Albania History and Politics

By | June 1, 2021

From one realm to the next

Around 1000 BC The Illyrians lived on what is now Albanian territory, among other places. After their rule, the Macedonians ruled the entire Balkan Peninsula. Around 167 BC BC the Albanian area went to the Romans and after the division of the Roman Empire to the Eastern Roman Empire. Then the rulers changed again.

Slavic tribes ruled from 600 and the Bulgarians took over command in the 9th century. Two centuries later the south of what is now Albania was conquered by the Normans, and in the next century the west went to the Sicilian kingdom. The land was repeatedly divided between the rulers and the rich. In the 13th century, the northern part of Albania went to Venice, while the south belonged to the Byzantine Empire.

First independent principalities

Around the year 1400 the founding of smaller principalities began on what is now Albanian territory, which were united against the Ottoman Empire in 1443 by Prince Georg Kastriota. Does the name sound familiar to you? Maybe you have already read where the flag of Albania comes from. Georg Kastriota, who became known as a national hero especially under the name “Skanderbeg”, led the principalities against the Ottoman Empire under a very similar flag.

Nonetheless, today’s Albania was conquered by the Ottomans in 1468 after Skanderbeg’s death. The rule of the Ottoman Empire shaped the culture of the country and at this time many Albanians converted to Islam.

First attempts at independence

At the end of the 18th century, the Ottoman Empire began to totter. There were also uprisings in Albania because the Ottomans wanted to push through unpopular reforms. The Prizren League formed the first national movement and independence was soon demanded for the Albanian provinces.

Albania becomes independent

By 1900 the Ottoman Empire no longer had Albania under control. The then government tried to get the chaos under control and began to suppress any national movement of Albanians. But there were more and more people who revolted against it and demanded an Albanian state of their own.

In 1906 the “Secret Committee for the Liberation of Albania” was established. When the First Balkan War ended in 1912, the then Kingdom of Albania became independent and recognized by the great powers in 1913. Since Serbia was an ally of Russia and France, parts of Albanian territory were assigned to the State of Serbia.

Albania in the First World War

Albania declared its independence at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Nevertheless, the country was in a sense drawn into the war. There was a lot of unrest in the country. The military got part of Albania under control. From 1915 Albania was occupied in the north and in the center by Austro-Hungarian troops, in the south by Italian troops and in the city of Korca by French. This city was taken over by the Greeks in 1918. Italy and Greece had been promised parts of Albania at the beginning of the war. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, this division was even negotiated. However, through the resistance of some Albanians, this was possible at the Lushnja Congress prevented and Albania was declared independent again in 1920.

Albania before and during World War II

After the First World War there were several changes of government in Albania and no ruler really had the country under control. The influential politician Ahmet Zogu established an authoritarian rule in 1924, handing over some powers to Italy. Four years later he was proclaimed “King of the Albanians”. But the Italian dictator Mussolini occupied the country. From Albania, Mussolini led his troops against Greece. But the Greeks defended themselves successfully and occupied parts of Albania.

In 1941, Greece and Yugoslavia were occupied by German troops. Kosovo, parts of Montenegro and Macedonia were united by the occupiers and declared Greater Albania. Again Albania was under fascist rule.

The discontented and oppressed population was called upon by Enver Hoxha, among others, to put up resistance together with him and his communist “National Liberation Front”. He wanted to build a socialist state modeled on the Soviet Union.

Rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China and isolation

In 1955 Albania became part of the Warsaw Pact and the UN. Relations with the Soviet Union grew worse and worse. That was related to the de-Stalinization. Under Hoxha, Albania came closer and closer to the Communist People’s Republic of China.

This helped the Albanian economy, but had consequences. In 1967 religions were banned in Albania. This resulted in the destruction of mosques and churches. Many clergymen were murdered or arrested. Albania increasingly isolated itself from neighboring countries and also withdrew from the Warsaw Pact. Albania also began to isolate itself from China. It was only after Enver Hoxha’s death that the country cautiously opened up to other states.

After the end of communist rule

As in many communist states, a deep economic crisis soon spread in Albania. Many people suffered from hunger and poverty. In the 1990s, the rule of the communist regime ended, but not the economic grievances.

This led to a mass emigration of Albanians to Greece and Italy, all of which are located in Southern Europe according to COUNTRYAAH. The new, democratically elected communist government desperately sought connection with neighboring countries and the European Union. In 1995 Albania was admitted to the Council of Europe.

Bad economy and bad conditions in Albania

In 1997, many Albanians lost their savings through fraud. The government was blamed for this. There was unrest and uprising among the population. One also speaks of the “lottery uprising”. When the government refused to resign, the situation came to a head. Many Albanians died in street battles or fled the country. There were new elections and a socialist party took over the leadership of the country.

In 1998, due to mismanagement, Albania was the poorest and most backward country in Europe. It was only in the year 2000 that economic growth could slowly be recognized. This progress was achieved primarily through the promotion of western industrialized countries. In 2003 a free trade area was set up between Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Romania. Conditions in Albania improved, and relations with neighboring countries slowly but clearly improved. In 2009 Albania became a NATO member and submitted an application to join the European Union. The country has been a candidate for membership of the association since 2014.

Accession negotiations with the EU

However, in October 2019 the EU decided not to hold accession negotiations with Albania. Incidentally, the same applies to North Macedonia. Some EU countries didn’t want that. It was felt that both states had not yet made sufficient efforts to reform.

Who is the President of Albania?

Bujar Nishani (see picture above) was President of Albania until 2017. In 2017, Ilir Rexhep Meta took over the state presidency of Albania and thus became the country’s seventh president. Between 2013 and 2017 he was already President of Parliament.

Albania History