Republic of Albania
Republika e Shqipërisë
and largest city
|Recognised minority languages|
|Government||Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic|
|2 March 1444|
• Proclamation of independence from the Ottoman Empire
|28 November 1912|
• Principality of Albania (Recognised)
|29 July 1913|
|31 January 1925|
|1 September 1928|
|11 January 1946|
|28 December 1976|
• 4th Republic of Albania
|29 April 1991
28 November 1998
|28,748 km2 (11,100 sq mi) (140th)|
• Water (%)
• January 2017 estimate
• 2011 census
|98/km2 (253.8/sq mi) (63rd)|
|GDP (PPP)||2018 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2018 estimate|
• Per capita
|HDI (2018)|| 0.785
high · 68th
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
• Summer ( DST)
|Patron saint||Our Lady of Good Counsel|
|ISO 3166 code||AL|
Geographically, the country displays varied climatic, geological, hydrological and morphological conditions, defined in an area of 28,748 km2 (11,100 sq mi). It possesses remarkable diversity with the landscape ranging from the snow-capped mountains in the Albanian Alps as well as the Korab, Skanderbeg, Pindus and Ceraunian Mountains to the hot and sunny coasts of the Albanian Adriatic and Ionian Sea along the Mediterranean Sea.
Historically, the area of Albania was populated by various Illyrian, Thracian and Ancient Greek tribes as well as several Greek colonies established in the Illyrian coast. The area was annexed in the 3rd century by Romans and became an integral part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia, Macedonia and Illyricum. The autonomous Principality of Arbër emerged in 1190, established by archon Progon in the Krujë, within the Byzantine Empire. In the late thirteenth century, Charles of Anjou conquered Albanian territories from the Byzantines and established the medieval Kingdom of Albania, which at its maximal extension was extending from Durrës along the coast to Butrint in the south. In the mid-fifteenth century, it was conquered by the Ottomans.
The modern nation state of Albania emerged in 1912 following the defeat of the Ottomans in the Balkan Wars. The modern Kingdom of Albania was invaded by Italy in 1939, which formed Greater Albania, before becoming a Nazi German protectorate in 1943. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, a Communist state titled the People's Socialist Republic of Albania was founded under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour. The country experienced widespread social and political transformations in the communist era, as well as isolation from much of the international community. In the aftermath of the Revolutions of 1991, the Socialist Republic was dissolved and the fourth Republic of Albania was established.
Politically, the country is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic and developing country with an upper-middle income economy dominated by the tertiary sector followed by the secondary and primary sector. It went through a process of transition, following the end of communism in 1990, from a centralized to a market-based economy. It also provides universal health care and free primary and secondary education to its citizens.
The country is a member of the United Nations, World Bank, UNESCO, NATO, WTO, COE, OSCE and OIC. It is also an official candidate for membership in the European Union. In addition it is one of the founding members of the Energy Community, including the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and Union for the Mediterranean.
The term Albania is the medieval Latin name of the country. It may be derived from the Illyrian tribe of Albani (Albanian: Albanët) recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria, who drafted a map in 150 AD, which shows the city of Albanopolis located northeast of the city of Durrës. The term may have a continuation in the name of a medieval settlement called Albanon or Arbanon, although it is not certain that this was the same place. In his history written in the 10th century, the Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates was the first to refer to Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the Duke of Dyrrachium. During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country Arbëri or Arbëni and referred to themselves as Arbëreshë or Arbëneshë.
Nowadays, Albanians call their country Shqipëri or Shqipëria. As early as the 17th century the placename Shqipëria and the ethnic demonym Shqiptarë gradually replaced Arbëria and Arbëresh. The two terms are popularly interpreted as "Land of the Eagles" and "Children of the Eagles".
The first traces of human presence in Albania, dating to the Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic eras, were found in the village of Xarrë close to Sarandë and Dajti near Tiranë. The objects found in a cave near Xarrë include flint and jasper objects and fossilized animal bones, while those found at Mount Dajt comprise bone and stone tools similar to those of the Aurignacian culture. The Paleolithic finds of Albania show great similarities with objects of the same era found at Crvena Stijena in Montenegro and north-western Greece.
Several Bronze Age artefacts from tumulus burials have been unearthed in central and southern Albania that show close connection with sites in south-western Macedonia and Lefkada, Greece. Archaeologists have come to the conclusion that these regions were inhabited from the middle of the third millennium BC by Indo-European people who spoke a Proto-Greek language. A part of this population later moved to Mycenae around 1600 BC and founded the Mycenaean civilisation there.
In ancient times, the territory of modern Albania was mainly inhabited by a number of Illyrian tribes. The Illyrian tribes never collectively regarded themselves as 'Illyrians', and it is unlikely that they used any collective nomenclature for themselves. The name Illyrians seems to be the name applied to a specific Illyrian tribe, which was the first to come in contact with the ancient Greeks during the Bronze Age, causing the name Illyrians to be applied pars pro toto to all people of similar language and customs.
The territory known as Illyria corresponded roughly to the area east of the Adriatic sea, extending in the south to the mouth of the Vjosë river. The first account of the Illyrian groups comes from Periplus of the Euxine Sea, an ancient Greek text written in the middle of the 4th century BC. The south was inhabited by the Greek tribe of the Chaonians, whose capital was at Phoenice, while numerous colonies, such as Apollonia, Epidamnos and Amantia, were established by Greek city-states on the coast by the 7th century BC. The west was inhabited by the Thracian tribe of the Bryges.
The Illyrian tribe of the Ardiaei centered in Montenegro ruled over much of nowadays Albania. The Ardiaean Kingdom reached its greatest extent under Agron, son of Pleuratus II. Agron extended his rule over other neighboring tribes as well. After Agron's death in 230 BC, his wife Teuta inherited the Ardiaean kingdom. Teuta's forces extended their operations further southward into the Ionian Sea. In 229 BC, Rome declared war on the kingdom for extensively plundering Roman ships. The war ended in Illyrian defeat in 227 BC. Teuta was eventually succeeded by Gentius in 181 BC. Gentius clashed with the Romans in 168 BC, initiating the Third Illyrian War. The conflict resulted in Roman conquest of the region by 167 BC. After that the Roman split the region into three administrative divisions.
After the Roman Empire was divided into East and West in the 4th century, the territory of Albania remained within the Eastern Roman Empire. In the centuries that followed, the Balkan Peninsula suffered from the Barbarian invasions. The Illyrians are mentioned for the last time in a text from the 7th century. Towards the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries, Serbs and Venetians started to take possession over the territory.
The ethnogenesis of the Albanians is uncertain however the first undisputed mention of Albanians dates back in historical records from 1079 or 1080 in a work by Michael Attaliates, who referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople. At this point the Albanians were fully christianized.
The first semi-autonomous Albanian polity was formed in 1190, when archon Progon of Kruja established the Principality of Arbanon with the capital in Krujë within the Byzantine Empire. Progon, was succeeded by his sons Gjin and Dhimitri, the latter which attained the height of the realm. Following the death of Dhimiter, the last member of the Progon family, the principality came under the Albanian-Greek Gregory Kamonas and later Golem of Kruja. In the 13th century, the principality was dissolved. Arbanon is considered to be the first sketch of an Albanian state, that retained a semi-autonomous status as the western extremity of the Byzantine Empire, under the Byzantine Doukai of Epirus or Laskarids of Nicaea.
Few years after the dissolution of Arbanon, Charles of Anjou concluded an agreement with the Albanian rulers, promising to protect them and their ancient liberties. In 1272, he established the Kingdom of Albania and conquered regions back from the Despotate of Epirus. The kingdom claimed all of central Albania territory from Dyrrhachium along the Adriatic Sea coast down to Butrint. A catholic political structure was a basis for the papal plans of spreading Catholicism in the Balkan Peninsula. This plan found also the support of Helen of Anjou, a cousin of Charles of Anjou, who was at that time ruling territories in North Albania. Around 30 Catholic churches and monasteries were built during her rule mainly in Northern Albania. Internal power struggles within the Byzantine Empire in the fourteenth century, enabled Serbs' most powerful medieval ruler, Stefan Dusan, to establish a short-lived empire that included all of Albania except Durrës. In 1367, various Albanian rulers established the Despotate of Arta. During that time, several Albanian principalities were created, most notable amongst them the Balsha, Thopia, Kastrioti, Muzaka and Arianiti. In the first half of the 14th century, the Ottoman Empire invaded most of Albania and the League of Lezhë was held under Skanderbeg as a ruler, who became the national hero of the Albanian medieval history.
The Ottoman invasion of the territory of Albania marked a new era in its history and introduced enormous changes in the political and cultural environment of the area. The Ottomans erected their garrisons across the south of Albania in 1415 and occupied the majority in 1431 although they reached Albanian coast for first time at 1385. Upon their arrival, Islam was introduced in the country as a second religion resulting a massive emigration of Christian Albanians to other Christian European countries such as the Arbëreshë to Italy while Muslim Albanians gradually settled to Turkey and other part of the Ottoman Empire such as Algeria, Egypt and Iraq.
