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ALBANIA (/ælˈbeɪniə, ɔːl-/ (_ listen ), a(w)l-BAY-nee-ə_ ; Albanian : _Shqipëri/Shqipëria_; Gheg Albanian : _Shqipni/Shqipnia or Shqypni/Shqypnia _), officially the REPUBLIC OF ALBANIA (Albanian : _Republika e Shqipërisë_, pronounced ), is a country in Southeastern Europe
Europe
. Albania
Albania
spans 28,748 square kilometres (11,100 square miles) and had a total population of almost 3 million people as of 2016 .

Albania
Albania
is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic with the capital in Tirana
Tirana
, the country's largest city and main economic and commercial centre, followed by Durrës and Vlorë . It is located in the south-western part of the Balkan peninsula , bordered by Montenegro
Montenegro
to the northwest, Kosovo
Kosovo
to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east, and Greece
Greece
to the south and southeast. The country has a coastline on the northern shore of the Mediterranean
Mediterranean
Sea , the Adriatic Sea
Adriatic Sea
to the west and the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
to the southwest where the Albanian Riviera begins. Albania
Albania
is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy
Italy
, across the Strait of Otranto which connects the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
.

In classical times , the area which now forms Albania
Albania
was home to several Illyrian , Thracian and Greek tribes, as well as several Greek colonies established on the Illyrian coast. In the 3rd century BC, the area was annexed by Rome and became part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia , Macedonia and Moesia Superior . In 1190, the first Albanian entity, the Principality of Arbanon was established by archon Progon in the region of Krujë , within the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
. The territory of Albania
Albania
was conquered by the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
in the 15th century, of which it remained part of for the next five centuries. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
in Europe, following the Balkan Wars , Albania
Albania
declared its independence in 1912 and was recognized the following year. The Kingdom of Albania
Albania
was invaded by Italy
Italy
in 1939, which formed Greater Albania
Albania
, before becoming a Nazi German protectorate in 1943. The following year, a socialist People\'s Republic
Republic
was established under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour . Albania
Albania
experienced widespread social and political transformations in the communist era, as well as isolation from much of the international community. In 1991, the Socialist Republic
Republic
was dissolved and the Republic
Republic
of Albania
Albania
was established.

Albania
Albania
is a democratic and developing country with an upper-middle income economy. The service sector dominates the country's economy, followed by the industrial and agriculture sector. Following the collapse of communism in 1990, Albania
Albania
went through a process of transition from a centralized economy to a market-based economy. Albania
Albania
has a high Human Development Index
Human Development Index
and is ranked thirty-seventh in the world for life expectancy . It provides universal health care and free primary and secondary education to its citizens.

Albania
Albania
is a member of the United Nations
United Nations
, NATO
NATO
, the WTO , the World Bank
World Bank
, the Council of Europe
Europe
, the OSCE , and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation . It is also an official candidate for membership in the European Union
European Union
. Albania
Albania
is one of the founding members of the Energy Community
Energy Community
, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation , and the Union for the Mediterranean
Union for the Mediterranean
. It is home to the largest lake in Southern Europe
Europe
and one of the oldest lakes in Europe
Europe
.

CONTENTS

* 1 Etymology

* 2 History

* 2.1 Prehistory * 2.2 Antiquity * 2.3 Middle Ages
Middle Ages
* 2.4 Ottoman Period * 2.5 National Awakening * 2.6 Independence * 2.7 First Republic
Republic
and Monarchy
Monarchy
* 2.8 World War II
World War II
* 2.9 Communism * 2.10 Fourth Republic
Republic
* 2.11 Present-day

* 3 Environment

* 3.1 Geography * 3.2 Climate * 3.3 Biodiversity

* 4 Demographics

* 4.1 Population * 4.2 Urbanization * 4.3 Language * 4.4 Religion * 4.5 Education * 4.6 Health

* 5 Politics

* 5.1 Government * 5.2 Foreign relations * 5.3 Law * 5.4 Military * 5.5 Administrative divisions

* 6 Economy

* 6.1 Primary sector * 6.2 Secondary sector * 6.3 Tertiary sector * 6.4 Science and technology * 6.5 Energy * 6.6 Infrastructure * 6.7 Media

* 7 Culture

* 7.1 Architecture * 7.2 Music * 7.3 Arts * 7.4 Literature * 7.5 Mythology * 7.6 Clothing * 7.7 Cuisine * 7.8 Cinema * 7.9 Sports * 7.10 Diaspora

* 8 International rankings * 9 See also * 10 Notes * 11 References * 12 Further reading * 13 External links

ETYMOLOGY

The name "Albania" is the Medieval Latin name of the nation. It may be derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Albani _(Albanët)_ recorded by Ptolemy
Ptolemy
, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria
Alexandria
, who drafted a map in 150 AD, that shows the city of Albanopolis located northeast of the city of Durrës . The name may have a continuation in the name of a medieval settlement called Albanon or Arbanon, although it is not certain that this was the same place. In his History written in 1079 to 1080, the Byzantine
Byzantine
historian Michael Attaliates was the first to refer to Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople
Constantinople
in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the Duke of Dyrrachium . During the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
, the Albanians called their country "Arbëri" or "Arbëni" and referred to themselves as "Arbëreshë " or "Arbëneshë".

Albanians today call their country "Shqipëri" or "Shqipëria". As early as the 17th century the placename _Shqipëria_ and the ethnic demonym _Shqiptarë_ gradually replaced _Arbëria_ and _Arbëresh_. The two terms are popularly interpreted as "Land of the Eagles" and "Children of the Eagles".

HISTORY

Main articles: History of Albania and Timeline of Albanian history

PREHISTORY

See also: Prehistory of Albania
Albania
_ The Cave of Pëllumbas_ near Tirana
Tirana
, was inhabited during the Paleolithic
Paleolithic
period .

The first traces of human presence in Albania, dating to the Middle Paleolithic
Paleolithic
and Upper Paleolithic
Paleolithic
eras, were found in the village of Xarrë, near Sarandë and Mount Dajt near Tiranë . The objects found in a cave near Xarrë include flint and jasper objects and fossilized animal bones, while those found at Mount Dajt comprise bone and stone tools similar to those of the Aurignacian culture
Aurignacian culture
. The Paleolithic finds of Albania
Albania
show great similarities with objects of the same era found at Crvena Stijena in Montenegro
Montenegro
and north-western Greece.

Several Bronze Age
Bronze Age
artefacts from tumulus burials have been unearthed in central and southern Albania
Albania
that show close connection with sites in south-western Macedonia and Lefkada , Greece. Archaeologists have come to the conclusion that these regions were inhabited from the middle of the third millennium BC by Indo-European people who spoke a Proto-Greek language . A part of this population later moved to Mycenae around 1600 BC and founded the Mycenaean civilisation there. Another population group, the Illirii, probably the southernmost Illyrian tribe of that time that lived on the border of Albania
Albania
and Montenegro
Montenegro
, possibly neighbored the Greek tribes.

ANTIQUITY

See also: Origin of the Albanians , Illyrians , Ardiaei , and Taulantii The Monument of Agonothetes in Apollonia . (6th century BC)

In ancient times, the territory of modern Albania
Albania
was mainly inhabited by a number of Illyrian tribes. This territory was known as Illyria
Illyria
, corresponding roughly to the area east of the Adriatic
Adriatic
sea to the mouth of the Vjosë river in the south. The first account of the Illyrian groups comes from _ Periplus of the Euxine Sea _, an ancient Greek text written in the middle of the 4th century BC. The south was inhabited by the Greek tribe of the Chaonians , whose capital was at Phoenice , while numerous colonies, such as Apollonia , Epidamnos and Amantia , were established by Greek city-states on the coast by the 7th century BC.

One of the most powerful tribes that ruled over modern Albania
Albania
was the Ardiaei . The Ardiaean Kingdom reached its greatest extent under Agron , son of Pleuratus II . Agron extended his rule over other neighboring tribes as well. After Agron's death in 230 BC, his wife Teuta inherited the Ardiaean kingdom. Teuta's forces extended their operations further southward into the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
. In 229 BC, Rome declared war on Illyria
Illyria
for extensively plundering Roman ships. The war ended in Illyrian defeat in 227 BC. Teuta was eventually succeeded by Gentius in 181 BC. Gentius clashed with the Romans in 168 BC, initiating the Third Illyrian War . The conflict resulted in Roman victory and the end of Illyrian independence by 167 BC. After his defeat, the Roman split the region into three administrative divisions.

MIDDLE AGES

Main article: Albania
Albania
in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The city of Krujë was the capital of the Albanian State in the Middle Ages.

During the medieval period, the area what is now known as Albania, remained under Byzantine
Byzantine
control until the Slavs began to overrun the country from the 7th century. Later it was captured by the Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century. After the weakening of the Byzantine
Byzantine
Empire and the Bulgarian Empire
Bulgarian Empire
in the 13th century, some of the territory of modern Albania
Albania
was captured by the Serbian Principality . In general, the invaders destroyed or weakened Roman and Byzantine
Byzantine
cultural centers in the lands, that would become Albania.

The territorial nucleus of the Albanian state formed in the Middle Ages, as the Principality of Arbër and the Kingdom of Albania
Albania
. The Principality of Arbër or Albanon _(Arbër or Arbëria)_, was the first Albanian entiy during the Middle Ages, it was established by archon Progon _(Progoni i Krujës)_ in the region of Krujë , in 1190. Progon, was succeeded by his sons Gjin and Dhimitri, the latter which attained the height of the realm. After the death of Dhimiter, the last of the Progon family , the principality came under the Greek Gregory Kamonas Lord of Krujë , and later Golem . The Principality was dissolved in 1255. Pipa and Repishti conclude that Arbanon was the first sketch of an "Albanian state", and that it retained semi-autonomous status as the western extremity of an empire (under the Doukai of Epirus or the Laskarids of Nicaea ).

The Kingdom of Albania
Albania
_(Mbretëria e Arbërisë)_ was established by Charles of Anjou _(Karli Anzhu)_ in the Albanian territory. In 1271, he conquered from the Despotate of Epirus . One year later in February 1272, he took the title of King of Albania
Albania
. The kingdom extended from the region of Dyrrhachium (modern Durrës ), south along the coast to Butrint
Butrint
. After the creation of the kingdom, a catholic political structure was a basis for the papal plans of spreading Catholicism in the Balkans. This plan found also the support of Helen of Anjou , a cousin of Charles of Anjou , who was at that time ruling territories in North Albania. Around 30 catholic churches and monasteries were built during her rule in North Albania
Albania
and also in Serbia. From 1331 to 1355, the Serbian Empire wrestled control over Albania. After the dissolution of the Serbian Empire, several Albanian principalities were created, and among the most powerful were the Balsha , Thopia , Kastrioti , Muzaka and Arianiti . In the first half of the 14th century, the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
invaded most of Albania. In 1444, the Albanian principalities were united under George Castrioti Skanderbeg _(Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu)_, who became the national hero of the Albanian medieval history.

