Sunday, June 30, 2013

Independence of Albania

Era of Nationalism ; League of Prizren

Proposed boundaries of the Principality of Albania (1912-1914).
The first organization that opposed the partition of Albania and pushed for greater autonomy was the League of Prizren, formed on 1 June 1878, in Prizren, Kosovo. The League used military force to prevent the annexing of northern Albanian areas assigned to Montenegro and Serbia, and southern Albanian areas assigned to Greece by the Congress of Berlin. After several battles with Montenegrin troops, the league was forced to give up Ulcinj to Montenegro and then was defeated by the Ottoman army sent by the Sultan in order to prevent the league from achieving autonomy for Albania. The uprisings of 1910–1912, the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan Wars and the advancing Montenegrin, Serbian and Greek armies into the territories where Albanians were majority, led to the proclamation of independence by Ismail Qemali in Vlora, on 28 November 1912.


Albania's independence was recognized by the Conference of London on 29 July 1913, but the drawing of the borders of Albania ignored the demographic realities of the time. The short-lived monarchy (1914–1925) was succeeded by an even shorter-lived first Albanian Republic (1925–1928), to be replaced by another monarchy (1928–1939). Albania was occupied by Fascist Italy and then by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Communist Albania (1944–1992)

After the liberation of Albania from Nazi occupation, the country became a Communist state, the People's Republic of Albania (renamed "the People's Socialist Republic of Albania" in 1976), which was led by Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour of Albania.
The socialist reconstruction of Albania after WWII and the national liberation was launched immediately after the annulling of the monarchy and the establishment of a "People's Republic". In 1947, Albania's first railway line was completed, with the second completed within eight months after. After new laws of land reform, land was granted to workers and peasants who tilled it. Agriculture began to become cooperative labour and production increased significantly, leading to Albania becoming agriculturally self-sufficient. By 1955, illiteracy was eliminated among Albania's adult population.

The Palace of Culture of Tirana, Albania whose first stone was symbolically thrown by Nikita Khrushchev
During this period Albania became industrialised and saw rapid economic growth, as well as unprecedented progress in the areas of education and health. The average annual rate of increase of Albania's national income was 29% higher than the world average and 56% higher than the European average. Also during this period, because of the monopolised socialist economy, Albania was the only country in the world that did not impose any tax on its people. Hoxha's political successor Ramiz Alia oversaw the disintegration of the "Hoxhaist" state during the wider collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the later 1980s.
Religious freedoms were severely curtailed during this period, with many forms of worship being outlawed. In August 1945, the Agrarian Reform Law meant that large swaths of property owned by religious groups (mostly Islamic waqfs) were nationalized, along with the estates of monasteries and dioceses. Many believers, with the ulema, and many priests were arrested, tortured and executed. In 1949, a new Decree on Religious Communities required that they and all their activities be sanctioned by the state alone.
In 1967 Hoxha proclaimed Albania the world's first 'atheist state'. Hundreds of mosques and dozens of Islamic libraries — containing priceless manuscripts — were destroyed. Churches were not spared either, and many were converted into cultural centers for young people. The new law banned all "fascist, religious, warmongerish, antisocialist activity and propaganda"; preaching religion carried a three- to ten-year prison sentence. Nonetheless, many Albanians continued to practice in secret.

Contemporary Albania

The People's Republic was dissolved in 1991-92 after protests beginning in 1989 and reforms made by the communist government in 1990, and the Republic of Albania was founded. The Communists retained a stronghold in parliament after popular support in the elections of 1991. However, in March 1992, amid liberalisation policies resulting in economic collapse and social unrest, a new front led by the new Democratic Party took power. The economic crisis spread in late 1996 following the failure of some Ponzi schemes operating in the country, peaking in 1997 in an armed rebellion that led to another mass emigration of Albanians, mostly to Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and North America. In 1999, the country was affected by the Kosovo War, when a great number of Albanians from Kosovo found refuge in Albania. Albania became a full member of NATO in 2009, and is applying to join the European Union.