Albania 1831-1878

The great pashaliks of Albania, that of Ali Pasha at Janina (1822) and that of Mustafa Bushati at Shkoder (1831) were destroyed, the hitherto factually autonomous areas placed under Ottoman administration. The territories which had a distinct Albanian population majority were split among the Vilayets of Shkoder, Janina, Monastir and Kosovo - and especially the Vilayets of Monastir and Janina contained considerable elements of non-Albanian popularion. Within the Ottoman Empire, people were not distinguished by ethnicity, but by religion. The Albanians therefore were subdivided into Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic Albanians.
The TANZIMAT REFORMS, beginning in 1839, aimed at the modernization of the Empire. In Albania and Macedonia they were perceived mainly as increased taxation, and caused rebellions in 1843 and 1847. The reforms also increased tension between the religious communities, as the non-Muslims suffered extraordinarily from increased taxation, while incentives for converts in form of land grants were offered.
Albanian intellectual exiles such as NAUM VEQILHARXHI (1797-1846) stressed the necessity of an education in the Albanian language - hitherto the only education available for Albanian Muslims was offered by Koran schools, in Arabic. Albanians, depending on their religion, wrote in Arabic script (the Muslims), in Greek alphabet (the Orthodox christians) or in Latin alphabet (the Catholics). Veqilharxhi stressed the necesseity of a single alphabet for all religious communities among the Albanians, which he developed in 1844. In 1850 the ALBANIAN CULTURAL ASSOCIATION was founded in Bucharest (Wallachia). In 1877 an ALBANIAN COMMITTEE was formed in Istanbul.

Albania 1878-1912

First, Albania as a cohesive political entity, did not exist. The territories which had a distinct Albanian population majority were split among the Vilayets of Shkoder, Janina, Monastir and Kosovo - and especially the Vilayets of Monastir and Janina contained considerable elements of non-Albanian popularion. Within the Ottoman Empire, people were not distinguished by ethnicity, but by religion. The Albanians therefore were subdivided into Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic Albanians.
The rebellions of 1875-1876 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 affected Albania insofar as the TREATY OF SAN STEFANO foresaw the annexion of Pec, Ulcinj and Podgorica by Montenegro, the annexion of Korce and Tetovo (W. Macedonia) by Bulgaria. Both Britain and Austria-Hungary were concerned about the great increase of Russian influence on the Balkan peninsula, as both Bulgaria and Montenegro were perceived as Russian protectorates. Both powers seemed unwilling to accept the situation; Otto von Bismarck, at the BERLIN CONGRESS mediated a new peace treaty. Both Bulgaria and Montenegro had to accept less territorial gains.
In 1878, with the prospect of annexation by a christian Montenegro or Serbia imminent, Muslim Albanians organized themselves in the respective regions in order to resist the annexation, most notably in the Kosovo. On June 10th 1878, 300 delegates met in Prizren, the majority from Kosovo and from the Albanian districts in Macedonia, to form the PRIZREN LEAGUE, the purpose of which was to form a unified political organization for all Albania, capable of organizing military resistance against any attempt to split up the ethnicity. It appealed to the Sultan to merge the vilayets of Shkoder, Janina, Monastir and Kosovo - unsuccessfully.
In January 1881, relations between the Prizren League and the Ottoman authorities had reached such a low point, that the League ousted the Ottoman administration from the Kosovo and established a provisional government. An Ottoman army was sent into Kosovo in March, the resistance crushed, the leading League members banned into remote regions of the Empire. Kosovo saw another revolt in 1885. In 1889 the LEAGUE OF PEC was founded, which was less a national Albanian than a Muslim organization.
As the majority of the Albanians were Muslims, the relation between Albanians and Ottoman Turks were less conflicting than those between Greeks or Bulgarians and Ottoman Turks. In the GRAECO-TURKISH WAR of 1897 and on Crete in 1897/1898, Albanians fought with the Ottoman forces.
Albanian intellectuals were aware that Ottoman Albania was threatened, the object of expansionist plans of their Slavic and Greek neighbours and object of the diplomatic schemes of the great powers. The YOUNG TURK REBELLION resulted in aggravating the political instability and in a short period of a policy of OTTOMANIZATION to which Albania was subjected. Pristina saw yet another Albanian rising, in 1910, which was suppressed. Albanian CHETAS (guerillas) began to fight Ottoman authorities in 1911.
In the FIRST BALKAN WAR of 1912, much of Albania was conquered by Serbian troops, Shkoder by the Montenegrins; the Balkan Allies (Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia) easily defeated the Ottoman forces and seemed intent to partition amongst themselves the entire Ottoman territory on the Balkans peninsula, west of the Maritsa River. Without any consideration for the will of the Albanians.
Again the powers interfered by putting pressure on Serbia and Montenegro. An INDEPENDENT ALBANIA was formed by the CONFERENCE OF LONDON (Dec. 1912), because Britain would not tolerate a Serbian Albania, perceived as Russian, or as potentially Italian, in Austrian perspective. The powers were guided by geostrategic reasoning, not by sympathies for the Albanian nation; the Albanian districts with access to the Adriatic coast were to become part of the new state, not landlocked regions such as Kosovo.
In 1908/1911 the Albanian alphabet, based on the Latin alphabet, was adopted.