OTTOMAN PERIOD

Main articles: Ottoman Albania and Islamization of Albania After serving the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
for 20 years Skanderbeg deserted and began a rebellion that halted Ottoman advance into Europe
Europe
for 25 years. (LEFT) Ali Pasha of Tepelena was notably one of the most powerful autonomous Muslim Albanian rulers, he ruled over the Pashalik of Yanina , and even attempted to rival the Dey of Algiers in the seas. (RIGHT)

At the dawn of the establishment of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
in southeastern Europe
Europe
, the geopolitical landscape was marked by scattered kingdoms of small principalities. The Ottomans erected their garrisons throughout southern Albania
Albania
in 1415 and occupied most of the country in 1431. However, in 1443 a great and longstanding revolt broke out under the lead of the Albanian national hero George Castrioti Skanderbeg _(Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu)_, which lasted until 1479, many times defeating major Ottoman armies led by the sultans Murad II
Murad II
and Mehmed II . Skanderbeg united initially the Albanian princes, and later on established a centralized authority over most of the non-conquered territories, becoming the ruling _Lord of Albania_. He also tried relentlessly but rather unsuccessfully to create a European coalition against the Ottomans . He thwarted every attempt by the Turks to regain Albania, which they envisioned as a springboard for the invasion of Italy
Italy
and western Europe
Europe
. His unequal fight against the mightiest power of the time, won the esteem of Europe
Europe
as well as some support in the form of money and military aid from Naples
Naples
, Venice
Venice
, Ragusa and the Papacy
Papacy
. With the arrival of the Ottomans , Islam
Islam
was introduced in the country as a third religion. This conversion caused a massive emigration of Albanians to other Christian European countries, especially the Arbëreshë of Italy. Along with the Bosniaks , Muslim Albanians occupied an outstanding position in the Ottoman Empire, and were the main pillars of Ottoman Porte's policy in the Balkans.

Enjoying this privileged position in the empire, Muslim Albanians held various high administrative positions, with over two dozen Grand Viziers of Albanian origin, such as Gen. Köprülü Mehmed Pasha , who commanded the Ottoman forces during the Ottoman-Persian Wars ; Gen. Köprülü Fazıl Ahmed , who led the Ottoman armies during the Austro-Turkish War ; and later Muhammad Ali Pasha
Muhammad Ali Pasha
of Egypt
Egypt
. The Historic Centres of Berat
Berat
(LEFT) and Gjirokastër (RIGHT) are an UNESCO World Heritage Site . Both cities have been inhabited continuously since antiquity.

During the 15th century, when the Ottomans were gaining a firm foothold in the region, Albanian towns were organised into four principal sanjaks . The government fostered trade by settling a sizeable Jewish
Jewish
colony of refugees fleeing persecution in Spain
Spain
(at the end of the 15th century). The city of Vlorë saw passing through its ports imported merchandise from Europe
Europe
such as velvets, cotton goods, mohairs, carpets, spices, and leather from Bursa
Bursa
and Constantinople
Constantinople
. Some citizens of Vlorë even had business associates throughout Europe
Europe
.

Albanians could also be found throughout the empire in Iraq
Iraq
, Egypt
Egypt
, Algeria
Algeria
and across the Maghreb
Maghreb
, as vital military and administrative retainers. This was partly due to the Devşirme system. The process of Islamization was an incremental one, commencing from the arrival of the Ottomans in the 14th century (to this day, a minority of Albanians are Catholic or Orthodox Christians, though the vast majority became Muslim). Timar holders, the bedrock of early Ottoman control in southeast Europe, were not necessarily converts to Islam, and occasionally rebelled; the most famous of these rebels is Skanderbeg (his figure would rise up later on, in the 19th century, as a central component of the Albanian national identity). The most significant impact on the Albanians was the gradual Islamisation process of a large majority of the population, although it became widespread only in the 17th century.

Mainly Catholics converted in the 17th century, while the Orthodox Albanians followed suit mainly in the following century. Initially confined to the main city centres of Elbasan and Shkodër , by this period the countryside was also embracing the new religion. The motives for conversion according to some scholars were diverse, depending on the context. The lack of source material does not help when investigating such issues. Albania
Albania
remained under Ottoman control as part of the Rumelia province until 1912, when independent Albania
Albania
was declared .

NATIONAL AWAKENING

Main articles: National Awakening and League of Prizren Further information: Activists of the National Awakening The League of Prizren
Prizren
building in Prizren
Prizren
from inside the courtyard.

The National Renaissance _(Rilindja Kombëtare)_ began in the 1870s and lasted until 1912, when the Albanians declared their independence . The League of Prizren (League for the Defense of the Rights of the Albanian Nation) _(Lidhja e Prizrenit)_ was formed on June 1878, in the old town of Prizren
Prizren
, Kosovo
Kosovo
Vilayet
Vilayet
. At first the Ottoman authorities supported the League, whose initial position was based on the religious solidarity of Muslim landlords and people connected with the Ottoman administration . The Ottomans favoured and protected the Muslim solidarity, and called for defense of Muslim lands, including present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina
. This was the reason for naming the league 'The Committee of the Real Muslims' _(Komiteti i Myslimanëve të Vërtetë)_. The League issued a decree known as Kararname . Its text contained a proclamation that the people from northern Albania, Epirus and Bosnia" are willing to defend the 'territorial integrity' of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
by all possible means against the troops of the Bulgarian , Serbian and Montenegrin Kingdoms. However, it was signed by 47 Muslim deputies of the League on June 18, 1878. Around 300 Muslims participated in the assembly, including delegates from Bosnia and mutasarrif (sanjakbey ) of the Sanjak of Prizren
Prizren
as representatives of the central authorities, and no delegates from Scutari Vilayet . _ The letters of Naum Veqilharxhi 's alphabet (Alfabeti i Vithkuqit)_ published in 1845.

The Ottomans cancelled their support when the League, under the influence of Abdyl Bey Frashëri , became focused on working toward the Albanian autonomy and requested merging of four Ottoman vilayets , which includes Kosovo
Kosovo
, Scutari , Monastir and Ioannina into a new vilayet of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
, the Albanian Vilayet
Vilayet
. The League used military force to prevent the annexing areas of Plav and Gusinje assigned to Montenegro
Montenegro
by the Congress of Berlin . After several successful battles with Montenegrin troops such as in Novsice , under the pressure of the great powers , the League of Prizren was forced to retreat from their contested regions of Plav and Gusinje and later on, the league was defeated by the Ottoman army sent by the Sultan. The Albanian uprising of 1912, the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan Wars and the advance of Montenegrin, Serbian and Greek forces into territories claimed as Albanian, led to the proclamation of independence by Ismail Qemali in southern Vlorë , on November 28, 1912.

INDEPENDENCE

Further information: Albanian Revolt of 1912 , Independent Albania , Treaty of London (1913) , Principality of Albania
Principality of Albania
, Peasant Revolt in Albania
Albania
, Albania
Albania
during the Balkan Wars , Albania
Albania
during World War I , and Albanian Declaration of Independence The proposed boundaries of the newly established Albanian state in 1913 to 1914.

At the All-Albanian Congress in southern Vlorë on 28 November 1912, the participants constituted the Assembly of Vlorë . The assembly of eighty-three leaders, declared the nation as an independent country and set up a provisional government. The Provisional Government was established on the second session of the assembly on 4 December 1912. Furthermore, it was a government of ten members led by Ismail Qemali , until his resignation on 22 January 1914. However the Assembly also established the Senate _(Pleqësi)_, with an advisory role to the government, consisting of 18 members of the Assembly.

The independence of Albania
Albania
was recognized by the Conference of London on 29 July 1913. The drawing of the borders of the newly established Principality of Albania
Principality of Albania
ignored the demographic realities of the time. The International Commission of Control was established on 15 October 1913 to take care of the administration of newly established Albania, until its own political institutions were in order. Its headquarters were in Vlorë . The International Gendarmerie
Gendarmerie
was established as the first law enforcement agency of the Principality of Albania
Principality of Albania
. In November, the first gendarmerie members arrived in the country. Prince of Albania
Albania
Wilhelm of Wied _(Princ Vilhelm Vidi)_ was selected as the first prince of the principality. On 7 March, he arrived in the provisional capital of Durrës and started to organise his government, appointing Turhan Pasha Përmeti to form the first Albanian cabinet. The city of Skopje
Skopje
after being captured by Albanian revolutionaries in August 1912 after defeating the Ottoman forces holding the city.

In November 1913, the Albanian pro-Ottoman forces had offered the throne of Albania
Albania
to the Ottoman war Minister of Albanian origin, Ahmed Izzet Pasha . The pro-Ottoman peasants believed that, the new regime of the Principality of Albania
Principality of Albania
was a tool of the six Christian Great Powers and local landowners, that owned half of the arable land.

In February 1914, the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus was proclaimed in Gjirokastër by the local Greek population against incorporation to Albania. This initiative was short lived and in 1921, the southern provinces were finally incorporated to the Albanian Principality . Meanwhile, the revolt of Albanian peasants against the new Albanian regime erupted under the leadership of the group of Muslim clerics gathered around Essad Pasha Toptani
Essad Pasha Toptani
, who proclaimed himself the savior of Albania
Albania
and Islam. In order to gain support of the Mirdita Catholic volunteers from the northern part of Albania, Prince Wied appointed their leader, Prênk Bibë Doda , to be the foreign minister of the Principality of Albania
Principality of Albania
. In May and June 1914, the International Gendarmerie was joined by Isa Boletini and his men, mostly from Kosovo
Kosovo
, and northern Mirdita Catholics, were defeated by the rebels who captured most of Central Albania
Albania
by the end of August 1914. The regime of Prince Wied collapsed and later he left the country on 3 September 1914.

FIRST REPUBLIC AND MONARCHY

Main articles: Albanian Republic and Kingdom of Albania
Albania
Wedding of Zog I with Geraldine of Albania in 1938.

The short-lived principality (1914–1925) was succeeded by the first Albanian Republic (1925–1928). In 1925 the four-member Regency was abolished and Ahmed Zogu was elected president of the newly declared republic. Tirana
Tirana
was endorsed officially as the country's permanent capital. Zogu led an authoritarian and conservative regime, the primary aim of which was the maintenance of stability and order. Zogu was forced to adopt a policy of cooperation with Italy. A pact had been signed between Italy
Italy
and Albania
Albania
on 20 January 1925 whereby Italy gained a monopoly on shipping and trade concessions.

The Albanian republic was eventually replaced by another monarchy in 1928. In order to extend his direct control throughout the entire country, Zogu placed great emphasis on the construction of roads. Every male Albanian over the age of 16 years was legally bound to give ten days of free labor each year to the state. King Zogu remained a conservative, but initiated reforms. For example, in an attempt at social modernization, the custom of adding one's region to one's name was dropped. Zogu also made donations of land to international organisations for the building of schools and hospitals. The armed forces were trained and supervised by Italian instructors. As a counterweight, Zogu kept British officers in the Gendarmerie
Gendarmerie
despite strong Italian pressure to remove them. The kingdom was supported by the fascist regime in Italy
Italy
and the two countries maintained close relations until Italy's sudden invasion of the country in 1939. Albania
Albania
was occupied by Fascist Italy
Italy
and then by Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
during World War II.

WORLD WAR II

Main articles: Albanian Kingdom (1939–43) and Albanian resistance during World War II
World War II
Albanian partisans march in Tirana
Tirana
29 November 1944

After being militarily occupied by Italy
Italy
, from 1939 until 1943 the Albanian Kingdom was a protectorate and a dependency of Italy
Italy
governed by the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III and his government. After the Axis' invasion of Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
in April 1941, territories of Yugoslavia with substantial Albanian population were annexed to Albania: most of Kosovo, as well as Western Macedonia, the town of Tutin in Central Serbia
Serbia
and a strip of Eastern Montenegro. In November 1941, the small Albanian Communist groups established an Albanian Communist Party in Tirana
Tirana
of 130 members under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and an eleven-man Central Committee. The party at first had little mass appeal, and even its youth organization netted few recruits.

