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The Albanians (/ælˈbɛɪniənz/; Albanian: Shqiptarët, pronounced [ʃcipˈta:ɾət]) are an ethnic group native to the Balkan Peninsula and are identified by a common Albanian ancestry, culture, history and language.[70] They primarily live in Albania, Kosovo[4], North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia as well as in Croatia, Greece and Italy. They also constitute a diaspora with several communities established in the Americas, Europe and Oceania.

The ethnogenesis of the Albanians and their language is a matter of controversy among historians and ethnologists. They were mentioned for the first time in historical records from the 11th century as a tribe of people living in the area across the mountainous region of the Mat and Drin.[71][72] The Shkumbin more southerly splits the Albanians into two cultural and linguistic groups, the Ghegs and Tosks, though both groups identify with a shared ethnic culture, history and traditions.

The history of the Albanian diaspora is centuries old and has its roots in migration from the Middle Ages, initially established in Southern Europe and subsequently on across other parts of the world. Between the 13th and 18th centuries, sizeable numbers of Albanians migrated to escape either various social, economic or political difficulties.[5]

One population who became the Arvanites settled Southern Greece between the 13th and 16th centuries assimilating into and now self-identifying as Greeks.[6] Another population who emerged as the Arbëreshë settled Sicily and Southern Italy constituting the oldest continuous Albanian diaspora.[74] Smaller populations such as the Arbanasi whose migration dates back to the 18th century are located in Southern Croatia and scattered across Southern Ukraine.[82][83]

The Great Schism of 1054 formalised the break of communion between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Church and was instantly reflected in Albania through the emergence of a Catholic north and Orthodox south. Inhabiting the west of Lake Ochrida and the upper valley of River Shkumbin, the Albanians established the Principality of Arbanon in 1190 with the capital in Krujë. In the 13th century, the Ghegs converted to Roman Catholicism in larger numbers from Eastern Orthodoxy as a means to resist the Slavic Serbs.[84][85][86]

In the 15th century, the expanding Ottoman Empire overpowered the Balkan Peninsula and so the Albanians. Their consequent resistance to Ottoman expansion into Europe led by Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg won them acclaim all over Europe. In the 17th and 18th centuries, a substantial number of Albanians converted to Islam offering them equal opportunities and advancement within the Ottoman Empire.[87][88][89][90][91][92] Hence, they attained significant positions and culturally contributed to the broader Muslim world.[93]

The Ottomans had cut the Albanians off from significant European intellectual movements, amongst them the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and these ideas together with the ideals of Nationalism traditionally began to penetrate the Albanians through the Albanian diaspora conclusively leading to the Albanian Renaissance which was also incorporated with the influences of Romanticism.

During the Balkan Wars, the Albanians were partitioned between Independent Albania, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia.[94] After the Second World War until the Revolutions of 1991, Albania was governed by a communist government launching the Albanians on a path of oppression and decades of isolation. Though in neighbouring Yugoslavia, Albanians underwent periods of discrimination that concluded with the Breakup of Yugoslavia and eventually the Independence of Kosovo.

Ethnonym


The Albanians (Albanian: Shqiptarët) and their country Albania (Albanian: Shqipëria) have been identified by many ethnonyms. The most common native ethnonym is "Shqiptar", plural "Shqiptarë"; the name "Albanians" (Byzantine Greek: Albanoi/Arbanitai/Arbanites; Latin: Albanenses/Arbanenses) was used in medieval documents, that gradually entered European languages from which other similar derivative names emerged.[95]

From these ethnonyms, names for Albanians were also derived in other languages, that were or still are in use.[96][97][98] In English "Albanians"; Italian "Albanesi"; German "Albaner"; Greek "Arvanites", "Alvanitis" (Αλβανίτης) plural: "Alvanites" (Αλβανίτες), "Alvanos" (Αλβανός) plural: "Alvanoi" (Αλβανοί); Turkish "Arnaut", "Arnavut"; South Slavic languages "Arbanasi" (Арбанаси), "Albanci" (Албанци); Aromanian "Arbineş" and so on.[7]

The term "Albanoi" (Αλβανοί) is first encountered twice in the works of Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates, and the term "Arvanitai" (Αρβανίται) is used once by the same author. He referred to the "Albanoi" as having taken part in a revolt against the Byzantine Empire in 1043, and to the "Arbanitai" as subjects of the Duke of Dyrrachium (modern Durrës).[101] These references have been disputed as to whether they refer to the people of Albania.[101][102] Historian E. Vranoussi believes that these "Albanoi" were Normans from Sicily. She also notes that the same term (as "Albani") in medieval Latin meant "foreigners".[103]

The reference to "Arvanitai" from Attaliates regarding the participation of Albanians in a rebellion around 1078 is undisputed.[104] In later Byzantine usage, the terms "Arbanitai" and "Albanoi" with a range of variants were used interchangeably, while sometimes the same groups were also called by the classicising name Illyrians.[105][106][107] The first reference to the Albanian language dates to the latter 13th century (around 1285).[108]

