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Republic of Albania
Republika e Shqipërisë
Flag Coat of arms
MottoFeja e Shqiptarit është Shqiptaria
(The faith of Albanians is Albanism)[1] (national)
Ti, Shqipëri, më jep nder, më jep emrin Shqiptar
(You Albania give me honor, you give me the name Albanian) (traditional)
AnthemHimni i Flamurit
("The Banner Hymn")
Location of  Albania  (green)

on the European continent  (dark grey)  —  [Legend]

Capital
(and largest city)
Tirana
41°20′N 19°48′E / 41.333°N 19.8°E / 41.333; 19.8
Official language(s) Albanian1
Demonym Albanian
Government Parliamentary republic
 -  President Bamir Topi
 -  Prime Minister Sali Berisha
Formation
 -  Independence from the Ottoman Empire 28 November 1912 
 -  Current Constitution 28 November 1998 
Area
 -  Total 28,748 km2 (139th)
11,100 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 4.7
Population
 -  2009 estimate 3,639,453[2] (129th)
 -  Density 126.6/km2 (63)
327.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $21.864 billion[3] (110th)
 -  Per capita $7,018[3] (95th)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $12.964 billion[3] (113th)
 -  Per capita $4,089[3] (94th)
Gini (2005) 26.7 (low
HDI (2007) 0.818 (high) (70th)
Currency Lek (ALL)
Time zone CET (UTC+01)
 -  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+02) (UTC{{{utc_offset_DST}}})
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .al
Calling code 355
1 Greek, Macedonian and other regional languages are government-recognized minority languages.

Albania en-us-Albania.ogg /ælˈbeɪniə/ al-BAY-nee-ə (Albanian: Shqipëri/Shqipëria, Gheg Albanian: Shqipnia or Shqypnia), officially 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 Union since January 2003, and it formally applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009.[4]

Albania is a parliamentary democracy and a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to approximately 727,000 of the country's 3.6 million people, and it is also the financial capital of the country.[5] Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure.[6][7][8]

Contents

Etymology

Albania is the Medieval Latin name of the country which is called Shqipëri by its inhabitants. In Medieval Greek, the country's name is Albania (Greek: Αλβανία) besides variants Albanitia, Arbanitia.[9]

The name may be derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Albani recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria who drafted a map in 150 AD[10] that shows the city of Albanopolis[11] (located northeast of Durrës).

The name may have a continuation in the name of a medieval settlement called Albanon and Arbanon, although it is not certain this was the same place.[12] In his History written in 1079–1080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates was the first to refer to Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the Duke of Dyrrachium.[13] During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country Arbër or Arbën and referred to themselves as Arbëresh or Arbnesh.[14][15]

As early as the 16th century, a new name for their home evolved among Albanian people: Shqipëria, popularly interpreted as "Land of the Eagles" or "Land of the Mountain Eagle" hence the two-headed bird on the national flag,[16] though most likely the origin lies in Skanderbeg's use of the Byzantine double-headed eagle on his seals.[17][18]

Under the Ottoman Empire Albania was referred to officially as Arnavutluk and its inhabitants as arnaut.[19]

History

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Antiquity

Butrint, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The first recorded inhabitants in the territory of Albania were the Illyrians,[20] an Indo-European people that inhabited the area corresponding to northern and central Albania.[21] The Illyrian tribes that resided in the region of modern Albania were the Taulantii[22] the Parthini, the Abri, the Caviii, the Enchelei,[23] and several others. In the westernmost parts of the territory of Albania there lived the Bryges,[24] a Phrygian people, and in the south were the Greek Chaonians.

Beginning in the 8th century BC, Greek colonies were established on the Illyrian coast. The most important were Apollonia, 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.[25]

Route of the Via Egnatia

In the 4th century BC, the Illyrian king Bardyllis united several Illyrian tribes and engaged in conflict with Macedon to the southeast, but was defeated. Bardyllis was succeeded by Grabos,[26] then by Bardyllis II,[27] and then by Cleitus the Illyrian,[27] who was defeated by Alexander the Great. Later on, in 229 BC, Queen Teuta[28] of the Ardiaei 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 of Illyricum above the river Drin, and Roman Macedonia (specifically as Epirus Nova) below it. The western part of the Via Egnatia ran inside modern Albania, ending at Dyrrachium. Illyricum was later divided into the provinces of Dalmatia 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 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.

Byzantine era

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 Thopia, Shpata, Muzaka, Dukagjini and Kastrioti. The first three of these rose to become rulers of principalities were vassals of Byzantium, and Albania mostly neglected by their Greek masters at Constantinople. Many Albanians converted to the Roman Catholic Church at this time. During the Byzantine Era the powerful Serbs had occupied almost all of Northern Albania and Kosovo, and the Venetians had gained control and colonized the coastal regions of Albania.

Ottoman era

Durrës in 1573

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 at Edrine. After some Ottoman defeats at the hands of the Serbs, Skanderbeg deserted and began a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire[29].