After the capitulation of Italy
Italy
in 1943, Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
occupied Albania
Albania
too. The nationalist Balli Kombetar , which had fought against Italy, formed a "neutral" government in Tirana, and side by side with the Germans fought against the communist-led National Liberation Movement of Albania
Albania
. The Center for Relief to Civilian Populations (Geneva) reported that Albania
Albania
was one of the most devastated countries in Europe. 60,000 houses were destroyed and about 10% of the population was left homeless. The communist partisans had regrouped and gained control of much of southern Albania
Albania
in January 1944. However, they were subject to German attacks driving them out of certain areas. In the Congress of Përmet, the NLF formed an Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation to act as Albania's administration and legislature. By the last year in World War II Albania
Albania
fell into a civil war-like state between the communists and nationalists. The communist partisans however defeated the last Balli Kombëtar forces in southern Albania
Albania
by mid-summer 1944. Before the end of November, the main German troops had withdrawn from Tirana
Tirana
, and the communists took control by attacking it. The partisans entirely liberated Albania
Albania
from German occupation on 29 November 1944. A provisional government, which the communists had formed at Berat
Berat
in October, administered Albania
Albania
with Enver Hoxha as prime minister.

COMMUNISM

Main article: Communism in Albania A Cultural Revolution poster depicting the Albanian-Chinese cooperation featuring Enver Hoxha and Mao Zedong . The two leaders met only twice: in 1956 during Hoxha's visit to China , and in 1957 at the Moscow meeting of communist and workers parties.

By the end of the second World War , the main military and political force of the nation, the Communist party sent forces to northern Albania
Albania
against the nationalists to eliminate its rivals. They faced open resistance in Nikaj-Mërtur , Dukagjin and Kelmend
Kelmend
led by Prek Cali . On 15 January 1945, a clash took place between partisans of the first Brigade and nationalist forces at the Tamara Bridge, resulting in the defeat of the nationalist forces. About 150 Kelmendi people were killed or tortured. This event was the starting point of many other issues which took place during Enver Hoxha 's dictatorship. Class struggle was strictly applied, human freedom and human rights were denied. The Kelmend
Kelmend
region was almost isolated by both the border and by a lack of roads for another 20 years, the institution of agricultural cooperatives brought about economic decline. Many Kelmendi people fled, some were executed trying to cross the border.

After the liberation of Albania
Albania
from the Nazi occupation , the country became a Communist state . Afterwards, the People\'s Republic of Albania
Albania
_(renamed "People's Socialist Republic
Republic
of Albania" in 1976)_ was founded, which was led by Enver Hoxha and the Labour Party of Albania
Albania
. The socialist reconstruction of Albania
Albania
was launched immediately after the annulling of the monarchy and the establishment of a People\'s Republic
Republic
. In 1947, Albania's first railway line was completed, with the second one being completed eight months later. New land reform laws were passed granting ownership of the land to the workers and peasants who tilled it. Agriculture became cooperative , and production increased significantly, leading to Albania's becoming agriculturally self-sufficient. By 1955, illiteracy was eliminated among Albania's adult population. An old communist bunker overlooking the peaks of Valbona Valley . By 1983 approximately 173,371 concrete bunkers were scattered throughout the country .

During this period, Albania
Albania
became industrialized and saw rapid economic growth, as well as unprecedented progress in the areas of education and health care. The average annual increase in Albania's national income was 29% higher than the world average and 56% higher than the European average. . The nation incurred large debts, first with Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
until 1948, then the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
until 1961, and China
China
from the middle of the 1950s. The communist constitution did not allow taxes on individuals; instead, taxes were imposed on cooperatives and other organizations, with much the same effect. Religious freedoms were severely curtailed during the communist regime, with all forms of worship being outlawed. In August 1945, the _Agrarian Reform Law_ meant that large swaths of property owned by religious groups (mostly Islamic waqfs ) were nationalized, along with the estates of monasteries and dioceses. Many believers, along with the ulema and many priests , were arrested and executed. In 1949, a new Decree on Religious Communities required that all their activities be sanctioned by the state alone.

After hundreds of mosques and dozens of Islamic libraries, containing priceless manuscripts, were destroyed, Enver Hoxha proclaimed Albania the "World's first atheist state " in 1967. The churches had not been spared either, and many were converted into cultural centers for young people. A 1967 law banned all "fascist, religious, warmongerish, antisocialist activity and propaganda". Preaching religion carried a three to ten-year prison sentence. Nonetheless, many Albanians continued to practice their beliefs secretly. The Hoxha dictatorship's anti-religious policy attained its most fundamental legal and political expression a decade later: "The state recognizes no religion," states Albania's 1976 constitution, "and supports and carries out atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people." Enver Hoxha 's political successor, Ramiz Alia oversaw the dismemberment of the " Hoxhaist " state during the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the late 1980s.

FOURTH REPUBLIC

Main articles: Fall of communism in Albania , Pyramid schemes , and Civil War of 1997 In 1988, the first outsiders were allowed to walk into the Skanderbeg Square , the main plaza in Tirana
Tirana
.

After the revolution of 1989 , reforms were made by the communist government in 1990. Subsequently, the People\'s Republic
Republic
was dissolved and the 4th Albanian Republic was founded on 29 April 1991. The communists retained a stronghold in the Parliament , after popular support in the first multi-party elections in 1991. In March 1992, amid liberalization policies resulting in economic collapse and social unrest, a new coalition led by the new Democratic Party took power after victory in the parliamentary elections of 1992.

In the following years, much of the accumulated wealth of the country was invested in Ponzi pyramid banking schemes, which were widely supported by the government . The schemes swept up somewhere between one sixth and one third of the Albanian population . Despite the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warnings in late 1996, President Sali Berisha defended the schemes as large investment firms, leading more people to redirect their remittances and sell their homes and cattle for cash to deposit in the schemes. The schemes began to collapse in late 1996, leading many of the investors to join initially peaceful protests against the government, requesting their money back. The protests turned violent in February 1997 as government forces responded with fire. In March, the Police and Republican Guard deserted, leaving their armories open. These were promptly emptied by militias and criminal gangs. The resulting crisis caused a wave of evacuations of foreign nationals and of refugees.

The crisis led Prime Minister Aleksandër Meksi to resign on 11 March 1997, followed by President Sali Berisha in July in the wake of the June General Election. In April 1997, Operation Alba , a UN peacekeeping force led by Italy
Italy
, entered the country with two goals: to assist with the evacuation of expatriates and to secure the ground for international organizations. The main international organization involved was the Western European Union
European Union
's Multinational Albanian Police element (MAPE) , which worked with the government to restructure the judicial system and the Albanian Police . The Socialist Party had won the previously mentioned parliamentary elections in June 1997 , and a degree of political stabilization followed. In 1999, the country was affected by the Kosovo
Kosovo
War , which caused a great number of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo
Kosovo
to seek refuge in Albania.

PRESENT-DAY

Further information: Albania– NATO
NATO
relations and Accession of Albania
Albania
to the European Union
European Union
Albania
Albania
joined the 2010 NATO Headquarters summit in Brussels
Brussels
.

On 23 June 2013, the eighth parliamentary elections took place, won by Edi Rama of the Socialist Party . During his tenure as 33rd Prime Minister , Albania
Albania
has implemented numerous reforms focused on the modernizing the economy and democratizing of state institutions like the judiciary and law enforcement . Additionally, unemployment has been steadily reduced to the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the Balkans .

After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc , Albania
Albania
started to develop closer ties with Western Europe. At the 2008 Bucharest summit , the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) invited Albania
Albania
to join the alliance. In April 2014 Albania
Albania
became a full member of NATO
NATO
. Albania was among the first southeastern European countries to join the Partnership for peace programme. Albania
Albania
applied to join the European Union , becoming an official candidate for accession to the European Union in June 2014.

Although Albania
Albania
received candidate status for the European Union membership in 2014 (based on its 2009 application), the European Union has twice rejected full membership. The European Parliament warned the Government leaders in early 2017 that the 2017 parliamentary elections in June must be free and fair before negotiations could begin to admit the country into the union.

ENVIRONMENT

See also: Environment of Albania

GEOGRAPHY

Main article: Geography of Albania See also: Atlas of Albania
Albania
at Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Albania
Albania
seen from the space taken by NASA Terra satellite. The Gjipe Canyon in southern Albania, where the Adriatics meets the Ionian sea .

Albania
Albania
is located in Southeastern and Southern Europe
Europe
, with Montenegro
Montenegro
bordering to the northwest, Kosovo
Kosovo
to the northeast, Macedonia to the east and Greece
Greece
to the south. The Adriatic
Adriatic
and Ionian seas makes up its entire west border of Albania. It lies mostly between latitudes latitudes 42° and 39° N , and longitudes 21° and 19° E . The territory covers 28,748 square kilometres (11,100 square miles), making it the 145th largest country in the world. It's coastline length is 476 km (296 mi) :240 and extends along the Adriatic
Adriatic
and Ionian Seas within the Mediterranean Sea .

70% of the country that is mountainous is rugged and often inaccessible from the outside. The three longest mountain ranges includes the southernmost Dinaric Alps ; the Albanian Alps in the north, the Ceraunian Mountains in the southwest along the Albanian Riviera and the Korab
Korab
Mountains in the east, around the border triangle of Albania, Kosovo
Kosovo
and the Republic
Republic
of Macedonia. The highest mountain is probably the Mount Korab
Korab
, reaching up to 2,764 metres (9,068 ft), being the 4th highest mountain in the Balkan Peninsula .

Albania
Albania
is home to one of the three largest and deepest lakes in Southern Europe
Europe
; Lake Shkodër in the northwest, with a surface which can vary between 370 km2 (140 sq mi) and 530 km2, out of which one third belongs to Albania
Albania
and the rest to Montenegro. However, Lake Ohrid is considered to be one of the most ancient lakes in the world and the oldest one in the European continent. It is situated in the country's southeast and is shared between Albania
Albania
and Macedonia. It has a maximal depth of 289 metres (948 feet) and a variety of unique flora and fauna can be found there, including living fossils and many endemic species. Due to its natural and historical value, Lake Ohrid is under the protection of UNESCO
UNESCO
. There is also Lake Butrint
Butrint
in southern Albania, which is part of the Butrint
Butrint
National Park . It is renowned by its high vegetation and biodiversity.

The climate on the coast is typically Mediterranean
Mediterranean
with mild, wet winters and warm, sunny, and rather dry summers. Inland conditions vary depending on elevation , but the higher areas above 1,524 metres (5,000 feet) in the north, such as the Albanian Alps , the southernmost part of the Dinaric Alps forming part of the Alpide belt , are rather cold and frequently snowy in winter; here cold conditions with snow may linger into spring.

CLIMATE

Main article: Climate of Albania Albania
Albania
map of Köppen climate classification . Hot Mediterranean climate Warm Mediterranean climate Subtropical climate Oceanic climate Continental climate Subartic climate Mediterranean climate in Ksamil .

With its coastline facing the Adriatic
Adriatic
and Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
in the west, Albania's highlands backed upon the elevated Balkan
Balkan
landmass, and the entire country lying at a latitude subject to a variety of weather patterns during the winter and summer seasons. Although Albania
Albania
has a high number of climatic regions relative to its landmass. The coastal lowlands have typically mediterranean climate ; 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 (45 °F). Summer temperatures average 24 °C (75 °F). In the southern lowlands, temperatures average about 5 °C (9 °F) higher throughout the year. The difference is greater than 5 °C (9 °F) 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 Southeastern Europe
Europe
. 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. Subarctic climate on Albanian Alps .