The ethnonym Albanian has been hypothesized to be connected to and stem from the Albanoi,[109][110][111] an Illyrian tribe mentioned by Ptolemy with their centre at the city of Albanopolis.[96][112] Linguists believe that the alb part in the root word originates from an Indo-European term for a type of mountainous topography, from which other words such as alps are derived.[113] Through the root word alban and its rhotacized equivalents arban, albar, and arbar, the term in Albanian became rendered as Arbëneshë/Arbëreshë for the people and Arbënia/Arbëria for the country.[95][96] The Albanian language was referred to as Arbnisht and Arbërisht.[112] While the exonym Albania for the general region inhabited by the Albanians does have connotations to Classical Antiquity, the Albanian language employs a different ethnonym, with modern Albanians referring to themselves as Shqip(ë)tarë and to their country as Shqipëria.[96] Two etymologies have been proposed for this ethnonym: one, derived from the etymology from the Albanian word for eagle (shqipe, var., shqiponjë).[98] In Albanian folk etymology, this word denotes a bird totem, dating from the times of Skanderbeg as displayed on the Albanian flag.[98][114] The other is within scholarship that connects it to the verb 'to speak' (me shqiptue) from the Latin "excipere".[98] In this instance the Albanian endonym like Slav and others would originally have been a term connoting "those who speak [intelligibly, the same language]".[98] The words Shqipëri and Shqiptar are attested from 14th century onward,[115] but it was only at the end of 17th and beginning of the early 18th centuries that the placename Shqipëria and the ethnic demonym Shqiptarë gradually replaced Arbëria and Arbëreshë amongst Albanian speakers.[96][115] That era brought about religious and other sociopolitical changes.[96] As such a new and generalised response by Albanians based on ethnic and linguistic consciousness to this new and different Ottoman world emerging around them was a change in ethnonym.[96]

Little is known about the Albanian people prior to the 11th century, though a text compiled around the beginning of the 11th century in the Bulgarian language contains possibly a reference to the Albanian people.[116] It is preserved in a manuscript written in the Serbo-Croatian language traced back to the 17th century but published in the 20th century by Radoslav Grujic. It is a fragment of a once longer text that endeavours to explain the origins of peoples and languages in a question-and-answer form similar to a catechism.

The fragmented manuscript differentiated the world into seventy-two languages and three religious categories including Christians, half-believers and non-believers. Grujic dated it to the early 11th century and if this and the identification of the Arbanasi, as Albanians, are correct it would be the earliest written document referring to the Albanian people as a people or language group.[116]

The first undisputed mention of Albanians in the historical record is attested in Byzantine source for the first time in 1079–1080, in a work titled History by Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates, who referred 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. It is disputed, however, whether the "Albanoi" of the events of 1043 refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense or whether "Albanoi" is a reference to Normans from Sicily under an archaic name (there was also a tribe in Italy by the name of "Albanoi").[101] However a later reference to Albanians from the same Attaleiates, regarding the participation of Albanians in a rebellion around 1078, is undisputed.[104] At this point, they are already fully Christianized, although Albanian mythology and folklore are part of the Paleo-Balkan pagan mythology,[117] in particular showing Greek influence.[118]

Language


The majority of the Albanian people speak the Albanian language which comprises an independent branch within the Indo-European family of languages. It is a language isolate to any other known living language in Europe and indeed no other language in the world has been conclusively associated to its branch. Its origin remains conclusively unknown but it is believed it has descended from an ancient Paleo-Balkan language.

The Albanian language is spoken by approximately 5 million people throughout the Balkan Peninsula as well as by a more substantial number by communities around the Americas, Europe and Oceania. Numerous variants and dialects of Albanian are used as an official language in Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia.[119][120][121][122] The language is also spoken in other countries whence it is officially recognised as a minority language in such countries as Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.[123][124][125]

There are two principal dialects of the Albanian language traditionally represented by Gheg and Tosk.[126][127] The ethnogeographical dividing line is traditionally considered to be the Shkumbin with Gheg spoken in the north of it and Tosk in the south. Dialects spoken in Croatia (Arbanasi and Istrian), Kosovo, Montenegro and Northwestern North Macedonia are Gheg dialects, while those dialects spoken in Greece (Arvanites and Çam), Southwestern North Macedonia and Italy (Arbëreshë) are Tosk dialects.

