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The Italian invasion of Albania
Albania
(April 7–12, 1939) was a brief military campaign by the Kingdom of Italy
Italy
against the Albanian Kingdom. The conflict was a result of the imperialist policies of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Albania
Albania
was rapidly overrun, its ruler, King Zog I, forced into exile, and the country made part of the Italian Empire
Italian Empire
as a separate kingdom in personal union with the Italian crown.

Contents

1 Background 2 Invasion 3 Aftermath 4 Cultural references 5 See also 6 Footnotes 7 References 8 External links

Background[edit] Albania
Albania
had long been of considerable strategic importance to the Kingdom of Italy. Italian naval strategists coveted the port of Vlorë and the island of Sazan at the entrance to the Bay of Vlorë, as they would give Italy
Italy
control of the entrance to the Adriatic Sea.[3] In addition, Albania
Albania
could provide Italy
Italy
with a beachhead in the Balkans. In the late Ottoman period, with a de-emphasis of Islam, the Albanian nationalist movement gained the strong support of two Adriatic sea powers Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
and Italy
Italy
who were concerned about pan-Slavism in the wider Balkans and Anglo-French hegemony purportedly represented through Greece in the area.[4] Before World War I
World War I
Italy
Italy
and Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
had been supportive to the creation of an independent Albanian state.[5] At the outbreak of the war, Italy
Italy
had seized the chance to occupy the southern half of Albania, to avoid it being captured by the Austro-Hungarians. That success did not last long, as Albanian resistance during the subsequent Vlora War
Vlora War
and post-war domestic problems forced Italy
Italy
to pull out in 1920.[6] The desire to compensate for this failure would be one of Mussolini's major motives in invading Albania.[7] Albania
Albania
was important culturally and historically to the nationalist aims of the Italian Fascists, as the territory of Albania
Albania
had long been part of the Roman Empire, even prior to the annexation of northern Italy
Italy
by the Romans. Later, during the High Middle Ages, some coastal areas (like Durazzo) had been influenced and owned by Italian powers, chiefly the Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Naples
and the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
for many years (cf. Albania
Albania
Veneta). The Italian Fascist regime legitimized its claim to Albania
Albania
through studies proclaiming the racial affinity of Albanians
Albanians
and Italians, especially as opposed to the Slavic Yugoslavs.[8] Italian Fascists claimed that Albanians
Albanians
were linked through ethnic heritage to Italians
Italians
due to links between the prehistoric Italiotes, Roman and Illyrian populations, and that the major influence exhibited by the Roman and Venetian empires over Albania
Albania
justified Italy's right to possess it. When Mussolini took power in Italy
Italy
he turned with renewed interest to Albania. Italy
Italy
began penetration of Albania's economy in 1925, when Albania
Albania
agreed to allow Italy
Italy
to exploit its mineral resources.[9] That was followed by the First Treaty of Tirana
Tirana
in 1926 and the Second Treaty of Tirana
Tirana
in 1927, whereby Italy
Italy
and Albania
Albania
entered into a defensive alliance.[9] Among other things the Albanian government and economy were subsidised by Italian loans and the Albanian army was trained by Italian military instructors. Despite strong Italian influence, King Zog I refused to give in completely to Italian pressure.[10] In 1931 he stood up openly to the Italians, refusing to renew the 1926 Treaty of Tirana. After Albania
Albania
signed trade agreements with Yugoslavia and Greece in 1934, Mussolini made a failed attempt to intimidate the Albanians
Albanians
by sending a fleet of warships to Albania.[11] As Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
annexed Austria and moved against Czechoslovakia, Italy
Italy
saw itself becoming the lesser member of the Pact of Steel.[12] The imminent birth of an Albanian royal child meanwhile threatened to give Zog a lasting dynasty. After Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
(March 15, 1939) without notifying Mussolini in advance, the Italian dictator decided to proceed with his own annexation of Albania. Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III
Victor Emmanuel III
criticized the plan to take Albania
Albania
as an unnecessary risk. Rome, however, delivered Tirana
Tirana
an ultimatum on March 25, 1939, demanding that it consent to Italy's occupation of Albania.[13] Zog refused to accept money in exchange for allowing a full Italian takeover and colonization of Albania. The Albanian government tried to keep secret the news of the Italian ultimatum. While Radio Tirana
Tirana
persistently broadcast that nothing was happening, people became suspicious; and the news of the Italian ultimatum was spread from unofficial sources. On April 5 the king's son was born and the news was announced by cannons. People poured out into the streets alarmed, but the news of the newborn prince calmed them. People were suspicious that something else was going on, which led to an anti-Italian demonstration in Tirana
Tirana
the same day. On 6 April there were several demonstrations in Albania's main cities. That same afternoon 100 Italian aircraft flew over Tirana, Durrës, and Vlorë, dropping leaflets instructing the people to submit to Italian occupation. The people were infuriated by this demonstration of force and called for the government to resist and to release the Albanians arrested as "communists". The crowd shouted, "Give us arms! We are being sold out! We are being betrayed!". While a mobilization of the reserves was called, many high-ranking officers left the country. Also the government was fading away. The Minister of the Interior, Musa Juka, left the country for Yugoslavia the same day. While King Zog broadcast to the nation that he would resist Italian occupation, people felt that they were being abandoned by their government.[14] Invasion[edit]

Italian troops in Albania.

