Albanians: Wikis


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Gjergj Kastrioti 140x190.jpgDupré - Ali Pasha 140x190.jpg
ModernEgypt, Muhammad Ali by Auguste Couder, BAP 17996 140x190.jpgLeke Dukagjini 140x190.jpg
Notable Albanians: Skanderbeg · Ali Pasha
Muhammad Ali of Egypt · Lekë Dukagjini
Total population
approximately 8 million
Regions with significant populations
 Albania approx. 3,000,000 [1]
 Kosovo[a] 1,804,838 [2]
 Italy 700,000 [3][4]
 Macedonia 500,083 [5]
 Turkey 500,000 1 [6]
 Greece 274,390 [7]
 Germany 320,000 2 [8]
 Switzerland 200,000 [9][10]
 United States 113,661 [11]
 Serbia 61,647 [12]
 Sweden 60,000 [citation needed]
 Montenegro 33,600 [13]
 United Kingdom 30,000 [14]
 Canada 16,435 [15]
 Norway 10,000 [citation needed]
 Denmark 8,000 [16]
 Slovenia 6,186 [17]
 Croatia 4,500 [citation needed]
 Belgium 2,788 [18]
 Netherlands 12.000 {{[19]}}

Albanian (Gheg, Tosk, Arvanitika, Arbëresh, Cham)


Predominantly Muslim and a significant Christian minority; in Albania with a large minority professing non-religious

1 Albanians are not recognized as a minority in Turkey. However approximately 500,000 people are reported to profess an Albanian identity. A more accurate number is hard to obtain, as most of Albanians living in Turkey do not speak Albanian, and some of them have only partial Albanian ancestry.

2 The total number of Albanian immigrants is obscure due to difficulties with identifying them as Albanians from Kosovo or Albania, and because some of them are illegal[20].

Albanians (Albanian: Shqiptarë) are a people from southeast Europe who live in Albania and neighboring countries. They speak the Albanian language. Roughly half of Albanians live in Albania, with other large groups residing in Kosovo[a], the Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro. There are Albanian communities in a number of other countries, including Turkey, Greece, Serbia and Italy.



While the exonym Albania for the general region inhabited by the Albanians does hark back to Classical Antiquity, and possibly to an Illyrian tribe, the name was lost within the Albanian language, the Albanian endonym being shqiptar, from the term for the Albanian language, shqip, a derivation of the verb shqiptoj "to speak clearly". This theory pertains to Hahn and it holds that perhaps the word is ultimately a loan from Latin excipio.[21] Thus, the Albanian endonym, like Slav and others, is in origin a term for "those who speak [intelligibly, the same language]". However another plausible theory has been advanced by Maximilian Lambertz to explain the endonym as derived from the Albanian noun shqype or shqiponjë (eagle), which, according to Albanian folk etymology, denoted a bird totem dating from the times of Skanderbeg, as displayed on the Albanian flag.[22]

In the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria, drafted a map that shows the city of Albanopolis (Greek,"Ἀλβανόπολις")[23] (located Northeast of Durrës). Ptolemy also mentions the Illyrian tribe named Albanoi, who lived around this city.

In History written in 1079-1080, the Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium. It is disputed, however, whether that refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense.[24]. The first reference to a lingua albanesca dates to the later 13th century (around 1285)[25].

The Albanians are and have been referred to by other terms as well. Some of them are:

  • Arbër, Arbën, Arbëreshë; the old native term denoting ancient and medieval Albanians and sharing the same root with the latter. At the time the country was called Arbër (Gheg: Arbën) and Arbëria (Gheg: Arbënia). This term is still used for the Albanians that migrated to Italy during the Middle Ages.
  • Arnauts (ارناود); old term used mainly from Turks and by extension by European authors during the Ottoman Empire. A derivate of the Turkish Arvanid (اروانيد), which derives from the Greek Arvanites.
  • Skipetars; the historical rendering of the ethnonym Shqiptar (or Shqyptar by French, Austrian and German authors) in use from the 18th century (but probably earlier) to the present, the literal translation of which is subject of the eagle. The term Šiptari is a derivation used by Yugoslavs which the Albanians consider derogatory, preferring Albanci instead.


Population movements, 14th century.
"Albanian fest" 1856, by Jean-Léon Gérôme.