The Arbëreshë and Arvanitika langauges represent varieties of the Albanian language spoken by the Arbëreshës and Arvanites in Southern Italy and Southern Greece respectively. They retain elements of medieval Albanian vocabulary and pronunciation that are no longer used in modern Albanian language however both varieties are classified as endangered languages in the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages.[128][129][130]

Most of the Albanians in Albania and the Former Yugoslavia are polyglot and have the ability to understand, speak, read, or write a foreign language. As defined by the Institute of Statistics of Albania, 39.9% of the 25 to 64 years old Albanians in Albania are able to use at least one foreign language including English (40%), Italian (27.8%) and Greek (22.9%).[131]

The origin of the Albanian language remains a contentious subject that has given rise to numerous hypotheses. The hypothesis of Albanian being one of the descendant of the Illyrian languages is based on geography where the languages were spoken however not enough archaeological evidence is left behind to come therefore to a definite conclusion. Another hypothesis associates the Albanian language with the Thracian language. This theory takes exception to the territory, since the language was spoken in an area distinct from Albania, and no significant population movements have been recorded in the period when the shift from one language to the other is supposed to have occurred.[132]

History


The Albanian people maintain a very chequered and tumultuous history behind them, a fact explained by their geographical position in the Southeast of Europe at the cultural and political crossroad between the east and west, even though they have often been isolated from the mainstream history of Europe.

The mystery surrounding the origins of the Albanian people has been an enigma to historians and linguists for centuries and still remains even today. Historically known as the Arbër or Arbën by the 11th century and onwards, they traditionally inhabited the mountainous area to the west of Lake Ochrida and the upper valley of the River Shkumbin.[133][134] Though it was in 1190 when they established their first independent entity with their seat based in Krujë.[135] Immediately after the decline of the Progon dynasty in 1216, the principality came under Grigor Kamona and Gulam of Albania. Finally the Principality was dissolved in 1255. Around 1230 the two main centers of Albanian settlements, one around Devoll river in what is now central Albania,[136] and the other around the region which was known with the name Arbanon.[137]

In 1271 Charles of Anjou created the Kingdom of Albania, after he captured a part of the Despotate of Epirus.[138] A major attempt to advance further in direction of Constantinople failed at the Siege of Berat (1280–1281). A Byzantine counteroffensive soon ensued, which drove the Angevins out of the interior by 1281. The Sicilian Vespers further weakened the position of Charles, and the Kingdom was soon reduced by the Epirotes to a small area around Durrës. The kingdom however held out until 1368, when the city was captured by Karl Thopia. The presence of the kingdom reinforced the influence of Catholicism and the conversion to its rite, not only in the region of Durrës but in other parts of the country.[139] A new wave of Catholic dioceses, churches and monasteries were founded, a number of different religious orders began spreading into the country, and papal missionaries also reached the territories of the Kingdom of Albania. Those who were not Catholic in Central and North Albania converted and a great number of Albanian clerics and monks were present in the Dalmatian Catholic institutions.[140]

The history of Albanian presence in Croatia can be traced back to the Middle Ages.[141] In this period, there was a significant Albanian community in Ragusa with numerous families of Albanian origin inclusively the Sorgo family who came from the Cape of Rodon in central Albania, across Kotor in eastern Montenegro, to Dalmatia.[142] By the 13th century, Albanian merchants were trading directly with the peoples of the Republic of Ragusa which increased familiarity between Albanians and Ragusans.[143] The upcoming invation of Albania by the Ottoman Empire and the death of Skanderbeg caused many Christian Albanians to flee to Dalmatia and other countries including Italy and Greece.[144][145][82]

In the 14th century a number of Albanian principalities were created. These included Principality of Kastrioti, Principality of Dukagjini, Princedom of Albania, and Principality of Gjirokastër. At the beginning of the 15th century these principalities became stronger, especially because of the fall of the Serbian Empire. Some of these principalities were united in 1444 under the military alliance called League of Lezha.

Albanians were recruited all over Europe as a light cavalry known as stratioti. The stratioti were pioneers of light cavalry tactics during the 15th century. In the early 16th century heavy cavalry in the European armies was principally remodeled after Albanian stradioti of the Venetian army, Hungarian hussars and German mercenary cavalry units (Schwarzreitern).[146]

Prior to the Ottoman conquest of Albania, the political situation of the Albanian people was characterised by a fragmented conglomeration of scattered kingdoms and principalities such as the Principalities of Arbanon, Kastrioti and Thopia. However after the fall of Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire continued an extended period of conquest and expansion with its borders going deep into the Southeast Europe. As a consequence thousands of Albanians from Albania, Epirus and Peloponnese escaped to Western Europe, particularly to Calabria, Naples, Ragusa and Sicily, whereby others sought protection at the often inaccessible Mountains of Albania.