After deserting, Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg re-converted to Roman Catholicism and declared a holy war against the Ottoman Empire[29], which he led from 1443 to 1468. Under a red flag bearing Skanderbeg's heraldic emblem, an Albanian force of about 30,000 men at Krujë held off Ottoman campaigns against their lands for twenty-four years. Thrice the Albanians overcame sieges of Krujë (see Siege of Krujë) led by many Ottoman commanders, including the influential Iljaz Hoxha and his Albanian Janissary led by Hamza Kastrioti. However, Skanderbeg was unable to receive any of the help which had been promised him by the popes. He later abandoned Christianity and 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.

Ottoman volley gun with 9 barrels, early 16th century.

After the defeat of Skanderbeg, Albania completely transformed under Ottoman rule, and its culture and society closely resembled that of neighboring Bosnia. 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 Sufi Order 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 Janissary and the administrative Devşirme system. Among these were important historical figures, including Iljaz Hoxha, Hamza Kastrioti, Köprülü Mehmed Pasha (head of the Köprülü family of Grand Viziers), the Bushati family, Sulejman Pasha, Ethem Pasha, Nezim Frakulla, Ali Pasha of Tepelena, Hasan Zyko Kamberi, Ali-paša Šabanagić, and Mehmet Ali ruler of Egypt.[30] and Emin Pasha.

Ottoman guns, 1750–1800.

Many Albanians gained prominent positions in the Ottoman government, Albanians highly active during the Ottoman Era and leaders such as Ali Pasha of Tepelena is known to have aided the Bosnian Hero Husein Gradaščević on various occasions, no fewer than 42 Grand Viziers of the Empire were Albanian in origin, including Mehmet Akif Ersoy (1873–1936) an Albanian from Peć who composed the Turkish National Anthem in 1921, "İstiklâl Marşı" (The Independence March). As Hupchik states, "Albanians had little cause of unrest" and "if anything, grew important in Ottoman internal affairs", and sometimes persecuted Christians harshly on behalf of their Turkish allies.

Albania became pivotal for the Ottomans in the Balkans, although Albanians never rested, always having small rebellions wchich were put down by the Ottomans. As a cosequene of the continuous rebellions, the Albanians got the nickname "Arnauts" by the Ottomans, which meant "stubborn". Anyway, this period 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 of Köprülü family. Albania would remain a part of the Ottoman Empire as the provinces of Shkodra, Manastir and Yanya until 1912.

20th century

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 1910 [31] which 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 of Austria-Hungary, the Great Powers drew its present borders leaving more than half of the Albanian population outside the new country.

The border between Albania and its neighbours 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 an autonomous 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.[32]

1928 to 1946

Starting in 1928, but especially during the Great Depression, the government of King Zog, which brought law and order to the country, began to cede Albania's sovereignty to Italy. Despite some strong 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.[33] 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 forced Italianisation 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 of Northern 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.[34]

During World War II, the Party of Labour 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 under Visar Kola. 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. The German 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 28 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 larger Jewish population than before the war.[35][36][37][38] Some 1,200 Jewish residents and refugees from other Balkan countries were hidden by Albanian families during World War II, according to official records.[39]

Communist state

The former Enver Hoxha Museum in Tirana
Tirana's Skanderbeg Square in 1988

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, a dictator who ruled Albania for four decades with an iron fist, 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.[40]

Recent history – 1992 to present

Albania's former Communists were routed in elections March 1992, causing economic collapse and social unrest. The blood feud has returned in rural areas after more than 40 years of being abolished by Albanian communists,[41] with nearly 10,000 Albanians being killed due to blood feuds since 1991.[42] 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 country. 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.

Government, politics and armed forces

Albania

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Politics and government of
Albania



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Albania's Prime Minister Sali Berisha with then U.S. President George W. Bush in Tirana, June 2007.

The Albanian republic is a parliamentary democracy established under a constitution renewed in 1998. Elections are now held every four years to a unicameral 140-seat chamber, the People's Assembly. In June 2002, a compromise candidate, Alfred Moisiu, former Army General, was elected to succeed President Rexhep Meidani. Parliamentary elections in July 2005 brought Sali Berisha, as leader of the Democratic Party, back to power. The Euro-Atlantic integration of Albania has been the ultimate goal of the post-communist governments. Albania's EU membership bid has been set as a priority by the European Commission.

Albania, along with Croatia, joined NATO on 1 April 2009 becoming the 27th and 28th members of the alliance.[43]

The workforce of Albania has continued to migrate to Greece, Italy, Germany, other parts of Europe, and North America. However, the migration flux is slowly decreasing, as more and more opportunities are emerging in Albania itself as its economy steadily develops.

Executive branch

The head of state in Albania is the President of the Republic. The President is elected to a 5-year term by the Assembly of the Republic of Albania by secret ballot, requiring a 50%+1 majority of the votes of all deputies. The next election will run in 2012. The current President of the Republic is Bamir Topi.

The President has the power to guarantee observation of the constitution and all laws, act as commander in chief of the armed forces, exercise the duties of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania when the Assembly is not in session, and appoint the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (prime minister).