What is possibly the earliest written reference to the Albanians is that to be found in an old Bulgarian text compiled around the beginning of the eleventh century. It was discovered in a Serbian manuscript dated 1628 and was first published in 1934 by Radoslav Grujic. This fragment of a legend from the time of Tsar Samuel endeavours, in a catechismal 'question and answer' form, to explain the origins of peoples and languages. It divides the world into seventy-two languages and three religious categories: Orthodox, half-believers (i.e. non-Orthodox Christians) and non-believers. The Albanians find their place among the nations of half-believers. If we accept the dating of Grujic, which is based primarily upon the contents of the text as a whole, this would be the earliest written document referring to the Albanians as a people or language group.

It can be seen that there are various languages on earth. Of them, there are five Orthodox languages: Bulgarian, Greek, Syrian (likely mistaken for Serbian), Iberian (Georgian) and Russian. Three of these have Orthodox alphabets: Greek, Bulgarian and Iberian. There are twelve languages of half-believers: Alamanians, Franks, Magyars (Hungarians), Indians, Jacobites, Armenians, Saxons, Lechs (Poles), Arbanasi (Albanians), Croatians, Hizi, Germans.[26]

The Albanians appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late 11th century. At this point, they are already fully Christianized. Very little evidence of pre-Christian Albanian culture survives, and Albanian mythology and folklore as it presents itself is notoriously syncretized from various sources, showing in particular Greek influence.[27]

Regarding the classification of the Albanian language, it forms a separate branch of Indo-European, belonging to the Satem[28] group, and its late attestation, the first records dating to the 15th century, makes it difficult for historical linguistics to make confident statements on its genesis.

Ottoman supremacy in the Balkan region began in 1385 with the Battle of Savra but was briefly interrupted in the 15th century, when Gjergj Kastrioti, an Albanian warrior known as Skanderbeg, allied with some Albanian chiefs formed the League of Lezhe and fought-off Turkish rule from 1443-1478 (although Kastrioti died in 1468). Kastrioti's strongholds included Kruja, Shkodra, Durres, Lezha, Petrela, Koxhaxhik and Berat. Upon the Ottomans' return, a large number of Albanians fled to Italy, Greece and Egypt and maintained their Arbëresh identity.

By the 1870s, the Sublime Porte's reforms aimed at checking the Ottoman Empire's disintegration had clearly failed. The image of the "Turkish yoke" had become fixed in the nationalist mythologies and psyches of the empire's Balkan peoples, and their march toward independence quickened. The Albanians, because of the higher degree of Islamic influence, their internal social divisions, and the fear that they would lose their Albanian-populated lands to the emerging Balkan states--Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece were the last of the Balkan peoples to desire division from the Ottoman Empire.[29]



Approximately 6,5 million Albanians are to be found within the Balkan peninsula with only about half this number residing in Albania and the other divided between Kosovo, Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece and to a much smaller extent Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.


An estimated 3.2 million Albanians live in Albania, amounting to 98.6% of the country's total population, making Albania one of the ethnically most homogenous states of Europe.[30]

Former Yugoslavia

An estimated 2.5 million Albanians live in the territory of Former Yugoslavia, the greater part (close to two million) in Kosovo[a].

Rights to use the Albanian language in education and government were given and guaranteed by the 1974 Constitution of SFRY and were widely utilized in Macedonia and in Montenegro before Dissolution of Yugoslavia[31].


Tosk Albanians wearing traditional costumes from southern Albania.

Due to different waves of migration, Albanians and groups of Albanian descent are generally divided into three distinct groups.

The first group is that of Arvanites and Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace, who retain a distinct ethnic identity, but self-identify nationally as Greeks. The Arvanites are descended from Tosk Albanians that migrated to Greece during the Middle Ages. They are Greek Orthodox Christians, and though they speak a dialect of Tosk Albanian known as Arvanitika, they have fully assimilated into the Greek nation and do not identify with the modern Albanian nation

The second group is that of the Cham Albanians and their descendents, in Epirus, in northwestern Greece. Muslim Chams were expelled from Epirus during World War II, by an anti-communist resistance group, as a result of their participation in a communist resistance group and the collaboration with the Axis occupation.

Alongside these two indigenous groups, about 10 percent of the population of Albania entered Greece after the fall of Communism, forming the third community of Albanian origin in Greece, the largest single expatriate group in the country today and the country's largest population group after the ethnic Greek majority. Their numbers are thought to range between 200,000 and 500,000.[citation needed]


The largest Albanian diasporic communities outside of the Balkans are found in Turkey (about 1.3 million, 13% of Albanians, 1.7% of host population), Italy (1.44 million,3.7% of host population), the United States (1.14 million, 0.5% of host population), Switzerland (0.35 million, 5% of host population), and Germany (0.40-1.0 million, 0.8% of host population).