The original Italian plans for the invasion called for up to 50,000 men supported by 51 naval units and 400 airplanes. Ultimately the invasion force grew to 100,000 men supported by 600 airplanes,[15] but only 22,000 took part in the invasion.[2] On April 7 Mussolini's troops, led by General Alfredo Guzzoni, invaded Albania, attacking all Albanian ports simultaneously. The Italian naval forces involved in the invasion consisted of the battleships Giulio Cesare and Conte di Cavour, three heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, nine destroyers, fourteen torpedo boats, one minelayer, ten auxiliary ships and nine transport ships.[16] The ships were divided into four groups, that carried out landings in Vlore, Durres, Sarande
Sarande
and Shengjin.[16] On the other side the regular Albanian army had 15,000 poorly equipped troops who had been trained by Italian officers. King Zog's plan was to mount a resistance in the mountains, leaving the ports and main cities undefended; but Italian agents placed in Albania
Albania
as military instructors sabotaged this plan. The Albanians
Albanians
discovered that artillery pieces had been disabled and there was no ammunition. As a consequence, the main resistance was offered by gendarmes and small groups of patriots. In Durrës, a force of 500 Albanians, including gendarmes and armed volunteers, led by Major Abaz Kupi
Abaz Kupi
(the commander of the gendarmerie in Durrës), and Mujo Ulqinaku, a naval sergeant, tried to halt the Italian advance. Equipped with small arms and three machine guns and supported by a coastal battery, the defenders resisted for a few hours before being overcome with the help of naval gunfire.[15] The Albanian Navy stationed in Durrës
Durrës
consisted of four patrol boats (each armed with a machine gun) and a coastal battery with four 75 mm guns, the latter also being involved in the fighting.[17] Mujo Ulqinaku, the commander of the patrol boat Tiranë, used his machine gun to kill and wound many Italian troops until himself being killed by an artillery shell from an Italian warship.[17][18] Eventually, a large number of small tanks were unloaded from the Italian ships. After that, resistance began to crumble, and within five hours the Italians
Italians
had captured the city.[19] By 1:30 pm on the first day, all Albanian ports were in Italian hands. That same day King Zog, his wife, Queen Geraldine Apponyi, and their infant son Leka fled to Greece, taking with them part of the gold reserves of the Albanian Central Bank. On hearing the news, an angry mob attacked the prisons, liberated the prisoners and sacked the King's residence. At 9:30 am on April 8, Italian troops entered Tirana and quickly captured all government buildings. Italian columns of soldiers then marched to Shkodër, Fier and Elbasan. Shkodër surrendered in the evening after 12 hours of fighting. However, two officers garrisoned at Rozafa castle refused to obey the ceasefire order and continued to fight until they ran out of ammunition. The Italian troops later paid homage to the Albanian troops in Shkodër who had halted their advance for an entire day. During the Italian advance in Shkodër the mob besieged the prison and liberated some 200 prisoners.[20] The number of casualties in these battles is disputed. Italian sources maintain that at Durrës
Durrës
25 Italians
Italians
were killed and 97 wounded and 160 Albanians
Albanians
were killed and several hundred wounded, [clarification needed] declared that some 400 Italians
Italians
had been killed.[15] On April 12, the Albanian parliament voted to depose Zog and unite the nation with Italy
Italy
"in personal union" by offering the Albanian crown to Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III.[21] The parliament elected Albania's largest landowner, Shefqet Vërlaci, as Prime Minister. Vërlaci served as interim head of state for five days until Victor Emmanuel III formally accepted the Albanian crown in a ceremony at the Quirinale
Quirinale
palace in Rome. Victor Emmanuel III
Victor Emmanuel III
appointed Francesco Jacomoni di San Savino, a former ambassador to Albania, to represent him in Albania
Albania
as "Lieutenant-General of the King" (effectively a viceroy). The relatively easy success of the Italian invasion was largely due to the weak Albanian resistance.[22][23][24] Aftermath[edit] Main articles: Albanian Kingdom (1939–1943)
Albanian Kingdom (1939–1943)
and Albanian Resistance of World War II See also: Democratic Government of Albania

  Kingdom of Italy   Albanian Kingdom

Flag of Albania, during Italian rule.

