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Albania ( /ælˈbeɪniə/ (help·info) al-BAY-nee-ə, Albanian:Shqipëri/Shqipëria, Gheg Albanian: Shqipnia/Shqypnia), officially known as the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë, pronounced [ɾɛpuˈblika ɛ ʃcipəˈɾiːs]), is a country in South Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo[a] to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west, and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.
Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation, Organisation of the Islamic Conference and one of the founding members of the Union for the Mediterranean. Albania has been a potential candidate for accession to the European Unionsince January 2003, and it formally applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009.
Albania is a parliamentary democracy and a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to approximately 607,467 of the country's 3.2 million people, and it is also the financial capital of the country. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Newsweek ranked Albania 57 out of 100 Best Countries in the World in 2010.
The first recorded inhabitants in the territory of Albania were theIllyrians, an Indo-European people that inhabited the area corresponding to northern and central Albania. The Illyrian tribes that resided in the region of modern Albania were the Taulantii theParthini, the Abri, the Caviii, the Enchelei, and several others. In the westernmost parts of the territory of Albania along with the Illyrian tribes lived the Bryges, a Phrygian people, and in the southernmost areas lived the Greek tribe of theChaonians.
Beginning in the 7th century BC, Greek colonies were established on the Illyrian coast. The most important wereApollonia, Avlona (modern-day Vlorë), Epidamnos (modern-day Durrës), and Lissus (modern-day Lezhë). The rediscovered Greek city of Buthrotum (modern-day Butrint), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is probably more significant today than it was when Julius Caesar used it as a provisions depot for his troops during his campaigns in the 1st century BC. At that time, it was considered an unimportant outpost, overshadowed by Apollonia and Epidamnos.
In the 4th century BC, the Illyrian king Bardyllis united several Illyrian tribes and engaged in conflict with Macedonto the southeast, but was defeated. Bardyllis was succeeded by Grabos, then by Bardyllis II, and then byCleitus the Illyrian, who was defeated by Alexander the Great. Later on, in 229 BC, Queen Teuta of theArdiaei clashed with the Romans and initiated the Illyrian Wars, which resulted in defeat and in the end of Illyrian independence by 168 B.C., when King Gentius was defeated by a Roman army.
The lands comprising modern-day Albania were incorporated into the Roman empire as part of the province ofIllyricum above the river Drin, and Roman Macedonia (specifically as Epirus Nova) below it. The western part of theVia Egnatia ran inside modern Albania, ending at Dyrrachium. Illyricum was later divided into the provinces ofDalmatia and Pannonia.
When the Roman Empire was divided into East and West in 395, the territories of modern Albania became part of the Byzantine Empire. Beginning in the first decades of Byzantine rule (until 461), the region suffered devastating raids by Visigoths, Huns, and Ostrogoths. In the 6th and 7th centuries, the region was overrun by the Slavs.
The new administrative system of the themes, or military provinces created by the Byzantine Empire, contributed to the eventual rise of feudalism in Albania, as peasant soldiers who served military lords became serfs on their landed estates. Among the leading families of the Albanian feudal nobility were the Balsha, Thopia, Shpata,Muzaka, Dukagjini and Kastrioti. The first three of these rose to become rulers of principalities were vassals of the Byzantine empire, maintaining a partial local autonomy from the Byzantine empire. Many Albanians converted to the Roman Catholic Church at that period.
In the mid 9th century most of eastern Albania became part of the Bulgarian Empire. The area, known asKutmichevitsa, became an important Bulgarian cultural center in 10th century with many thriving towns such asDevol, Glavinitsa (Ballsh) and Belgrad (Berat). When the Byzantines managed to conquer the First Bulgarian Empire the fortresses in eastern Albania were some of the last Bulgarian strongholds to be submitted by the Byzantines. Later the region was recovered by the Second Bulgarian Empire.
The territory of Albania would remain under Byzantine and Bulgarian rule until the 14th century, when the Ottoman Turks began to make incursions into the Empire. The Ottomans captured Constantinople in 1453, and by 1460 most former Byzantine territories were in the hands of the Turks. Albania was fully occupied by the Ottomans in 1478.
In the Middle Ages, the name Arberia (see Origin and history of the name Albania) began to be increasingly applied to the region now comprising the nation of Albania.
