- This article is about the country in southern Europe. For a topic outline on this subject, see List of basic Albania topics. For other uses, see Albania (disambiguation).
|Republic of Albania
Republika e Shqipërisë
Ti Shqipëri më jep nder, më jep emrin shqipëtar
(You Albania give me honor, you give me the name Albanian.)</td> </tr>
|Anthem: Himni i Flamurit|
("Anthem of the Flag")
(and largest city) </td>
|Official languages||Albanian1</td> </tr>|
|Government||Parliamentary republic</td> </tr>|
|- </td>||President</td>||Bamir Topi</td> </tr>|
|- </td>||Prime Minister</td>||Sali Berisha</td> </tr>|
|- </td>||from the Ottoman Empire</td>||28 November 1912 </td> </tr>|
|- </td>||Total</td>|| 28,748 km2 (139th)|
11,100 sq mi </td> </tr>
|- </td>||Water (%)</td>||4.7</td> </tr>|
|- </td>||2008 estimate</td>||3,170,048 (130th)</td> </tr>|
|- </td>||Density</td>||134/km2 (63)|
318.6/sq mi</td> </tr>
|GDP (PPP)</td>||2008 estimate</td>
|- </td>||Total</td>||$21.828 billion (110th)</td> </tr>|
|- </td>||Per capita</td>||$6,859 (97th)</td> </tr>|
|GDP (nominal)</td>||2008 estimate</td>
|- </td>||Total</td>||$12.964 billion </td> </tr>|
|- </td>||Per capita</td>||$4,073 </td> </tr>|
|Gini (2005)</td>||26.7 (low) </td> </tr>|
|HDI (2007)</td>||▲ 0.807 (high) (69th)</td> </tr>|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)</td> </tr>|
|- </td>||Summer (DST)</td>||CEST (UTC+2)</td> </tr>|
|Drives on the||right</td> </tr>|
|Internet TLD||.al</td> </tr>|
|Calling code||355</td> </tr>|
|1</td>||Greek, Macedonian and other regional languages are government-recognized minority languages.</td>
Albania /ælˈbeɪniə/ (help·info), officially the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë, pronounced [ɾɛˈpublika ɛ ʃcipəˈɾiːs], or simply Shqipëria, Gheg Albanian: Shqipnija, Shqypnia), is a country in South Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Greece to the south-east, Montenegro to the north, Kosovo[a] to the northeast, and Macedonia to the east. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west, and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.
Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation, and one of the founding members of the Union for the Mediterranean. Albania has been a candidate for accession to the European Union since January 2003, and it formally applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009.
Albania is a parliamentary democracy and a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to approximately 895,000 of the country's 3.6 million people, and it is also the financial capital of the country. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure.
Albania is the Medieval Latin name of the country which is called Shqipëri by its inhabitants. In Medieval Greek, the country's name is Albania besides variants Albaētia, Arbanētia. The ultimate origin of the root Alb- has been traced to an Illyrian (alb "hill"). In the 2nd century BC, Polybius's History of the World mentions a tribe named Arbon in present-day central Albania. The people who lived there were called Albanoí and Arbanitai.
Another suggestion is derivation from the Illyrian tribe of the Albani recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria who drafted a map of remarkable significance for the history of Illyria. This map shows the city of Albanopolis (located Northeast of Durrës) which was later called Albanon and Arbanon.
In his History written in 1079-1080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates was the first to refer to Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium. During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country Arbër or Arbën and referred to themselves as Arbëresh or Arbnesh. As early as the 16th century, a new name for their home evolved among Albanian people: Shqipëria, popularly interpreted as "Land of the Eagles" or "Land of the Mountain Eagle" hence the two-headed bird on the national flag, though most likely the origin lies in Skanderbeg's use of the Byzantine double-headed eagle on his seals.
The area of today's Albania has been populated since prehistoric times. In antiquity, much of it was settled by the ancient Illyrians, possible ancestors of Albanians.. Surrounded by powerful, warring empires, Albania has experienced considerable violence and competition for control throughout its history. Greeks, Romans, Venetians and Ottomans swept through, leaving their cultural mark as well as their ruins.
