Brief Historical Overview
Albania, in the southeastern corner of Europe, has been populated since
prehistoric times and was settled by the Illyrians, possible ancestors
of present-day Albanians, in Paleolithic times.Situated where it is and
surrounded by powerful, warring empires, Albania has seen a lot of violence
throughout its history. Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans
swept through, leaving their mark and their ruins.
Kingdom of Illyria (1225-167 B.C.)
its beginning, the kingdom of Illyria comprised the actual territories
of modern Albania but in the course of its development, it extended all
along the eastern littoral of the Adriatic Sea. Scodra was its capital,
just as she is now the capital of Northern and Central Albania.
earliest known king of Illyria was Hylli who is recorded to have died
in the year 1225 B. C. The kingdom, however, reached the zenith of its
expansion and development in the fourth century B. C., when King Bardhyllus,
one of the most prominent of the Illyrian kings, united under his scepter
the kingdoms of Illyria, Molossia and a good part of Macedonia.But its
decay began under the same ruler as a result of the attacks made on it
by Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.
Illyrians created and developed their culture, language and anthropological
features in the western part of the Balkans, where ancient writers mention
them in their works. The regions that the Illyrians inhabited are expansive.
They include the entire western peninsula, north to central Europe, south
to the Ambracian Gulf (Preveza, Greece), and east around the Lyhind Lake
(Ohrid Lake). Other Illyrian tribes also migrated and developed in Italy.
Among them were the Messapii and Iapyges. The name 'Illyria' is mentioned
in works since the fifth century BC while some tribe names are mentioned
as early as the twelfth century BC by Homer. The ethnic formation of the
Illyrians, however, is much older.
beginning of Illyrian origins in by the fifteenth century BC, from the
mid-Bronze Age, when Illyrian ethnic features began to form. By the Iron
Age, the Illyrians were fully distinct and had inherited their developing
anthropological features and language from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.
The old theory that the Illyrians came from Central Europe during the
seventh to ninth centuries has been disproved by studies performed following
World War II. The fact that graves with urns, characteristic of Central
Europe, are not found in Illyrian settlements severely damages the theory.
Central European influence on the Illyrians is a result of cultural exchanges
and movement of artisans.
the first decades under Byzantine rule (until 461), Illyria suffered the
devastation of raids by Visigoths, Huns, and Ostrogoths. Not long after
these barbarian invaders swept through the Balkans, the Slavs appeared.
Between the 6th and 8th centuries they settled in Illyrian territories
and proceeded to assimilate Illyrian tribes in much of what is now Slovenia,
Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. The tribes of southern Illyria,
however including modern Albania averted assimilation and preserved their
Leadership (Socialist Republic)
1944 to 1991, Albania was a one-party state in which Enver Hoxha ruled
with an iron hand. In 1961 he broke with Albania’s closest ally,
the Soviet Union, because he believed Khrushchev had abandoned the teachings
of Stalin. Subsequently, Albania’s closest ally was the People’s
Republic of China. However, when the PRC established diplomatic relations
with the U.S. in 1978, Hoxha denounced the Chinese as well and decided
to pursue a policy of self-reliance. The result was not only extreme isolation
but also absolute financial ruin for Albania. An example of this may be
drawn from the construction between 1974 and 1986 of approximately 700,000
reinforced concrete bunkers to defend against an anticipated multi-front
Hoxha’s death in 1985, Ramiz Alia succeeded him as Party and state
leader. Alia was Hoxha’s protégé, but was less repressive
than the former leader and began to allow some reforms. This process was
accelerated by news of the changes in the other Communist countries of
Central and Eastern Europe. There are statistics which show that during
this period about 6000 Albanian citizens were executed for political reasons[citation
needed]Despite this, the quality of life improved as both life expectancy
and literacy showed large gains and economic growth continued until the
The Return to Capitalism
first massive anti-communist protests took place in July 1990. Shortly
afterwards, the communist regime under Ramiz Alia carried out some cosmetic
changes in the economy. At the end of 1990, after strong student protests
and independent syndicated movements, the regime accepted a multiparty
system. The first multiparty general elections were held on March 31,
1991 and saw the Communist Party (PPSH) win the majority. Opposition parties
accused the government of manipulation and called for new elections, which
were held on March 22, 1992 and resulted in a coalition (composed of the
Democratic Party, the Social-Democrats, and the Republican Party) coming
the general elections of June 1996 the Democratic Party won an absolute
majority and the results, winning over 85% of parliamentary seats. In
1997 widespread riots erupted after the International Monetary Fund forced
the state to liberalize banking practices. Many citizens, naive to the
workings of a market economy, put their entire savings into pyramid schemes.
In a short while, $2 billion (80% of the country's GDP) had been moved
into the hands of just a few pyramid scheme owners, causing severe economic
troubles and civic unrest. Police stations and military bases were looted
of millions of Kalashnikovs and other weapons. Anarchy prevailed and militia
and even less-organized armed citizens controlled many cities. The government
of Aleksander Meksi resigned and a government of national unity was built.
In response to the anarchy, the Socialist Party won the early elections
of 1997 and Berisha resigned the Presidency.
stability was far from being restored in the years after the 1997 riots.
The power feuds raging inside the Socialist Party led to a series of short-lived
Socialist governments. The country was flooded with refugees from neighboring
Kosovo in 1998 and 1999 during the Kosovo War. In June 2002, a compromise
candidate, Alfred Moisiu, a former general, was elected to succeed President
Rexhep Meidani. Parliamentary elections in July 2005 brought Sali Berisha,
as leader of the Democratic Party, back to power, mostly owing to Socialist
infighting and a series of corruption scandals plaguing the government
of Fatos Nano.
Euro-Atlantic integration of Albania has been the ultimate goal of the
post-communist governments. Albania's EU membership bid has been set as
a priority by the European Commission. On 2006 Albania signed a Stabilization
and Association Agreement the EU, thus completing the first major step
towards joining the bloc. Albania, along with Croatia and Macedonia, is
also expected to receive an invitation to join NATO in 2008.
workforce of Albania has continued to migrate to Greece, Italy, Germany,
other parts of Europe, and North America. However, the migration flux
is slowly decreasing, as more and more opportunities are emerging in Albania
itself as its economy steadily develops.