The Italian invasion of
Albania (April 7–12, 1939) was a brief
military campaign by the Kingdom of
Italy against the Albanian
Kingdom. The conflict was a result of the imperialist policies of
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
Albania was rapidly overrun, its
ruler, King Zog I, forced into exile, and the country made part of the
Italian Empire as a separate kingdom in personal union with the
4 Cultural references
5 See also
8 External links
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
Italy control of the entrance to the Adriatic Sea. In
Albania could provide
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
Italy who were concerned about pan-Slavism
in the wider Balkans and Anglo-French hegemony purportedly represented
through Greece in the area. Before
World War I
World War I
Austria-Hungary had been supportive to the creation of an independent
Albanian state. At the outbreak of the war,
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 and post-war
domestic problems forced
Italy to pull out in 1920. The desire to
compensate for this failure would be one of Mussolini's major motives
in invading Albania.
Albania was important culturally and historically to the nationalist
aims of the Italian Fascists, as the territory of
Albania had long
been part of the Roman Empire, even prior to the annexation of
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 Veneta). The Italian Fascist regime
legitimized its claim to
Albania through studies proclaiming the
racial affinity of
Albanians and Italians, especially as opposed to
the Slavic Yugoslavs. Italian Fascists claimed that
linked through ethnic heritage to
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 justified Italy's right to possess it.
When Mussolini took power in
Italy he turned with renewed interest to
Italy began penetration of Albania's economy in 1925, when
Albania agreed to allow
Italy to exploit its mineral resources.
That was followed by the First Treaty of
Tirana in 1926 and the Second
Tirana in 1927, whereby
Albania entered into a
defensive alliance. 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. In 1931 he stood up openly to the Italians, refusing to
renew the 1926 Treaty of Tirana. After
Albania signed trade agreements
with Yugoslavia and Greece in 1934, Mussolini made a failed attempt to
Albanians by sending a fleet of warships to
Nazi Germany annexed Austria and moved against Czechoslovakia,
Italy saw itself becoming the lesser member of the Pact of Steel.
The imminent birth of an Albanian royal child meanwhile threatened to
give Zog a lasting dynasty. After Hitler invaded
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 as an
unnecessary risk. Rome, however, delivered
Tirana an ultimatum on
March 25, 1939, demanding that it consent to Italy's occupation of
Albania. 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 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 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.
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, but
only 22,000 took part in the invasion. 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. The ships were divided into four groups, that
carried out landings in Vlore, Durres,
Sarande and Shengjin.
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 as military
instructors sabotaged this plan. The
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 (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. The Albanian
Navy stationed in
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. 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. Eventually, a large number of
small tanks were unloaded from the Italian ships. After that,
resistance began to crumble, and within five hours the
captured the city.
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
The number of casualties in these battles is disputed. Italian sources
maintain that at
Italians were killed and 97 wounded and
Albanians were killed and several hundred wounded, [clarification
needed] declared that some 400
Italians had been killed.
On April 12, the Albanian parliament voted to depose Zog and unite the
Italy "in personal union" by offering the Albanian crown
to Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III. 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 palace in Rome.
Victor Emmanuel III
Victor Emmanuel III appointed Francesco
Jacomoni di San Savino, a former ambassador to Albania, to represent
Albania as "Lieutenant-General of the King" (effectively a
The relatively easy success of the Italian invasion was largely due to
the weak Albanian resistance.
Albanian Kingdom (1939–1943)
Albanian Kingdom (1939–1943) and Albanian Resistance
of World War II
See also: Democratic Government of Albania
Kingdom of Italy
Flag of Albania, during Italian rule.
On April 15, 1939,
Albania withdrew from the League of Nations, from
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 declared the official creation of the Italian Empire
and the figurehead King
Victor Emmanuel III
Victor Emmanuel III was crowned King of the
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 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 after the invasion from the previous year.
Upon the occupation of
Albania and installation of a new government,
the economies of
Italy were connected through a customs
union that resulted in the removal of most trade restrictions.
Through a tariff union, the Italian tariff system was put in place in
Albania. Due to the expected economic losses in
Albania from the
alteration in tariff policy, the Italian government provided Albania
15 million Albanian leks each year in compensation. Italian
customs laws were to apply in
Albania and only
Italy alone could
conclude treaties with third parties. Italian capital was allowed
to dominate the Albanian economy. As a result, Italian companies
were allowed to hold monopolies in the exploitation of Albanian
natural resources. All petroleum resources in
Albania went through
Agip, Italy's state petroleum company.
Italy into war against Britain and France on June 10,
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 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 was enlarged in May
1941 by the annexation of
Kosovo and parts of
Montenegro and the
Vardar Banovina, going a long way towards realizing nationalistic
claims for a "Greater Albania". Part of the western coast of Epirus
Chameria was also annexed, and put under an Albanian High
Commissioner, who exercised nominal control over it. When
the Axis in September 1943, German troops immediately occupied Albania
after a short campaign, with relatively strong resistance.
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. 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.
The events surrounding the Italian annexation of
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. The author of the Tintin comics
Hergé also insisted
that his editor publish the work to take advantage of current events
in 1939 as he felt "Syldavia is Albania".
Royal Italian Army
Royal Albanian Army
Adriatic Campaign of World War II
^ 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
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 and Austria, which was ready to do what they could to save the
Balkans from the threat of
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 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
Italy and Germany, 1922–1945, Routledge,
^ a b Albania: A Country Study: Italian Penetration, Library of
^ 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 in the Twentieth Century, A History.
Volume I -
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 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.
^ 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 in the Twentieth Century, A History.
Volume II -
Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45. The Centre for
Albanian Studies / I.B.Tauris. p. 433.
^ 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) . Hergé, the Man Who Created
Tintin. Charles Ruas (translator). Oxford and New York: Oxford
University Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-19-539759-8.
Fischer, Bernd J. (1999).
Albania at War, 1939-1945. Purdue University
Press. ISBN 978-155753141-4.
Fischer, Bernd J. (1999).
Albania at War, 1939–1945. C. Hurst &
Co Publishers. ISBN 978-185065531-2.
Library of Congress Country Study of Albania
Comando Supremo: Invasion of
Albania (1939) – Italian Order of
WW2DB: Invasion of Albania
Principality of Arbanon
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