Archaeological research shows that Albania has been populated since the Paleolithic Age (Stone Age). The first areas settled were those with favourable climatic and geographic conditions. In Albania, the earliest settlements have been discovered in the Gajtan cavern (Shkodra), in Konispol, at Mount Dajti, and at Saranda. Fragments of Cyclopean structures, were discovered at Krecunica, Arinishta, and other sites in the district of Gjirokastra. The walls, partly Cyclopean, of an ancient city (perhaps Byllis) are visible at Gradishti on the picturesque Viosa River. Few traces remain of the once celebrated Dyrrhachium (today Durrës).
The rediscovered city of Butrint is probably more significant today than it was when Julius Caesar used it as a provisions depot for his troops during his campaigns in the 1st century BC. At that time, it was considered to be an unimportant outpost, overshadowed by the Greek colonies, Apollonia and Durrës.
Formal investigation and recording of Albania's archaeological monuments began with Francois Pouqueville, who was Napoleon's consul-general to Ali Pasha's court, and Martin Leake, who was the British agent there. A French mission, led by Len Rey, worked throughout Albania from 1924 to 1938 and published its results in Cahiers d'Archéologie, d'art et d'Histoire en Albanie et dans les Balkans (Notes of Archaeology, Art, and History in Albania and in the Balkans).
Archaeologists today are finding remains from all periods, from the Stone Age to the early Christian era.
Another project that produced prehistoric finds, though unexpectedly, was done in the valley of Kryegjata, close to the present-day city of Fier and in the area of Apollonia. This excavation, a collaboration between the University of Cincinnati and archaeologists from the Institute of Archeology in Albania, was originally a mission to learn about the Greek colony of Apollonia. Instead, they found evidence of a much older settlement.
In 2003, a synagogue dating from the 5th or 6th century AD was uncovered in Saranda, a coastal town opposite Corfu. It was the first time remains of an early synagogue have been found in that area. The history of its excavation is also noteworthy. The team found exceptional mosaics depicting items associated with Jewish holidays, including a menorah, ram's horn, and citron tree. Mosaics in the basilica of the synagogue show the facade of what resembles a Torah, animals, trees, and other biblical symbols. The structure measures 20 by 24 metres and was probably last used in the 6th century AD as a church.
Roughly parallel with the rise of Greek colonies, Illyrian tribes began to evolve politically from relatively small and simple entities into larger and more complex ones. At first they formed temporary alliances with one another for defensive or offensive purposes, then federations and, still later, kingdoms.
The kingdom, became known by King Bardyllis (385-358 B.C.) in the 4th century BC when he conquered a good part of Macedonia, but he was defeated as a result of the attacks made by Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. The Illyrian Kingdom reached the zenith of its expansion and development when King Agron (250-230 B.C.), one of the most prominent of the Illyrian kings, managed to unite many Illyrian tribes into one Illyrian kingdom. The Illyrian kingdom under his leadership controlled a wide territory extending from the general area of modern-day Northern Albania and eventually much of the eastern Adriatic coastline. Shkodra was its capital, just as the city is now the most important urban center of northern Albania. Under Agron the Illyrian Kingdom centered at Scodra stretched from Dalmatia in the north down to the coast opposite to the heel of Italy.. After his death in 230 BC the following Queen Teuta (230-228 B.C.) captured Corcyra and forced Epirotes to alliance with Illyrians thus extending their sphere of control to the Corinthian Gulf.. Later on in 229 BC Queen Teuta clashed with Romans initiating this way the Illyrian Wars which brought the Illyrian Kingdom to an end in 168 B.C. when King Gentius was defeated by a Roman army besieging Scodra.
Roman and Byzantine EmpireEdit
The lands comprising modern-day Albania were occupied by the Romans in 165 BC and incorporated into the empire as part of the province of Illyricum. The western part of Via Egnatia, was inside modern Albania. Illyricum was later divided into the provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia.