In 1443, a great and longstanding revolt broke out under the lead of Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg that lasted until 1479, many times defeating major Ottoman armies led by Murad II and Mehmed II. Skanderbeg united initially the princes of Albania and later on established a centralized authority over most of the non-conquered territories becoming the ruling Lord of Albania.
Skanderbeg pursued relentlessly but rather unsuccessfully to create a European coalition against the Ottomans. He thwarted every attempt by the Ottomans to regain Albania which they envisioned as a springboard for the invasion of Italy and Western Europe. His unequal fight against the mightiest power of the time, won the esteem of Europe as well as some financial and military aid from Naples, Venice, Sicily and the Papacy.
When the Ottomans were gaining a firm foothold in the region, Albanian towns were organised into four principal sanjaks. The government fostered trade by settling a sizeable Jewish colony of refugees fleeing persecution in Spain. The city of Vlorë saw passing through its ports imported merchandise from Europe such as velvets, cotton goods, mohairs, carpets, spices and leather from Bursa and Constantinople. Some citizens of Vlorë even had business associates throughout Europe.
As Muslims, some Albanians attained important political and military positions within the empire and culturally contributed to the wider Muslim world. Enjoying this privileged position, Muslim Albanians held various high administrative positions with over two dozen Albanian Grand Viziers among others Köprülü Mehmed Pasha, Köprülü Fazıl Ahmed and Muhammad Ali Pasha.
The most significant impact on the Albanians was the gradual Islamisation process of a large majority of the population, although it became widespread only in the 17th century. The process was an incremental one, commencing from the arrival of the Ottomans. Timar holders, the bedrock of early Ottoman control in Southeast Europe, were not necessarily converts to Islam, and occasionally rebelled, with the most famous of these being Skanderbeg.
Mainly Catholic Albanians converted in the 17th century, while the Orthodox Albanians followed suit mainly in the following century. Initially confined to the main city centres of Elbasan and Shkodër, by this period the countryside was also embracing the new religion. The motives for conversion according to some scholars were diverse, depending on the context. The lack of source material does not help when investigating such issues.
The origins of the Albanian Renaissance can be traced back to around the 19th century that was a very difficult period for Albania. During the period, the modern culture of Albania flourished especially in literature and art as well inspired by romanticism and enlightenment.
The victory of Russia over the Ottoman Empire following the Russian-Ottoman War resulted the execution of the Treaty of San Stefano that overlooked to assign Albanian-populated regions to the Slavic neighbors. The United Kingdom as well as Austria-Hungary consequently, blocked the arrangement and caused the Treaty of Berlin. At this point, Albanians started to organize themselves with the aim to protect and unite the Albanian-populated regions into a unitary nation. This led to the formation of the League of Prizren in the old town of Prizren.
At first the Ottoman authorities supported the League, whose initial position was based on the religious solidarity of Muslim landlords and people connected with the Ottoman administration. The Ottomans favoured and protected the Muslim solidarity and called for defense of Muslim lands, including present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was the reason for naming the league The Committee of the Real Muslims.
The league issued a decree known as Kararname that contained a proclamation that the people from northern Albania, Epirus and Bosnia are willing to defend the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire by all possible means against the troops of the kingdoms of Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro. However, it was signed by 47 Muslim deputies of the league on 18 June 1878. Approximately 300 Muslims participated in the assembly, including delegates from Bosnia and mutasarrif of the Sanjak of Prizren as representatives of the central authorities and no delegates from Vilayet of Scutari. [check quotation syntax]
The Ottomans cancelled their support when the league, under the influence of Abdyl Bey Frashëri, became focused on working toward the Albanian autonomy and requested merging of four Ottoman vilayets, which included Kosovo, Scutari, Monastir and Ioannina into a new vilayet within the empire, the Albanian Vilayet. The league used military force to prevent the annexing areas of Plav and Gusinje assigned to Montenegro by the Congress of Berlin. After several successful battles with Montenegrin troops such as in Novsice, under the pressure of the great powers, the league was forced to retreat from their contested regions of Plav and Gusinje and later on, the league was defeated by the Ottoman army sent by the Sultan.
The independence of Albania from the Ottoman Empire was proclaimed on 28 November 1912 by Ismail Qemali in Vlorë. Immediately after, the leaders of the Assembly of Vlorë established the senate as well as the first government of the country on 4 December 1912 that consisted of only ten members.
The country's independence was recognized by the Conference of London on 29 July 1913. The treaty delineated the borders of the country and its neighbors leaving many ethnic Albanians outside Albania. This population was largely divided between Montenegro and Serbia in the north and east and Greece in the south.
Headquartered in Vlorë, the International Commission of Control was established on 15 October 1913 to take care of the administration of newly established Albania, until its own political institutions were in order. The International Gendarmerie was established as the first law enforcement agency of the Principality of Albania. In November, the first gendarmerie members arrived in the country. Prince of Albania Wilhelm of Wied (Princ Vilhelm Vidi) was selected as the first prince of the principality. On 7 March, he arrived in the provisional capital of Durrës and started to organise his government, appointing Turhan Pasha Përmeti to form the first Albanian cabinet.
In November 1913, the Albanian pro-Ottoman forces had offered the throne of Albania to the Ottoman war Minister of Albanian origin, Ahmed Izzet Pasha. The pro-Ottoman peasants believed that, the new regime of the Principality of Albania was a tool of the six Christian Great Powers and local landowners, that owned half of the arable land.
In February 1914, the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus was proclaimed in Gjirokastër by the local Greek population against incorporation to Albania. This initiative was short lived and in 1921, the southern provinces were finally incorporated to the Albanian Principality. Meanwhile, the revolt of Albanian peasants against the new Albanian regime erupted under the leadership of the group of Muslim clerics gathered around Essad Pasha Toptani, who proclaimed himself the savior of Albania and Islam. In order to gain support of the Mirdita Catholic volunteers from the northern part of Albania, Prince Wied appointed their leader, Prênk Bibë Doda, to be the foreign minister of the Principality of Albania. In May and June 1914, the International Gendarmerie was joined by Isa Boletini and his men, mostly from Kosovo, and northern Mirdita Catholics, were defeated by the rebels who captured most of Central Albania by the end of August 1914. The regime of Prince Wied collapsed and later he left the country on 3 September 1914.
Following the end of the government of Fan Noli, the parliament adopted a new constitution and proclaimed the country as a parliamentary republic in which Zog I of Albania served as the head of state for a seven years term. Immediately after, Tirana was endorsed officially as the country's permanent capital.
The politics of Zogu was authoritarian and conservative with the primary aim of which was the maintenance of stability and order. He was forced to adopt a policy of cooperation with Italy where a pact had been signed between both countries, whereby Italy gained a monopoly on shipping and trade concessions. In 1928, the country was eventually replaced by another monarchy with a strong support by the fascist regime of Italy however, both maintained close relations until the Italian invasion of the country. Zogu remained a conservative but initiated reforms and placed great emphasis on the development of infrastructure.
In an attempt at social modernization, the custom of adding one's region to one's name was dropped. He also made donations of land to international organisations for the building of schools and hospitals. The armed forces were trained and supervised by instructors from Itala, as a counterweight, he kept British officers in the Gendarmerie despite strong Italian pressure to remove them.
After being militarily occupied by Italy from 1939 until 1943, the Kingdom of Albania was a protectorate and a dependency of the Kingdom of Italy governed by Victor Emmanuel III and his government. In October 1940, Albania served as a staging ground for an unsuccessful Italian invasion of Greece. A counterattack resulted in a sizable portion of southern Albania coming under Greek military control until April 1941 when Greece capitulated during the German invasion. In April 1941, territories of Yugoslavia with substantial Albanian population were annexed to Albania inclusively western Macedonia, a strip of eastern Montenegro, the town of Tutin in central Serbia and most of Kosovo[a].
Germans started to occupy the country in September 1943 subsequently announced that they would recognize the independence of a neutral Albania and set about organizing a new government, military and law enforcement. Balli Kombëtar, which had fought against Italy, formed a neutral government and side by side with the Germans fought against the communist-led National Liberation Movement of Albania.
During the last years of the war, the country fell into a civil war-like state between the communists and nationalists. The communist however defeated the last anti-communist forces in the south in 1944. Before the end of November, the main German troops had withdrawn from Tirana, and the communists took control by attacking it. The partisans entirely liberated the country from German occupation on 29 November 1944. A provisional government, which the communists had formed at Berat in October, administered Albania with Enver Hoxha as the head of government.
By the end of the Second World War, the main military and political force of the nation, the Communist party sent forces to northern Albania against the nationalists to eliminate its rivals. They faced open resistance in Nikaj-Mërtur, Dukagjin and Kelmend led by Prek Cali. On 15 January 1945, a clash took place between partisans of the first Brigade and nationalist forces at the Tamara Bridge, resulting in the defeat of the nationalist forces. About 150 Kelmendi[page needed] people were killed or tortured. This event was the starting point of many other issues which took place during Enver Hoxha's dictatorship. Class struggle was strictly applied, human freedom and human rights were denied. The Kelmend region was almost isolated by both the border and by a lack of roads for another 20 years, the institution of agricultural cooperatives brought about economic decline. Many Kelmendi people fled, some were executed trying to cross the border.
