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Republic of Albania

Republika é Shqipërisë


FLAG: The flag consists of a red background at the center of which is a black double-headed eagle.

ANTHEM: Hymni i Flamúrit (Anthem of the Flag) begins "Rreth flamúrit të për bashkuar" ("The flag that united us in the struggle").

MONETARY UNIT: The lek (l) of 100 qindarka is a convertible paper currency. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, 50 qindarka, and 1 lek, and notes of 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 leks. l1 = $0.00970 (or $1 = l103.07) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; International Women's Day, 8 March; Independence Day, 28 November; Christmas Day, 25 December. Movable Islamic and Christian religious holidays include Small Bayram, Catholic Easter, Orthodox Easter, Great Bayram.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


Albania is situated on the west coast of the Balkan Peninsula opposite the "heel" of the Italian "boot," from which it is separated on the sw and w by the Strait of Otranto and the Adriatic Sea. It is bordered on the n and e by Serbia and Montenegro and Macedonia, and on the se by Greece, with a total boundary length of 720 km (447 mi). Comparatively, Albania is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland, with a total area of 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi) and extends 340 km (211 mi) ns and 148 km (92 mi) ew. Albania's capital city, Tiranë, is located in the west central part of the country.


Albania is predominantly mountainous, with 70% of the territory at elevations of more than 300 m (1,000 ft). The rest of the country consists of a coastal lowland and the lower reaches of river valleys opening onto the coastal plain. The Albanian mountains, representing a southern continuation of the Dinaric system, rise abruptly from the plains and are especially rugged along the country's borders. The highest peak, Mt. Korabit (2,753 m/9,033 ft) lies in eastern Albania on the Macedonian border. The most important riversthe Drin, the Buna, the Mat, the Shkumbin, the Seman, and the Vijosëempty into the Adriatic. Albania shares Lake Scutari (Skadarsko Jezero) with Serbia and Montenegro, Lake Ohrid (Ohridsko Jezero) with Macedonia, and Lake Prespë (Prespansko Jezero) with Macedonia and Greece.


Albania has a variety of climatic conditions, being situated in the transition zone between the typical Mediterranean climate in the west and the moderate continental in the east. The average annual temperature is 15°c (59°f). Rainy winters (with frequent cyclones) and dry, hot summers are typical of the coastal plain. Summer rainfall is more frequent and winters colder in the mountainous interior. Annual precipitation ranges from about 100 cm (40 in) on the coast to more than 250 cm (100 in) in the mountains.


The mountainous topography produces a variety of flora and fauna. The dry lowlands are occupied by a bush-shrub association known as maquis, in which hairy, leathery leaves reduce transpiration to a minimum. There are some woods in the low-lying regions, but larger forests of oak, beech, and other deciduous species begin at 910 m (2,986 ft). Black pines and other conifers are found at higher elevations in the northern part of the country. There are few wild animals, even in the mountains, but wild birds still abound in the lowland forests.


Deforestation remains Albania's principal environmental problem, despite government reforestation programs. Forest and woodland account for about 38% of the country's land use. Soil erosion is also a cause for concern, as is pollution of the water by industrial and domestic effluents. While Albania has a comparatively small amount of renewable water resources at 26.7 cu km, 99% of its urban population and 95% of its rural population have access to pure water.

Albania produced 2.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2000.

As of 2003, about 3.8% of Albania's lands were protected by environmental laws. As of 2002, there were over 3,000 higher plant species (flowering plants only), 68 mammal species, and 193 species of birds. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 1 type of mammals, 9 species of birds, 4 types of reptiles, 2 species of amphibian, and 17 species of fish. Endangered species include the Atlantic sturgeon, Mediterranean monk seal, and the hawksbill turtle.


The population of Albania in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 3,170,000, which placed it at number 131 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 8% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 27% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.9%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 3,509,000. The population density was 110 per sq km (286 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 42% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.03%. The capital city, Tiranë, had a population of 367,000 in that year. Other important towns and their estimated populations include Durrës, 113,900; Elbasan, 97,000; Shkodër, 90,000; and Vlorë, 85,000.

The population increase in Albania has been exceptionally rapid by European standards. The birthrate, despite a decline from over 40 births per 1,000 of population in the 1950s to 19 in 2000, remains among the highest in Europe. The high birthrate is partially attributed to the ban on birth control during the communist era; as of 2006, the use of birth control remains low, with only 15.3% of married women reported to use contraceptives. Another contributing factor to the population growth is the increase in life expectancy to an average of 74 years of age.


In the 19th century, Albanians emigrated to other Balkan countries (Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece), and to Egypt and Russia. During the first decades of the 20th century, emigrationfor economic reasonswas primarily to the United States (largely to Massachusetts), Argentina, Australia, and France. Emigration following World War II occurred on a very limited scale, mainly for political reasons. Between 1945 and 1990, Albania remained virtually isolated from the rest of Europe. In the early 1990s, about two million Albanians lived in Serbia and Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia).

In 1997, rebel fighting and an Italianled multinational force of 6,000 foreign peacekeeping troops prevented thousands of Albanians from fleeing into Greece or Italy. After the 1999 peace of Kosovo, government control of migration flows was absent. By 2004, approximately 25% of the total population, or over 35% of the labor force, emigrated. Of the approximately 900,000 emigrants, most reside in Greece (600,000), Italy (200,000), Western European countries, the United States, and Canada. Since the 1990s, migration has been five times higher than the average migration flow in developing countries. Included in this flow was a significant "brain drain" of scholars that became a "brain waste" as they became underemployed in their country of destination. Albania's net migration rate, estimated in 2005, was -4.8 migrants per 1,000 population. Remittances from Albanians working abroad amounted to $780 million in 2003.

During the NATO air strikes of 1999, Albania hosted 465,000 refugees from Kosovo. Adoption of the Kosovo Peace Plan on 10 June 1999 prompted the return of an estimated 432,500 refugees to Kosovo from Albania. At the end of 2003, there were around 300 refugees in the country, mainly Albanians from Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as citizens from Iraq and Turkish Kurds. By the end of 2004 Albania's refugee population had declined to just 51.

Between 19922003 approximately 6,000 foreigners entered Albania as migrant workers employed mainly in construction, trade, service, and education sectors. Around three-fourths of them came from Turkey, China, Egypt, other Arab and Islamic countries, and European Union (EU) countries.


Generally regarded as descendants of the ancient Illyrians, the Albanians make up about 95% of the population. Ethnic Greeks comprise as much as 3% of the populace. Other groups, including Roma, Vlachs, Bulgarians, Macedonians, and Serbs, make up the remaining 2%. The Albanians themselves fall into two major groups: the Ghegs in the north and the Tosks in the south, divided by the Shkumbin River. The Greeks are located primarily in the south.


Albanian (Shqip), an independent member of the Indo-European family of languages derived from both ancient Illyrian and ancient Thracian, has been greatly modified by Latin, Slavonic, Greek, and Turkish influences. It was not until 1908 that a common Latin alphabet was established for Albanian. In addition to letters of the English alphabet, Albanian uses the diacritics ç (representing the sound of ch in church ) and ë (the sound of i in dirt ). Other unusual letter values are c (the sound of ts in gets ), x (the sound of ds in woods ), xh (the sound of j in jaw ), j (the sound of y in yet ), q (the sound of ky in stockyard ), and y (the sound of the German ü ). There are two distinct dialectsGheg, spoken in the north, and Tosk, spoken in the south. During the period between World Wars I and II, Gheg was officially favored as standard Albanian; after World War II, because the principal leaders of the regime were southerners, the Tosk dialect became the standard and is currently the official language. Greek is spoken by a minority in the southeast border area. Vlach, Romani, and other Slavic dialects are also spoken by minority groups.


In 1990 and 1991, official opposition to religious activities came to an end, and churches and mosques that had been closed under the communist regime were selectively allowed to reopen. Albania is now a self-proclaimed secular state; however, the 1998 constitution calls for freedom of religion. It is estimated that 3040% of the population actively practice a religion.

Historically, Islam has been the most prominent religion of Albania. In the total population, the percentage of Muslims remains stable at roughly 6570%, including Sunni Islam and members of the Bektashi school (Shia Sufism). Since 1925, Albania has been considered the world center of the Bektashi school. The Bektashi school represents about 25% of the nation's Muslims. About 2025% of the population are members of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania (Albanian Orthodox) and about 10% are Roman Catholic. There are several small Protestant groups.

Geographically, most Muslims are found in the center of the country, with a few groups to the south. Citizens in the south are mainly Orthodox while northerners are generally Catholic. The Greek minority in the south is Orthodox. The four main groups of Sunnis, Bektashis, Orthodox, and Catholics have maintained a heightened degree of social recognition and status due to their historical presence within the country. The State Committee on Cults regulates relations between the government and religious organizations and keeps statistics on groups that contact the Committee for assistance. Registration or licensing is not required for religious organizations.


Many roads are unsuitable for motor transport; bicycles and donkeys are common. There had been virtually no private cars in the country, but they have become more common since the opening of the borders. In 2002, there were 18,000 km (11,185 mi) of roads, of which 7,020 km (4,359 mi) were paved. One of the many recent infrastructural projects was the construction of a 241 km (150 mi) four-lane highway linking Durrës with Greece, via Pogradec and Kapshtica.

Railroad construction began in 1947, and lines in 2001 had a total length of 447 km (228 mi) of standard gauge track. Narrow gauge rail includes the Durrës-Tiranë, Durrës-Elbasan, Ballsh Rrogozhinë, Vorë-Shkodër, and Selenicë-Vlorë lines. In 1979, Albania signed an agreement with the former Yugoslavia to construct a rail link between Shkodër and Titograd; the link was opened to international freight traffic in September 1986.

Albania's rivers are not navigable, but there is some local shipping on lakes Shkodër, Ohrid, and Prespë. Coastwise vessels link the ports of Durrës, Vlorë, Sarandë, and Shëngjin. Durrës is the principal port for foreign trade. The merchant fleet of Albania in 2005 consisted of 25 vessels of 1,000 GRT or over, all cargo ships, totaling about 40,878 GRT. A freight ferry service between Durrës and Trieste was inaugurated in 1983.

In 2004, there were an estimated 11 airports, three of which had paved runways, and one heliport (as of 2005). Flights from Tiranë's international airport connect the Albanian capital with Athens, Belgrade, and Switzerland (the latter route opened in June 1986). In 2003, a total of 159,300 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


Origins and the Middle Ages

The Albanians are considered descendants of ancient Illyrian or Thracian tribes of Indo-European origin that may have come to the Balkan Peninsula even before the Greeks. Although several Greek colonies were established along the coast, the hinterland remained independent. An Illyrian kingdom was formed in the 3rd century bc, and even after it was conquered by Rome in 167 bc, some mountain tribes were never subdued. Among them were the Albani or Albanoi, whose city Albanopolis was mentioned in the 2nd century bc by Ptolemy in his Geography. Later, while nominally under Byzantine rule, Albania was raided by Slav invaders in the 6th century and was annexed to Bulgaria in the 9th century. Temporary inroads were made by Venice, which established coastal colonies, and by the Normans, who seized Durrës in 108285. Albanian expansion took place under the Angevin kings of Naples in the 13th century, and again under the Serbs in the 14th century. Shortlived independent principalities flourished during the second half of the 14th century.

From the Ottomans to Independence

Turkish advances, which began in 1388, were resisted from 1443 to 1468 by Gjerj Kastrioti, better known as Scanderbeg, the Albanian national hero, but by 1479 the Turks attained complete control of the area. Over the succeeding centuries, Islam spread throughout most of the country. Turkish rule continued through the 19th century, which saw an intensification of nationalistic feeling, often erupting into open rebellion. In November 1912, during the First Balkan War, the National Assembly convened in Vlorë under the chairmanship of Ismail Kemali and proclaimed Albania's independence. The proclamation was supported by Austria-Hungary but opposed by Russia, Serbia, Greece, and Turkey. At a conference in London in 1913, Albania's national boundaries were establishedthey have remained virtually unchanged since that timeand the nation was placed under the tutelage of the great powers. Albania then became a principal battleground during World War I. By the time the war ended, portions of Albania were under Italian, French, and Yugoslav control.

Albania again asserted its independence in 1920, and a provisional government was established, as the Italians and French withdrew. Following a period of unstable parliamentary government (192124), Ahmet Zogu, the chief of the Mat district, seized power with Yugoslav support. He proclaimed Albania a republic in 1925, with himself as president, and a kingdom in 1928, with himself as King Zog I. A series of concessions to Italy made Albania a virtual Italian protectorate, and after Zog was forced into exile in April 1939, Italy occupied Albania, uniting it with the Italian crown. During World War II, Communistled guerrillas under Enver Hoxha resisted Italian and German forces. The Congress of Permeti (24 May 1944) formed Albania's provisional government, naming Hoxha as premier; the congress banned the return of former King Zog, and called for a constituent assembly to meet after the complete liberation of the country. In November 1944, the Hoxha government was established in Tiranë.

Under Communist Rule

The constitution of 1946 declared Albania a people's republic. Early close relations with Yugoslavia were abruptly severed when the Soviet-Yugoslav break occurred in 1948. Partly because of fundamental differences with Yugoslavia, whose borders included about 1.7 million Albanians, and partly because of ideological divergences, Albanian-Soviet relations worsened at the 22nd Communist Party Congress, and the USSR severed diplomatic relations with Albania in December 1961 and evacuated its naval and submarine bases at Vlorë.

Relations with Communist countries other than China worsened during the 1960s, as Albania ceased to participate in the activities of the Warsaw Treaty Organization by September 1968 following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. With Yugoslavia, however, there were signs of rapprochement; an Albanian-Yugoslav trade pact was signed in 1970, and trade between the two nations consequently flourished. Gestures were also made to improve relations with Albania's other neighbor, Greece.

Albania's relations with China, its ally and supporter since 1961, seemed to cool somewhat after 1971. China's détente with the United States ran counter to Albania's policy of opposition to the USSR and the United States. China's assistance to Albania ceased when the United States denounced the overthrow of China's "Gang of Four" in October of 1976.

On 28 December 1976, Albania adopted a new constitution that formally established Marxism-Leninism as the dominant ideology and proclaimed the principle of self-reliance. The following year, Albania broke off most of its links with China and accused it of "social imperialist" policies, and in 1978 trade relations were also suspended. In 1983, however, Albania received a Chinese delegation to discuss the resumption of trade relations. Meanwhile, relations with Yugoslavia worsened following the riots by ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia's Kosovo province in March 1981; Yugoslavia charged that Albania had instigated the protests, and Albania accused Yugoslavia of ethnic discrimination. (Nevertheless, as of 1987 Yugoslavia was Albania's main trading partner, and Albania's first rail connection with the outside world, the Shköder-Titograd link, was opened in 1986.)

Internally, Albania seemed to be locked in bitter political conflict as the 1980s began. Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu, relieved of his defense portfolio in April 1980, died in December 1981, an alleged suicide. A year later, Hoxha charged that Shehu had been working for the US, Soviet, and Yugoslav secret services and that Shehu even had orders from Yugoslavia to kill him. Western and Yugoslav press accounts speculated that Shehu had favored an opening to the West and had been executed in the course of a power struggle. Throughout 198183, an extensive purge of those even remotely connected with Shehu was conducted. This was in keeping with previous purges in the 1950s of those sympathizing with Yugoslavia, in the 1960s of pro-Soviet officials, and in the late 1970s of pro-West and pro-China policymakers. On 25 September 1982, according to Albanian reports, a group of armed Albanian exiles landed on the coast and was promptly liquidated. Hoxha alleged that they had been sent by Yugoslavia.

Hoxha died on 11 April 1985 and was succeeded as first secretary of the Workers Party by Ramiz Alia, who had been chairman of the presidium of the People's Assembly since 1982.

In the mid-1980s, Albania took steps to end its isolation. In 1987, it established diplomatic relations with Canada, Spain, Bolivia, and the Federal Republic of Germany. In August 1987, Albania signed a treaty with Greece formally ending the state of war that had existed between the two countries since World War II.

Democracy and a Free-Market Economy

As unrest spread in the late 1980s through Central and Eastern Europe in opposition to long-lasting Communist dictatorships, economic hardships in Albania grew ever deeper. Albania's political leadership had to open up more diplomatic and trade relationships with Western nations as the only available source of potential assistance. At the same time, internal unrest and a search for alternative democratic political solutions led by 1990 to mass protests and calls for the government's resignation. Thousands of Albanians wanted to emigrate in spite of imposed restrictions and became refugees housed in foreign embassies waiting for ships to take them abroad, particularly to Italy. President Ramiz Alia initiated the process for reestablishing diplomatic relations with the United States, discontinued since the 1939 annexation of Albania by Italy. Restrictions on travel abroad were eased and religious practices allowed for the first time since their prohibition in 1944.

President Berisha and his Democratic Party pushed hard for radical reforms to create a market economy and democratic institutions internally, while bringing Albania back into the international mainstream after half a century of isolation. By the end of 1993 barriers to foreign trade had been removed, the Albanian lek made fully convertible, inflation brought under control, the serious productivity decrease halted, and an anticorruption drive mounted. The privatization of the economy had been successfully initiated, particularly in the agricultural sector, with 90% of land distributed to private farmers. Most subsidies were ended except to large industrial enterprises, which still wait for foreign investments that are not yet coming to the unstable Balkan area. The Communist Party government still intended to maintain both its control and its socialist system while allowing for some democracy. But it was not to be, and by December 1990 the opposition Democratic Party was formed. On 7 February 1991, some 8,000 students went on strike in Tiranë demanding economic changes and the government's resignation. In the face of persistent unrest, President Alia scheduled multiparty elections for 31 March 1991. Even with the Communist Party still in control, the Democratic Party managed to win 75 of the 250 People's Assembly seats (mostly in urban areas) with 160 seats won by the Communist Party. Ramiz Alia was reelected president and a still all-Communist Council of Ministers was appointed under Prime Minister Fatos Nano. By June 1991, continuous unrest forced Alia to agree to a first coalition government between its Communist (renamed Socialist) Party and the new Democratic Party. The latter withdrew from the coalition government in December 1991 charging the majority Socialists with preventing any reforms. President Alia then called for new general elections on 22 March 1992, which gave the Democratic Party a majority of seats (92 of 140). Sali Berisha was elected president with Alexsander Meksi his prime minister. Under Berisha, Alia and Nano were arrested and tried for corruption and abuse of power. They were sentenced to long prison terms, but were released within a few years of their convictions.

In foreign relations, Albania, under Berisha's leadership, tried to balance the internal pressure to assist both the repressed Albanian majority in the Kosovo region of Serbia towards its independence, and the sizable Albanian minority in Macedonia to obtain human and political rights. Albania's Western trade partners realized its internal economic and humanitarian needs and have been generous with their assistance that, between mid-1991 and 1993, has amounted to $1 billion, mostly from European Union countries led by Italy. The United States and Albania also developed very close relations. Albania requested membership in NATO and, even though rejected, continued its cooperation with NATO. Because of its own border problems with Greece, Albania supported the independence of Macedonia and was one of the first nations to recognize Macedonia in spite of Greece's refusal to do so. Albania, a majority (70%) Muslim country, joined the Organization of the Islamic Conference mainly to gain some economic support. Albania also hosted Pope John Paul II's visit in April 1993, having established diplomatic relations with the Vatican in September 1991, and intensified its traditional good relationship with Italy, whose annexation of Albania in 1939 is by now only a faint memory.

In 1994, the border disputes that have occurred since the creation of Albania flared into violence as Greek and Albanian border guards fought against each other in sporadic clashes. Greece expelled over 1,500 Albanians working in Greece without permits.

Albania's borders also became critical in 1994 as smugglers attempted to evade the embargo imposed on Serbia in consequence of its participation in the war in Bosnia. Fuel was shipped into Albania through the ports of Durrës and Vlorë and then taken by tanker truck inland where it was transported via Lake Shkodër into Montenegro and then into Serbia. Because the oil was legitimately imported into the country it was subjected to import duties, which provided in excess of $22 million in tax-revenue for the Albanian government in 1994.

Domestically, Albania began to see the beginning fruits of its painful transition to a market economy as consumer goods and cafe-filled boulevards began to appear for the first time in post-Communist Albania. While wages remained low in comparison with other European countries, living standards were still higher than they had been under Hoxha's Stalinistic economics.

But Albania's efforts to integrate itself into modern Europe suffered a setback when a new constitution, strongly supported by President Sali Berisha, was rejected by voters in November 1994. It would have created a stronger executive and, as a prerequisite for entry into the Council of Europe, would have made Albania a signatory to international human rights treaties. Albania eventually did win acceptance to the Council of Europe in July 1995.

While Albania's parliamentary election in May 1996 returned President Berisha to power, the election was marred by reports of widespread electoral fraud committed by Berisha's Democratic Party and its allies. International observers in Albania to monitor the election confirmed these reports. While the United States and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe expressed private concern over the election tampering, they did not publicly demand that new elections be held. For days after the election, police used truncheons and tear gas to disperse crowds protesting the election fraud and jailed major opposition leaders. In October of 1996 the Democratic Party again won a landslide victory in local elections, but the party was again charged by international observers and opposition parties with massive electoral fraud.

Perhaps the best indicator that the Democratic Party was not as popular as elections indicated came in response to the collapse of several "pyramid schemes" in late 1996 and early 1997, in which at least one-third of the population had invested approximately $800 million by late 1996. Not only were these schemes a dubious investment value, but they had retarded the development of the legitimate Albanian economy by draining money away from legitimate investments, as even banks offering 16% annual interest had trouble attracting new deposits.

Rightly or wrongly, most Albanians identified the government with the pyramid schemes. It was widely believed that the government had used funds provided by the schemes to finance its campaign and that government ministers were involved with starting and running the schemes. The government's own belated actions in reaction to the pyramid schemes, freezing their assets and arresting fund managers, only further infuriated investors because it reduced the already slim chances of seeing a return of any of their capital.

Anger over the collapse of the funds initiated the violence that followed throughout the winter and spring, releasing pent-up frustration that quickly spun out of government control and into anarchy. Protests in Tiranë in January 1997 calling for the resignation of the government were peaceful, but in provincial areas Albanians began destroying anything associated with the government and the Democratic Party, including courthouses, police stations, municipal buildings, and property belonging to state-owned industries. Violence was particularly serious in the southern port city of Vlorë, home to many of Albania's smugglers and drug operators who invested heavily in the schemes. Government officials and soldiers were expelled from most of southern Albania, as citizens (mostly gangsters and smugglers armed with weapons from government stockpiles and even with MIG aircraft from a captured military base) took control of the area.

The government attempted to stop the protests by cracking down on opposition groups and protesters. Curfews were imposed, as well as restrictions on the right of assembly and the press. Major opposition leaders were secretly arrested and imprisoned and the offices of the nation's major opposition newspaper were torched by plainclothes security officers. A military force dispatched to return the south to government control was unable to dislodge the rebel hold on Vlorë.

At the appearance of government impotence in the south, order broke down throughout Albania, and the looting went completely beyond control. Not only were food and goods looted from government and industrial facilities (as well as weapons from government armories), but university libraries and cherished cultural monuments were destroyed by rampaging crowds.

President Berisha eventually accepted the creation of a coalition government with the aim of restoring order and ending the widespread prevailing anarchy. At Berisha's request a "voluntary militia" was created, and Tiranë returned to government control. However, it soon became apparent that the militia was composed mostly of members of the secret police (which Berisha had promised to dissolve) and Berisha loyalists, creating great mistrust among the opposition members of his cabinet.

As the violence came closer to the Albanian capital, there were calls for an international peacekeeping force to restore order. In April, a 6,000-member peacekeeping force led by French and Italian troops was deployed to patrol the countryside and restore order so the country could hold new elections. While the deployment of these troops put an end to the violence that had rocked Albania for over three months and had cost almost 150 lives, the massive looting and destruction left the country in tatters, and the pillaging of government armories meant that nearly every household had an automatic machine gun.

The identification of the Democrats with the corruption of the pyramid schemes hurt them badly in the July 1997 election, and the Socialist Party and its allies won an overwhelming victory. Nano, who had regained control of the Socialist Party after his release from prison, became prime minister. President Berisha resigned, and the Assembly elected Rexhep Mejdani, of the Democratic Party, as his successor. In November 1998, many of the principles embodied in the country's 1991 interim constitution were given permanent status when a new, Westernstyle constitution defining Albania as a democratic republic was approved in a nationwide referendum.

Albania was thrust into the international spotlight by the Kosovo crisis in the spring of 1999 as approximately 440,000 Kosovar Albanian refuges fled over the border to escape persecution at the hands of the Serbs after NATO began launching air strikes against Yugoslav military targets in March. Albania served as an outpost for NATO troops. The influx of refugees further strained Albania's weak economy, and millions of dollars' worth of aid was pledged by the World Bank, the European Union, and other sources. By the fall, most of the refugees had returned to their homes, but Albania's struggle with poverty, crime, and corruption continued.

In October 1999, Socialist Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, appointed a year earlier, was ousted after losing favor with senior party leaders; he was replaced by another young, Western-leaning politician, Ilir Meta. Meta immediately moved to modernize the economy, privatize business, fight crime, and reform the judiciary and tax systems. In January 2001, Albania and Yugoslavia reestablished diplomatic relations that had been severed during the Kosovo crisis.

