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Albania
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Geography
     
     
Albania is a Mediterranean country in southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Montenegro in the north, Kosovo in the north-east, the Republic of Macedonia in the east, and Greece in the south, has a coast on the Adriatic Sea in the west, and a coast on the Ionian Sea in the  southwest. The country is an emerging democracy and is formally named
the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipėrisė).
     
      Origins

One of the first written evidences of the use of the word "Albanoi" as the name of an  Illyrian tribe in what is now north-central Albania goes back to the AD 130, in a work of Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy). Albanopolis of the
Albani is a place located on the map of Ptolemy and also named on an ancient family epitaph at Scupi, which has been identified with the Zgėrdhesh hill-fort near Kruja in northern Albania. Arbanon is likely to be the name of a district – the plain of the Mat has been suggested – rather than particular place. An indication of movement from higher altitudes in a much earlier period has been detected in the distribution of place-names ending in -esh that appears to derive from the Latin -enisis or -esis, between the Shkumbin and the Mat, with a concentration between Elbasan and Kruja.

The term Albanoi may have been slowly spread to other Illyrian tribes until its usage became universal among all the Albanian people. According to the Albanian scholar Faļk bey Konitza, the term "Albania" did not displace "Illyria" completely until the end of the fourteenth century. The word "Alba" or "Arba" seems to be connected with the town Arba (modern Rab, Croatia), in prehistoric times inhabited by the Illyrian Liburnians, first mentioned in 360 BC.

The derivation of the name Albania is of considerable antiquity, dating back perhaps to the pre-Celtic alb (hill), from whence Alps, or possibly from the Indo-European albh (white), from whence albino and Albion. Approximately a millennium after, some Byzantine writers use the words "Albanon" and "Arbanon" to indicate the region of Kruja. Under the Angiņ, in the 13th century, the names "Albania" and "Albanenses" indicate the whole country and all the
population, as it is demonstrated by the works of many ancient Albanian writers such as Budi, Blanco and Bogdano. We first learn of the ancestors of the modern Albanians in their native land as the Arbanites of Arbanon in Anna Comnena's account (Alexiad, IV) of the troubles in that region caused in the reign of her father Alexius I Comneus (1081-1118) by the Normans. In the History written in 1079-1080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates was first to refer to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium. Their descendants in Greece and Italy have been called in different ways with the passing of the years: Arbėrór (in Arvanitic) or more commonly Arvanites (in Greek), Arbėnuer, Arbėnor, Arbėneshė, Arbėreshė. There seems to be no doubt that the root Alb- or Arb- is earlier than Shqip-, from which the modern name of the state (Shqipėria) derives, a name which appears only in the time of the Turkish invasions. The Albanian name of the country, Shqipėria, translates into English as "Land of the Eagles", hence the two-headed bird on the national flag and emblem, and because of the large presence of these animals in the mountainous zones of Albania.
   
  History

     
In the area that is today Albania, human activity has been present since the beginning of human history. The earlier
inhabitants were probably part of the pre-Indo-European populace that occupied the coastline of most parts of the Mediterranean. Their physical remains are scarce though, and concentrated on the coastal region. Soon, these first inhabitants were overrun by the Proto-Hellenic tribes that gradually occupied modern-day Greece,  southern parts of what is now the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the south of present-day Albania. This process was completed over the second millennium BC and did not really affect northern or central Albania, an area that at the time presented the image of a political vacuum (in essence a historical paradox). Historians do not agree over
the origin of the Illyrians. Some of them maintain that the Illyrians descended from the pre-Indo-European Pelasgians, while most scholars place them in the later wave of Indo-European invasions. Their presence can be traced back to 900 BC, their political structure was formulated in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Excellent metal craftsmen and fierce warriors, the Illyrians formed warlord based kingdoms that fought amongst themselves for most of their history. Only during the 6th century did the Illyrians venture significant raids against their immediate neighbours, the Greek kingdom of the Molossians in northern Epirus (present southern Albania), the kingdom of Macedonia and the semi-barbaric kingdom of Paionia. Probably their most important success was the slaughter of Perdikkas, king of Macedonia. Unfortunately for the Illyrians, Perdikkas was succeeded by Philippos II, father of Alexander the Great who effectively terminated the Illyrian aggression.

In reality though, the Illyrians were mostly peaceful traders of agricultural products and metal works. The Illyrian culture was influenced by the Greek culture (mainly the south Illyrian tribes). Albania is also the site of several ancient Greek colonies.

After being conquered by a number of nations, mainly the Roman and Byzantine Empires, Illyria lost most of its  original population and finally became a part of the Ottoman Empire in 1478 after years of resistance under the leadership of Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu, the Albanian National Hero.

After the First Balkan War, Albania declared its  independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, becoming a principality. From 1928 on, the country was ruled by King Zog I until 1938 when it became a puppet of Italy.

The communists took over after World War II, in November 1944, under the leader of the resistance, Enver Hoxha. From 1945 until 1990 Albania had one of the most repressive governments in Europe. The communist party was created in 1941 with the direction of Bolshevik Communist Parties. All those who opposed it were eliminated. Enver
Hoxha became the leader of this party. For many decades of his domination, Hoxha created and destroyed relationships with Belgrade, Moscow, and China, always in his personal interests. The country was isolated, first from the West (Western Europe, North America and Australasia) and later even from the communist East.

In 1985, Enver Hoxha died and Ramiz Alia took his place. Initially, Alia tried to follow in Hoxha's footsteps, but in Eastern Europe the changes had already started: Mikhail Gorbachev had appeared in the Soviet Union with new policies (Glasnost and perestroika). The totalitarian regime was pressured by the US and Europe and the hate of
its own people. After Nicolae Ceauŗescu (the communist leader of Romania) was executed in a revolution, Alia knew he would be next if changes were not made. He signed the Helsinki Agreement (which was signed by other countries in 1975) that respected some human rights. He also allowed pluralism, and even though his party won the election of 1991 it was clear that the change would not be stopped. In 1992 the general elections were won by the Democratic Party with 62% of the votes.

In the general elections of June 1996 the Democratic Party tried to win an absolute majority and manipulated the results. In 1997 the fraud of the pyramid schemes shocked the entire government and riots started. Many cities were controlled by militia and armed citizens. This anarchy and rebellion caused the socialist party to win the early elections of 1997.

Since 1990 Albania has been oriented towards the West, was accepted in the Council of Europe and has requested membership in NATO. The working force of Albania has continued to emigrate to Greece, Italy, Europe and North America. Corruption in the government is becoming more and more obvious. The politics have not fulfilled the
people's hope for a short and not too painful transition.

Source: Wikipedia (2005)