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Albanians ( ) are a people from southeast Europe who live in Albaniamarker and neighboring countries. They speak the Albanian language. Roughly half of Albanians live in Albaniamarker, with other large groups residing in Kosovomarker, the Republic of Macedoniamarker and Montenegromarker. There are Albanian communities in a number of other countries, including Turkeymarker, Greecemarker, Serbiamarker and Italymarker.


While the exonym Albania for the general region inhabited by the Albanians does hark back to Classical Antiquity, and possibly to an Illyrian tribe, the name was lost within the Albanian language, the Albanian endonym being shqiptar, from the term for the Albanian language, shqip, a derivation of the verb shqipoj "to speak clearly", perhaps ultimately a loan from Latin excipio. Thus, the Albanian endonym, like Slav and others, is in origin a term for "those who speak [intelligibly, the same language]".

In the 2nd century BCE, Polybius mentions the Arbanios, Arbanitai with their city Arbon; in the 1st century CE, Pliny refers to Illyrian Olbonensis, and the 2nd century CE, Ptolemy mentions an Illyrian tribe of the Albanoi, settling in what is now Central Albania, with Albanopolis as their main city.

In History written in 1079-1080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinoplemarker in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachiummarker. It is disputed, however, whether that refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense.. The first reference to a dates to the later 13th century (around 1285).

The Albanians are and have been referred to by other terms as well. Some of them are:
  • Arbër, Arbën, Arbëreshë; the old native term denoting ancient and medieval Albanians and sharing the same root with the latter. At the time the country was called Arbër (Gheg: Arbën) and Arbëria (Gheg: Arbënia). This term is still used for the Albanians that migrated to Italy during the Middle Ages.
  • Arnauts (آرناﺌود); old term used mainly from Turks and by extension by European authors during the Ottoman Empire. A derivate of Arbër, Albanian.
  • Skipetars; the historical rendering of the ethnonym Shqiptar (or Shqyptar by French, Austrian and German authors) in use from the 18th century (but probably earlier) to the present, the literal translation of which is subject of the eagle. The term Šiptari is a derivation used by Yugoslavs which the Albanians consider derogatory, preferring Albanci instead.


What is possibly the earliest written reference to the Albanians is that to be found in an old Bulgarian text compiled around the beginning of the eleventh century. It was discovered in a Serbian manuscript dated 1628 and was first published in 1934 by Radoslav Grujic. This fragment of a legend from the time of Tsar Samuel endeavours, in a catechismal 'question and answer' form, to explain the origins of peoples and languages. It divides the world into seventy-two languages and three religious categories: Orthodox, half-believers (i.e. non-Orthodox Christians) and non-believers. Though the Serbs go unmentioned, the Albanians, still a small conglomeration of nomadic mountain tribes at this time, find their place among the nations of half-believers. If we accept the dating of Grujic, which is based primarily upon the contents of the text as a whole, this would be the earliest written document referring to the Albanians as a people or language group.
It can be seen that there are various languages on earth. Of them, there are five Orthodox languages: Bulgarian, Greek, Syrian (likely mistaken for Serbian), Iberian (Georgian) and Russian. Three of these have Orthodox alphabets: Greek, Bulgarian and Iberian. There are twelve languages of half-believers: Alamanians, Franks, Magyars (Hungarians), Indians, Jacobites, Armenians, Saxons, Lechs (Poles), 'Arbanasi (Albanians), Croatians, Hizi, Germans.
The Albanians appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late 11th century. At this point, they are already fully Christianized. Very little evidence of pre-Christian Albanian culture survives, and Albanian mythology and folklore as it presents itself is notoriously syncretized from various sources, showing in particular Greek influence.

Regarding the classification of the Albanian language, it forms a separate branch of Indo-European, belonging to the satem group, and its late attestation, the first records dating to the 15th century, makes it difficult for historical linguistics to make confident statements on its genesis.

Ottoman supremacy in the Balkan region began in 1385 with the Battle of Savra but was briefly interrupted in the 15th century, when Gjergj Kastrioti, an Albanian warrior known as Skanderbeg, allied with some Albanian chiefs and fought-off Turkish rule from 1443-1478 (although Kastrioti died in 1468). Kastrioti's strongholds included Krujamarker, Petrelamarker and Beratmarker.Upon the Ottomans' return, a large number of Albanians fled to Italy, Greece and Egyptmarker and maintained their Arbëresh identity.