Fighting between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanian rebelslargely from the former Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK)in the northwest region of Macedonia around the town of Tetovo intensified in March 2001 (it had begun in 2000). Fears in Macedonia of the creation of a "Greater Albania," including Kosovo and parts of Macedonia, were fueled by the separatist movement. On 13 August, the Ohrid Framework Agreement was signed by the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian representatives, granting greater recognition of ethnic Albanian rights in exchange for the rebels' pledge to turn over weapons to the NATO peace-keeping force.

General elections were held in June 2001 and were won by the Socialist Party once again, taking over half of the 140 parliamentary seats. In the elections, the Union for Victory, a coalition of five political parties, came in second. As of September, a coalition government was in place. Meta listed European integration and an end to energy shortages as his priorities. But by December, the Socialist Party was plagued by a rift between Meta and party chairman Nano, after Nano accused Meta's government of corruption and incompetence and demanded that the cabinet be restructured. On 29 January 2002, Meta resigned after failing to resolve the split in the party. Pandeli Majko became the country's new prime minister, but feuding in the Socialist Party leadership continued. In June, parliament elected former Defense Minister Alfred Moisiu as president, replacing Mejdani. His election came after days of political infighting, during which Nano and Berisha were barred from running. In the end, both Nano and Berisha backed Moisiu as the sole consensus candidate for the position. And in August, Nano became prime minister for the fourth time after the Socialist Party decided to merge the roles of prime minister and party chairman.

In November 2002, NATO announced that of 10 countries aspiring to join the organization, 7 would accede in 2004, leaving Albania, Macedonia, and Croatia to wait until a later round of expansion. In January 2003, Albania and Macedonia agreed to intensify bilateral cooperation, especially in the economic sphere, so as to prepare their way to NATO and EU membership. Also that month, the EU and Albania began Stabilization and Association Agreement talks, seen as the first step toward EU membership.

In the spring of 2004, the failure of Nano's government to bring about economic and social improvements for the everyday Albanian led to opposition staged demonstrations in Tiranë asking for his resignation. However, general elections were held, as scheduled, in the summer of the next year. The Democratic Party of Albania (PD) emerged victorious taking 55 out of 140 seats, while its allies took 18 seats. In spite of having this slim majority in the People's Assembly, the prime minister could not be nominated for another two months due to political wrangling and accusations of rigged elections. Finally, on 3 September 2005, Sali Berisha was nominated as prime minister by president Moisiu. Berisha assured the people he had learned from his past mistakes and pledged to reduce corruption and taxation, improve the economic and social environment, and make progress towards EU and NATO integration.


Under the 1976 constitution, Albania was a socialist republic. Legislative authority was vested in the unicameral People's Assembly, elected every four years from a single list of candidates. In elections held 2 February 1987, 250 deputies were elected by 1,830,653 voters, with no votes cast against and one vote invalid. Voter participation was allegedly 100%. Suffrage was extended to men and women from the age of 18 and was compulsory. The 1976 constitution specified that "the rights of citizens are indivisible from the fulfillment of their duties and cannot be exercised in opposition to the socialist order."

Through most of the 1990s, Albania's government was based on the 29 April 1991 Law on Constitutional Provisions that established the principle of separation of powers, the protection of private property and human rights, a multiparty parliament, and a president of the republic with broad powers. After defeating a proposed constitutional measure in 1994, Albanian voters approved a new constitution in November 1998 giving the Albanian government a shape more like those of Western nations. Many provisions of the 1991 interim constitution were made permanent in the new document, which guaranteed a number of basic rights, including religious freedom, property rights, and human rights for ethnic minorities. After being cut to 140 members in 1992, the unicameral People's Assembly was expanded to 155 in 1997; it was subsequently reduced to 140 once again. Of these members, 100 are directly elected and 40 are elected by proportional representation. The president is elected by the People's Assembly for a five-year term, and the prime minister is appointed by the president. A Council of Ministers is nominated by the prime minister and approved by the president.

Alfred Spiro Moisiu, of the Socialist Party, was elected to a five-year term as president by the People's Assembly in June 2002. Sali Berisha, who served as president between 1992 and 1997, was appointed to the prime minister post by Moisiu, after his partythe Democratic Party of Albaniawon the general elections in July 2005.


Before the 1990s, the only political party was the Communist Party, which was founded in 1941 and has been known officially as the Workers Party (Partija e Punes) since 1948. As of November 1986, it had about 147,000 members, as compared with 45,382 in 1948. The Albanian Democratic Front was the party's major subsidiary organization; other subsidiary groups included the Union of Albanian Working Youth and the Women's Union of Albania.

Under the 1976 constitution, the first secretary of the Workers Party was commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The constitution described the Workers Party as the "sole directing political power in state and society."

The primary political parties include the Democrats (led by Sali Berisha), a Western-style conservative party; the Democratic Alliance, a breakaway group of Democrats still largely allied with them; the Socialists (led by Fatos Nano), composed largely of former Communist Party members; and the Social Democrats, a Western-style progressive party largely allied with the socialists.

Although in the early years of post-Communist Albania there were genuine ideological differences between the parties, such distinctions have now blurred. Even the Socialist Party, composed largely of former Communists, has called for budget cuts and an IMF-backed austerity program. As of the election of 4 July 2005, seats in the unicameral National Assembly were distributed as follows: the Democratic Party of Albania (PD), 55; the Socialist Party (PS), 40; the Republican Party (PR), 11; the Social Democratic Party (PSD), 7; the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), 5; and other, 22.


Albania is divided into 12 regions (qarqe), 36 districts (rrethe), including the city of Tiranë (or Tirana), 65 cities and towns, and 309 communes (as of 2002). All subdivisions are governed by people's councils. The councils direct economic, social, cultural, and administrative activity in their jurisdictional areas and appoint executive committees to administer day-to-day activities.

International observers deemed local elections held in 2000 to have achieved a certain level of democracy, but identified irregularities that need to be addressed in reforms in the Albanian electoral code. The third round of local elections held on 12 October 2003 did not address these irregularities. Several international organizations noted that international standards for democratic elections have not been met. Partial runoffs were held in November and December, following a boycott by the Democratic Party commissioners. The distribution of votes at the local level was as follows: the Socialist Party of Albania (PS), 34.6%; the Democratic Party (PD), 32.2%; the Social Democratic Party (PSD), 5.3%; the Republican Party (PR), 3.3%; and the Agrarian Environmental Party (PAA), 3.2%.


The judicial system includes district courts, six courts of appeal and a supreme court, or Court of Cassation. The district courts are trial level courts from which appeal can be taken to a court of appeals and then to the Court of Cassation. At each of the three levels, the courts are divided into civil, criminal, and military chambers. Justices of the Supreme Court serve for seven years.

There is also a Constitutional Court (also known as the High Court) with jurisdiction to resolve questions of constitutional interpretation that arise during the course of any case on appeal. In a 1993 decision, the Constitutional Court invalidated a law that would have disbarred lawyers who were active during the Communist era, and ordered the lawyers reinstated. Justices of the Constitutional Court serve a maximum of nine years.

Parliament appoints the seven members of the Court of Cassation and five of the nine judges on the Constitutional Court, with the rest appointed by the president. A Supreme Judicial Council appoints all other judges. In 1992, the Supreme Judicial Council began to remove judges who had served under the former Communist regime.

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the system is plagued by a lack of resources and trained staff, and is subject to political pressure, intimidation, and corruption.


As of 2005, the Albanian armed forces were in the midst of a major restructuring to be completed by 2010. The new army was to consist of five divisions and a commando brigade of three battalions. In 2005, Army personnel numbered more than 16,000 and were armed with 373 main battle tanks, 123 armored personnel carriers, and 1,197 artillery pieces. The Navy had an estimated 2,000 active personnel and was equipped with 20 patrol/coastal vessels, 4 mine warfare and 2 logistical/support vessels. The Albanian Air Force totaled 3,500 active members and had 26 combat capable aircraft, including 15 fighters and 11 fighter ground attack aircraft. The 2005 defense budget totaled $116 million.


Albania, a United Nations member since 14 December 1955, belongs to numerous specialized agencies, such as FAO, IAEA, IFAD, ILO, UNESCO, WHO, WIPO, ICAO, WMO, the World Bank, IFC, IMF, and the WTO (2000). Albania was originally a member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CEMA) and the Warsaw Pact, but in 1968 it formally announced its withdrawal from both (it had ended participation in CMEA in 1961). The country is a part of the Central European Initiative, the Agency for the French-Speaking Community (ACCT), and one of 12 members of the Black Sea Cooperation Zone. Albania is part of the Council of Europe, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Federation of Trade Unions, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

In November 2002, NATO announced that Albania would have to wait until a later round of expansion to join. As of 2003, Albania had applied for membership in the European Union, although it was not among the 13 candidate countries from eastern and southern Europe being considered for the next round of accession. However, in January 2003, Albania and the European Union began Stabilization and Association Agreement talks, which were regarded as the possible first steps toward EU membership.

Albania joined the OSCE 19 June 1991. The country also participates in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the NATO Partnership for Peace, and the Adriatic Charter (2003). In May 2003, Albania and the United States signed a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations. Albania was one of four nations to contribute troops to the combat phase of Operation Enduring Freedom (2004), a US initiative in Iraq.

In cooperation on environmental issues, Albania participates in the Basel Convention (hazardous waste), the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, the Montréal Protocol (ozone layer protection), and the UN Conventions of the Law of the Seas Climate Change, and Desertification.


Albania has always been an underdeveloped country. Before World War II, there were only a few smallscale industrial plants and only a few of the larger towns had electricity. Subsoil resources were potentially rich, but only coal, bitumen, and oil were extractedby Italian companies. Transportation was poorly developed. Stockbreeding contributed about half of the agricultural output; by 1938, tilled area represented only 23% of the agricultural land. Forests were exploited and reforestation neglected.

After the war, the Communist regime pursued an industrialization program with a centrally planned economy. Development projects received priority, especially mining, industry, power, and transportation. Consumer goods, agriculture, livestock, and housing were relatively neglected. By 1950, Albania had its first standardgauge railways, a textile combine, a hydroelectric power plant, a tobacco fermentation plant, and a sugar refinery. Mineral extraction, especially of oil, chrome ore (the main export product), and ironnickel, was increased. Land cultivated under crops or orchards expanded by over 70% from the 1950s to the 1980s. Although collectivized, farmland was again privatized in 1992 and distributed to peasants. But despite significant progress, living standards in Albania were still among the lowest in Europe. When central planning was abandoned, there was no mechanism to take its place, and GDP fell 45% during 199092. It rose by at least 5% in 1995, however. After prices were freed, the inflation rate shot up to 226% in 1992, but dropped to 86% in 1993. Consumer prices and unemployment mounted rapidly in 1994.

More trouble followed in 1997 with the countrywide collapse of financial pyramid schemes. The resulting chaos left the government paralyzed, and over 1,500 Albanians died in the ensuing violence that swept the country before an international peacekeeping force restored order. More economic hardship struck Albania in 1999 as the country received 450,000 Kosovar refugees. Western aid helped the Albanians manage the influx.

As Albania entered the 21st century, its economy had begun to improve. Inflation remained low, the economy was expanding at a rate of approximately 7% a year, and foreign direct investment was growing. Economic growth came largely from the transportation, service, and construction sectors. The state was privatizing industries, and as of 2002, nearly all land in Albania was privately owned. However, the country's transition to a free-market economy did not come without difficulties. Unemployment remained high, and the economy remained based on agriculture (around 50%). Crime and corruption were problems, as were governmental bureaucratic hurdles that hamper business activity. The country's infrastructure was still outmoded and in disrepair, and in dire need of funding. Severe energy shortages caused blackouts and were responsible for small businesses failing; in 2003, the country was increasing its imports of electricity.

In 2001, Albania joined Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro (Yugoslavia) in creating a Balkan free trade zone. Tariffs on selected goods were to be eliminated under the agreement. In September 2000, Albania joined the World Trade Organization, signaling its commitment to the process of economic reform.

By 2003, and 2004, Albania would register some of the highest rates of growth in Europe (around 6%), with a nominal GDP of $7.83 billion in 2004. Most of this growth was fueled by an expansion in the services, construction, and transport sectors, as well as by remittances from abroad (a common growth generator in developing countries, especially those that border developed economies), domestic demand, and private investment. The inflation rate in 2004 was 3.2%, the foreign currency reserves rose to $1.244 billion, while its fiscal deficit declined to 4.9%.

The EU remains Albania's main trading partner, with Italy and Greece taking the lion's share. Although exports have been growing steadily, they have been outpaced by the increase of imports. Thus, in 2004 exports totaled $. 6 billion, while imports marked $2.2 billion. Albania's main exports are textiles, footwear, mineral products, and metals; its imports include agricultural products, metals and minerals, and machinery.

Albania has enjoyed a relatively stable environment in the early years of the 21st century, its economic growth has been steady and strong (the GDP is projected to grow in 2005 by 6%), and its moves towards a functional market economy have been courageous. However, the country is still one of the poorest in Europe and remains subject to political instability and economic downside risks, such as shortages of the electricity supply and possible delays in the privatization of large enterprises.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Albania's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $18.1 billion. However, Albania has a large gray economy that may be as large as 50% of official GDP. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $4,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 2.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 23.6% of GDP, industry 20.5%, and services 55.9%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $889 million or about $281 per capita and accounted for approximately 15.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $342 million or about $108 per capita and accounted for approximately 5.4% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Albania totaled $3.89 billion or about $1,229 per capita based on a GDP of $5.7 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 5.5%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 62% of household consumption was spent on food, 13% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 10% on education. It was estimated that in 2004 about 25% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The labor force numbered an estimated 1.09 million in 2004, excluding 352,000 emigrant workers. For that same year, agricultural workers accounted for an estimated 58% of the country's labor force, with those in the private nonagricultural sector accounting for 20% and those in the public sector accounting for 23%. In 2004, Albania's unemployment rate was officially put at 14.4%, however the actual unemployment rate may be in excess of 30%. When communism was abandoned in favor of a free-market economy in 1991, a transitional dislocation of workers and resources took place, resulting in an estimated unemployment rate of 40% in 1992. In 2001, the unemployment rate remained high, up to an estimated 30%.

In 1991, workers were granted the legal right to create independent trade unions. The Independent Confederation of Trade Unions of Albania (BSPSH) was formed as the umbrella organization for several smaller unions. The rival Confederation of Unions, closely tied to the Socialist Party, operates mostly as a continuation of the state-sponsored federation of the Communist era.

As of 2005, all citizens had the right to organize and bargain collectively, except the military and civilian employees of the military. About 20% of the workforce was unionized, but that number is shrinking. Generally, labor unions in Albania operate from a weak position, and those unions that represent employees in the public sector usually negotiate directly with the government. In addition, little privatization has occurred outside the retail and agricultural sectors and few private employees are unionized.

The minimum work age is 14, with restrictions placed on employment of those under 18 years old. Children between 14 and 16 years old may work parttime. Although the labor code sets the maximum workweek at 40 hours, the actual workweek for many is six days/week. There is no legal minimum wage rate for workers in the private sector, although government workers, 18 years of age and older, were paid a minimum wage of about $118/month in 2005, which does not provide a decent living wage for a family.

The enforcement of occupational health and safety standards and regulations is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor and Equal Opportunities. However, what regulations and standards that do exist are generally not enforced. In addition, the law provides no remedies for workers who leave the workplace because of hazardous conditions. The enforcement of the labor code is severely limited by the Albanian government's lack of funding.


In 2004, about 58% of the economically active population was engaged in agriculture, compared with 85% before World War II (193945). Although Albania's mountainous terrain limits the amount of land available for agriculture, the cultivated and arable area was about 21% of the total (578,000 hectares/1,428,000 acres) in 2000. Nearly two-thirds of the population is rural, and agriculture provided 25% of value-added GDP in 2003.

The first collective farm was created in 1946, but collectivization did not move forward on a large scale until 1955. By early 1962, 1,263 collectives included about 2,000 villages and covered almost 80% of the cultivated area. Consolidation reduced the collectives to 1,064 by December 1964. State farms, meanwhile, had expanded and by 1960 they accounted for about 12% of the cultivated area. By 1964, only 10% of the cultivated area was privately farmed, and by 1973, 100% of the agricultural land was reported as socialized, either in collective or state farms. Collective farm consolidations and mergers reduced their number to 420 in April 1983, including "advanced type" cooperatives. The cooperatives accounted for 74% of total agricultural production. By the mid-1980s, the number of collective farmers was about 800,000.

After the government abandoned central planning, the economy collapsed from the void. The decline saw the agricultural sector shrink by 21% in 1991, but agricultural production rebounded in 1992 in response to the privatization of cooperative farms and the elimination of fixed pricing. The number of tractors increased from 359 in 1950 to 4,500 in 1960 and to 12,500 in 1991; 7,915 were in service in 2002. In 2002, irrigation systems covered 59% of the cropland. Artificial fertilizers supplied to farms rose from 8,000 tons of active substance in 1960 to 99,900 tons in 1978. However, fertilizer use fell from 145 kg per hectare in 1983 to about 5 kg per hectare in 2002.

Wheat is the principal crop; corn, oats, sorghum, and potatoes are also important. Greater emphasis is being placed on the production of cash cropscotton, tobacco, rice, sugar beets, vegetables, sunflowers, and fruits and nuts. FAO estimates of crop output in 2004 (in tons) included wheat, 300,000; corn, 200,000; sugar beets, 40,000; vegetables and melons, 679,100; potatoes, 175,000; grapes, 80,000; oats, 15,000; and oranges, 2,200.


The major problem of Albanian animal husbandry has been a shortage of fodder. As a result, livestock numbers remained virtually constant or increased very slowly in the postwar decades. When central planning was abandoned, uncertain monetary and credit policies caused inflation to soar, which eroded export earnings. Albania, which had been a net exporter of food products, became heavily dependent on food aid. Sheep, originally the most important livestock, numbered 1.84 million in 1946 and 1.8 million in 2004. Additional estimated numbers of livestock for 2004 included poultry, 4,300,000; goats, 1,030,000; cattle, 700,000; hogs, 109,000; and horses, 65,000. Estimates of livestock products in 2004 include 900,000 tons of cows' milk, 70,000 tons of sheep's milk, 65,000 tons of goats' milk, 39,000 tons of beef and veal, 8,500 tons of pork, 12,000 tons of mutton and lamb, and 25,800 tons of eggs.


Fishing is an important occupation along the Adriatic coast. In 1958, a development program for inland fisheries was begun, and the results were improved exploitation and conservation as well as increased fish reserves and catches. Annual fish production was estimated at 3,560 tons in 2003 of which 65% came from marine fishing. Exports of fish products amounted to almost $13.5 million in 2003.


Forests cover 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres), or about 36% of the total land area. As a result of exploitation, erosion, and neglect, about 70% of the forested area consists of little more than shoots and wild shrubs, and exploitation of the remaining accessible forests exceeds optimum annual limits. Roundwood production in 2003 totaled 296,000 cu m, with about 56% used for fire-wood. Between 1971 and 1978, 65,310 hectares (161,380 acres) were forested, compared with a total of 61,900 hectares (153,000 acres) for 196170.


After the abandonment of central planning in 1992, Albania's mineral industry was marginal, with technical difficulties contributing to the decline. Nearly half a century of self-imposed isolation during the Communist era crippled the industry with a shortage of capital, aging and inadequate machinery, over staffing, and environmental damage. In 1995, the government adopted a law to privatize the mineral industry, and administrative preparations for privatization began in 1996.

Mineral deposits traditionally associated with Albania included chromite, copper ore, and nickeliferous iron ore. From the late 1970s through 1990, Albania was the principal chromiteproducing country in Europe; the country often ranked second in the world in exports and third in production. In this period, exports of chromite, ferrochromium, and petroleum refinery products constituted the country's chief sources of foreign exchange. For much of the 1990s, the chromite mining and processing industry paralleled the country's moribund economy.

In 2003, chromite production was 220,000 metric tons, down from 300,000 in 1996. The most important chromite mines were at Katjel, Mëmlisht, and Bulqize, in the upper reaches of the Drin River. A chromiumore enrichment plant was put into operation at Bulqize in 1972. In the 1980s, chromite production amounted to more than one million metric tons per year.

In 2000, the government awarded Hayri Ogelman Madencilik, of Turkey, a longterm concession to upgrade and operate the Kalimash mining and beneficiation complex, and to develop mines at the Perollajt and Vllahane deposits in the northeastern part of the country.

Copper ore concentrate production was 8,691 metric tons in 1999, the last year for which there is any data, according to the US Geological Survey. Copper was mined at Pukë and Rrubig, where the ore was concentrated and smelted. The deposits near Kukës were the richest in Albania.

Production of bauxite in 2002 totaled 71,312 metric tons and was estimated at 229,317 metric tons for 2003. Bauxite deposits were found mostly in central Albania, east of Tiranë, as well as in the northern alpine region, near the border with Serbia. Bauxite reserves were estimated at 12 million tons, with the largest deposit at Daijti. Because of a lack of domestic refining capacity, bauxite was exported.

Albania was one of the few countries producing natural asphalt, mined at Selenicë. All production of asphalt and bitumen in 2002 totaled 4,200 metric tons.


Albania has both thermal and hydroelectric power stations to generate electricity, but the latter are more significant and have the greater potential. Total power production increased from 85 million kWh in 1955 to 578 million kWh in 1967, and to 4.9 billion kWh in 1985. In 2004, electricity generation was 5.68 billion kWh. In 2002, 13% came from fossil fuels, 87% from hydropower, and none from other sources. In the same year, consumption of electricity totaled 5.286 billion kWh, with total capacity at 1.671 million kW. Rural electrification was achieved in 1970.

The 24,000-kW Shkopet plant and the 27,000-kW Bistricë plant became operational in 1962. A 100,000-kW thermal plant at Fier went into operation in 1968, and the Mao Zedong hydroelectric plant was completed in 1971. The "Light of the Party" hydro-electric plant on the Drin River, with a total installed capacity of 500,000 kW, began operations in 1978. The seventh five-year plan (198185) provided for construction of a hydropower station at Koman, also on the Drin, with a capacity of 600,000 kW; the first two turbines were installed there by early 1986.

Petroleum production has become significant. Crude oil out-put rose from 108,000 tons in 1938 to 870,000 tons in 1967, and 3,500,000 tons in 1985. In 2002, production totaled 6,360 barrels per day. Oil refineries are located at Ballsh, Stalin, Fier, and Çerrik. Albania also produced 1.77 billion cu ft of natural gas in 2002. Sizable coal deposits were discovered near Tiranë in 1969.


Before World War II, industry was confined to a cement plant at Shkodër and to small-scale flour-milling, food-processing, cigarette-making, and fellmongery (processing animal hides). In 193739, industry's contribution to the GNP was only 10%, by far the lowest in Eastern Europe. There was virtually no export of industrial products. After the war, the government emphasized industrial development, primarily development projects. Gross industrial output increased annually by 20% during 195160, by 12% during 196170, by 9% during 197180, by 5% during 198185, and by 3% during 198690. The socialized sector accounted for over 95% of gross output by the late 1950s and 100% by the 1970s. The industrial labor force, which virtually tripled between 1946 and 1960, continued to increase rapidly during the 1960s and, in 1994, 15% of all wage and salary earners were employed in industry (including mining).

Industrial production fell 44% in 1992 and 10% in 1993, but by 1995 industrial productivity was growing at a rate of 6%. Privatization was proceeding slowly, with joint state-private ventures planned or sale of state enterprises at auction. In 1994, over one-half of the nonfarm workforce was employed by the state. As of 2002, the industrial sector accounted for 27% of GDP. Major industries include food processing, textiles and clothing, lumber, oil, cement, chemicals, and basic metals. Albania has two oil refineries, with a capacity of 26,000 barrels per day in 2002. In 2001, the government privatized a brewery, distillery, dairy, and pharmaceutical company, and planned to sell the Savings Bank of Albania and INSIG, the state-owned insurance company. The construction sector showed potential for growth in 200203, as the country had a housing deficit and existing housing is old and in poor condition.

While the importance of agriculture in Albania's economy has decreased, other sectors (such as services, transport, and construction) have benefited from investment in 2004. The telecommunications industry in particular has grown substantially due to significant inflow of capital from two new mobile companies. Tourism, the only sector to register a net positive trade balance, has the prospective of becoming one of Albania's main growth engines. Another sector that has good future prospects is miningdue in part to increases in the price of raw materials. In addition to these developments, there are plans for a 1600-acre Energy Park at Vlora. This park is supposed to respond to Albania's energy shortages by means of large foreign direct investments. To date, 80% of Albania's GDP is generated by the private sector.


The main scientific organization, the Academy of Sciences (founded in 1972 and located in Tiranë), has a scientific library and numerous attached research institutes dealing with various aspects of agriculture, fisheries, and veterinary science; medicine; natural sciences (biology, computer science and applied mathematics, energetics, nuclear physics, hydrometeorology, seismology, and geology) and technology (oil and gas geology and technology, industrial projects studies and design hydraulics, metallurgy, mining, roads and railways, chemistry mechanics, minerals, building technology); and the food industry. The Geologists' Association of Albania, founded in 1989, has 450 members (as of 1997).