In the aftermath of World War II and the defeat of Nazi Germany, the country became initially a satellite state of the Soviet Union and Enver Hoxha emerged consequently as the leader of the newly established People's Republic of Albania. Soviet-Albanian relations began to deteriorate after Stalin's death in 1953. At this point, the country started to develop foreign relations with other communist countries among others with the People's Republic of China.
During this period, the country experienced an increasing industrialisation, a rapid collectivisation and an economic growth which led to a higher standard of living. The government called for the development of infrastructure and most notably the introduction of a railway system that completely revamped the transportation.
The new land reform laws were passed granting ownership of the land to the workers and peasants who tilled it. Agriculture became cooperative and production increased significantly, leading to the country's becoming agriculturally self-sufficient. In the field of education, illiteracy was eliminated among the country's adult population.
The average annual increase in the country's national income was 29% and 56% higher than the world and European average, respectively.[not in citation given]. The nation incurred large debts initially with Yugoslavia until 1948, then the Soviet Union until 1961 and China from the middle of the 1950s. The constitution of the communist regime did not allow taxes on individuals, instead, taxes were imposed on cooperatives and other organizations, with much the same effect.
Today a secular state without any official religion, religious freedoms and practices were severely curtailed during the communism with all forms of worship being outlawed. In 1945, the Agrarian Reform Law meant that large swaths of property owned by religious groups were nationalized, mostly the waqfs along with the estates of mosques, tekkes, monasteries and dioceses. Many believers, along with the ulema and many priests, were arrested and executed. In 1949, a new Decree on Religious Communities required that all their activities be sanctioned by the state alone.
After hundreds of mosques and dozens of Islamic libraries, containing priceless manuscripts were destroyed, Hoxha proclaimed Albania the world's first atheist state in 1967. The churches had not been spared either, and many were converted into cultural centers for young people. A 1967 law banned all fascist, religious, warmongerish, antisocialist activity and propaganda. Preaching religion carried a three to ten-year prison sentence.
Nonetheless, many Albanians continued to practice their beliefs secretly. The anti-religious policy of Hoxha attained its most fundamental legal and political expression a decade later: "The state recognizes no religion", states the 1976 constitution, "and supports and carries out atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people".
After forty years of communism and isolation as well as the revolutions of 1989, people and most notably students started to become politically active and consequently to campaign against the government that led to the transformation of the existing order. Following the popular support in the first multi-party elections of 1991, the communists retained a stronghold in the parliament until the victory in the general elections of 1992 led by the Democratic Party.
Considerable economic and financial resources have been devoted to the Ponzi pyramid schemes that were widely supported by the government. The schemes swept up somewhere between one sixth and one third of the population of the country. Despite the warnings of the International Monetary Fund, his excellency Sali Berisha defended the schemes as large investment firms, leading more people to redirect their remittances and sell their homes and cattle for cash to deposit in the schemes.
The schemes began to collapse in late 1996, leading many of the investors to join initially peaceful protests against the government, requesting their money back. The protests turned violent in February 1997 as government forces responded with fire. In March, the Police and Republican Guard deserted, leaving their armories open. These were promptly emptied by militias and criminal gangs. The resulting crisis caused a wave of evacuations of foreign nationals and refugees.
The crisis led both Aleksandër Meksi and Sali Berisha to resign from office in the wake of the general election. In April 1997, Operation Alba, a UN peacekeeping force led by Italy, entered the country with two goals exclusively to assist with the evacuation of expatriates and to secure the ground for international organizations. The main international organization, that was involved, was the Western European Union's multinational Albanian Police element, which worked with the government to restructure the judicial system and simultaneously the Albanian Police.
When the communism collapsed in 1990, Albania rediscovered foreign policy after decades of isolationism and began to develop closer ties considerably with other countries of Western Europe and the United States. At this point, its top foreign policy ambition was achieving integration into modern economic and security organizations.
Previously a member of the Warsaw Pact, the newly established democratic country broadly pursued an integrationist agenda in becoming a member of the NATO. The organisation invited Albania and Croatia to join the alliance at the 2008 Bucharest summit. In April 2014, it became a full member of the organisation and was among the first Southeast European countries to join the partnership for peace programme.
Albania applied to join the European Union, becoming an official candidate for accession to the European Union in June 2014. Although Albania received candidate status for the European Union membership in 2014 (based on its 2009 application), the European Union has twice rejected full membership. The European Parliament warned the Government leaders in early 2017 that the 2017 parliamentary elections in June must be free and fair before negotiations could begin to admit the country into the union.
On 23 June 2013, the eighth parliamentary elections took place, won by Edi Rama of the Socialist Party. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Albania has implemented numerous reforms focused on the modernizing the economy and democratizing of state institutions inclusively the judiciary and law enforcement of the country. Unemployment has been steadily reduced ranking 4th in terms of lowest unemployment rate in the Balkans. Rama has placed gender equality at the center of its agenda, since 2017 almost 50% of the ministers are female, making it the largest number of women serving in the country's history.
Albania is defined in an area of 28,748 square kilometres (11,100 square miles) and located on the Balkan Peninsula in South and Southeast Europe. Its coastline faces the Adriatic Sea to the northwest and the Ionian Sea to the southwest within the Mediterranean Sea.
The country lies mostly between latitudes 42° and 39° N, and longitudes 21° and 19° E. Its northernmost point is Vërmosh at 42° 35' 34" northern latitude; the southernmost is Konispol at 39° 40' 0" northern latitude; the westernmost point is Sazan Island at 19° 16' 50" eastern longitude; and the easternmost point is Vërnik at 21° 1' 26" eastern longitude. The highest point of the country is Mount Korab at 2,764 metres (9,068.24 ft) above the Adriatic. The lowest point is the Adriatic Sea at 0 metres (0.00 ft). The distance from the east to west is only 148 kilometres (92 mi), while from the north to south about 340 kilometres (211 mi).
For a small country, much of Albania rises into mountains and hills that run in different directions across the length and breadth of the country. The most extensive mountain ranges are the Albanian Alps in the north, the Korab Mountains in the east, the Pindus Mountains in the southeast, the Ceraunian Mountains in the southwest and the Skanderbeg Mountains in the center.
One of the most remarkable features about the country is the presence of numerous important lakes. The Lake of Shkodër is the largest lake in Southern Europe and located in northwest. In the southeast rises the Lake of Ohrid that is one of the oldest continuously existing lakes in the world. Further south extend the Large and Small Lake of Prespa that are among the highest positioned lakes in the Balkans.
Rivers originate mostly in the east of Albania and discharge into the Adriatic Sea in the west. The longest river in the country, measured from its mouth to its source, is probably the Drin that starts at the confluence of its two headwaters, the Black and White Drin. Though of particular concern is the Vjosë that represents one of the last intact large river systems in Europe.
The climate in the country is highly variable and diverse owing to the differences in latitude, longitude and altitude. Albania experiences predominantly a mediterranean and continental climate, with four distinct seasons. Defined by the Köppen classification, it accommodates five major climatic types ranging from mediterranean and subtropical in the western half to oceanic, continental and subarctic in the eastern half of Albania.
The warmest areas of the country are immediately located along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea Coasts. On the contrary, the coldest areas are positioned within the northern and eastern highlands. The mean monthly temperature ranges between −1 °C (30 °F) in winter to 21.8 °C (71.2 °F) in summer. The highest temperature of 43.9 °C (111.0 °F) was recorded in Kuçovë on 18 July 1973. The lowest temperature of −29 °C (−20 °F) was registered in the village of Shtyllë, Librazhd on 9 January 2017.
Rainfall varies from season to season and from year to year. The country receives most of precipitation in winter months and less in summer months. The average precipitation is about 1,485 millimetres (58.5 inches). The mean annual precipitation ranges between 600 millimetres (24 inches) and 3,000 millimetres (120 inches) depending on geographical location. The northwestern and southeastern highlands receive the higher amount of precipitation, whilst the northeastern and southwestern highlands as well as the western lowlands the smaller amount.
The Albanian Alps in the far north of the country are considered to be among the wettest regions of Europe receiving at least 3,100 mm (122.0 in) of rain annually. An expedition from the University of Colorado discovered four glaciers within these mountains at a relatively low altitude of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), which is almost unique for such a southerly latitude.
Snowfall occurs regularly in winter in the highlands of the country, particularly on the mountains in the north and east, including the Albanian Alps and Korab Mountains. Moreover, snow also falls on the coastal areas in the southwest almost every winter such as in the Ceraunian Mountains, where it can lie even beyond March.
