Albania

Albania

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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
Flag of Albania Coat of arms of Albania
Flag Coat of arms
Motto:

Ti Shqipëri më jep nder, më jep emrin shqipëtar
(You Albania give me honor, you give me the name Albanian.)
Anthem: Himni i Flamurit
(“Anthem of the Flag”)
Location of Albania
Location of Albania (orange)

on the European continent (white)  —  [Legend]

Capital
(and largest city)
Tirana
41°20′N 19°48′E / 41.333, 19.8
Official languages Albanian1
Demonym Albanian
Government Parliamentary republic
- President Bamir Topi
- Prime Minister Sali Berisha
Independence
- from the Ottoman Empire November 28, 1912
- from Italy de facto October 1944
Area
- Total 28,748 km² (139th)
11,100 sq mi
- Water (%) 4.7
Population
- 2008 estimate 3,600,523 [4] (130th)
- Density 134/km² (63)
318.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2007 estimate
- Total $19.944 billion[1] (112th)
- Per capita $6,298[1] (IMF) (100th)
GDP (nominal) 2007 estimate
- Total $10.768 billion[1]
- Per capita $3,400[1] (IMF)
Gini (2005) 26.7 (low)
HDI (2007) 0.801 (high) (68th)
Currency Lek (ALL)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
- Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Internet TLD .al
Calling code +355
1 Greek, Macedonian and other regional languages are government-recognized minority languages.

Albania [ælˈbeɪniə], officially the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë pronounced [ɾɛˈpublika ɛ ʃcipəˈɾiːs], or simply Shqipëria, Gheg Albanian: Shqipnija), is a country in South Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Greece to the south-east, Montenegro to the north, the disputed territory of Kosovo to the northeast, and the Republic of 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 miles) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.

The country is a member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation,Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and Union for the Mediterranean. It is also a potential candidate for membership in the European Union and received a NATO membership invitation on 3 April 2008.[2] Albania is expected to formally join the 26-nation pact next April on NATO’s 60th birthday, and has provided support and troops for security and peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, Iraq[3][4] and Chad.[5]

Albania is a parliamentary democracy and a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to approximately 600,000 of the country’s 3.6 million people, and it is also the financial capital of the country.[6] Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure.

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[edit] Etymology

Satellite image of Albania.

Main article: Albania (toponym)

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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[8][9]

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.[10] During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country Arbër or Arbën and referred to themselves as Arbëresh or Arbnesh.[11][12] As early as the 16th century,[citation needed] a new name for their home evolved among Albanian people: Shqipëria, popularly interpreted as “Land of the Eagles”, hence the two-headed bird on the national flag,[13] though most likely the origin lies in Skanderbeg‘s use of the Byzantine double-headed eagle on his seals.[14] Another theory, however, derives “shqip” (Albanian), as a calque of the Slavic “slovene” (Slav) (sluti to speak clearly), from “shqipoj” (to speak clearly), perhaps during a time of Slavic-Albanian cohabitation (rather than from “shqipe” eagle).[15]

[edit] History

Main article: History of Albania

[edit] Prehistory

Main articles: Prehistoric Balkans and Illyria

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.[16] 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.

Butrint, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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 Kretsunitsa, 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 Greek[17] 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.[18]

In 2000, the Albanian government established Butrint National Park, which draws about 70,000 visitors annually and is Albania’s second World Heritage site.

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.

The territory of Albania in antiquity was inhabited by the Illyrians,[19] who, like other Balkan peoples, were subdivided into tribes and clans.[20] An Illyrian kingdom grew from the general area of modern-day Northern Albania and eventually controlled much of the eastern Adriatic coastline. Scodra was its capital, just as the city is now the most important urban center of northern Albania. The kingdom, however, reached the zenith of its expansion and development in the 4th century BC, when King Bardyllis, one of the most prominent of the Illyrian kings, united many Illyrian tribes into one Illyrian kingdom, and attacked the Greeks.Its decay began under the same ruler as a result of the attacks made by Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

[edit] The Kingdom of Illyria (1225-167 B.C.)

In its beginning, the kingdom of Illyria comprised the actual territories of modern Albania but in the course of its development, it extended all along the eastern littoral of the Adriatic Sea. Scodra (Albanian:Shkodra)was its capital, just as she is now the capital of Northern and Central Albania.