Albania in World War I

Although an Albanian National Movement had emerged late in the 19th century, the creation of an independent Albanian State in 1913 is the result of diplomatic pressure exerted by Austria-Hungary and Italy on the Balkan states victorious in the FIRST BALKAN WAR of 1912. In 1913 the KINGDOM OF ALBANIA was created; large areas with an Albanian-speaking majority, notably KOSOVO (allocated to Serbia) and CAMRIA (= southern Epirus, allocated to Greece) were left outside of the borders of the Albanian state. The new King, prince WILHELM ZU WIED, arrived in March 1914; unfamiliar with the language and customs of the land, he departed in the first weeks of World War I. The capital of the young kingdom was TIRANA.

Albania, a country comparatively backward and in the process of being organized, was without allies; Serbia, which in 1912/13 had ambitions to annex the entire territory, regarded it as an artificial state owing it's existence to the protection offered by Austria-Hungary and Italy. When World War I broke out, Albania remained neutral, and none of the rival powers seems to have been interested in drawing Albania to their side. When Serbia's position became untenable because of Bulgaria's entry into the war in October 1915, the forces of landlocked Serbia, refused permission to march across Montenegrin territory, disrespected Albania's neutrality and marched across northern Albania to the coast from where they were shipped to the Greek island of Corfu, which was to become their base for the remainder of the war.
Albania's neutrality now had been violated and the Central Powers invaded, occupying the country's north. The Greeks proceeded occupying the south, which they called NORTHERN EPIRUS; the Greek forces received the support of the local Greek minority. CENTRAL ALBANIA was occupied by Italian forces (1915-1916); the Italians were pushed back by the Central Powers.
During World War I, the Albanian front was a side show of a side show, not receiving much international attention. The little state organization it had had disintegrated.

Railway construction in Albania began in 1917.

Albania 1918-1924

After fighting ceased in October/November 1918, the occupation of Albania continued. It is needless to say, that Albania as much as other countries affected by the war, suffered from problems such as food shortage and infectious diseases.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's 14 points included the principle that nations should be given the right to decide their own affairs; according to this principle, Albania's independence was restored, although Greece continued to occupy southern Albania (Northern Epirus) until 1923. A curiosity : the small island of Saseno, only a few km off the Albanian coast (hitherto Greek) was allocated not to Albania, but to Italy (1920).
A National Congress was held in Lushnje in January 1920, where the principles for Albania's government were decided upon. Albania was split in two rival camps, one lead by Ahmed Bey Zogu, representing the conservative landowners and tribal chiefs, traditionally leaning on Turkey, the other lead by Fan S. Noli, an western-educated Orthodox bishop in favour of introducing a western-style liberal democracy. The young republic's head of state 1919-1924 was Turchan Pasha. In 1924, Fan Noli ascended to the presidency; now unrestrained, he implemented an ambitious program of Land Reform and modernization. In 1924 Ahmed Zogu fled the country, taking up exile in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Meanwhile the modernization and land reform program had caused much resistance; Ahmed Zogu returned with an armed force and overthrew the Noli administration (Jan. 1925).