A biodiversity hotspot, Albania possesses an exceptionally rich and contrasting biodiversity thanks to its geographical location at the center of the Mediterranean Sea and the great diversity in its climatic, geological and hydrological conditions. Its biodiversity is conserved in 14 national parks, 1 marine park, 4 ramsar sites, 1 biosphere reserve and 786 protected areas of different categories.
Due to remoteness, the mountains and hills are endowed with forests, trees and grasses that are essential to the lives for a wide variety of animals among other for two of the most iconic endangered species of the country, the lynx and brown bear, as well as the wildcat, gray wolf, red fox, golden jackal and last but not least for the egyptian vulture and golden eagle, the national animal of the country.
The estuaries, wetlands and lakes are particularly important for the greater flamingo, pygmy cormorant and the extremely rare and perhaps the most iconic bird of the country, the dalmatian pelican. Of particular importance are the mediterranean monk seal, loggerhead sea turtle and green sea turtle that use to nest on the country's coastal waters and shores.
In terms of phytogeography, Albania is part of the Boreal Kingdom and stretches specifically within the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal and Mediterranean Region. Its territory can be conventionally subdivided into four terrestrial ecoregions of the Palearctic ecozone inclusively the Illyrian deciduous forests, Balkan mixed forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Dinaric Mountains mixed forests.
Approximately 3,500 different species of plants can be found in Albania which refer mostly to a Mediterranean and Eurasian character. The country has a rich tradition of herbal and medicinal practices. At least 300 plants growing locally are used in the preparation of herbs and medicines. The trees within the forests are mostly made up of fir, oak, beech and pine.
In the 2010 Environmental Performance Index, Albania was ranked 23rd out of 163 countries in the world. In 2012, the country advanced from 23rd to 15th, whereas it had the highest ranking in South and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The country was the 24th greenest country in the world according to the 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index. Nevertheless, for 2016, the country was ranked the 13th best performing country on the Happy Planet Index by the United Nations.
The sovereign state of Albania is a unitary state defined in a total area of 28,748 square kilometres (11,100 square miles). It is apportioned into 12 counties each with their own council and administration. The counties are the country's primary administrative divisions and further subdivided into 61 municipalities. They are responsible for geographical, economic, social and cultural purposes inside the counties.
The counties were created on 31 July 2000 to replace the 36 former districts. The government introduced the new administrative divisions to be implemented in 2015, whereby municipalities were reduced to 61, while the rurals were abolished. The defunct municipalities are known as neighborhoods or villages. There are overall 2980 villages or communities in the entire country, formerly known as localities. The municipalities are the first level of local governance, responsible for local needs and law enforcement.
The largest county in Albania, by population, is Tirana County with over 800,000 people followed by Fier County with over 300,000 people. The smallest county, by population, is Gjirokastër County with over 70,000 people. The largest in the county, by area, is Korçë County encompassing 3,711 square kilometres (1,433 sq mi) of the southeast of Albania followed by Shkodër County with 3,562 square kilometres (1,375 sq mi) in the northwest of Albania. The smallest county, by area, is Durrës County with an area of 766 square kilometres (296 sq mi) in the west of Albania.
Albania is a parliamentary constitutional republic and sovereign state whose politics operate under a framework laid out in the constitution wherein the president functions as the head of state and the prime minister as the head of government. The sovereignty is vested in the Albanian people and exercised by the Albanian people through their representatives or directly.
The government is based on the separation and balancing of powers among the legislative, judiciary and executive. The legislative power is held by the parliament and is elected every four years by a system of party-list proportional representation by the Albanian people on the basis of free, equal, universal and periodic suffrage by secret ballot.
The civil law, codified and based on the Napoleonic Code, is divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and administrative courts. The judicial power is vested in the supreme court, constitutional court, appeal court and administrative court. Law enforcement in the country is primarily the responsibility of the Albanian Police, the main and largest state law enforcement agency. It carries out nearly all general police duties including criminal investigation, patrol activity, traffic policing and border control.
The executive power is exercised by the president and prime minister whereby the power of the president is very limited. The president is the commander-in-chief of the military and the representative of the unity of the Albanian people. The tenure of the president depends on the confidence of the parliament and is elected for a five-year term by the parliament by a majority of three-fifths of all its members. The prime minister, appointed by the president and approved by the parliament, is authorized to constitute the cabinet. The cabinet is composed primarily of the prime minister inclusively its deputies and ministers.
In the time since the end of communism and isolationism, Albania has extended its responsibilities and position in continental and international affairs, developing and establishing friendly relations with other countries around the world. Its main objectives are the accession into the European Union, the international recognition of Kosovo and the expulsion of Cham Albanians as well as helping and protecting the rights of the Albanians in Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece, Serbia, Italy and Diaspora.
The admission of Albania into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was considered by Albanian politicians as a primary ambition for the country. The country has been extensively engaged with the organization and has maintained its position as a stability factor and a strong ally of the United States and European Union in the troubled and divided region of the Balkans.
Albania and Kosovo are culturally, socially and economically very closely rooted due to the Albanian majority population in Kosovo. In 1998, the country contributed in supporting allied efforts to end the humanitarian tragedy in Kosovo and secure the peace after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
Albania enjoys friendly and close ties with the United States ever after it supported the country's independence and its democracy. In present day, the two countries have maintained close economic and defense relations and have signed a number of agreements and treaties. In 2007, Albania welcomed George W. Bush who became the first President of the United States ever to visit the country.
Albania has been an active member of the United Nations since 1955. They country took on membership for the United Nations Economic and Social Council from 2005 to 2007 as well as in 2012. It served as vice president of the ECOSOC in 2006 and 2013. In 2014, it also joined the United Nations Human Rights Council from 2015 to 2017 and was elected vice president in 2015. Albania is a full member of numerous international organizations inclusively the Council of Europe, International Organization for Migration, World Health Organization, Union for the Mediterranean, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and La Francophonie.
The Albanian Armed Forces consist of Land, Air and Naval Forces and constitute the military and paramilitary forces of the country. They are led by a commander-in-chief under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense and by the President as the supreme commander during wartime however, in times of peace its powers are executed through the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister.
The chief purpose of the armed forces of Albania is the defence of the independence, the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country, as well as the participation in humanitarian, combat, non-combat and peace support operations. Military service is voluntary since 2010 with the age of 19 being the legal minimum age for the duty.
Albania has committed to increase the participations in multinational operations. Since the fall of communism, the country has participated in six international missions but participated in only one United Nations mission in Georgia sending of 3 military observers. Since February 2008, Albania has participated officially in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea. It was invited to join NATO on 3 April 2008, and it became a full member on 2 April 2009.
Albania reduced the number of active troops from 65,000 in 1988 to 14,500 in 2009. The military now consists mainly of a small fleet of aircraft and sea vessels. In the 1990s, the country scrapped enormous amounts of obsolete hardware from China, such as tanks and SAM systems. Increasing the military budget was one of the most important conditions for NATO integration. Military spending has generally been low. As of 1996 military spending was an estimated 1.5% of the country's GDP, only to peak in 2009 at 2% and fall again to 1.5%.
The transition from a socialist planned economy to a capitalist mixed economy in Albania has been largely successful. The country has a developing mixed economy classified by the World Bank as an upper-middle income economy. In 2016, it had the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the Balkans with an estimated value of 14.7%. Its largest trading partners are Italy, Greece, China, Spain, Kosovo and the United States. The lek (ALL) is the country's currency and is pegged at approximately 132,51 lek per euro.
The cities of Tirana and Durrës constitute the economic and financial heart of Albania due to their high population, modern infrastructure and strategic geographical location. The country's most important infrastructure facilities take course through both of the cities, connecting the north to the south as well as the west to the east. Among the largest companies are the petroleum Taçi Oil, Albpetrol, ARMO and Kastrati, the mineral AlbChrome, the cement Antea, the investment BALFIN Group and the technology Albtelecom, Vodafone, Telekom Albania and others.
In 2012, Albania's GDP per capita stood at 30% of the European Union average, while GDP (PPP) per capita was 35%. Albania were one of three countries in Europe to record an economic growth in the first quarter of 2010 after the global financial crisis. The International Monetary Fund predicted 2.6% growth for Albania in 2010 and 3.2% in 2011. According to the Forbes as of December 2016[update], the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was growing at 2.8%. The country had a trade balance of −9.7% and unemployment rate of 14.7%. The Foreign direct investment has increased significantly in recent years as the government has embarked on an ambitious program to improve the business climate through fiscal and legislative reforms. The economy is expected to expand in the near term, driven by a recovery in consumption and robust investments. Growth is projected to be 3.2% in 2016, 3.5% in 2017, and 3.8% in 2018.
Agriculture in the country is based on small to medium-sized family-owned dispersed units. It remains a significant sector of the economy of Albania. It employs 41% of the population, and about 24.31% of the land is used for agricultural purposes. One of the earliest farming sites in Europe has been found in the southeast of the country. As part of the pre-accession process of Albania to the European Union, farmers are being aided through IPA funds to improve Albanian agriculture standards.
