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History

National History Museum
Albania officially referred to as the Republic of Albania is a nation located in Southeast Europe. Montenegro borders the country to the north-west, the Republic of  Macedonia to the east, Kosovo to the northeast, and Greece to the south and south-east. Albania has a coast on the Ionian Sea to the south-west and on the Adriatic Sea. The present terrain of the country was a section of the Roman provinces of Moesia Superior, Macedonia, and Dalmatia. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed as a result of the Balkan Wars, Albania declared its independence in 1912 and was gained recognition the following year. The kingdom was, however, invaded by the Italians in 1939 who formed the Greater Albania before it became a Nazi German protectorate in 1943. In 1944, a communist People’s Republic was formed under the guidance of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour. Albania faced a lot of political and social changes during the communist period, and it was also isolated from the global community. It was in 1991 when the People’s Republic was disbanded and the Republic of Albania was formed.
The precise origin of Albania is not known, but there are records that trace its evolution from the ancient Illyrians. The initial traces of human existence in the country date all the way back to the Middle Paleolothic and Upper Paleolithic eras. These traces were found in Mount Dajt near Tiranë and the village of Xarrë. The items found in a cave near Xarrë include fossilized animal bones and jasper and flints objects. Those found at Mount Dajt include stone and bone tools like those of the Aurignacian culture. These finds in Albania portray a lot of resemblance with objects of the same period that were found at Crvena Stijena in north-western Greece and Montenegro.
Besides the Illiyrians, other communities occupied Albania and helped shape the country to what it is today. A number of key events also took place in the country and they had a lot of impact on present-day Albania. Read on below to know more about the key eras and events in the history of Albania.

The Illyrians

These were a group of tribes that settled in the Balkans during the classical antiquity. Some of the tribes that lived in the region of present Albania were the Abir, the Caviii, and the Parthini in the north, the Albanoi and Taulantii in central Albania, the Bylliones in the South, the Anchelei in the east and many others. In the western regions along with the Illyrians tribes, resided the Bryges, and in the south the Greek tribe of the Chaonians. Of all the tribes, Ardiaei was the most powerful and it ruled over present day Albania. The Ardiaen Kingdom attained its greatest coverage under Agron of Illyria who expanded his governance over bordering tribes as well. After his death in 230 BC, his wife Teuta took over power and extended the kingdom’s governance further to the south into the Ionian Sea where she defeated the Achaean and Aetolian fleet in the Battle of Paxos and captured the Corcyra Island. In 229 BC Rome decreed war on Illyria for plundering the Roman ships. The war came to an end in 227 BC and Illyria was defeated. Gentius succeeded Teuta in 181 BC and he went to war with the Romans in 168 BC. The Romans won the war thus leading to the end of Illyrian independence.

Roman period

The regions that make up the present-day Albania were integrated into the Roman Empire as a section of the Illyricum province above river Drin, and Roman Macedonia below it. The western region of the Via Egnatia ran inside present Albania and ended at Dyrrachium. Illyricum was eventually divided into Pannonia and Dalmatia provinces. The Roman province of Illyricum also referred to as Illyria Barbara or Illyris Barbara or Illyris Romana substituted most of the Illyria territory and it extended from the Drilon River to Istria, present-day Croatia in the west and to the Sava River, present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina in the north. These regions changed a lot throughout the centuries but a great section of old Illyria remained a section of Illyricum. South Illyria changed to Epirus Nova, a section of the Roman province of Macedonia. In 357 AD the territory was a section of the Praetorian territory of Illyricum, one of the four biggest praetorian territories into which the late Roman Empire was fractioned. By 395 AD the region was divided into the Diocese of Dacia as Pravealitana and the Diocese of Macedonia as Epirus Nova. Most of the territory of present-day Albania matches the Epirus Nova. It was during this era that Christianity was introduced in the country.

Ottoman Rule

Ottoman rule in the west Balkan area started in 1385 after winning the Battle of Savra. After the battle, the Ottoman Empire created the Sanjak of Albania also referred to as Arvanid Sancak and it covered the conquered regions of Albania. By 1914, the Ottomans had built their garrisons throughout the southern region of Albania and by 1431 they had conquered most regions of the country. In 1943, a revolution was started by the Albanian hero Skanderbeg and it went on until 1479. Skanderbeg brought together the Albanian princes and formed a centralized authority over most of the regions that had not been conquered making him the ruling Lord of Albania. His fight against the greatest power of the era won the confidence of Europe and support in the form of military aid and money from the Papacy, Naples, Ragusa, and Venice. With the arrival of the Ottomans, Islam was, therefore, introduced as a third religion in the country. This led to a lot of immigration of the locals to neighbouring Christian European nations. Most high administrative positions were held by Muslim Albanians and the towns were categorized into four principal sanjaks.
Albania was under the Ottoman rule as a section of the Rumelia province until 1912 when sovereign Albania was decreed. The country’s independence was acknowledged by the Conference of London on 29 July 1913.

Principality of Albania (1914-1925)

The Principality was formed on 21 February 1914 and was governed by Prince William of Wied, nephew to Queen Elisabeth of Romania. The Principality was, however, short-lived since it was succeeded by the first Albanian Republic which governed between1925-1928. The Republic was then substituted by another monarchy in 1928 under the governance of King Zogu who was a conservative but brought about a lot of reforms. The kingdom had support from the fascist regime in Italy. The two countries had close relations until the year 1939 when Italy suddenly invaded Albania. During World War II the country was occupied by Fascist Italy and then by Nazi Germany.

Communist Albania

Towards the end of World War II Albania became a Communist country and the main political and military force in the country was the Communist party called the People’s Republic of Albania. This period led to industrialization and quick economic growth in the country. The first railway line was built, new land reform policies were implemented, agriculture became cooperative thus increasing productivity, and a lot of progress was seen in the health and education sectors. Taxes were not allowed on individuals but were rather imposed on organizations and cooperatives. The government curtailed religious freedoms and Churches and Mosques were destroyed. In 1967, the country was declared the first atheist nation and anyone found preaching any religion faced a 3-10 years prison sentence.

Post-Communist Albania

Protests began in 1989 and reforms were made by the communist government in 1990. As a result, the People’s Republic was disbanded and the Republic of Albania was established. The communists still maintained a lot of power in parliament after gaining support in the 1991 elections. Despite liberalization policies that resulted in social unrest and economic collapse, the new Democratic Party took power in March 1991. In 1995, Albania was accepted into the Council of Europe and made a request to join NATO. In 1997, the country experienced a social unrest due to the collapse of the Ponzi pyramid schemes. It was in this year when the Socialists and their allies came to power through the Albanian Socialist Party.
In 1998, the locals ratified a constitution that established a democratic system of government that was founded on the rule of law and guaranteed the protection of essential human rights. The country has made a lot of strides towards democratic reforms and preservation of the rule of law but there are serious problems in the electoral code which are still to be addressed.
The Republic of Albania became a member of NATO in 2009. The country requested to join the European Union and in June 2014, Albania became a formal candidate for admittance into the European Union.