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History of Albania

The history of the modern state of Albania is somewhat disjointed as the people are most likely descendants of the ancient Illyrians. However, these people never truly had a distinct nation-state for much of history, but were rather a minority group under foreign rulers for nearly all of time.

For much of this early history they were under Greek, then Roman, and finally Byzantine rule. Under Byzantine rule the people adopted Christianity and were fairly well accepted, partially due to the fact that Emperor Justinian I was actually an Illyrian. Later, in the 1300s the Albanians fell under Serbian rule.

The 1400s was the first time the Albanian people formed any sort of organized political movement as they fought the invading Ottoman Turks. Unfortunately, this resistance only temporarily slowed the takeover and for the next 500 years the people lived under the rule of the Ottomans.

During the latter years under Ottoman rule independence movements formed and the Albanian identity was more strongly defined, however most of the Albanians converted to Islam under the Muslim Turkish rulers so there was little motivation to overthrown this foreign ruler, who the people for the most part got along with. In the late 1800s the first substantial independence movement began but was met with resistance by both the Ottomans and their neighboring people in the region who sought to rule the same lands as the Albanians claimed.

In 1912 the Albanians finally declared an independent country and this declaration was recognized by most European powers. This independent state however was unstable and the government was overthrown multiple times between World War II (WWII) began and the time the Italians, then the Germans came in and occupied the country for much of the war.

After WWII communist leadership took over the country, however Albania remained outside of Yugoslavia and other communist regimes in the region. In 1990 communism collapsed in much of Europe and this was also true in Albania, leading to a democratic state. Since that time, the country has struggled with stability and economic growth. To add to these hardships, in 1999 the Kosovo War took place and many people in Kosovo were ethnic Albanians, leading many of them to seek refuge in Albania.

The fallout from the Kosovo War is still unresolved in many ways as many refugees still call Albania home and relations with neighboring Serbia and Montenegro have been strained due to this conflict.

This page was last updated: March, 2013