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
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
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 (39.4 in) to more than 1,500 millimeters (59.1 in) 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 (70.9 in) and are as high as 2,550 millimeters (100.4 in) in some northern areas such as in the Albanian Alps . However, the western Albanian Alps are among the wettest areas in Europe
Europe
, receiving some 3,100 mm (122.0 in) of rain annually. 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. In 2009, an expedition from the University of Colorado discovered four small glaciers in the Albanian Alps. The glaciers are at the relatively low level of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), almost unique for such a southerly latitude.

BIODIVERSITY

See also: Biodiversity and Protected areas of Albania The Albanian Alps are home to many endemic plants, including the Albanian Tulip .

Although a small country, Albania
Albania
is distinguished for its rich biological diversity . Due to its climatic, hydrological, geological and topographical conditions, Albania
Albania
is host to 30% of the entire flora and 42% of fauna of Europe
Europe
. Phytogeographically , Albania straddles the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal region and Mediterranean
Mediterranean
region within the Boreal kingdom . It falls within four terrestrial ecoregions of the Palearctic ecozone ; Illyrian deciduous forests , Balkan
Balkan
mixed forests , Pindus Mountains mixed forests , and Dinaric Alpine mixed forests . The Golden eagle
Golden eagle
is the national symbol. The lynx still survives in Albania.

About 10,000 square kilometres (3,861 square miles) of Albania
Albania
is forested and very rich in flora. About 3,000 different species of plants can be found in Albania, many of which are used for medicinal purposes. The coastal regions and lowlands have typical Mediterranean macchia vegetation, whereas oak forests and vegetation are found on higher elevations. Vast forests of black pine , beech and fir are found on higher mountains and alpine grasslands grow at elevations above 1,800 metres (5,900 feet). 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 Albania. There are around 760 vertebrate species found so far in Albania. Among these there are over 350 bird species, 330 freshwater and marine fish and 80 mammal species. There are some 91 globally threatened species found within the country, among which the Dalmatian pelican , pygmy cormorant , and the European sea sturgeon . Rocky coastal regions in the south provide good habitats for the endangered Mediterranean monk seal . Some of the most significant bird species found in the country include the golden eagle , which is known as the national symbol of Albania, vulture species, capercaillie and numerous waterfowl .

DEMOGRAPHICS

Main article: Demographics of Albania See also: Albanian people

POPULATION

Regions with a traditional presence of ethnic groups other than Albanian. Representation of the distribution of ethnic groups within the nation, as of to the 2011 census. Districts colored gray are those where a majority of people did not declare an ethnicity (the question was optional). The census was criticized and boycotted by minorities in Albania.

According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) Census of 2011, the total population of Albania
Albania
was approximately 2,821,977 with a low Fertility rate
Fertility rate
of 1.49 children born per woman. The last census, was conducted in 1989.

The fall of the Communist regime in 1990, Albania
Albania
was accompanied with massive migration. External migration was prohibited outright in Communist Albania
Albania
while internal migration was quite limited, hence this was a new phenomenon. Between 1991 and 2004, roughly 900,000 people have migrated out of Albania, about 600,000 of them settling in Greece
Greece
. Migration greatly affected Albania's internal population distribution. Population decreased mainly in the North and South of the country while it increased in Tirana
Tirana
and Durrës center districts. According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) as of 1 January 2015, the population of Albania
Albania
is 2,893,005.

Issues of ethnicity are a delicate topic and subject to debate. Although official statistics have suggested that Albania
Albania
is one of the most homogeneous countries in the region (with an over 97 per cent Albanian majority) minority groups (such as Greeks
Greeks
, Macedonians , Montenegrins , Roma and Aromanians
Aromanians
) have often questioned the official data, claiming a larger share in the country's population. According to the 2011 census, ethnic affiliation was as follows: Albanians 2,312,356 (82.6% of the total), Greeks
Greeks
24,243 (0.9%), Macedonians 5,512 (0.2%), Montenegrins 366 (0.01%), Aromanians
Aromanians
8,266 (0.30%), Romani 8,301 (0.3%), Balkan
Balkan
Egyptians 3,368 (0.1%), other ethnicities 2,644 (0.1%), no declared ethnicity 390,938 (14.0%), and not relevant 44,144 (1.6%). On the quality of the specific data the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities stated that "the results of the census should be viewed with the utmost caution and calls on the authorities not to rely exclusively on the data on nationality collected during the census in determining its policy on the protection of national minorities.”.

Albania
Albania
recognizes almost three national minorities, Greeks
Greeks
, Macedonians and Montenegrins , and two cultural minorities: Aromanians and Romani people . Other Albanian minorities are Bulgarians , Gorani , Serbs
Serbs
, Balkan
Balkan
Egyptians , Bosniaks and Jews . Regarding the Greeks, "it is difficult to know how many Greeks
Greeks
there are in Albania. The Greek government, it is typically claimed, says that there are around 300,000 ethnic Greeks
Greeks
in Albania, but most western estimates are around 200,000 mark (although _EEN_ puts the number at a probable 100,000)." The Albanian government puts the number at only 24,243." The CIA World Factbook estimates the Greek minority at 0.9% of the total population and the US State Department uses 1.17% for Greeks
Greeks
and 0.23% for other minorities. However, the latter questions the validity of the data about the Greek minority, due to the fact that measurements have been affected by boycott.

Macedonian and some Greek minority groups have sharply criticized Article 20 of the Census law, according to which a $1,000 fine will be imposed on anyone who will declare an ethnicity other than what is stated on his or her birth certificate. This is claimed to be an attempt to intimidate minorities into declaring Albanian ethnicity, according to them the Albanian government has stated that it will jail anyone who does not participate in the census or refuse to declare his or her ethnicity. Genc Pollo, the minister in charge has declared that: "Albanian citizens will be able to freely express their ethnic and religious affiliation and mother tongue. However, they are not forced to answer these sensitive questions". The amendments criticized do not include jailing or forced declaration of ethnicity or religion; only a fine is envisioned which can be overthrown by court.

Greek representatives form part of the Albanian parliament and the government has invited Albanian Greeks
Greeks
to register, as the only way to improve their status. On the other hand, nationalists, various intellectuals organizations and political parties in Albania
Albania
have expressed their concern that the census might artificially increase the number of Greek minority, which might be then exploited by Greece to threaten Albania's territorial integrity.

URBANIZATION

About 53.4% of Albania\'s population living in cities. According the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) , the three largest counties account for half of the population. Over 1 million people lives in the Tirana and Durrës , making it the largest urban area in Albania. The capital Tirana
Tirana
, is one of largest cities in the Balkan Peninsula and ranks 7th with a population about 800,000. The second largest is the port city of Durrës , with a population of 201.110, followed by Vlorë , the largest city in southern Albania, with 141.513 inhabitants.

LARGEST URBAN AREAS OF ALBANIA (INSTAT Population and Housing Census 2011 )

Tirana
Tirana

Durrës RANK CITY POPULATION RANK CITY POPULATION

Gjirokastër

Sarandë

1 TIRANA 418,495 11 KAVAJë 20,192

2 DURRëS 113,249 12 GJIROKASTëR 19,836

3 VLORë 79,513 13 SARANDë 17,233

4 SHKODëR 78,703 14 LAç 17,086

5 ELBASAN 77,075 15 KUKëS 16,719

6 FIER 55,845 16 PATOS 15,937

7 KORçë 51,152 17 LEZHë 15,510

8 BERAT 32,606 18 PESHKOPI 13,251

9 LUSHNJë 31,105 19 KUçOVë 12,654

10 POGRADEC 20,848 20 KRUJë 11,721

.

LANGUAGE

Main articles: Albanian language and Languages of Albania Map showing the various dialects of Albanian in Albania
Albania
and all surrounding countries.

Albanian is the official language of the Republic
Republic
of Albania. Its standard spoken and written form is revised and merged from the two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk , though it is notably based more on the Tosk dialect. The Shkumbin river is the rough dividing line between the two dialects. Also a dialect of Greek that preserves features now lost in standard modern Greek is spoken in areas inhabited by the Greek minority . Other languages spoken by ethnic minorities in Albania
Albania
include Aromanian , Serbian , Macedonian , Bosnian , Bulgarian , Gorani , and Roma . Macedonian is official in the Pustec Municipality in East Albania. One road sign in Albanian and a minority language (Macedonian) and one in Albanian and a foreign language for tourists (English) in Pustec (LEFT) Road sign in Albanian and a minority language (Greek) in Goranxi (RIGHT)

Greek is the second most-spoken language in the country, with two thirds of families having at least one member that speaks Greek. La Francophonie states 320,000 French speakers can be found in Albania. Other spoken languages include Italian, English, French, German, and Turkish.

According to the 2011 population census, 2,765,610 or 98.767% of the population declared Albanian as their mother tongue (_mother tongue is defined as the first or main language spoken at home during childhood_).

RELIGION

Main article: Religion in Albania The leaders of Albania's four main denominations in Paris
Paris
, France, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks from 2015 . From left to right: Sunni, Orthodox, Bektashi, and Catholic.

According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) Census of 2011, 58.79% of Albanians adhere to Islam
Islam
, making it the largest religion in the country; Christianity is practiced by 17.06% of the population, and 24.29% of the total population is either non-religious, belongs to other religious groups, or are 'undeclared'. Both the Albanian Orthodox church and the Bektashi Sufi order refused to recognize the 2011 census results regarding faith, with the Orthodox claiming that 24% of the total population are Albanian Orthodox Christians rather than just 6.75%. Before World War II, 70% of the population were Muslims, 20% Eastern Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholics. According to a 2010 survey, religion today plays an important role in the lives of only 39% of Albanians, and Albania
Albania
is ranked among the least religious countries in the world. A 2012 Pew Research Center study found that 65% of Albanian Muslims are non-denominational Muslims . According to 2008 statistics from the religious communities in Albania, there are 1119 churches and 638 mosques in the country. The Catholics declared 694 churches, the Orthodox 425 churches, the Muslim community 568 mosques and the Bektashi 70 tekkes.

Albania
Albania
is one of the most ancient countries of Christianity . There are thought to have been about seventy Christian families in the port town of Durrës as early as the time of the Apostles. The Archbishopric of Durrës was purportedly founded by the apostle Paul while preaching in Illyria
Illyria
and Epirus. The Albanians first appeared in the historical record in Byzantine
Byzantine
sources of the late 11th century. At this point, they were already fully Christianized. Islam came for the first time in the 9th century to the region which is known as Albania
Albania
today. It later emerged as the majority religion during the centuries of Ottoman rule, though a significant Christian minority remained. 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
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 1950s and 1960s, under the state policy of obliterating all organized religion from Albanian territories. _ Fan Noli was the founder of the Albanian Orthodox Church . (left_) Pope Clement XI was the Pope from 1700 to 1721. He was born to an Albanian father descended from the noble Albani family from the region of Malësi e Madhe in Albania. (_right_)

The Communist regime that took control of Albania
Albania
after World War II persecuted and suppressed religious observance and institutions and entirely banned religion to the point where Albania
Albania
was officially declared to be the world's first atheist state . Religious freedom has returned to Albania
Albania
since the regime's change in 1992. Albania
Albania
joined the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in 1992, following the fall of the communist government, but did not attend the 2014 conference due a dispute regarding the fact that its parliament never ratified the country's membership. Albanian Muslim populations (mainly secular and of the Sunni
Sunni
branch) are found throughout the country whereas Albanian Orthodox Christians as well as Bektashis are concentrated in the south and Roman Catholics are found in the north of the country.