Beginning in the late-14th century, the Ottoman Turks expanded their empire from Anatolia to the Balkans (Rumelia). By the 15th century, the Ottomans ruled all of the Balkan Peninsula. Many Albanians had been recruited into the Janissary, including the feudal heir Gjergj Kastrioti who was renamed Skanderbeg (Iskandar Bey) by his Turkish trainers atEdrine. After some Ottoman defeats at the hands of the Serbs, Skanderbeg deserted and began a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire.
After deserting, Skanderbeg re-converted to Roman Catholicism and declared a holy war against the Ottoman Empire, which he led from 1443 to 1468. Under a red flag bearing Skanderbeg's heraldic emblem, an Albanian force held off Ottoman campaigns for twenty-five years and overcame sieges of Krujë led by the forces of the Ottoman sultans Murad II and Mehmed II.
However, Skanderbeg was unable to receive any of the help which had been promised him by the popes. He died in 1468, leaving no worthy successor. After his death the rebellion continued, but without its former success. The loyalties and alliances created and nurtured by Skanderbeg faltered and fell apart, and the Ottomans reconquered the territory of Albania in 1478. Shortly after the fall of Kruje's castle, some Albanians fled to neighboring Italy, giving rise to the modern Arbëreshë communities.
The Ottomans had urbanized the landscape creating new cities, Bazaars, garrisons and Mosques throughout the Albanian regions. The majority of the remaining Albanian population converted to Islam, with many joining the SufiOrder of the Bektashi. Converting from Christianity to Islam brought considerable advantages, including access to Ottoman trade networks, bureaucratic positions and the army. As a result many Albanians came to serve in the elite Janissaryand the administrative Devşirme system. Among these were important historical figures, including Iljaz Hoxha, Hamza Kastrioti, Davud Pasha, Zağanos Pasha,Köprülü Mehmed Pasha (head of the Köprülü family of Grand Viziers), theBushati family, Sulejman Pasha, Ethem Pasha, Nezim Frakulla, Ali Pasha of Tepelena, Haxhi Shekreti, Hasan Zyko Kamberi, Ali Pasha of Gucia, and Mehmet Ali ruler of Egypt. and Emin Pasha.
Many Albanians gained prominent positions in the Ottoman government, Albanians highly active during theOttoman Era and leaders such as Ali Pasha of Tepelena might have aided Husein Gradaščević. The Albanians proved generally faithful to Ottoman rule following the end of the resistance led by Skanderbeg, and accepted Islam more easily than their neighbors.No fewer than 42Grand Viziers of the Empire were of Albanian descent. The Ottoman period also saw the rising of semi-autonomous Albanian ruled Pashaliks, and Albanians were also an important part of the Ottoman army and Ottoman administration like the case ofKöprülü family. Albania would remain a part of the Ottoman Empire as the provinces of Shkodra, Manastir andYanya until 1912.
However, in the 19th century after the fall of the Albanian pashaliks and the Massacre of the Albanian Beys anAlbanian National Awakening took place and many revolts against the Ottoman Empire were organized. Such revolts included the Albanian Revolts of 1833-1839, the Revolt of 1843-44, and the Revolt of 1847. A culmination of the Albanian National Awakening were the League of Prizren and the League of Peja, but they were unsuccessful to an Albanian independence, which occurred only in 1912, through the Albanian Declaration of Independence.
1913 to 1928
After five hundred years of Ottoman domination, an independent Albania was proclaimed on November 28, 1912.
The initial sparks of the first Balkan War in 1912 were ignited by the Albanian uprising between 1908 and 1910which were directed at opposing the Young Turk policies of consolidation of the Ottoman Empire. Following the eventual weakening of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria declared war and sought to aggrandize their respective boundaries on the remaining territories of the Empire. Albania was thus invaded by Serbia in the north and Greece in the south, restricting the country to only a patch of land around the southern coastal city of Vlora. In 1912 Albania, still under foreign occupation declared its independence and with the aid ofAustria-Hungary, the Great Powers drew its present borders leaving more than half of the Albanian population outside the new country. The territorial security of Albania was guaranteed by Great Powers on Treaty of London.
The border between Albania and its neighbors was delineated in 1913 following the dissolution of most of the Ottoman Empire's territories in the Balkans. The delineation of the new state's borders left a significant number of Albanian communities outside Albania. This population was largely divided between Montenegro and Serbia (which then included what is now the Republic of Macedonia). A substantial number of Albanians thus found themselves under Serbian rule. At the same time, an uprising in the country's south by local Greeks, led to the formation of anautonomous region inside its borders (1914). After a period of political instability caused during World War I, the country adopted a republican form of government in 1920. The territorial security of Albania was guaranteed by aLeague of Nations declaration of November 9, 1921, which entrusted the defense of that state to Italy.