The University of Tiranë, founded in 1957, has faculties in natural science, medicine, and mechanics and electronics. Its Natural Science Museum has exhibits relating to zoology, botany, and geology. Luigi Gurakugi University of Shkodër, founded in 1991 and based on the former Higher Pedagogical Institute founded in 1957, has a faculty in natural sciences. The Agricultural University of Tiranë, founded in 1971, has faculties in agronomy, veterinary science, and forestry. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 19% of college and university employment. The Fan S. Noli University in Korçë was founded in 1971 as the Higher Agricultural Institute and renamed in 1992. The Centre for Scientific and Technical Information and Documentation in Tiranë was founded in 1981.

In 2002, high technology exports amounted to $2 million, some 1% of the country's manufactured exports in that year.


Wholesale trade became a state monopoly in 1946. Initially, private retail trade played an important role, but by 1970 trade was fully socialized. By December 1990, retail units had been privatized again. All price controls were eliminated except on a few consumer items and monopolycontrolled products.

Shops in Albania are generally small, but department stores and a few larger supermarkets with limited stocks have been established in Tiranë, Durrës, Korcë, and other larger cities. Consumer cooperatives conduct trade in the rural areas. Albania has a small, but growing, advertising sector.

Albanian business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. Shop hours are Mondays and Tuesdays, 7 am to 2 pm and 5 to 8 pm, and other weekdays, 7 am to 2 pm. Many shops are open seven days a week, since there is no legislation regulating shop hours. Before 1 January 1959, all sales were for cash. Since then, date limited consumer credit was sanctioned, but most transactions are still in cash.


Before World War II, about 50% of the exports consisted of the entire production of chrome ore and crude oil and some timber; the balance consisted of agricultural goods and fish. Good grains, sugar, and coffee made up about 20% of the imports; textiles, about 24%; and paper, machinery, chemicals, leather, metals, and

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 447.1 1,863.8 -1,416.7
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 334.8 623.8 -289.0
Greece 57.4 373.5 -316.1
Germany 15.3 105.4 -90.1
Serbia and Montenegro 10.5 10.3 0.2
Austria 5.5 30.1 -24.6
Turkey 3.7 122.3 -118.6
Macedonia 3.0 5.5 -2.5
Russia 2.3 52.7 -50.4
United States 2.3 18.6 -16.3
France-Monaco 2.1 20.3 -18.2
() data not available or not significant.

oil products, about 53%. As the value of imports almost tripled that of exports, the deficit was met largely by Italian loans. Italy received two-thirds of Albanian exports and supplied Albania with up to half its imports. Under the Communist government, foreign trade became a state monopoly. The volume of turnover increased substantially and the structure and orientation changed radically.

As of the year 2000, Albania was running a trade deficit of $814 million (US dollars), a considerable increase since the 1990s. The expansion in imports was largely due to increased domestic demand for foreign goods, as well as increased demand for electronics. Between 1950 and 1967, trade volume increased six fold, to l1,043 million in 1967. Total trade volume (imports plus exports) rose 49% between 1966 and 1970. In 1960, trade with the socialist states accounted for about 90% of total trade; the Soviet share of this was half. Political and economic differences between Albania and the USSR resulted in suspension of aid to and trade with Albania. In 1961, 54% of total foreign trade was with the USSR and 7% with China; by 1964, trade with the former had ceased entirely, while trade with China had risen to 55%. After the Albanian-Chinese split in the late 1970s, economic contacts with China ceased. Talks aimed at renewing trade between the two nations were held in 1983, resulting in trade agreements worth about $57 million.

In 2000, Albania exported leather products, apparel, footwear components, tobacco products, and metal ores. The production of chromium ore, formerly an integral part of the Albanian export schedule, has plummeted in recent years. Imports in 2000 included raw materials, machinery, transportation equipment, fuel, minerals, metals, and foodstuffs. Albania exported its goods primarily to Italy, Greece, and Germany. The chief sources of Albania's imports were Italy, Greece, Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of Albania's exports was $340 million while imports totaled $1.5 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $1.16 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that in 2001 Albania had exports of goods totaling $305 million and imports

Current Account -406.8
    Balance on goods -1,336.3
      Imports -1,783.5
      Exports 447.2
    Balance on services -82.9
    Balance on income 170.4
    Current transfers 841.9
Capital Account 157.0
Financial Account 200.6
    Direct investment abroad
    Direct investment in Albania 178.0
    Portfolio investment assets -22.5
    Portfolio investment liabilities
    Financial derivatives
    Other investment assets -71.6
    Other investment liabilities 116.7
Net Errors and Omissions 147.4
Reserves and Related Items -98.1
() data not available or not significant.

totaling $1.33 billion. The services credit totaled $534 million and debit $444 million. The IMF attributes the fall in exports in recent years to a decline in industrial production. Recent increases in imports were due to increased domestic demand for imported goods, in addition to large increases in electricity imports. Remittances from abroad have improved Albania's balance of payments.


The Communist regime nationalized all banking and financial institutions in 1945 and established the Bank of the Albanian State (now simply the Bank of Albania), which became the bank of issue. The bank also controlled foreign transactions, helped prepare financial plans for the economy, accepted savings deposits, financed economic activities, and performed other banking functions. An agricultural bank was created in 1970 to provide credit facilities for agricultural cooperatives.

On 10 August 1949, the Directorate of Savings was established to grant loans and to accept savings deposits in branches throughout the country; the system has grown steadily ever since.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Albania decided to develop a market economy. The banking system changed to meet the demands of a free-market economy. However, in October 1996, the Islamic Conference's financing arm, the Islamic Development Bank, made a $12 million loan to Albania. The logic of the government's Islamic focus is unclear.

The government's position has been weakened considerably as a result of the collapse of four of the country's major pyramid investment schemes, leading to anarchic, nationwide demonstrations by furious investors. In January of 1997, a 20,000-strong crowd marched on Skanderberg Square, where it demanded that the government guarantee all deposits in the companies. Notable pyramid investment companies included VEFA, Kamberi, Populli, Xhaferri, Gervnasi, Gjallica, and Sudja.

The informal financial market has absorbed millions of dollars of savings and remittances in recent years (estimates run as high as $1 billion), at the expense of the country's inefficient and uncompetitive banking sector. The pyramid investment schemes attracted hundreds of thousands of depositorslocal estimates put participation in the companies at about 75% of all householdsby guaranteeing to pay high interest rates on cash deposits within a short period of time.

Much of the blame for crisis rested with the government, whose policy towards the companies was not simply cavalier but actively encouraging. It did not pay attention to requests made by the central bank governor to regulate the pyramid schemes more tightly.

The privatization of the three state-owned commercial banks has long been advocated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The government has privatized the Rural Commercial Bank and the National Commercial Bank, and is working towards privatizing the Savings Bank of Albania, which holds nearly 80% of all Albanian bank deposits. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $997 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $2.7 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 10.82%.


Insurance was nationalized by the Communist government after World War II. Under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, the program is administered by the Institute for Insurance, created in 1950. Half the profits are earmarked for the state budget, the other half for a reserve fund. In 1990, income from social insurance contributions totaled l967 million. Total expendituresfor temporary disability, pregnancy, childbirth, rest home stay, and pensionswere l1,440 million. In 2002, Albania's parliament passed a law to privatize the insurance agency, hoping to create a competitive industry.


Albania began its transition from a centrally planned economy to a market driven economy in 1992, after GDP had collapsed by over 50% in 1989. The government elected in 1992 set in motion a series of aggressive economic reforms to light the path towards a market economy. Among the reforms were price and exchange regime liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a rigid income policy. Stalling progress in 1997 was followed by a resumption of growth the next year.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Albania's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.9 billion and had expenditures of $2.3 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$417 million. Total external debt was $1.41 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, general government revenues were l153,197 million and expenditures were l187,109 million. The value of revenues was us$1,093 million and expenditures us$1,335 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = l140.15 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by

Revenue and Grants 153,197 100.0%
   Tax revenue 103,162 67.3%
   Social contributions 24,920 16.3%
   Grants 4,119 2.7%
   Other revenue 20,996 13.7%
Expenditures 187,109 100.0%
   General public services 48,983 26.2%
   Defense 7,537 4.0%
   Public order and safety 11,944 6.4%
   Economic affairs 28,080 15.0%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities 9,021 4.8%
   Health 13,719 7.3%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 2,609 1.4%
   Education 19,034 10.2%
   Social protection 46,183 24.7%
() data not available or not significant.

function were as follows: general public services, 26.2%; defense, 4.0%; public order and safety, 6.4%; economic affairs, 15.0%; housing and community amenities, 4.8%; health, 7.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.4%; education, 10.2%; and social protection, 24.7%.


As of 1999, personal income is taxed in six brackets, from 530%, with 5% starting at an income of about $86/month, and the 30% rate, plus a flat fee of about $45, applied to incomes over about $1,030/month. The corporate income tax rate is 25%, applied equally to both domestic and on income earned in Albania by foreign-owned companies. Tax preferences previously accorded foreign investorsa four-year tax holiday, and up to a 60% reduction on income from reinvested profitswere removed for future foreign investors on the advice of the IMF and World Bank. There is property tax on agricultural land and buildings. Indirect taxes include a value-added tax (VAT) applied to businesses with annual turnover exceeding five million lek (about $43,000), small business taxes, and excise taxes on tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks, coffee, gasoline products, perfumes, and deodorants. The VAT rate is 20%. Small businesses with annual turnover of less than two million lek a year pay a yearly lump sum ranging from 15,000 lek to 100,000 lek. Businesses with turnover in the range of two million lek to five million lek pay a 4% of turnover tax. Exports are exempt from both excise and VAT. Financial transactions are exempt from VAT, and liquefied gas is exempt from excise.


Under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Trade, the general directorate of customs and duties administers customs regulations. With certain exemptions, all goods are subject to duties ranging from 510%, depending on product type. Having become a member of the World Trade Organization in September 2000, Albania is working with Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro to create a regional free trade zone.


Prior to 1990, no foreign capital was invested in postwar Albania, but various communist states aided the Albanian industrialization program, supplying credit, machinery and equipment, and technicians. Prior to 1961, assistance by Sovietbloc technicians in geologic surveys, construction, and operation of factories was vital to Albanian economic growth. Following the Soviet suspension of credits, withdrawal of technicians, and elimination of trade, China increased its activity in all these areas. In 1978, China terminated all its economic and military cooperation with Albania and the following year Albania was for the first time without any foreign assistance. In the 1980s, some economic assistance was provided by the FRG.

After the fall of communism, foreign investment was encouraged and 149 joint ventures were agreed upon. A $10 million Coca-Cola bottling plant set up in 1994 outside of Tiranë (directly employing about 100 people), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and a local Albanian company were early ventures. In 1995, Albania concluded a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. At the end of 1995, foreign investment was projected to rise to about $600 million, with about one-half of that coming from Italy. However, the prospects for foreign investment dropped sharply in 1997 in the wake of the violence and property destruction that followed the collapse of the pyramid schemes in which many Albanians had sunk their savings. The violent removal of the Prime Minister in 1998 and the influx of Kosovar refugees in 1999 were added deterrents to foreign investment. From 1997 to 1999, foreign direct investment in Albania averaged only $44.57 million, but in 2000 the rate of inflow tripled to $143 million and then in 2001 to $181 million. The rate of investment decreased slightly in subsequent years, but rose again in 2004, reaching $300 million.

In 2003, the UN Development Program assisted the Albanian government in setting up the Investment Promotion Agency (ANIH) that replaces the Economic Development Agency. Previously, the government had put few restrictions on foreign investment, but had offered no tax or financial incentives beyond national treatment. There are initiatives aimed at attracting foreign investment, but as of now they remain unimplemented or in the planning stage.

While the climate for investors has definitely improved over the past years, there are still a number of inconsistencies that make the investment process rather cumbersome. Thus, the physical and financial infrastructure still requires considerable development, there are frequent shortages of power and water in certain areas, corruption remains a major concern, and the rule of law (especially in questions regarding property ownership) is not as strong as it should be. In 2005, Albania had one of the lowest rates of foreign investment in Europe.


Albania formerly had a state-controlled, centrally planned economy, with emphasis on industrial development and socialized agriculture. Under Workers Party directives, shortterm and long-range plans were formulated by the Economic Planning Commission, a government agency. By the mid-1980s, the economy was virtually under complete state control; enterprises were either directly owned by the state or managed through cooperatives.

From 1951, Albanian economic development was directed by five-year plans, most of which stressed heavy industry. A sweeping economic reform program was announced in 1992. It called for widespread private ownership of farmland, state-owned companies and housing, and the removal of trade restrictions and price controls. Yet after nearly a decade of post-Communist rule, Albania remains by far the poorest country in Europe. For much of the 1990s, economic reforms were stifled by rampant corruption. Only after the collapse of pyramid investment schemes did the situation begin to improve. Nevertheless, Albania relies heavily on foreign aid and seeks to secure more funding for infrastructure improvements.

Economic development in the early 2000s was stimulated by the construction and service industries: the lack of housing under communism led to a demand for new housing construction, and the development of tourism in Albania's seaside resorts has fueled the service sector. The country is undergoing an economic restructuring program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. A three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program with the IMF was negotiated in 2002, in the amount of some $38 million. In 2003, Albania entered into negotiations with the European Union (EU) for a Stabilization and Association Agreement.

By 2005, Albania was still one of Europe's poorest countries. Although the economy has registered significant growth rates in the past years, it is lagging behind its neighbors. Unemployment is rampant at 15% (with other estimates placing it at 25%); half of the population is engaged in agriculture, while a fifth is said to be working abroad; the export rate is growing but is still too small; imports are growing at a fast pace and are coming mainly from Italy and Greecemoney for those imports are provided through foreign aid and from the money sent home by Albanians working abroad.


In 1947, the first law providing benefits for disability, old age, survivors, and retirement was introduced. Current pension law sets retirement age at 60 for males and 55 for females, with 35 years of contributions. Mothers with six or more children are eligible at age 50, with 30 years of contributions. The amount of the pension is up to 75% of average net wages during 3 of the last 10 years of employment. Disability pensions provide as much as twice the basic pension or 80% of the last average wage. Employers' contributions are 26% of payroll. Additional sums are provided by employees and by the state budget.

Unemployment benefits introduced in 1993 require at least one year's contributions, and a willingness to undergo training to be eligible. The employer, at 6% of payroll, makes contributions. A flat rate for benefits allows for a minimum standard of living. A program of Family Allowances fully funded by the government was introduced in 1992. Maternity and sickness benefits are also provided, and were last updated in 2003. In 1996/7 the pyramid saving scheme scandal wiped out about 60% of private savings. The scandal coupled with the influx and maintenance of Kosovo refugees, undermined public confidence and trust in the government's ability to deliver public services. Corruption remains another major barrier. Social assistance and social welfare systems are in need of fundamental reform.

Albania's constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex. Roughly half of the labor force is comprised of women. The Labor Code incorporates the principle of equal pay for equal work. Women remain underrepresented in higher positions and often are underemployed. Women have equal access to higher education, many obtaining professional positions in the medical and legal fields. However, discrimination in the workplace continues. Abuse, trafficking, and violence against women and children remain significant problems. Albania is a source country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Domestic violence and sexual harassment are prevalent, and are largely unreported. In 2004, in some regions of the country, women are still considered chattel.

Religious tolerance is prevalent, and the constitution provides for coexistence between ethnic groups. The Office of National Minorities was established to monitor Albania's minority issues. Nevertheless, societal discrimination against Roma, the Egyptian community, and homosexuals persists. Blood feuds, or violent rival factions, contribute to an atmosphere of fear in some areas.


Health care facilities in the 1990s were substandard and much of their equipment obsolete. In 1992 Albania had 16 hospitals, with 14,000 beds. In 1996, hospital beds declined to 9,600. In 2004, there were an estimated 139 physicians and 404 nurses per 100,000 people. There is a medical school in Tiranë (part of the Enver Hoxha University) and some Albanians receive medical training abroad. Tertiary care, available mostly in Tiranë, includes a teaching hospital, an obstetric and gynecological facility, a facility for treating respiratory diseases, and a military hospital. Albania's health care system was strained by the admission of as many as 500,000 Albanian refugees from Kosovo in the spring of 1999.

The general improvement of health conditions in the country is reflected in the lower mortality rate, down to an estimated 6.49 deaths per 1,000 in 2000, as compared with 17.8 per 1,000 in 1938. In 2005, average life expectancy was estimated at 77.24 years, compared to 38 years at the end of World War II. Albania's infant mortality rate, estimated at 21.52 per 1,000 live births in 2005, has also declined over the years since the high rate of 151 per 1,000 live births in 1960. Albania had high immunization rates for children up to one year old: tuberculosis at 94%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 99%; measles, 95%; and polio, 99.5%. As of 2002 the number of people living with HIV/AIDS was estimated at less than 100. The leading causes of death are cardiovascular disease, trauma, cancer, and respiratory disease.


During World II, about 61,000 buildings of all types were destroyed, including 35,400 dwellings. Housing was generally primitive in rural areas and poor elsewhere. After the war, housing continued to be a problem for a variety of reasons: primary emphasis on industrial construction, shortages of materials and skilled labor, and lack of or inadequate assistance for private building. Moreover, the increase of urban population worsened an already desperate situation. Consequently, new housing construction was concentrated in Tiranë, Vlorë, Elbasan, Shkodër, Durrës, and Korçë, as well as in other industrial and mining sites.

According to the results of a 2001 census, there are about 520,936 residential buildings in the country containing about 785,000 dwellings. Most of the existing stock (29%) was built 196180. About 27% of all units were built before 1945. Only about 120,000 (15%) units were built 19912001. About 30% of all dwelling spaces (over 50% of urban units) are block flats that were constructed and owned by the government during the Communist era. (Most public housing was privatized during the period from 199293.) In 2001, there were 253 dwelling units per 1,000 people and an average of 1 household of about 4.46 people lived in each occupied dwelling. About 13% of all dwellings were vacant in 2001.

A 1998 Household Living Condition survey indicated that about 74% of rural households did not have an indoor toilet and 54% did not have access to running water. In comparison, 18% of urban households were without an indoor toilet and 5% lacked running water. The survey also indicated that about 95% of all units were owned by an occupant. The most common form of housing construction is a concrete frame filled with brick or block infill. Tiranë is the largest urban settlement and the site of 17% of the country's housing units (over 134,000 units in 2001).


The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 98.7%, with 99.2% for males and 98.3% for females. Public expenditures on education were estimated at 2.6% of GDP in 2003.

Preschool training for children ages three through six is common but not obligatory. The basic educational program lasts for eight years (ages 6 to 14) and is divided into two cycles of four years each. In 2003, the average enrollment for primary school was about 95%. The pupil to teacher ratio for primary school was at about 21:1 in 2003. Secondary education consists of a four-year program. Vocational programs of three to five years are also open to students who have passed their basic educational requirements. Enrollment in secondary school was at about 77% in 2003. The academic year runs from October to June. The educational system is regulated through the Ministry of Education and Science.

Institutes of higher learning include two agricultural schools, one institute for fine arts, one institute of physical culture, and three teacher-training institutes. In 1957, the Institute of Sciences was elevated to university rank, and Tiranë State University became the first and only institution of university status in Albania. It was later renamed Enver Hoxha University of Tiranë. In 1971, two more universities were foundedUniversiteti I Koree and Universiteti Bujguesor I Tiranes. In 1991, the University of Shkodër was established. Approximately 16% of the adult population was enrolled in tertiary education programs in 2003.


The largest library in Albania is the National Library in Tiranë (1922) with over one million volumes. The University of Tiranë library has 700,000 volumes. Tiranë also has several university libraries with specialized collections, including the Higher Agricultural Institute Library (126,000 volumes) and the Fine Arts Institute Library (40,000 volumes). Albania's Public Assembly maintains a library of 41,000 volumes, also in Tiranë. Public libraries exist in many communities with notable ones in Elbasan (284,000 volumes), Shkodër (250,000 volumes), Durrës (180,000 volumes), and Korçë (139,000 volumes). The Albanian Library Association (ALA), the nation's first and only national association for libraries and librarians, was established in 1993.

The principal museums are the Museum of Archaeology, the Fine Arts Gallery, the Museum of the Struggle for National Liberation, the Natural Science Museum, and the National Historical Museum, all located in Tiranë. There are some 30 provincial museums, among them the Berat Museum, known for its collection of historic documents; the Museum of Architecture in Berat; the Onufri Iconographic Museum, located in Berat's main castle and housing a distinguished collection of medieval icons; the Museum of Education in Elbasan; the Museum of Albanian Medieval Art in Korge; and the Shkodër Museum in Shkodër, a historical museum tracing Albanian culture to the Neolithic Age. The cities of Berat and Gjirokastër, the first dating from antiquity and the second from the Middle Ages, have been designated "museumcities."


In 2003, there were an estimated 83 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 98,500 people were on a waiting list for mainline phone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 358 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Radio and TV broadcasting is governed by the National Council of Radio and Television (NCRT), a seven-member bipartisan body elected by the Parliament. There are at least 17 radio stations (13 AM and 4 FM). As of 2005, there were three television broad-cast stations. The Albanian Radio and Television (RTSh) was the sole public broadcaster in 2004. About 30% of the station's budget comes from the government and the station tends to devote most of its coverage to government concerns. Television was introduced in 1961, color broadcasts in 1981. About 80% of the population rely on television as a primary source of news and information. In 2003, there were an estimated 260 radios and 318 television sets for every 1,000 people.

There are several daily newspapers published in Tiranë. In 2002 the four major ones were Koha Jone (Our Time, circulation 400,000); Zërii Popullit (People's Voicecirculation 105,000), published by the Socialist Party; Rlindia Demokratike (The Democratic Revivalcirculation 50,000), published by the Democratic Party; and Bashkimi Kombetar (circulation 30,000), published by the Democratic Front. There are about 200 publications overall, including daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and pamphlets. At least 18 papers and magazines were published in Greek, with primary distribution throughout the south. Albanian Newspaper (circulation 30,000) is published in Italian and Albanian Daily News is a daily paper published in English. Agjensia Telegrafike Shqiptare (Albanian Telegraphic Agency) is the official news agency.

Though the law protects freedom of speech and press, nearly all news stories are designed to suit the publisher's political and economic interests. The Albanian Telegraphic Agency is the primary news service.

In 2004, the country had about 455 Internet hosts. In 2003, there were 11.7 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 10 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.


Trade unions in Albania were prohibited until 1991. Before 1991 the official trade unions of the country were responsible for promoting the production goals of the country's Communist government. In 1991, independent trade unions were established to promote the rights of workers. The Union of Independent Trade Unions is the most important umbrella trade organization. Other trade unions operate in the defense, agriculture, food processing, and mining sectors of the economy. The Chamber of Commerce of the republic of Albania promotes the economic and business activities of the country in world markets. Other chambers of commerce are located in Shkodei, Durrës, and Gjirokastër. The Foreign Investors Association promotes foreign investment within the country. The Albanian Consumers Association is based in Tiranë. There are a number of national professional medical organizations, such as the Albanian Medical Association and the Albanian Dental Association. The Organic Agriculture Association was established in 1997 and Tiranë is the site of the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe.

The Open Society Foundation for Albania is a nonprofit organization established in 1992 to encourage the process of the democratization of Albanian society. It is sponsored in part by the SOROS Foundation Network, a fund established by American philanthropist George Soros.

There are a number of youth organizations in the country. The Albanian International Youth Committee (AIYC) serves as the major nongovernmental youth platform that encompasses several different youth and student organizations. It is supported by the Albanian Youth Federation (AYF) and seeks to represent the views of organized Albanian youth. A youth scouting movement (Beslidhja Skaut Albania) is active in the country. The World Organization of Scouting opened a national chapter in Albania (Beslidhja Skaut Albania) in 2005. There are also organizations of the YMCA/YWCA.

The Red Cross and the Red Cross Youth have active chapters in the country. There are also chapters of the Lions Club and Kiwanis International.


Albania was once the most inaccessible country in Eastern Europe, with tight entry regulations keeping most Western visitors out. In the early 1980s, persons explicitly forbidden to visit the country were US citizens, Soviet citizens, and full bearded men. However, since the advent of democracy, Albania has slowly become accessible to the outside world. Tourists from the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and members of the European Union and the EFTA no longer have a visa requirement. Upon arrival a three-month entry level visa is issued, which can be extended. Citizens of other countries must obtain a visa prior to arrival from the nearest Albanian embassy. In promoting travel to Albania, the official tourist agency cites the Adriatic beaches, especially at Durrës, Vlorë, and Sarandë, and the picturesque lakes. The most popular sports are football (soccer), gymnastics, volleyball, and basketball.

In 2003, there were 557,210 visitor arrivals; tourists spent a total of $537 million. Hotel rooms numbered 4,161. The average length of stay was about three nights.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Tiranë at $205. Other areas were estimated at $106 per day.


Much Albanian popular lore is based on the exploits of the national hero Gjergj Kastrioti (known as Scanderbeg, 140568), who led his people against the Turks.