When the Roman Empire divided into east and west in 395, the territories of modern Albania became part of the Byzantine Empire. Starting in the first decades under Byzantine rule (until 461), Illyria suffered the devastation of raids by Visigoths, Huns, and Ostrogoths. Not long after these barbarian invaders swept through the Balkans, the Slavs appeared. In the course of several centuries, under the impact of Roman, Byzantine, and Slavic cultures, the tribes of southern Illyria underwent a transformation, and a transition occurred from the old Illyrian population to a new Albanian one.
Long before these event, Christianity had become the established religion in Albania, supplanting pagan polytheism. But, though the country was in the fold of Byzantium, Albanian Christians remained under the jurisdiction of the Roman pope until 732.
Albania would remain under Byzantine rule until the fourteenth century AD when the Ottoman Turks began to make incursions into the Empire. The Ottomans captured Constantinople in 1453 and by 1460 most former Byzantine territories were in the hands of the Turks.
In the latter part of the Middle Ages, Albanian urban society reached a high point of development. Foreign commerce flourished to such an extent that leading Albanian merchants had their own agencies in Venice, Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik, Croatia), and Thessaloniki (Greece). The prosperity of the cities also stimulated the development of education and the arts. Albanian, however, was not the language used in schools, churches, and official government transactions. Instead, Greek and Latin, which had the powerful support of the state and the church, were the official languages of culture and literature. The new administrative system of the themes, or military provinces created by the Byzantine Empire, contributed to the eventual rise of feudalism in Albania, as peasant soldiers who served military lords became serfs on their landed estates. Among the leading families of the Albanian feudal nobility were the Thopia, Balsha, Shpata, Muzaka, Araniti, Dukagjini, and Kastrioti. The first three of these rose to become rulers of principalities that were practically independent of Byzantium.
In the Middle Ages, the name Arberia (see Origin and history of the name Albania) began to be increasingly applied to the region now comprising the nation of Albania. Beginning with late 14th century the Ottoman Turks expanded their empire from Anatolia to the Balkans. By the 15th century, the Turks had brought under subjection nearly all of the Balkan Peninsula except for a small coastal strip which is included in present-day Albania. The Albanians' resistance to the Turks in the mid-15th century won them acclaim all over Europe. Albania became a symbol of resistance to the Ottoman Turks but suffered an almost continuous state of warfare.
One of the most successful resistance against the invading Ottomans, was led by Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg from 1443 to 1468. Under a red flag bearing Skanderbeg's heraldic emblem, an Albanian force of about 30,000 men held off brutal Ottoman campaigns against their lands for twenty-four years.The leadership of Skanderbeg was invincible, and even Mehmet II, the Conqueror, was beaten by the Albanian prince at Kruja in 1466. Skanderbeg then re-embraced Roman Catholicism and declared a holy war against the Turks. Thrice the Albanians overcame sieges of Krujë (see Siege of Krujë). Skanderbeg was unable to receive any help from the new crusade promised by the popes, and he died in 1468 leaving no worthy successor.
After the death of Skanderbeg, resistance continued until 1478, although with only moderate success. The loyalties and alliances created and nurtured by Skanderbeg faltered and fell apart, and the Ottomans conquered the territory of Albania shortly after the fall of Kruje's castle. Albania then became part of the Ottoman Empire. Following this, many Albanians fled to neighboring Italy, mostly to Calabria and Sicily. The majority of the Albanian population converted to Islam during this time. During this period there were numerous uprising begining with the son and nephew of Skanderbeg in 1500 AD, during the Ottoman–Venetian Wars, Ottoman–Habsburg wars, against Tanzimat reforms and during National Renaissance of Albania (1831-1912). This period also saw the rising of Great Albanian Pashaliks and Albanians were also an important part of the Ottoman army and Ottoman administration like the case of Köprülü family. Albania would remain a part of the Ottoman Empire as the provinces of Shkodra, Manastir and Yanya until 1912.
Independence and recent historyEdit
During the fifteenth century Albania enjoyed a brief period of independence under the legendary hero, Skanderbeg. Aside from this exception, the country did not enjoy independence until the twentieth century. After five hundred years of Ottoman domination, an independent Albania was proclaimed on the 28 November 1912.