Executive power rests with the Council of Ministers (cabinet). The Chairman of the Council (prime minister) is appointed by the president; ministers are nominated by the president on the basis of the prime minister's recommendation. The People's Assembly must give final approval of the composition of the Council. The Council is responsible for carrying out both foreign and domestic policies. It directs and controls the activities of the ministries and other state organs.

President Bamir Topi PD 20 July 2007
Prime Minister Sali Berisha PD 9 September 2009

Legislative branch

The Assembly of the Republic of Albania (Kuvendi i Republikës së Shqipërisë) is the lawmaking body in Albania. There are 140 deputies in the Assembly, which are elected through a party-list proportional representation system. The President of the Assembly (or Speaker) has two deputies and chairs the Assembly. There are 15 permanent commissions, or committees. Parliamentary elections are held at least every four years.

The Assembly has the power to decide the direction of domestic and foreign policy; approve or amend the constitution; declare war on another state; ratify or annul international treaties; elect the President of the Republic, the Supreme Court and the Attorney General and his or her deputies; and control the activity of state radio and television, state news agency and other official information media.

Armed forces

Albanian Navy warship Iliria

The Albanian Armed Forces (Forcat e Armatosura të Shqipërisë) first formed after independence in 1912. Albania reduced the number of active troops from a 1988 number of 65,000[44] to a 2009 number of 14,500[45] with a small fleet of aircraft and sea vessels. In the 1990s, the country scrapped enormous amount of obsolete hardware, such as tanks and SAM systems from China.

Today, it consists of the General Staff Headquarters, the Albanian Joint Forces Command, the Albanian Support Command and the Albanian Training and Doctrine Command. Increasing the military budget was one of the most important conditions for NATO integration. Military spending accounted for about 2.7% of GDP in 2008. Since February 2008, Albania participates officially in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea.[46] and received a NATO membership invitation on 3 April 2008.[47] Albania became a full member of NATO on 1 April, 2009.

Geography

Satellite image of Albania.
Coastline in Himarë
Ksamil, little islands

Albania has a total area of 28,748 square kilometers. Its coastline is 362 kilometers long and extends along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The lowlands of the west face the Adriatic Sea. The 70% of the country that is mountainous is rugged and often inaccessible from the outside. The highest mountain is Korab situated in the district of Dibër, reaching up to 2,753 metres (9,032 ft). The climate on the coast is typically Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and warm, sunny, and rather dry summers. Inland conditions vary depending on altitude but the higher areas above 1,500 m/5,000 ft are rather cold and frequently snowy in winter; here cold conditions with lying snow may linger into spring. Besides the capital city of Tirana, which has 800,000 inhabitants, the principal cities are Durrës, Korçë, Elbasan, Shkodër, Gjirokastër, Vlorë and Kukës. In Albanian grammar, a word can have indefinite and definite forms, and this also applies to city names: both Tiranë and Tirana, Shkodër and Shkodra are used.

The three largest and deepest tectonic lakes of the Balkan Peninsula are partly located in Albania. Lake Shkodër in the country's northwest has a surface which can vary between 370 km2 (140 sq mi) and 530 km2, out of which one third belongs to Albania and rest to Montenegro. The Albanian shoreline of the lake is 57 km (35 mi). Ohrid Lake is situated in the country's southeast and is shared between Albania and Republic of Macedonia. It has a maximal depth of 289 meters and a variety of unique flora and fauna can be found there, including "living fossils" and many endemic species. Because of its natural and historical value, Ohrid Lake is under the protection of UNESCO.

Over a third of the territory of Albania – about 10,000 square kilometers (2.5 million acres) – is forested and the country was very rich in flora. About 3.000 different species of plants grow in Albania, many of which are used for medicinal purposes. Phytogeographically, Albania belongs to the Boreal Kingdom and is shared between the Adriatic and East Mediterranean provinces of the Mediterranean Region and the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature and Digital Map of European Ecological Regions by the European Environment Agency, the territory of Albania can be subdivided into three ecoregions: the Illyrian deciduous forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Dinaric Alpine mixed forests. The forests are home to a wide range of mammals, including wolves, bears, wild boars and chamois. Lynx, wildcats, pine martens and polecats are rare, but survive in some parts of the country.

Climate

Coastline near Sarandë
Albanian landscape
Korab chains

With its coastline facing the Adriatic and Ionian seas, its highlands backed upon the elevated Balkan landmass, and the entire country lying at a latitude subject to a variety of weather patterns during the winter and summer seasons, Albania has a high number of climatic regions for so small an area. The coastal lowlands have typically Mediterranean weather; the highlands have a Mediterranean continental climate. In both the lowlands and the interior, the weather varies markedly from north to south.

The lowlands have mild winters, averaging about 7 °C (45 °F). Summer temperatures average 24 °C (75 °F). In the southern lowlands, temperatures average about 5 °C (9 °F) higher throughout the year. The difference is greater than 5 °C (9 °F) during the summer and somewhat less during the winter.

