European Royalty: Albania

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 atvfirst 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.

Albanian 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.

Christian Princes

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. The last Christian conqueror were the Serbs. Christian Albanian ruler of Durrės invited Ottoman forces to intervene against a rival (1385). The Ottomans invade n force. Albanians joined the Serbian-led Balkan army that Ottoman forces defeated at the Battle of Kosovo Polje (1389). Skenderbeg led a revoly against the Ottomans. He lost a battle near Nis. He formed a band of Albanian warriors that rose against the Ottomans (1443). They returned to Kruja. The different Albanian principalities united at Lezha under Skenderbeg, who is proclaimed chief of Albanian resistance (1444). Albanians, under Skenderbeg, in 1449 routed Ottoman forces under Sultan Murat II. Skenderbeg died in 1468.

Ottomon Empire

After Skenderbeg died, Albanian Christiam resistance to the Ottomans collapsed. Kruja fell to the Ottomans (1478). Shkodra fell the next year. Many Christian Albanians fled to southern Italy, Greece, Egypt, and elsewhere. Many who remained in Albania converted to Islam. Albanians who converted to Islam pursue careers in the Ottoman government and military. I am not sure about Ottoman govenors, but believe they were appointed officials. By the 18th cenbtury, about two-thirds of Albanians had converted to Islam. Ottoman control of the Balkans declined as a result of the 19th century Balkan Wars. The large Muslim population on Albania, however, helped the Ottoman's retain comtol until 1913.

Prince Wilhem (1914)

Albanians just before World War I finally moved to form an independent state. Albanians in the Albanian Ottoman territories staged a major uprising (1912). Albania had for centuries been part of the Ottoman Empire and to a greater than degree than elsewhere in the Balkans, Albanians converted to Islam. After the Balkan states defeated the Ottomans (1912), the Great Powers (Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia) convened in London to negotiate a range of issues issues raised by the Balkan War conflict (December 1912). Austria-Hungary and Italy supported the creation of an independent Albania. Borders for the new state proved controversial. Serbia demanded and was awarded Kosovo, depite the large Albanian population there. Greece received ?Mameria. This left about half of etnic Albanians in neighboring countries. The problem was further compounded by the fact that the Albanian-populated areas were more productive lands (food grains) and livestockthan than the territory assigned to Albania itself. A small Greek community was included within Albania, creating future problems between the two countries, primarily because the Greek claimed the Greek community was much larger. British MP Aubrey Herbert was afervent advocate for an independent Albania. Herbert spoke so passinately about Albania that he was offered the crown of a new Albanian kingdom. British prime minister H. H. Asquith disuaded Herbert from accepting the offer. The Great Powers at the 1912 London Conference finally selected a German prince, Wilhelm zu Wied, to rule the new country. Wilhelm arrived in Albania a year later (March 1914). Wilhelm knew nothing about the country or people and setting up a new government did not go smoothly and some Albanians rebelled against the German monarch imposed upon them. The new Albanian kingdom collapsed immediately followuing the outbreak of World War I.

World War I (1914-18)

When World War I broke out, King Wilhelm returned to Germany to serve in the Army. This essentially left Albania without a government during the War. Albania also had no army of its owm was during the War and was invaded and occupied by Austria-Hungary, France, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, and Serbia. The Serbs and Montenegrans occupied nothern Albania. The Greeks and Italians the south. This allowed the defeated Serbian Army to execute their Great Retreat through Albania (1916). The Austrians and Germans moved south after the Serbian retreat. With no government or national political leadership, Albania was in chaos by the end of the War. The Allies (Britain, France, and Italy) wanted to partition Albania among neighboring states. President Wilson opposed partition, largely because of his commitment to national self-determinstion.

Independent Republic

Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece had all laid claim to Albanian-populate Ottoman territory during the First Balkan War. The Great Power before World War I had endorsed an independent Albania, byt the kingdom they set up collapsed after the outbreak of World war I. The entire Balkans were soon engulfed the Balkans and Albania was without a Goverment during the War. The Central Powers occupied Serbia and Albania, but was forced to withdraw as Allied armies rentered the Balkans and each of the Cental Powers requested an armistice. The Albanians declared independence fom the dictates of the Allies. A local warlord, Haji Qamil, established a Muslim regime, although the authority of his regime was very weak. The country was dominated by a number of local warlords or clan chieftans. The United States supported an independent Albania at Versailles, basically because of its commitment to national self-determination. The Albanians held a national congress at Lushnje (January 1920). The Albanians applied and were granted admission to the League of Nationss (December 1920). The country was one of the poorest in Europe with little economic and social development. There was considerable political instability because of the lack of any national consensus and to a large degree a feeling odf Albanian natioinal identity. This permitted bot Italy and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (soon to become Yugoslavia) to meddle in Albvania affairs. Yugoslavia provided military assistance to Ahmed Bey Zogu , the son of a an important clan Chieftain. This helped Zogu dominate rival warlords and declared a republic (late-1924). Zogu once in power, persued an independent course. He largely spurned the Italians and moved toward Benito Mussolini who had seized power in Italy. Zogu was apparently impressed by Mussolini's showy Fascist state craft. In addition, he was suspicious about Yugoslabia because it had seized Kosovo with a substatial Albanian population. Albania joined an Italian-sponsored Coalition against Yugoslavia (Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria) (1924-27). Each of these countries had territorial claims on Yugoslavia. When Britain and France backed Yugoslavia, the Italian Coalition collapsed.

