regime that took control of Albania after World War II 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. Albanian Muslim populations (mainly secular and of the Sunni rite) are found throughout the country whereas Orthodox Christians are concentrated in the south and Roman Catholics are found in the north of the country. No reliable data are available on active participation in formal religious services, and estimates range from 25% to 40%.

Previously the religious figures in Albania stood at 70% Muslim, 20% Catholic and 10% Orthodox. Although these statistics were based on estimates from pre-1967 information.

There are about 4000 active Jehovahs witnesses in Albania.Among other religious organizations making inroads into this nation is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or 'Mormons'). The Church's involvement in Albania began with Humanitarian Aid during the 1990s. The first missionaries were sent in 1992 with the Albania Tirana Mission being opened in 1996. As of 2008, there were nearly 2,000 members of the Church in Albania, spread throughout ten branches with two purpose-built Chapels and one Family History Centre..

Culture

Music and folklore

A traditional male folk group from Skrapar


Albanian folk music falls into three sylistic groups, with other important music areas around Shkodërmarker and Tiranamarker; the major groupings are the Ghegs of the north and southern Labs and Tosk. The northern and southern traditions are contrasted by the "rugged and heroic" tone of the north and the "relaxed, gentle and exceptionally beautiful" form of the south. These disparate styles are unified by "the intensity that both performers and listeners give to their music as a medium for patriotic expression and as a vehicle carrying the narrative of oral history", as well as certain characteristics like the use of obscure rhythms such as 3/8, 5/8 and 10/8. The first compilation of Albanian folk music was made by Pjetër Dungu in 1940.

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

Albanian language and literature

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

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

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

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



Meshari (The Missal) by Gjon Buzuku, published by him in 1555, is considered to date as the first literary work of written Albanian. The refined level of the language and the stabilised orthography must be a result of an earlier tradition of writing Albanian, a tradition that is not known. But there are some fragmented evidence, dating earlier than Buzuku, which indicate that Albanian was written at least since 14th century AD. The first known evidence dates from 1332 AD and deals with the French Dominican Guillelmus Adae, Archbishop of Antivarimarker, who in a report in Latin writes that Albanians use Latin letters in their books although their language is quite different from Latin. Of special importance in supporting this are: a baptizing formula (Unte paghesont premenit Atit et Birit et spertit senit) of 1462, written in Albanian within a text in Latin by the bishop of Durrësmarker, Pal Engjëlli; a glossary with Albanian words of 1497 by Arnold von Harff, a German who had travelled through Albania, and a 15th century fragment from the Bible from the Gospel of Matthew, also in Albanian, but in Greek letters.


Albanian writings of these centuries must not have been religious texts only, but historical chronicles too. They are mentioned by the humanist Marin Barleti, who, in his book Rrethimi i Shkodrës (The Siege of Shkodër) (1504), confirms that he leafed through such chronicles written in the language of the people (in vernacula lingua). Despite the obstacles generated by the Counter-Reformation which was opposed to the development of national languages in Christian liturgy , this process went on uninterrupted. During the 16th to 17th centuries, the catechism E mbësuame krishterë (Christian Teachings) (1592) by Lekë Matrënga, Doktrina e krishterë (The Christian Doctrine) (1618) and Rituale romanum (1621) by Pjetër Budi, the first writer of original Albanian prose and poetry, an apology for George Castriot (1636) by Frang Bardhi, who also published a dictionary and folklore creations, the theological-philosophical treaty Cuneus Prophetarum (The Band of Prophets) (1685) by Pjetër Bogdani, the most universal personality of Albanian Middle Ages, were published in Albanian. The most famous Albanian writer is probably Ismail Kadare.

Education

Before Communist regime, Albania’s illiteracy rate was as high as 85%. Schools were scarce between World War I and World War II. When the Communist regime over took the country in 1944, the regime wanted to wipe out illiteracy. The regulations became so strict that anyone between the ages of 12 and 40 who could not read or write was mandated to attend classes to learn. Since these times of struggle the country’s literacy rate has improved remarkably. Today the overall literacy rate in Albania is 98.7%, the male literacy rate is 99.2% and female literacy rate is 98.3%. Since the rather large population movements in the 1990’s to urban areas, education has moved as well. Thousands of teachers moved to urban areas to follow students.

Administrative divisions

Counties of Albania


Albania is divided into 12 administrative divisions called (Albanian: official qark/qarku, but often prefekturë/prefektura) Counties, 36 districts and 351 municipalities. Each region has its Regional Council and is composed of a number of Municipalities and Communes, which are the first level of local governance responsible for local needs and law enforcement.