Ahmet Bey Zogu (18951961), shepherd, military commander, minister of the interior, and premier, was elected first president of the new republic in 1925; in 1928, when Albania became a kingdom, he ascended the throne as Zog I. After Italian forces occupied Albania in April 1939, he fled the country, dying in exile in southern France. Two major political leaders were Enver Hoxha (190885), postwar Albania's first premier, minister of foreign affairs, and defense minister; and Mahmet Shehu (191381), who replaced Hoxha as premier in 1954, when Hoxha became first secretary of the Workers Party's Central Committee.

Albania's written literature of a nationalist character first developed among Italo-Albanians in Calabria in the mid-19th century and among the Albanian intellectuals in Constantinople in the second half of the 19th century. Naim Erashëri (18461900), Albania's national poet, belonged to the Constantinople group. His most highly regarded works are Bagëti e Bujqësi (Cattle and Land), Histori e Skenderbeut (History of Scanderbeg), and a collection of short poems, Lulet e Verës (Spring Flowers). Kostandin Kristoforidhi (K. Nelko, 182795) translated the Old and New Testaments into Albanian and compiled a standard Albanian-Greek dictionary. Faik Konitza (18751942), prewar Albanian minister to Washington, edited a literary review, Albania, which became the focal publication of Albanian writers living abroad. Gjergj Fishta (18711940), a Franciscan friar who was active in the nationalist movement, wrote a long epic poem, Lahuta e Malcís (The Lute of the Mountains), which is regarded as a masterpiece of Albanian literature. Bishop Fan Stylian Noli (18821965), a political leader in the early 1920s, was Albania's foremost translator of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Cervantes, and other world classics. Lasgush Poradeci (18991987) was a highly regarded lyric poet. Ismail Kadare (b.1926), winner of the Booker International Prize and candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, takes as his subjects contemporary Albanian society, the communist regime, and Albanian old traditions (kanun ). Kadare's works include Gjenerali i Ushtrisë së Vdekur (The General of the Dead Army ) and Pallati i ëndrrave (The Palace of Dreams ).


Albania has no territories or colonies.


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Elsie, Robert. Albanian Literature: A Short History. London, Eng.: I. B. Tauris, 2005.

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Frucht, Richard (ed.). Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABCCLIO, 2005.

Green, Sarah F. Notes from the Balkans: Locating Marginality and Ambiguity on the Greek-Albanian Border. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Hall, Derek R. Albania and the Albanians. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Hoshi, Iraj, Ewa Balcerowicz, and Leszek Balcerowicz (eds.). Barriers to Entry and Growth of New Firms in Early Transition: A Comparative Study of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Albania, and Lithuania. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003.

King, Russell, Nicola Mai, and Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers (eds.). The New Albanian Migration. Portland, Ore.: Sussex Academic Press, 2005.

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Albania
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 3,510,484
Language(s): Albanian, Greek
Literacy rate: 93.0%
Area: 28,748 sq km
GDP: 3,752 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 9
Number of Television Sets: 405,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 115.4
Number of Radio Stations: 21
Number of Radio Receivers: 810,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 230.7
Number of Individuals with Computers: 25,000
Computers per 1,000: 7.1
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 3,500
Internet Access per 1,000: 1.0

Background & General Characteristics

Albania is a land of clans. For centuries the clans of Albania have feuded with each other, making this eastern Adriatic region susceptible to occupation by stronger empires. For two decades in the fifteenth century the clans of Albania united in an alliance against the Ottoman Turks under the leadership of Gjergj Kastrioti (1403-1468), better known as Iskander Skanderberg. The Turkish surrender to Skanderberg in 1444 brought Albania a brief period of decentralized national unity. Skanderberg's death in 1468 from wounds at the battle of Lezhe against the Ottoman Turks returned Roman Catholic Albania to the Muslim control of Constantinople. A red flag with Skanderberg's heraldic emblem remained the symbol of Albanian independence under five centuries of Ottoman occupation.

In the nineteenth century Albanian intellectuals standardized the Albanian language, a unique mixture of Latin, Greek, and Slavic dialects, creating a literary style for educational use. The Society for the Printing of Albanian Writings, founded by Sami Frasheri in 1879, sought national reconciliation from Muslim, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Albanians and the use of the Albanian language in the region's schools. For most of Albania's history, education in Muslim-controlled Albania was under the jurisdiction of the Ottomans and their surrogates, the Greeks, who banned Albanian language-based education and required Albanians to be educated in Turkish or Greek. Albanian exiles in Romania, Bulgaria, Egypt, Italy, and the United States kept the Albanian language alive by writing and printing textbooks and smuggling them into their homeland.

The gradual economic and political disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the late nineteenth century and the empire's military defeats in the twentieth century against successful nationalistic waves of independence by Serbians, Romanians, Greeks, Montenegrins, and Bulgarians provided the Albanian people with the opportunity to seek their own independence. Albanian guerrilla movements within Albania worked with Albanian supporters of the Young Turk movement throughout the Ottoman Empire to destabilize it. Albanian efforts brought fleeting rewards. In 1908 the Ottoman government restored the Albanian language as the educational language for instruction and offered some local political autonomy; however, a new Turkish government in 1909 immediately reversed its position on Albania. Albanian resistance ultimately was successful when Ottoman overlords granted Albania local autonomy in 1911, extending to Albanians local control over the educational system, military recruitment, taxation, and the right to use the Latin script for the Albanian language.

A series of Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913 by Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro against the Ottoman Empire offered Albania the opportunity to declare its own independence in the city of Vlores in November 1912. The London Conference of 1913 on the Balkans ultimately granted Albania full independence from the Ottoman Empire under the protection of Europe's Great Powers (Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria, and Germany). As would be true for most of the twentieth century, Albania's future was shaped by other nations, not by the Albanian people. The Great Powers acceded to the demands of Serbia and Montenegro for Albanian districts. Albanians living in Kosovo and western Macedonia were placed under the jurisdiction of Serbia, not Albania.

An independent Albania was constituted as a constitutional monarchy ruled by an imported German prince, Wilhelm zu Wied, who was unprepared for the realities of Albanian politics. Prince Wilhelm barely controlled the major cities of Durres and Vlores. He left his country after a brief six months. World War I brought deals from the Allies in exchange for support from Albania's neighbors. Italy, Montenegro, and Serbia were each promised Albanian land in return for military assistance against the German and Austrian armies. Albania's future was again determined by other nations unwilling to allow all Albanians to be part of a "Greater Albania."

U.S. diplomatic intervention kept Albania independent after World War I. The newly formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia (Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes) backed Albanian chieftain Ahmed Bey Zogu, believing him a pliable tool for Belgrade's interests in the acquisition of additional Albanian territory. Zogu first established his control within Albania and then turned on his Yugoslav benefactors by making himself President of Albania in 1924 and King in 1928. King Zog turned to Italy for international support against Yugoslavia. Over the next 15 years, Albania came under greater Italian control. Roman Catholic schools were established to replace Muslim ones and Italian became the language of education. Zog's regime was both repressive and censorious. In 1939 King Zog was overthrown by the Italian military. He fled into permanent exile leaving Albania under the control of Rome until Italy's defeat and surrender in 1944.

King Zog and his ministers were never accorded Allied recognition as a government-in-exile. The only major internal resistance in Albania against Italian and German troops was a communist insurgency led by Enver Hoxha. British support provided the critical leverage creating a People's Republic of Albania in 1944. During the next five years all opposition to Hoxha's communist government was eradicated. The media was seized by communist authorities in 1944 but not nationalized until 1946. All media forms were used to instill Marxist values and justify communist rule. Albanian writers and artists were commissioned to rewrite Albania's past to depict a population both backward and besieged, thankful for the advances a communist regime could offer. The press, radio, and television urged implementation of communist economic programs and supported antireligious campaigns and literacy promotion. The media was instructed to appeal to Albanian nationalism to force the public's acceptance of the communist dictatorship's agenda. All newspapers were under the control of the communist government and printed only what they were told. Albania's few radio and television stations spoke only the communist credo. All journalists, editors, film directors, and television and radio producers were either communist party members or severely subjected to the discipline and guidelines of the party. For the next four decades Albania under President and Communist Party leader Enver Hoxha brutally suppressed all dissent, denied the Albanian people human rights, and isolated Albania from all European countries with only distant China, little Albania's primary ally. The communist party published the nation's most important newspaper, Zeri I Popullit (Voice of the People).

A 1984-study commissioned by Amnesty International identified Hoxha's Albania as one of the world's most repressive regimes. Albanians were denied the freedoms of expression, religion, movement, and association in contradiction to the country's 1976 constitution, which stated the nation's political liberties. The only information available to the Albanian people came from the government-controlled media. Hoxha's death in 1985 led to minor improvements in the communist rule of Albania under Hoxha successor, Ramiz Alia. Alia loosened some of the nation's harshest restrictions on human rights and the media. Internal dissent and mounting demonstrations in Albania led Alia to sign the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which guaranteed Albanians both human and political rights as part of the Helsinki accords of 1975. After press laws were liberalized in 1990, Zeri I Popullit rapidly lost circulation. Opposition papers were printed; the most popular newspaper became Rilindja Demokratike. To regain subscribers Zeri I Popullit removed the hammer and sickle and the Marxist slogan from its masthead and relinquished its role as the mouthpiece of the Communist Party.

In 1990 Albania reorganized itself into a multiparty democracy. Student unrest in 1990 led to violent clashes. The political party, the Democratic Front and its daily newspaper, Bashkimi, covered the clashes, arrests, and police activity. This was Albania's first public criticism in the media since the 1944 communist takeover. Albania's government acted with a new sense of responsibility, and the Council of Ministers proceeded to liberalize the laws regulating the media, reduced the Communist Party's control of the press, and legalized the nation's first privately owned opposition newspaper, Rilindja Demokratike.

Albania adopted a new constitution in 1998 to bring the nation into full compliance with the constitutions of Europe's other nations and to facilitate Albania's need for foreign investment in the nation's financial future. Under the 1998 constitution the nation's head of state is a president elected for a five-year term by the legislature. The president, who is advised by a cabinet, appoints the prime minister. Albania has a unicameral legislature (Kuvendi Popullor ) with 155 members serving four-year terms. Most legislators are elected by direct popular vote with a smaller number elected by proportional vote. Part Two of the constitution, The Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, guarantees the Albanian people human rights and freedoms that are indivisible, inalienable, and inviolable, and protected by the judicial order. Article 22 provides for freedom of expression, and freedom of the press, radio, and television. Prior censorship of a means of communication is prohibited. The operation of radio and television stations may require the granting of a government authorization. Article 23 guarantees the right to information. All Albanians have the right, in compliance with the law, to get information about the activities of the government and about the individuals exercising governmental authority.

In 1996 Albania published five national dailies with a combined circulation of 116,000. In 1995 the four largest newspapers were the Albanian language morning dailies Zeri I Popullit, 35,000 circulation; Koha Jone, 30,000 circulation; Rilindja Demokratike, 10,000 circulation; and the Albanian and Italian language morning daily Gazeta Shqiptare, 11,000 circulation. Dy Drina is published in northern Albania and has a circulation of 1,000. According to 1995 statistics, general-interest biweekly periodicals circulated as follows: Alternativa, published by the Social Democratic Party, 5,000 readers; Bashkimi, published by the Democratic Front, 5,000 readers; and Republika, published by the Republican Party, 8,000 readers. Weekly general interest periodicals are Ax, 6,000 readers; Drita, 4,000 readers; and Zeri I Rinise, a Youth Confederation publication, 4,000 readers. Lajmi I Dites, published by the ATS News Agency, has three issues per week and a circulation of 5,000. Special interest publications are the monthlies Albanian Economic Tribune in both Albanian and English with 5,000 readers; Arber, published by the Ministry of Culture with 5,000 readers, and Bujqesia Shqiptare, published by the Ministry of Agriculture with 3,000 readers. Weekly special interest periodicals are Mesuesi, published by the Ministry of Education, 3,000 circulation, and Sindikalisti, circulation 5,000. The University of Triana publishes the biweekly Studenti, with a circulation of 5,000, and the quarterly Gruaja Dhe Koha has 1,000 readers. The quarterly Media Shqiptare, founded in 1999, caters to journalists and provides news about the profession.

The Albanian print media is generally characterized as an extension of political parties. It is perceived as more opinion than factually based. Albanian newspapers have distribution problems. They are sold in the cities, which omit 60 percent of the population residing in the countryside. Newspapers lack adequate revenue to cover printing costs and salaries for a professional staff. Since 1999 newspaper circulation has dropped from 75,000 to 50,000 readers. A majority of Albanians believe that the print media are a negative national influence. Polls indicate that Albanians prefer to receive their news via electronic means.

Albania has had one government owned radio station, Radiotelevizioni Shqiptar. The nation's previously government-owned television station is also called Radiotelevizioni Shqiptar. In 1999, both stations were merged into a public entity no longer financed by the state and without direct linkage to the government. Radiotelevizioni Shqiptar (RTSH; Albanian Radio Television) is under the jurisdiction of the National Council for Radio and Television and regulated by a committee whose members are chosen by Albania's parliament.

Economic Framework

The population of Albania is 95 percent Albanian. The remaining 5 percent of the Albanian population is Greek (3 percent) and Vlachs, Gypsies, Serbs, and Bulgarians (2 percent). Albania is overwhelmingly Muslim (70 percent). Albanian Orthodox Christians represent 20 percent of the population, and 10 percent of Albanians are Roman Catholic.

Albania is one of Europe's poorest nations. The transition from a communist, highly centralized economy to a privatized capitalistic system has had serious repercussions for Albanians. Albania suffered a severe economic depression in 1990 and 1991. The economy improved from 1993 to 1995, but political instability led to increasing inflation and large budget deficits, 12 percent of the gross national product. In 1997, the Albanian economy collapsed under pressures from a financial pyramid scheme to which a large segment of the population had contributed. Severe social unrest led to over 1,500 deaths, the destruction of property, and a falling gross national product. A strong government response curbed violent crime and revived the economy, trade, and commerce. Albanian workers overseas, primarily in Greece and Italy, represent over 20 percent of the Albanian labor force. They contribute to the nation's economic well being by sending money back to their families in Albania. In 1992, most of Albania's farmland was privatized, which increased farming incomes. International aid helped Albania pay for ethnic Albanians from war-torn Kosovo living in refugee camps in Albania. Albania's work force is divided among agriculture (55 percent), industry (24 percent), and service industry (21 percent). The nation's major industries are food processing, textiles and clothing, lumber, oil, cement, chemicals, mining, basic metals, and hydropower.

Due to international pressure, under the leadership of Ramiz Alia Albania relaxed political and human rights controls. National amnesties in 1986 and 1989 released political prisoners held for years. By 1990, Alia supported a more open press and freedom of speech. The press covered controversial topics, sometimes resorting to sensationalism to increase circulation.

Albania is poorly represented in the telecommunications field with an obsolete wire system. Telephone wires were cut in 1992 by villagers and used to build fences. There is no longer a single telephone for each Albanian village. It is estimated that there are two telephones for every 100 Albanians. The lack of a telecommunications network is being alleviated by Vodafone Albania, a subsidiary of Vodafone Group Plc. Vodafone competes with Albania Mobile Communications (AMC) for the sale of cell phones in a nation without regular telephone communications. State run Albtelecom was privatized in 2002. Albtelecom has two Internet Service Provider licenses supporting ISDN and NT connections in five major Albanian cities and plans to expand and serve the university population. The competition of all three companies will allow Albania to catch up in the telecommunications industry on a level compatible with the European Union nations.

International communication is frequently carried by microwave radio relay from Tirana to either Greece or Italy. During the communist era radio and television were exclusively used for propaganda purposes. In 1992 the government owned and operated all 17 AM radio stations and the sole FM station, which broadcast two national programs as well as regional and local programs throughout the country. Popular Albanian broadcast frequencies are AM 16 and FM 3. There are two short-wave frequencies. Albania has nine television stations. Programming is broadcast in eight languages and reaches Albanians in Africa, the Middle East, North and South America, and Europe. Until the early 2000s all radio and television stations were broadcast exclusively over government-controlled frequencies and were usually propaganda based. This has changed significantly with the restructuring of the RTSH.


Albania's rapid transition from an isolationist communist state to western-style democracy was fraught with difficulties. The 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices reported that the nation's security forces usually respected Albania's Law on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, but there were incidents in 1999 where journalists were beaten. The report noted that the media were given the freedom to express views, but the press seldom used self-restraint in what it printed. News stories were given to sensationalism and lacked professional integrity, contained unsubstantiated accusations, and sometimes included complete fabrications. In 1999 Albania's political parties, labor unions, and professional and fraternal groups and organizations published their own newspapers and magazines. In that year, there were at least 200 such publications available on a daily or weekly basis. Newspaper sales were falling because the public lacked trust in what was being reported. In 1999 new privately owned radio and television stations began to emerge to compete with the print media for circulation. At least 50 television and 30 radio stations competed with the RTSH, formerly run by the state. To control a proliferation of broadcast media stations, the government approved new licensing requirements. The National Council of Radio and Television was created to regulate the licensing of radio and television stations. The Council's membership is equally divided between the government and the opposition political parties.

The 2001 World Press Freedom Review noted that the Albanian press showed increased maturity and professionalism in reporting the news. Professional standards for the hiring of journalists reflected a significant improvement. In 2001, the media's professionalism was increasingly evident in their reporting on the conflict in neighboring Macedonia with its large ethnic Albanian population and Albania's general elections of June 2001. A lack of financial resources forced the Albanian media to increasingly depend on foreign news sources for international coverage. Journalists' bias and opinion are now more likely to appear in newspaper editorial pages than in the newspapers front-page articles. The World Press Freedom Review criticized the media for a lack of critical analysis about political candidates running for public office and the failure to cover some important national events. Press coverage on the Socialist Party (the former Albanian Communist Party) was criticized in the report for being overly critical and biased. The broadcast media were noted as providing more balanced coverage. Only the public television channel TVSH was sited for biased reporting with 40 percent of the coverage focused on the Socialist Party and 11 percent of the coverage for all the other opposition parties. As a result the National Council for Radio and Television fined TVHS for bias in reporting for the Socialist Party.

In 2001, Albania's government debated a new media law, Article 19 for Freedom of the Press, to regulate the media. Opposition lawmakers feared Article 19 might compromise press freedom by making journalists responsible for what was printed regardless of who authorized the article. Article 19 also required all journalists to register with a Journalists' Registry and to be experienced before being licensed by the state, and made publishers legally liable for hiring unlicensed journalists. Article 19 required journalists to report only truthful and carefully checked news stories. False news articles would be considered a criminal offense. A national debate concluded that Article 19 was likely to be in contradiction to European Union media practices, which required the media to police and discipline itself.

News Agencies

For the majority of its media history, Albania has had only one principal news agency, Agjensia Telegrafike Shqiptare. There are three media associations, the Journalists Union, the Professional Journalists Association, and the Writers and Artists League. E.N.T.E.R. is the first Independent Albanian News Agency. Founded in 1997 by a recognized group of well-known independent journalists, E.N.T.E.R. negotiates contracts for the sale and distribution of news with independent newspapers, private radio stations, state radio and television stations, state institutions, and international organizations. E.N.T.E.R. is divided into three departments, Interior News, Foreign, and Technical, with correspondents in Albania's 12 administrative districts. Tirfax offers information in English but not a single Albanian newspaper uses it.

Broadcast Media

The National Council for Radio-Television regulates broadcasting. The president appoints one member, and the Commission on the Media, which is made up of representatives selected equally by the government and the opposition parties, chooses six members. The National Council broadcasts a national radio program and a second radio program from 14 stations. Statistics for 1997 indicated that Albanians owned 810,000 radios and 405,000 television sets. The electronic media law of September 30, 1998 provides for the transfer of the state-owned RTSH to public ownership under the authority of the National Broadcasting Council. An amended state secrets law, passed in 1999, eliminated references to punishing media institutions and journalists for publishing classified information. Penal code punishments have not been dropped.

In 2000, many Albanian television stations operated illegally without government licenses. There were 120 applications with 20 television stations competing for two national channels. The National Council for Radio and Television granted the two national channels to TV Klan and TV Arberia. TV Shijak, one of the television losers, criticized the decision as being politically motivated. Other television stations were granted licenses for local broadcasting including TV Teuta. Most television and radio stations are joint ventures with Italian companies. Despite the criticism, Albanian media is increasing in number and reflecting the political and economic stability of the nation. RTSH tends to provide more government information as it makes the transition to a private network system. It is the only station to broadcast throughout the entire country.

Radio Koha, Radio Kontakt, Radio Stinet, Radio Top Albania, and Radio Ime are Albanian's most popular radio stations. Their programming emphasizes music, news, and call-in shows. Albanians receive FM broadcasts from the Voice of America, British Broadcasting Corporation, and Deutsche Welle on short wave.

Electronic News Media

Electronic media in Albania is a relatively recent addition to the media. The list of electronic media is growing at a rapid rate. AlbaNews is a mailing list dedicated to the distribution of new and information about Albania, Kosovo, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albanian living around the world. Major contributors to AlbaNews are Kosova Information Center, OMRI, Albanian Telegraphic Agency, Council for the Defense of Human rights and Freedoms in Kosova, and Albanian Weekly (Prishtina). Electronic Media newsgroups for Albania include soc.culture.albanian, bit.listserv.albanian,, alt. news.macdeonia, soc.cuture.yugoslavia, and soc. culture.europe.

The Albanian press with Internet Web sites are Koha Jone, Gazeta Shqiptare, Gazeta Shekulli, Gazeta Korrieri, Sporti Shqiptar, Zeri I Popullit, Republicka, Revista Klan, and Revista Spekter. Internet sites are available for a number of Albanian print media, which includes the Albanian Daily News, AlbaNews, Albania On-Line, ARTA News Agency, Albanian Telegraphic Agency, BBC World Service Albanian, Dardania Lajme, Deutsche Weel-Shqip, Kosova Crisis Center, Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms, Kosova Press, Kosova Sot, and the Kosova Information Center. Albanian periodicals with Internet sites are Blic, Fokus, International Journal of Albanian Studies, International War and Peace Report, Klan, and Pasqyra.

Albanian radio stations with online sites are Radio 21, Radio France Internationale, Lajme ne Shqip, and Rilindja. Albanian television stations with Internet sites are Radio Television of Prishtina Satellite Program, Shekuli, TV Art, TVSH-Programi Satelitor, and the Voice of America Albanian Service. was the nation's first electronic media to go online in 1991 as a private company. The company's Independent Albanian Economic Tribune, Ltd. was Albania's first economic online monthly. In 1995, the English-language Albanian Daily News was offered to foreigners on the Internet. plans to add a third Internet site to present news about Albanians residing overseas.

Education & TRAINING

The only institution of higher learning in Albania to offer degrees in media related careers is the University of Tirana. Founded in 1957, the University of Tirana is a comprehensive university with seven colleges and 14,320 students. The faculty of History and Philology, a college that also includes history, geography, Albanian Linguistics, and Albanian Literature, offers a degree in journalism. The University of Tirana's increasing cooperation with European Union institutions offers Albanian students the opportunity to transfer to universities outside Albania for programs of study in the media not offered there.


Albania is a nation beset with a multitude of problems generated by centuries of isolation and control during the rule of the Ottoman sultans and the interventionism by Yugoslavia, Italy, and the Soviet Union in Albania's internal affairs. World War II and the ultimate victory of communist insurgents led to four decades of xenophobic control and the isolationism of Albania from the rest of Europe. The development of a democratic system has resurrected internal feuding among newly organized political parties that occasionally reflect Albanian clans likely to renew historic feuds. Ethnic Albanians living in the Serbian province of Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia involve the Republic of Albania in the politics of its neighbors. Albanian refugees from Kosovo and Macedonia living in Albania claim that the Albanian government discriminates against them in providing access to education, public-sector jobs, and representation in the government. A poor nation, Albania is the route for drug trafficking from Southwest Asia in opiates, hashish, and cannabis and cocaine from South America. There is some opium and cannabis production in Albania. Whether Albania will be able to integrate successfully into a Europe of multiparty democracies depends on Albania's position about ethnic Albanians in war torn Kosovo (a part of Serbia) and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Albania has limited financial resources and needs foreign investment. Political stability and respect for human rights will directly affect foreign economic investment and Albania's future. The violence that once characterized Albanian politics and the media's journalists and radio and television stations is rapidly on the decline. The print media will need to regain public confidence now enjoyed by the broadcast media. Although freedom of expression is freely exercised in Albania, freedom of movement for journalists has risks because of the large number of rifles owned by Albanians and an absence of public order outside Albanian cities. Whether Albanians living overseas will return home and help the nation rebuilt may determine the nation's future.

Significant Dates

  • 1985: Death of Enver Hoxha, Communist leader of Albania since 1944.
  • 1990: Albania begins the transition to a multiparty democracy.
  • 1997: Pyramid financial investment scheme collapses causing an economic crisis.
  • 1998: Approval of a new constitution.


1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Albania. Washington, DC: United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2000.

2001 World Press Freedom Review. Available from

Glenny, Misha. The Balkans, Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, 1904-1999. New York: Viking Press, 2000.

International Journalists' Network. Available from

Kaplan, Robert. Balkan Ghosts. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.

Turner, Barry, ed. Statesman's Yearbook 2002. New York: Palgrave Press, 2001.

World Mass Media Handbook. New York: United Nations Department of Public Information, 1995.

Zickel, Raymond, and Walter R. Iwaskiw, eds. Albania: A Country Study. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1994.

