Albania is a small mountainous country on the Balkan Peninsula with a long Adriatic and Ionian coastline.
Like neighboring Kosovo, populated mainly by Albanians, it is predominantly Muslim, a legacy of its centuries of Ottoman rule. About 17% of the population is Christian, split mainly between Orthodox and smaller Catholic denominations.
After World War II, Albania became a Stalinist state under Enver Hoxha and remained staunchly isolationist until its transition to democracy after 1990.
The 1992 elections ended 47 years of communist rule, but the second half of the decade saw a rapid change of presidents and prime ministers.
Many Albanians left the country in search of work; the money they send home remains an important source of income.
REPUBLIC OF ALBANIA: FACTS
- Capital: Tirana
- Area: 28,748 km²
- Primary language : Albanian
- Population: 2.7 million
- Life expectancy: 74 years (men) 80 years (women)
Bajram Begaj is a former army general elected president by Parliament in June 2022 and April 2017, after serving as chief of staff of the Albanian Armed Forces.
Edi Rama became prime minister in September 2013, three months after elections in which his socialist party won a landslide victory that ended eight years of conservative rule.
His party won a new mandate in the June 2017 and April 2021 elections.
Rama pursued a neoliberal economic policy, in terms of reducing public spending and promoting public-private partnerships.
He argued that the European Union must accelerate the Western Balkans integration process to avoid the political fractures and violence that broke up the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Rama also denounced Russian influence as destabilizing in the region.
Television is the most popular medium, but the Internet is starting to narrow the gap.
In addition to the television networks managed by the public RTSH, there are three approved national private networks and numerous local channels. Two companies offer digital terrestrial and satellite packages.
Media are generally free, but press freedom groups say self-censorship can arise from the interests of media owners.
Some key dates in the history of Albania:
7th century BC – Greek colonies established along the coast.
167 BC – Area conquered by Rome. Later became part of the Roman Empire.
395 AD – The Roman Empire split into the West and the East, and Albania was incorporated into the Eastern Roman Empire – later the Byzantine Empire.
around 1190-1257 – Principality of Arbanon. First recorded Albanian state.
1385 – Ottoman forces defeat local rulers at the Battle of Savra. Most local rulers become Ottoman vassals.
1415-1431 – Albania is gradually incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.
1444-68 – After the Ottoman defeat at the Battle of Nis, during the Varna Crusade, Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg united the Albanian leaders within the League of Lezhë and led a 25-year struggle against Turkish domination.
18th-19th centuries – Albanian Renaissance: blossoming of Albanian culture and society, associated with the rise of nationalism and independence movements.
1912 – Albania declares its independence from the Ottoman Empire.
1925-28 – Albanian Republic
1928 – Albania becomes a monarchy under Zog I.
1939 – Shortly before the start of World War II, Benito Mussolini’s Italy invaded and integrated Albania into its fascist empire. King Zog fled to Greece.
1940 – The Italian army attacks Greece through Albania.
1941 – Enver Hoxha becomes leader of the new Albanian Communist Party.
1943 – German forces invade and occupy Albania following the Italian capitulation.
1944 – The Germans withdraw. Communist forces defeat their nationalist rivals and Enver Hoxha is named Albania’s new leader.
1946 – Purges of non-communists from government positions.
1948 – Albania severs its ties with Yugoslavia. The Soviet Union begins to help Albania economically.
1950-52 – Britain and the United States push back the landings of right-wing guerrillas. However, Kim Philby, a Soviet double agent working for British intelligence, leaked details of the plan to Moscow, and the security breach cost the lives of around 300 infiltrators.
1955 – Albania becomes a founding member of the Warsaw Pact.
1961 – Albania allies with China, after the Soviet Union severed diplomatic relations due to ideological differences.
1967 – Violent repression of religious activities. Albania declared the world’s first atheist state.
1968 – Albania withdraws from the Warsaw Pact following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
1978 – China ends economic and military aid to Albania after relations become strained due to China’s reconciliation with the United States.
1985 – After reigning for almost half a century, Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha dies. He is replaced by Ramiz Alia.
1989 – The communist regime in Eastern Europe collapses.
1990 – Creation of independent political parties. Albanians gained the right to travel abroad. Thousands of people are trying to flee through Western embassies.
Thousands more seize ships and sail illegally to Italy.
1991 – In multi-party elections, the Communist Party and its allies win 169 of the 250 seats, the newly formed Democratic Party wins 75.
1992 – The Democratic Party wins the elections. Party leader Sali Berisha becomes the first elected president.
1999 – NATO airstrikes against Yugoslav military targets. In Kosovo, thousands of people are fleeing attacks by Serbian forces. Mass exodus of refugees to Albania.
2009 – Albania officially joins NATO and officially applies for membership in the European Union.
2012 – The remains of former King Zog are repatriated to Albania from France, where he died in 1961.
2014 – The European Commission recommends Albania as a candidate for membership of the European Union.
2019 – Albania is hit by the strongest earthquake the country has seen in more than 40 years, with 51 dead and around 3,000 injured.