1913 to 1946Edit
The border between Albania and its neighbours was delineated in 1912-1913 following the dissolution of most of the Ottoman Empire's territories in the Balkans. The borders chosen for the new state did not correspond to the ethnic composition of the region, leaving hundreds of thousands of Albanians outside Albania. This population was largely divided between Montenegro and Serbia (which then included what is now the Republic of Macedonia). A substantial number of Albanians thus found themselves under Serbian rule.
The initial sparks of the first Balkan War in 1912 were ignited by the Albanian uprising between 1908-10 which were directed at opposing the Young Turk policies of consolidation of the Ottoman Empire. Following the eventual weakening of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria declared war and sought to aggrandize their respective boundaries on the remaining territories of the Empire. Albania was thus invaded by Serbia in the North and Greece in the south, restricting the country to only a patch of land around the southern coastal city of Vlora. In 1912 Albania, still under foreign occupation declared its independence and with the aid of Austria-Hungary, the Great Powers drew its present borders leaving more than half of the Albanian population outside the new country. The country adopted a republican form of government in 1920. Starting in 1928, the new King Zog began to cede Albania's sovereignty to Italy, and in 1939 the Italians invaded the country.
Albania was one of the first countries occupied by the Axis Powers in World War II. As Hitler began his aggressions, the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini decided to occupy Albania as a means to compete with Hitler's territorial gains. Mussolini and the Italian Fascists saw Albania as a historical part of the Roman Empire and the occupation was intended to fulfill Mussolini's dream of creating an Italian Empire. The invasion took place in 1939. Despite some strong resistance, especially at Durrës, Italy invaded Albania on 7 April 1939 and took control of the country, with Mussolini proclaiming Italy's figurehead King being King of Albania. Mussolini, in October 1940, used his Albanian base to launch an attack on Greece, which led to the defeat of the Italian forces. During Italian occupation, the Albanian population was subject to a policy of forced Italianization by the Kingdom's Italian governors in which the use of the Albanian language was discouraged in schools while the Italian language was promoted, and colonization of Albania by Italians was encouraged. During World War II, Albanian nationalist groups, including communist partisans, fought against the Italians and subsequently the Germans. By November 1944 they had thrown the Germans out, the only East European nation to do so without the assistance of Soviet troops. The partially French-educated Enver Hoxha became the leader of the country by virtue of his position as secretary general of the Party of Labor (the Albanian Communist Party). The Communist Party was created on 8 November 1941.
Albania was one of the European countries occupied by the Axis powers that ended World War II with a larger Jewish population than before the War. Only one Jewish family was deported and killed during the Nazi occupation of Albania. Some 1,200 Jewish residents and refugees from other Balkan countries were hidden by Albanian families during World War II, according to official records.
Post-World War IIEdit
Albania allied with the USSR, and then broke with the USSR in 1960 over de-Stalinization. A strong political alliance with China followed, leading to several billion dollars in aid, which was curtailed after 1974. China cut off aid in 1978 when Albania attacked its policies after the death of Chinese ruler Mao Zedong. Large-scale purges of officials occurred during the 1970s.
Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania for four decades with an iron fist, died 11 April 1985. Eventually the new regime introduced some liberalization, including measures in 1990 providing for freedom to travel abroad. Efforts were begun to improve ties with the outside world. March 1991 elections left the former Communists in power, but a general strike and urban opposition led to the formation of a coalition cabinet including non-Communists.
Albania's former Communists were routed in elections March 1992, amid economic collapse and social unrest. Sali Berisha was elected as the first non-Communist president since World War II. The next crisis occurred in 1997, as riots ravaged the country. Victory by a pro-Berisha coalition in elections 3 July 2005, ended 8 years of Socialist Party rule. In 2009, Albania, along with Croatia, joined NATO.