1928 to 1946
Starting in 1928, but especially during the Great Depression, the government ofKing Zog, which brought law and order to the country, began to cede Albania's sovereignty to Italy. Despite some insignificant resistance, especially at Durrës, Italy invaded Albania on 7 April 1939 and took control of the country, with the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini proclaiming Italy's figurehead King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy as King of Albania. The nation thus became one of the first to be occupied by the Axis Powers in World War II.
As Hitler began his aggressions, Mussolini decided to occupy Albania as a means to compete with Hitler's territorial gains. Mussolini and the Italian Fascists saw Albania as a historical part of the Roman Empire, and the occupation was intended to fulfill Mussolini's dream of creating an Italian Empire. During the Italian occupation, Albania's population was subject to a policy of forcedItalianization by the kingdom's Italian governors, in which the use of the Albanian language was discouraged in schools while the Italian language was promoted. At the same time, the colonization of Albania by Italians was encouraged.
Mussolini, in October 1940, used his Albanian base to launch an attack on Greece, which led to the defeat of the Italian forces and the Greek occupation of Southern Albania in what was seen by the Greeks as the liberation ofNorthern Epirus. While preparing for the Invasion of Russia, Hitler decided to attack Greece in December 1940 to prevent a British attack on his southern flank.
During World War II, the Albanian Communist Party was created on 8 November 1941. With the intention of organizing a partisan resistance, they called a general conference in Pezë on 16 September 1942 where the Albanian National Liberation Front was set up. The Front included nationalist groups, but it was dominated by communist partisans.
In December 1942, more Albanian nationalist groups were organized. Albanians fought against the Italians while, during Nazi German occupation, Balli Kombëtar allied itself with the Germans and clashed with Albanian communists, which continued their fight against Germans and Balli Kombëtar at the same time.
With the collapse of the Mussolini government in line with the Allied invasion of Italy, Germany occupied Albania in September 1943, dropping paratroopers into Tirana before the Albanian guerrillas could take the capital. TheGerman Army soon drove the guerrillas into the hills and to the south. The Nazi German government subsequently announced it would recognize the independence of a neutral Albania and set about organizing a new government, police and armed forces. Many Balli Kombëtar units cooperated with the Germans against the communists and several Balli Kombëtar leaders held positions in the German-sponsored regime.
The partisans entirely liberated Albania from German occupation on 29 November 1944. The Albanian partisans also liberated Kosovo, part of Montenegro, and southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. By November 1944, they had thrown out the Germans, one of the few East European nations to do so without any assistance from Soviet troops.Enver Hoxha became the leader of the country by virtue of his position as Secretary General of the Albanian Communist Party.
Albania was one of the European countries occupied by the Axis powers that ended World War II with a largerJewish population than before the war. Some 1,200 Jewish residents and refugees from other Balkancountries were hidden by Albanian families during World War II, according to official records.
Albania became an ally of the Soviet Union, but this came to an end in 1960 over the advent of de-Stalinization. A strong political alliance with China followed, leading to several billion dollars in aid, which was curtailed after 1974. China cut off aid in 1978 when Albania attacked its policies after the death of the Chinese ruler Mao Zedong. Large-scale purges of officials occurred during the 1970s.
Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania for four decades, died on 11 April 1985. Eventually the new regime introduced some liberalization, and granting the freedom to travel abroad in 1990. The new government made efforts to improve ties with the outside world. The elections of March 1991 left the former Communists in power, but a general strike and urban opposition led to the formation of a coalition cabinet that included non-Communists.
Recent history – 1992 to present
Albania's former Communists were routed in elections March 1992, causing economic collapse and social unrest. Sali Berisha was elected as the first non-Communist president since World War II. The next crisis occurred in 1997, during his presidency, as riots ravaged the countrybecause of collapse of financial pyramidal schemes. The state institutions collapsed and an EU military mission led by Italy was sent to stabilize the country. In summer 1997, Berisha was defeated in elections, winning just 25 seats out of a total of 156. His return to power in the elections of 3 July 2005 ended eight years of Socialist Party rule. In 2009, Albania – along with Croatia – joined NATO.