County Capital Districts Municipalities Cities Villages
1 Beratmarker Beratmarker Beratmarker

Kuçovëmarker

Skraparmarker
12

2

10
2

1

2
122

17

103
2 Dibërmarker Peshkopimarker Bulqizëmarker

Dibërmarker

Matmarker
8

15

12
2

1

3
103

141

76
3 Durrësmarker Durrësmarker Durrësmarker

Krujëmarker
10

7
4

2
61

43
4 Elbasanmarker Elbasanmarker Elbasanmarker

Gramshmarker

Librazhdmarker

Peqinmarker
24

10

10

6
2

1

2

1
176

95

75

49
5 Fiermarker Fiermarker Fiermarker

Lushnjëmarker

Mallakastërmarker
17

16

9
3

2

1
117

121

40
6 Gjirokastërmarker Gjirokastërmarker Gjirokastërmarker

Përmetmarker

Tepelenëmarker
13

9

10
2

2

2
95

97

77
7 Korçëmarker Korçëmarker Devollmarker

Kolonjëmarker

Korçëmarker

Pogradecmarker
5

8

17

8
1

2

2

1
44

76

155

72
8 Kukësmarker Kukësmarker Hasmarker

Kukësmarker

Tropojëmarker
4

15

8
1

1

3
30

90

68
9 Lezhëmarker Lezhëmarker Kurbinmarker

Lezhëmarker

Mirditëmarker
4

10

7
3

2

4
28

63

70
10 Shkodërmarker Shkodërmarker Malësi e Madhemarker

Pukëmarker

Shkodërmarker
6

10

18
2

2

2
56

75

139
11 Tiranamarker Tiranamarker Kavajëmarker

Tiranamarker
10

18
2

3
65

155
12 Vlorëmarker Vlorëmarker Delvinëmarker

Sarandëmarker

Vlorëmarker
4

9

13
1

2

4
38

62

99


Sport

Football is the most popular sport in Albania, both at a participatory and spectator level. The sport is governed by the Football Association of Albania (Albanian: Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit, F.SH.F.).



Entertainment

Radio Televizioni Shqiptar, (RTSH), is Albania's leading television network. RTSH runs a national television station TVSH, (standing for Televizioni Shqiptar), and two national radio stations, using the name Radio Tirana. An 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. Since 1999, RTSH has been a member of the European Broadcasting Unionmarker. Since 1993, RTSH has also run an international television service via satellite, aimed at Albanian language communities in Kosovomarker, Macedoniamarker, Montenegromarker and Greecemarker, plus the Albanian diaspora in the rest of Europe.

According the National Council of Radio and Television Albania has an estimated 257 media outlets, including 66 radio stations and 65 television stations, with three national and 62 local stations.

Health

Health care has been in a steep decline after the collapse of socialism in the country, but a process of modernization has been taking place since the year 2000. As of the early 2000s, there were 51 hospitals in the country, including a military hospital and specialist facilities. Albania has successfully annihilated diseases such as malaria.

Life expectancy is estimated at 77.43 years, ranking 51st worldwide, and outperforming a number of European Union countries, such as Hungarymarker and the Czech Republicmarker.. The most common causes of death are circulatory disease then cancerous illnesses.

The medical school, Faculty of Medicine at Tirana University, is in Tirana. There are also nursing schools in many other cities.

Cuisine

The cuisine of Albania- as with most Mediterraneanmarker 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 Greecemarker, Italymarker and the Ottoman Turks, and each group has left its mark on Albanian cuisine. The main meal of the Albanians is lunch, and it is usually accompanied by a salad of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and olives with olive oil, vinegar and salt. Lunch also includes a main dish of vegetables and meat. Seafood specialties are also common in the coastal areas of Durrësmarker, Vlorëmarker and Sarandëmarker.

Human rights in Albania

LGBT rights in Albania

International rankings

Demographic



Environmental



Economic



See also



Notes and references

Notes:
a.  


References:

  1. Albania applies for EU membership, BBC News, 28 April 2009. Retrieved on 29 April 2009
  2. Population stats from tirana.gov.al
  3. Reports: Poverty Decreases In Albania After Years Of Growth.Dow Jones Newswires, 201-938-5500.http://www.nasdaq.com/aspx/stock-market-news-story.aspx?storyid=200904231403dowjonesdjonline000935&title=reports-poverty-decreases-in-albania-after-years-of-growth
  4. Albania plans to build three hydropower plants.People's Daily
  5. Strong GDP growth reduces poverty in Albania-study.Reuters.http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2009/04/23/afx6330798.html
  6. OED
  7. Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (Indo-European Etymological Dictionary) 1959 pp. 30–31
  8. Constantine A. Chekrezi. Albania Past and Present. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1919. p. 116.
  9. Madrugearu A, Gordon M. The wars of the Balkan peninsula. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. p.146
  10. The Illyrians by J. J. Wilkes, 1992, ISBN 0631198075, page 279,"We cannot be certain that the Arbanon of Anna Comnena is the same as Albanopolis of the Albani, a place located on the map of Ptolemy (3.12)"
  11. Robert Elsei. The Albanian lexicon of Arnold von Harff, Earliest reference to the existence of the Albanian language, pp. 113–122.
  12. http://www.pinocacozza.it/
  13. http://www.radio-arberesh.eu/
  14. Kristo Frasheri. History of Albania (A Brief Overview). Tirana, 1964.
  15. Albanian Etymological Dictionary by Vladimir E. Orel, Brill 1998
  16. Constantine A. C., and Charles, D. Albania Past and Present. Columbia University, p. 10. April, 1919.
  17. An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis by Mogens Herman, ISBN 0198140991, 2004, page 343, "Bouthroton (Bouthrotios)"
  18. The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe) by John Wilkes,1996, ISBN-9780631198079, page 111.
  19. Appian, The Foreign Wars, III, 1.2
  20. Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, ISBN 0631198075, Page 96,"... 25 Enchelei
  21. Harding, p. 93. Grabos became the most powerful Illyrian king after the death of Bardylis in 358.
  22. "The Journal of Hellenic Studies by Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies (London, England)", 1973, p. 79. Cleitus was evidently the son of Bardylis II the grandson of the very old Bardylis who had fallen in battle against Phillip II in 385 BC.
  23. Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, p. 120, ISBN 0631198075,page 129,"... mainly because no coins are known to have been issued by Illyrian rulers of a later period such as Agron, Teuta, Scerdilaidas, etc. ...
  24. Research Institute for European and American Studies. The Balkan Muslim Presence.
  25. The Balkans (Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, 1804-1999) – by Misha Glenny
  26. The Balkans by Misha Glenny page 418
  27. Sarner. Rescue in Albania: One Hundred Percent of Jews in Albania Rescued from the Holocaust, 1997.
  28. "Muslim Family Who Hid 26 Jews in Albania from the Nazis Honored by ADL" Anti-Defamation League
  29. Escape Through the Balkans: the Autobiography of Irene Grunbaum (University of Nebraska Press, 1996)
  30. Shoah Research Center - Albania.
  31. Israeli Historians Study How Albanian Jews Escaped Holocaust http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,356717,00.html
  32. Albania. World Almanac & Book of Facts, 2008, pp467–545, (AN 28820955)
  33. " Thousands fear as blood feuds sweep Albania". Telegraph.co.uk. June 3, 2007.
  34. " In Albanian Feuds, Isolation Engulfs Families ". The New York Times. July 10, 2008.
  35. BBC News. "Nato welcomes Albania and Croatia", "BBC News", 2009-04-02. Retrieved on 2009-04-02.
  36. Albania sells off its military hardware, BBC News, 2002
  37. NATO, [1]
  38. Albania Country Brief. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia), 1 August 2008. Accessed 15 August 2009.
  39. Business: Albania, Cyprus register economic growth http://www.setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/features/setimes/roundup/2009/05/15/roundup-bs-03
  40. Strong economic growth potential puts Albania and Panama top of long term investment list http://www.propertywire.com/news/related-stories/albania-panama-long-term-investment-200807201344.html
  41. Albania's Economy shakes off it's shackles, 23 January, 2003, BBC News.
  42. Albania, Croatia plan nuclear power plant.
  43. CIA - The World Factbook
  44. Enel Albanian Joint Venture Introduces Coal In Albania's Power Mix, Business Monitor Online, 24 February, 2009
  45. CIA The World Factbook: Oil producers
  46. Albania Country Profile, FAO
  47. http://www.nce.co.uk/news/transport/albania-motorway-making-the-first-move/5203302.article#
  48. Women, Men and shefit's in Albania 2006, Instat, Tirana, 2007
  49. CIA World Factbook: Albania
  50. Albania, U.S. Department of State Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Background Note November 2008. Retrieved on 14 May 2009
  51. [2]-Freedom of Religion 2007
  52. http://www.operationworld.org/country/alba/owtext.html
  53. Albania: International Religious Freedom Report 2007
  54. Arbatsky, Yuri, cited in Koco with the footnote Translated and published by Filip Fishta in Shkolla Kombëtare (The National School; No.1, May 1939), 19, and quoted from his Preface to Pjetër Dungu's Lyra Shqiptare (see note 2).
  55. Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture By J. P. Mallory, Douglas Q. Adams Edition: illustrated Published by Taylor & Francis, 1997 ISBN 1884964982, 9781884964985 ("Although there are some lexical items that appear to be shared between Romanian (and by extension Dacian) and Albanian, by far the strongest connections can be argued between Albanian and Illyrian." page 11) Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World By Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Contributor Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Edition: illustrated Published by Elsevier, 2008 ISBN 0080877745, 9780080877747 ("Albanian constitutes a single branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It is often held to be related to Illyrian, a poorly attested language spoken in the Western Balkans in classical times" page 22)
  56. Zickel, Iwaskiw, 1994
  57. radiotirana.org website
  58. CIA - The World Factbook, Life Expectancy ranks
a.  


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