The first recorded Albanian Protestant was Said Toptani, who traveled around Europe, and in 1853 returned to Tirana
Tirana
and preached Protestantism. He was arrested and imprisoned by the Ottoman authorities in 1864. Mainline evangelical Protestants date back to the work of Congregational and later Methodist missionaries and the work of the British and Foreign Bible Society in the 19th century. The Evangelical Alliance, which is known as VUSh, was founded in 1892. Today VUSh has about 160 member congregations from different Protestant denominations. VUSh organizes marches in Tirana
Tirana
including one against blood feuds in 2010. Bibles are provided by the Interconfessional Bible Society of Albania. The first full Albanian Bible to be printed was the Filipaj translation printed in 1990. Seventh-day Adventist Church , The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , and Jehovah\'s Witnesses also have a number of adherents in Albania.

Albania
Albania
was the only country in Europe
Europe
where Jewish
Jewish
population experienced growth during the Holocaust . After the mass emigration to Israel
Israel
since the fall of Communist regime, only 200 Albanian Jews are left in the country today.

EDUCATION

Main article: Education in Albania The University of Tirana
Tirana
is the largest and highest ranking university in the country.

Following the fall of communism in Albania
Albania
in 1991, a reorganization plan was announced that would extend the compulsory education program from eight to ten years. The following year, major economic and political crisis in Albania, and the ensuing breakdown of public order, plunged the school system into chaos. Widespread vandalism and extreme shortages of textbooks and supplies had a devastating effect on school operations, prompting Italy
Italy
and other countries to provide material assistance. In the late 1990, many schools were rebuilt or reconstructed, to improve learning conditions. Most of the improvements have happened in the larger cities of the country especially in Tirana
Tirana
, Durrës and Shkodër .

Nowadays, education is mostly supported by the state and is composed of three stages, primary education (arsimi fillorë), secondary education (arsimi i mesëm), and tertiary education (arsimi universitarë). The academic year is very similar to the one in the United States
United States
, with classes starting in September or October and ending in June or July. Albanian is the primary language of instruction in all public schools . The primary education is obligatory from grade one to nine. Students must pass the graduation exams at the end of the 9th grade in order to continue their education. After the primary school, the general education is provided at the secondary schools. Students get prepared for the Matura examination, allowing them to obtain their matura diploma, which grants admission to higher education . Although, Albania
Albania
follows the Bologna model in accordance with the 2007 Law on Higher Education. These institutions can be public or private, and may offer one, two or three levels of higher education depending on the institution.

The school life expectancy of Albania
Albania
is 16 years, ranking 25th in the world. Literacy rate in Albania
Albania
is 99.2% for males and 98.3% for females, having an overall of 98.7%.

HEALTH

Main article: Health in Albania Albanian cuisine is characterized by the use of vegetables and olive oil .

Albania
Albania
has a universal health care system run by the Ministry of Health . According to the World Health Organization , Albania
Albania
had the world's 55th best healthcare performance in 2000. The system has been in a steep decline since the collapse of communism in the country, but a process of modernization has been taking place since 2000. There were a total of 51 hospitals in 2000 in the country, including a military hospital and specialist facilities. The most common causes of death are circulatory diseases followed by cancerous illnesses. Demographic and Health Surveys completed a survey in April 2009, detailing various health statistics in Albania, including male circumcision , abortion and more. The leading causes of death are cardiovascular disease, trauma, cancer, and respiratory disease. Albania
Albania
has successfully eradicated diseases such as malaria .

Life expectancy is estimated at 77.8 years (75.1 for males and 80.7 for females), ranking thirty-seventh in the world and outperforming a number of European Union
European Union
countries, such as Slovenia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary
Hungary
and Slovakia. Albania's infant mortality rate, estimated at 12 per 1,000 live births in 2015. Compared to other European countries, Albania
Albania
has a relatively low rate of obesity, probably thanks to the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet .

POLITICS

Main article: Politics of Albania

GOVERNMENT

Main article: Government of Albania See also: Elections and Ministries of Albania Edi Rama Prime Minister since 2013. KRYEMINISTRIA (Council of Ministers) in Tirana
Tirana
, the official workplace of the Prime Minister of Albania.

Albania
Albania
is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic in which the President serves as the head of state and the Prime Minister as the head of government .

The President is the head of state , commander-in-chief of the military and the representative of the unity of the Albanian people. The President is elected to a five-year term by the Parliament by a majority of three-fifths of all its members. The President has the power to guarantee observation of the Constitution and all laws, exercise the duties of the Parliament , when the parliament is not in session, and appoint the Prime Minister. The executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister, serving as the head of government . Ministers are also nominated by the President on the basis of the Prime Minister's recommendation. The Parliament must give final approval of the composition of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister is responsible for carrying out both foreign and domestic policies, directs and controls the activities of the ministries and other state organs. The outer facade of the Parliament of Albania .

The Parliament of Albania is the unicameral representative body of the citizens of Albania
Albania
and is elected by people to a four-year term on the basis of direct, universal, periodic and equal suffrage by secret ballot . There are 140 deputies in the Parliament, which are elected through a party-list proportional representation system. The Chairperson has two deputies and chairs the Parliament. There are 15 permanent committees. The Parliament 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 , the Supreme Court , and the Attorney General and their deputies; and control the activity of state radio and television, state news agency and other official information media.

Albania
Albania
has a multi-party system . The last parliamentary election took place on 25 June 2017. This parliamentary election was the 9th since the first multi-party election in 1991. The result was a victory for the Socialist Party and its leader Edi Rama . The 140 members of Parliament were elected in twelve multi-member constituencies analogous to the country's twelve counties.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Main article: Foreign relations of Albania The Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz in Vienna
Vienna
, May 5, 2014.

Foreign relations are conducted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tirana
Tirana
. The current minister is Ditmir Bushati . Since the collapse of Communism in 1990, Albania
Albania
has extended its responsibilities and position in European and international affairs, supporting and establishing friendly relations with other nations around the world.

The main objectives of the Albanian foreign policy are; the Accession of Albania
Albania
to the European Union
European Union
, the International recognition of Kosovo
Kosovo
, the recognition of Expulsion of Cham Albanians , helping and protecting of the rights the Albanians in Montenegro
Montenegro
, Macedonia , Greece
Greece
, southern Serbia
Serbia
, Italy
Italy
and the Albanian diaspora . Albania has a network of 40 foreign embassies and 46 diplomatic missions abroad. Albania
Albania
was among the first eastern European countries to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) . Major Albanian politicians considered admission to NATO
NATO
as a top priority for the country. Since 1992, it has been extensively engaged with NATO, and has maintained its position as a stability factor and a strong ally of the United States
United States
and European Union
European Union
in the troubled and divided region of the Balkans. At the April 2008 summit in Bucharest
Bucharest
, NATO agreed to the accession of Albania
Albania
and Croatia. One year later in April 2009, both countries joined the alliance.

Albania
Albania
is a member of numerous international organizations, including the United Nations
United Nations
, Council of Europe
Europe
, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), International Organization for Migration , World Health Organization (WHO), Union for the Mediterranean
Union for the Mediterranean
, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation , Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Europe
, International Monetary Fund , World Trade Organization and La Francophonie .

LAW

Main articles: Constitution of Albania , Law of Albania , and Law enforcement in Albania
Albania

The current Constitution of Albania _(Kushtetuta e Shqipërisë)_ is the supreme law of the country and was ratified by a popular referendum in 1998. The nation was constituted in 1913 as a monarchy , briefly a republic in 1920, then into a democratic monarchy in 1928. Succeeding, it became a socialist republic , until the restoration of capitalism and democracy, after the collapse of communism in Albania
Albania
.

Albania\'s judicial system is a civil law system divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and administrative courts. Albanian law is codified and based on the French law . Major institutions of the branch include the Supreme Court (_Gjykata e Lartë_), the Constitutional Court (_Gjykata Kushtetuese_), the Court of Appeal (_Gjykatat e Apelit_), and the Administrative Court (_Gjykata Administrative_), which are all located in the capital city of Tirana
Tirana
. Law enforcement in the nation is primarily the responsibility of the Albanian Police _(Policia e Shtetit)_. It is the main and largest state law enforcement agency in the country. It carries nearly all general police duties thath includes criminal investigation, patrol activity, traffic policing and border control.

In 2014, the Ministry of Internal Affairs started a modernization process of the Albanian police , to modernize it's equipment and methods. The first step was the acquisition of new police vans and cruisers, the next one was the installment of body cameras on police officers to improve their service and to be analysed after an operation. Uniforms of the every uniformed department of the police were overhauled and the logo was changed also. The agency are organised under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs which consist primarily of the national police force. RENEA
RENEA
is the main counter-terrorist and critical incident response unit. The responsibilities of the unit are rescue operations, hostage situations, counter-terrorism and response to particularly violent forms of crime.

MILITARY

Main article: Armed Forces of Albania Soldiers of the Albanian Army (Forca Tokësore) in Afghanistan.

The Military were first formed after the Albanian declaration of independence in 1912. The Albanian Armed Forces (_Forcat e Armatosura të Shqipërisë_) are the military and paramilitary forces of Albania, under the President of Albania as supreme commander. In times of peace, the President's powers as a commander are executed through the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister . The current Defence Minister is Mimi Kodheli , being the first woman to be appointed to the post.

The armed forces consist the General staff (_Shtabi i Përgjithshëm_), the Land Force (_Forca Tokësore_), the Air Force (_Forca Ajrore_) and the Naval Force (_Forca Detare_). The Chief of the General Staff is appointed by the President . Albania
Albania
have nocompulsory military service . Compulsory conscription was abolished in January 2010. The military service is voluntary, with the age of 19 years old being the legal minimum age for it.

Albania
Albania
reduced the number of active troops from 65,000 in 1988 to 14,500 in 2009. The military now consists mainly of a small fleet of aircraft and sea vessels. In the 1990s, the country scrapped enormous amounts of obsolete hardware from China, such as tanks and SAM systems . Increasing the military budget was one of the most important conditions for NATO
NATO
integration. Military spending has generally been lower than 1.5% since 1996, only to peak in 2009 at 2% and fall again to 1.5%. Since February 2008, Albania
Albania
has participated officially in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea . It was invited to join NATO
NATO
on 3 April 2008, and it became a full member on 2 April 2009.

According to 2016 Global Peace Index
Global Peace Index
, the nation ranked 54th out of 163 countries in the world.

ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISIONS

Main article: Administrative divisions of Albania

Albania
Albania
is divided into 12 administrative counties (_Qark or Prefekturë_). Since June 2015, these counties are divided into 61 municipalities (_Bashkia_). These counties were further divided in 36 districts (_Rrethe_), that became defunct in 2000. The government introduced a new administrative division to be implemented in 2015, whereby municipalities are reduced to 61 in total, while rural ones called _Komuna_ are abolished. The defunct municipalities will be known as Neighborhoods or Villages (_Lagje or Fshat_). There are overall 2980 villages (_or communities_) in all Albania, formerly known as localities (_lokalitete_). The municipalities are the first level of local governance, responsible for local needs and law enforcement. As part of the reform, major town centers in Albania
Albania
are being physically redesigned and façades painted to reflect a more Mediterranean
Mediterranean
look.