King Zog

Albanian President Zogu in 1928 Zogu disolved the Albania Parliameng, even securing its approval. A constituent assembly made major changes to the country's constitution. Albania was made a king and Zogu became Zog I, "King of the Albanians." Most European governments recognized the new government. The new constiution abolished the Senate and created a unicameral legislture. The King dominated the Parliament and thus ruled with dictatorial powers. King Zog, after he was crowned, broke off his engagement to Shefqet Bey Verlaci's daughter. As a result, Verlaci began plotting King Zog. The King continued to acquire enemies. In the clan dominated society of Albania , the King's enemies continued the tradition of blood feuds. The King vecame one of the most heavily guarded European leaders. The King's supporters attempted to disarm the Albania's tribes, except for his own Mati tribesmen and their allies, the Dibra. On a state visit to Vienna, Austria in 1931, the Ling was attacked and there was a gun battle on the steps of the Vienna Opera House steps.

Albania had a close relatinship with Italy. The Italian Army trained Albania's small army, which although small (less than 15,000 men) was a major strain on the budget. The Italian presence also angered many Alnanians. King Zog, as a check on the Italiands, used British officers in the Gendarmerie even though the Italians objected. The King in 1931 refused to renew the 1926 First Treaty of Tiranė. Feeling the impact of the worldwide Depression, Albania was unable to make payments on loans from the Society for the Economic Development of Albania. The Italian Government made a series of tough demands vthat would have essentially meant an end to independent Albania. The demands included: the Albanians appoint Italian directors to direct the Gendarmerie; enter into a customs union with Italy; grant control to Ilaly of the monoploies on the country's sugar, telegraph, and electrical monopolies; teach the Albanian schools in the Italian lanuage; and pemit the emmigration of Italian colonists. The King rejected the Italian demands. King Zog made major financial changes. He reduced the national budget by 30 percent to put the coyntry's finances on a better footing. He also defied Mussolini by dismissing the Italian military advisers in the Albanian Army. He also nationalized Italian-run Roman Catholic schools that operated in northern Albania. (Remember that Albania was Europe's obly moslem country.) King Zog attempted to break Albania's economic dependence on Italy. The King by 1934, signed trade agreements with both neighboring countries, Yugoslavia and Greece. Mussolini's policies toward Albania swung back anf forth from courting the King to military threats. Mussolini at first suspended all finacial payments to Albania. He then sent a naval squadron to intimidate the Albanians. He then attempted to purchase Albanian compliance and gave the government 3 million gold francs.

Mussolini attempt to intimidate the Albanians failed. Also King Zog's ability to fight off two local rebellions apparently convinced Mussolini that the IAlbanian regime could not be easily dispalced. As a result, he reached a new agreement with the King. The Albanian government of young men headed by Mehdi Frasheri managed to obtained a commitment from Italy to meet financial commiments that Mussolini had made on new loans for harbor improvements at Durrės and construction projects that helped to support the economy. The lbanian Government began letting Italians take technical positions in Albania's civil service. The Government also began allowing Italian settlers enter Albania.

Albania was not only Europe's only Moslem country. It was also Europe's poorest and most economically undeveloped country. Most Albanians were Moslem peasant farmers. The country even in the 1930s had virtually no industry. The hydroelectric potential was also undeveloped. The country's primary resource was oil. The Italians after seizing control in 1939 built a pipeline between the Kuēovė oil field and Vlorė's port expedited crude oil shipments Italian refineries after the Italians began running the oil-drilling concessions prviously run by other foreign companies. Italy like Germany once the War began had trouble obtaining crude oil. Thus the Albanian oil was of some importance. Albania also offered other raw materials, including bitumen, lignite, iron, chromite, copper, bauxite, manganese, and some gold. Shkodėr had a cement factory; Korēė, a brewery; and Durrės and Shkodėr, cigarette factories that used locally grown tobacco.

Italian Invasion (1939)

in May 1939 in May 1939 while the world's attemtion was focused on the growing confrontation between Germany and Poland Il Duce by 1939 was concerned that talky was becoming a junior parner the evolbing partnership with Hitler. Germany had ewmiliarized the Rhineland (1935), oversaw the Anchlus, annexed the Sudetenland (1938), and the rest of Czecheslovakia (1939). the Italian dictator set his eyes on Albania across the Adiatric from Italy. King Victor Emmanuel III criticized the plan as risky. Mussolini, however, demanded on March 25, that King Zog accept Italian contol over his country, even offering money. aas a result, Italy invaded April 7, 1939. Thre was some resistance, especially at Durrės, but the Ialian Army quickly gained control over the country. King Zog, Queen Geraldine Apponyi, and their small son Skander fled to Greece and then to London. Left with little choice, the Albanian parliament on April 12, accepted union with Italy. King Victor Emmanuel III took the Albanian crown. Mussolini established a Fascist government under Shefqet Verlaci. Ironically, after the the Germans invaded and partioned Yugoslavia in 1941, the Albanians for the first time founded themselves united wuth the Albanians in the Yugoslav proivince of Kosovo.

World War II

Mussolini in October 1940 used Albanian base to launch an attack on Greece. The Italian Army not only failed, but were driven back into Albania by the Greeks and British. With German assidstance in 1941 Mussolini was able to retain control of Albania and eventualy areas of Yugoslavia and Greece. This included Kosovo which Yugoslavia had seized after World War I. The resistance to the Italian occupation during World war II came primarily from Communist forces led by Enver Hoxha.

People's Republic

At the end of World War II, partisan leader Enver Hoxha establish a republican government in Albania. He made Albania into the most paranoid and reclusive of the Eastern European People's Republics. He not only clsed Albania off from the West, but also other Communist countries. Albania remained one of the poorest countries in Europe.


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Created: March 15, 2003
Last updated: 8:58 AM 11/29/2007