William A. Paquette, Ph.D.

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Republic of Albania

Republika é Shqipërisë



Albania is located in the southwestern part of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. It is bordered by the Yugoslav republics of Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia, and by Greece and the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Albania has an area of 28,748 square kilometers (11,100 square miles), making it slightly smaller than Maryland. The capital, Tiranë, is situated in the west-central part of the country near the Adriatic Sea.


The population of Albania was 3,510,484 in July 2001, compared with 2,761,000 in 1981. Population density averaged 111 inhabitants per square kilometer (287 per square mile) but nearly two-thirds of the population were concentrated in the west, especially in the Tiranë-Durrës region. Density there reached 300 inhabitants per square kilometer (777 per square mile). In 2001, the birth rate was 19.01 per 1,000 population while the death rate equaled 6.5 per 1,000. Albania had one of the most youthful populations in Europe, with 30 percent below the age of 14 and just 7 percent older than 65. The population growth rate in 2000 was comparatively modest, at only 0.88 percent, and the emigration rate stood at 3.69 per 1,000. Since the collapse of communism in 1989, many Albanians, allowed to travel abroad for the first time, have left their impoverished country for western Europe, mostly for Italy, Greece, Switzerland, and the United States. The emigration rate has declined from a previous rate of 10.36 in 2000, however.

There are 2 major Albanian ethnic subgroups with distinct dialects: the Gegs in the north, and the Tosks in the south. The Gegs account for more than half of the population, but the Tosks have been traditionally in control. The Tosk dialect of Albanian is the official language. Albanians account for 95 percent of the population, Greeks for 3 percent, and Vlachs, Gypsies, and Bulgarians for the other 2 percent. Albania is predominantly rural, with about 59 percent of the population living in the countryside (1999). The population of the capitalTiranëis 312,220 (2000); other cities include Durrës, Elbasan, Shkodër, and Vlorë.


Albania is Europe's poorest country; its annual gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was about US$1,000 in 1997, more than 10 times lower than in neighboring Greece. Liberated from Turkish domination in 1912, the country endured periods of anarchy, autocratic rule, and foreign occupation before being taken over by communists in 1944. Until the collapse of communism in 1989, Albania was ruled in international isolation by a rigid Stalinist regime. All economic activity was nationalized and the production of consumer goods and the development of the infrastructure were neglected while heavy industry was stressed. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, market reforms have taken a foothold and a privatization program has been in place since 1992, when the pro-market Democratic Party formed a cabinet.

Reforms have been slow, however, and the economy shaky as a result. Particularly disastrous was the 1997 collapse of several financial pyramid schemes ) that wiped out the life savings of half of the Albanian population, causing violent riots. The democratic government was toppled, and foreign investors fled in panic. The Kosovo refugee crisis of 1999 dealt another heavy blow. Albania has been plagued by corruption and inadequate reporting; the flow of goods crossing the frontiers has remained largely unknown, and tax collection rates have been unsatisfactory. Organized crime and the trafficking of drugs and stolen cars from western Europe are a major social problem.

The socialist government, in office since 1997, has curbed crime, strengthened customs inspections, improved tax collection, and carried on with privatization. Some 420 comparatively larger enterprises were put on the market after restructuring , including Albpetrol (oil and gas and pipelines), Albakri (copper mining), Albkromi (chrome), Telekom Shqiptar, and the Albanian Mobile Phone Company. Many state-held assets were liquidated. Stable and independent government institutions were still a dream in 2000, however, although younger technocrats had been involved in decision-making and a more informative economic database was created.

In 2000, the Albanian economy grew by 7 percent, although it started from a low base. The currency was stable, inflation was only 2 percent (in 1999), and money transfers from Albanians abroad fueled a house-building boom. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cautiously praised the authorities for progress in structural reform and their commitment to reducing poverty. Foreign investments in 2000 reached US$143 million (up from US$43 million in 1999), a Greek-Norwegian consortium bought the first mobile-phone network, a Greek-British consortium bought the second mobile-phone license, and corruption diminished.

Poverty is still pervasive and the country is burdened by a large foreign trade deficit (US$690 million in 2000). Among the government's concerns are the improvement of agriculture and the obsolete road network, encouraging private enterprise, and liberalizing foreign trade. The opening up of free trade zones to attract investors is expected to be supplemented by an improved legal environment, a financial sector restructuring, and a strengthening of law and order (safety is still a big concern in Albania). Heavily dependent on foreign economic aid, in 1997 the country received US$630 million in financial support and a US$58 million poverty reduction and growth facility (loan) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the European Union (EU). No considerable funding has yet been received from the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, a regional initiative backed by the EU and the United States. Albania has not yet started negotiations to become a part of the EU, which insists that more substantial reforms are needed before talks could start.


Albania is a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral (1-house) 155-member parliament. The president is the head of state, but the prime minister is the executive head of government. The 2 major parties are the left-of-center Socialists (reformed communists) and the right-of-center Democratic Party. In the 1997 elections, the socialists won 101 seats, blaming Sali Berisha, the first post-communist president, and his democrats for the financial pyramid scams, economic chaos, rampant corruption, authoritarianism, and fraud. The socialists, whose power base lies mostly in the south, formed a coalition with the center-left social-democrats (8 seats), the small, predominantly ethnic Greek Human Rights Party (4 seats), and the smaller centrist Democratic Alliance (2 seats). They have a chance of remaining in office at the election in mid-2001. The democrats, whose power base is mainly in the north, retained 27 seats in parliament.

In early 2001, the state's role in the economy was diminishing, but the government was still highly centralized and financial resources were concentrated at the national level. In an attempt to attract foreign investors, Albania planned to create free-trade zones and companies operating in them would be exempt from import duties and a value-added tax (VAT) but not from taxes on profits. In order to curb the budget deficit , the government nearly doubled the VAT to 20 percent and increased excise taxes in 1997. The tax share of GDP was set to 22 percent in the 2001 budget, close to the norm for other economies making the transition from a communist to a market system. Albania had a foreign debt of US$820 million in 1998, which was not considered disproportionate.


Albania's infrastructure is far below the standards of other European countries. There are 18,000 kilometers (11,250 miles) of roads, of which 5,400 kilometers (3,355 miles) are paved, and rapid expansion in private car ownership (prohibited in communist times) has placed a great pressure on the network. Since the Kosovo war in neighboring former Yugoslavia, NATO has rebuilt the Albanian roads it used, and western governments have offered funding for several construction projects. One of them runs north-south from the border with Montenegro via Shkodër, Durrës and Vlorë to the Greek frontier (requiring US$94.8 million for its completion). Another runs east-west from Durrës via Elbasan to the Macedonian frontier (costing US$155.9 million). Albania has received US$108 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB) for completion of the Durrës-Kukës highway and other segments.

The railroad network has 447 kilometers (277.7 miles) of single track, not connected to the railroads of any neighboring country and in poor condition. Thirty-eight kilometers (23.6 miles) of the Durrës-Tiranë line were under renovation in 2000. Two seaports are located at Durrës and Vlorë. Albania's only international airport, Rinas, is located outside Tiranë and has 1 runway and a small passenger terminal.

Albania's power system has 1,670 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, of which 1,446 MW is in hydropower plants (the country's mountainous terrain is favorable for that type of power) and 224 MW in thermal plants. A quarter of the energy is lost due to technical inadequacies, and blackouts are still frequent. Often, electricity reaching consumers is not paid for (70 percent of the clients refused to pay their bills in 1997). A particular concern is the theft of electricity by bypassing meters. The power utility, Korporata Elektroenergjitike, is still in state hands but is scheduled for privatization in 2001. A loan of US$30 million from the World Bank, US$12 million from Exportfinans of Norway, and US$1.2 million from the Chinese government helped Albania repair its electric grid in 2000.

The telephone system is obsolete, with 42,000 main lines in 1995 (11,000 telephones in Tiranë). In 1992, rioting peasants cut the wire to about 1,000 villages and used it to build fences. There were 3,100 mobile phones

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Albania 36 217 109 0.0 1 3.6 N/A 0.24 3
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Yugoslavia 107 297 259 N/A 23 1.9 18.8 7.65 80
Macedonia 21 200 250 N/A 15 1.5 N/A 4.40 30
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

in 1999, with coverage limited to the main cities. In 2000, the privatization of the mobile phone company, Albanian Mobile Communications (AMC), was completed, and the sale of the fixed-line operator, Albtelekom, was set for 2001. A consortium of Vodafone (UK) and Panafon (Greece) won a mobile telephony license in early 2001 for US$38 million.


Albania's economy remains predominantly agricultural, and in 1999, the contribution of agriculture to GDP was 53 percent, up from 32.3 percent in 1989. Industry's share slipped from nearly 45 percent in 1989 to 26 percent in 1999, because of the collapse of loss-making state-run factories and the return of many workers to farming. The percentage of the population engaged in agriculture reached one-half by 1997. In 1998, 27 percent of the farms were engaged in subsistence farming which means they did not sell their goods to the marketand only half used machinery. Prior to 1991, services were underdeveloped, with virturally no tourism and rudimentary banking and retail sectors. New service industries such as tourism and banking started to develop in the 1990s, mostly with foreign investment, but suffered in the 1997 financial collapse. The shrinking Albanian industry is based on local natural resources, notably oil, lignite, copper, chromium, limestone, bauxite, and natural gas.


In 1992, peasants took control of formerly collectivized land and livestock. Many collective farms (farms held by the state and worked by citizens) were looted, orchards were cut down for firewood, and agricultural output collapsed by almost half. Much of the irrigation works and greenhouses of the communist regime were looted. Under private ownership, agriculture picked up and by 1995, production was above the 1990 level. Serious problems facing farmers are the lack of technology and the tiny size of land holdings. In 1999, 42 percent of farms used animal and manpower alone. Self-sufficiency, forced on farmers by the communist prohibition of private trade, is high. In 1999, 48.5 percent of farm households bought no outside food. International lenders, such as the World Bank, the EU, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), have financed repairs and drainage projects, but the consolidation of small farm plots into larger and more efficient units has been slow. Albania imports basic foods (worth Lk3.8 billion in 1999, up from Lk3.7 billion in 1998), yet agriculture provides the livelihood for the majority of the population. Crops include wheat, corn, olives, sugar beets, cotton, sunflower seeds, tobacco, potatoes, and fruits. The livestock population was estimated in the early 1990s as including some 500,000 cattle, 1 million sheep, and 170,000 pigs.


Mining, metallurgy, food processing, textiles, lumber, and cement were among the leading industries in Albania under the communist regime, when heavy industry was a priority and some factories were capable of exporting. Until 1961, most equipment was supplied by the Soviet Union and then by China until 1978. After 1989, the sector declined due to the lack of new technology and financing and the dilapidated condition of the factories. In the 1990s, plants and equipment were destroyed and sold for scrap, or fell into disuse, unable to compete with cheaper imports that came with trade liberalization. A revival of chromium, steel, and cement industries came with the increase of foreign investments in 2000. Some new equipment was purchased in the West for a cigarette-making plant in Durrës and for a manufacture of underwear in Korçë. Construction, especially in housing, was the main factor for investment growth.

Mining is a large (but shrinking) sector of the economy, given the rich deposits of bauxite, chromium, nickel, iron, copper ores, and petroleum. The export of raw materials is crucial for foreign exchange earnings. In the 1980s, Albania ranked third worldwide in chromium ore production. Output plunged 3 times to 157,000 tons in 1997, because of the weakening of domestic demand in addition to the closing down of loss-making industries, the lack of capital, high costs, problems with the electricity supply, and the economic chaos of 1997. Albania's output of copper was reduced from 1 million tons per year in the late 1980s to 25,000 tons in 1997. Iron-nickel mining collapsed in the early 1990s with the closing down of the steel works of Elbasan, its main client, but was revived in 2000 due to Turkish involvement at the plant. Coal and petroleum output and petroleum refineries production have also declined in the 1990s due to their inadequate technology.


Albania's banking system under communism was state-run and underdeveloped. By the early 1990s, the 3 major state banks were cash-strapped due to irrecoverable loans to loss-making industries. Since then, almost all banks (except the largest one, the Savings Bank) have been privatized, most in the form of joint ventures with foreign partners, including the Italian Albanian Bank (IAB), the Arab Albanian Islamic Bank (AAIB), and the Dardania Bank (DB). The sector has been plagued by a lack of capitalization and a lack of experience and technology. Little long-term investment credit is available, and debt collection is uncertain. The 1997 financial pyramids collapse annihilated US$1 billion in savings and only US$50 million seemed recoverable by 2000. To relieve the situation, the Bank of Albania (the central bank) imposed restrictions on banks (including credit limits and minimum interest rates) that additionally contracted the credit market. Albanians became extremely cautious in depositing money in the banks, and private sector investment started to rely on financing through family, friends, and partners. Larger companies transferred funds abroad and Albanian banks came to rely on short-term deposits and lending to selected customers for short-term trade financing. The privatization of the remaining state-owned bank, the Savings Bank (SB), was delayed in 2000 due to improperly audited accounts and was rescheduled for June 2001.

Albania's tourist industry is in an embryonic stage. There are few foreign visitors to its picturesque Mediterranean shore because of the lack of adequate infrastructure and fears for personal safety. A few modern hotels appeared in 2000, backed by foreign investment, but revenues were weak. With the privatization of retail businesses in the early 1990s, the sector was characterized by a large number of small family retailers. The quality of service was still rather poor because of the low household income and the subsistence farming of the majority of the rural population. In 1999 and 2000, the retail and hotel industry had a modest boom due to the presence of foreign troops involved in the Kosovo war.


Albania depends on imports for most of its consumption. It was not able to produce enough exports to offset its large trade deficit of US$814 million in 1999, a huge sum for the size of the economy. This trade deficit may create serious problems for Albania in the near future. A major contribution to offsetting the deficit are money transfers from Albanians abroad, which grew from US$324 million in 1999 to US$531 million in 2000. Raw material exports are also crucial but gradually shrinking. Exports are declining, particularly in minerals, contributing only 8 percent of domestic exports in the last quarter of 1999, down from 45 percent in 1998. Re-exports of goods processed in Albania for manufacturers abroad increased mostly in textiles and footwear but also in electrical appliances, foods, and metal products. In the last quarter of 1999, they contributed 70 percent of total exports, a 29 percent increase from the last quarter of 1998. Exports by the tobacco industry were down by almost a third in 1999 from 1998, and other agricultural exports were hit by drought. The EU countries are Albania's chief trading partners, notably neighboring Italy and Greece, partly due to subcontracting for Italian and Greek manufacturers drawn by cheap local labor. Other significant trading partners include Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and the United States. Albania joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2000 and is committed to trade liberalization and reducing tariffs on imports. In 1999, the EU promised Albania preferred trade status and reduced some tariffs on Albanian exports.


After the economic collapse of 1997, the monetary policy of the Bank of Albania was tightened and the regulation of the financial sector was improved. The currency was stabilized and kept under control. The exchange rate of the lek shifted from 179.06 per US$1 in

Exchange rates: Albania
leke per US$1
Dec 2000 146.08
2000 143.71
1999 137.69
1998 150.63
1997 148.93
1996 104.50
Note: Leke is the plural of lek.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

1997 to almost 140 per dollar in 2001. New legislation included a law on bank deposit insurance and the setting up of a credit information bureau, an investment advisory office, a mediation office for commercial disputes, and an agency for the execution of bankruptcy and other related court decisions. Nevertheless, banking is not efficient, and the economy is still cash-driven. There is no formal equities market in the country as the Tiranë Stock Exchange (scheduled for privatization) is trading in Albanian treasury bills only.


Poverty in Albania is widespread due to limited job opportunities, low income, and limited access to basic services such as education, health, water, and sewerage. Under the communist regime, employment was almost total, and the government provided some livelihood for nearly everyone. In the 1990s, the collapse of the state-run farms and industrial enterprises, unemployment, organized crime, and corruption generated widespread new poverty along with numerous illicit fortunes. Many families came to rely on transfers from family members abroad as 25 percent of working-age Albanians emigrated, only a fifth of them legally. More than 17 percent of the population lived under the poverty line in 2000, and 90 percent of the poor live in rural areas. Sixty percent

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Albania N/A 916 915 842 795
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Greece 8,302 9,645 10,005 10,735 12,069
Macedonia N/A N/A N/A N/A 1,349
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000;
Trends in human development and per capita income.

of those heading poor households are self-employed in subsistence farming. The situation is worse in the north, where many rural families own less than 0.5 hectares. In Tiranë, there were about 800 street children in 2000 and child laborers numbered between 35,000-50,000 as need forced them to leave school early. Drug abuse, prostitution, trafficking in women, and child abuse have all increased with the economic hardship of the 1990s.


The Albanian labor force numbered 1.692 million (including 352,000 emigrants and 261,000 unemployed) in 2000. The private sector had between 900,000 and 1,000,000 workers, mostly in agriculture and small shops and enterprises. The unemployment rate was 18.2 percent in 2000, but unemployment in the rural regions, particularly in subsistence farming, was not reflected in this figure. Minimum wages are US$50 per month, insufficient to provide a decent standard of living. Many Albanians work with outdated technology and without adequate safety regulations. Workplace conditions are generally poor and often dangerous. The workweek is 48 hours, but hours are set by individual or collective agreement. Under the communist regime, unions were government-controlled and independent unions only emerged in 1991. The Independent Confederation of Trade Unions, with an estimated 127,000 members, was formed as an umbrella group for most branch unions.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Albania 62 3 13 3 10 5 4
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Serbia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Macedonia 33 5 15 6 9 9 23
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

The Confederation of Trade Unions represents school, petroleum, postal, and telecommunications workers and has 80,000 members. Union membership declined after 1997 because of the expansion of the private sector (few of its workers have unions). Labor disputes have been often confrontational and passionate.


168 B.C. Romans take over Illyria (comprising most of present-day Albania).

1000s A.D. Illyria becomes known as Albania; feudal agriculture develops and Adriatic cities become centers of commerce.

1388. Ottoman Turks invade Albania and subdue it by the early 16th century.

1500s. The Ottomans convert many formerly Christian Albanians to Islam. The feudal economy remains unchanged into the 20th century.

1878. Albanian nationalism grows and the Prizren League is organized in the present-day Kosovo province of Serbia to work for national independence.

1912. Albania is liberated from the Ottomans. The European powers recognize its independence but leave nearly half of the ethnic Albanians outside its borders.

1919. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson vetoes the partition of Albania among its neighbors following the end of World War I.

1925. Albania is taken over by a dictatorship and gradually turns into an Italian protectorate.

1939. Italian troops occupy Albania at the start of World War II.

1944. Albanian communists take over and impose Stalinist economic rules, which last until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

1990. A multi-party system is allowed as thousands of Albanians try to escape the country by fleeing to foreign embassies in Tiranë.

1991. The first multi-party elections are won by the reformed communists, while the opposition Democratic Party wins 75 seats in the Assembly. Massive labor unrest topples the government.

1992. Elections are won by the democrats, and economic reforms and liberalization gain momentum. Elections in 1996 leave the cabinet in office but the opposition voices fraud accusations.

1997. The collapse of pyramid schemes causes violent riots. The government is toppled and the socialists (re-formed communists) return to power in early elections.

1999. More than 400,000 Albanian refugees from Kosovo flood into Albania.

2000. Albania joins the World Trade Organization.


With its economy reviving from the collapse of 1997, Albania remains essentially a developing country requiring heavy investment for its modernization. Without significant progress in coping with crime and weak state institutions, its internal stability is not yet guaranteed. Reforms are needed to enforce democracy and develop favorable conditions for foreign investment. Albania has strong potential for growth due to its youthful population and the large number of guest workers , many of whom may return with capital and know-how once domestic conditions improve. Proximity to Italy and Greece, abundant natural resources, and potential tourist attractions are additional factors that may encourage development. EU membership is not yet an issue for Albania, but with the accession of Balkan neighbors, its chances will grow.

The Socialist Party is expected to stay in power after the election in 2001 and GDP is likely to keep its growth rate of 7 percent driven by the privatization of power, the Savings Bank, hotels, and other government assets. Inflation will be low and unemployment will gradually decline, but many Albanians will continue to support their families by working abroad. Import dependency will diminish as domestic industry slowly picks up and the development of tourism and increasing money transfers may alleviate the trade deficit situation. However, Albania will remain dependent on international aid for the foreseeable future.


Albania has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Albania. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Albania. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Albania. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Vickers, Miranda. Albania: From Anarchy to a Balkan Identity. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

Valentin Hadjiyski




Lek (Lk). One lek equals 100 qindarka. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, and 50 qindarka and 1 lek, and notes of 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 leke.


Textiles, footwear, asphalt, metals and ores, oil, fruits, tobacco, semiprocessed goods.


Machinery and equipment, foods, textiles, chemicals.


US$10.5 billion (2000 est.).


Exports: US$310 million (2000 est.). Imports: US$1 billion (2000 est.). [The CIA World Factbook estimates that exports in 1999 were US$242 million while imports were US$925 million.]

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Republic of Albania

Major Cities:
Tiranë, Durrës, Shkodër

Other Cities:
Berat, Elbasan, Gjirokastër, Korçë, Vlorë


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated January 1995. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Albania is a country in the midst of tremendous change. From 1944 until 1990, Albania was a hard-line communist state whose leaders effectively sealed the country off from the rest of the world. The fall of communism throughout Eastern Europe in 1989 led to dramatic political changes within Albania. Massive anti-government demonstrations in 1990 forced Albania's communist leadership to make dramatic concessions, including renouncing its monopoly on power and agreeing to hold democratic elections. Democratic elections swept the communists from power in March 1992. Albania is now a democratic nation and is slowly opening itself to the outside world. The country faces many daunting challenges, among them a collapsing economy, grinding poverty, and social unrest.



Tiranë (Tirana) is the capital of Albania and its largest city, with a population of over 245,000. Founded by a Turkish pasha in 1614, Tiranë became a crafts center with a lively bazaar. In 1920, the city was made the capital of Albania; Italianate government buildings went up in the 1930s.

The general atmosphere of Tiranë is reminiscent of 19th-century European living.

Most of Tiranë's housing consists of loose-brick apartment buildings. There are many narrow streets with old adobe one-story homes between them. Most of the city's housing is in poor condition.


The local food supply has been inadequate by Western standards in availability and variety; however, there have been marked improvements recently. Availability of vegetables and fruits is seasonal, but prices for most items are relatively low. Local salt, sugar, rice, flour, cooking oil, and other basic items are now usually available. Milk, eggs, and good quality meat are often scarce. Soft drinks, bottled water, fruit juice, several varieties of imported beer, wine, and spirits are available.

There are several "supermarkets" in Tiranë but their stocks are usually quite limited. Locally produced wines and spirits are available.


You will need the same kinds of clothing worn in the Mid-Atlantic. Winters are shorter and milder, and summers are longer and hot. Local ready-to-wear clothing is not of Western standards.

Albanian women usually wear skirts, trousers, or culottes, and sometimes shorts.

Supplies and Services

Supplies: Western-quality toiletries, cosmetics, and soaps are expensive, and limited in supply. American cigarettes are available but cigars are not. Local pipe tobacco is not to American taste.

Basic Services: Dry-cleaning is available but generally not up to Western standards. Local shoe repair also does not meet Western standards. Dressmakers are available; however, quality material is not. Beauty parlors and barber shops are substandard in cleanliness.

Religious Activities

The newly established Interdenominational Protestant Assembly holds English-language services. The call-to-worship at the mosques is in Arabic, but the services are in Albanian. Masses at the Catholic and Albanian Orthodox churches are held in the Albanian language. In a few cases, Orthodox services are held in the Greek language.


The Tirana International School, a private nonprofit institution that opened in September 1991, offers high-quality education in English for elementary students from 5-12 years of age. The enrollment for the school has been increasing since 1991.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Tourist areas in Albania include two " museum cities "Berat and Gjirokastërand archaeological sites at Apollonia, Butrint, Durrës, Bylis, and Koman. There are also several medieval castle ruins of note.


Durrës, with a population of approximately 85,000, is located west of Tiranë and is Albania's second largest city. The city's origins date back to roughly 627 B.C., making Durrës one of Europe's oldest cities. Today, it is Albania's principal seaport. Most of Albania's imports enter through Durrës. Several industries are located in the city. These industries manufacture cigarettes, leather products, rubber, and plastics. Durrës location on the Adriatic Sea has led to the development of a large shipbuilding industry. An extensive railway system links Durrës to Tiranë and the cities of Lezhë, Shkodër, Elbasan, and Vlorë.

In 1991, Durrës was a point of departure for 18,000 Albanians who fled the country's dismal economic and social conditions. Many of these persons sailed across the Adriatic Sea to Italy.


Although Durrës is an ancient city, it has suffered many severe earthquakes and was invaded and conquered repeatedly over the centuries. Consequently, much of its ancient architecture has been destroyed. However, visitors can still view remnants of the towns ancient walls. These walls were built during various periods by the Romans, Turks, and Venetians. An amphitheater built by the Romans in the second century has also been partially excavated and is open to tourists. North of Durrës, it is possible to visit the remains of the Porta Romana, a sixth century Roman fortification. Only a small section of its brick walls and a gateway with two towers remain standing.