By the 1870s, the Sublime Porte's reforms aimed at checking the Ottoman Empire's disintegration had clearly failed. The image of the "Turkish yoke" had become fixed in the nationalist mythologies and psyches of the empire's Balkan peoples, and their march toward independence quickened. The Albanians, because of the higher degree of Islamic influence, their internal social divisions, and the fear that they would lose their Albanian-populated lands to the emerging Balkan states--Serbiamarker, Montenegromarker, Bulgariamarker, and Greecemarker were the last of the Balkan peoples to desire division from the Ottoman Empire.



Approximately 8,5 million Albanians are to be found within the Balkan peninsula with only about half this number residing in Albania and the other divided between Kosovomarker, Montenegromarker, the Republic of Macedoniamarker, Greecemarker and to a much smaller extent Bosniamarker, Bulgariamarker, Croatiamarker, Romaniamarker, Serbiamarker and Sloveniamarker.


An estimated 3.8 million Albanians live in Albaniamarker, amounting to 98.6% of the country's total population, making Albania one of the ethnically most homogenous states of Europe.

Former Yugoslavia

An estimated 2.5 million Albanians live in the territory of Former Yugoslaviamarker, the greater part (close to two million) in Kosovomarker.

Rights to use the Albanian language in education and government were given and guaranteed by the 1974 Constitution of SFRYmarker and were widely utilized in Serbia, Macedonia, and in Montenegro before Dissolution of Yugoslavia.


Tosk Albanians wearing traditional costumes from southern Albania.

Albanians in Greece form the country's largest population group after the ethnic Greek majority. Due to different waves of migration, they are divided into distinct communities. Alongside these two indigenous groups, about 10 percent of the population of Albania has entered Greece after the fall of Communism, forming the third community of Albanian origin in Greece.

The first group of Northwestern Greece is mainly composed of Cham Albanians. Muslim Chams were expelled from the region of Epirus during World War II, by anti-communist resistance group, as a result of their participation in a communist resistance group and the collaboration in large parts with the Axis occupation, while Orthodox Albanians remained in Greecemarker. This population forms part of the modern Albanian nation, alongside minor communities in Ioannina Prefecturemarker and West Macedonia periphery, mainly concentrated in Konitsamarker and Florinamarker, respectively.

Another group of Albanian origin, which speak a dialect of Albanian, but which does not identify with the modern Albanian nation is that of Arvanites and Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace, who retain a distinct ethnic identity, but self-identify nationally as Greeks.

Albanian immigrants, who have entered Greece in large numbers since the fall of the Socialist People's Republic of Albania, form the largest single expatriate group in the country today.


The largest Albanian diasporic communities outside of the Balkans are found in Turkeymarker (about 1.3 million, 13% of Albanians, 1.7% of host population),Italymarker (1.44 million,3.7% of host population),the United Statesmarker (1.14 million, 0.5% of host population),Switzerlandmarker (0.35 million, 5% of host population),and Germanymarker (0.40-1.0 million, 0.8% of host population).


Approximately 3 million are dispersed throughout the rest of Europe, most of these in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and France.

Italy has a historical Albanian minority known as the Arbëreshë are scattered across Southern Italy, but the majority of Italo-Albanians have arrived since 1991 to surpass that of the older populations of Arbëreshë.


According to a 2008 report prepared for the National Security Council of Turkey by academics of three Turkish universities in eastern Anatolia, there were approximately 5,000,000 Albanians living in Turkey. Most of these people are assimilated into Turkish nation, and consider themselves more Turkish rather than Albanian.


In the United States the number reaches 1,113,661 according to the latest 2000 US Census which is published in 2004, while in Canadamarker approximately 250,000 as of the 2009 census.

Asia and Oceania

In Australia and New Zealandmarker 22,000 in total. Albanians are also known to reside in China, India, Iran, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore, but the numbers are generally small.200,000 in all these countries. Albanians have been present in Arab countries such as Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria for about 5 centuries as a legacy of Ottoman Turkish rule.


In Egyptmarker there are 18,000 Albanians, mostly Tosk speakers. Many are descendants of the soldiers of Mehmet Ali. A large part of the former nobility of Egypt was Albanian in origin. A small community also resides in South Africa.