Albania produces significant amounts of fruits (apples, olives, grapes, oranges, lemons, apricots, peaches, cherries, figs, sour cherries, plums, and strawberries), vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, maize, onions, and wheat), sugar beets, tobacco, meat, honey, dairy products, traditional medicine and aromatic plants. Further, the country is a worldwide significant producer of salvia, rosemary and yellow gentian. The country's proximity to the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea give the underdeveloped fishing industry great potential. The World Bank and European Community economists report that, Albania's fishing industry has good potential to generate export earnings because prices in the nearby Greek and Italian markets are many times higher than those in the Albanian market. The fish available off the coasts of the country are carp, trout, sea bream, mussels and crustaceans.
Albania has one of Europe's longest histories of viticulture. The today's region was one of the few places where vine was naturally grown during the ice age. The oldest found seeds in the region are 4,000 to 6,000 years old. In 2009, the nation produced an estimated 17,500 tonnes of wine. During the communism, the production area expanded to some 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres).
The secondary sector of Albania have undergone many changes and diversification, since the collapse of the communist regime in the country. It is very diversified, from electronics, manufacturing, textiles, to food, cement, mining, and energy. The Antea Cement plant in Fushë-Krujë is considered as one of the largest industrial greenfield investments in the country. Albanian oil and gas is represents of the most promising albeit strictly regulated sectors of its economy. Albania has the second largest oil deposits in the Balkan peninsula after Romania, and the largest oil reserves in Europe. The Albpetrol company is owned by the Albanian state and monitors the state petroleum agreements in the country. The textile industry has seen an extensive expansion by approaching companies from the European Union (EU) in Albania. According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) as of 2016[update], the textile production marked an annual growth of 5.3% and an annual turnover of around 1.5 billion euros.
Albania is a significant minerals producer and is ranked among the world's leading chromium producers and exporters. The nation is also a notable producer of copper, nickel and coal. The Batra mine, Bulqizë mine, and Thekna mine are among the most recognised Albanian mines that are still in operation.
The tertiary sector represents the fastest growing sector of the country's economy. 36% of the population work in the service sector which contributes to 65% of the country's GDP. Ever since the end of the 20th century, the banking industry is a major component of the tertiary sector and remains in good conditions overall due to privatization and the commendable monetary policy.
Previously one of the most isolated and controlled countries in the world, telecommunication industry represents nowadays another major contributor to the sector. It developed largely through privatization and subsequent investment by both domestic and foreign investors. Eagle, Vodafone and Telekom Albania are the leading telecommunications service providers in the country.
Tourism is recognised as an industry of national importance and has been steadily increasing since the beginnings of the 21st century. It directly accounted for 8.4% of GDP in 2016 though including indirect contributions pushes the proportion to 26%. In the same year, the country received approximately 4.74 million visitors mostly from across Europe and the United States as well.
The increase of foreign visitors has been dramatic. Albania had only 500,000 visitors in 2005, while in 2012 had an estimated 4.2 million, an increase of 740 percent in only 7 years. In 2015, tourism in summer increased by 25 percent in contrast the previous year according to the country's tourism agency. In 2011, Lonely Planet named as a top travel destination,[not in citation given] while The New York Times placed Albania as number 4 global touristic destination in 2014.
The bulk of the tourist industry is concentrated along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea in the west of the country. However, the Albanian Riviera in the southwest has the most scenic and pristine beaches, and is often called the pearl of the Albanian coast. Its coastline has a considerable length of 446 kilometres (277 miles). The coast has a particular character because it is rich in varieties of virgin beaches, capes, coves, covered bays, lagoons, small gravel beaches, sea caves and many landforms. Some parts of this seaside are very clean ecologically, which represent in this prospective unexplored areas, which are very rare within the Mediterranean. Other attractions include the mountainous areas such as the Albanian Alps, Ceraunian Mountains and Korab Mountains but also the historical cities of Berat, Durrës, Gjirokastër, Sarandë, Shkodër and Korçë.
Transportation in Albania has undergone significant changes and improvements in the past two decades. Improvements to the public transport, road and rail infrastructure, water and air travel have all led to a vast improvement in transportation.
The international airport of Tirana serves as the premier gateway to the country and carries almost 2.5 million passengers per year with connections to many destinations in different countries around Europe. The country plans to increase the number of airports especially in the south with possible locations in Sarandë, Gjirokastër and Vlorë.
The roads of Albania are well maintained and still under construction. The A1 is the longest motorway of the country and represents a major transportation corridor in Albania. It will prospectively link Durrës on the Adriatic Sea across Pristina in Kosovo with the Pan-European Corridor X in Serbia. The A2 is part of the Adriatic–Ionian Corridor as well as the Pan-European Corridor VIII and connects Fier with Vlorë. The A3 is currently under construction and will connect, after its completion, Tirana and Elbasan with the Pan-European Corridor VIII. When all three corridors are completed, Albania will have an estimated 759 kilometres (472 mi) of highway linking it with all of its neighboring countries.
Durrës is the busiest and largest seaport in the country followed by Vlorë, Shëngjin and Sarandë. As of 2014[update], it is as one of the largest passenger ports on the Adriatic Sea with annual passenger volume of approximately 1.5 million. The ports serve a system of ferries connecting numerous islands and coastal cities in Croatia, Greece and Italy.
The rail network is administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare which was extensively promoted by the dictator Enver Hoxha. There has been a considerable increase in car ownership and bus usage while rail use decreased since the end of communism. However a new railway line from Tirana and its airport to Durrës is currently planned. The location of this railway, connecting the most populated urban areas in Albania, makes it an important economic development project.
In the country, education is secular, free, compulsory and based on three levels of education which is segmented in primary, secondary and tertiary education. The academic year is apportioned into two semesters beginning in September or October and ending in June or July. The use of the Albanian language serves as the primary language of instruction in all educational institutions across the country.
Compulsory primary education is divided into two levels, elementary and secondary school, from grade one to five and six to nine, respectively. Pupils are required to attend school from the age of six until they turn 16. Upon successful completion of primary education, all pupils are entitled to attend high schools with specializing in any particular field including arts, sports, languages, sciences or technology.
The country's tertiary education, an optional stage of formal learning following secondary education, has undergone a thorough reformation and restructuring in compliance with the principles of the Bologna Process. There is a significant number of private and public institutions of higher education well dispersed in the major cities of Albania. Studies in tertiary education are organized at three successive levels which include bachelor, master and doctorate.
The study of a first foreign language is mandatory and are taught most often at elementary and bilingual schools. The languages which are taught in schools are English, Italian, French and German. The country has a school life expectancy of 16 years and a literacy rate of 98.7%, with 99.2% for males and 98.3% for females.
Albania is mostly dependent on hydroelectricity. Almost 94.8% of the country's electricity consumption comes from hydroelectrical stations and ranks 7th in the world by percentage. There are six hydroelectric power stations, including Fierza, Koman, Skavica and Vau i Dejës situated within the Drin River. Further, there are two stations under construction, namely Banjë and Moglicë located in the Devoll River. Both are expected to be completed between 2016 and 2018.
Albania has considerably large deposits of oil. It has the 10th largest oil reserves in europe and the 58th in the world. The country's main petroleum deposits are located around the Albanian Adriatic Sea Coast and Myzeqe Plain within the Western Lowlands, where the country's largest reserve is located. Although, Patos-Marinza, also located within the area, is the largest onshore oil field in Europe.
In 2015, 498 kilometres (309 mi) of natural gas pipelines and 249 kilometres (155 mi) of oil pipelines spanned the country's territory. The planned Trans Adriatic Pipeline, a major trans Adriatic Sea gas pipeline, will delivers natural gas from Azerbaijan to Albania and Western Europe through Italy and will be completed in 2020.
Further, Albania and Croatia have discussed the possibility of jointly building a nuclear power plant at Lake Shkodër, close to the border with Montenegro, a plan that has gathered criticism from Montenegro due to seismicity in the area. In 2009, the company Enel announced plans to build an 800 MW coal-fired power plant in the country, to diversify electricity sources.
Technology and media
With the political and economic changings in 1993, human resources in sciences and technology have drastically decreased. As of various reports, during 1991 to 2005 approximately 50% of the professors and scientists of the universities and science institutions in the country have left Albania. In 2009, the government approved the National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation in Albania covering the period 2009 to 2015. It aims to triple public spending on research and development to 0.6% of GDP and augment the share of GDE from foreign sources, including the framework programmes for research of the European Union, to the point where it covers 40% of research spending, among others.
Albania has an estimated 257 media outlets, including 66 radio stations and 67 television stations, with 65 national and more than 50 cable television stations. Radio began officially in 1938 with the founding of Radio Televizioni Shqiptar, while television broadcasting began in 1960. 4 regional radio stations serve in the four extremities of the country. The international service broadcasts radio programmes in Albanian including seven other languages through medium wave and short wave, using the theme from the song "Keputa një gjethe dafine" as its signature tune. The international television service through satellite was launched since 1993 and aims at Albanian communities in the neighboring countries and the Albanian diaspora. Nowadays, the country has organized several shows as a part of worldwide series like Dancing with the Stars, Big Brother, Got Talent, The Voice and X Factor.
