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National Identity









Dimitrios Begetis






Dimitrios Begetis


Albania, as we know it today, is a small country located at the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe having an area of about 28,748 square km and population of 3.26 million.


 Albanians are believed to be descendants of the Illyrians, who began inhabiting the Balkan peninsula about 4,000 years ago. The name Albania is derived from the name of an Illyrian tribe, Albanoi, who are believed to have inhabited the central part of present Albania. In the course of Albania's long history it has been invaded by various races: The Romans conquered the Illyrian territories and ruled them for about five centuries, after them the Goths and the Huns in the fourth century, the Bulgars in the sixth and seventh centuries, the Normans in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and the Serbs in the fourteenth century.
  At the end of the fourteenth century Albania was the last Balkan nationality to fall under the domination of the Sultan and the Ottoman empire. Skanderbeg, the most revered Albanian hero, successfully fended them off for 25 years. After his death in 1468 Albania became part of the Ottoman empire. A predominantly Christian population during this period was brought under the influence of Islam. Albania was under the Ottoman rule for about four centuries. In 1912 Ismail Quemal, proclaimed Albania's independence and Skaderbeg's double headed eagle became Albania's national symbol. 


After a period of political turmoil during the World War 1 (1914-18) and later from 1928-39 King Zog ruled exercising absolute power. In 1943, during World War 2, Albania was occupied by Hitler's Nazi Germany, and it was freed from German occupation by local partisans affiliated with the Albanian Communist Party which was founded in 1941. These partisans were also militarily supported by the Anglo-American command in Italy, and politically backed by the Yugoslav Communist Party. Thus the Albanian communists with a strong political organization and substantial in number armed partisans filled the political vacuum which existed after the war. After November 1944 Albania experienced an uninterrupted period of strong centralist rule under Enver Hoxha (1, pg. 5). During the Hoxha's years (1944-85) and the six years from 1985 until 1991, when the economic reforms started in Albania, the classic Stalinist model was applied: Central planning dominated all economic activity, decision making was strongly hierarchical, and the achievement of physical production targets became the primary goal of economic policy (1,pg. 6).


The first economic step of the socialist government was to nationalize all public utilities and foreign capital in 1946. Thus by early 1947 domestic industries and foreign trade had been nationalized. In the agricultural sector (which was and is the major economic sector of the Albanian economy) the government confiscated all large estates and redistributed them among farmers, limiting the maximum size for each family to five hectares (1, pg. 6). This collectivization of agricultural land was a slow process because of the rugged Albanian soil which does not make collectivization an easy process. So the constitution, which was adopted in 1976, legalized the nationalization of all land. This constitution isolated effectively the country from the rest of the world proclaiming it an atheist country strictly prohibiting and outlawing any religious practices (Albania was the first country to do this). Also external and internal trading activity was fully state owned and controlled. External trade was carried out by a few state owned enterprises specializing in foreign trade. Domestically, consumer goods were distributed mostly through shops and stores of the internal trading state enterprises (1, pg. 6). Schools, universities, and hospitals providing education and health services were also owned by the state. In the housing industry practically all houses in urban areas and those occupied by state farm workers were constructed and owned by the state. On the other hand houses in the cooperative sector were owner financed and belonged to cooperative workers. Thus by 1951, practically all form of market mechanism in Albania had been replaced by central planning. All economic decisions on price and wage setting, investment, external trade and production, were centralized and implemented within the context of five-year plan(1, pg. 6).


From 1951 until 1975 Albania experienced high growth rates and the industrial sector of the economy was expanded tremendously. The industrial sector (which mainly includes the branches of mining, manufacturing, and energy production) in 1990 accounted for approximately 45% of the national material product (NMP) and provided employment for about 23% of the working population. Albania's main export items from this sector were: Cigarettes, textiles, electricity sales to neighboring countries (Yugoslavia and Greece), metals and minerals which accounted for a substantial share of export earnings, (the most significant metal resource is chromium ). Albania is the worlds third largest producer of chromium ore, after the USSR and South Africa). On the other hand the agricultural sector, by the end of the 1980's, constituted roughly 33% of the NMP, and employed 50% of the total working population. The country produced mainly cereal, rice, tobacco, livestock, fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables constituted Albania's major agricultural export items. In general we can say that since the 1976 constitution, which essentially isolated the country from the rest of the world, Albania did not influence or contribute much to the world culture, science, politics, or economics. But taking a short look through the countries long history we will see that since the ancient years, when the Doric tribes inhabited the territories of Sparta and in general Peloponisus and Attica, it was the Illyrians that had traveled south and settled in those territories around 1100 B.C. Also through the mediaeval ages and specifically taking a closer look at the Skanderbeg's years (Skanderbeg is Albanias national hero) we can see the great importance of the countries resistance against the Ottoman army. The Turks encountered repeated losses decreasing the fierceness of the Turkish attacks against the Hungarians and impeded the passage of the Turks to Italy. The Albanians became a strong barrier obstructing the occupation of Europe by Turkish hordes, thus playing an international role in defense of European civilization.



