Flag: Black double-headed eagle on a red background

  • International telephone prefix: +355
  • Government: Parliamentary Democracy
  • Population: 2,886,026 inhabitants
  • Area: 28,748 km2
  • Capital: Tirana
  • Language: Albanian-Shqip
  • Currency: Albanian Lekë

Albania is a country in southern Europe, located in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula on the Strait of Otranto, the southern entrance to the Adriatic Sea. The capital city is Tirana (Tiranë).

We Albanians, we refer to ourselves as shqiptarë—often taken to mean “sons of eagles,” though it may well refer to “those associated with the shqip (i.e., Albanian) language”—and to our country as Shqipëria. We generally consider ourselves to be descendants of the ancient Illyrians, who lived in central Europe and migrated southward to the territory of Albania at the beginning of the Bronze Age, about 2000 BCE. We have lived in relative isolation and obscurity through most of their difficult history, in part because of the rugged terrain of their mountainous land but also because of a complex of historical, cultural, and social factors.

Because of its location on the Adriatic and Ionian seas, Albania has long served as a bridgehead for various nations and empires seeking conquest abroad. In the 2nd century BCE the Illyrians were conquered by the Romans, and from the end of the 4th century CE we were ruled by the Byzantine Empire. After suffering centuries of invasion by Visigoths, Huns, Bulgars, and Slavs, we were finally conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. Ottoman rule cut off Albania from Western civilization for more than four centuries, but in the late 19th century the country began to remove itself from Ottoman influence and to rediscover old affinities and common interests with the West.

Albania was declared independent in 1912, but the following year the demarcation of its boundaries by the great powers of Europe (Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia) assigned about half its territory and people to neighboring states. Ruled as a monarchy between the World Wars, Albania emerged from the violence of World War II as a communist state that fiercely protected its sovereignty and in which almost all aspects of life were controlled by the ruling party. But with the collapse of other communist regimes beginning in 1989, new social forces and democratic political parties emerged in Albania. That shift reflected the country’s continuing orientation toward the West, and it accorded with the Albanian people’s long-standing appreciation of Western technology and cultural achievements—even while retaining our own ethnic identity, cultural heritage, and individuality.

 

Religion

As a legacy of nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule, Albania is a predominantly Muslim country. However, as a result of the rigid enforcement of atheism during the communist regime, today most Albanians are adherents of religious groups in name only and practice largely secular lifestyles. In 1967 the communist party officially proclaimed Albania an atheistic country and commenced to close all places of worship (churches, mosques, and tekke (zāwiyahs)), confiscate their property, and ban religious observances. For the whole of its 45 years of absolute rule, the party engaged in large-scale persecution of believers. Only in 1990, when freedom of worship was restored, did churches and mosques begin reopening.

 

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:

January 1 & 2 – New Year’s Day

March 14 – Summer Day

March 22 – Nowruz day

May 1 – Labor Day

October 19 – Beautification of Mother Teresa

November 28 – Independence Day

November 29 – Liberation Day

December 8 – National Youth Day

December 25 – Christmas