The constitution of Albania guarantees equal, free and universal health care for all its citizens. The health care system of the country is currently organized in three levels, among others primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare, and is in a process of modernisation and development.
The life expectancy at birth in Albania is at 77.8 years and ranks 37th in the world outperforming several developed countries. The average healthy life expectancy is at 68.8 years and ranks as well 37th in the world. The country's infant mortality rate is estimated at 12 per 1,000 live births in 2015. In 2000, the country had the 55th best healthcare performance in the world, as defined by the World Health Organization.
Cardiovascular disease is the principal cause of death in the country accounting 52% of total deaths. Accidents, injuries, malignant and respiratory diseases are other major causes of death. Neuropsychiatric disease has increased also due to recent demographic, social and economic changes in the country.
In 2009, the country had a fruit and vegetable supply of 886 grams per capita per day, the fifth highest supply in Europe. In comparison to other developed and developing countries, Albania has a relatively low rate of obesity probably thanks to the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. According to World Health Organisation data from 2016, 21.7% of adults in the country are clinically obese, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) score of 25 or more.
The population of Albania, as defined by Institute of Statistics, was estimated in 2016 to be approximately 2,886,026. The country's total fertility rate of 1.51 children born per woman is one of the lowest in the world. Its population density stands at 259 inhabitants per square kilometre. The overall life expectancy at birth is 78.5 years; 75.8 years for males and 81.4 years for females. The country is the 8th most populous country in the Balkans and ranks as the 137th most populous country in the world. The population of the country rose steadily from 2,5 million in 1979 until 1989, when it peaked at 3.1 million. It is forecasted that the population should not reach its peak number of 1989 until 2031, depending on the actual birth rate and the level of net migration.
The explanation for the recent population decrease is the fall of communism in Albania. It was marked by large economic mass emigration from Albania to Greece, Italy and the United States. 40 years of isolation from the world, combined with its disastrous economic, social and political situation, had caused this exodus. The external migration was prohibited outright during the communism, while internal migration was quite limited, hence this was a new phenomenon. At least, 900,000 people left Albania during this period, about 600,000 of them settling in Greece. The migration affected the country's internal population distribution. It decreased particularly in the north and south, while it increased in the center within the cities of Tirana and Durrës. According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) as of 1 January 2015[update], the population of Albania is 2,893,005.
About 53.4% of the country's population is living in cities. The three largest counties by population account for half of the total population. Almost 30% of the total population is found in Tirana County followed by Fier County with 11% and Durrës County with 10%. Over 1 million people are concentrated in Tirana and Durrës, making it the largest urban area in Albania. Tirana is one of largest cities in the Balkan Peninsula and ranks 7th with a population about 800,000. The second largest city in the country by population is Durrës, with a population of 201.110, followed by Vlorë with a population of 141.513.
|The country's largest urban areas by population as of 2011[update].|
Issues of ethnicity are a delicate topic and subject to debate. Contrary to official statistics that show an over 97 per cent Albanian majority in the country, minority groups (such as Greeks, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Roma and Aromanians) have frequently disputed the official numbers, asserting a higher percentage of the country's population. According to the disputed 2011 census, ethnic affiliation was as follows: Albanians 2,312,356 (82.6% of the total), Greeks 24,243 (0.9%), Macedonians 5,512 (0.2%), Montenegrins 366 (0.01%), Aromanians 8,266 (0.30%), Romani 8,301 (0.3%), Balkan Egyptians 3,368 (0.1%), other ethnicities 2,644 (0.1%), no declared ethnicity 390,938 (14.0%), and not relevant 44,144 (1.6%). On the quality of the specific data the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities stated that "the results of the census should be viewed with the utmost caution and calls on the authorities not to rely exclusively on the data on nationality collected during the census in determining its policy on the protection of national minorities.".
Albania recognizes nine national or cultural minorities: Greek, Macedonian, Wallachian, Montenegrin, Serb, Roma, Egyptian, Bosnian and Bulgarian peoples. Other Albanian minorities are Gorani, Aromanians and Jews. Regarding the Greeks, "it is difficult to know how many Greeks there are in Albania". The estimates vary between 60,000 and 300,000 ethnic Greeks in Albania. According to Ian Jeffries, most of Western sources put the number at around 200,000. The 300,000 mark is supported by Greek government as well. The CIA World Factbook estimates the Greek minority at 0.9% of the total population. The US State Department uses 1.17% for Greeks and 0.23% for other minorities. The latter questions the validity of the census data about the Greek minority, due to the fact that measurements have been affected by boycott.
Macedonian and some Greek minority groups have sharply criticized Article 20 of the Census law, according to which a $1,000 fine will be imposed on anyone who will declare an ethnicity other than what is stated on his or her birth certificate. This is claimed to be an attempt to intimidate minorities into declaring Albanian ethnicity, according to them the Albanian government has stated that it will jail anyone who does not participate in the census or refuse to declare his or her ethnicity. Genc Pollo, the minister in charge has declared that: "Albanian citizens will be able to freely express their ethnic and religious affiliation and mother tongue. However, they are not forced to answer these sensitive questions". The amendments criticized do not include jailing or forced declaration of ethnicity or religion; only a fine is envisioned which can be overthrown by court.
Greek representatives form part of the Albanian parliament and the government has invited Albanian Greeks to register, as the only way to improve their status. On the other hand, nationalists, various organizations and political parties in Albania have expressed their concern that the census might artificially increase the numbers of the Greek minority, which might be then exploited by Greece to threaten Albania's territorial integrity.
Albanian is the official language of the Republic of Albania. Its standard spoken and written form is revised and merged from the two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk, though it is notably based more on the Tosk dialect. The Shkumbin river is the rough dividing line between the two dialects. Also a dialect of Greek that preserves features now lost in standard modern Greek is spoken in areas inhabited by the Greek minority. Other languages spoken by ethnic minorities in Albania include Aromanian, Serbian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Gorani, and Roma. Macedonian is official in the Pustec Municipality in East Albania. According to the 2011 population census, 2,765,610 or 98.767% of the population declared Albanian as their mother tongue (mother tongue is defined as the first or main language spoken at home during childhood).
Greek is the second most-spoken language in the country, with 0.5 to 3% of the population speaking it as first language, and with two-thirds of mainly Albanian families having at least one member that speaks Greek, most having learned it in the post communist era (1992–present) due to private schools or migration to Greece. Outside of the small designated "minority area" in the south the teaching of Greek was banned during the communist era. As of 2003 Greek is offered at over 100 private tutoring centers all over Albania and at a private school in Tirana, the first of its kind outside Greece.
In recent years, the shrinking number of pupils in schools dedicated to the Greek minority has caused problems for teachers. The Greek language is spoken by an important percentage in the southern part of the country, due to cultural and economic links with adjacent Greece. In a 2017 study carried out by Instat, the Albanian government statistical agency, 39.9% of the 25–64 years old is able to use at least one foreign language, with English first at 40.0%, followed by Italian with 27.8% and Greek with 22.9%. Among young people aged 25 or less, English, German and Turkish have seen a rising interest after 2000. Italian and French have had a stable interest, while Greek has lost most of the interest. The trends are linked with cultural and economic factors.
The young people have shown a growing interest in German language in recent years. Some of them go to Germany for studying or various experiences. Albania and Germany have agreements for cooperating in helping young people of the two countries know both cultures better. Due to a sharp rise in economic relations with Turkey, interest in learning Turkish, in particular among young people, has been growing on a yearly basis. Young people, attracted by economic importance of Turkish investments and common values between the two nations, gain from cultural and academic collaboration of universities. In 2011 Turkish-owned Epoka University, where Turkish along with English and French is taught, was chosen the best foreign-owned university in Albania.
Albania is a secular state without an official religion, with the freedom of religion being a constitutional right. The 2011 census, for the first time since 1930, included an optional open-ended question on religion; the census recorded a majority of Muslims (58.79%), which include Sunni (56.70%) and Bektashi Muslims (2.09%). Christians, making up 16.92% of the population, include Roman Catholics (10.03%), Orthodox (6.75%) and evangelical Protestants (0.14%). Atheists accounted for 2.5% of the population and 5.49% were non-affiliated believers, while 13.79% preferred not to answer.
The preliminary results of the 2011 census seemed to give widely different results, with 70% of respondents refusing to declare belief in any of the listed faiths. The Albanian Orthodox Church officially refused to recognize the results, claiming that 24% of the total population adhered to its faith. Some Muslim Community officials expressed unhappiness with the data claiming that many Muslims were not counted and that the number of adherents numbered some 70% of the Albanian population. The Albanian Catholic Bishops Conference also cast doubts on the census, complaining that many of its believers were not contacted. The Muslim Albanians are spread throughout the country. Orthodox and Bektashis are mostly found in the south, whereas Catholics mainly live in the north. In 2008, there were 694 Catholic churches and 425 orthodox churches, 568 mosques and 70 bektashi tekkes in the country.