Under the leadership of Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, a prosperous and longstanding revolution erupted with the formation of the Assembly of Lezhë up until the Siege of Shkodër, multiple times defeating the mightiest power of the time led by Sultans Murad II and Mehmed II. Skanderbeg managed to gather several of the Albanian principals, amongst them the Arianitis, Dukagjinis, Zaharias and Thopias, and establish a centralised authority over most of the non-conquered territories instantly becoming the Lord of Albania.[147]

Skanderbeg consistently pursued the aim relentlessly but rather unsuccessfully to create a European coalition against the Ottomans. He defeated every attempt by the Ottomans to regain Albania which they envisioned as a springboard for the invasion of Italy and Western Europe. His unequal fight against them won the esteem of Europe also among others financial and military aid from the Papacy and Naples, Venice and Ragusa.[148][150][151]

The Albanians, predominantly a Christian people, were considered as an inferior class of people and as such they were subjected to heavy taxes such as the Devshirme system that allowed the Sultan to collect a requisite percentage of Christian adolescents from the Balkans and elsewhere to compose the Janissary.[152] Since the Albanians were seen as strategically important, they made up a significant proportion of the Ottoman military and bureaucracy. They were therefore to be found within the imperial services as vital military and administrative retainers from Egypt to Algeria and the rest of Maghreb.[153]

In the late 18th century, Ali Pasha Tepelena created the autonomous region of the Pashalik of Yanina within the Ottoman Empire which was never recognised as such by the High Porte. The territory he properly governed incorporated most of southern Albania, Epirus, Thessaly and southwestern Macedonia. During his rule, the town of Janina developed into a significant cultural, political and economic hub for both Albanians and Greeks.

The ultimate goal of Ali Pasha Tepelena seems to have been the establishment of an independent rule in Albania and Epirus.[154] Thus, he obtained control of Arta and took controll over the ports of Butrint, Preveza and Vonitsa. He also gained control of the pashaliks of Elbasan, Delvina, Berat and Vlorë. His relations with the High Porte were always tense though he developed and maintained relations with the British, French and Russian people and formed an alliance with them through various times.[155]

Islam arrived in the region gradually and the phenomenon of Islamisation became primarily widespread among the Albanian people from the 17th century continuing into the 18th century.[93]

The new religion brought many transformations into Albanian society and offered them equal opportunities and advancement within the Ottoman Empire. They attained important political and military positions as Muslims with over three dozen Grand Viziers of Albanian origin among them members of the Köprülü family, Zagan Pasha, Bayezid Pasha, Muhammad Ali of Egypt and Ali Pasha of Tepelena; the Sultans Bayezid II and Mehmed III were both of Albanian origin on the maternal side.[156][157]

Due to the increasing suppression of Catholicism, mostly Catholic Albanians fled to Dalmatia and converted to Islam in the 17th century, while Orthodox Albanians followed suit to convert mainly in the following century.[158][159] At this point, the urban centers of central and southern Albania had largely adopted the new religion of the growing Muslim Albanian elite. Many mosques and tekkes were constructed throughout those urban centers and numerous cities such as Berat, Gjirokastër, Korçë and Shkodër started to flourish becoming significant Albanian centers.[160] In the far north, the spread of Islam was slower due to Catholic Albanian resistance and the inaccessible mountainous terrain.[161]

Motives for conversion according to scholars were diverse, depending on the context though the lack of sources does not help when investigating such issues.[93] Reasons included the incentive to escape high taxes levied on Christian subjects, ecclesiastical decay, coercion by Ottoman authorities in times of war and the privileged legal and social position Muslims had over that of Christians.[162][90][91][92][88][87][89]

Areas such as Albania, Western Macedonia, Southern Serbia, Kosovo, parts of northern Greece and southern Montenegro in Ottoman sources were referred to as Arnavudluk or Albania.[163][164][165] Many Albanians gained prominent positions in the Ottoman government such as: Iljaz Hoxha, Hamza Kastrioti, Koca Davud Pasha, Zağanos Pasha, the Bushati family, Sulejman Pasha, Edhem Pasha, Nezim Frakulla, Haxhi Shekreti, Hasan Zyko Kamberi, Ali Pasha of Gucia.

The Albanian Renaissance characterised a period wherein the Albanian people gathered both spiritual and intellectual strength to establish their rights for an independent political and social life, culture and education. By the late 18th century and the early 19th century, its foundation arose within the Albanian communities in Italy and Romania and was frequently linked to the influences of the Romanticism and Enlightenment principles.[167]

Albania was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for almost five centuries and the Ottoman authorities suppressed any expression of unity or national conscience by the Albanian people. A number of thoroughly intellectual Albanians, among them Naum Veqilharxhi, Girolamo de Rada, Dora d'Istria, Thimi Mitko, Naim and Sami Frashëri, made a conscious effort to awaken feelings of pride and unity among their people by working to develop Albanian literature that would call to mind the rich history and hopes for a more decent future.[168]

The Albanians had poor or often no schools or other institutions in place to protect and preserve their cultural heritage. The need for schools was preached initially by the increasing number of Albanians educated abroad. The Albanian communities in Italy and elsewhere were particularly active in promoting the Albanian cause, especially in education which finally resulted with the foundation of the Mësonjëtorja in Korçë, the first secular school in the Albanian language.

