Albania


Figure 1.--This portrait shows a rural mountain boy wearing folk garmnents during the 1910s, just before World War I. I'm not sure how to interpret the two-colored trousers. We suspect they were cobbeled together by his mother using two worn-out pair of trousers, but they may be a folk style.

We have very little information on Albania at this time, but we have begun to collect some basic information about Albania. We have developed some limited information on the country. HBC has a history page. Although a European country with a long Christian traditiin, Albania was cut off from the West after the Ottoman conquest. Albania did not emerge from Ottoman control until just before World War I (1913). Thus Ottoman ingfluence and fashion were particularly pronounced, more so than any other Balkan country. Another factor was the fact that many Albanians converted to Islam. There is a page on the monarchy and Albanian Boy Scouts. Under the Ever Hoxa and the Communists, Albania was one of the most closed socities in the world. It was even cloesed off from other Communist countries. Only after a democratic government was established (1989) has the country opene up to the outside world. Clothing styles today are largely Western, similar to other Europeans. Hopefully Albania readers well send us some iformation about their country.

History

The origins of modern Albanians are onscure, but almost certainly developed from the ancient Illyranians. Although conquered by Rome the Illyrians resisted Romanization. And the southern Illyrians or Albanians in their mountaneous land reisted assimilation by the Slavs. The Nyzantines introduced the feudal system which evolved into largely independent principalities that exerted their independence from Byzantium. A series of invadeers occupied Albania. The history of Albanian is a struggle for independence from larger more powerful empires and countries. Albania like much of the Balkans was incororated inro the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman conquest proved especially difficult in Albania. The Ottoman's finally conquered Albania in the 15th centiry. Many Christians Albanians fled west. More than in any other area of the Balkans, however, the Albanians who remained converted to Islam. Albania achieved its independence afyer World war I. The Albanian president declared himself king--King Zog. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini throughout the 1930s tried to seize control of Albania. The President of Albania had himself declared King Zog. He resisted Mussolini's efforts until the Italians actually invaded in 1939. King Zog had to flee Albania in 1939 when the Italians invased. Italian King Victor Emanuel was granted the Albanian crown. After World War II Albania was taken over by the Partisans, but proved to be a renegade in Stalin's Eastern European empire. It becme one of the most reclusive countries in the world and aligned with Communist China. Like the rest of Eastern Europe, a democratic government replaced the Communist Government.

Economy

After centuries of Ottoman rule, Albania ebntered the 20th century as aoor backward corner of Europe. Some of the first modern infrastructure was built during the Itlian era. Communism was a fisaster for Albania. The obsession with economc autrky mean that the imited industry develoed was inefficent and not competive with fireign firms. Sibce the fall of Communism, Western European firms, especially German and Italian, have invested heavily in Albania which has stimulated some economic growth. American companies don't have nearly the presence that these Europeans have. Not yet, anyway. Albania is a fascinting mix of 19th century (or earlier) images - donkey drawn carts, sheep and goats on roadsides, and the timeless of beauty of hills covered with olive trees under a bright blue, sunny sky as well as 21st century cars, cell phones, and computers.

Clothing Influences

Although a European country with a long Christian traditiin, Albania was cut off from the West after the Ottoman conquest. Albania did not emerge from Ottoman control until just before World War I (1913). Thus Ottoman ingfluence and fashion were particularly pronounced, more so than any other Balkan country. Under the Ever Hoxa and the Communists, Albania was one of the most closed socities in the world. It was even cloesed off from other Communist countries. Only after a democratic government was established (1989) has the country opene up to the outside world. Clothing styles today are largely Western, similar to other Europeans.

Folk Styles

Albanians are very proud of their folk costumes. One sources points to the authenticity and originality in the costumes and traditional clothing. An Albanian source does not like to use the term costumes as they are far more than simple outfits, but rather a kind of art form, "... expressing our identity and heritage to the World." None other Lord Byron was impressed, visting Albania during his Greek odessey. He wrote that the Albanians "struck me forcibly by their resemblance of the Highlanders of Scotland, in dress, figure and manner of living. Their very mountains seemed Caledonian, with a kinder climate. The kilt, though white; the spare, active form; their dialect, Celtic in its sound..." [Byron] Albania was cloed to the workd for nearly a century as a result of reclusive and very repressive Communist regimes. Thus relatively little was know about folk costumes and other folk traditions. Since the fall of Communism, this had begun to change. Folk costuimes are still part of daily life in many mountainous regions. Most commonly we see women and girls wearing beautiful, hand embroidered outfit. There are also elaborate outfits worn by men and boys. These include some destinctive garments. Headwear includes the fez and qeleshe, a kind of scull cap. They are often white. A xhaqete or xhamadan is a traditional vest. Albanians often wear pants or fustanella, often white. The fustanella is a traditional skirt-like garment worn by men througout the Balkans. We believe that this is an Ottoman influence. It is a pleated garment similar to the kilt. The fustanella is especially important in the southern Balkans where the Ottoman influence was greatest (Albania, Greece, and Macedonia). The fustanella was adopted by the Royal Guard of Albania (19241939).

