Albanians ( ) are a people
from southeast Europe who live in Albania and
They speak the Albanian language
. Roughly half of
Albanians live in Albania, with other
large groups residing in Kosovo, the
Macedonia and Montenegro. There are Albanian communities in a number of
other countries, including Turkey, Greece, Serbia and Italy.
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
, from the term for the Albanian language,
, a derivation of the verb shqipoj
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
In the 2nd century BCE, Polybius
the Arbanios, Arbanitai
with their city Arbon
the 1st century CE, Pliny
, and the 2nd century CE, Ptolemy
mentions an Illyrian tribe of the
, settling in what is now Central Albania, with
as their main city.
History written in 1079-1080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates referred to the
Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects
of the duke of Dyrrachium.
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,
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
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
confident statements on its genesis.
supremacy in the Balkan
region began in 1385 with the Battle of Savra
but was briefly interrupted
in the 15th century, when Gjergj
, an Albanian warrior known as Skanderbeg
, allied with some Albanian chiefs and
fought-off Turkish rule from 1443-1478 (although
died in 1468). Kastrioti's
strongholds included Kruja, Petrela and Berat.Upon the Ottomans' return, a large number of
Albanians fled to Italy, Greece and Egypt and
maintained their Arbëresh
By the 1870s, the Sublime Porte
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.
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--Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece were the
last of the Balkan peoples to desire division from the Ottoman
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 Kosovo, Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece and to a
much smaller extent Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.
estimated 3.8 million Albanians live in Albania, amounting
to 98.6% of the country's total population, making Albania one of
the ethnically most homogenous states of Europe.
estimated 2.5 million Albanians live in the territory of Former
Yugoslavia, the greater part (close to two million) in
use the Albanian language in
education and government were given and guaranteed by the 1974
Constitution of SFRY and were
widely utilized in Serbia, Macedonia, and in Montenegro before
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
The first group of Northwestern Greece is mainly composed of
. 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 Greece.
population forms part of the modern Albanian nation, alongside
minor communities in Ioannina Prefecture and West Macedonia
periphery, mainly concentrated in Konitsa and Florina, 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
, who retain a distinct ethnic identity, but
self-identify nationally as Greeks.
who have entered Greece in large numbers since the fall of the
People's Republic of Albania
, form the largest single
expatriate group in the country today.
largest Albanian diasporic communities outside of the Balkans are
found in Turkey (about 1.3
million, 13% of Albanians, 1.7% of host
million,3.7% of host population),the United States (1.14 million, 0.5% of host
population),Switzerland (0.35 million, 5% of host
population),and Germany (0.40-1.0 million, 0.8% of host
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
United States the number reaches 1,113,661 according to the latest
2000 US Census which is published in 2004, while in
approximately 250,000 as of the 2009 census.
Asia and Oceania
Australia and New Zealand 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
Egypt there are 18,000 Albanians, mostly Tosk
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
in a revised form of the Tosk dialect
is the official language of
Albania and Kosovo; and is
official in the municipalities where there are more than 20% ethnic
Albanian inhabitants in the Republic of Macedonia. It is also an official language of Montenegro 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
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
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
other religious practices were prohibited except for old
practices in the rural
areas, which were seen as identifying with the national culture.
current Albanian state has revived some pagan festivals, such as
the lunar Spring festival ( ) held yearly
on March 14 in the city of Elbasan.
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 Kosovo are
also Orthodox Christians,
predominantly in Southern Albania, bordering Greece, and
Roman Catholics is the main
religion among those Albanians living predominantly in northern
Albania, bordering the Republic of Montenegro.
After 1992 an influx of foreign
missionaries has brought more religious diversity with groups such
as Jehovah's Witnesses
, 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
displays a variety of
influences. Albanian folk music traditions differ by region, with
major stylistic differences between the traditional music of the
in the north and Tosks
in the south. Modern popular music has developed around
the centers of Korca, Shkodër and Tirana.
Since the 1920s, some composers such as Fan
have also produced works of
Albanian classical music
Notes and references
- Robert Elsie, A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology
and folk culture, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2001, ISBN
9781850655701, p. 79.
- Robert Elsie, The earliest reference to the
existence of the Albanian Language
- 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
Eliade, Charles J. Adams, The Encyclopedia of
religion, Macmillan, 1987, ISBN 9780029097007, p. 179.
- Christoph Pan, Beate Sibylle Pfeil,Minderheitenrechte in
Europa. Handbuch der europäischen Volksgruppen (2002)., English translation 2004. see also ethnic groups in Europe by
- Civil resistance in Kosovo By Howard Clark, pg.
- Milliyet, Türkiyedeki Kürtlerin Sayısı. 2008-06-06.
- Hans Henrich Hock, Brian D. Joseph: Language history, language change, and language
relationship, pp. 54
- International Religious Freedom Report 2007 -
Albania, U.S. Department of State
- Country Profile: Albania,
- Religious freedon mation profile: Albania,
- Serbian-Albanian Honeymoon, 29 July 2008,
- Albania. The World Factbook.
- Muslims in Europe: Country guide: Albania.
- International Religious Freedom Report 2008 -
- 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