Religious tolerance is one of the most important values of the tradition of the Albanians. It is widely accepted that Albanians generally value a peaceful coexistence among the believers of different religious communities in the country. During an official visit in Tirana, Pope Francis hailed Albania as model of religious harmony, due to the long tradition of religious coexistence and tolerance. The country is ranked among the least religious countries in the world. Furthermore, religion plays an important role in the lives of only 39% of the country's population. In the WIN/Gallup International Report of 2016, 56% of the Albanian people considered themselves religious, 30% considered themselves non-religious, while 9% defined themselves as convinced atheists; 80% believed in God and 40% believed in life after death. However, 40% believed in hell, while 42% believed in heaven.
During classical times, there are thought to have been about seventy Christian families in Durrës, as early as the time of the Apostles. The Archbishopric of Durrës was purportedly founded by Paul the Apostle, while preaching in Illyria and Epirus. Meanwhile, in medieval times, the Albanian people first appeared within historical records from the Byzantines. At this point, they were mostly Christianized. Islam arrived for the first time in the late 9th century to the region, when Arabs raided parts of the eastern banks of the Adriatic Sea. It later emerged as the majority religion, during the centuries of Ottoman Period, though a significant Christian minority remained.
During modern times, the Albanian republican, monarchic and later communist regimes followed a systematic policy of separating religion from official functions and cultural life. The country has never had an official 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 1950s and 1960s, under the state policy of obliterating all organized religion from the territories of Albania. The communist regime persecuted and suppressed religious observance and institutions and entirely banned religion. The country was then officially declared to be the world's first atheist state. Although, the country's religious freedom has returned, since the end of communism.
Islam survived communist era persecution and reemerged in the modern era as a practiced religion in Albania. Some smaller Christian sects in Albania include Evangelicals and several Protestant communities including Seventh-day Adventist Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses. The first recorded Protestant of Albania was Said Toptani, who traveled around Europe and returned to Tirana in 1853, where he preached Protestantism. Due to that, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Ottoman authorities in 1864. First evangelical Protestants appeared in the 19th century and the Evangelical Alliance was founded in 1892. Nowadays, it has 160 member congregations from different Protestant denominations.
Albania was the only country in Europe where the Jewish population increased significantly during the Holocaust. Following the mass emigration to Israel, since the fall of communism, only 200 Albanian Jews are left in the country.
Albania shares many symbols associated with its history, culture and belief. These include the colours red and black, animals such as the golden eagle living across the country, costumes such as the fustanella, plis and opinga which are worn to special events and celebrations, plants such as the olive and red poppy growing as well across the country.
The flag of Albania is a red flag with a black double-headed eagle in the centre. The red colour symbolizes the bravery, strength and valour of the Albanian people and the black colour appears as a symbol of freedom and heroism. The eagle has been used by Albanians since the Middle Ages including the establishment of the Principality of Arbër and by numerous noble ruling families such as the Kastrioti, Muzaka, Thopia and Dukagjini. Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, who fought and began a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire which halted Ottoman advance into Europe for nearly 25 years, placed the double-headed eagle on his flag and seal.
The country's national motto, Ti Shqipëri, më jep nder, më jep emrin Shqipëtar, finds its origins in the early 19th century. The first to express this motto was Naim Frashëri in his poem Ti Shqipëri më jep nder. This poem is notable as refers to the values and ambitions of the Albanian people to remain separate from and independent of, those neighbouring countries around it, which have tried to dominate it.
The duart e kryqëzuara, also referred to as the eagle gesture, is a gesture performed particularly by the Albanian people around the world in order to visually illustrate the double-headed eagle, the symbol of Albania.
In the course of the centuries, Albanian cuisine has been widely influenced by the culture, geography and history of Albania and therefore different parts of the country have a specific regional cuisine. The cooking traditions vary especially between the north and the south owing to differing topography and climate that contribute to the excellent growth conditions for a wide array of herbs, fruits and vegetables.
Albanians produces and uses many varieties of fruits such as lemons, oranges, figs and most notably olives which are perhaps the most important element of Albanian cooking. Spices and other herbs such as basil, lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme are widely used, as are vegetables such as garlics, onions, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes as well as legumes of all types.
While having a coastline along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea of the Mediterranean Sea, fish, crustaceans and seafood are a popular and an integral part of the Albanian diet. Otherwise lamb is the traditional meat for different holidays and religious festivals for both Christians and Muslims, and poultry, beef, and pork are also in plentiful supply.
Tavë Kosi is a national dish in Albania and consists of garlicky lamb and rice baked under a thick, tart veil of yogurt. Fërgesë is another national dish in the country and is made up with peppers, tomatoes and cottage cheese. Another beloved dish is Pite which is generally a filled and baked pastry with a filling of a mixture of spinach and gjizë or mish as it is known in Albania.
Petulla, a traditionally fried dough, is as well a popular speciality and is served with powdered sugar or feta cheese and different sorts of fruit jams. Also popular is Flia consisting of multiple crepe-like layers brushed with cream and served with sour cream. Krofne, similar to Berliner, are filled with jam, or chocolate and often eaten during the cold winter months.
Coffee is very much a part of the people's lifestyle in Albania. Different variations of coffee is best enjoyed within the family or friends but also outside at cafés or bars. A small country in size, Albania ranked first with the most coffee houses per capita in the world.
Tea is enjoyed both at home or outside at cafés, bars or restaurants. Çaj Mali is enormously beloved and is part of a daily routine for most of the Albanians. It is cultivated across Southern Albania and noted for its medicinal properties. Black tea with a slice of lemon and sugar, milk or honey is also a popular type of tea.
Wine drinking is popular throughout the Albanians. The country has a long and ancient history of wine production, as it belongs to the old world of wine producing countries. Its wine is characterized for its sweet taste and traditionally indigenous varieties.
The architecture of Albania reflects the legacy of various civilizations tracing back to the classical antiquity. Major cities in Albania have evolved from within the castle to include dwellings, religious and commercial structures, with constant redesigning of town squares and evolution of building techniques. Nowadays, the cities and towns reflect a whole spectrum of various architectural styles. In the 20th century, many historical as well as sacred buildings bearing the ancient influence were demolished during the communism.
Ancient architecture is found throughout Albania and most visible in Byllis, Amantia, Phoenice, Apollonia, Butrint, Antigonia, Shkodër and Durrës. Considering the long period of rule of the Byzantine Empire, they introduced castles, citadels, churches and monasteries with spectacular wealth of visible murals and frescos. Perhaps the best known examples can be found in the southern Albanian cities and surroundings of Korçë, Berat, Voskopojë and Gjirokastër. Involving the introduction of Ottoman architecture there was a development of mosques and other Islamic buildings, particularly seen in Berat and Gjirokastër.
A productive period of Historicism, Art Nouveau and Neoclassicism merged into the 19th century, best exemplified in Korçë. The 20th century brought new architectural styles such as the modern Italian style, which is present in Tirana such as the Skanderbeg Square and Ministries. It is also present in Shkodër, Vlorë, Sarandë and Durrës. Moreover, other towns received their present-day Albania-unique appearance through various cultural or economic influences.
Socialist classicism arrived during the communism in Albania after the Second World War. At this period many socialist-styled complexes, wide roads and factories were constructed, while town squares were redesigned and numerous of historic and important buildings demolished. Notable examples of that style include the Mother Teresa Square, Pyramid of Tirana, Palace of Congresses and so on.
Two Albanian archaeological sites are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include the ancient remains of Butrint and the medieval Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastër. Furthermore, the natural and cultural heritage of Ohrid, the royal Illyrian tombs, the remains of Apollonia, the ancient Amphitheatre of Durrës and the Fortress of Bashtovë has been included on the tentative list of Albania.
The Albanian folk music is a prominent section of the national identity and continues to play a major part in Albanian music. Although, it can be divided into two stylistic groups, as performed by the northern Ghegs and southern Labs and Tosks. The northern and southern traditions are contrasted by the rugged tone of the north and the relaxed form of the south.
Many of the songs are about events from history and culture, including the traditional themes about honour, hospitality, treachery and revenge. The first compilation of Albanian folk music was made by two Himariot musicians Neço Muka and Koço Çakali in Paris, during their interpretations with the song Diva Tefta Tashko Koço. Several gramophone compilations were recorded in those years by this genial trio of artists which eventually led to the recognition of the Himariot Isopolyphonic Music as an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.
The contemporary music artists Rita Ora, Bebe Rexha, Era Istrefi, Dua Lipa, Bleona, Elvana Gjata, Ermonela Jaho and Inva Mula have achieved international recognition for their music. Sporano Ermonela Jaho has been described by The Economist as the World's most acclaimed Soprano. One widely recognized musician from Elbasan is Saimir Pirgu, an Albanian international opera singer. He was nominated for the 2017 Grammy Award.