_ Shkodër Kukës Lezhë Dibër Durrës Tirana
Tirana
Elbasan Fier Berat
Berat
Gjirokastër Vlorë Korçë Kosovo_ _Macedonia_ _Greece_ _Montenegro_ _ Adriatic
Adriatic
Sea_ _Ionian Sea_

COUNTY ALBANIAN NAME SEAT POPULATION AREA

Berat
Berat
County _Qarku i Beratit_ Berat
Berat
139,815 1,798 km2

Dibër County _Qarku i Dibrës_ Peshkopi 134,153 2,586 km2

Durrës County _Qarku i Durrësit_ Durrës 278,775 766 km2

Elbasan County _Qarku i Elbasanit_ Elbasan 298,913 3,199 km2

Fier County _Qarku i Fierit_ Fier 312,448 1,890 km2

Gjirokastër County _Qarku i Gjirokastrës_ Gjirokastër 70,331 2,884 km2

Korçë County _Qarku i Korçës_ Korçë 221,706 3,711 km2

Kukës County _Qarku i Kukësit_ Kukës 84,035 2,374 km2

Lezhë County _Qarku i Lezhës_ Lezhë 135,613 1,620 km2

Shkodër County _Qarku i Shkodrës_ Shkodër 215,483 3,562 km2

Tirana
Tirana
County _Qarku i Tiranës_ TIRANA 811,649 1,652 km2

Vlorë County _Qarku i Vlorës_ Vlorë 183,105 2,706 km2

ECONOMY

See also: Economy of Albania Tirana
Tirana
is the economic hub of the country. It is home to major domestic and foreign companies operating in the country.

Albania's transition from a socialist centrally planned economy to a capitalist mixed economy has been largely successful. "Formal non-agricultural employment in the private sector more than doubled between 1999 and 2013," notes the World Bank
World Bank
, with much of this expansion powered by foreign investment. With 14.7% (2016) Albania has the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the Balkans . Albania's largest trading partners are Italy, Greece, China, Spain, Kosovo
Kosovo
and the United States.

In 2012, Albania's GDP per capita
GDP per capita
(expressed in purchasing power parity ) stood at 30% of the EU average, while AIC (Actual Individual Consumption) was 35%. Albania, Cyprus, and Poland
Poland
were the only countries in Europe
Europe
to record an economic growth in the first quarter of 2010. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted 2.6% growth for Albania
Albania
in 2010 and 3.2% in 2011.

Tirana
Tirana
and Durrës build both the financial and business heart of the country. However, Tirana
Tirana
is the major centre for trade, real estate, banking and finance, retailing, transportation, new media as well as traditional media, advertising, legal services, accountancy, insurance, and fashion. Many roads and railways pass through Tirana and Durrës connecting the northern part of the country to the south and the west with the east. Well-known companies include the petroleum Taçi Oil , Albpetrol , ARMO and Kastrati, the mineral AlbChrome , cement Antea , the investment BALFIN Group (among the largest in southeastern Europe) and the technology Albtelecom , Vodafone , Telekom Albania and more other companies. According to the Forbes
Forbes
as of December 2016, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was growing at 2.8%. The country had a trade balance of −9.7% and unemployment rate of 14.7%. The Foreign direct investment has increased significantly in recent years as the government has embarked on an ambitious program to improve the business climate through fiscal and legislative reforms. The Government is focused on the simplification of licensing requirements and tax codes, and it entered into a new arrangement with the International Monetary Fund for additional financial and technical support.

The Economy is expected to expand in the near term, driven by a recovery in consumption and robust investments. Growth is projected to be 3.2% in 2016, 3.5% in 2017, and 3.8% in 2018. The medium-term outlook depends on the pace and depth of the structural reforms and on additional fiscal consolidation measures to reduce debt, sustained reforms in the energy and financial sectors, improvements in the management of public investments, and the recently approved reform of the judiciary, which has implications for the investment climate and credit growth."

PRIMARY SECTOR

Main article: Agriculture in Albania Due to the Mediterranean climate , wine , olives and citrus fruits are mostly produced in southern Albania.

Agriculture in the country is based on small to medium-sized family-owned dispersed units. It remains a significant sector of the Economy of Albania. It employs 41% of the population, and about 24.31% of the land is used for agricultural purposes. One of the earliest farming sites in Europe
Europe
has been found in southeastern of the country. As part of the pre-accession process of Albania
Albania
to the European Union
European Union
, farmers are being aided through IPA 2011 funds to improve Albanian agriculture standards. Albania
Albania
produces significant amounts of tobacco , olives , wheat , maize , potatoes , vegetables , fruits , sugar beets , grapes , meat , honey , dairy products , and traditional medicine and aromatic plants , figs and sour cherries . Albania's proximity to the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
and the Adriatic Sea
Adriatic Sea
give the underdeveloped fishing industry great potential. The World Bank
World Bank
and European Community economists report that, Albania's fishing industry has good potential to generate export earnings because prices in the nearby Greek and Italian markets are many times higher than those in the Albanian market. The fish available off the coasts of Albania
Albania
are carp, trout, sea bream, mussels, and crustaceans.

Albania
Albania
has one of Europe's longest histories of viticulture . The today's region was one of the few places where vine was naturally grown during the ice age. The oldest found seeds in the region are 4,000 to 6,000 years old. In 2009, the nation produced an estimated 17,500 tonnes of wine During the communism, the production area expanded to some 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres).

SECONDARY SECTOR

See also: Category:Mines in Albania
Albania
The Antea factory in Fushë- Krujë .

The secondary sector of Albania
Albania
have undergone many changes and diversification, since the collapse of the communist regime in the country. It is very diversified, from electronics , manufacturing , textiles , to food , cement , mining , and energy . The Antea Cement plant in Fushë- Krujë is considered as one of the largest industrial greenfield investments in the country. Albanian oil and gas is represents of the most promising albeit strictly regulated sectors of its economy. Albania
Albania
has the second largest oil deposits in the Balkan peninsula after Romania
Romania
, and the largest oil reserves in Europe. The Albpetrol company is owned by the Albanian state and monitors the state petroleum agreements in the country. The textile industry has seen an extensive expansion by approaching companies from the European Union (EU) in Albania. According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) as of 2016 , the textile production marked an annual growth of 5,3% and an annual turnover of around 1,5 billion euros.

Albania
Albania
is a significant minerals producer and is ranked among the world's leading chromium producers and exporters. The nation is also a notable producer of copper , nickel and coal . The Batra mine , Bulqizë mine , and Thekna mine are among the most recognised Albanian mines that are still in operation.

TERTIARY SECTOR

Main article: Tourism in Albania Clockwise from left: Ksamil Islands are four small islands located in southern Albania
Albania
. Saranda
Saranda
on the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
. Gjiri i Skalomës in the Karaburun Peninsula . Koman Lake is one of the most popular ferry rides in southern Europe.

The service industry represents the fastest growing sector of the Albanian economy. A significant part of Albania's national income derives from tourism . In 2014, it directly accounted for 6% of GDP, though including indirect contributions pushes the proportion to just over 20%. Albania
Albania
welcomed around 4.2 million visitors in 2012, mostly from neighbouring countries and the European Union
European Union
. In 2011, Albania
Albania
was recommended as a top travel destination, by Lonely Planet . In 2014, Albania
Albania
was nominated number 4 global touristic destination by _ The New York Times _. The number of tourists has increased by 20% for 2014 as well. With a total of 3.8 million visitors, Albania
Albania
is the 25th (out of 47 countries) most visited country in Europe.

The bulk of the tourist industry is concentrated along the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
coast. The latter has the most beautiful and pristine beaches, and is often called the Albanian Riviera . The Albanian coastline has a considerable length of 360 kilometres (220 miles). The coast has a particular character because it is rich in varieties of sandy beaches, capes, coves, covered bays, lagoons, small gravel beaches, sea caves and others. Some parts of this seaside are very clean ecologically, which represent in this prospective unexplored areas, very rare in Mediterranean
Mediterranean
area. The Albanian Alps , part of the Prokletije or _Accursed Mountains_ range in Northern Albania
Albania
bearing the highest mountain peak. The southernmost glaciers in Europe
Europe
were recently discovered in the Albanian part of the range. The most beautiful mountainous regions that can be easily visited by tourists are Dajti Mountain , Thethi , Tropojë , Voskopoja , Valbona , Kelmend
Kelmend
, Prespa , Lake Koman , Dukat and Shkrel .

The increase in foreign visitors has been dramatic. Albania
Albania
had only 500,000 visitors in 2005, while in 2012 had an estimated 4.2 million – an increase of 740% in only 7 years. Tourism in the summer of 2015 increased by 25 percent in contrast the previous year, accouring to the country's tourism agency. A _USAid agency_ report indicated that the direct contribution of tourism is becoming a significant part of the country's Gross Domestic Product, a full 4.8 percent of it in 2013. The total contribution to the GDP was about 17 percent _including wider effects from investment and the supply chain_. This is expected to increase in the future.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Main article: Science and technology in Albania

Until 1990, after the fall of Communism in Albania , the country was one of the world's most isolated and controlled countries, and installation and maintenance of a modern system of international and domestic telecommunications was precluded. Callers previously needed operator assistance even to make domestic long-distance calls. Internet in Albania
Albania
is fast and inexpensive in comparison to the rest of Europe. For example, an ISP known as ABcom, offers a 30mbit download package for 306.999 lekë ($2.39579 USD) per month. In the mobile network industry, providers such as Vodafone , Telekom , Albanian Mobile Communications and Eagle Mobile provide both 3G and 4G data plans. From 1993 human resources in sciences and technology have drastically decreased. Various surveys show that during 1991–2005, approximately 50% of the professors and research scientists of the universities and science institutions in the country have emigrated.

However, in 2009 the government approved the "National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation in Albania" covering the period 2009–15. It aims to triple public spending on research and development (R&D) to 0.6% of GDP and augment the share of gross domestic expenditure on R">

ENERGY

Main article: Renewable energy in Albania The Fierza Reservoir was formed as a result of the construction of the Fierza Hydroelectric Power Station in 1978.

Energy in Albania
Albania
is dependent on Hydroelectricity . Albania
Albania
is the largest producer of Hydroelectricity in the World, with a percentage of 100%. It is host to five Hydroelectric power stations and a plant. Almost four Hydroelectric power stations: Fierza , Koman , Skavica and Vau i Dejës are situated on the Drin river, the longest in the country with a total length of 335 km (208 mi). Its location, plays a significant role for the production of electricity in Albania.

Albania
Albania
and Croatia
Croatia
have discussed the possibility of jointly building a nuclear power plant at Lake Shkoder
Shkoder
, close to the border with Montenegro, a plan that has gathered criticism from Montenegro due to seismicity in the area. In February 2009 Italian company Enel announced plans to build an 800 MW coal-fired power plant in Albania, to diversify electricity sources.

The Albanian _Devoll Hydropower_ company, owned and operated by Norwegian _ Statkraft _, is currently building two hydroelectricity plants on the Devoll river near Banjë and Moglicë . The Moglicë Hydro Power Plant is anticipated to be the world's highest of its kind upon completion. The _Devoll Hydropower Project_ is one of the largest hydropower investments in the Balkan peninsula . The two plants are expected to be completed in 2016 and 2018. After its completion, it will produce 729 GWh annually, increasing the electricity production in Albania
Albania
by almost 17%.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Main article: Transport in Albania _ Tirana
Tirana
International Airport is the 10th busiest airport in the Balkans, handling over 2 million passengers per year. The A1 motorway in Northern Albania
Albania
near Kalimash to Kosovo
Kosovo
. The National Road 3 (SH3)_ from Lin to Pogradec along the Ohrid Lake . _ Scenic National Road 8 (SH8)_ at Llogara Pass along the Albanian Riviera .