On April 15, 1939, Albania
Albania
withdrew from the League of Nations, from which Italy
Italy
had resigned in 1937. On June 3, 1939, the Albanian foreign ministry was merged into the Italian foreign ministry, and the Albanian Foreign Minister, Xhemil Dino, was given the rank of an Italian ambassador. Upon the capture of Albania, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
declared the official creation of the Italian Empire and the figurehead King Victor Emmanuel III
Victor Emmanuel III
was crowned King of the Albanians
Albanians
in addition to his title of Emperor of Ethiopia, which had been occupied three years before. The Albanian military was placed under Italian command and formally merged into the Italian Army in 1940. Additionally, the Italian Blackshirts
Italian Blackshirts
formed four legions of Albanian Militia, initially recruited from Italian colonists living in Albania, but later from ethnic Albanians.

1940 Albanian Kingdom Laissez Passer issued for traveling to Fascist Italy
Italy
after the invasion from the previous year.

Upon the occupation of Albania
Albania
and installation of a new government, the economies of Albania
Albania
and Italy
Italy
were connected through a customs union that resulted in the removal of most trade restrictions.[25] Through a tariff union, the Italian tariff system was put in place in Albania.[25] Due to the expected economic losses in Albania
Albania
from the alteration in tariff policy, the Italian government provided Albania 15 million Albanian leks each year in compensation.[25] Italian customs laws were to apply in Albania
Albania
and only Italy
Italy
alone could conclude treaties with third parties.[25] Italian capital was allowed to dominate the Albanian economy.[25] As a result, Italian companies were allowed to hold monopolies in the exploitation of Albanian natural resources.[25] All petroleum resources in Albania
Albania
went through Agip, Italy's state petroleum company.[26] Albania
Albania
followed Italy
Italy
into war against Britain and France on June 10, 1940. Albania
Albania
served as the base for the Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940, and Albanian troops participated in the Greek campaign, but they massively deserted the front line. The country's southern areas (including the cities of Gjirokastër
Gjirokastër
and Korçë) were temporarily occupied by the Greek army during that campaign, but Italy, regardless of the fact of not even winning one battle against the Greek Army, eventually was given charge of Albania, due to Germany's assistance with its Greek campaign and the subsequent occupation of Greece by the German Army. Albania
Albania
was enlarged in May 1941 by the annexation of Kosovo
Kosovo
and parts of Montenegro
Montenegro
and the Vardar Banovina, going a long way towards realizing nationalistic claims for a "Greater Albania". Part of the western coast of Epirus called Chameria
Chameria
was also annexed, and put under an Albanian High Commissioner, who exercised nominal control over it. When Italy
Italy
left the Axis in September 1943, German troops immediately occupied Albania after a short campaign, with relatively strong resistance.[27] During the Second World War, the Albanian Partisans, including some sporadic Albanian nationalist groups, fought against the Italians (after autumn 1942) and, subsequently, the Germans. By October 1944 the Germans had withdrawn from the southern Balkans in response to military defeats by the Red Army, the collapse of Romania and the imminent fall of Bulgaria.[28] After the Germans left due to the rapid advance of Albanian Communist forces, the Albanian Partisans crushed nationalist resistance and the leader of the Albanian Communist Party, Enver Hoxha, became the leader of the country.[29] Cultural references[edit] The events surrounding the Italian annexation of Albania
Albania
formed part of the inspiration for the eighth volume of The Adventures of Tintin comics titled King Ottokar's Sceptre, with a plot based on a fictional Balkan country Syldavia and uneasy tensions with its larger neighbour Borduria.[30] The author of the Tintin comics Hergé
Hergé
also insisted that his editor publish the work to take advantage of current events in 1939 as he felt "Syldavia is Albania".[30] See also[edit]

Royal Italian Army Royal Albanian Army Adriatic Campaign of World War II

Footnotes[edit]

