Italian colonists in Albania were Italians who, between the two world wars, moved to
Albania to colonize the Balkan country for the Kingdom of Italy.
had held strategic importance for Italy since the
Renaissance, when the Republic of
Venice controlled some areas of the Albanian coast (called
Albanese speaking communities, who had taken refuge there from the
invasion of Albania during
era, and who were
favorable to a possible union of Albania and Italy.
At the end
of the XIX century, Italian naval strategists eyed the port of
Vlorë and the
island of Sazan at the
entrance to the Bay of Vlorë.
The port would give Italy
control of the entrance to the Adriatic Sea. Also, Albania could
provide Italy with a beachhead in the Balkans. Before World War I
Italy and Austria-Hungary
had been instrumental in the
creation of an independent Albanian state. At the outbreak of war
in 1915, Italy seized the chance to occupy the southern half of
Albania, to prevent the Austro-Hungarians from capturing.
success did not last long, as post-war domestic problems, Albanian
resistance, and pressure from United States President Woodrow
Wilson, forced Italy to pull out in 1920.
The Albanian prime minister Shefqet
Verlaci, who approved the settlement of Italian colonists in
When Benito Mussolini
took power in
Italy, he turned with renewed interest to Albania. Italy began
penetrating Albania's economy in 1925, when Albania agreed to allow
it to exploit its mineral resources. That was followed by the First
Treaty of Tirana in 1926 and the Second Treaty of Tirana in 1927,
whereby Italy and Albania entered into a defensive alliance.
Italian loans subsidized the Albanian government and economy, and
Italian military instructors trained the Albanian army. Italian
colonial settlement was encouraged. Despite this strong Italian
influence, King Zog
of Albania refused to
give in completely to Italian pressure. In 1931, he openly stood up
to the Italians by refusing to renew the 1926 Treaty of
Fascist Italy increased pressure on Albania in the 1930s, and on
April 7, 1939, invaded
. five months before the start of the Second World War
. The Albanian armed resistance
proved ineffective and, after a short defense, Italy occupied the
country. On 9 April 1939 Albanian King Zog fled to Greece, and Albania
ceased to exist as an independent country.
country became a component of the Italian
and was turned into an Italian protectorate, similar to
the German Protectorate of Bohemia and
, in that the land was an autonomous territory of Italy
which was designed for eventual colonization and Italianization
The throne was claimed by King Victor Emmanuel III
, who was the official ruler of Albania
until his abdication on 25 July 1943. The government was led by
Italian governors and an Albanian civil government.
From April 1939, Albanian foreign affairs, customs, as well as
natural resources came under direct control of Italy. All petroleum
resources in Albania went through
, Italy's state petroleum company .
The puppet Albanian Fascist
became the ruling party of the country and the local
, like prime minister
, allowed Italian
citizens to settle in Albania and to own land so that they could
gradually transform it into Italian soil. Verlaci (who had
distant Italian roots) approved the possible administrative union
of Albania and Italy, because he wanted Italian support for the
union of Kosovo with
Chameria and other "Albanian irredentism"
areas, creating a Greater
Albania. Indeed, this unification was realized after
the Axis defeat of Yugoslavia and Greece in spring
The Italian colonists and the Italian "assimilation" were more or
less welcomed in spring 1939, and were greeted by most Albanians
when Albania was enlarged two years later. But already in November
1941 they started to face contrary manifestations and the
resistance of some Albanians, organized mainly by the Communist
Party of Enver Hoxha
The Italian colonists
Map of "Greater Italy" as conceived in
1940 by Mussolini: the orange line shows the areas in Europe and
North Africa to be included in the 1940 Project.
Albania can be seen included.
Italians to colonize Albania were fishing families from Apulia, who moved
to the island of Saseno (Sazan) in front of
Valona in 1918.
The green line shows the biggest extension of Italian military
control in the Mediterranean area in November 1942 (British
controlled areas in red)
The island was officially part of Italy from
the end of World War I
the Italian government, in agreement with Albanian authorities,
sent 300 Italian colonists to Kamez, near Tirana, to promote
an agricultural development .
Most of the Italians were farmers from Arberesh
communities in southern Italy. They were
initially successful, and created the company Ente industria
with an agricultural school, but the regime
of King Zog
got rid of them in 1931,
fearing excessive Italian influence in Albanian society and
After the occupation of Albania in April 1939, Mussolini sent
nearly 11,000 Italian colonists to Albania. Most of them were
from the Venice area and
Sicily. They settled
primarily in the areas of Durazzo, Valona, Scutari, Porto Palermo, Elbasani and Santi Quaranta.
They were the first
settlers of a huge group of Italians to be moved to Albania to
create the Greater Italia
Mussolini "dreams" .
In addition to these colonists, 22,000 Italian temporary laborers
went to Albania in April 1940 to construct roads, railways and
Most of the Italian colonists in 1939 were men enrolled in the
so-called Albanian Militia
organization was an Albanian fascist
group, part of the
. Later even Albanians were
recruited in the group. It was headquartered in Tirana and consisted
of four legions in Tirana, Korçë, Vlorë and Shkodër.
The Albanian Militia was disbanded in 1943
following the fall of Italy in World War II.
There were nearly 1,000 women among the Italian colonists and some
of them remained in Albania after World War II, mainly because of
marriage with Albanians.
No Italian colonists remain in Albania now. The few who remained
under the communist regime of Enver Hoxha escaped (with their
descendants) to Italy in 1992.
- Fischer, Bernd Jürgen. Albania at War, 1939-1945.
Hurst. London, 1999 ISBN 1850655316
- Lamb, Richard. Mussolini as Diplomat. Fromm
International Ed. London, 1999 ISBN 088064244-0
- Payne, Stanley G. A History of Fascism, 1914-45.
University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, Wisc., 1995 ISBN
- Pearson, Owen. Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History:
Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45. Tauris
Publisher. New York, 2006 ISBN 1845111044, 9781845111045
- Rosselli, Alberto. Storie Segrete. Operazioni
sconosciute o dimenticate della seconda guerra mondiale
Iuculano Editore. Pavia, 2007
- Library of Congress Country Study of Albania