Inland temperatures are affected more by differences in elevation than by latitude or any other factor. Low winter temperatures in the mountains are caused by the continental air mass that dominates the weather in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Northerly and northeasterly winds blow much of the time. Average summer temperatures are lower than in the coastal areas and much lower at higher elevations, but daily fluctuations are greater. Daytime maximum temperatures in the interior basins and river valleys are very high, but the nights are almost always cool.

Average precipitation is heavy, a result of the convergence of the prevailing airflow from the Mediterranean Sea and the continental air mass. Because they usually meet at the point where the terrain rises, the heaviest rain falls in the central uplands. Vertical currents initiated when the Mediterranean air is uplifted also cause frequent thunderstorms. Many of these storms are accompanied by high local winds and torrential downpours.

When the continental air mass is weak, Mediterranean winds drop their moisture farther inland. When there is a dominant continental air mass, cold air spills onto the lowland areas, which occurs most frequently in the winter. Because the season's lower temperatures damage olive trees and citrus fruits, groves and orchards are restricted to sheltered places with southern and western exposures, even in areas with high average winter temperatures.

Lowland rainfall averages from 1,000 millimeters to more than 1,500 millimeters annually, with the higher levels in the north. Nearly 95% of the rain falls in the winter.

Rainfall in the upland mountain ranges is heavier. Adequate records are not available, and estimates vary widely, but annual averages are probably about 1,800 millimeters and are as high as 2,550 millimeters in some northern areas. The western Albanian Alps (valley of Boga) are among the most wet areas in Europe, receiving some 3,100 mm (122.05 in) of rain annually[48]. The seasonal variation is not quite as great in the coastal area.

The higher inland mountains receive less precipitation than the intermediate uplands. Terrain differences cause wide local variations, but the seasonal distribution is the most consistent of any area.

Flora and Fauna

The lynx still survives in Albania
Golden eagle – the national symbol of Albania

Although a small country, Albania is distinguished for its rich biological diversity. The variation of geomorphology, climate and terrain create favorable conditions for a number of endemic and sub-endemic species with 27 endemic and 160 subendemic vascular plants present in the country. The total number of plants is over 3250 species, approximately 30% of the entire flora species found in Europe. Coastal regions and lowlands have typical Mediterranean macchia vegetation, whereas oak forests and vegetation are found on higher altitudes. Vast forests of black pine, beech and fir are found on higher mountains and alpine grasslands grow at altitudes above 1800 meters a.s.l.[49]

There are around 760 vertebrate species found so far in Albania. Among these there are over 350 bird species, 330 freshwater and marine fish and 80 mammal species. There are some 91 globally threatened species found within the country, among which the Dalmatian pelican, Pygmy cormorant, and the European sea sturgeon. Rocky coastal regions in the south provide good habitats for the endangered Mediterranean monk seal. Some of the most significant bird species found in the country include the golden eagle – known as the national symbol of Albania – vulture species, capercaillie and numerous waterfowl. The Albanian forests still maintain significant communities of large mammals such as the brown bear, gray wolf, chamois and wild boar.[49] The north and eastern mountains of the country are home to the last remaining Balkan lynx – a critically endangered population of the Eurasian lynx.[50]

Economy

Albania remains a poor country by Western European standards.[51] Its GDP per capita (expressed in PPS—Purchasing Power Standards) stood at 25 percent of the EU average in 2008.[52] Still, Albania has shown potential for economic growth, as more and more businesses relocate there and consumer goods are becoming available from emerging market traders as part of the current massive global cost-cutting exercise. Albania and Cyprus are the only countries in Europe that recorded economic growth in the first quarter of 2009. In its latest report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Albania and Cyprus recorded increases of 0.4% and 0.3%, respectively.[53][54] However, the country is still of low interest for major foreign investors due to frequent power shortages, occasional lack of water supplies and ubiquitous illegal activities.[55]

Oil pumps near Mallakastra

Albania and Croatia have discussed the possibility of jointly building a nuclear power plant at Lake Shkoder, close to the border with Montenegro, a plan that has gathered criticism from the latter due to seismicity in the area.[56] In addition, there is some doubt whether Albania would be able to finance a project of such a scale with a total national budget of less than $ 5 billion.[57] However, in February 2009 Italian company Enel announced plans to build an 800 MW coal-fired power plant in Albania, to diversify electricity sources.[58] Nearly 100% of the electricity is generated by ageing hydroelectric power plants, which are becoming more ineffective due to increasing droughts.[58]

The country has some deposits of petroleum and natural gas, but produces only 6,425 barrels of oil per day.[59] Natural gas production, estimated at about 30 million cubic meters, is sufficient to meet consumer demands.[57] Other natural resources include coal, bauxite, copper and iron ore.

Agriculture is the most significant sector, employing some 58% of the labor force and generating about 21% of GDP. Albania produces significant amounts of wheat, corn, tobacco, figs (13th largest producer in the world)[60] and olives.

Transport

In the early 1990s, the rock-strewn roadways, unstable rail lines and obsolete telephone network crisscrossing Albania represented the remnants of the marked improvements that were made after World War II. Enver Hoxha's xenophobia and lust for control had kept Albania isolated, however, as the communications revolution transformed the wider world into a global village. Even internal travel amounted to something of a luxury for many Albanians during communism's ascendancy.