Government and politicsEdit
The Albanian republic is a parliamentary democracy established under a constitution renewed in 1998. Elections are now held every four years to a unicameral 140-seat chamber, the People's Assembly. In June 2002, a compromise candidate, Alfred Moisiu, former Army General, was elected to succeed President Rexhep Meidani. Parliamentary elections in July 2005 brought Sali Berisha, as leader of the Democratic Party, back to power. The Euro-Atlantic integration of Albania has been the ultimate goal of the post-communist governments. Albania's EU membership bid has been set as a priority by the European Commission.
The workforce of Albania has continued to migrate to Greece, Italy, Germany, other parts of Europe, and North America. However, the migration flux is slowly decreasing, as more and more opportunities are emerging in Albania itself as its economy steadily develops. Albanian emigrants have achieved great success in multiple geographies and disciplines abroad.
The head of state in Albania is the President of the Republic. The President is elected to a 5-year term by the Assembly of the Republic of Albania by secret ballot, requiring a two-thirds majority of the votes of all deputies. The next election will run in the year 2012. The current President of the Republic is Bamir Topi.
The President has the power to guarantee observation of the constitution and all laws, act as commander in chief of the armed forces, exercise the duties of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania when the Assembly is not in session, and appoint the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister).
Executive power rests with the Council of Ministers (cabinet). The Chairman of the Council (Prime Minister) is appointed by the President; ministers are nominated by the President on the basis of the Prime Minister's recommendation. The People's Assembly must give final approval of the composition of the Council. The Council is responsible for carrying out both foreign and domestic policies. It directs and controls the activities of the ministries and other state organs.
The Assembly of the Republic of Albania (Kuvendi i Republikës së Shqipërisë) is the lawmaking body in Albania. There are 140 deputies in the Assembly, of which 100 are directly elected by an absolute majority of the voters, and 40 are chosen by their parties on the basis of proportional representation. The President of the Assembly (or Speaker) has two deputies and chairs the Assembly. There are 15 permanent commissions, or committees. Parliamentary elections are held at least every 4 years.
The Assembly has the power to decide the direction of domestic and foreign policy; approve or amend the constitution; declare war on another state; ratify or annul international treaties; elect the President of the Republic, the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General and his or her deputies; and control the activity of state radio and television, state news agency, and other official information media.
Albania has a total area of 28,748 square kilometers. Its coastline is 362 kilometres long and extends along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The lowlands of the west face the Adriatic Sea. The 70% of the country that is mountainous is rugged and often inaccessible from the outside. The highest mountain is Korab situated in the district of Dibra, reaching up to 2,753 metres (9,030 ft). The country has a continental climate at its high altitude regions with cold winters and hot summers. Besides the capital city of Tirana, which has 800,000 inhabitants, the principal cities are Durrës, Elbasan, Shkodër, Gjirokastër, Vlorë, Korçë and Kukës. In Albanian grammar, a word can have indefinite and definite forms, and this also applies to city names: both Tiranë and Tirana, Shkodër and Shkodra are used.
The three largest and deepest tectonic lakes of the Balkan Peninsula are partly located in Albania. Lake Shkodër in the country's northwest has a surface which can vary between 370 km2 (140 sq mi) and 530 km2, out of which one third belongs to Albania and rest to Montenegro. The Albanian shoreline of the lake is 57 km. Ohrid Lake is situated in the country's southeast and is shared between Albania and Republic of Macedonia. It has a maximal depth of 289 meters and a variety of unique flora and fauna can be found there, including “living fossils” and many endemic species. Because of its natural and historical value, Ohrid Lake is under the protection of UNESCO.
Over a third of the territory of Albania – about 10,000 square kilometres (2.5 million acres) – is forested and the country was very rich in flora. About 3.000 different species of plants grow in Albania, many of which are used for medicinal purposes. Phytogeographically, Albania belongs to the Boreal Kingdom and is shared between the Adriatic and East Mediterranean provinces of the Mediterranean Region and the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature and Digital Map of European Ecological Regions by the European Environment Agency, the territory of Albania can be subdivided into three ecoregions: the Illyrian deciduous forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Dinaric Mountains mixed forests. The forests are home to a wide range of mammals, including wolves, bears, wild boars, and chamois. Lynx, wildcats, pine martens and polecats are rare, but survive in some parts of the country.