Activities

We do not yet much information on boys activities in Alabania. In most countries it would have been school, but Albania was very poor and remained a part of the Ottoman Empire until the Balkans Wars followed by World War I (1910s). And even after the establishment of an independent monarchy after the War, relatively small numbers of boys and very few girls went to school. This did not change until the Communists seized power after World War II. Unfortunately the qulity of the education and the limited oportunities created by amorinund economy created few opportunities. Most Albania boys until the late-20th century worked. This meant largely agricultural work as there was almost no industry in the country. This included most of the populatiion except for the very small governing, religious, and merchant elite. Boys were commonly used as shepherds, sometimes alone sometimes in pairs. It was something even younger boys could do with limited training and adult strength was not required. Albania is set in very rugged territitory with only limited arable land. Thus herding both goats and sheep was an important part of the economy. Religion was of some importance. Most Albanian are Moslems, but a relatively moderate version of Islam prevailed and was challenged by Albanian Cimmunists after World war II. We have no infirmation yet on games played by Albanian boys or sports. Sport dioes not seem to have developed until the Communist era after World War II.

Ethnicity

We do not yet have informationon Albanian etniity. We do have a page on Albanian gypsies.

Religion

The area of modern Albania was part of the Roman Empire and thus after Constantine's conversion became largely Christian. The Ottoman Empire conquered much of the Balkans, including Albania (14th century). Over the 5 centuries of Ottoman rule, much of the population converted to Islam. Thus when Albania became independent after Woerld War I, it was the only predominant Muslim country in Europe. There are few precise statistics on Albanian religious afiliation. The figure often used to estimate the Muslim population is about 70 percent. One estimate suggess at the end of World war II, the Albnian population was about 1.2 million. This included abour 0.8 million Muslims, 0.2 mullion Orthodox Christians, and 0.1 million Catholic Christians. The Muslims were divided into two groups. The dominant sect was Sunni branch (0.6 million). There were also Bektashi, relate to Shia Islam (0.2 million). The Bektashi has veen described as a dervish order and is commonly ranked as tolerant Muslim sect. Some Muslims are ofended by the incorporation of pagan and Christian elements. Partisans established Communist state at the end of World War II (1944). Communist Albania like other Communist states coinducted an atheist campsaign. We do not yet have details on that campaign or the impact on religipus afiliation.

Monarchy

Albania was part of the Roman Empire and was Christinized during the later years of the Empire. It ws split bettweebn theEastern and Western church. The Byzantines introduced the feudal system to imprive the security situation. Instead principalities developed that were able to largely exert their independence from Byzantium. The Christian principalities proved quarelsome and Albania was conquered by a series of invaders. Albania like much of the Balkans was incororated into the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman's conquered Albania in the 15th centiry. More than in any other area of the Balkans, Albanians converted to Islam. Albania began to emerge as an independent state just before World war I (1913) when a German prince was designated king. After World War I a republic was declared and soon dominated by a clan leader--Ahmed Bey Zogu. He at first ruled as president, but subsequently seized power and declared himself king as King Zog I. Despite developing close relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator invaded and ousted King Zog just before the outbreak of World War II. King Zog had to flee the country. Italian King Victor Emnuel II added the Albania throne to his titles. After the War, partisan leader Enver Hoxa seized power and abolished the monarchy.

Youth Groups

We know very little about Albanian youth groups. Presumablt there was a Young Pioneer movement during the Communist era. There is now a small Boy Scout movement.

Material

A reader writes about the image here, "Often leather was added as the trousers appear to be if someone was riding a horse because that was where the greatest wear was. Maybe it is leather. Chaps are worn for the same reason, to protect the underlying trousers from wear." We know so little about Albania that we are not sure. Our general impression though is that this boy did not come from a family that was wealthy enough to enjoy horse-back riding, but also not so poor that the family could not afford a decent pair of pants. . Notice the basic backdrop for an outdoor portrait. This suggests to us the kind of studio low-income people would frequent.

Families

An American reader writes, "Three weeks ago today i received my first letter from my sponsor child, Hakim. His tenth birthday was April 7, and he wrote (translated by the charity) that his mother baked a walnut cake and gave him a new t-shirt (he likes soccer, so maybe it was a sports-themed shirt) for his "special day" as he called it. He gave his friends caramels in return. He seems a friendly, active little guy, enjoying soccer, hide and seek and other games. Hakim lives with his parents, a brother and a sister in a village in the mountains of Albania. His father raises farm animals (the info is not specific, but maybe he's a shepherd) and his mother farms. Hakim helps tend the animals for his dad and babysits for his mom. He wrote that he and his best friend like to ride a donkey to the nearest water fountain to their village, a few minutes away. Isn't that something! His favorite subjects in school are arithmetic and biology. Hakim wrote that he was looking forward to going for seven days to a Christian camp run by the charity, World Vision; that is the charity that manages the sponsorship. He likes to draw, according to the info the charity told me about him, so I sent him a box of coloring pencils (crayons might not survive the mailing overseas and paint, well, could be a problem if not used properly - potential mischief!). He drew his house and a garden on the back of his letter. So, I'm a proud sponsor parent!

Sources

Byron, Lord. Notes to 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'.






HBC







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Crerated: 4:31 AM 11/29/2007
Last updated: 2:45 PM 3/18/2013