The Turkish yoke had become fixed in the nationalist mythologies and psyches of the people in the Balkans, and their march toward independence quickened. Due to the more substantial of Islamic influence, the Albanians internal social divisions, and the fear that they would lose their Albanian territories to the emerging neighbouring states, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece, were among the last peoples in the Balkans to desire division from the Ottoman Empire.[169]

The national awakening as a coherent political movement emerged after the Treaty of San Stefano, according to which Albanian-inhabited territories were to be ceded to the neighbouring states, and focused on preventing that partition.[170][171] It was the impetus for the nation-building movement, which was based more on fear of partition than national identity.[171] Even after the declaration of independence, national identity was fragmented and possibly non-existent in much of the newly proposed country.[171] The state of disunity and fragmentation would remain until the communist period following Second World War, when the communist nation-building project would achieve greater success in nation-building and reach more people than any previous regime, thus creating Albanian national communist identity.[171]

Enver Hoxha of the Party of Labour took immediate and forceful measures for the total power over the nation state of the Albanian people, Albania in 1946. As the regimes strength began to increase, Enver Hoxha established an alliance with the Eastern Bloc which provided Albania with many advantages in the form of economic assistance and military protection from the Western Bloc during the Cold War.

The Albanians experienced a period of several beneficial political and economic changes. The government defended the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Albania, diversified the economy through a programme of industrialisation which led to a higher standard of living and followed improvements in areas such as health, education and infrastructure.[172]

It subsequently followed a period wherein the Albanians lived within an extreme isolation from the rest of the world for the next four decades. By 1967, the established government had officially proclaimed Albania to be the first atheistic state in the world as they beforehand confiscated churches, monasteries and mosques, and any religious expression instantly became grounds for imprisonment.[173]

Effective protests with the emerging revolutions of 1989 began to break out in various cities throughout Albania including Shkodër and Tirana which eventually caused the fall of communism. Finally as the communism came to a violent end in 1992, both internal and large external migration waves of Albanians, in such countries as Greece and Italy, has taken place on a massive scale over the forthcoming years in Albania.

The bunkerisation is arguably the most visible and memorable legacy of the communism in Albania. Nearly 175.000 reinforced concrete bunkers were built on strategic locations across Albania's territory including near borders, within towns, on the seashores or mountains.[174] These bunkers were never used for their intended purpose or for sheltered the population from attacks or an invasion by a neighbor. However, they were abandoned after the breakup of communism and have been sometimes reused for a variety of purposes.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008, after years of strained relations between the Serb and predominantly Albanian population of Kosovo. It has been officially recognised by Australia, Canada, the United States and major European Union countries, while Serbia and its ally Russia refuse to recognise Kosovo's sovereignty.

The overwhelming majority of Kosovo's population is ethnically Albanian with nearly 1.7 million people.[175] Their presence as well as in the adjacent regions of Toplica and Morava is recorded since the Middle Ages.[176] As the Serbs expelled many Albanians from the wider Toplica and Morava regions in Southern Serbia, which the 1878 Congress of Berlin had given to the Principality of Serbia, many of them settled in Kosovo.[177][178][179]

After being an integral section of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Kosovo including its Albanian population went through a period of discrimination, economic and political persecution.[180] Rights to use the Albanian language were guaranteed by the constitution of the later formed Socialist Yugoslavia and was widely utilised in Macedonia and Montenegro prior to the dissolution of Yugoslavia.[181] In 1989, Kosovo lost its status as a federal entity of Yugoslavia with rights similar to those of the six other republics and eventually became part of Serbia and Montenegro.

In 1998, tensions between the Albanian and Serb population of Kosovo simmered and erupted into major violence and discrimination culminating into the humanitarian tragedy of the Kosovo War. The conflict led to the displacement of hundred thousands of Albanians to the neighboring countries and Europe. Serbian paramilitary forces committed war crimes in Kosovo, although the government of Serbia claims that the army was only going after suspected Albanian terrorists. The NATO launched a 78-day air campaign in 1999 to halt the humanitarian catastrophe that was then unfolding in Kosovo and finally concluded the ended the war.[182]

Distribution


Approximately 5 million Albanians are geographically distributed across the Balkan Peninsula with about half this number living in Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Montenegro as well as to a more lesser extent in Croatia and Serbia. There are also significant Albanian populations in Greece while much smaller communities are available in nearby Bulgaria and Romania.

In Montenegro, the Albanian population is currently estimated to be around 30.000 forming one of the constituent ethnic minority groups of the country.[40][183] They predominantly live in the coastal region of Montenegro around the municipalities of Ulcinj and Bar but also around Plav in the northern region as well as in the capital city of Podgorica in the central region.[40]

In North Macedonia, there are more than approximately 500.000 Albanians constituting the largest ethnic minority group in the country.[38][39] The vast majority of the Albanians are chiefly concentrated around the municipalities of Tetovo and Gostivar in the northwestern region, Struga and Debar in the southwestern region as well as around the capital of Skopje in the central region.