With its coastline facing the Adriatic and Ionian seas, its highlands backed upon the elevated Balkan landmass, and the entire country lying at a latitude subject to a variety of weather patterns during the winter and summer seasons, Albania has a high number of climatic regions for so small an area. The coastal lowlands have typically Mediterranean weather; the highlands have a Mediterranean continental climate. In both the lowlands and the interior, the weather varies markedly from north to south.
The lowlands have mild winters, averaging about 7 °C. Summer temperatures average 24 °C. In the southern lowlands, temperatures average about 5 °C higher throughout the year. The difference is greater than 5°C during the summer and somewhat less during the winter.
Inland temperatures are affected more by differences in elevation than by latitude or any other factor. Low winter temperatures in the mountains are caused by the continental air mass that dominates the weather in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Northerly and northeasterly winds blow much of the time. Average summer temperatures are lower than in the coastal areas and much lower at higher elevations, but daily fluctuations are greater. Daytime maximum temperatures in the interior basins and river valleys are very high, but the nights are almost always cool.
Average precipitation is heavy, a result of the convergence of the prevailing airflow from the Mediterranean Sea and the continental air mass. Because they usually meet at the point where the terrain rises, the heaviest rain falls in the central uplands. Vertical currents initiated when the Mediterranean air is uplifted also cause frequent thunderstorms. Many of these storms are accompanied by high local winds and torrential downpours.
When the continental air mass is weak, Mediterranean winds drop their moisture farther inland. When there is a dominant continental air mass, cold air spills onto the lowland areas, which occurs most frequently in the winter. Because the season's lower temperatures damage olive trees and citrus fruits, groves and orchards are restricted to sheltered places with southern and western exposures, even in areas with high average winter temperatures.
Lowland rainfall averages from 1,000 millimeters to more than 1,500 millimeters annually, with the higher levels in the north. Nearly 95% of the rain falls in the winter.
Rainfall in the upland mountain ranges is heavier. Adequate records are not available, and estimates vary widely, but annual averages are probably about 1,800 millimeters and are as high as 2,550 millimeters in some northern areas. The seasonal variation is not quite as great in the coastal area.
The higher inland mountains receive less precipitation than the intermediate uplands. Terrain differences cause wide local variations, but the seasonal distribution is the most consistent of any area.
Albania remains a poor country by Western European standards. But it has shown potential for economic growth, as more and more businesses relocate there and consumers goods are becoming available from emerging market traders as part of the current massive global cost-cutting exercise .Albania and Cyprus are the only countries in Europe that recorded economic growth in the first quarter of 2009. In its latest report, the IMF said Albania and Cyprus recorded increases of 0.4% and 0.3%, respectively
Albania, once an energy exporter now relies on hydroelectric to fill 53 percent of its demand, with imports supplying the rest. But the government's goal for a planned nuclear power plant is to make the country an energy superpower.Albania and Croatia plan to jointly build a nuclear power plant at Lake Shkoder, close to the border with Montenegro.
Christianity spread in urban centers in the region of Albania during the later period of the Roman Empire. It had to compete up to the Middle Ages with native Illyrian paganism and culture. The steady growth of the Christian community in Dyrrhachium (the Roman name for Epidamnus) led to the creation of a local bishopric in 58 AD. Later, episcopal seats were established in Apollonia, Buthrotum (modern Butrint), and Scodra (modern Shkodra).
After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, Albania fell administratively under the umbrella of the Eastern Roman Empire, but its Christians remained ecclesiastically dependent on Rome. Six centuries later, as a result of the final schism of 1054 between the Western and Eastern churches, the Christians in southern Albania came under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, and those in the north under the purview of the Pope in Rome.
Islam in Albania arrived through the Ottoman invasion in the 14th century. The Muslims of Albania during are divided into two main communities: those associated with Sunni Islam and those associated with the Bektashi, a mystic Dervish order that came to Albania through the Albanian Janissaries that served in the Ottoman army and who practiced Albanian pagan rites under a nominal Islamic cover. Sunni Muslims have historically lived in the cities of Albania, while Bektashis mainly in the country.