Albania 1925-1939

On January 31st 1925 Ahmed Zogu assumed Albania's presidency; on September 1st 1928 he had himself crowned King Zogu I.
In order to overpower his rival, Ahmed Zogu had relied on support from the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes; in 1926 he signed an Albanian-SHS border treaty favourable to the latter. To counterbalance the Serb influence, Ahmed Zogu sought support from Italy, which in 1920 had annexed the previously Greek island of SASENO just off the Albanian coast.
Ahmed Zogu brought a degree of stability to Albania, but his rule was dictatorial, based on a bureaucracy, an efficient police force and on Italian credits. The Great Depression had a limited impact on Albania as the country hardly had an industrial base and still was largely agricultural. Poverty was wide-spread, the (not implemented) land reform a burning issue; many peasants emigrated; the first communist organizations were founded.
Over time Fascist Italy emerged as Albania's sole protector. When Europe's post-World War I order was broken up by the Munich Pact (1938), the Anschluss of Austria (1938) and the German occupation of Czechia in March 1939, Italian troops occupied Albania; King Zogu abdicated and the country was annexed by Italy.
In 1930, the population of Albania numbered 1,003,097; by 1939 it had risen to 1,037,856. The largest city was capital Tirana with 30,806 inhabitants (in 1930). The main agricultural products were maize and wheat, main animals held were sheep, goats, cattle and chicken. By 1936, Albania had 12 km of railway and 2100 km of roads. Both state revenue and expenses in 1937/38 amounted to 26.2 million Gold Franc.

Albania 1939-1944

Italy, a province of which Albania now formed, had remained neutral in the early stage of the war. Only when it became obvious that France could not stop the German advance, Italy had entered the war on Germany's side in June 1940. In an attempt to gain military victories which made him appear as an equal to Hitler, Mussolini on October 28th 1940 ordered Italian troops from Albania to invade Greece. Surprisingly, the Greeks not only stopped the Italian advance, but pushed them back into Albania, again occupying southern Albania (Nothern Epirus), drawing support from the regional Greek minority. Only when Germany forced a military alliance including Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria and launched the Balkan campaign in June 1941 did the Greek front falter; all of Yugoslavia and Greece were occupied.
All areas with Albanian population majority - Albania proper, Kosovo, a strip of land in western Macedonia and Greek Epirus, now found themselves under Italian administration.
Italy signed an armistice in September 1943; German troops took over the hitherto Italian administrated regions on the Balkans peninsula, including Albania proper.

Meanwhile the Albanian Communist Party had been founded in 1941. Germany, heavy pressed by the Russians had few troops to spare for the occupation of mountainous Albania, of little strategic importance as it was unlikely to be selected as an invasion site by the Allies, communist partisans thus had room to operate. In September/October 1944 the German occupation force withdrew from Greece; on November 29th 1944, the Communists, lead by Enver Hoxha, were in control of Albania.
During the withdrawal process, Germans attempted to win over the Albanians by raising the prospect of a Greater Albania including Kosovo and parts of Macedonia.
At the Yalta peace conference, the big three had partitioned post-war Europe into spheres of influence; Greece, Albania and Yugoslavia fell into the British sphere. Yet Britain had had no part in the liberation of Albania; the country had been liberated by Albanian partisans.

Albania 1944-1949

Status and Foreign Policy : At the Conference of Yalta (Feb. 1945), Albania was allocated to the British sphere of influence, together with Greece and Yugoslavia. Yet, when the German troops withdrew, Albanian Communist partisans were in control of the country, and Britain at first spent limited energy and attention on the remote mountainous region. A Provisional Government, dominated by the Communists, was recognized conditionally by the Big Three in December 1945. Britain did not recognize the communist Albanian government, the Bank of Britain froze prewar Albanian assets. Albania severed diplomatic relations. Britain, heavily involved in the (costly) Greek Civil War, did not pursue a similar policy in Albania; the communist administration was to stay. When two British navy vessels ran into a minefield in the Corfu Channel, this incident lead to a further deterioration of British-Albanian relations.
Albania supported the Greek Communists in the Greek Civil War. (Democratic) Greece claimed Northern Epirus. With Soviet support, Albania maintained a relatively large army and fortified coastal positions. Late in 1948 diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia were severed; Yugoslav advisors were expelled from Albania. These measures increased the country's dependence on the USSR; with the Greek Civil War coming to a close, Soviet interest in Albania declined. When COMECON was established in 1949, Albania became a beneficiary of economic aid without becoming member of the organization.

Domestic Policy : A People's Assembly was formed representing the country; it was dominated by the communists. Enver Hoxha was chairman of the council of ministers since 1946. In 1946, Albania introduced Universal Womanhood Suffrage. All political parties except the communist party were outlawed, a One-Party-State established. 1947 and 1948 saw Stalin-style party purges; in 1948 politicians branded as supporters of Tito were purged from the Communist Party . In 1948 Catholic schools were closed, a number of church leaders executed.