One of Durrës primary attractions is the Archaeological Museum. This museum offers visitors an informative look at the history of the city. Each room in the museum is dedicated to a particular historical period. Prehistoric and Greek vases and coins can be viewed, along with artifacts from the Roman, Koman, Byzantine, Venetian, and Turkish periods. Outside of the museum are displays containing fragments of Greek and Roman sculpture.


Entertainment activities within Durrës are very limited. South of the city, many visitors flock to the beautiful beaches located on the Adriatic Sea. Several hotels on the waterfront offer excellent views of the Adriatic Sea and the surrounding area. Durrës is Albania's principal holiday resort.


The city of Shkodër, with a population of approximately 84,000 is located in northwestern Albania on a plain surrounded by high mountains. Like Durrës Shkodër is an ancient city whose origins can be traced to the first millennium B.C. Throughout history, Shkodër has been occupied at various times by the Illyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgars, Serbs, Turks, and Austrians. In the 19th century, the city became an important Roman Catholic religious center. Jesuits and Franciscan convents, schools, libraries, and churches were constructed. Following the communist takeover of Albania in 1944, the city became a center of resistance to the communist campaign against religion. Many Roman Catholics still live in Shkodër today, along with a large community of Muslims and a small minority of Eastern Orthodox Christians.

The city has always been one of Albania's major cultural centers. The country's first printing press was established in Shkodër in the 16th century. Also, Albania's first theatrical productions were performed in the city in the 1800s. Several noted Albanian artists have lived in Shkodër, including the poet Migjemi and Kolë Idromeno, a noted painter, architect, and photographer.

Shkodër is the main economic and marketing center of northern Albania. The city exports the grains, fruits, potatoes, and tobacco grown in fertile regions nearby. Several manufacturing industries are located in Shkodër. These factories produce processed foods, copper wire products, and textiles. Many of these factories are powered by a large hydroelectric plant located near the city.


Shkodër has museums and mosques that are of interest to visitors. Many museums in Shkodër are located in old houses, which give visitors a flavor for the architecture of the city. The Migjeni House Museum honors one of Albania's famous poets and features personal mementos and manuscripts of Migjeni's work. Another museum, The Folk Museum, has been established in one of the city's largest houses. The museum offers beautiful displays of regional costumes and paintings of Albanian artists Kolë Idromeno and Simon Rrota. One of the city's principal mosques, the Mosque of Mehmet Pasha (Lead Mosque), is open to visitors. The interior of the mosque, with its grill-covered windows and beautiful frescoes, is of particular interest.

Enver Hoxha Street, one of Shkodër's main thoroughfares, attracts many visitors. Shops on this street are adorned with displays featuring objects from all over Albania. An exhibit on Enver Hoxha Street showcases products made and used by past and present residents of the city. The products include costumes, old weapons, fine jewelry, embroidered goods, and items made of wood, reeds, and straw. For those who want to learn about the life-styles of average Shkodër residents, Enver Hoxha Street offers a valuable educational experience.


A city built on the slopes of Mt. Tomorr (2400m) and surrounded by fig and olive trees, BERAT is widely known as Albania's "Museum City." It has also been called the "City of a Thousand Windows" in reference to the many large windows of the cities red-roofed houses. The history of the site dates back to the 6th century BC, when it was home to the ancient Illyrian Dasaretes tribe. In the 9th century the town was captured by the Bulgarians, who renamed it, Beligrad (White City), from which the present name is derived. The museums, mosques, and monuments of Berat tell the stories of subsequent conquests and the will of the city to survive.

The Fortress of Berat, though considerably damaged, is still one of the most magnificent historic sites. Nearly the entire population of the town was able to live within its walls during times of distress. During the 13th century, nearly 20 Christian churches and one mosque were built inside. Those that remain include the Orthodox Cathedral of Our Lady, the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Church of St. Michael, and the Church of the Evangelists. The Church of St. Mary of Vllaherna includes 16th century mural paintings by Nikolla, son of Albania's most famous medieval painter, Onufri. The Church of St. Theodore, located near one of the fortress entrances, has wall paintings by Onufri himself.

Art history buffs will want to visit the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, which has been meticulously restored and now houses a museum dedicated to Onufri. Works by Nikolla and other painters are also displayed, as are several icons and other religious artwork and crafts. A copy of the Berat Gospels (4th century) is here too. Points of interest in Mangalem include the Muslim quarter, the Leaden Mosque, the King's Mosque, the Bachelor's Mosque and Alveti Tekke, a small shrine where Islamic sects like the Dervishes once practiced.

Berat has a population of about 37,000 inhabitants and is 76 miles southeast of Tirana.

The city of ELBASAN is located in central Albania on the shores of the Shkumbin River. It was founded by the Ottomans in 1466 as a military base. It has since developed as a trading center for the corn, olives, and tobacco grown near the city. Elbasan is the home of several manufacturing industries. The industries produce oil, cement, and soap. The population of Elbasan is predominantly Muslim and numbers approximately 85,000.

Nestled on the eastern slope of the Gjere Mountains, GJIROKASTËR is one of southern Albania's smaller cities. During the Ottoman Turks occupation in the early 1800s, Gjirokastër became the home of the Turkish grand vizier, Ali Pasha. Pasha's palace, constructed in 1811, is still in existence today. The city was also the birthplace of Enver Hoxha, Albania's communist leader who died in 1985. Several factories in Gjirokastër produce chemicals, cigarettes, tobacco, shoes, and leather. The city is noted for its yogurt, cheese, and hashaf, a dish consisting of junket and figs. Gjirokastër has a population of 22,000.

KORÇË is located in southeastern Albania and is nestled in a fertile mountain valley. The city was a major trading and commercial center during the 17th through 19th centuries. During World War II, Korçë was occupied at various times by the Italians, Greeks, and Germans.

Today, the city is a productive agricultural center for the wheat, apples, grapes, and sugar beets. In addition to agriculture, Korçë has several small industries. These industries manufacture beer, carpets, and knitted products. Korçë has a population of approximately 62,000.

The southern city of VLORË is Albania's second largest port city. The city was established by the Greeks around 400 B.C. Throughout history, Vlorë has been occupied by the Romans, Normans, Byzantines, Venetians, Serbs, Turks, Italians, and Germans. The former Soviet Union modernized and upgraded the city's port and used it as a naval base. Several small industries are located in the city. These industries include an olive-oil refinery, a distillery, and a fish canning plant. The city's primary attractions are the Archaeological-Ethnographic Museum and the Museum of Independence. Vlorë's population, which was composed of Muslims, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, is approximately 71,000.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Albania is a small country located on the coast of southeastern Europe. It occupies an area of approximately 11,097 square miles, slightly larger than Maryland. Albania is bordered on the north by Serbia and Montenegro, on the east by Macedonia, on the south by Greece, and on the west by the Adriatic Sea.

A little over 20 percent of Albania is flat to rolling coastal plain, poorly drained in some areas. Most of the country consists of hills and mountains, often covered with scrub forest. Major cities are located in the coastal plain or in the larger upland valleys. Primary rivers are not large and flow generally east and west. The only navigable river is the Buene (Bojana), which forms the outlet for Lake Scutari along the Albanian border with Montenegro.

Coastal areas of Albania enjoy a Mediterranean climate. Summers are dry and hot, while winters are mild and wet. Most of Albania's rainfall occurs during the winter months, although severe thunderstorms are common during the summer. Interior portions of the country experience a cooler, rainier climate. Heavy snows and bitter cold are prevalent in mountain regions.


The estimated population in Albania in 2001 was 3.5 million. Approximately 95 percent of the population are ethnic Albanian. Albanians are divided into two distinct groups. Northern parts of the country are inhabited by Gegs, while southern Albania is home to the Tosks. Both groups of Albanians have similar dialects, social customs, and religion. Greeks comprise three percent of Albania's population. Small minorities of Macedonians, Roma (Gypsies), Vlachs, Bulgarians, and Serbs reside in Albania.

Albania had declared that it was the first official atheist state in the world. The government banned all public religious services in 1967. All churches and mosques throughout the country were closed. In 1990, after several antigovernment protests, the Albanian government reinstituted the right to religious expression. Traditionally, about 70 percent of Albanians were Muslim, while approximately 20 percent were Eastern Orthodox Christians and about 10 percent were Roman Catholic. However, decades of official atheism distorted these historical percentages. Following the collapse of communism, a religious revival of sorts began, with many evangelical Christian denominations gaining new adherents.

The national language of the country is Albanian, with Tosk as the official dialect. Greek is also spoken.

In 2001, the estimated life expectancy at birth was 69 years for males, 75 years for females.


Throughout its history, Albania has been invaded and occupied by various foreign powers. The Ottoman Turks governed Albania from 1478 until 1912, bringing with them their Muslim faith. In 1912, Albania declared its independence from Turkey. The new country was admitted to the League of Nations in 1920 and remained independent until Italian troops invaded during World War II.

In 1943, Italy surrendered and withdrew its forces. They were quickly replaced by German troops. Small partisan groups, led by the communist National Liberation Front (NLF), launched a guerrilla campaign to oust the Germans from Albania. The Germans finally retreated on November 29, 1944. Albania was independent once more.

A provisional government was set up under the leadership of General Enver Hoxha. The United States and Great Britain formally recognized the new government with the understanding that free elections would be held. Instead, Hoxha consolidated his control of the country. On January 11, 1946, Albania became a republic with a communist government closely tied to the Soviet Union. The United States and Great Britain responded by breaking off diplomatic relations with Albania.

By 1960, Albania's close relationship with the Soviet Union had soured. Albania's leaders believed that the Soviet government under Nikita Krushchev was turning away from strict communist doctrines. They also resented Soviet interference in Albania's economic and internal affairs. Tensions between the two nations reached a breaking point in 1961. The Soviet Union and Albania severed diplomatic relations. Also, Albania ordered all Soviet troops and naval personnel to leave the country.

Albania soon embraced the world's other communist nation, the People's Republic of China. By late 1961, the Chinese had provided massive amounts of military and financial aid to Albania. China quickly became Albania's staunchest ally and benefactor. This close relationship began to unravel in the early 1970s. Albania strongly criticized China's decision to improve relations with the United States as an affront to Marxist-Leninist traditions. China responded by drastically reducing all trade and financial assistance. In 1978, the Chinese informed Albanian officials that because of Albania's continued hostility toward its policies, China would end all trade and economic aid. Diplomatic ties were not severed, although relations between the two countries are tense. China and Albania agreed to resume trade in 1983.

In April 1985 Enver Hoxha, Albania's leader since 1946, died. He was replaced by a longtime protege, Ramiz Alia. Alia continued Hoxha's isolationist, anti-Western policies. However, Albania's hard-line government would soon be touched by the winds of reform sweeping Eastern Europe.

Massive antigovernment protest erupted throughout Albania in 1990. Seeking to end the unrest, Alia issued a number of reforms. Albanians were granted the freedom to travel abroad and a restoration of the right to practice religion, which had been abolished in 1967. Despite these changes, many Albanians remain unsatisfied or have left the country. Chronic food shortages, rampant crime, and government corruption remain a problem. In early 1997, Albania dissolved into chaos when financial pyramid investment schemes collapsed and wiped out the life savings of thousands. Irate citizens blamed President Sali Berisha for the collapse of the popular schemes and took to the streets, looting stores, homes, and armories. Thousands fled the country. The situation improved later that year, with the help of 6,000 UN-backed foreign troops to restore order.


At the present time, Albania's governmental structure is undergoing many changes. Massive antigovernment protest erupted in Albania during 1990 and early 1991. In response to the unrest, the communist Albanian Workers' Party decided to give up its 45-year domination of Albania and allow other political groups to exist. The Albanian Workers' Party renounced its Marxist doctrines.

On March 22, 1992, Albania held national parliamentary and presidential elections. The Communist Albanian Workers' Party, which had renamed itself the Albanian Socialist Party, was trounced by the opposition Democratic Party (DP). Following the elections, Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha was sworn in as Albania's new president on April 9, 1992. President Berisha is Albania's first non-communist leader since the end of World War II. In the 1996 parliamentary elections, the DP won 122 of 140 possible seats, but in the 2001 elections the Socialist Party gained a parliamentary majority.

The flag of Albania is red with a black two-headed eagle in the center.

Arts, Science, Education

All children ages seven through 15 receive primary education at government expense. Secondary education is available in professional and vocational schools. In 1995, there were an estimated 1,782 primary schools with over 550,000 students.

The University of Albania and the Albanian Academy offer opportunities for higher education.

The estimated literacy rate in Albania is 93 percent.

Commerce and Industry

Albania is considered to be one of the poorest counties in Europe. The economy has been stagnant after years of outdated economic practices and an unwillingness to seek financial help from other countries. The Albanian government has begun to implement various reforms to spur economic growth. In July 1990, the government gave up sole control of Albanian industries and allowed private citizens to start their own businesses. However, the government stipulated that owners of private businesses could only employ members of their immediate family. In mid-1992, the new Albanian government implemented a series of measures in an attempt to improve the economy. Unemployment benefits were cut dramatically and price controls on most essential commodities were removed. The result led to anti-government sentiments among many Albanians. However, the economy improved after 1993. In 1995, the government began privatizing large state enterprises.

Albania has a very small industrial base. Its main industries include cement, textiles, oil products, and food processing. The government is in the process of developing Albania's chemical and engineering industries.

Rich mineral deposits can be found in Albania, especially chromium, coal, oil, chrome, copper, and nickel. Many of these deposits lie undeveloped. In recent years, the Albanian government has intensified its efforts to exploit the country's mineral wealth.

Because of its rugged, mountainous terrain, Albanian has limited arable land. Most of the suitable farmland is located along the Adriatic seacoast. Over one-half of Albania's work force is engaged in farming. Principal crops include wheat, corn, cotton, fruits, vegetables, and tobacco.

The majority of Albania's trade is with European countries. Italy and Greece are the major trading partners. Other trading partners include the U.S., Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Albania imports large amounts of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, machinery, and iron and steel products. Its primary exports are petroleum products, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, metal ores, and asphalt.

Albania's estimated purchasing power parity of its gross domestic product (GDP) was $10.5 billion dollars in 2000, or about $3,000 per capita. The unit of currency is the lek.


In 1998, Albania had approximately 11,460 miles (18,450 kilometers) of roadway. Most mountainous regions, however, have poor roads that are unsuitable for cars. Since February 1991, the Albanian government has allowed private citizens to have their own vehicles. Bicycles and donkeys are common forms of transportation.

Regular flights are available from Albania's capital, Tiranë, to Belgrade, Zurich, Berlin, Budapest, and Bucharest. The Greek airline, Olympic Airways, offers a weekly flight from Athens to Tiranë. In 1990, Albania opened its airspace to all foreign commercial airlines.

Because of its location on the Adriatic Sea, Albania has several excellent deep-water ports. The main ports are located in the cities of Durrës, Vlorë, Shengjih, and Sarande. Also, a passenger ferry service is available from Durrës to the Italian city of Trieste.

It is possible to travel around Albania by rail. Railroads connect the cities of Tiranë, Durrës, Shkodër, and Vlorë. Another rail line is available between Durrës and Titograd, Montenegro.


Albania's main radio station is Radio Tiranë. Foreign broadcasts are available on shortwave frequencies in 18 languages, including English. Seventeen AM and five FM stations carry domestic radio programs.

Regular television programs became available in 1971. There are nine television stations in the country.

Telephone service in Albania is inadequate. In 1997, the country had only 87,000 telephones. Some small villages may not have telephone service.

Internet usage is limited but available via internet cafes or by contracting with one of the seven available Internet Service Providers.


The most direct and frequently used route to Tiranë is via Zürich or Rome. Alitalia operates one flight daily between Rome and Tiranë. Swiss Air has several flights weekly to Zurich. For travelers arriving via automobile, the recommended route is from Greece via Ioannina or Kastoria. Ferry service is also available from Bari and Trieste, Italy, to Durres, Albania, which is about 45 minutes by car to Tiranë.

There are no restrictions or controls on the import of pets into Albania at this time. A quarantine is not required for pets, and there is no fee for incoming pets. However, travelers coming to Tiranë with pets should insure that shots are up-to-date and their animals are in good health, as veterinary care is not always up to U.S. standards. All pets should be neutered, if desired, before coming to Albania. Very limited dog and cat food and pet supplies are available on the local market. Pets transiting European capitals (such as Rome) to and from post must comply with health standards for those countries.

Travelers are advised to exercise caution and avoid crowds due to security problems. All American citizens in Albania are strongly urged to register at the U.S. Embassy located at Rruga e Elbasanit 103, Tirana.

The monetary unit in Albania is the lek. Albania is a cash economy with virtually no acceptance of credit cards.

Albania uses the metric system.


Jan. 2 Albanian New Year's Day

Mar. 22Nevruz

Mar/Apr.Western Easter*

Apr/MayOrthodox Easter*

May 1May Day

Nov. 29Albanian Independence Day

Nov. 29National Liberation Day

Small Bajram* (end of Ramandan)

Great Bajram* (Feast of the Sacrifice)

Dec. 25Christmas



Amery, Julian. Sons of the Eagle. Macmillan: London, 1942.

Bethell, Nicholas. The Great Betrayal. Hodden and Stoughton: London, 1984.

Biberaj, Elez. Albania. Boulder, CO:Westview Press, 1989.

. Albania: A Socialist Maverick. Westview Press: Boulder, 1990.

Logoreci, Anton. The Albanians: Europe's Forgotten Survivors. Victor Gollancz: London, 1977.

Nagel's Encyclopedia Guide. Albania. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Publishing Group, 1991.

Pano, Nicholas C. Albania. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Pettifer, James. Blue Guide: Albania. A&C Black, London, 1994.

Pipa, Arshi. Albanian Stalinism. E. European Monographs: Boulder, 1990.

. Contemporary Albanian Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

Sinishta, Gion. Banishing God in Albania: The Prison Memoirs of Fr. Giacomo Gardin, S.J. Translated from ITA. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1988.

Sjoberg, Orjan. Rural Change and Development in Albania. Bolder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

Smiley, David. Albanian Assignment. Chatto and Windus: London, 1984.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Albania
Region: Europe
Population: 3,490,435
Language(s): Albanian, Greek
Literacy Rate: 93%
Academic Year: September-June
Number of Primary Schools: 1,782
Compulsory Schooling: 8 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 3.1%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 558,101
  Secondary: 89,895
  Higher: 34,257
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 107%
  Secondary: 38%
  Higher: 12%
Teachers: Primary: 31,369
  Secondary: 6,321
  Higher: 2,348
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 18:1
  Secondary: 17:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 108%
  Secondary: 38%
  Higher: 14%

History & Background

The Republic of Albania is a southeastern European country on the Adriatic Sea bordered by Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro. Albania occupies an area of 28,752 square kilometers (11,101 square miles). Except for the coastline, the terrain is rugged and mountainous. Forests and woodlands comprise nearly 40 percent of the country. Approximately 21 percent of the nation is arable land. Principal natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, timber, nickel, and hydropower. Throughout the twentieth century, Albania remained one of the poorest and least developed nations in Europe. Rail service did not exist until 1948. In 2000 the per capita GDP was approximately $1,300 compared to $13,000 in neighboring Greece.

The population in 2000 was estimated at 3.5 million, 98 percent of whom are ethnic Albanians making the country one of the most homogenous nations in the world. The national language is Albanian, a blend of two historic dialects, Gheg and Tosk. The literacy rate is estimated at 98 percent. The population is 70 percent Muslim, 20 percent Albanian Orthodox, and 10 percent Roman Catholic. Mosques and churches reopened in 1990, having been closed in 1967 by the former Communist government. In the 1990s an estimated 300,000 Albanians (10 percent of the population) emigrated with the majority seeking employment in Greece and Italy.

Prior to the twentieth century, Albania was subject to foreign domination. Albanian culture and language were suppressed during a 400-year occupation by the Turks. Albanian language schools were not permitted until the 1880s. During the Balkan War of 1912, Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire but remained a feudal society plagued by pervasive poverty, blood feuds, epidemics, and widespread illiteracy.

In 1939 Italy annexed Albania. Following Italy's surrender to the Allies in 1943, German troops briefly occupied the country. In 1944 Enver Hoxha, a former school teacher and General Secretary of the Communist Party, assumed power and ruled Albania until his death in 1985.

Hoxha's rigidly Stalinist regime was determined to transform Albania from a traditional agrarian society into an industrialized socialist state. All lands and properties were seized by the government. Private ownership was so restricted that Albanians were prohibited from owning personal automobiles until 1991. The Directorate of State Security, the Sigurimi, ruthlessly suppressed dissent. State enterprises were highly centralized. Aided by the Soviets, the government drained swamps, opened vocational schools, built roads, and constructed factories. Despite these accomplishments and an improvement in the general standard of living, Albania remained impoverished and largely dependent on economic aid, advisors, and beneficial trade agreements supplied by other Communist countries.

Refusing to alter Albania's ideological course, Hoxha became successively disillusioned with Communist countries that departed from orthodox Marxist-Leninism. In 1948 he broke relations with neighboring Yugoslavia when Tito rejected Moscow's leadership. In 1961 he severed relations with the Soviet Union, objecting to Khrushchev's de-Stalinization policy. Albania then aligned itself with the People's Republic of China, becoming its sole ally throughout the 1960s. In the 1970s Hoxha denounced China for resuming diplomatic relations with the West. In response, China terminated all trade and economic aid to Albania in 1978. Hoxha, devoid of allies, pursued an isolationist program, maintaining Albania as a bastion of xenophobic Stalinism into the 1980s.

Hoxha's successor Ramiz Alia sought to preserve the Communist system while liberalizing its administration. He opened Albania to foreign investors, expanded diplomatic relations with the West, allowed Albanians to travel abroad, restored religious freedom, and limited the actions of the Sigurimi. But as other Communist governments collapsed throughout Eastern Europe in 1989, Alia recognized the need for change. In 1990 he endorsed the creation of independent political parties, ending 45 years of Communist monopoly. In 1991 Albania restored diplomatic relations with the United States.

In 1992 the Democratic Party won a decisive electoral victory. The new government launched a number of reforms intending to integrate Albania into the European economy. Decades of isolation, however, prevented Albania from developing the social, technological, and educational institutions needed to participate in the free market. The collapse of its highly centralized system caused a severe depression. In 1997 hundreds of thousands of Albanians lost their savings in failed pyramid schemes. In the ensuing unrest, approximately 1,500 Albanians were killed. In 1999 nearly 500,000 ethnic Albanians, victims of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, sought refuge in Albania, further straining the country's resources. The turmoil in Kosovo, however, focused international attention on Albania, spurring greater interest in assistance and exchange programs.

Albania's educational system reflects the nation's history. The Communist regime saw education as an essential instrument in building a socialist state. The 1946 Communist constitution placed all schools under state authority. The Education Reform Law of 1946 dictated that Marxist-Leninist principles would permeate all textbooks and made the eradication of illiteracy a primary objective of the new school system. In addition to providing seven years of compulsory education and four years of secondary education, the law called for a network of vocational and teacher training schools. In 1949 the government passed a law requiring all illiterate citizens between the ages of 12 and 40 to attend classes in reading and writing. Local people's councils developed special courses for peasants and the armed forces developed similar classes for illiterate military personnel. These compulsory programs were highly successful, raising the literacy rate from an estimated 20 percent in 1945 to more than 95 percent by the mid-1980s. In addition the Hoxha government fused elements of the Gheg and Tosk dialects to create a common language. Though previously denied education, girls were given equal access to all levels of schooling.

In the early 1950s Soviet advisors played a major role in developing Albania's educational system. Schools, vocational programs, and teacher training were modeled on Soviet examples. Following Albania's break with the Soviet Union, Russian elements in the nation's schools were purged. In the 1960s the school system was reorganized into four categories: preschool, a general eight-year program, secondary, and higher education. The eight-year program stressed Marxist ethics and values. Vocational programs placed emphasis on producing highly skilled technical workers. Graduate students were required to complete a nine-month probationary period in industrial production and three months military training.

The democratically elected government views education as important in helping Albania end its cultural, political, and economic isolation and participate in the European economy. The Ministry of Education is seeking, despite the nation's lack of resources, to improve the quality of schools, introduce new teaching methods, and open intellectual discourse with the rest of the world.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

In 1998 Albania adopted a new constitution. The Ministry of Education oversees education in Albania and facilitates international cooperation and exchanges in higher education.

The ministry's Higher Education Department reviews foreign credentials. Although Albanian educators and international advisors see a need for greater decentralization, the Ministry of Education retains a high degree of central authority. The Ministry of Education intends to bring Albanian educational standards in line with those of developed European nations.

Educational SystemOverview

In the 1990s Albania's educational system underwent major structural reforms as the country struggled to emerge from a half century of isolation and rigid centralization. However, efforts to modernize and democratize education have been hampered by the lack of resources, political conflict, and ethnic violence. In 1991 the minister of education reported that nearly one-third of the nation's schools had been vandalized and 15 buildings razed. Underpaid teachers relocated from villages, leaving hundreds of rural schools severely understaffed. Approximately 2,000 teachers fled the country.

Albanian reformers, however, have devoted much of the country's limited education budget to improve instruction, textbooks, and school buildings. Educational exchange programs with other countries have introduced Albanian teachers to European and North American methods and technology.