The earliest known king of Illyria was Hylli (Albanian:Ylli;Star) who is recorded to have died in the year 1225 B. C. The kingdom, however, reached the zenith of its expansion and development in the fourth century B. C., when King Bardhyllus (Albanian:Bardhyli:White Star), one of the most prominent of the Illyrian kings, united under his scepter the kingdoms of Illyria, Molossia and a good part of Macedonia.But its decay began under the same ruler as a result of the attacks made on it by Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

The Illyrians created and developed their culture, language and anthropological features in the western part of the Balkans, where ancient writers mention them in their works. The regions that the Illyrians inhabited are expansive. They include the entire western peninsula, north to central Europe, south to the Ambracian Gulf (Preveza, Greece), and east around the Lyhind Lake (Ohrid Lake). Other Illyrian tribes also migrated and developed in Italy. Among them were the Messapii and Iapyges. The name ‘Illyria’ is mentioned in works since the fifth century BC while some tribe names are mentioned as early as the twelfth century BC by Homer. The ethnic formation of the Illyrians, however, is much older.

The beginning of Illyrian origins in by the fifteenth century BC, from the mid-Bronze Age, when Illyrian ethnic features began to form. By the Iron Age, the Illyrians were fully distinct and had inherited their developing anthropological features and language from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. The old theory that the Illyrians came from Central Europe during the seventh to ninth centuries has been disproved by studies performed following World War II. The fact that graves with urns, characteristic of Central Europe, are not found in Illyrian settlements severely damages the theory. Central European influence on the Illyrians is a result of cultural exchanges and movement of artisans.[21]

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. Between the 6th and 8th centuries they settled in Illyrian territories and proceeded to assimilate Illyrian tribes in much of what is now Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. The tribes of southern Illyria, however including modern Albania averted assimilation and preserved their native tongue.

[edit] The Roman Empire

Prætorian Guard

It was the Romans who destroyed Illyrian autonomy through military defeat in 165 BCE. Roman Albania was traversed by the Via Egnatia, the Roman road that linked east with west and Rome with the far eastern reaches of its empire. After being conquered by the Roman Empire, Illyria was reorganized as a Roman province. Illyricum was later divided into the provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia, the lands comprising modern-day Albania.

There are,two outstanding features of Roman influence:

In the first place, the Albanian language borrowed a great number of words, mostly religious and liturgical terms, owing to the fact that Albania was at first attached to the See of Rome, though the religion of Jesus was preached to the Albanians by St. Paul himself during a visit he made to Durazzo (Albanian:Durrës).

In the second place, the Albanians had more than their share in the election of the Roman Emperors during the turbulent period of the Empire, by virtue of the fact that the notorious Prætorian Guard, the emperor-making power, consisted mainly of Illyrian troops.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Albania was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire, administered from Constantinople. Albania was 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

[edit] The Byzantine Empire

When the Roman Empire divided into east and west in 395, the territories of modern Albania became part of the Byzantine Empire. As in the Roman Empire. 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[citation needed]. Long before that event, Christianity had become the established religion in Albania, supplanting pagan polytheism and eclipsing for the most part the humanistic world outlook and institutions inherited from the Greek and Roman civilizations. But, though the country was in the fold of Byzantium, Albanian Christians remained under the jurisdiction of the Roman pope until 732.

[edit] Ottoman Era

A horseman statue portraying the Albanian folk hero, George Castriota Skanderbeg, in the square Piazza Albania in Rome, Italy.

The Ottoman Turks expanded their empire from Anatolia to the Balkans in the 14th century. By the 15th century, the Turks has 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.[22]

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. Skanderbeg then re-embraced Roman Catholicism and declared a holy war against the Turks.[23] Twice the Albanians overcame sieges of Krujë (see Siege of Krujë).

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 that remained converted to Islam. They would remain a part of the Ottoman Empire as the provinces of İşkodra, Manastır and Yanya until 1912. 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.

[edit] Medieval culture

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).[citation needed] 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 Thopias, Balshas, Shpatas, Muzakas, Aranitis, Dukagjinis, and Kastriotis. The first three of these rose to become rulers of principalities that were practically independent of Byzantium.