In Croatia, the number of Albanians stands at approximately 17.500 mostly concentrated in the counties of Istria, Split-Dalmatia and most notably in the capital city of Zagreb.[185][123] The Arbanasi people who historically migrated to Bulgaria, Croatia and Ukraine live in scattered communities across Bulgaria, Croatia and Southern Ukraine.[83]

In Serbia, the Albanians are an officially recognised ethnic minority group with a population of around 70.000.[186] They are significantly concentrated in the municipalities of Bujanovac and Preševo in the Pčinja District. In Romania, the number of Albanians is unofficially estimated from 500 to 10.000 mainly distributed in Bucharest. They are recognised as an ethnic minority group and are respectively represented in Parliament of Romania.[187][188]

Approximately 1.7 million Albanians are concentrated in the partially recognised Republic of Kosovo[4] and their numbers are increasing year by year. They are geographically distributed south of the municipality of North Mitrovica and constitute the overall majority ethnic group of the territory.

The Italian Peninsula across the Adriatic Sea has attracted the Albanian people for more than half a millennium often due to the immediate proximity and the consideration as the primary gateway to Western Europe. Albanians in Italy were those who later became important in establishing the fundamentals of the Albanian Renaissance and maintaining the Albanian culture.

The Arbëreshë people came sporadically in several small and large cycles to Italy initially as mercenaries in the service for the Neapolitans, Sicilians and Venetians.[189][190][191] Larger migration waves occurred after the death of Skanderbeg and the capture of Krujë and Shkodër by the Ottomans to escape the forthcoming political and religious changes.[192]

Today, the Albanian people constitute one of the largest ethnolinguistic minority groups of Italy and their status are protected by law.[193][194][195] The total number of Arbëreshës is approximately 260,000 scattered across Sicily, Calabria and Apulia.[74] There are numbers outside Italy such as in the Americas especially in such countries as Argentina, Canada, Chile, Uruguay and the United States.

Centuries later in the end of the 20th century occurred another and simultaneously the largest migration cycle of Albanians to Italy surpassing the earlier migration of the Arbëreshë. Their migration stems from severe political and social oppression during decades of isolation from the outside world under the communist regime leaded by Enver Hoxha.[196]

Between 2015 and 2016, the number of Albanians regularly residing in Italy was numbered to be around 480,000 and 500,000.[196][197] Tuscany, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna represent the regions with the strongest presence of the modern Albanian population in Italy.[196] In 2012, 41.5% of the Albanian population were counted as Muslim, 38.9% as Christian including 27.7% as Roman Catholic and 11% as Eastern Orthodox and 17.8% as Irreligious.[198]

An estimated 275,000–600,000 (Includes dual citizens, temporary migrants, and undocumented) Albanians live in Greece, forming the largest immigrant community in the country.[199] They are economic migrants whose migration began in 1991, following the collapse of the Socialist People's Republic of Albania.

The Arvanites and Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace are a group descended from Tosks who migrated to southern and central Greece between the 13th and 16th centuries.[75] They are Greek Orthodox Christians, and though they traditionally speak a dialect of Tosk Albanian known as Arvanitika, they have fully assimilated into the Greek nation and do not identify as Albanians.[76][77][81] Arvanitika is in a state of attrition due to language shift towards Greek and large-scale internal migration to the cities and subsequent intermingling of the population during the 20th century.

The Cham Albanians were a group that formerly inhabited a region of Epirus known as Chameria, nowadays Thesprotia in northwestern Greece. Many Cham Albanians converted to Islam during the Ottoman era. Muslim Chams were expelled from Greece during World War II, by an anti-communist resistance group, as a result of their participation in a communist resistance group and the collaboration with the Axis occupation, while Orthodox Chams have largely assimilated into the Greek nation..

Diaspora


During the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, the conflicts in the Balkans and the Kosovo War set in motion large population movements of Albanians to Central, Western and Northern Europe.[201] The gradual collapse of communism in Albania triggered as well a new wave of migration and contributed to the emergence of a new diaspora, mainly in Southern Europe, in such countries as Greece and Italy.[202][203][204]

In Central Europe, there are approximately 200,000 Albanians in Switzerland with the particular concentration in the cantons of Zürich, Basel, Lucerne, Bern and St. Gallen.[50][200] The neighbouring Germany is home to around 250,000 to 300,000 Albanians while in Austria there are around 40,000 to 80,000 Albanians concentrated in the states of Vienna, Styria, Salzburg, Lower and Upper Austria.[48][49][205][206]

In Western Europe, the Albanian population of approximately 10,000 people living in the Benelux countries is in comparison to other regions relatively limited. There are more than 6,000 Albanian people living in Belgium and 2,800 in the nearby Netherlands. The most lesser number of Albanian people in the Benelux region is to be found in Luxembourg with a population of 2,100.[207][56][57]

Within Northern Europe, Sweden possesses the most sizeable population of Albanians in Scandinavia however there is no exact answer to the their number in the country. The populations also tend to be lower in Norway, Finland and Denmark with more than 18,000, 10,000 and 8,000 Albanians respectively.[19][20][22] The population of Albanians in the United Kingdom is officially estimated to be around 39.000 whiles in Ireland there are less than 2,500 Albanians.[208][24]