After independence (1912) from the Ottoman Empire, the Albanian republican, monarchic and later communist regimes followed a systematic policy of separating religion from official functions and cultural life. Albania never had an official state religion either as a republic or as a kingdom. In the 20th century, the clergy of all faiths was weakened under the monarchy, and ultimately eradicated during the 1940s and 1950s, under the state policy of obliterating all organized religion from Albanian territories.
The Communist regime that took control of Albania after World War II suppressed religious observance and institutions and entirely banned religion to the point where Albania was officially declared to be the world's first atheist state. Religious freedom has returned to Albania since the regime's change in 1992. In Central Albania, especially in rural regions, most are Muslim. Albanian Orthodox Christians occupy much of the South and Roman Catholics dominate the North of the country.
The Albanian population is considered a young population, with an average age of 32.2. After 1990 the Albanian population has faced new phenomena like migration, which greatly affected the distribution by districts and prefectures. Districts in the North have seen a decreasing population, while Tirana and Durrës districts have increased their population. Albania's population was 3,152,600 on 1 January 2007 and 3,170,048 on 1 January 2008. Alternative sources estimate the population in July 2009 at 3,639,453 with an annual growth rate of 0.546%. Albania is a largely ethnically homogeneous country with only small minorities. The largest majority of the population is ethnically Albanian (98.6%). Minorities include Greeks 1.17% and others 0.23% (Vlachs, Macedonians, Roma, Bulgarians, Balkan Egyptians, Serbs). The dominant language is Albanian, with two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk. Many Albanians are also fluent in English, Italian, Greek,and German.
Albanian language and literatureEdit
Some scholars believe that Albanian derives from Illyrian while others, claim that it derives from Daco-Thracian. (Illyrian and Daco-Thracian, however, might have been closely related languages; see Thraco-Illyrian.)
Establishing longer relations, Albanian is often compared to Balto-Slavic on the one hand and Germanic on the other, both of which share a number of isoglosses with Albanian. Moreover, Albanian has undergone a vowel shift in which stressed, long o has fallen to a, much like in the former and opposite the latter. Likewise, Albanian has taken the old relative jos and innovatively used it exclusively to qualify adjectives, much in the way Balto-Slavic has used this word to provide the definite ending of adjectives.
The cultural resistance was first of all expressed through the elaboration of the Albanian language in the area of church texts and publications, mainly of the Catholic confessional region in the North, but also of the Orthodox in the South. The Protestant reforms invigorated hopes for the development of the local language and literary tradition when cleric Gjon Buzuku brought into the Albanian language the Catholic liturgy, trying to do for the Albanian language what Luther did for German.
Meshari (The Missal) by Gjon Buzuku, published by him in 1555, is considered to date as the first literary work of written Albanian. The refined level of the language and the stabilised orthography must be a result of an earlier tradition of writing Albanian, a tradition that is not known. But there are some fragmented evidence, dating earlier than Buzuku, which indicate that Albanian was written at least since 14th century AD. The first known evidence dates from 1332 AD and deals with the French Dominican Guillelmus Adae, Archbishop of Antivari, who in a report in Latin writes that Albanians use Latin letters in their books although their language is quite different from Latin. Of special importance in supporting this are: a baptizing formula (Unte paghesont premenit Atit et Birit et spertit senit) of 1462, written in Albanian within a text in Latin by the bishop of Durrës, Pal Engjëlli; a glossary with Albanian words of 1497 by Arnold von Harff, a German who had travelled through Albania, and a 15th century fragment from the Bible from the Gospel of Matthew, also in Albanian, but in Greek letters.