The Economy : Albania is one of Europe's economically most backward countries. When the communists took over, Large landowners were expropriated, collective farms established. Albania benefitted from relief supplies by the U.N.R.R.A. A Five-Year-Plan, following the Soviet model, was implemented in 1945. In 1946 Albania and Yugoslavia formed a monetary union; 1 Yugoslav Dinar valued as 1 Albanian Lek. In 1945-1948, Albania benefitted from Soviet as well as Yugoslav aid; the sudden decision to cut relations with Yugoslavia (1948) resulted in the geographical isolation of Albania and the necessity for increased Soviet aid; the monetary union with Yugoslavia was cut. The first Five Year Plan was scrapped, and replaced by a provisional Two Year Plan.

Albania 1949-1968

Administration . Foreign Policy . The communist Albanian government distrusted the west, fearing a potential repetition of the Greek experience. Sentiment was equally suspicious of Tito's Yugoslavia, with which Albania broke in 1948, so the Hoxha administration chose close ties with the USSR (which soon also broke with Yugoslavia). In 1955, Albania became a founding member of the Warsaw Pact - the only member nation not liberated by the Red Army.
Enver Hoxha was an admirer of Josef Stalin; in 1961 he broke with the USSR (Nikita Krushchev). now leaning on the PR China instead.

Political History . In 1967 Albania underwent her own version of the Cultural Revolution; places of worship were closed, clergy arrested.

The Economy . First Five Year Plan 1951-1955, Second Five Year Plan 1956-1960, Third Five Year Plan 1961-1965, Fourth Five Year Plan 1966-1970. In the Fourth Five Year Plan, the economic enterprises were given a touch more freedom to make their own decisions.
In 1952, Albania produced 86,000 metric tons of wheat, in 1957 a bumper 125,000, in 1960 64,000, in 1968 184,000 (IHS p.255). In 1961 the USSR cut her economic aid to Albania; the PR China tried to fill the gap.
Albania did not receive any Marshall Aid. In economic policy, Enver Hoxha tried to industrialize the country. Tirana Airport was constructed from 1955 to 1957.

Social History . The census of 1950 counted 1.2 million Albanians, the census of 1955 1.39 million, the census of 1960 1.62 million, the census of 1969 2.06 million Lahmeyer).

Cultural History . Tirana University was established in 1957, as the country's first university. During the Albanian Cultural Revolution of 1967, mosques and churches were closed; Albania proclaimed itself an atheist state. The Albanian National Olympic Committee was formed in 1959 and recognized by the IOC the same year.
Albania did not send athletes to the Summer Olympics in Helsinki 1952, Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964 and Mexico City 1968. In the qualifications to the European Championship in 1968, by drawing the FRG 0-0, the Albanian national football team ousted West Germany from the competition.

Albania 1968-1989

Administration . Albania had been proclaimd a People's Republic in 1945 and had adopted a communist constitution in 1946. Parliamentary elections were held in 1945, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982 and 1987. The dominating political figure was Enver Hoxha, until his retirement in 1981 First Secretary of the Communist Albanian Party of Labour. From 1982 to 1992 Ramiz Tafe Alia held the reigns of the country, until 1991 as Chairman of the Presidium of the People's Assembly, from 1991 to 1992 as President.

Foreign Policy . Since 1958/1960, Albania sided with the PR China in the ideological conflict between the USSR and China. Albania also withdrew from the Warsaw Pact in 1968.
When the P.R. China went through the transfer from the post-cultural revolution to a policy of opening to the west and pursuing economic reforms, in 1978 Albania declared itself to be the only remaining true communist state in the world.
When European governments' delegations met in Helsinki to attend the CSCE, Albania was the only government not represented, and subsequently the only government not signing the Helsinki Accord of 1975.
Relations with Britain, since 1945, were strained; Albania and Britain did not maintain diplomatic relations.
Relations with neighbour Yugoslavia were strained since Tito broke with Stalin in 1948; a rapprochement took place in the early 1980es. One factor leading to the breach of relations with the PR China was the decision by the PR China to enter into diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia.

Political History . The Communist Albanian Party of Labour was in firm control of the country. In 1981, just before his retirement, Enver Hoxha had a number of Communist politicians excuted.

The Economy . Fourth Five Year Plan 1966-1970, Fifth Five Year Plan 1971-1975, Sixth Five Year Plan 1976-1980, Seventh Five Year Plan 1981-1985, Eighth Five Year Plan 1986-1990.
In 1968, Albania produced 168,000 metric tons of wheat, in 1988 633,000 (IHS p.255).
In 1971 the eletrification of Albania was completed. In 1984, the country's first and only rail connection with another country (Yugoslavia's Montenegro) was opened.