[edit] Independence and recent history

Portrait of Skanderbeg in the Uffizi, Florence.

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 in 1912. The country adopted a republican form of government in 1920.[24] Starting in 1928, the new King Zog began to cede Albania’s sovereignty to Italy, and in 1939 the Italians invaded the country.

Tirana liberated November 17, 1944 by Albanian partisans.

Albania was one of the first countries occupied by the Axis Powers in World War II.[25] 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 April 7, 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 October 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 November 8, 1941.

Albania is unique in that it is the only European country occupied by the Axis powers that ended World War II with a larger Jewish population than before the War.[26][27][28] Only one Jewish family was deported and killed during the Nazi occupation of Albania.[29] Not only did the Albanians protect their own Jews, but they provided refuge for Jews from neighboring countries. The Albanians refused to comply and hand over lists of Jews. Instead they provided the Jewish families with forged documents and helped them disperse in the Albanian population.[29][30]

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 April 11, 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.[31]

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.

During NATO‘s air war against Yugoslavia, March-June 1999, Albania hosted some 465,000 Kosovar refugees. Victory by a pro-Berisha coalition in elections July 3, 2005, ended 8 years of Socialist Party rule. Crowds in Tirana, June 10, 2007, welcomed George W. Bush, the first U.S. president to visit Albania while in office.

[edit] Government and politics

Main article: Politics of Albania

Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha with U.S. President George W. Bush in Tirana, June 2007.

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.

Albania, along with Croatia, received in 3 April 2008 an invitation to join NATO. Full member status is expected to be achieved in 2009.[32]

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.

[edit] Geography

Main article: Geography of Albania

Coastline in Himarë.

Valley of Cemi i Nikçit in Northern Albania.

Albania has a total area of 28,750 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 (9,032 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 located in Albania. Lake Shkodër in the country’s northwest has a surface of 368 km², out of which 149 km² belong to Albania. 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 a million hectares (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 WWF 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.

[edit] Administrative division

Counties of Albania

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.

County Capital Districts Municipalities Cities Villages
1 Berat Berat Berat
Kuçovë
Skrapar
12
2
10
2
1
2
122
17
103
2 Dibër Peshkopi Bulqizë
Dibër
Mat
8
15
12
2
1
3
103
141
76
3 Durrës Durrës Durrës
Krujë
10
7
4
2
61
43
4 Elbasan Elbasan Elbasan
Gramsh
Librazhd
Peqin
24
10
10
6
2
1
2
1
176
95
75
49
5 Fier Fier Fier
Lushnjë
Mallakastër
17
16
9
3
2
1
117
121
40
6 Gjirokastër Gjirokastër Gjirokastër
Përmet
Tepelenë
13
9
10
2
2
2
95
97
77
7 Korçë Korçë Devoll
Kolonjë
Korçë
Pogradec
5
8
17
8
1
2
2
1
44
76
155
72
8 Kukës Kukës Has
Kukës
Tropojë
4
15
8
1
1
3
30
90
68
9 Lezhë Lezhë Kurbin
Lezhë
Mirditë
4
10
7
3
2
4
28
63
70
10 Shkodër Shkodër Malësi e Madhe
Pukë
Shkodër
6
10
18
2
2
2
56
75
139
11 Tirana Tirana Kavajë
Tirana
10
18
2
3
65
155
12 Vlorë Vlorë Delvinë
Sarandë
Vlorë
4
9
13
1
2
4
38
62
99