The Albanian diaspora in Turkey was formed during the Ottoman era through economic migration and early years of the Turkish republic through migration due to sociopolitical discrimination and violence experienced by Albanians in Balkan countries.[209] According to a 2008 report prepared for the National Security Council of Turkey by academics of three Turkish universities in eastern Anatolia, there were approximately 1,300,000 people of Albanian descent living in Turkey.[210] According to that study, more than 500,000 Albanian descendants still recognize their ancestry and or their language, culture and traditions.[211] There are also other estimates regarding the Albanian population in Turkey that range from being 3–4 million people[211] up to a total of 5 million in number, although most of these are Turkish citizens of either full or partial Albanian ancestry being no longer fluent in Albanian (cf. German Americans).[212][36] This was due to various degrees of either linguistic and or cultural assimilation occurring amongst the Albanian diaspora in Turkey.[36] Nonetheless, a sizable proportion of the Albanian community in Turkey, such as that of Istanbul, has maintained its distinct Albanian identity.[36] Albanians are active in the civic life of Turkey.[211][213]

In Egypt there are 18,000 Albanians, mostly Tosk speakers.[36] Many are descendants of the Janissaries of Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Albanian who became Wāli, and self-declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan.[36] In addition to the dynasty that he established, a large part of the former Egyptian and Sudanese aristocracy was of Albanian origin.[36] Albanian Sunnis, Bektashis and Orthodox Christians were all represented in this diaspora, whose members at some point included major Renaissance figures (Rilindasit), including Thimi Mitko, Spiro Dine, Andon Zako Çajupi, Milo Duçi, Fan Noli and others who lived in Egypt for a time.[214] With the ascension of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt and rise of Arab nationalism, the last remnants of Albanian community there were forced to leave.[215] Albanians have been present in Arab countries such as Syria, Lebanon,[214] Iraq, Jordan, and for about five centuries as a legacy of Ottoman Turkish rule.

The first Albanian migration to North America began in the 19th and 20th centuries not long after gaining independence from the Ottoman Empire. However the Arbëreshë people from Southern Italy were the first Albanian people to arrive in the New World, many of them migrating after the wars that accompanied the Risorgimento.[217][218]

Since then several Albanian migration waves have occurred throughout the 20th century as for instance after the Second World War with Albanians mostly from Yugoslavia rather than from Communist Albania, then after the Breakup of Communist Albania in 1990 and finally following the Kosovo War in 1998.[219][220]

The most sizeable Albanian population in the Americas is predominantly to be found in the United States. As of 2017, there are approximately 205.000 Albanians in the country with the main concentration in the states of New York, Michigan, Massachusetts and Illinois.[221][58] The number could be higher counting the Arbëreshë people as well; they are often distinguishable from other Albanian Americans with regard to their Italianized names, nationality and a common religion.[222]

In Canada, there are more than approximately 39.000 Albanians in the country comprising 36,185 Albanians from Albania and 2,870 Albanians from Kosovo predominantly distributed in a multitude of provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.[60] Canada's largest cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton were besides the United States a major centre of Albanian migration to North America.

Albanian immigration to Australia took place in the late 19th century and much of the 20th century.[224] Following the introduction of migration quotas by the United States, people who had planned to immigrate to the States were forced to choose Australia instead. The majority of them had Muslim and Orthodox backgrounds and tended to live in Victoria and Queensland but also in Western and Northern Australia.[224][225]

Italy's annexation of Albania and its alliance with Nazi Germany against the allies marked a difficult time for Albanian and Italian Australians as they were thought by Australian authorities to pose a fascist threat. However, the number of Albanian immigrants slowed consequently during that time but also due to immigration restrictions placed by the communist regime in Albania.

The most recent Albanian immigrants came mostly from Kosovo and the former Yugoslavian countries inclusively North Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro. The immigrants were mostly Muslims but also Orthodox and Catholics among them the relatives of the renowned Albanian nun and missionary Mother Teresa.[224]

In 2016, approximately 4,041 persons resident in Australia identified themselves as having been born in Albania, while 15,901 persons identified themselves as having Albanian ancestry, either alone or in combination with another ancestry.[226] There are many Albanian Australians that were born in Italy, Macedonia as well as Kosovo, due to this they are recorded under those statistics.

Culture


The traditional cuisine of the Albanians is diverse and has been greatly influenced by their traditions, their varied environment in the Balkans and their turbulent history throughout the course of the centuries.[229] The enjoyment of food had and has a high priority in the lives of the Albanians especially when it comes to celebrating religious festivals such as Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Novruz or Ramadan.

Albanian cuisine is different from region to another and each Albanian speaking territory preserves a distinctive regional cuisine characterised by local specialties and different styles within the Albanian cuisine. There is a considerable diversity between the Italian and Greek-influenced cuisines of the Arbëreshës and Chams as well as of the Mediterranean and Balkan-influenced cuisines of the Albanians in the Balkans.