Following the collapse of the communist regime in Albania, the transportation has undergone significant changes in the past two decades, vastly modernizing the country's infrastructure. Improvements to the road infrastructure, urban transport, and air travel have all led to a vast improvement in transportation.

Currently there are three main motorways in Albania: the A1 , A2 , and A3 . The A1 motorway connects the port city of Durrës on the Adriatic Sea
Adriatic Sea
, to Pristina , the capital of Kosovo
Kosovo
. Prospectively, the motorway will link with Pan-European Corridor X near Niš in Serbia. The project was the largest and most expensive infrastructure road project ever undertaken in the country. Two additional highways are currently under construction. The A3 motorway is going to connect the capital city Tirana
Tirana
with Pan-European Corridor VIII , linking Albania
Albania
with Macedonia and Bulgaria
Bulgaria
to the east. The North-South motorway consists of SH1 and SH2 and makes up the Albanian portion of the Adriatic–Ionian motorway , a larger regional highway connecting Croatia
Croatia
with Greece
Greece
along the Adriatic
Adriatic
and Ionian coasts. When all three corridors are completed, Albania
Albania
will have an estimated 759 kilometers of highway linking it with all of its neighboring countries.

The busiest and largest seaport in Albania
Albania
is the Port of Durrës . As of 2014 , the port ranks as one of the largest passenger ports on the Adriatic Sea
Adriatic Sea
, with annual passenger volume of approximately 1.5 million. Other seaports include Vlorë , Sarandë , and Shëngjin . The ports serve an extensive system of ferries connecting numerous islands and coastal cities in addition to ferry lines to several cities in Croatia, Greece, and Italy. The highly advantageous geographical location of Durrës makes its port the busiest in Albania and among the largest in the Adriatic
Adriatic
and Ionian Seas .

The only international airport in the country is the Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza . It is the only port of entry for air travelers to the country. The airport offers international connections to many European cities . In 2016, the Government of Albania
Albania
reached an agreement with Tirana
Tirana
International Airport to end its monopoly on flights, paving the way for the opening of an airport at Kukës in the north.

The railways in Albania
Albania
are administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare . The railway system was extensively promoted by the totalitarian communist regime of dictator Enver Hoxha , during which time the use of private transport was effectively prohibited. Since the collapse of the communist regime, there has been a considerable increase in car ownership and bus usage. A new railway line from the capital Tirana
Tirana
via Tirana
Tirana
International Airport to the port city Durrës is currently planned. The location of this railway, connecting the most populated urban areas in Albania, makes it an important economic development project. The opening will take place in 2019.

MEDIA

Main article: Telecommunications in Albania See also: Television in Albania
Albania

Radio in Albania
Albania
began officially in 1938 with the founding of RTSH _( Albania
Albania
Radio and Television - Radio Televizioni Shqiptar)_, and television broadcasting began in 1960. Almost 4 regional radio stations serve in the four extremities of Albania. The 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 . The international television service via satellite was launched since 1993 and aims at Albanian communities in Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro
Montenegro
and northern Greece, plus the Albanian diaspora in the rest of Europe. According to the Albanian Media Authority, Albania
Albania
has an estimated 257 media outlets, including 66 radio stations and 67 television stations, with three national, 62 local and more than 50 cable TV stations. In Llast years, Albania
Albania
has organized several shows as a part of worldwide series like _Dancing with the Stars _, _Big Brother _, _Got Talent _, _The Voice _, and _X Factor _.

Albania
Albania
ranked 34th in the 2003 Press Freedom Index report compiled by the Reporters Without Borders . In 2016, it ranked 82nd. In 2016, there were 1.82 million Internet users in the country in percentage 63% of the population.

CULTURE

Main article: Culture of Albania

ARCHITECTURE

Main article: Architecture of Albania Ancient architecture in Butrint
Butrint
. (5th century BC)

Due to its long history, Albania
Albania
is home to many valuable cultural and historical landmarks. From antiquity to the modern period, major cities in the country have evolved from within the castle to include dwellings, religious, and commercial structures, with constant redesigning of town squares and evolution of building techniques.

The country hosts three UNESCO
UNESCO
World Heritage Sites such as the ancient city of Butrint
Butrint
south of Sarandë , the medieval Historic Centres of Berat
Berat
and Gjirokastër , and Gashi River and Rrajca, part of the Shebenik Jabllanice National Park under the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe. However, the Roman Amphitheatre of Durrës , the Royal Illyrian Tombs of Selca e Poshtme , the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region and the ancient city of Apollonia are on the tentative list.

Many ancient architectural treasures from the Illyrians such as Byllis , Amantia , Phoenice and Shkodër can be found in Albania. Due to the long period of rule of the Byzantine
Byzantine
Empire, Albania
Albania
is home to many Byzantine
Byzantine
churches, castles, and monasteries. Albania
Albania
also has many surviving monuments from the five centuries of Ottoman rule. In the 19th century, Albanian medieval towns underwent urban transformations by Austro-Hungarian and Italian architects, giving them the appearance of European cities. During the Communism, many socialist-styled complexes, wide roads, and factories were constructed, while town squares were redesigned and a number of historic buildings demolished.

MUSIC

Main article: Music of Albania _ The Albanian dancer_ by Alexandre Decamps . (1835)

The Albanian folk music falls into two major groups, the northern Ghegs and southern Labs and Tosks . The northern and southern traditions are contrasted by the rugged and heroic tone of the north and the relaxed form of the south. The Ghegs are known for a distinctive variety of sung epic poetry. Many of the songs are about the ancient history of the Albanians but also the Albanian medieval hero Skanderbeg , who led the struggle against the Turks, and the constant Albanian themes of honour, hospitality, treachery and revenge. Tosk music is soft and gentle, and polyphonic in nature. South Albania
Albania
is also known for funeral laments with a chorus and one to two soloists with overlapping, mournful voices. Its instrumental music includes the sedate kaba, an ensemble-driven by a clarinet or violin alongside accordions and lahutës. The kaba is an improvised and melancholic style with melodies that Kim Burton describes as "both fresh and ancient", "ornamented with swoops, glides and growls of an almost vocal quality", exemplifying the "combination of passion with restraint that is the hallmark of Albanian culture."

These disparate styles are unified by the intensity that both performers and listeners give to their music as a medium for patriotic expression and as a vehicle carrying the narrative of oral history , as well as certain characteristics like the use of rhythms such as 3/8, 5/8 and 10/8. The first compilation of Albanian folk music was made by two Himariot song artists Neço Muka and Koço Çakali in 1929 and 1931 in Paris
Paris
during their interpretations with the Albanian song diva Tefta Tashko Koço. Several gramophone compilations were recorded in those years by this genial trio of Albanian artists which eventually led to the recognition of the Himariot Isopolyphonic Music as an UNESCO
UNESCO
World Heritage .

The contemporary music artists Ermonela Jaho , Inva Mula , Bebe Rexha and Era Istrefi , have achieved international recognition for their music. Sporano Ermonela Jaho has been described by The Economist as "the world’s most acclaimed soprano". One widely recognised musician from Elbasan is Saimir Pirgu , an Albanian international opera singer. He was nominated for the 2017 Grammy Award
Grammy Award
in the category of _Best Opera Recording_.

ARTS

Main article: Albanian art _ Motra Tone painted by Kolë Idromeno in 1883. (LEFT) The Resurrection of Lazarus_ Byzantine
Byzantine
icon painted by Onufri
Onufri
in the 16th century. Museum of Mediaeval Art in Korçë . (RIGHT)

Albania's visual arts tradition has been shaped by the many cultures that have flourished on its territory. The Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
ruled over Albania
Albania
for nearly five centuries, which greatly affected the country's artwork and artistic forms. After Albania's joining with the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
in 1478, Ottoman influenced art forms such as mosaics and mural paintings became prevalent, and no real artistic change occurred until Albanian Liberation in 1912 .

Following mosaics and murals from antiquity and the Middle Ages, the first paintings were icons Byzantine
Byzantine
Orthodox tradition. Albanian earliest icons date from the late thirteenth century and generally estimated that their artistic peak reached in the eighteenth century. Among the most prominent representatives of the Albanian iconographic art were Onufri
Onufri
and David Selenica . The museums of Berat
Berat
, Korçë and Tirana
Tirana
houses good collections remaining icons. By the end of the Ottoman period, the painting was limited mostly to folk art and ornate mosques. Paintings and sculpture arose in the first half of the twentieth century and reached a modest peak in the 1930s and 1940s, when the first organized art exhibitions at national level. Contemporary Albanian artwork captures the struggle of everyday Albanians, however new artists are utilizing different artistic styles to convey this message. Albanian artists continue to move art forward, while their art still remains distinctively Albanian in content. Though among Albanian artist post-modernism was fairly recently introduced, there is a number of artists and works known internationally. Among most famous Albanian post-modernist are considered Anri Sala , Sislej Xhafa , and Helidon Gjergji .

LITERATURE

Main articles: Albanian language , Albanian literature , and List of Albanian writers _ A excerpt from the Meshari (The Missal)_ written by Gjon Buzuku . (1555)

The Albanian language comprises its own branch of the Indo-European language family. The language is considered an isolate within the Indo-European . The only other languages that are the sole surviving member of a branch of Indo-European are Armenian and Greek. It was proved to be an Indo-European language in 1854 by the German philologist Franz Bopp
Franz Bopp
.

Albanian is often held to be related to the Illyrian languages , a language spoken in the Balkans during classical times . Scholars argue that Albanian derives from Illyrian while some others claim that it derives from Daco -Thracian . (Illyrian and Daco-Thracian, however, might have been closely related languages; see Thraco-Illyrian .)

The cultural renaissance was first of all expressed through the development of the Albanian language in the area of church texts and publications, mainly of the Catholic region in the northern of Albania, 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 Martin Luther
Martin Luther
did for the German language .

Meshari (_The Missal_) written by Gjon Buzuku was published in 1555 and is considered as one of the first literary work of written Albanian during the Middle Ages. The refined level of the language and the stabilised orthography must be the result of an earlier tradition of written Albanian, a tradition that is not well understood. However, there is some fragmented evidence, pre-dating Buzuku, which indicates that Albanian was written from at least the 14th century. The earliest evidence dates from 1332 AD with a Latin report from the French Dominican Guillelmus Adae, Archbishop
Archbishop
of Antivari , who wrote that Albanians used Latin letters in their books although their language was quite different from Latin. Other significant examples include: a baptism formula (_Unte paghesont premenit Atit et Birit et spertit senit_) from 1462, written in Albanian within a Latin text by the Bishop of Durrës , Pal Engjëlli ; a glossary of Albanian words of 1497 by Arnold von Harff, a German who had travelled through Albania, and a 15th-century fragment of the Bible from the Gospel of Matthew , also in Albanian, but written in Greek letters. Naum Veqilharxhi lawyer and scholar (1797–1854) Parashqevi Qiriazi teacher and feminist (1880–1970)

Albanian writings from 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 Siege of Shkodër (_Rrethimi i Shkodrës_) from 1504, confirms that he leafed through such chronicles written in the language of the people (_in vernacula lingua_) as well as his famous biography of Skanderbeg Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi Epirotarum principis (_History of Skanderbeg_) from 1508. The _History of Skanderbeg_ is still the foundation of Skanderbeg studies and is considered an Albanian cultural treasure, vital to the formation of Albanian national self-consciousness.