Highways

SH 2 Highway (TiranaDurrës)
SH 2—Tirana's overpass from Durrës

Currently the major cities of the country are linked with first class national roads. There is a four lane highway connecting the city of Durrës with Tirana and the city of Durrës with the city of Lushnje. Albania is partaking in the construction of what it sees as three major corridors of transportation.

The major priority as of present is the full completion of the four lane Durrës-Pristina highway which will link Kosovo with Albania's Adriatic coast. The portion of the highway which links Albania's north east border with Kosovo was completed in June 2009,[61] as a result, cutting the time it takes to get from Kosovo to Durrës from six hours to two. Indeed the roads in northwestern Albania remain in poor condition as of summer 2009. It takes approximately 1h 30' to drive the 35 km (22 mi) from the border of Montenegro to Shkodër.[citation needed]

There has been much discussion, debate, and interest in the 170 km (106 mi) Durrës–Kukës–Morinë Highway Albanian highway to Kosovo, which is intended to create a new, super-fast connection between Durrës on the Adriatic coast to Morinë at the border of Kosovo. The current drive time between Kukës and Durrës is now 2 hours. The whole will be around 250 km (155 mi), when completed to Pristina. The objective for constructing the road, according to the transport ministry, is to reduce transport costs and accidents, and improve traffic flow. It is the biggest, most expensive infrastructure project ever undertaken in Albania. The cost of the highway appears to have breached EUR800 million, although the exact cost for the total highway has yet to be confirmed by the government. Currently there is a display in Tirana's centre on Bvld Dëshmorët e Kombit.

The second priority is the construction of European corridor 8 linking Albania with the Republic of Macedonia and Greece.

The third priority for the government is the construction of the north-south axis of the country; it is sometimes referred to as the Adriatic–Ionian motorway as it is part of a larger regional highway connecting Croatia with Greece along the Adriatic and Ionian coasts.

By the end of the decade it is expected that the majority of the sections of these three corridors will have been built.[citation needed] When all three corridors are completed Albania will have an estimated 759 kilometers of highway linking it with its neighbors.

Aviation

The civil air transport in Albania marked its beginnings in November 1924, when the Republic of Albania signed a Governmental Agreement with German Air Company Lufthansa. On the basis of a ten-year concession agreement, the Albanian Airlines with the name Adria Aero Lloyd Company was established.[citation needed] In the spring of 1925, the first domestic flights from Tirana to Shkoder and Vlora began.[citation needed]

In August 1927, the office of Civil Aviation of Air Traffic Ministry of Italy purchased Adria Aero Lloyd. The company, now in Italian hands, expanded its flights to other cities, such as Elbasan, Korça, Kukësi, Peshkopia and Gjirokastra, and opened up international lines to Rome, Milan, Thessaloniki, Sofia, Belgrade, and Podgorica.

The construction of a more modern airport construction in present Lapraka) started in 1934 and was completed by the end of 1935. This new airport, which was later officially named "Airport of Tirana", was constructed in conformity with optimal technological parameters of that time, with reinforced concrete runway of 1200 400 m (1,312.34 ft), and complemented with technical equipment and appropriate buildings.

During 1955–1957, the Rinasi Airport was constructed for military purposes. Later, its administration was shifted to the Ministry of Transport. On 25 January 1957 the State-owned Enterprise of International Air Transport (Albtransport) established its headquarters in Tirana. Aeroflot, Jat, Malev, Tarom and Interflug were the air companies that started to have flights with Albania until 1960.

During 1960–1978, several airlines ceased to operate in Albania due to the impact of the politics, resulting to a decrease of influx of flights and passengers. In 1977 Albania's government signed an agreement with Greece to open the country's first air links with non-communist Europe. As a result, Olympic Airways was the first non-communist airline to commercially fly into Albania after WWII. By 1991 Albania had air links with many major European cities, including Paris, Rome, Zürich, Vienna and Budapest, but no regular domestic air service.

A French-Albanian joint venture Ada Air, was launched in Albania's as the first private airline, in 1991. The company offered flights in a thirty-six-passenger airplane four days each week between Tirana and Bari, Italy and a charter service for domestic and international destinations.

From 1989 to 1991, because of political changes in the Eastern European countries, Albania adhered to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), opened its air space to international flights, and had its duties of Air Traffic Control defined. As premises of these developments, conditions were created to separate the activities of air traffic control from Albtransport. Instead, the National Agency of Air Traffic (NATA) was established as an independent enterprise. In addition, during these years, governmental agreements of civil air transport were established with Bulgaria, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, Russia, Austria, England, Macedonia, etc. The Directory General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was established on 3 February 1991, to cope with the development required by the time.

As of 2007 Albania has one international airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza. The airport is linked to 29 destinations by 14 airlines. It has seen a dramatic rise in terms of passenger numbers and aircraft movements since the early 1990s. The data for 2009 is 1.3 million passengers served and an average of 44 landings and takeoffs per day.