The Albanian language forms a separate branch of Indo-European languages family tree. A traditional view links the origin of Albanian with Illyrian, though this theory is broadly contested and challenged.

Unattested prior to the second half of the 15th century, the Albanian language is one of the youngest languages of Europe in terms of first written account.

Albanian in a revised form of the Tosk dialect is the official language of Albaniamarker and Kosovomarker; and is official in the municipalities where there are more than 20% ethnic Albanian inhabitants in the Republic of Macedoniamarker. It is also an official language of Montenegromarker where it is spoken in the municipalities with ethnic Albanian populations.


The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late 11th century. At this point, they were 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. Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism were continued practiced with less frequency.

According to some estimates, 60-75% of Albanians in Albania do not practice any religion. 16% of the population were baptised following the Roman Catholic Church. Some 25% are Eastern Orthodox, and 38% are Muslims, divided in 30% Sunni and 8% Bektashis.During the 20th century the monarchy and later the totalitarian state followed a systematic secularization of the nation and the national culture. This policy was chiefly applied within the borders of the current Albanian state. It produced a secular majority in the population. All forms of Christianity, Islam and other religious practices were prohibited except for old non-institutional Pagan practices in the rural areas, which were seen as identifying with the national culture. The current Albanian state has revived some pagan festivals, such as the lunar Spring festival ( ) held yearly on March 14 in the city of Elbasanmarker. It is a national holiday.

A recent Pew Research Center demographic study put the percentage of Muslims in Albania at 79.9%. Most of the Muslims in Albania are Sunni Muslims and Bektashi Shi'a Muslims. It is estimated that 90% of ethnic Albanians in the Republic of Kosovomarker are Muslims.

There are also Orthodox Christians, predominantly in Southern Albania, bordering Greecemarker, and Roman Catholics is the main religion among those Albanians living predominantly in northern Albania, bordering the Republic of Montenegromarker. After 1992 an influx of foreign missionaries has brought more religious diversity with groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Hindus, Bahá'í, a variety of Christian denominations and others. This rich blend of religions has however rarely caused religious strife. People of different religions freely intermarry. For part of its history, Albania has also had a Jewish community. Some of the members of the Jewish community were saved by a group of Albanians during the Nazi occupation. Many left for Israel circa 1990-1992 after borders were open due to fall of communist regime in Albania.


Albanian music displays a variety of influences. Albanian folk music traditions differ by region, with major stylistic differences between the traditional music of the Ghegs in the north and Tosks in the south. Modern popular music has developed around the centers of Korcamarker, Shkodërmarker and Tiranamarker. Since the 1920s, some composers such as Fan S. Noli have also produced works of Albanian classical music.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Robert Elsie, A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology and folk culture, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2001, ISBN 9781850655701, p. 79.
  2. Robert Elsie, The earliest reference to the existence of the Albanian Language
  3. Extract from: Grujic, Radoslav: Legenda iz vremena Cara Samuila o poreklu naroda. in: Glasnik skopskog naucnog drustva, Skopje, 13 (1934), p. 198 200. Translated from the Old Church Slavonic by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 3. Albanian History
  4. Mircea Eliade, Charles J. Adams, The Encyclopedia of religion, Macmillan, 1987, ISBN 9780029097007, p. 179.
  5. Christoph Pan, Beate Sibylle Pfeil,Minderheitenrechte in Europa. Handbuch der europäischen Volksgruppen (2002).[1], English translation 2004. see also ethnic groups in Europe by country.
  6. Civil resistance in Kosovo By Howard Clark, pg. 12
  7. Milliyet, Türkiyedeki Kürtlerin Sayısı. 2008-06-06.
  8. Hans Henrich Hock, Brian D. Joseph: Language history, language change, and language relationship, pp. 54
  9. International Religious Freedom Report 2007 - Albania, U.S. Department of State
  10. Country Profile: Albania,
  12. Religious freedon mation profile: Albania, religiousfreedom.lib
  13. Serbian-Albanian Honeymoon, 29 July 2008,
  14. Albania. The World Factbook.
  15. Muslims in Europe: Country guide: Albania. BBC.
  16. International Religious Freedom Report 2008 - Kosovo
  17. Rescue in Albania: One Hundred Percent of Jews in Albania Rescued from Holocaust". "The Jews of Albania". California: Brunswick Press, 1997. Retrieved on 29 January 2007.

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