Every cultural and geographical region of Albania has its own specific variety of costume that vary in style, material, color, shape, detail and form. Presently, the national costumes are most often worn with connection to special events and celebrations, mostly at ethnic festivals, religious holidays, weddings and by dancing groups as well. Some conservative old men and women mainly from the high northern as well as southern regions and wear traditional clothing in their daily lives. The clothing was made mainly of products from the local agriculture and livestock such as leather, wool, linen, hemp fiber and silk. Nowadays, the traditional textiles are still embroidered in very collaborate ancient patterns.
The visual arts tradition of Albania has been shaped by the many cultures, which have flourished on its territory. Once the Byzantines, the Ottomans ruled over Albania for nearly five centuries, which greatly affected the country's artwork and artistic forms. After Albania's joining with the Ottoman Empire in 1478, Ottoman influenced art forms such as mosaic and mural paintings became prevalent and no real artistic change occurred until the independence in 1912.
Following mosaics and murals from Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the first paintings were icons Byzantine traditions. Albanian earliest icons date from the late 13th century and generally estimated that their artistic peak reached in the 18th century. Among the most prominent representatives of the Albanian iconographic art were Onufri and David Selenica. The museums of Berat, Korçë and Tirana houses good collections remaining icons.
By the end of the Ottoman rule, the painting was limited mostly to folk art and ornate mosques. Paintings and sculpture arose in the first half of the twentieth century and reached a modest peak in the 1930s and 1940s, when the first organized art exhibitions at national level. Contemporary Albanian artwork captures the struggle of everyday Albanians, however new artists are utilizing different artistic styles to convey this message. Albanian artists continue to move art forward, while their art still remains distinctively Albanian in content. Though among Albanian artist post-modernism was fairly recently introduced, there is a number of artists and works known internationally. Among the most prominent Albanian post-modernist are considered Anri Sala, Sislej Xhafa, and Helidon Gjergji.
The Albanian language comprises its own branch of the Indo-European language family. The language is considered an isolate within the Indo-European. The only other languages that are the sole surviving member of a branch of Indo-European are Armenian and Greek. It was proved to be an Indo-European language in 1854 by the German philologist Franz Bopp. Albanian is often held to be related to the Illyrian languages, a language spoken in the Balkans during classical times. Scholars argue that Albanian derives from Illyrian while some others claim that it derives from Daco-Thracian. (Illyrian and Daco-Thracian, however, might have been closely related languages; see Thraco-Illyrian.)
The cultural renaissance was first of all expressed through the development of the Albanian language in the area of church texts and publications, mainly of the Catholic region in the northern of Albania, 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 Martin Luther did for the German language. Meshari (The Missal) written by Gjon Buzuku was published in 1555 and is considered as one of the first literary work of written Albanian during the Middle Ages. The refined level of the language and the stabilised orthography must be the result of an earlier tradition of written Albanian, a tradition that is not well understood. However, there is some fragmented evidence, pre-dating Buzuku, which indicates that Albanian was written from at least the 14th century. The earliest evidence dates from 1332 AD with a Latin report from the French Dominican Guillelmus Adae, Archbishop of Antivari, who wrote that Albanians used Latin letters in their books although their language was quite different from Latin. Other significant examples include: a baptism formula (Unte paghesont premenit Atit et Birit et spertit senit) from 1462, written in Albanian within a Latin text by the Bishop of Durrës, Pal Engjëlli; a glossary of Albanian words of 1497 by Arnold von Harff, a German who had travelled through Albania, and a 15th-century fragment of the Bible from the Gospel of Matthew, also in Albanian, but written in Greek letters.
Albanian writings from 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 Siege of Shkodër (Rrethimi i Shkodrës) from 1504, confirms that he leafed through such chronicles written in the language of the people (in vernacula lingua) as well as his famous biography of Skanderbeg Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi Epirotarum principis (History of Skanderbeg) from 1508. The History of Skanderbeg is still the foundation of Skanderbeg studies and is considered an Albanian cultural treasure, vital to the formation of Albanian national self-consciousness.
During the 16th and the 17th centuries, the catechism (E mbësuame krishterë) (Christian Teachings) from 1592 written by Lekë Matrënga, (Doktrina e krishterë) (The Christian Doctrine) from 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 in the 20th and 21st century is probably Ismail Kadare. He has been mentioned as a possible recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature several times.
Cinematography became popular in the 20th century, when foreign films and documentaries were shown in the cities of Shkodër and Korçë. The first public showing to occur in Albania was a little-known title, Paddy the Reliable a comical story.
The first Albanian films were mostly documentaries; the first was about the Monastir Congress that sanctioned the Albanian alphabet in 1908. During communism, the Albanian Film Institute that later became known as Kinostudio Shqipëria e Re was founded with Soviet assistance, focusing mostly on propaganda of wartime struggles. After 1945, the communist government founded the Kinostudio Shqipëria e Re in 1952. This was followed by the first Albanian epic film, the Great Warrior Skanderbeg, a cooperation with Soviet artists chronicling the life and fight of the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg. In addition the film was awarded the International Prize at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival.
By 1990, about 200 movies had been produced, and Albania had over 450 theaters. With the economic transition after the collapse of communism in the 1990s, the Kinostudio was broken up and privatised. A new National Center of Cinematography was established, while cities built modern cinema theatres showing mostly American movies. The Tirana International Film Festival was established in 2003 and has become the premier and largest film festival in the country as well as in the Balkans. Durrës hosts the International Film Summerfest of Durrës, the second largest international film festival in the country which takes place every year in late August or early September in Durrës Amphitheatre.
Notable Albanian film directors include Andamion Murataj, Besim Sahatçiu, Xhanfize Keko, Dhimitër Anagnosti, Kujtim Çashku, Luljeta Hoxha, Saim Kokona, Saimir Kumbaro, Kristaq Mitro, Leon Qafzezi and Gjergj Xhuvani. Famous actors in Albania include Nik Xhelilaj, Klement Tinaj, Masiela Lusha, Blerim Destani, Aleksandër Moisiu, Tinka Kurti, Pjetër Malota, Sandër Prosi and Margarita Xhepa.
There are internationally renowned actors in the Albanian diaspora, such as the Albanian-Americans Eliza Dushku, Jim and John Belushi, Kosovo-Albanians Bekim Fehmiu and Arta Dobroshi and Turkish-Albanian Barish Arduç.
Albania participated at the Olympic Games in 1972 for the first time. The country made their Winter Olympic Games debut in 2006. Albania missed the next four games, two of them due to the 1980 and 1984 boycotts, but returned for the 1992 games in Barcelona. Since then, Albania have participated in all games. Albania normally competes in events that include swimming, athletics, weightlifting, shooting and wrestling. The country have been represented by the National Olympic Committee of Albania since 1972. The nation has participated at the Mediterranean Games since the games of 1987 in Syria. The Albanian athletes have won a total of 43 (8 gold, 17 silver and 18 bronze) medals from 1987 to 2013.
Popular sports in Albania include Football, Weightlifting, Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis, Swimming, Rugby, and Gymnastics. Football is by far the most popular sport in Albania. It is governed by the Football Association of Albania (Albanian: Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit, F.SH.F.), which was created in 1930 and has membership in FIFA and UEFA. Football arrived in Albania early in the 20th century when the inhabitants of the northern city of Shkodër were surprised to see a strange game being played by students at a Christian mission.
The Albania national football team, ranking 51st in the World in 2017 (highest 22nd on 22 August 2015) have won the 1946 Balkan Cup and the Malta Rothmans International Tournament 2000, but had never participated in any major UEFA or FIFA tournament, until UEFA Euro 2016, Albania's first ever appearance at the continental tournament and at a major men's football tournament. Albania scored their first ever goal in a major tournament and secured their first ever win in European Championship when they beat Romania by 1–0 in a UEFA Euro 2016 match on 19 June 2016. The most successful football clubs in the country are Skënderbeu, KF Tirana, Dinamo Tirana, Partizani and Vllaznia.
Weightlifting is one of the most successful individual sport for the Albanians, with the national team winning medals at the European Weightlifting Championships and the rest international competitions. Albanian weightlifters have won a total of 16 medals at the European Championships with 1 of them being gold, 7 silver and 8 bronze. In the World Weightlifting Championships, the Albanian weightlifting team has won in 1972 a gold in 2002 a silver and in 2011 a bronze medal.
Historically, the Albanian people have established several communities in many regions throughout Southern Europe. The Albanian diaspora has been formed since the late Middle Ages, when they emigrated to places such as Italy, especially in Sicily and Calabria, and Greece to escape either various socio-political difficulties or the Ottoman conquest of Albania. Following the fall of communism, large numbers of Albanians have migrated to countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Scandinavia, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. Albanian minorities are present in the neighboring territories such as the west of North Macedonia, the east of Montenegro, Kosovo in its entirety and southern Serbia. In Kosovo, Albanians make up the largest ethnic group in the country. Altogether, the number of ethnic Albanian living abroad its territory is estimated to be higher than the total population inside the territory of Albania.
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