Train on the Durrës to Tiranë railway line

Railways

The railway system was extensively promoted by the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha, during which time the use of private transport was effectively prohibited. Since the collapse of the former regime, there has been a considerable increase in car ownership and bus usage. Whilst some of the country's roads are still in a very poor condition, there have been other developments (such as the construction of a motorway between Tirana and Durrës) which have taken much traffic away from the railways. The railways in Albania are administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare (HSH) (which means Albanian Railways). It operates a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) gauge (standard gauge) rail system in Albania. All trains are hauled by Czech-built ČKD diesel-electric locomotives.

Demographics

Regions with a traditional presence of ethnic or linguistic groups other than Albanian.
Tirana, Albania's capital and largest city.

The Albanian population is considered a very young population, with an average age of 28.9 years.[62] After 1990 the Albanian population has faced new phenomena like migration, which greatly affected the distribution by districts and prefectures. Districts in the North have seen a decreasing population, while Tirana and Durrës districts have increased their population.[citation needed] Albania's population was 3,152,600 on 1 January 2007 and 3,170,048 on 1 January 2008.[2] Alternative sources estimate the population in July 2009 at 3,639,453 with an annual growth rate of 0.546%.[63] Albania is a largely ethnically homogeneous country with only small minorities.[64] The vast majority of the population is ethnically Albanian (98.6%). Minorities include Greeks 1.17% and others 0.23% (Vlachs, Macedonians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Balkan Egyptians, Roma and former Yugoslavians).[65] The size of the Greek minority is contentious, with the Albanian government claiming it is only 60,000, while the Greek government is claiming 300,000. Most Western sources put the size of the Greek minority at around 200,000, or ~6% of the population,[66][67] while the CIA Factbook estimates the Greek minority at 3% of the total population. The dominant language is Albanian, with two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk. Many Albanians are also fluent in English, Italian, Greek, etc.

Religion

Church of Virgin Mary. It was built in the 10th century

Estimates of the religious allegiance of the population of Albania vary, with some sources suggesting that the majority do not follow any religion.[68] A second study of religion in Albania under the International Religious Freedom Report 2009, performed by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the United States's State Department, found that a majority of Albania's population is nonreligious.[69]

A recent study by the Pew Research Center puts the percentage of Muslims in Albania at 79.9%,[70] with the remaining 20% consisting of Christians. The CIA World Factbook gives a distribution of 70% Muslims, 20% Eastern Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholics.[71] According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, roughly 39% of Albanians are Muslim, and 35% Christian[72]

The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late-11th century. At this point, they are already fully Christianised. 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. After independence (1912) from the Ottoman Empire, the Albanian republican, monarchic and later communist regimes followed a systematic policy of separating religion from official functions and cultural life. Albania never had an official state religion either as a republic or as a kingdom. In the 20th century, the clergy of all faiths was weakened under the monarchy, and ultimately eradicated during the 1940s and 1950s, under the state policy of obliterating all organised religion from Albanian territories.

The Communist regime that took control of Albania after World War II suppressed religious observance and institutions and entirely banned religion to the point where Albania was officially declared to be the world's first atheist state. Religious freedom has returned to Albania since the regime's change in 1992. Albanian Muslim populations (mainly secular and of the Sunni rite) are found throughout the country whereas Orthodox Christians are concentrated in the south and Roman Catholics are found in the north of the country. No reliable data are available on active participation in formal religious services, and estimates range from 25% to 40%.[73]

There are about 4,000 active Jehovah's witnesses in Albania.[74] Among other religious organizations making inroads into this nation is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or 'Mormons'). The Church's involvement in Albania began with Humanitarian Aid during the 1990s. The first missionaries were sent in 1992 with the Albania Tirana Mission being opened in 1996. As of 2008, there were nearly 2,000 members of the Church in Albania, spread throughout ten branches with two purpose-built Chapels and one Family History Center.[75]

Culture

Music and folklore

A traditional male folk group from Skrapar

Albanian folk music falls into three sylistic groups, with other important music areas around Shkodër and Tirana; the major groupings are the Ghegs of the north and southern Labs and Tosks. The northern and southern traditions are contrasted by the "rugged and heroic" tone of the north and the "relaxed, gentle and exceptionally beautiful" form of the south. These disparate styles are unified by "the intensity that both performers and listeners give to their music as a medium for patriotic expression and as a vehicle carrying the narrative of oral history", as well as certain characteristics like the use of obscure rhythms such as 3/8, 5/8 and 10/8.[76] The first compilation of Albanian folk music was made by Pjetër Dungu in 1940.

Albanian folk songs can be divided into major groups, the heroic epics of the north, and the sweetly melodic lullabies, love songs, wedding music, work songs and other kinds of song. The music of various festivals and holidays is also an important part of Albanian folk song, especially those that celebrate St. Lazarus Day (the llazore), which inaugurates the springtime. Lullabies and laments are very important kinds of Albanian folk song, and are generally performed by solo women.[77]

Albanian language and literature

Albanian was proven to be an Indo-European language in 1854 by the German philologist Franz Bopp. The Albanian language comprises its own branch of the Indo-European language family.