^ Fischer 1999 (Purdue ed.), p. 21. ^ a b c d e Fischer 1999 (Purdue ed.), p. 22. ^ Fischer 1999 (C. Hurst ed.), p. 5. ^ Kokolakis, Mihalis (2003). Το ύστερο Γιαννιώτικο Πασαλίκι: χώρος, διοίκηση και πληθυσμός στην τουρκοκρατούμενη Ηπειρο (1820–1913) [The late Pashalik of Ioannina: Space, administration and population in Ottoman ruled Epirus
Epirus
(1820–1913)]. Athens: EIE-ΚΝΕ. p. 91. ISBN 960-7916-11-5.  "Περιορίζοντας τις αρχικές του ισλαμιστικές εξάρσεις, το αλβανικό εθνικιστικό κίνημα εξασφάλισε την πολιτική προστασία των δύο ισχυρών δυνάμεων της Αδριατικής, της Ιταλίας και της Αυστρίας, που δήλωναν έτοιμες να κάνουν ό,τι μπορούσαν για να σώσουν τα Βαλκάνια από την απειλή του Πανσλαβισμού και από την αγγλογαλλική κηδεμονία που υποτίθεται ότι θα αντιπροσώπευε η επέκταση της Ελλάδας." "[By limiting the Islamic character, the Albanian nationalist movement secured civil protection from two powerful forces in the Adriatic, Italy
Italy
and Austria, which was ready to do what they could to save the Balkans from the threat of Pan-Slavism
Pan-Slavism
and the Anglo French tutelage that is supposed to represent its extension through Greece.]" ^ Hall, Richard C. Consumed by War: European Conflict in the 20th Century. University Press of Kentucky. p. 12. ISBN 9780813159959. As a result of the Ottoman collapse, a group of Albanians, with Austrian and Italian support, declared Albanian independence at Valona (Vlorë) on 28 November 1912.  ^ Albania: A Country Study: Albania's Reemergence after World War I, Library of Congress. ^ Stephen J. Lee (2003). Europe, 1890-1945. Psychology Press. p. 336–. ISBN 978-0-415-25455-7. The invasion of Albania in 1939 resulted in the addition of territory on the Adriatic, a compensation for the territory Italy
Italy
had not been given in the 1919 peace settlement. These policies were, however, carried out at immense cost, which eventually shattered the regime's limited infrastructure. There are also examples of direct  ^ Kallis, Aristotle A. (2000), Fascist ideology: territory and expansionism in Italy
Italy
and Germany, 1922–1945, Routledge, pp. 132–133  ^ a b Albania: A Country Study: Italian Penetration, Library of Congress ^ Fischer 1999 (C. Hurst ed.), p. 7. ^ Albania: A Country Study: Zog's Kingdom, Library of Congress ^ Albania: A Country Study: Italian Occupation, Library of Congress ^ Pearson, Owen (2004). Albania
Albania
in the Twentieth Century, A History. Volume I - Albania
Albania
and King Zog. The Centre for Albanian Studies / I.B.Tauris. p. 429. ISBN 978-184511013-0.  ^ Pearson 2004, p. 439. ^ a b c Pearson 2004, p. 444. ^ a b La Regia Marina tra le due guerre mondiali. ^ a b "Zeqo">Zeqo, Mojkom (1980). Mujo Ulqinaku. Tirana, Albania: 8 Nëntori Pub. House.  ^ Kore, Blerim (7 April 2009). "Kur mbreti italian Viktor Emanueli, vizitonte Gjirokastren". Koha Jone (in Albanian). Koha Jone. Archived from the original on 8 October 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2010.  ^ Pearson 2004, pp. 444-5. ^ Pearson 2004, p. 454. ^ Fischer 1999 (C. Hurst ed.), p. 36. ^ Schwandner-Sievers, Stephanie; Fischer, Bernd Jürgen (2002). Albanian Identities: Myth and History. Indiana University Press. p. 139. ISBN 0253341892.  ^ Fischer, Bernd Jürgen (1999). Albania
Albania
at War, 1939-1945. Hurst. p. 23. ISBN 9781850655312.  ^ Brewer, David (2016-02-28). Greece, the Decade of War: Occupation, Resistance and Civil War. I.B.Tauris. p. 2. ISBN 9780857729361.  ^ a b c d e f Raphaël Lemkin. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. Slark, New Jersey, USA: The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 2005. Pp. 102. ^ Pearson, Owen (2005). Albania
Albania
in the Twentieth Century, A History. Volume II - Albania
Albania
in Occupation and War, 1939-45. The Centre for Albanian Studies / I.B.Tauris. p. 433. ISBN 978-184511104-5.  ^ Fischer 1999 (C. Hurst ed.), p. 189. ^ Fischer 1999 (C. Hurst ed.), p. 223. ^ Albania: A Country Study: The Communist and Nationalist Resistance – Library of Congress. ^ a b Assouline, Pierre (2009) [1996]. Hergé, the Man Who Created Tintin. Charles Ruas (translator). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-19-539759-8. 

References[edit]

Fischer, Bernd J. (1999). Albania
Albania
at War, 1939-1945. Purdue University Press. ISBN 978-155753141-4.  Fischer, Bernd J. (1999). Albania
Albania
at War, 1939–1945. C. Hurst & Co Publishers. ISBN 978-185065531-2.  Library of Congress Country Study of Albania

External links[edit]

Comando Supremo: Invasion of Albania
Albania
(1939) – Italian Order of battle WW2DB: Invasion of Albania

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