The educational system consists of preschool (ages 3 to 6), an eight-year compulsory program combining primary (ages 6 to 10) and secondary (ages 11 to 14), and high school (ages 14 to 18). University studies have three levels: the diplome, awarded after three to six years of preparation, depending on the discipline; the Kandidat i Shkencave degree, awarded after two to three years of post-graduate education; and the Doktor i Shkencave degree, granted on the basis of publication, research, and a dissertation.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Albania has eight years of compulsory education, which begins at age six. Some 59 percent of the nation's preschoolers attend 3,400 kindergartens. There are approximately 1,500 primary schools serving students aged 6 to 10. The 1,700 secondary schools provide education for students aged 11 to 14. Most primary schools, especially in rural areas, are in poor condition and inadequately staffed. Basic supplies, such as books and chalk, are in critically short supply.

Secondary Education

About 70 percent of Albanian children continue their education by attending high school. The objective of the nation's 500 high schools is to prepare students for university education. Due to economic and social instability, however, enrollment rates have fallen since 1990. Traditional vocational and technical programs are obsolete, educational resources inadequate, and classrooms crowded. Conditions in rural areas are especially poor. The government is concerned that if the current 5 percent a year dropout rate continues, the literacy rate may decline.

Higher Education

Albania's institutions of higher learning were founded in the 1950s and were patterned on Soviet designs. The Higher Pedagogic Institute, Higher Polytechnical Institute, and Higher Agricultural Institute were founded in 1951. A team of Soviet educators developed the administration and curriculum of Enver Hoxha University (now the University of Tirana) in 1957. All these highly centralized institutions were greatly influenced by Soviet practices. Although Soviet influence declined markedly after 1960, higher education remained highly politicized. In addition to attending classes, students were required to work in factories or on collective farms. Access to higher education was generally limited to the children of party members.

Today some 27,000 students are enrolled in Albania's six universities: Tirana, Shkoder, Korca, Vlora, Gjirokaster, and Elbasan. Other students attend institutes and academies, including Tirana's fine arts academy. Institutions of higher learning charge tuition though fees are based on family income. In the mid-1990s Albanian students began to study abroad in large numbersbreaking 60 years of intellectual and cultural isolation.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

During the Communist era, the administration of education was noted for its high degree of centralization and strict adherence to ideological principles outlined by the party leadership. Since 1991 the democratically elected government has initiated a number of reforms. In 1995 a law was passed that stipulated the importance of civic education to instill democratic values.

Educational research is conducted by the Pedagogical Research Institute. Officials from the Ministry of Education, teachers, and administrators from the Textbook Publishing House have been sent to other nations to research modern educational methods and policies. New textbooks and teachers' manuals have been prepared. Still, limited budgets and the nation's economic instability hamper widespread reform.

Nonformal Education

Albania's nonformal education offerings are limited. Part-time education is available through correspondence courses. Employment-related continuing education courses are offered to diploma-holders with two years of related work experience. Students completing these courses are given a certificate. Albania's lack of resources has restricted the availability of distance learning and alternative delivery systems.

Teaching Profession

From 1945 to 1992, the teaching profession was disciplined along Communist party guidelines. Courses for teacher preparation stressed Marxist concepts of psychology and pedagogy. Teachers were trained to use didactic teaching methods. Individuality and interaction were discouraged. Teachers were viewed as instruments for political indoctrination. After 1992 the Ministry of Education began to encourage teachers to use alternative instructional methods and introduce democratic principles into the curriculum.

Teachers in nursery schools and kindergartens must complete four years at the pedagogical middle school to receive a certificate and the title of educator. Primary school teachers in lower grades must complete three years at a higher education institution. Teachers in upper grades are required to have four years of academic preparation, education courses, and practice training. Secondary school teachers must complete four years in an academic discipline in addition to education courses and practice teaching.

Professors in higher education must hold a degree of Doctor in Sciences and have a background of extensive research and publishing. Docents are experienced instructors or researchers with a Candidate of Sciences degree. Pedagogues and assistants hold diplomas with excellent grades.


Like many emerging democracies, Albania views education as central to building a new society that can compete in the twenty-first century. Its movement from a totalitarian regime to a democratic society has been hampered by economic and political instability.


Albania, February 2001. Available from

Albania: Land of the Eagles. Education, February 2001. Available from

Euro Education Net. Structure of Education System in Albania, February 2000. Available from

International Monetary Fund. Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy PaperAlbania, 2000. Available from

Kaltounis, Theodore. "Democratic Citizenship: Education in Albania." The Social Studies 90, 6 (November 1999): 245.

Leach, Jenny, and Bob Moon, "Albania's Open Question." Times Educational Supplement 4212 (21 March 1997): B3.

Mark Connelly

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Albania (ălbā´nyə), Albanian Shqipëria or Shqipnija, officially Republic of Albania, republic (2005 est. pop. 3,563,000), 11,101 sq mi (28,752 sq km), SE Europe. Albania is on the Adriatic Sea coast of the Balkan Peninsula, between Montenegro on the northwest, Kosovo on the northeast, Macedonia on the east, and Greece on the southeast. Tiranë is the capital and largest city.

Land and People

Albania is rugged and mountainous, except for the fertile Adriatic coast. Mt. Korabit (9,066 ft/2,763 m), on the Macedonian-Albanian border, is the highest point in the country. The coastal climate is typically Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The mountainous interior, especially in the north, has severe winters and mild summers. The chief rivers of Albania are the Drin, Mat, Shkumbin, Vijose, and Seman, but they are mostly unnavigable. More than one third of Albania's land is covered by forests and swamps, about one third is pasture, and only about one fifth is cultivated. In addition to Tiranë, other important cities are Vlorë, Durrës, Shkodër, and Korçë.

The country's rugged and inaccessible terrain has traditionally isolated Albania from its neighbors, thus helping to preserve its ethnic homogeneity. About 90% of the population is ethnic Albanian, less than 10% is Greek, and there are scattered Vlach, Romani (Gypsy), Serb, Macedonian, and Bulgarian minorities. Many ethnic Albanians also live in Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that declared its independence in 2008. Some 70% of the people are Muslim, about 20% are Albanian Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholic. From 1967 to 1990 all mosques and churches were closed, and Albania was officially considered to be an atheist country. Albanian is an Indo-European language. The Shkumbin River, which virtually bisects the country, separates speakers of the northern dialect (Gheg) from those of the southern dialect (Tosk; the official dialect).


Albania has one of the lowest standards of living in Europe. Approximately 60% of the workforce is engaged in agriculture; the balance is involved in services or industry. The country's economy contracted in the early 1990s as Albania attempted to move quickly from a tightly controlled state-run system to a market economy. During this period, the unemployment rate was about 40%, but by the end of the decade it was closer to 20%.

Agriculture was formerly socialized in the form of collective and state farms, but by 1992 most agricultural land had been privatized. Grains (especially wheat and corn), potatoes, vegetables, fruits, and sugar beets are grown and livestock is raised. Albania is rich in mineral resources, notably petroleum, natural gas, coal, bauxite, chromite, copper, iron ore, nickel, and salt. Agricultural processing, oil, mining, and the manufacture of textiles, clothing, lumber, cement, and chemicals are among the leading industries. Iron and steel plants have been developed, and the country has several hydroelectric stations. Because of economic disturbances during the 1990s, Albania remains essentially a developing country.

Foreign trade is carried by sea, Durrës and Vlorë (also the terminus of the oil pipeline) being the major ports. Albania exports textiles and footwear, mined natural resources, foodstuffs, and tobacco and imports mostly machinery, other industrial products, and consumer goods. Its chief trading partners are Italy and Greece. In the early 1990s Albania joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.


Albania is governed under the constitution of 1998 as amended. The president, who is the head of state, is elected by the legislature for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by the prime minister. The legislature, the unicameral Parliament, or Assembly (Kuvendi), has 140 members, elected (since 2009) proportionally on a regional basis; they all serve four-year terms. Administratively, Albania is divided into 12 regions or counties.


Historic Albania

The Albanians are reputedly descendants of Illyrian and Thracian tribes that settled the region in ancient times. The area then comprised parts of Illyria and Epirus and was known to the ancient Greeks for its mines. The coastal towns, Epidamnus (Durrës) and Apollonia, were colonies of Corcyra (Kérkira) and Corinth, but the interior formed an independent kingdom that reached its height in the 3d cent. AD

After the division (395) of the Roman Empire, Albania passed to Byzantium. While nominally (until 1347) under Byzantine rule, N Albania was invaded (7th cent.) by the Serbs, and S Albania was annexed (9th cent.) by Bulgaria. In 1014, Emperor Basil II retook S Albania, which remained in the Byzantine Empire until it passed to Epirus in 1204. Venice founded coastal colonies at present-day Shkodër and Lezhë in the 11th cent., and in 1081 the Normans began to contest Byzantine control of Albania. Norman efforts were continued by the Neapolitan Angevins; in 1272, Charles I of Naples was proclaimed king of Albania. In the 14th cent., however, the Serbs under Stephen Dušan conquered most of the country.

Ottoman Rule

After Dušan's death (1355), Albania was ruled by native chieftains until the Turks began their conquests in the 15th cent. In return for serving the Turks, a son of one of these chieftains received the title Iskender Bey (Lord Alexander), which in Albanian became Scanderbeg. Later, however, he led the Albanian resistance to Turkish domination and, after his death in 1468, was immortalized as Albania's national hero. Supported by Venice and Naples, Albania continued to struggle against the Turks until 1478, when the country passed under Ottoman rule.

Many Albanians distinguished themselves in the Turkish army and bureaucracy; others were made pashas and beys and had considerable local autonomy. In the early 19th cent., Ali Pasha ruled Albania like a sovereign until he overreached and was assassinated. Under Turkish rule Islam became the predominant religion of Albania. However, the Albanian highlanders, never fully subjected, were able to retain their tribal organizations. Economically, the country stagnated under Ottoman rule, and numerous local revolts flared. A cultural awakening began in the 19th cent., and Albanian nationalism grew in the aftermath of the Treaty of San Stefano (1877), which Russia imposed on the Turks and which gave large parts of Albania to the Balkan Slavic nations. The European Great Powers intensified their struggle for influence in the Balkans during the years that followed.

National Independence

The first of the Balkan Wars, in 1912, gave the Albanians an opportunity to proclaim their independence. During the Second Balkan War (1913), Albania was occupied by the Serbs. A conference of Great Power ambassadors defined the country's borders in 1913 and destroyed the dream of a Greater Albania by ceding large tracts to Montenegro, Serbia, and Greece. The ambassadors at the conference placed Albania under their guarantee and named William, prince of Wied, as its ruler. Within a year he had fled, as World War I erupted and Albania became a battleground for contending Serb, Montenegrin, Greek, Italian, Bulgarian, and Austrian forces.

Secret treaties drafted during the war called for Albania's dismemberment, but Albanian resistance and the principle of self-determination as promoted by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson helped to restore an independent Albania. In 1920 the Congress of Lushnje reasserted Albanian independence. The early postwar years witnessed a struggle between conservative landlords led by Ahmed Zogu and Western-influenced liberals under Bishop Fan S. Noli. After Noli's forces seized power in 1924, Zogu fled to Yugoslavia, where he secured foreign support for an army to invade Albania. In 1925, Albania was proclaimed a republic under his presidency; in 1928 he became King Zog.

Italy, whose political and economic influence in Albania had steadily increased, invaded the country in 1939, forcing Zog into exile and bringing Albania under Italian hegemony. The Albanian puppet government declared war on the Allies in 1940; but resistance groups, notably the extreme leftist partisans under Enver Hoxha, waged guerrilla warfare against the occupying Axis armies. In 1943–44, a civil war also raged between the partisans and non-Communist forces within Albania. Albania was liberated from the Axis invaders without the aid of the Red Army or of direct Soviet military assistance, and received most of its war matériel from the Anglo-American command in Italy.

Albanian Communism

In late 1944, Hoxha's partisans seized most of Albania and formed a provisional government. The Communists held elections (Dec., 1945) with an unopposed slate of candidates and, in 1946, proclaimed Albania a republic with Hoxha as premier. From 1944 to 1948, Albania maintained close relations with Yugoslavia, which had helped to establish the Albanian Communist party. After Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia broke with Stalin, Albania became a satellite of the USSR. Albania's disapproval of de-Stalinization and of Soviet-Yugoslav rapprochement led in 1961 to a break between Moscow and Tiranë.

Chinese influence and economic aid replaced Soviet, and Albania became China's only ally in Communist Eastern Europe. Albania ceased active participation in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) and, after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, withdrew from the Warsaw Treaty Organization. In the early 1970s continuing Soviet hostility and Albanian isolation led the Hoxha regime to make overtures to neighboring Yugoslavia, Greece, and Italy. The alliance with China lasted until 1977 when Hoxha broke ties in protest of China's liberalization and the U.S.-China rapprochement.

Ramiz Alia became president in 1982 and, following Hoxha's death in 1985, first secretary of the Albanian Communist party. Alia began to strengthen ties with other European nations, notably Italy and Greece, and restored diplomatic relations with the USSR (1990) and the United States (1991). His government also began to allow tourism and promote foreign trade, and permitted the formation of the opposition Democratic party.

A Developing Democracy

In the elections of Mar., 1991, the Communists defeated the Democrats, but popular discontent over poor living conditions and an exodus of Albanian refugees to Greece and Italy forced the cabinet to resign shortly thereafter. In new elections (1992) the Socialists (Communists) lost to the Democrats, Alia resigned, and Democratic leader Sali Berisha became Albania's first democratically elected president. With unemployment and inflation accelerating, the new government took steps toward a free-market economy. Although the economic picture showed some signs of improvement during the 1990s, poverty and unemployment remained widespread. The Berisha government prosecuted former Communist leaders, including Ramiz Alia, who was convicted of abuses of power and jailed. In 1994, Albania joined the NATO Partnership for Peace plan, and in 1995, it was admitted to the Council of Europe.

Berisha's party claimed a landslide victory in the 1996 general elections, which were marked by irregularities. In Mar., 1997, following weeks of rioting over collapsed pyramid investment schemes, Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi, a Democrat, resigned. Berisha, however, was elected to a new five-year term and named Bashkim Fino, a Socialist, to head a new coalition government. Parliament declared a state of emergency as rebels gained control of large sections of southern Albania and threatened the capital. Thousands of Albanians fled to Italy, and an international force from eight European nations arrived in Apr., 1997, to help restore order.

The Socialists won parliamentary elections held in July, and Berisha resigned, succeeded by Socialist Rexhep Kemal Meidani. Fatos Nano became prime minister in 1997 but resigned in 1998 and was succeeded by fellow Socialist Pandeli Majko. Majko resigned in Oct., 1999, after he lost a Socialist party leadership election and was succeeded by Socialist Ilir Meta. Albanians approved their first post-Communist constitution in 1998. The country was flooded with refugees from neighboring Kosovo in 1998 and 1999. In the June, 2001, parliamentary elections the Socialists were returned to power. After Meta resigned in Jan., 2002, Majko again became prime minister; following Majko's resignation in July, Nano succeeded him. In June, 2002, a compromise candidate, Alfred Moisiu, a former general and defense minister, was elected to succeed President Meidani.

Parliamentary elections in July, 2005, resulted in a victory for Berisha's Democrats, but Socialist challenges to some of the results delayed certification of the vote. In September, however, Nano resigned, and Berisha became prime minister. In July, 2007, after a protracted series of votes in parliament, Bamir Topi, a Democrat, was elected president. In Apr., 2009, Albania became a member of NATO.

The June, 2009, parliamentary elections resulted in a narrow victory for the Democrats, who formed a coalition with the small Socialist Integration Movement (LSI). The Socialist party denounced the results as manipulated, boycotted parliament, and called for an investigation. The Socialist ended their boycott in May, 2010, in conjunction with EU-sponsored talks on the deadlock. The situation remained unsettled, however, with tensions at times spilling into the streets, and the May, 2011, election for Tirana's mayor, narrowly declared for the Democrats, revived partisan animosities.

In June, 2012, Bujar Nishani, a Democrat and minister of the interior, was elected as President Topi's successor. The LSI withdrew from the government in Apr., 2013, having formed a pre-election coalition with the Socialists. The Socialist-led coalition won a sizable majority in the June elections, and in September formed a government with Socialist Edi Rama as prime minister. In 2014 Macedonia was granted membership candidate status by the European Union.


See E. P. Stickney, Southern Albania or Northern Epirus in European International Affairs, 1912–1923 (1926); H. Hamm, Albania—China's Beachhead in Europe (tr. 1963); S. Skendi, ed., The Albanian National Awakening, 1878–1912 (1967); E. K. Keefe et al., Area Handbook for Albania (1971); S. Pollo and P. Arben, The History of Albania (1981); N. C. Pano, Albania (1989).

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Official name: Republic of Albania

Area: 28,748 square kilometers (17,864 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Korabit (2,753 meters/9,033 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 6 p.m. = noon GMT; has Daylight Savings Time

Longest distances: 148 kilometers (92 miles) from east to west; 340 kilometers (211 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: Total: 720 kilometers (447 miles); Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 151 kilometers (94 miles); Serbia and Montenegro, 287 kilometers (179 miles); [Serbia 114 kilometers (71 miles), Montenegro 173 kilometers (108 miles)]; Greece, 282 kilometers (175 miles)

Coastline: 362 kilometers (225 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Albania is one of the smallest countries in Europe. It is located in southeastern Europe on the west coast of the Balkan peninsula (the peninsula surrounded by, from west to east, the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean, and Black Seas) along the Strait of Otranto, which connects the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Albania covers 28,748 square kilometers (17,864 square miles), or slightly more area than the state of Maryland.


Albania has no territories or dependencies.


Albania has a coastal Mediterranean climate (hot, dry summers and rainy winters) in the western regions and a continental climate (hot summers and cold winters) in the east. The coastal plain has mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. In the mountains, air masses moving south across the European continent produce warm to hot summers and very cold winters with heavy snowfall; summer rainfall is also heavier in this region than on the coast. Albania's average annual temperature is 15°C (59°F). Average annual rainfall ranges from about 100 centimeters (40 inches) on the coastal plain to more than 250 centimeters (100 inches) in the mountains.


More than 70 percent of Albania's terrain is rugged and mountainous, with mountains running the length of the country from north to south. The remainder consists mostly of coastal lowlands. These lowlands stretch from the northern border to Vlorë, covering 200 kilometers (124 miles) from north to south and extending as much as 50 kilometers (31 miles) inland. A large part of this region is former marshland (soft, wet land; also called wetlands) that was reclaimed during the Communist era (194490). (Reclaimed land is an area in which the natural conditions have been changed, usually by building dams or dikes, to redirect the water.) The reclaimed land in Albania is now used for agriculture.


Albania lies on the southeastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and is also bordered by the Ionian Sea to the south.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

Albania has no significant undersea features.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Albania has no good natural harbors. The Strait of Otranto, which connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea, borders Albania on the southwest, separating it from the "heel" on the southeastern tip of the Italian peninsula.

Islands and Archipelagos

The island of Sazan lies off the coast of Albania, west of Vlorë. The islands in the Ionian Sea off the south coast of Albania belong to Greece.

Coastal Features

Albania's Ionian Sea coastal area is known for its rugged natural beauty, with rocky highlands extending right to the edge of the beach; the area between Vlorë and Sarandë is called the "Riviera of Flowers." The beaches along the Adriatic coast stretch about 300 kilometers (188 miles), with sandy beaches and shallow coastal waters.


Albania has three large lakes, which it shares with several neighboring countries: Lake Scutari (Skadarsko Jezero) with Serbia and Montenegro, Lake Ohrid (Ohridsko Jezero) with Macedonia, and Lake Prespa (Prespansko Jezero) with Greece. Lake Ohrid is the deepest lake, not only in Albania but also in the Balkans, with a depth of 294 meters (965 feet).


Albania's major rivers are the Drin, the Mat, the Buenë, the Seman, the Shkumbin, and the Vijosë. They all empty into the Adriatic Sea. The Buenë is Albania's only navigable river. (A navigable river is one that can be used by boats.)


There are no desert regions in Albania.


Citrus fruits, maize, and wheat are grown in Albania's coastal lowlands. Although the former marshland in the region was drained to create productive agricultural land, flooding still occurs.


Albania's mountains are located to the north, east, and south of the coastal lowlands. They can be divided into three groups. The north-ernmost range, the North Albanian Alps, is an extension of both the Montenegrin limestone plateau and the Dinaric Alps, which run parallel to the Adriatic coast in Croatia and in Montenegro. Some of the mountains in this region reach heights greater than 2,700 meters (8,800 feet). These limestone peaks are the country's most rugged. Albanians call them "the accursed mountains," because they present a barrier to travel.

The central uplands extend south along the Macedonian border, from the Drin River valley to the southern mountains. The central uplands are generally lower than the North Albanian Alps. However, Albania's highest peak, Mount Korabit, is located in these mountains. The southern highlands are lower and more rounded than the mountains to the north. At the southernmost end of Albania, south of Vlorë, the mountains reach all the way across the country, meeting the Ionian Sea.


There are a few caves with stalactites in Albania in the eastern region near the largest lakes.


There are no significant plateaus in Albania.


Several dams, the first of which was built in the early 1960s, generate hydroelectric energy. The Drin River has been dammed to produce hydroelectric energy, and marshland has been reclaimed for agriculture.


Lake Ohrid in Albania is one of only two places in the world (the other is Russia) where a rare fish called the koran can be found. The koran has a delicate flavor and is similar to carp and trout.



Carver, Robert. The Accursed Mountains: Journeys in Albania. London: John Murray, 1998.

Dawson, Peter, and Andrea Dawson. Albania: A Guide and Illustrated Journal. Old Saybrook, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 1995.

Sherer, Stan. Long Life to Your Children! A Portrait of High Albania. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997.

Web Sites

CARE International in Albania Web site. (accessed January 27, 2003).

Geography of Albania, Land of the Eagles. (accessed June 17, 2003).

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Country statistics



capital (population):

Tirana (288,217)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Albanian 96%, Greek 3%, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Romany


Albanian (official)


Shi'a (Bektashi) Muslim 45%, Sunni Muslim 20%, Albanian Orthodox Christian 25%, Roman Catholic 10%


Lek = 100 qindars (official)

Balkan republic; the capital is Tirana.

Land and climate

About 70% of Albania is mountainous, rising to Mount Korab at 2764m (9068ft) on the Macedonian border. Most Albanians live in the farming regions of the w coastal lowlands. Albania is subject to severe earthquakes. The coastal regions of Albania have a typical Mediterranean climate, with fairly dry, sunny summers and cool, moist winters. The highlands have heavy winter snowfalls. Maquis covers much of the lowlands.


In ancient times, Albania was part of Illyria, and in 167 bc became part of the Roman Empire. Until his death in 1468, Scanderbeg successfully led Albanian resistance to Turkish incursions. Between 1469 and 1912, Albania formed part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1939 Italy invaded Albania and King Zog fled into exile. In 1943 Germany occupied Albania. In 1944 Albanian communists, led by Enver Hoxha, took power. In the early 1960s, Albania broke with the Soviet Union after Soviet criticism of the Chinese Communist Party to which it was allied until the late 1970s. In the early 1990s, the Albanian government abandoned communism and allowed the formation of opposition parties. In 1996 the Democratic Party, headed by Sali Berisha, won a sweeping victory. In 1997, the collapse of nationwide pyramid finance schemes sparked a large-scale rebellion in s Albania and a state of emergency was proclaimed. The government resigned and Fatos Nano became prime minister under a Socialist-led coalition. In 1999, nearly 500,000 ethnic Albanian refugees fled to Albania from the Serbian province of Kosovo. In 2002, Fatos Nano was re-elected.


Albania is Europe's poorest country (2000 GDP per capita, US$3000), and 56% of the workforce is engaged in agriculture. Under communism, land was divided into large state and collective farms, but private ownership has been encouraged since 1991. Crops include fruits, maize, olives, potatoes, sugar beet and wheat. Livestock farming is also important. Chromite, copper, and nickel are exported. Other resources include oil, brown coal, and hydroelectricity.

Political map

Physical map

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The people of Albania are called Albanians. About 98 percent of the population trace their descent to Albania. There are two ethnic groupsthe Ghegs, who live in the northern half of the country, and the Tosks, who live in the south. The remaining 2 percent of the population is made up primarily of Greeks and Macedonians. For information on the Greeks, consult the chapter on Greece in Volume 4. Information on the Macedonians can be found in the chapter on Macedonia in Volume 5.

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Culture Name


Alternative Names

The international terms "Albania" and "Albanian" are based on the root *alb-, *arb-, which also is the source of the word Arberesh, which is used to describe the Italo-Albanians of southern Italy. That root also appears as *lab- in Labëria, referring to the southern Albanian region from Vlorë southward to the Greek border, and *rab- in early Slavic, as in raban, rabanski ("Albanian"). Also related to this basic root are the Turkish and Greek words for Albanians and the Albanian language. Albanians now use the designation shqiptar ("Albanian") shqip ("Albanian language"), and Shqipëria ("Albania").