Some scholars believe that Albanian derives from Illyrian[78] while others,[79] claim that it derives from Daco-Thracian. (Illyrian and Daco-Thracian, however, might have been closely related languages; see Thraco-Illyrian.)

Establishing longer relations, Albanian is often compared to Balto-Slavic on the one hand and Germanic on the other, both of which share a number of isoglosses with Albanian. Moreover, Albanian has undergone a vowel shift in which stressed, long o has fallen to a, much like in the former and opposite the latter. Likewise, Albanian has taken the old relative jos and innovatively used it exclusively to qualify adjectives, much in the way Balto-Slavic has used this word to provide the definite ending of adjectives.

The cultural resistance was first of all expressed through the elaboration of the Albanian language in the area of church texts and publications, mainly of the Catholic confessional region in the North, but also of the Orthodox in the South. The Protestant reforms invigorated hopes for the development of the local language and literary tradition when cleric Gjon Buzuku brought into the Albanian language the Catholic liturgy, trying to do for the Albanian language what Luther did for German.

Excerpt from Meshari by Gjon Buzuku

Meshari (The Missal) by Gjon Buzuku, published by him in 1555, is considered to date as the first literary work of written Albanian. The refined level of the language and the stabilised orthography must be a result of an earlier tradition of writing Albanian, a tradition that is not known. But there are some fragmented evidence, dating earlier than Buzuku, which indicate that Albanian was written at least since 14th century AD. The first known evidence dates from 1332 AD and deals with the French Dominican Guillelmus Adae, Archbishop of Antivari, who in a report in Latin writes that Albanians use Latin letters in their books although their language is quite different from Latin. Of special importance in supporting this are: a baptizing formula (Unte paghesont premenit Atit et Birit et spertit senit) of 1462, written in Albanian within a text in Latin by the Bishop of Durrës, Pal Engjëlli; a glossary with Albanian words of 1497 by Arnold von Harff, a German who had travelled through Albania, and a 15th century fragment from the Bible from the Gospel of Matthew, also in Albanian, but in Greek letters.

The National Museum of Albania features exhibits from Illyrian times to World War II.

Albanian writings of these centuries must not have been religious texts only, but historical chronicles too. They are mentioned by the humanist Marin Barleti, who, in his book Rrethimi i Shkodrës (The Siege of Shkodër) (1504), confirms that he leafed through such chronicles written in the language of the people (in vernacula lingua). Despite the obstacles generated by the Counter-Reformation which was opposed to the development of national languages in Christian liturgy[citation needed], this process went on uninterrupted. During the 16th to 17th centuries, the catechism E mbësuame krishterë (Christian Teachings) (1592) by Lekë Matrënga, Doktrina e krishterë (The Christian Doctrine) (1618) and Rituale romanum (1621) by Pjetër Budi, the first writer of original Albanian prose and poetry, an apology for George Castriot (1636) by Frang Bardhi, who also published a dictionary and folklore creations, the theological-philosophical treaty Cuneus Prophetarum (The Band of Prophets) (1685) by Pjetër Bogdani, the most universal personality of Albanian Middle Ages, were published in Albanian. The most famous Albanian writer is probably Ismail Kadare.

Education

Before the Communist regime, Albania's illiteracy rate was as high as 85%. Schools were scarce between World War I and World War II. When the Communist regime over took the country in 1944, the regime wanted to wipe out illiteracy. The regulations became so strict that anyone between the ages of 12 and 40 who could not read or write was mandated to attend classes to learn. Since these times of struggle the country's literacy rate has improved remarkably.[80] Today the overall literacy rate in Albania is 98.7%, the male literacy rate is 99.2% and female literacy rate is 98.3%.[63] Since the rather large population movements in the 1990s to urban areas, education has moved as well. Thousands of teachers moved to urban areas to follow students. The University of Tirana is the first university in Albania and was founded in October 1957.

Administrative divisions

Counties of Albania

Albania is divided into 12 administrative divisions called (Albanian: official qark/qarku, but often prefekturë/prefektura) Counties, 36 districts and 351 municipalities. Each region has its Regional Council and is composed of a number of Municipalities and Communes, which are the first level of local governance responsible for local needs and law enforcement.

County Capital Districts Municipalities Cities Towns
1 Berat Berat Berat
Kuçovë
Skrapar
12
2
10
2
1
2
122
17
103
2 Dibër Peshkopi Bulqizë
Dibër
Mat
8
15
12
2
1
3
103
141
76
3 Durrës Durrës Durrës
Krujë
10
7
4
2
61
43
4 Elbasan Elbasan Elbasan
Gramsh
Librazhd
Peqin
24
10
10
6
2
1
2
1
176
95
75
49
5 Fier Fier Fier
Lushnjë
Mallakastër
17
16
9
3
2
1
117
121
40
6 Gjirokastër Gjirokastër Gjirokastër
Përmet
Tepelenë
13
9
10
2
2
2
95
97
77
7 Korçë Korçë Devoll
Kolonjë
Korçë
Pogradec
5
8
17
8
1
2
2
1
44
76
155
72
8 Kukës Kukës Has
Kukës
Tropojë
4
15
8
1
1
3
30
90
68
9 Lezhë Lezhë Kurbin
Lezhë
Mirditë
4
10
7
3
2
4
28
63
70
10 Shkodër Shkodër Malësi e Madhe
Pukë
Shkodër
6
10
18
2
2
2
56
75
139
11 Tirana Tirana Kavajë
Tirana
10
18
2
3
65
155
12 Vlorë Vlorë Delvinë
Sarandë
Vlorë
4
9
13
1
2
4
38
62
99

Sport

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Albania, both at a participatory and spectator level. The sport is governed by the Football Association of Albania (Albanian: Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit, F.SH.F.).

