A state of the Balkan Peninsula
Albania is one of the poorest and least developed European states. It is separated by just 70 km of sea from Italy, with which it has always had close relations and where, since the last decade of the twentieth century, an ever-increasing number of Albanian immigrants has been welcomed.
A small mountainous country in front of Italy
According to topschoolsintheusa, Albania is slightly larger than Sicily and largely mountainous and hilly. The Adriatic and Ionian islands divide it from Italy, but the distance is very short, so the two countries have always had intense relations, so much so that many descendants of Albanians who arrived between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries also live in southern Italy.
In northern and eastern Albania there are the highest mountains (Korab, 2,764 m); elsewhere hills, valleys and plains along the sea prevail, where most of the residents live and the largest cities arise: Shkodra, Durres (which is also the main port), Valona and Tirana, the capital. The plains are crossed by rivers rich in water such as the Drin in the north, the Shkumbin in the center and the Voiussa in the south.
The largest number of Albanians work in agriculture, but many emigrate abroad, then sending the earnings home (the ‘remittances’); in 2002 the Albanians were about 169,000 in Italy alone. The industry is underdeveloped: old plants to produce metals (copper, nickel), fertilizers, agricultural machinery and food products. Services, such as communications, banks, tourism, are also weak. The economy is changing rapidly, however, since the country adopted the Western ‘market system’. Albania needs infrastructure – such as roads – and to improve health and education, but unfortunately it is not rich in resources, and even if in the last fifty years the situation in the country has improved a lot, it still remains too far from that of the other European states.
A long isolation
After undergoing the dominion of the Romans and numerous other peoples (Normans, Swabians, Serbs, Angevins), from the middle of the 15th century – after a resistance led by the national hero Giorgio Castriota, called Scanderbeg – Albania was subdued by the Turks, who converted the population to Islam. Independent since 1913, it established strong political ties with Italy, which occupied it in 1939. In 1941 a resistance movement arose led by the communist Enver Hoxha, who liberated the country in 1944 and proclaimed the people’s republic in 1946.
Subjected to one of the most closed and oppressive communist regimes, Albania first linked itself to Tito’s Yugoslavia, then (1948) to Stalin’s USSR and finally to Mao’s China (1961). When the Chinese began dialogue with the United States, Albania also broke away from them (1978), closing itself off in complete isolation.
In 1991, six years after Hoxha’s death, a series of popular demonstrations led to the fall of the regime and elections. The Democratic Party, victorious in 1992, liberalized the economy and re-established intense relations with the European Union and the United States. In 1997, however, the bankruptcy of numerous financial companies, to which the Albanians had entrusted their savings, plunged the country into chaos. The European Union sent a multinational force, under Italian command, to bring aid and restore legality. In the elections of 1997 and 2001, the Socialist party prevailed, which in order to tackle the serious problems of the country (poverty, widespread illegality, clandestine emigration, refugees) continued the policy of cooperation with Western countries, in particular with Italy.