Approximately 3 million are dispersed throughout the rest of Europe, most of these in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and France.

Italy has a historical Albanian minority known as the Arbëreshë are scattered across Southern Italy, but the majority of Italo-Albanians have arrived since 1991 to surpass that of the older populations of Arbëreshë.


According to a 2008 report prepared for the National Security Council of Turkey by academics of three Turkish universities in eastern Anatolia, there were approximately 5,000,000 Albanians living in Turkey.[32] Most of these people have assimilated to the culture of Turkey, and consider themselves more Turkish then Albanian. Nonetheless, some families of Albanian decent still recognize their ancestry.


In the United States the number reaches 113,661 according to the latest 2000 US Census which is published in 2004.

Asia and Oceania

In Australia and New Zealand 22,000 in total. Albanians are also known to reside in China, India, Iran, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore, but the numbers are generally small.200,000 in all these countries. Albanians have been present in Arab countries such as Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria for about 5 centuries as a legacy of Ottoman Turkish rule.


In Egypt there are 18,000 Albanians, mostly Tosk speakers. Many are descendants of the soldiers of Mehmet Ali. A large part of the former nobility of Egypt was Albanian in origin. A small community also resides in South Africa.


The Albanian language forms a separate branch of Indo-European languages family tree. A traditional view links the origin of Albanian with Illyrian, though this theory is broadly contested and challenged[33].

Unattested prior to the second half of the 15th century, the Albanian language is one of the youngest languages of Europe in terms of first written account.

Albanian in a revised form of the Tosk dialect is the official language of Albania and Kosovo[a]; and is official in the municipalities where there are more than 20% ethnic Albanian inhabitants in the Republic of Macedonia. It is also an official language of Montenegro where it is spoken in the municipalities with ethnic Albanian populations.


The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late 11th century.[34] At this point, they were already fully Christianized.Christianity was later overshadowed by Islam, which kept the scepter of the major religion during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule from the 15th century until year 1912. Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism were continued practiced with less frequency.

During the 20th century the monarchy and later the totalitarian state followed a systematic secularization of the nation and the national culture. This policy was chiefly applied within the borders of the current Albanian state. It produced a secular majority in the population. All forms of Christianity, Islam and other religious practices were prohibited except for old non-institutional Pagan practices in the rural areas, which were seen as identifying with the national culture. The current Albanian state has revived some pagan festivals, such as the lunar Spring festival (Albanian: Dita e Verës) held yearly on March 14 in the city of Elbasan. It is a national holiday.

A recent Pew Research Center demographic study put the percentage of Muslims in Albania at 79.9%.[35] Most of the Muslims in Albania are Sunni Muslims and Bektashi Shi'a Muslims[36][37]. It is estimated that 97% of ethnic Albanians in the Republic of Kosovo are Muslims[38].

There are also Orthodox Christians, predominantly in Southern Albania, bordering Greece, and Roman Catholics is the main religion among those Albanians living predominantly in northern Albania, bordering the Republic of Montenegro. After 1992 an influx of foreign missionaries has brought more religious diversity with groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Hindus, Bahá'í, a variety of Christian denominations and others. This rich blend of religions has however rarely caused religious strife. People of different religions freely intermarry. For part of its history, Albania has also had a Jewish community. Some of the members of the Jewish community were saved by a group of Albanians during the Nazi occupation.[39] Many left for Israel circa 1990-1992 after borders were open due to fall of communist regime in Albania.


Albanian music displays a variety of influences. Albanian folk music traditions differ by region, with major stylistic differences between the traditional music of the Ghegs in the north and Tosks in the south. Modern popular music has developed around the centers of Korca, Shkodër and Tirana. Since the 1920s, some composers such as Fan S. Noli have also produced works of Albanian classical music.


See also

Notes and references


a.   ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The Assembly of Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence on 17 February 2008, a move that is recognised by 65 of the 192 UN member states and the Republic of China (Taiwan), but not by other UN member states. Serbia claims it as part of its own sovereign territory.


