Albania [ælˈbeɪniə] (help·info), officially the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë pronounced [ɾɛˈpublika ɛ ʃcipəˈɾiːs], or simply Shqipëria), is a country in South Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Greece to the south-east, Montenegro to the north, partially-recognized Kosovo to the northeast, and the Republic of Macedonia to the east. 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 miles) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.
The country is a member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation,Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and Union for the Mediterranean. It is also a potential candidate for membership in the European Union and received a NATO membership invitation on 3 April 2008. Albania is expected to formally join the 26-nation pact next April on NATO's 60th birthday,and has provided support and troops for security and peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Albania is a parliamentary democracy which is converting its economy into a big business oriented system. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to 600,000 of the country's 3.6 million people. As a result of the opening of the country in the post-communist era, Albania is now undergoing a development boom as its telecommunications, transport and utilities infrastructure is being revamped.
2.2 Independence and recent history
3 Government and politics
5 Administrative division
7 Albanian language
10 Armed Forces
11 International Rankings
16 See also
18 External links
Satellite image of Albania.
Main article: Albania (toponym)
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 besides variants Albaētia, Arbanētia. The ultimate origin of the root Alb- has been traced to an Illyrian *alb "hill" cognate to the root *alp "mountain pasture" found in the Alpine region. In the 2nd century BC, Polybius's History of the World mentions a tribe named Arbon in present-day central Albania. The people who lived there were called Albanoí and Arbanitai.
Another suggestion is derivation from the Illyrian tribe of the Albani recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria who drafted a map of remarkable significance for the history of Illyria. This map shows the city of Albanopolis (located Northeast of Durrës) which was later called Albanon and Arbanon.
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. During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country Arbër or Arbën and referred to themselves as Arbëresh or Arbnesh. As early as the 16th century, a new name for their home evolved among Albanian people: Shqipëria, "Land of the Eagles", hence the two-headed bird on the national flag. However, another theory suggests that Skanderbeg used the Byzantine double-headed eagle on his seals, hence the modern flag. The name probably has its origins in the Skanderbeg family crest.
Main article: History of Albania
Butrint, UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Main articles: Prehistoric Balkans and Illyria
The area of today's Albania has been populated since prehistoric times. In antiquity, much of it was settled by the ancient Illyrians, possible ancestors of Albanians. Surrounded by powerful, warring empires, Albania has experienced considerable violence and competition for control throughout its history. Greeks, Romans, Venetians and Ottomans swept through, leaving their cultural mark as well as their ruins.
Archaeological research shows that Albania has been populated since the Paleolithic Age (Stone Age). The first areas settled were those with favourable climatic and geographic conditions. In Albania, the earliest settlements have been discovered in the Gajtan cavern (Shkodra), in Konispol, at Mount Dajti, and at Saranda. Fragments of Cyclopean structures, were discovered at Kretsunitsa, Arinishta, and other sites in the district of Gjirokastra. The walls, partly Cyclopean, of an ancient city (perhaps Byllis) are visible at Gradishti on the picturesque Viosa River. Few traces remain of the once celebrated Dyrrhachium (today Durrës).
The rediscovered Greek city of Butrint 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 to be an unimportant outpost, overshadowed by the Greek colonies, Apollonia and Durrës.
Formal investigation and recording of Albania's archaeological monuments began with Francois Pouqueville, who was Napoleon's consul-general to Ali Pasha's court, and Martin Leake, who was the British agent there. A French mission, led by Len Rey, worked throughout Albania from 1924 to 1938 and published its results in Cahiers d'Archéologie, d'art et d'Histoire en Albanie et dans les Balkans (Notes of Archaeology, Art, and History in Albania and in the Balkans).
Archaeologists today are finding remains from all periods, from the Stone Age to the early Christian era.
Another project that produced prehistoric finds, though unexpectedly, was done in the valley of Kryegjata, close to the present-day city of Fier and in the area of Apollonia. This excavation, a collaboration between the University of Cincinnati and archaeologists from the Institute of Archeology in Albania, was originally a mission to learn about the Greek colony of Apollonia. Instead, they found evidence of a much older settlement.
In 2000, the Albanian government established Butrint National Park, which draws about 70,000 visitors annually and is Albania's second World Heritage site.