Social History . The census of 1969 counted 2.0 million Albanians, the census of 1979 2.59 million, the census of 1989 3.18 million (Lahmeyer).
Years of political and economic isolation lead only to stagnation and deterioration. When the communist system collapsed in eastern Europe and Albania, too, laxed border controls, a large number of Albanians tried to emigrate.

Cultural History . Television broadcasting began in 1969. The Albanian Academy of Sciences was established in 1981.
Albanian athletes participated in the Summer Olympics at Munich 1972, but were not represented at Mexico City 1968, Montreal 1976, Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988.

Recent History of Albania, since 1989

Administration . In 1989-1991, Albania changed from a People's Republic to a multiparty democracy. Free elections were held in 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2005. Ramiz Tafe Alia, head of state since 1982, presided over the transition. The office of president was held by R.T. Alia 1991-1992, by Sali Ram Berisha (PDS) 1992-1997, by Rexhep Kemal Mejdani (PSS) 1997-2002, by Alfred Spiro Moisiu (non-party) since 2002. In 1997 the Albanian government abruptly resigned and the country briefly descended into chaos.

Foreign Policy . Albanian relations with Greece, in the years when Albania went through a transition from a Communist state to a multiparty democracy, went through a low because Greece accused the Albanian authorities of putting pressure on the ethnic Greek minority in Albania; Greece also had to take a large chunk of the wave of economic refugees leaving Albania. In 1997 the Albanian government took steps to protect the cultural tights of the country's ethnic Greek minority (MAR).
Albania was concerned about the cancellation of Kosovo's autonomy within the Republic of Serbia (Yugoslavia) in 1988 and about the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Albania's concerns were focussed on Kosovo, a region with a majority Albanian population, and on Macedonia which has a significant Albanian population element. An (ethnic Albanian) Kosovo Liberation Army had begun to fight Serb control in the province in 1996; the Yugoslav (Serb) army took on the challenge and in 1998 launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing, causing a mass exodus of refugees. The war was ended with NATO intervention in 1999, and Kosovo returned to autonomous status.
In 2001, the Republic of Macedonia went through a brief conflict where the (ethnic Albanian) National Liberation Army faced Macedonian forces. The NLA was disarmed by NATO forces.
Since 1991, the EU and Albania have established a partnership manifest in a number of agreements signed.
In 2003 Albania joined the Coalition of the Willing and sent troops to Iraq. In 2007, U.S. president George W. Bush visited Albania.

Political History . Albania, economically underdeveloped and politically isolated, entered a political crisis in 1987 the magnitude of which best can be measured by the numbers of refugees who took desperate steps in order to flee the country.
Transition to a multiparty democracy in Albania was more challenging than in other European Communist countries, because Albania previously had little experience with democracy, because the country had been politically isolated, because the education level of Albanians was lower than that of Poles, Czechs and Russians, because many Albanians were attached to premodern traditions.
Albania developed into a two-party-system, represented by the Democratic Party (PDS) and the Socialist Party (PSS). Political associations, however, often follow the dialect / tribal lines of Tosk or Gheg.

The Economy . By 1989 Albania was regarded the poorest country in Europe. The policy of turning Albania into an industrialized nation through a planned economy had created industries which were not internationally competitive, and in many cases, by 1989, crumbling. The country, during the 1970es and 1980es, due to the rise in oil prices (Oil Crisis 1973-1981) and the confrontational course with both the capitalist west, neighbour Yugoslavia and the Soviet bloc, had to keep imports at a minimum, which negatively affected her economy. From 1989 to 1992 the GDP fell by over 50 %. In 1992 the government began implementing a policy of liberalization of the economy, in 1995 a policy of privatization. The Tirana Stock Exchange was opened in 1996.
From 1990 to 2000, prices increased 20-fold. The collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997 caused social unrest.
Albania is an exporter of chrome, copper and nickel ores.

Social History . According to the 1989 census, Albania had 3.18 million inhabitants; Jan Lahmeyer gives an estimate of 3.49 million for 2000. In the late 1980es and early 1990es Albania experienced a mass exodus of economic refugees, mainly to Italy and Greece; in 2001 Greece alone registered 443,500 Albanian residents, over 10 % of the total population of Albania.

Cultural History . Albanian athletes participated in the Summer Olympics of Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. So far, no Albanian ever won a medal.