  1. ^ "Albania National Institute of Statistics official web site". 
  2. ^ See [1] (Serbo-Croatian) UN estimate, Kosovo’s population estimates range from 1.9 to 2.4 million. The last two population census conducted in 1981 and 1991 estimated Kosovo’s population at 1.6 and 1.9 million respectively, but the 1991 census probably under-counted Albanians. The latest estimate in 2001 by OSCE puts the number at 2.4 Million. The World Factbook gives an estimate of 2,126,708 for the year 2007 (see Kosovo entry at The World Factbook).
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Ethnologue
  5. ^ 2002 Macedonian Census
  6. ^ [3]
  7. ^ Migration and Migration Policy in Greece. Critical Review and Policy Recommendations. Anna Triandafyllidou. Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP). Data taken from Greek ministry of Interiors. p. 5 "the total number of Albanian citizens residing in Greece, including 185,000 co-ethnics holding special identity cards"
  8. ^ Deutscher Bundestag - 16. Wahlperiode - 166. Sitzung. Berlin, Donnerstag, den 5. Juni 2008
  9. ^ Die Albaner in der Schweiz: Geschichtliches – Albaner in der Schweiz seit 1431
  10. ^ Im Namen aller Albaner eine Moschee?
  11. ^ US Census Bureau, Census 2000, Table: Ancestry for People with one or more Ancestry Categories Reported
  12. ^ (Serbian) Official Results of Serbian Census 2003–PopulationPDF (441 KiB), pp. 12-13
  13. ^ CIA Monenegro
  14. ^ Total Population of Albanians in the United Kingdom
  15. ^ Canadian Census of 2006
  16. ^ National statistics of Denmark
  17. ^ Population by ethnic affiliation in Slovenia
  18. ^ Official Belgian Population Statistics
  19. ^
  20. ^ The Albanian connection
  21. ^ Robert Elsie, A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology and folk culture, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2001, ISBN 9781850655701, p. 79.
  22. ^ "ALBANCI". Enciklopedija Jugoslavije 2nd ed.. Supplement. Zagreb: JLZ. 1984. pp. 1. 
  23. ^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854)William Smith, LLD, Ed.,Ptolemy is the earliest writer in whose works the name of the Albanians has been distinctly recognised. He mentions (3.13.23) a tribe called ALBANI (Ἀλβανοί) and a town ALBANOPOLIS (Ἀλβανόπολις), in the region lying to the E. of the Ionian sea; and from the names of places with which Albanopolis is connected, it appears clearly to have been in the S. part of the Illyrian territory, and in modern Albania. There are no means of forming a conjecture how the name of this obscure tribe came to be extended to so considerable a nation.
  24. ^ Pritsak, Omeljan (1991). "Albanians". Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. 1. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 52–53. 
  25. ^ Robert Elsie, The earliest reference to the existence of the Albanian Language
  26. ^ Extract from: Grujic, Radoslav: Legenda iz vremena Cara Samuila o poreklu naroda. in: Glasnik skopskog naucnog drustva, Skopje, 13 (1934), p. 198 200. Translated from the Old Church Slavonic by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 3. Albanian History
  27. ^ Mircea Eliade, Charles J. Adams, The Encyclopedia of religion, Macmillan, 1987, ISBN 9780029097007, p. 179.
  28. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica
  29. ^ Raymond Zickel and Walter R. Iwaskiw, editors. date= 1994. ""NATIONAL AWAKENING AND THE BIRTH OF ALBANIA,]". 
  30. ^ Christoph Pan, Beate Sibylle Pfeil,Minderheitenrechte in Europa. Handbuch der europäischen Volksgruppen (2002).[4], English translation 2004. see also ethnic groups in Europe by country.
  31. ^ Civil resistance in Kosovo By Howard Clark, pg. 12
  32. ^ Milliyet, Türkiyedeki Kürtlerin Sayısı. 2008-06-06.
  33. ^ Hans Henrich Hock, Brian D. Joseph: Language history, language change, and language relationship, pp. 54
  34. ^ Comnena, Anna. The Alexiad, Book IV.
  35. ^ Miller, Tracy, ed. (October 2009) (PDF), Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population, Pew Research Center,, retrieved 2009-10-08 
  36. ^ Albania. The World Factbook.
  37. ^ Muslims in Europe: Country guide: Albania. BBC.
  38. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2008 - Kosovo
  39. ^ Rescue in Albania: One Hundred Percent of Jews in Albania Rescued from Holocaust". "The Jews of Albania". California: Brunswick Press, 1997. Retrieved on 29 January 2007.

Further reading

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. Plural form of Albanian.

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