Identification. According to the Austrian linguist Gustav Meyer (18501900), shqip ("Albanian language"), shqiptar ("Albanian"), and Shqipëria ("Albania") are related to the Albanian verb shqipoj ("to speak clearly") and shqiptoj ("to pronounce") and can be linked to the Latin excipio and excipere ("to listen to, take up, hear"). The Albanologist Maximilian Lambertz (18821963) preferred a connection with the Albanian shqipe or shqiponjë ("eagle"), which is the symbol of Albania. The latter explanation may, however, simply be a folk etymology or constitute the reason why Albanians identify themselves with the eagle.

Albanians can be divided into two cultural groups: the northern Albanians, or Ghegs (sometimes spelled Gegs), and the southern Albanians, or Tosks. The geographic border between the two groups, based on dialect, runs roughly along the Shkumbin River, which flows through the central town of Elbasan to the Adriatic Sea. All Albanians north of the Shkumbin, along with the Albanians of Montenegro, Kosovo, and most of Macedonia (FYROM), speak Gheg dialects with their characteristic nasalization. All Albanians south of the Shkumbin, including the Albanians of Greece, southwestern Macedonia, and southern Italy, speak Tosk dialects with their characteristic rhotacism. Although dialect and cultural differences between the Ghegs and Tosks can be substantial, both sides identify strongly with the common national and ethnic culture.

Location and Geography. Albanians live in ethnically compact settlements in large areas of the southwest part of the Balkan peninsula, primarily in the Republic of Albania with its centrally located capital city of Tirana and in the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The Republic of Albania, which houses only about 60 percent of all the Albanians in the Balkans, is a mountainous country along the southern Adriatic coast across from the heel of Italy. Among the minority groups living with the Albanian majority are ethnic Greeks, Slavs, Aromunians (Vlachs), and Rom (Gypsies). Albania is bordered to the north by the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, which has an approximate 10 percent Albanian minority living in regions along the Albanian-Montenegrin border. The Montenegrin towns of Ulcinj, Tuz, Plava, and Gucinj were traditionally and are still inhabited by Albanians. To the northeast of the Republic of Albania is Kosovo, still a de jure part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Kosovo, which the Kosovo Albanians have declared to be a free and sovereign republic and which the Serbs insist must remain an integral part of Serbia, has about 90 percent Albanian speakers and 10 percent Serb speakers, with minorities of Turks, Rom, Montenegrins, Croats, and Cherkess. The Albanian enclaves of Presheva (Presevo) and Bujanovc (Bujanovac) are in southern Serbia, not far from Kosovo. To the east of the Republic of Albania is the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, one-third of which, along the Albanian border, has an Albanian majority. The central Macedonian towns of Skopje, Kumanovo, and Bitola have sizable (15 to 50 percent) communities of Albanian speakers, whereas the western Macedonian centers of Tetova (Tetovo), Gostivar, and Dibra (Debar), along with the Struga area, all have an Albanian majority. The Albanians in Macedonia represent about 30 percent of the population, although there are no reliable statistics. The Albanian minority in Greece can be divided into two groups: those living in villages and settlements near the Albanian border and the largely assimilated Arvanites who populated much of central and southern Greece in the late Middle Ages. The Albanian language, known there in Albanian as arbërisht and in Greek as arvanitika , is still spoken to some extent in about three hundred twenty villages primarily in Boeotia (especially around Levadhia), southern Euboea, Attica, Corinth, and northern Andros. Southern Italy also has a substantial Albanian minority, known as the Arberesh, who are the descendants of refugees who fled from Albania after the death of Scanderbeg in 1468. Most of the Arberesh live in the mountain villages of Cosenza in Calabria and in the vicinity of Palermo in Sicily. In addition to these traditional settlements, there are large communities of Albanian emigrants in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany.

Demography. There are an estimated six million Albanians in Europe. The 1991 census for the Republic of Albania gives a total population of 3,255,891. In addition there are about two million Albanians in Kosovo, about five-hundred thousand in the Republic of Macedonia, and about one-hundred thousand in Montenegro. It is estimated that about one-hundred thousand people from the traditional Italo-Albanian communities in southern Italy can still speak Albanian. Figures for Albanian settlements in Greece are unavailable because the Greek government does not acknowledge the existence of an Albanian minority there. All these figures are estimates and fluctuate because of the extremely high birthrates of Albanians and the high level of emigration from Albania and Kosovo. An estimated three-hundred thousand emigrants from Albania now live in Greece, and about two-hundred thousand reside in Italy. In addition, there are about two-hundred thousand Albanians, mostly from Kosovo, living in central Europe (mainly Switzerland and Germany). In the last ten years, Albanians have emigrated to most other countries in Europe, as well as the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Albanian language, shqip , is Indo-European, although it is not a member of any of the major branches of the Indo-European family. Despite its Indo-European affiliation and presence in the Balkans since ancient times, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact ancestry of the Albanian language because of the radical transformations that have taken place within it through the centuries. Among these transformations has been a substantial reduction in word length and extreme morphological alterations. Whether the Albanian language stems from Illyrian or Thracian, both, or neither is a matter of contention. The theory of the Illyrian origin of the Albanian people is the one most widely accepted in Albania and has been raised to the level of a national and state ideology. There is little evidence to prove or disprove this theory, since little is known about the Illyrian language. Since ancient times, very substantial strata of Latin and of Slavic and Turkish have been added to Albanian, making the older strata more difficult to analyze.

Albanian is a synthetic language that is similar in structure to most other Indo-European languages. Nouns are marked for gender, number, and case as well as for definite and indefinite forms. The vast majority of nouns are masculine or feminine, though there are a few neuter nouns. The nominal system distinguishes five cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative; the genitive and dative endings are always the same. Attributive genitives are linked to the nouns they qualify by a system of connective particles. Albanian verbs have three persons, two numbers, ten tenses, two voices, and six moods. Unusual among the moods is the admirative, which is used to express astonishment. Among other particular features of Albanian and other Balkan languages are a postpositive definite article and the absence of a verbal infinitive. Although Albanian is not directly related to Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, or Bulgarian, it has much in common with all those Balkan languages after centuries of close contact.

The regional variants of spoken Albanian differ such that verbal communication between uneducated speakers of different dialects can be difficult. To overcome these problems, a standard literary language, gjuha letrare , was agreed on at an orthography congress in Tirana in late November 1972 and has been in use for the last three decades in virtually all publications and in education throughout Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. This Standard Albanian is based about 80 percent on Tosk dialect forms, reflecting the structure of political power at that time in communist Albania. The subject remains controversial, with northern intellectuals having reopened in recent years the possibility of reviving a literary standard for the Gheg dialect. The gjuha letrare seems to be a widely accepted standard and probably will survive the current turmoil.

Most Albanian speakers in Albania are monolingual, although in view of the strong cultural influence of Italian television, Italian is widely understood along the Adriatic coast. Greek not only is spoken by members of the Greek minority in southern Albania but also is understood by many Albanians near the Greek border. Most Kosovo Albanians speak and understand Serbo-Croatian. Ironically, because the Belgrade authorities willfully destroyed the Albanian-language educational system in Kosovo in the mid-1980s, an increasing number of young people there, educated in "underground" schools, no longer speak and understand Serbo-Croatian.

Symbolism. The national and ethnic symbol of the Albanians is the eagle, which was used in that capacity in the earliest records. The eagle appears in a stone carving dating from 1190, the time of the so-called first Albanian principality, known as Arbanon, and was used as a heraldic symbol by a number of ruling families in Albania in the late Middle Ages, including the Castriotta (Kastrioti), the Muzakaj (Myzeqe), and the Dukagjini. A black double-headed eagle also was placed by the national hero Scanderbeg on his flag and seal. This form of the eagle, deriving from the banner of the Byzantine Empire, has been preserved as an ethnic symbol by the Arberesh of southern Italy. In the late nineteenth century, the double-headed eagle was taken up by the nationalist movement as a symbol of resistance to the Ottoman Empire and was used on the banners of freedom fighters seeking autonomy and independence. The current flag, bearing this black double-headed eagle on a red background, was officially raised on 28 November, 1912 to mark the declaration of Albanian independence in Vlorë and has been used since that time by the Republic of Albania and by Albanians everywhere as the national symbol.

In Albanian oral literature and folklore, the eagle appears as a symbol of freedom and heroism, and Albanians often refer to themselves as the "Sons of the Eagle." The popularity of the eagle among Albanians derives from the similarity between the words shqipe (eagle) and the terms for the Albanian language, an Albanian person, and Albania.

Another beloved symbol is the Albanian prince and national hero Scanderbeg (14051468). His real name was George Castriotta (Gjergj Kastrioti). Sent by his father as a hostage to the Turkish Sultan Murad II (ruled 14211451), he was converted to Islam and, after being educated in Edirne, was given the name Iskander (Alexander) and the rank of bey. In 1443, after the Turkish defeat at Nish by John Corvinus Hunyadi (13851456), Scanderbeg abandoned the Ottoman army, returned to Albania, and embraced Christianity. He took over the central Albanian fortress of Kruja and was proclaimed commander in chief of an independent Albanian army. In the following years, Scanderbeg successfully repulsed thirteen Ottoman invasions and was widely admired in the Christian world for his resistance to the Turks, being accorded the title Athleta Christi by Pope Calixtus III (ruled 14551458). Scanderbeg died on 17 January 1468 at Lezha (Alessio), and Albanian resistance collapsed a decade afterward. In 1478, his fortress at Kruja was taken by the Turks, and Albania experienced four centuries of Ottoman rule. For Albanians, Scanderbeg is the symbol of resistance to foreign domination and a source of inspiration in both oral and written literature. It is common in the homes of Albanian families living abroad to find not only an Albanian flag but also a bust or portrait of Scanderbeg.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Albanians are a native Balkan people, although their exact origin is unclear. The national ideology insists on an unequivocal ethnic relationship with the ancient Illyrians. As little is known about the Illyrians and there are no historical records referring to the existence of the Albanian people during the first millennium c . e ., it is difficult to affirm or deny the relationship. Albanians entered postclassical recorded history in the second half of the eleventh century, and only in this age can one speak with any degree of certainty about the Albanian people as they are known today. In his History written in 10791080, the Byzantine historian Michael Attaleiates was the first to refer to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium. Similarly, the historian John Scylitzes refers (ca. 1081) to the Arbanites as forming part of the troops assembled in Durrës by Nicephorus Basilacius. It can be assumed that the Albanians began expanding from their mountain homeland in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, initially taking possession of the northern and central coastline and by the thirteenth century spreading southward toward what are now southern Albania and western Macedonia. In the middle of the fourteenth century, they migrated farther south into Greece, initially into Epirus, Thessaly (1320), Acarnania, and Aetolia. By the middle of the fifteenth century, which marks the end of this process of colonization, the Albanians had settled in over half of Greece in such great numbers that in many regions they constituted the majority of the population. Despite these extensive settlements, the Albanians, largely a herding and nomadic people, do not seem to have created any substantial urban centers. There were no noticeable Albanian communities in the cities of the Albanian coast during the Middle Ages. Durrës was inhabited by the Venetians, Greeks, Jews, and Slavs; Shkodra, by the Venetians and Slavs; and Vlorë, by the Byzantine Greeks. It is estimated that a considerable proportion of Albanians were assimilated by the time of the Turkish invasion; in other words, the Albanians had been largely marginalized in their own country. Only during the Ottoman period did they began to settle in towns and acquire some of the characteristics of a nation rather than those of nomadic tribes.

National Identity. Until the nineteenth century, collective identity in Albania, as elsewhere in the Balkans, was defined primarily by religion, reinforced at the state level by the Ottoman precept of the millet : To be of the Islamic faith was to be Turkish, and to be of the Orthodox faith was to be Greek. There was little room in either culture for the rising aspirations of Albanian nationalism during the national awakening ( Rilindja ) in the second half of the nineteenth century. During this period, nationalist leaders began to understand the divisive effects of religion among their people. The nationalist statesman Pashko Vasa (18251892) proclaimed in a widely read poem: "Albanians, you are killing your brothers, / Into a hundred factions you are divided, / Some say 'I believe in God,' others 'I in Allah,' / Some say 'I am Turk,' others 'I am Latin,' / Some 'I am Greek,' others 'I am Slav,' / But you are brothers, all of you, my hapless people! .... Awaken, Albania, wake from your slumber, / Let us all, as brothers, swear a common oath / Not to look to church or mosque, / The faith of the Albanian is Albanianism!" The last line was taken up by Albanians everywhere as the catchword of the nationalist movement that led to independence in 1912.

Ethnic Relations. The Balkan peninsula is inhabited by a multitude of ethnic groups, and relations among them have never been good. Exacerbated nationalism and age-old rivalry for territory and supremacy have always created ethnic tension. This is especially true in regions with mixed settlement patterns, where ethnic groups are not separated by clear-cut political borders. While ethnic relations between Albanians and Greeks along their common border have improved substantially over the last decade, that cannot be said of relations between Albanians and their Slavic neighbors in the former Yugoslavia. In Kosovo, the Albanian majority was reduced to the status of an oppressed colonial people after the Serb conquest of the region at the beginning of the twentieth century. The open conflict that broke out in 1997 was, however, not initially one between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs but between Kosovo Albanians and a hostile Serb regime in Belgrade. Relations between Albanians and Macedonians in the western part of the Republic of Macedonia have been tense since the declaration of Macedonian independence and the downgrading of the status of Albanians there to that of a "national minority."

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The traditional architecture of Albania almost disappeared during the Stalinist dictatorship of 1944 1990. The old towns and bazaars of Tirana and many other urban centers were demolished and replaced by socialist prestige objects or uniform housing blocks. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, virtually all the churches and mosques were razed or transformed beyond recognition. The Catholic cathedral of Shkodra, for instance, was transformed into a sports hall with a volleyball court, and that of Tirana into a movie theater. With the exception of Berat and Gjirokastër, which were declared museum cities, little of the traditional flavor of Albanian towns can now be found. Most of the older public buildings that survived the communist period in Tirana, such as the main government ministries and the university, date from the Italian period (1930s1940s). The main thoroughfare of Tirana from Scanderbeg Square to the university was constructed by the Italians as a symbol of Italian fascism. The lack of zoning regulations led in the 1990s to chaos in construction and the use of space, destroying the little that survived the communist regime. Old villas have been demolished, and most parks and public gardens disappeared under a myriad of kiosks and cafés.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. After half a century of Stalinist dictatorship, food culture is virtually nonexistent. For decades, there was little on the market beyond basic staples, and today, dire poverty has left most Albanians with little more to eat than bread, rice, yogurt, and beans. In as much as it has survived at all, Albanian cuisine is meat-oriented. Traditional dishes, which usually are reserved for guests and special occasions such as weddings, are easier to find among Albanians living abroad.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Despite their poverty, Albanians are exceptionally generous and hospitable. A person invited to dinner will be given enough to "feed an army," even though the host may go hungry the next day. It is not unusual for an Albanian family to spend a month's salary to feed a visitor. Meals for guests or for ceremonial occasions such as weddings usually involve copious amounts of meat, washed down with Albanian raki , an alcoholic beverage. Animals were formerly slaughtered and roasted on a spit for religious holidays such as the Muslim celebration of Great Bayram and the Christian feast days of Saint Basil on 1 January, Saint Athanasius on 18 January, Saint George on 23 April and 6 May, Saint Michael on 29 September, Saint Nicholas on 6 December, and Christmas on 25 December. These customs have largely died out, although some regional dishes have survived. The Orthodox of southeastern Albania still eat qumështor , a custard dish made of flour, eggs, and milk, before the beginning of Lent. During the annual spring festival ( Dita e Verës ), in central Albania on 14 March, the women of Elbasan and the surrounding regions bake a sweet cake known as ballakum Elbasani . Members of the Islamic Bektashi sect mark the end of the ten-day fasting period of matem with a special ashura (pudding) made of cracked wheat, sugar, dried fruit, crushed nuts, and cinnamon.

Basic Economy. Until 1990, Albania had a centralized socialist economy dominated by agricultural production on state farms. Food was in short supply, and despite communist propaganda, the country never attained self-sufficiency. While Albania still has a large rural peasantry, traditionally over 60 percent of the total population, most families in the countryside can do little more than feed themselves. Some farming surplus has reached urban markets in recent years, but food imports remain essential.

Land Tenure and Property. Albania is a mountainous country with an extremely high birthrate, and there is not enough farmland. Agriculture was reprivatized in the early 1990s after the fall of the communist regime, and many properties were returned to their former owners. Most families, however, received extremely small plots barely large enough to survive on. Property disputes are common and have been a major cause of blood feuding. Although most political parties have strategies for the further privatization of industry and nonagricultural land, many problems remain.

Commercial Activities, Major Industries, and Trade. Aside from agricultural output, Albania is a major producer of chrome. There are also significant deposits of copper and nickel and some oil. The country is still reeling from the radical transformation from a socialist to a free market economy, and commercial activity has not attained its potential. Virtually all the major industries went bankrupt and collapsed in the early 1990s when a free market economy was introduced. Some mines, chrome in particular, are still in production, but most have stagnated under pressure from foreign competition. Among the few sectors of the economy that are doing well is the construction industry. Domestic building materials are now widely available on the local market and increasingly on foreign markets. The European Union is the major trading partner, with Italy, Greece, and Germany leading in imports and exports. The national trade deficit has been compensated to some extent by foreign exchange remittances from Albanian emigrants working abroad.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Under the communist regime, which called for absolute equality and the rule of a single working class, there were in fact three social castes. The ruling caste was composed of the extended families of politburo members and related communist families and clans. The majority of the population was in the working class. The lowest caste consisted of once prosperous farming families, the precommunist middle class, and opponents of the regime. Many of those families were sent to the countryside into internment or internal exile and were denied access to many professions and to education for their children. This caste system broke down with the fall of the communist regime and has been replaced by a system where status is determined exclusively by wealth.

Political Life

Government. The Republic of Albania is a parliamentary republic with a democratic constitution that was promulgated in 1998. Political turmoil has continued since the ousting of the authoritarian Berisha regime in 1997, and there is little sign of consensus or cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties. Political tension remains high.

Leadership and Political Officials. The current president, Rexhep Meidani, is a former university professor from the ruling Socialist Party. The government coalition, now under the leadership of Prime Minister Ilir Meta, is dominated by the Socialist Party. Former president Sali Berisha of the Democratic Party continues to lead the opposition.

Social Problems and Control. Public order broke down in 1997 as a result of a lack of political and economic planning. During the spring of 1997, arms depots were plundered throughout the country; as a result, crime became a major problem. Since the 1997 breakdown, there has been a substantial degree of taking the law into one's own hands. However, this is not a new phenomenon but part of Albanian tradition. For centuries, it was not the central government but Albanian customary or traditional law that governed social behavior and almost every facet of life in northern Albania. This customary law is widely respected today. In its definitive form, the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini had chapters covering church; the family; marriage; house, livestock, and property; work; transfer of property; the spoken word; honor; damages; crimes; judicial law; and exemptions and exceptions. It was strictly observed by the tribes of the northern highlands and had priority over all other laws, ecclesiastical or secular. With the help of this ancient code, the highland tribes were able to preserve their identity, autonomy, and way of life under the Ottoman Empire for five centuries. Some aspects of the Kanun may appear harsh to a modern observer. Vengeance, for instance, was accepted as the prime instrument for exacting and maintaining justice. This led to blood feuding that decimated the northern tribes in the early years of the twentieth century and that is again a major problem of social life in northern Albania.

Gender Roles and Statuses

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Albania is a patriarchal society based on male predominance. Women are accorded subordinate roles. The communist Party of Labor did much to emancipate women during a revolutionary campaign in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but many of the gains of that social revolution have been reversed since the introduction of democracy and a free market economy. Old traditions have revived, and despite legal equality and acceptance in the workforce, women have much less representation in public life than they did under the former regime.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages in Albania are socially and legally restricted to heterosexual couples. They often are arranged at an early age in the countryside, traditionally by the parents of the groom with the help of a matchmaker rather than by the couple. Remaining unmarried is looked on as a great misfortune. In some mountain regions, the bride was stolen from her family, that is, spirited away by an armed bridegroom or by his male relatives and companions. This usually symbolic though occasionally real theft of a bride was also a common custom among the Italo-Albanians of Calabria. In other regions, it was customary to purchase a wife. In zones such as Mirditë and the northern mountains, the father, brother, or another male relative of the bride still presents the groom with a bullet wrapped in straw. The new husband is thus free to kill his wife with the approval of her family if she proves to be disobedient.

Albanian weddings are impressive festivities. They are virtually the only popular celebrations observed today and thus are taken very seriously. Whole villages and, in towns, hundreds of people may be invited to take part in a wedding banquet. The celebrations can last several days. Traditionally, weddings take place during the full moon to ensure offspring. Monogamy was always the rule in Albania, but polygamous marriages existed up to the beginning of the twentieth century in some areas, particularly if the first wife was not able to bear a son. Live-in concubines were not uncommon in the mountains up to World War II. Albanian women were as a rule faithful to their husbands. Since a wife was considered the property of her husband, adultery amounted to theft. Thus, cases of adultery were punished severely under traditional law. Premarital and extramarital sex was more prevalent in the northern highlands, the part of the country with the most rigid moral code. Divorce is now a common phenomenon.


Child Rearing and Education. Albanians have always lived in a world of extreme hardship and deprivation. Underdevelopment and a high incidence of infant mortality have been compounded by warring and blood feuding that at times decimated the male population. Reproduction, as the key to survival, therefore took on a more elementary significance among Albanians than it did among neighboring peoples. Even today, Albanian birthrates are significantly higher than those anywhere else in Europe. As in other third world cultures, it is believed that the more children, especially male children, one raises, the more security one will have in one's old age. A childless marriage is considered a great misfortune, and a woman living without a husband and children is inconceivable.

Given the extremely patriarchal nature of Albanian society, greater importance is attributed to the birth of sons than to that of daughters. Even today, pregnant women are greeted with the expression të lindtënjëdjalë ("May a son be born"). In Mirditë and the mountains of the north, the birth of a son was marked by rejoicing throughout the tribe and the firing of rifles. It was often the custom in the north of Albania for a woman to be wed officially only after she had given birth to her first son. In Berat, the main beam of a house was painted black at the birth of a girl as a token of the family's disappointment.

Male children generally were better treated, for instance, by being better protected against the "evil eye." As the Kosova scholar Mark Krasniqi (born 1920) points out, boys are given names such as Ujk ("Wolf"), Luan ("Lion"), and Hekuran ("The Iron One"), whereas girls are named Mjafte ,or Mjaftime ("Enough"), Shkurte ("The Short One"), Mbarime ("The Last One"), and Sose ("The Final One").


Religious Beliefs. Albania is on the border dividing three religions: Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, and Islam. According to the last reliable statistics on religion (1942), among a population of 1,128,143, there were 779,417 (69 percent) Muslims, including the Bektashi; 232,320 (21 percent) Orthodox; and 116,259 (10 percent) Catholics. One can estimate today that approximately 70 percent of Albanians in the republic are of Muslim, including Bektashi, background; about 20 percent, mostly in the south, are Orthodox; and about 10 percent, mostly in the north, are Catholic. In 1967, all religious communities were dissolved when a communist government edict banned the public practice of religion. The law was rescinded only in December 1990 during the collapse of the regime. Despite the return of religious freedom, there seems to be more interest in the revival of Christianity and Islam among foreign missionaries and groups than there is among Albanians. Albanians have never had a national religion with which to identify as a people. For the last century and a half, national (ethnic) identity has predominated over religious identity, and this is unlikely to change in the coming years in a small and struggling nation surrounded by hostile neighbors. Organized religion still plays only a marginal role in public life. Religious fervor is extremely rare, and religious extremism is virtually unknown.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. The foundations of a national literature were laid in the second half of the nineteenth century with the rise of a nationalist movement striving for Albania's independence from a decaying Ottoman Empire. The literature of this so-called Rilindja period of national awakening was characterized by romantic nationalism and provides a key to an understanding of the Albanian mentality today.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Catholic education facilities set up by the Franciscans and Jesuits in Shkodra under the auspices of the Austro-Hungarian Kultusprotektorat paved the way for the creation of an intellectual élite that produced the rudiments of a more sophisticated literature which expressed itself primarily in poetry. The culmination of Albanian literature before World War II appears in the works of the Franciscan priest Gjergj Fishta (18711940), once lauded as the national poet. From 1945 to 1990, for primarily political reasons, Fishta was ostracized from the Albanian literary world and the mention of his name was forbidden.

Virtually all prewar Albanian literature was swept away by the political revolution that took place during and after World War II. Most prewar writers and intellectuals who had not left the country by 1944 regretted their decision to stay. The persecution of intellectuals and the break with virtually all cultural traditions created a literary and cultural vacuum that lasted until the 1960s and whose results can still be felt.

With Albania's integration into the Soviet bloc during the 1950s, Soviet literary models were introduced and slavishly imitated. Writers were encouraged to concentrate their creative energies on specific themes, such as the partisan struggle of the "national liberation war" and the building of socialism. Despite the constraints of socialist realism and Stalinist dictatorship, Albanian literature made much progress in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the best examples of creativity and originality in Albanian letters then and now is Ismail Kadare (b. 1936), the only Albanian writer with a broad international reputation. Kadare's talents both as a poet and as a prose writer have lost none of their innovative force over the last three decades. His influence is still felt among the young postcommunist writers of the 1990s, the first generation to be able to express itself freely.


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Robert Elsie

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