Entertainment

Radio Televizioni Shqiptar, (RTSH), is Albania's leading television network. RTSH runs a national television station TVSH, (standing for Televizioni Shqiptar), and two national radio stations, using the name Radio Tirana. An international service broadcasts radio programmes in Albanian and seven other languages via medium wave (AM) and short wave (SW).[81] The international service has used the theme from the song "Keputa një gjethe dafine" as its signature tune. Since 1999, RTSH has been a member of the European Broadcasting Union. Since 1993, RTSH has also run an international television service via satellite, aimed at Albanian language communities in Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece, plus the Albanian diaspora in the rest of Europe.

According the National Council of Radio and Television Albania has an estimated 257 media outlets, including 66 radio stations and 65 television stations, with three national and 62 local stations.

Health

Health care has been in a steep decline after the collapse of socialism in the country, but a process of modernization has been taking place since 2000.[82] As of the early 2000s, there were 51 hospitals in the country, including a military hospital and specialist facilities.[82] Albania has successfully removed diseases such as malaria.

Life expectancy is estimated at 77.43 years, ranking 51st worldwide, and outperforming a number of European Union countries, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic.[83] The most common causes of death are circulatory disease followed by cancerous illnesses.

The medical school, Faculty of Medicine at Tirana University, is in Tirana. There are also nursing schools in many other cities.

Cuisine

The cuisine of Albania – as with most Mediterranean and Balkan nations – is strongly influenced by its long history. At different times, the territory which is now Albania has been claimed or occupied by Greece, Italy and the Ottoman Turks and each group has left its mark on Albanian cuisine. The main meal of the Albanians is lunch, and it is usually accompanied by a salad of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and olives with olive oil, vinegar and salt. Lunch also includes a main dish of vegetables and meat. Seafood specialties are also common in the coastal areas of Durrës, Vlorë and Sarandë.

Human rights in Albania

LGBT rights in Albania

International rankings

Demographic

Economic

Environmental

Globalization

Geographic

Peace

Political

See also

Notes and references

Notes:

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.

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  74. ^ "2008 Jehovah's Witnesses Worldwide Status Report". Watch Tower. http://www.watchtower.org/e/statistics/worldwide_report_statistics.htm. Retrieved 27 September 2009. 
  75. ^ "LDS Newsroom-Country Profile-Albania". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/contact-us/albania. 
  76. ^ Arbatsky, Yuri, cited in Koco with the footnote Translated and published by Filip Fishta in Shkolla Kombëtare (The National School; No.1, May 1939), 19, and quoted from his Preface to Pjetër Dungu's Lyra Shqiptare (see note 2).
  77. ^ "Albanian Music". Eno Koco at the University of Leeds. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/music/staff/ek/. Retrieved 28 August 2005. 
  78. ^ Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture By J. P. Mallory, Douglas Q. Adams Edition: illustrated Published by Taylor & Francis, 1997 ISBN 1884964982, 9781884964985 ("Although there are some lexical items that appear to be shared between Romanian (and by extension Dacian) and Albanian, by far the strongest connections can be argued between Albanian and Illyrian." page 11) Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World By Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Contributor Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Edition: illustrated Published by Elsevier, 2008 ISBN 0080877745, 9780080877747 ("Albanian constitutes a single branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It is often held to be related to Illyrian, a poorly attested language spoken in the Western Balkans in classical times" page 22)
  79. ^ "The Thracian language". The Linguist List. http://linguistlist.org/forms/langs/LLDescription.cfm?code=txh. Retrieved 27 January 2008. "An ancient language of Southern Balkans, belonging to the Satem group of Indo-European. This language is the most likely ancestor of modern Albanian (which is also a Satem language), though the evidence is scanty. 1st Millennium BC – 500 AD." 
  80. ^ Zickel, Iwaskiw, 1994
  81. ^ radiotirana.org website (English)
  82. ^ a b "Albania-prel.pmd" (PDF). http://www.euro.who.int/document/e80089.pdf. Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  83. ^ CIA – The World Factbook, Life Expectancy ranks
  84. ^ Institute for Economics and Peace 2009 Global Peace Index page 11

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Coordinates: 41°N 20°E / 41°N 20°E / 41; 20


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

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Proper noun

Singular
Republic of Albania

Plural
-

Republic of Albania

  1. The official name of Albania.

Translations


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