Country Profile: Albania
28,748 sq km
5 to 15 degrees winter
15 to 35 degrees summer
Plentiful rainfall in the winter
3,619,778 (0.5% growth rate),
Capital CityTirana, 353,400 metres squared
LanguagesAlbanian (Tosk is official
ReligionsIslam 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, Roman Catholic 10%
Economic SummaryGDP: $19.76 billion
Of labour force (1.1 million): Agriculture 58%, Industry 15%, Services 27%
Main industriesFood processing, textiles
and clothing, lumber, oil, cement, chemical
Major trading partnersItaly, Greece, Turkey, Germany
Albania is a member of the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, NATO, WTO, as well as being a potential member state of the EU. The country has a transitional economy, as it moves from centrally-run (from its Soviet days) to market economy, and recently free-market reforms have meant that the country has been opened up to foreign investment
Albania was ruled by the Byzantine Empire from the 6th to the 12th century. Prior to this it had been part of Illyria and then the Roman Empire. In the 15th century an alliance of Albanian chiefs tried and failed to prevent invasion by the Ottoman Turks, resulting in Albania being under Turkish rule until it finally gained independence in 1912.
Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, and has had a turbulent past. One of the main battlefields during World War I, it became a republic following the war; a landlord, Ahmed Zogu, proclaimed himself king and president. Following the annexing of Albania to Italy in 1939, King Zog's rule ended and in 1944, Communist guerrillas and Hoxha seized the country. A Stalinist, Hoxha ruled the country under strict, oppressive Communist ideals, executing those who did not sympathise with him.
After disputes between the Russian Communists and Hoxha, he adopted Chinese Communism, but after the death of Mao in 1978, Albania began to adopt its own socialist systems and ideas.
The Communist Party of Labour renamed itself the Socialist Party and renounced all of its former ideals; however, following election in 1991, the cabinet was soon forced to resign following widespread street protests. The Democratic party came into power with a former cardiologist at its helm, Sali Berisha, the first elected President. Democracy was established in Albania for a few short years.
However, in 1997, the temporary democracy was destroyed. Many Albanians invested in suspect pyramid schemes. When five of these collapsed, Albanians lost an estimated $1.2billion in savings. They turned their anger on the government, which is believed to have sanctioned these pyramid schemes. There was widespread gangster and rebel-lead crime, and the frail infrastructure which had been established fell apart.
Albania was involved heavily in sheltering Albanians driven from their homes in Kosovo, and was an outpost for NATO troops.
Even now disputes between political parties in Albania are retarding the efforts to improve the levels of crime in the country, to start to reinstate the infrastructure that was lost in 1997, and to begin to develop the country's economic and social status.
The main meal for Albanians is lunch, which is normally accompanied by a salad. Traditional dishes include aubergine appetisers, dolma (grape leaves stuffed with rice), Albanian potato salad, bean jahni soup, baked fish, baked lamb and yoghurt, fried meatballs, korce kolloface and much more. Albanian deserts are similar to those found throughout the Balkans.
Football is extremely popular in Albania, but basketball, volleyball and gymnastics are also widespread.
There are three main types of folk music in Albania: northern Ghegs, and southern Labs and Tosks. The northern music is said to be rugged and heroic, whilst the southern is described as beautiful and gentle. The music is used to orally convey traditional stories, and often uses rhythms such as 3/8, or 5/8.
In the 1930s, urban art songs in the north combined the traditional northern folk style with Turkish modes. Marie Kraja, as one of Albania's first popular singers, sung in this genre.
Throughout its Communist history, the predominant depiction in Albanian art is of the proletariat. However, in more recent years modern artists have been finding new methods by which to express the struggle of the Albanians. Much of Albanian art is influenced by the Impressionists and Expressionists.
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