[edit] Economy

Main article: Economy of Albania

The democratically elected government that won the elections on April 1992 launched an ambitious economic reform programme to halt economic deterioration and forced the country on the path of a market economy. This included a comprehensive package of structural reforms, including privatization, enterprise, and financial sector reform, and the creation of the legal framework for a market economy and private sector activity. After severe economic contraction following 1989, the economy slowly rebounded, finally surpassing its 1989 levels by the end of the 1990s.[33] Since prices have also risen, however, economic hardship has continued for much of the population. In 1995, Albania began privatizing large state enterprises. Following the signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in June/July 2006, EU ministers urged Albania to push ahead with reforms, focusing on freedom of press, property rights, institution building, respect for ethnic minorities and observing international standards in municipal elections. Albania has made an impressive recovery, building a modern and diversified economy. Recent administrations have also improved the country’s infrastructure and opened competition in seaports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity generation, natural gas distribution and airports. However, despite recent rapid economic growth, Albania remains one of Europe’s poorest nations.[citation needed]
Albania’s economic growth during 2007 was around 6% and in the same year, the government approved a fiscal package which ticks all the right boxes for investors. It included a flat rate of 10% on personal income tax, corporate tax and capital gains tax. Tirana International Airport was upgraded in 2007 when improvements included a new terminal building and airport access roads. The airport now has a capacity of around 1.5 million passengers and offers direct flights to and from London, New York and a range of European cities, attracting tourist and foreign investors from around the world.

Tourism in Albania is a large industry and is growing rapidly. The most notable tourist attractions are the ancient sites of Apollonia, Butrinti, and Krujë. Albania’s coastline is becoming increasingly popular with tourists due to its relatively unspoiled nature and its beaches.

[edit] Albanian language

Main article: Albanian language

Albanian was proven to be an Indo-European language in 1854 by the German philologist Franz Bopp. The Albanian language comprises its own branch of the Indo-European language family.

Some scholars believe that Albanian derives from Illyrian[34][35] while others,[36] 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.

[edit] Literature

Main article: Albanian literature
See also: List of Albanian writers

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.

Excerpt from Meshari by Gjon Buzuku.

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[citation needed], 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.

[edit] Religion

Main article: Religion in Albania
See also: Freedom of religion in Albania

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. During the final schism on 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. This arrangement prevailed until the Ottoman invasion of the 14th century, when discrimination against Pagans and Christians encouraged conversions to Islam.

Mosque in Shkodra

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.[37] 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. Although religious freedom has returned to Albania since the regime’s change in 1992, the majority of Albanians today do not practice any religion whatsoever, but often affiliate themselves with one of the four religious traditions.[38][39][40] In Central and Northern Albania, especially in rural regions, a large portion of people associate themselves with Islam. There are also considerable numbers of Orthodox Christians in the South-East and Roman Catholics in the extreme north of the country. Nevertheless, Albanian culture sees religion more as a matter of community affiliation and tradition rather than individual devotion.[41] As a result of religious adherence being mostly superficial, religious extremism and discrimination are rare.

[edit] Education

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, were mandated to attend classes to learn. Since these times of struggle the country’s literacy rate has improved remarkably[42].Today the overall literacy rate in Albania is 86.5%, the male literacy rate is 93.3% and female literacy rate is 79.5%. 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.

[edit] Armed Forces

Military personnel from the 1st Infantry Company of the Rapid Reaction Brigade.

Damen Stan Type 4207 Patrol Boat.

Main article: Military of Albania
See also: Albanian Air Force, Albanian Naval Defense Forces, Albanian Joint Forces Command, and Albanian Logistic Support Command

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[43] and received a NATO membership invitation on 3 April 2008.[44]

[edit] International Rankings

Demographic

Environmental

Economic

[edit] Demographics

Albania Population pyramid, 2005

In July 2007, Albania’s population was 3,600,523, with an annual growth rate of 0.73%.[45] But the National Institute of Statistics claims different population estimations: 3,170,048 (January 01, 2008).[46] Albania is a largely ethnically homogeneous country with only small minorities. However the Albanian government is not going to conduct an official census based on ethnic minotiries,[47] the last census of that kind was conducted in 1989 under the communist regime. A large majority of the population is ethnically Albanian. Minorities include Greeks, Aromanians (Vlachs), Torbesh, Gorani, Macedonians, Roma, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, Balkan Egyptians and Jews. The dominant language is Albanian, with two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk. Many Albanians are also fluent in English, Italian and Greek.

[edit] Entertainment

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).[48] 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.

Main article: RTSH

[edit] Health

Albania has free health care for all. Major hospitals are in Tirana and Durrës. The medical school, Faculty of Medicine at Tirana University, is in Tirana. Nursing schools are in many other cities.

[edit] Cuisine

Main article: Cuisine of Albania

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.

[edit] See also

Lists

[edit] Gallery

Panoramic view of Tirana as seen from Dajti Mountain.

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