During the 16th and the 17th centuries, the catechism (_E mbësuame krishterë_) (Christian Teachings) from 1592 written by Lekë Matrënga , (_Doktrina e krishterë_) (The Christian Doctrine) from 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
Middle Ages
, were published in Albanian . The most famous Albanian writer in the 20th and 21th century is probably Ismail Kadare . He has been mentioned as a possible recipient of the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
in Literature several times.

MYTHOLOGY

Main article: Albanian mythology

Albanian mythology consist of myths, legends, folks, fairy tales and gods of the Albanian people . Many characters in its mythology are included in the Songs of the Frontier Warriors (Albanian : Këngë Kreshnikësh or Cikli i Kreshnikëve). The Albanian mythology is divided into two major groups such as legends of metamorphosis and historical legends. The Albanian mythology has its origin to the ancient Illyrians , that inhabited the modern area of Albania
Albania
during the classical time . Some of the legends, songs and characters include Bardha , Baloz , E Bukura e Dheut , E Bukura e Qiellit , En , Perëndi , Prende , Tomor and Zana e malit .

Albanian folk tales, were first recorded in the middle of the 19th century by scholars including Johann Georg von Hahn , Karl H. Reinhold, Giuseppe Pitrè and other scholars among them well-known Indo-European linguists such as Auguste Dozon , Jan Jarnik, Gustav Meyer , Holger Pedersen , Gustav Weigand and August Leskien . Albanians wearing the Fustanella (1875). (LEFT) "Albanian Peasants costumes" illustration by Percy Anderson from 1906. (RIGHT)

CLOTHING

Main article: Traditional Clothing of Albania
Albania

Almost each cultural and geographical region has its own specific variety of costume that vary in style, material, color, shape, detail and form. Presently, the national costumes are most often worn with connection to special events and celebrations, mostly at ethnic festivals, religious holidays, weddings, and by dancing groups. Some conservative old men and women mainly from the high Northern as well as Southern Lands and wear traditional clothing in their daily lives. The clothing was made mainly of products from the local agriculture and livestock such as leather, wool, linen, hemp fiber and silk. Today, the Albanian traditional textiles are still embroidered in very claborate ancient patterns. Among the most important parts of clothing includes the Qeleshe (_Plis)_, the Albanian hat , the Qylafë, the Fustanella , the Xhubleta , the Xhamadan , the Brez , the Çorape , the Opinga and others.

CUISINE

Main article: Albanian cuisine Further information: Albanian wine Tavë me oriz a traditional meal served in an oven-baked clay bowl. (LEFT) Cannoli is very popular in Arbëreshë Regions . (RIGHT)

The Cuisine of Albania
Albania
– as with most Mediterranean
Mediterranean
and Balkan nations – is strongly influenced by its long history. At different times, the territory which is now Albania
Albania
has been claimed or occupied by Ancient Greece
Greece
, Romans , Byzantine
Byzantine
and the Ottoman Turks and each group has left its mark on Albanian cuisine.

The main meal of Albanians is the midday meal, which is usually accompanied by a salad of fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers , green peppers and olives with olive oil , vinegar and salt. It also includes a main dish of vegetables and meat. Though it is used in several dishes, pumpkins are more commonly displayed and traditionally given as gifts throughout Albania, especially in the region of Berat. Seafood specialties are also common in the coastal cities of Durrës , Sarandë and Vlorë . In high elevation localities, smoked meat and pickled preserves are common.

CINEMA

Main article: Cinema of Albania _ Albanian-American actress Eliza Dushku produced the documentary Dear Albania _ with a crew from Travel Channel and Lonely Planet , promoting tourism in Albania.

The history of Cinema in Albania
Albania
dates back to 1911 and 1912 with the first showings of foreign films and few documentaries in the pre-war and inter-war period. The first public showing to occur in Albania was a little-known title, _Paddy the Reliable_, a comical story. The publication of foreign films began in the cities of Shkodër and Korçë .

The first Albanian films were mostly documentaries ; the first was about the Monastir Congress that sanctioned the Albanian alphabet in 1908. During communism, the Albanian Film Institute that later became known as Kinostudio Shqipëria e Re was founded with Soviet assistance, focusing mostly on propaganda of wartime struggles.

After 1945, the communist government founded the Kinostudio Shqipëria e Re in 1952. This was followed by the first Albanian epic film , _Skënderbeu _, a cooperation with Soviet artists chronicling the life and fight of the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg . The film was awarded from the Cannes Film Festival .

Notable Albanian film directors include Andamion Murataj , Besim Sahatçiu , Xhanfize Keko , Dhimitër Anagnosti , Kujtim Çashku , Luljeta Hoxha , Saim Kokona , Saimir Kumbaro , Kristaq Mitro , Leon Qafzezi and Gjergj Xhuvani . Famous actors in Albania
Albania
include Nik Xhelilaj , Klement Tinaj , Masiela Lusha , Blerim Destani , Aleksandër Moisiu , Tinka Kurti , Pjetër Malota , Sandër Prosi and Margarita Xhepa .

By 1990, about 200 movies had been produced, and Albania
Albania
had over 450 theaters. With the economic transition after the collapse of communism in the 1990s, the Kinostudio was broken up and privatised. A new National Center of Cinematography was established, while cities built modern cinema theatres showing mostly American movies.

The Tirana
Tirana
International Film Festival was established in 2003 and has become the premier and largest film festival in the country as well as in the Balkans. Durrës hosts the International Film Summerfest of Durrës , the second largest international film festival in the country which takes place every year in late August or early September in Durrës Amphitheatre .

There are internationally renowned actors in the Albanian diaspora, such as the Albanian-Americans Eliza Dushku , Jim and John Belushi , Kosovo- Albanians Bekim Fehmiu
Bekim Fehmiu
and Arta Dobroshi and Turkish-Albanian Barish Arduç .

SPORTS

See also: Albania at the Olympics and Albania
Albania
at the Mediterranean Games Lorik Cana is Albania's most capped player of all time. He captained the French Olympique de Marseille
Olympique de Marseille
, as well as the Albanian national team . (LEFT) Lorenzo Boriçi captained Albania
Albania
in winning the 1946 Balkan
Balkan
Cup . (RIGHT)

Albania
Albania
participated at the Olympic Games in 1972 for the first time. The country made their Winter Olympic Games debut in 2006 . Albania missed the next four games, two of them due to the 1980 and 1984 boycotts, but returned for the 1992 games in Barcelona . Since then, Albania
Albania
have participated in all games. Albania
Albania
normally competes in events that include swimming, athletics, weightlifting, shooting and wrestling. The country have been represented by the National Olympic Committee of Albania
Albania
since 1972. The nation has participated at the Mediterranean
Mediterranean
Games since the games of 1987 in Syria. The Albanian athletes have won a total of 43 (8 gold, 17 silver and 18 bronze) medals from 1987 to 2013 .

Popular sports in Albania
Albania
include Football , Weightlifting, Basketball , Volleyball, Tennis, Swimming, Rugby , and Gymnastics. Football is by far the most popular sport in Albania. It is governed by the Football Association of Albania (Albanian : _Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit_, F.SH.F.), which was created in 1930 and has membership in FIFA
FIFA
and UEFA
UEFA
. Football arrived in Albania
Albania
early in the 20th century when the inhabitants of the northern city of Shkodër were surprised to see a strange game being played by students at a Christian mission.

The Albania national football team , ranking 51th in the World in 2017 (highest 22nd in August 22, 2015) have won the 1946 Balkan
Balkan
Cup and the Malta
Malta
Rothmans International Tournament 2000 , but had never participated in any major UEFA
UEFA
or FIFA
FIFA
tournament, until UEFA
UEFA
Euro 2016 , Albania's first ever appearance at the continental tournament and at a major men's football tournament. Albania
Albania
scored their first ever goal in a major tournament and secured their first ever win in European Championship when they beat Romania
Romania
by 1–0 in a UEFA
UEFA
Euro 2016 match on 19 June 2016. The most successful football clubs in the country are Skënderbeu , KF Tirana
Tirana
, Dinamo Tirana
Tirana
, Partizani and Vllaznia .

Weightlifting is one of the most successful individual sport for the Albanians, with the national team winning medals at the European Weightlifting Championships and the rest international competitions. Albanian weightlifters have won a total of 16 medals at the European Championships with 1 of them being gold, 7 silver and 8 bronze. In the World Weightlifting Championships , the Albanian weightlifting team has won in 1972 a gold in 2002 a silver and in 2011 a bronze medal.

DIASPORA

Main article: Albanian diaspora

Since antiquity, Albanians have established communities in many regions throughout southern Europe
Europe
. The modern Albanian diaspora was formed largely in the 15th century
15th century
, when many Albanians emigrated to southern Italy
Italy
, especially in Sicily
Sicily
and Calabria
Calabria
also to Greece
Greece
, to escape either various socio-political difficulties and the Ottoman conquest. Other destinations includes Turkey, United States, Argentina and Chile. After the fall of communism in 1991, many Albanians have migrated out of Albania
Albania
to Australia , Canada
Canada
, France
France
, Germany
Germany
, Italy
Italy
, Scandinavia , Switzerland
Switzerland
and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
.

Notable people of Albanian origin includes Mother Teresa , Ferid Murad , Rita Ora , Bebe Rexha , Dua Lipa , Tony Dovolani , Fadil Berisha , Shkodran Mustafi , Granit Xhaka , Xherdan Shaqiri , Mateo Musacchio , Ernesto Sabato , Cecilia Bolocco and many others. (See also: List of Albanians )

INTERNATIONAL RANKINGS

Main article: International rankings of Albania

The following are international rankings of Albania, including those measuring life quality, health care quality, stability, press freedom, and income.

INDEX RANK COUNTRIES REVIEWED

Literacy Rate 2011 6 183

Ease of Protecting Minority Investors 2015 8 128

Trade Freedom Index 2016 10 179

ILGA- Europe
Europe
LGBT rights 2015 19 50

Fiscal Freedom Index 2016 35 179

Life Expectancy 2015 37 190

Monetary Freedom Index 2016 49 181

Social Progress Index 2017 52 150

Global Peace Index
Global Peace Index
2015 52 163

Fragile States Index 2016 54 178

Inequality adjusted Human Development Index
Human Development Index
2015 55 151

Ease of doing Business Index 2017 58 190

SEE ALSO

* Outline of Albania * Index of Albania-related articles * Bibliography of Albania * _ Albania
Albania
_ – book

* Albania
Albania
portal * Tirana
Tirana
portal * Mediterranean
Mediterranean
portal * Europe
Europe
portal * NATO
NATO
portal

NOTES

* ^ _A_ _B_ Kosovo
Kosovo
is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic
Republic
of Kosovo
Kosovo
and the Republic
Republic
of Serbia
Serbia
. The Republic
Republic
of Kosovo
Kosovo
unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia
Serbia
continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory . The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels
Brussels
Agreement . Kosovo
Kosovo
has received formal recognition as an independent state from 111 out of 193 United Nations
United Nations
member states .

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Albania
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Albania
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Albania
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Republic
of Northern Epirus, with Zographos as president. He notifies the International Commission that his government has been established because the Great Powers have not provided the Greeks
Greeks
in southern Albania
Albania
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Albania
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Albania
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Albania
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Albania
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