In 2003, a synagogue dating from the 5th or 6th century AD was uncovered in Saranda, a coastal town opposite Corfu. It was the first time remains of an early synagogue have been found in that area. The history of its excavation is also noteworthy. The team found exceptional mosaics depicting items associated with Jewish holidays, including a menorah, ram's horn, and citron tree. Mosaics in the basilica of the synagogue show the facade of what resembles a Torah, animals, trees, and other biblical symbols. The structure measures 20 by 24 metres and was probably last used in the 6th century AD as a church.
The territory of Albania in antiquity was inhabited by the Illyrians, who, like other Balkan peoples, were subdivided into tribes and clans. The kingdom of Illyria grew from the general area of modern-day Northern Albania and eventually controlled much of the eastern Adriatic coastline. Scodra was its capital, just as the city is now the most important urban center of northern Albania. The kingdom, however, reached the zenith of its expansion and development in the 4th century BC, when King Bardyllis, one of the most prominent of the Illyrian kings, united many Illyrian tribes into one Illyrian kingdom, and attacked the Greeks.Its decay began under the same ruler as a result of the attacks made by Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.
Portrait of Skanderbeg in the Uffizi, Florence.
Independence and recent history
During the fifteenth century Albania enjoyed a brief period of independence under the legendary hero, Skanderbeg. Aside from this exception, the country did not enjoy independence until the twentieth century. After five hundred years of Ottoman domination, an independent Albania was proclaimed in 1912. The country adopted a republican form of government in 1920. Starting in 1928, the new King Zog began to cede Albania's sovereignty to Italy, and in 1939 the Italians invaded the country.
Tirana liberated November 20, 1944 by the Albanian partisans.
Albania was thus one of the first countries occupied by the Axis Powers in World War II. As Hitler began his aggressions, the Italian Fascist dictator Benito 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. The invasion took place in 1939. Despite some strong resistance, especially at Durrës, Italy invaded Albania on April 7, 1939 and took control of the country, with Mussolini proclaiming Italy's figurehead King being King of Albania. Mussolini, in October 1940, used his Albanian base to launch an attack on Greece, which led to the defeat of the Italian forces.During Italian occupation, the Albanian population was subject to a policy of forced Italianization by the Kingdom's Italian governors in which the use of the Albanian language was discouraged in schools while the Italian language was promoted, and colonization of Albania by Italians was encouraged. During World War II, Albanian nationalist groups, including communist partisans, fought against the Italians and subsequently the Germans. By October 1944 they had thrown the Germans out,the only East European nation to do so without the assistance of Soviet troops. The partially French-educated Enver Hoxha became the leader of the country by virtue of his position as secretary general of the Party of Labor (the Albanian Communist Party). The Communist Party was created on November 8, 1941.
Albania is unique in that it is the only European country occupied by the Axis powers that ended World War II with a larger Jewish population than before the War. Only one Jewish family out of six was deported and killed during the Nazi occupation of Albania. Not only did the Albanians protect their own Jews, but they provided refuge for Jews from neighboring countries. The Albanians refused to comply and hand over lists of Jews. Instead they provided the Jewish families with forged documents and helped them disperse in the Albanian population. 
Albania allied with the USSR, and then broke with the USSR in 1960 over 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 Chinese ruler Mao Zedong. Large-scale purges of officials occurred during the 1970s.
Enver Hoxha, the nation's ruler for four decades, died April 11, 1985. Eventually the new regime introduced some liberalization, including measures in 1990 providing for freedom to travel abroad. Efforts were begun to improve ties with the outside world. March 1991 elections left the former Communists in power, but a general strike and urban opposition led to the formation of a coalition cabinet including non-Communists.
Albania's former Communists were routed in elections March 1992, amid economic collapse and social unrest. Sali Berisha was elected as the first non-Communist president since World War II. The next crisis occurred in 1997, as riots ravaged the country.
During NATO's air war against Yugoslavia, March-June 1999, Albania hosted some 465,000 Kosovar refugees. Victory by a pro-Berisha coalition in elections July 3, 2005, ended 8 years of Socialist Party rule. Crowds in Tirana, June 10, 2007, welcomed George W. Bush, the first U.S. president to visit Albania while in office.