The territory of Albania, known as the "Land of the Eagles," has always been one of history's most volatile regions. Although occupied by outsiders throughout history, its Illyrian heritage has survived invasions by the Greeks, Romans, Slavs, Crusaders, Venetians, Turks, Italians, and Germans.
Today, the political borders of the nation make up an area with a length of 210 miles (340 km) and a width of 95 miles (150 km) - tiny by any standard. Mountains cover about three-fourths of Albania's territory, which has created a feeling of isolation not only from the outside world but also from one region of the country to another.
At the beginning of the 21st century, it was estimated that seven million ethnic Albanians lived worldwide, with less than half living within the boundaries of Albania. The largest communities of Albanians, outside of the country, live in Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro. There are also other Albanian communities located in Greece, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, western Europe and the United States.
The national language is Albanian (shqip or shqipe), which is a decedent of the extinct Illyrian language, and is the only surviving language of the IndoEuropean language family. Over the centuries, the language has been influenced by foreigners, with words integrated from the Latin, Greek, Turkish, Italian and Slavic languages. It has two major dialects, Gheg, which is spoken in the north, and Tosk, which is spoken in the south and is the official literary language. Even with the variations of these dialects, Albanians utilizing the two languages are able to understand one another with little difficulty.
The Albanian people have been profoundly influenced by their history. This history has created a people of ancient traditions, warm hearts and hot tempers, a people of extremes. There are few places in the world where guests are more warmly welcomed nor enemies so fiercely pursued. This temperament made them some of the strongest warriors in the Roman and Turkish Empires, then in the 20th Century some of the strongest communists that ever existed. Later, after the fall of communism, Albania then became the most anarchic place in Europe. Albanians are a people of old customs and western ambitions. Because of their history, Albanians have been isolated from the world and as a result are a little bit behind in technology, but not in ideas. However, the Albanian people who are used to adapting to changing situations are now quickly catching up.
Brief History of Albania
The Albanian people are believed by many historians to be descendants of the Illyrians and before that of the Mycians. This places them at the battle of Troy and up through the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Throughout most of history, Albanians have been warriors of exceptional ability as well as quickly adaptable to new situations. As a result, they have often risen to positions of power while under the domination of foreign powers, much as Joseph did in the Bible. From the 3rd Century B.C. up until 168 B.C. the Illyrian Kingdom existed.
They were taken over by the Roman Empire, which ruled the region for 500 years. Some Illyrians played a vital role in this empire such as Claudius, Diocletian, and Constantine. In the 4th century the Goths and Huns began invading the region and then in the 5th-7th centuries Slavs began to migrate to the southern Balkans. In the 11th and 12th centuries the Normans invaded and then in the 14th century the Ottoman Turks captured the Illyrian territory.
The Turks ruled Albania for 500 years, although not without some resistance. One of the famous Albanian rulers named Skanderbeg united the Albanian tribes together to fight off these invaders and secured 25 years of freedom from foreign domination.The Turks left a great imprint on Albanian society as they did on much of the Balkans.
In 1912, Albania fought for their independence from the dying Turkish rule. Ismail Qemali, who played a vital role in uniting the people against the foreign forces, led this charge to freedom. Later that year in London the major powers sat down to redraw the Balkan map. They fixed Albania's boundaries, leaving almost 40% of the Albanians outside of their nation. This has had ramifications, which are seriously affecting us today.
As World War Two swept the world, Albania was drawn in as well. On the 7th of April 1939 Italian forces attempted a take over of the nation and eventually invaded Albania. After Italian capitulation, Germany invaded Albania. On November 29, 1944, the Albanian army of the National-Liberation Front liberated Albania. In 1945, after the elections, the National-Liberation Front led by the communists came in power. Enver Hoxha was elected as prime minister and in January of 1946 Albania was proclaimed the "People's Republic of Albania." This new state led a crackdown on all dissenters and followed a Stalinist brand of communism. The nation was originally aligned with Tito's Yugoslavia, later with Russia, then with China, finally pursuing an isolationist approach.
In 1985 Enver Hoxha died and by 1990 the ice had begun to thaw and the nation to awake from 45 years of isolation from the outside world. In 1992 elections were held which brought the Democratic Party to power. They held this position of leadership until a major financial crisis and later anarchy in March of 1997 led to their defeat at the polls in June of that year. Albania is now being led by the Socialist Party and has a new constitution, which lays a framework for the future steps of this nation.