  • 1. Albania: From Isolation toward Reform (International Monetary Fund, Sept. 1992)

  • 2. Albania past and present, by Constantine A. Chekrezi (Arno press, N.Y. Times)

  • 3. High Albania, by M. Edith Durham (Arno press, N.Y. Times)

  • 4. Answers to questions about Albania ("NAIM FRASHERI", publishing house)






Vassilis Andreoulakis



Shqiperi, or land of the Eagles is the official name of this little country that for many researchers of the west remains a mystery. The name is a good description of the country, taking into consideration that 70% of Albania's land is mountains. If you approache it from the Adriatic the airplane landing site looks like an eagle from above and once you are lower you might also see children and cattle running around the airfield. In the past, Albania has mostly been on the sideline, keeping a distance from the spotlight and due to its political situation and geographic location somewhat disconnected from the rest of the world. The outsiders' contemporary and most popular belief is that this country was under a very harsh Marxist-Leninst system, also serving as an explanation to their lack of progress. One could say that Albania was moving backwards, towards the medieval centuries rather that the 20th century.


   But the story of Albania and its disconnection with the rest of the world did not start there. Long before communism, Albania was a weak country strugling to win it's independance from the Othoman Empire. Since Albania desided to pick up Islamism, the great powers such as Great Britain, desided that the only help offered shoulb be towards opprested Christians and that did not include Albania were a lot of people had becam Muslims. English historian Edward Gibon has stated that Albanians were such a mystery to them as were the Native Americans in the new world.

Albania is by far the poorest country in Europe with a per capita GDP of only a few hundred dollars, similar to some third world countries. Just like other counties of the Eastern Block, Albania has tried to move from communism to capitalism by establishing a free market economy, a general privitization and changes in foreign and defence policies. But there had never been any first bricks in order for this new democratic structure to hold. Despite an experiment in 1924, Albania never had a parliament again.

    The most important period for Albania were the years between 1944 and 1989, the years of Hoxha, the main reason why Albania is in its present situation. He tried to create a unified country with a strong socialist identity and moreover he tried to overcome the problem of religious differences that held Albanian evolution back during the years of Othoman influence. Hoxha's desire was to "create" a type of socialist with a strong Albanian identity and deep communist consiousness. His total failure was proven in the 1992 elections, were the Democratic party won the election after a chaotic two years of anarchy in Albania during which communism was rejected.


However, when Albania overthrew a half a century old political system, it found itself buried beneath the war and the ethnic comfrontations of the balkans. Albania had now a double role of participant and observator. Even if Albania managed to avoid a direct military involment in the war of their neighbours, Yugoslavia, its economy has sufferd severely because of the UN actions of not permiting economic expansion within or near areas of conflict. The end of communism in Albania was the event brought the minorities problem to the surface. This mainly regards the last Greek University situated in the South of the country. This was connected with the massive movements of Albanian population to Greece, serving as the biggest labor market for Albanians outside their country. Many externalities arose from the immigration, because there were a lot of illegal immigrants that Greek authorities had to send back and moreover there are many that end up in prison because poverty and unemployment made many immigrants try and raise money in ways very disagreable with the Greek authorities. As a result about 70% of all inmates in Greek prisons are Albanians.



Despite the transition to a free market, the wages of expert workers are still low while a class of businessmen, especially in the fields of trading and argiculture, have all economic power and influence. These were the same people that helped the Democratic party win the 1992 elections. Some of the products that Albania would produce under Communism were chromite, copper and nickel; but all these businesses eventually had to close down because of poor returns. Very poor technology, lack of equipment and obsolete factories were the reason for the aforementioned shut-downs. As a result, about 80% of the labor force was unemployed. The education level is very low, not providing the means for expansion and progress for the next generation. Moreover, if we consider that Albanians have a relativelly low age level (40% under 25), it seems that the unemployment problem will increase unless there is a foreign demand for labor. As a nation with no democratic tradition, Albania has the most uncertain future than any other country in the former Eastern block. President Berisha has stated that help towards his country should have a different approach than other regions in need of finacial aid, because Albania has endured for fifty years the worst kind of communism under the worst conditions. Burried within their hatred and dissapointment for the past, a trace of hope still exists within the Albanian people, which of course will not flourish without outside aid and most of all genuine interest for the well-being of this country and its people.



  • 1) ALBANIA: a country study. Washington D.C. Aprir 1992,Library of Congress Federal Research Division

  • 2)Marmullaku, Ramadan: Albania and the Albanian

  • s. Hamden, CT: Archon Books 1975,

  • 3)Mario I. Blejer: Albania:from isolation towards reform. Washington D.C. 1992, International Monetary Fund.






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