Albanian writings of these centuries must not have been religious texts only, but historical chronicles too. They are mentioned by the humanist Marin Barleti, who, in his book Rrethimi i Shkodrës (The Siege of Shkodër) (1504), confirms that he leafed through such chronicles written in the language of the people (in vernacula lingua). Despite the obstacles generated by the Counter-Reformation which was opposed to the development of national languages in Christian liturgy, this process went on uninterrupted. During the 16th to 17th centuries, the catechism E mbësuame krishterë (Christian Teachings) (1592) by Lekë Matrënga, Doktrina e krishterë (The Christian Doctrine) (1618) and Rituale romanum (1621) by Pjetër Budi, the first writer of original Albanian prose and poetry, an apology for George Castriot (1636) by Frang Bardhi, who also published a dictionary and folklore creations, the theological-philosophical treaty Cuneus Prophetarum (The Band of Prophets) (1685) by Pjetër Bogdani, the most universal personality of Albanian Middle Ages, were published in Albanian. The most famous Albanian writer is probably Ismail Kadare.
Before the Communist rule, Albania’s illiteracy rate was as high as 85%. Schools were scarce between WWI and WWII. When the Communist Rule over took the country in 1944, the regime wanted to “wipe-out” illiteracy. The regulations became so strict that anyone between the ages of 12 and 40 who could not read or write was mandated to attend classes to learn. Since these times of struggle the country’s literacy rate has improved remarkably. Today the overall literacy rate in Albania is 98.7%, the male literacy rate is 99.2% and female literacy rate is 98.3%. Since the rather large population movements in the 1990’s to urban areas, education has moved as well. Thousands of teachers moved to urban areas to follow students.
Albania is divided into 12 administrative divisions called (Albanian: official qark/qarku, but often prefekturë/prefektura) Counties, 36 districts and 351 municipalities. Each region has its Regional Council and is composed of a number of Municipalities and Communes, which are the first level of local governance responsible for local needs and law enforcement.
Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Albania, both at a participatory and spectator level. The sport is governed by the Football Association of Albania (Albanian: Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit, F.SH.F.).
Radio Televizioni Shqiptar, (RTSH), is Albania's leading television network. RTSH runs a national television station TVSH, (standing for Televizioni Shqiptar), and two national radio stations, using the name Radio Tirana. An international service broadcasts radio programmes in Albanian and seven other languages via medium wave (AM) and short wave (SW). The international service has used the theme from the song "Keputa një gjethe dafine" as its signature tune. Since 1999, RTSH has been a member of the European Broadcasting Union. Since 1993, RTSH has also run an international television service via satellite, aimed at Albanian language communities in Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece, plus the Albanian diaspora in the rest of Europe. According the National Council of Radio and Television Albania has an estimated 257 media outlets, including 66 radio stations and 65 television stations, with 3 national and 62 local stations.
Albania has free nationalized healthcare. Major hospitals are in Tirana and Durrës. The medical school, Faculty of Medicine at Tirana University, is in Tirana. There are also nursing schools in many other cities. The diseases of the circulation system occupy the first place and deaths due to neoplasm diseases occupy the second place based on death’s form in the structure of general mortality.
The cuisine of Albania- as with most Mediterranean and Balkan nations, is strongly influenced by its long history. At different times, the territory of Albania has been occupied by Greece, Italy and the Ottoman Turks, and each group has left its mark on Albanian cuisine. The main meal of the Albanians is lunch, and it is usually accompanied by a salad of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and olives with olive oil, vinegar and salt. Lunch also includes a main dish of vegetables and meat. Seafood specialties are also common in the coastal areas of Durrës, Vlorë and Sarandë.
The Albanian Armed Forces (Forcat e Armatosura të Shqipërisë) first formed after independence in 1912. Today it is made up of the General Staff Headquarters, the Albanian Joint Forces Command, the Albanian Support Command and the Albanian Training and Doctrine Command.One of the most important conditions to fulfill due to NATO integration, was the increasing of the military budget. According to Government of Albania plans, military expenditure will reach 2% of GDP in 2008 (already approved by the parliament on the budget of 2008 - for the defense 2.01% of GDP).Since February 2008, Albania participates officially in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea and received a NATO membership invitation on 3 April 2008. Albania became a full member of NATO on April 1, 2009.
Notes and referencesEdit
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