Among the essential characteristics in Albanian cuisine is undoubtedly the generous use of a wide range of ingredients and spices specific to their locations. It includes many varieties of fruits such as lemons, oranges, figs and olives. Spices and other herbs such as basil, lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme are also used, as are vegetables such as garlics, onions, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes.

The Albanian diet, for those Albanians who lives closer to the sea and lakes, are able to complement their diet with fresh and saltwater fish, shellfish and other seafood specialities from the Mediterranean Sea and Ohrid Lake. Otherwise, lamb is often considered as the traditional meat for different religious festivals and poultry, beef and pork are also in plentiful supply.

In Albania, Tavë Kosi is a national dish consisting of garlicky lamb and rice baked under a thick, tart veil of yogurt. Fërgesë is another national dish and is made up with peppers, tomatoes and cottage cheese. Another beloved dish in Albania and other Albanian-speaking territories is called Pite which is generally a filled and baked pastry with a filling of a mixture of spinach and gjizë or mish. Also famous is Flia consisting of multiple crepe-like layers brushed with crea. Petulla, a traditionally fried dough, and Krofne, similar to Berliner, constitute as well a popular speciality in Albanian cuisine.

The earliest preserved relics of visual arts of the Albanian people are sacred in nature and represented by numerous frescoes, murals and icons which has been created with an admirable use of color and gold. They reveal a wealth of various influences and traditions that converged in the historical lands of the Albanian people throughout the course of the centuries.[230]

The rise of the Byzantines and Ottomans during the Middle Ages was accompanied by a corresponding growth in Christian and Islamic art in the historical lands of the Albanian people often apparent in examples of architecture and mosaics throughout Albania.[231][232] The Albanian Renaissance proved crucial to the emancipation of the modern Albanian culture and saw unprecedented developments in all fields of literature and arts whereas artists sought to return to the ideals of Impressionism and Romanticism.[233][234][234]

Onufri, founder of the Berat School, Kolë Idromeno, David Selenica, Kostandin Shpataraku and the Zografi Brothers are the most eminent representatives of Albanian art. Albanians in Italy and Croatia have been also active among others the Renaissance influenced artists such as Marco Basaiti, Viktor Karpaçi and Andrea Nikollë Aleksi. In Greece, Eleni Boukouras is noted as being the first great female painter of post independence Greece.

In 1856, Pjetër Marubi arrived in Shkodër and established the first photography museum in Albania and probably the first in all the Balkans, the Marubi Museum. The collection of 150.000 photographs, captured by the Albanian-Italian Marubi dynasty, offers an ensemble of photographs depicting social rituals, traditional costumes, portraits of Albanian history.

The Kulla, a traditional Albanian dwelling constructed completely from natural materialsis, is a cultural relic from the medieval period particularly widespread in the southwestern region of Kosovo and northern region of Albania. The rectangular shape of a Kulla is produced with irregular stone ashlars, river pebbles and chestnut woods however, the size and number of floors resulted in each case from the size of the family and their financial resources.

The roots of literature of the Albanian people can be traced to the Middle Ages with surviving works about history, theology and philosophy dating from the Renaissance.[235]

The earliest known use of written Albanian is a baptismal formula (1462) written by the Archbishop of Durrës Paulus Angelus.[236] In 1555, a Catholic clergyman Gjon Buzuku from the Shestan region published the earliest known book written in Albanian titled Meshari (The Missal) regarding Catholic prayers and rites containing archaic medieval language, lexemes and expressions obsolete in contemporary Albanian.[237] Other Christian clergy such as Luca Matranga in the Arbëresh diaspora published (1592) in the Tosk dialect while other notable authors were from northern Albanian lands and included Pjetër Budi, Frang Bardhi, and Pjetër Bogdani.[238]

In the 17th and onwards, important contributions to Albanian literature were made by the Arbëreshë people of Southern Italy who played an influential role in encouraging the Albanian Renaissance. Notable among them was figures such as Demetrio Camarda, Gabriele Dara, Girolamo de Rada, Giulio Variboba and Giuseppe Serembe who produced inspiring nationalist literature and worked to systmatise the Albanian language.[239]

The Bejtexhinj in the 18th century emerged as the result of the influences of Islam and particularly Sufism orders moving towards Orientalism.[240] Individuals such as Nezim Frakulla, Hasan Zyko Kamberi, Shahin and Dalip Frashëri compiled literature infused with expressions, language and themes on the circumstances of the time, the insecurities of the future and their discontent at the conditions of the feudal system.[240]

The Albanian Renaissance in the 19th century is remarkable both for its valuable poetic achievement and for its variety within the Albanian literature. It drew on the ideas of Romanticism and Enlightenment characterised by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as the interaction between nature and mankind. Dora d'Istria, Girolamo de Rada, Naim Frashëri, Naum Veqilharxhi, Sami Frashëri and Pashko Vasa maintained this movement and are remembered today for composing series of prominent works.

The 20th century was centred on the principles of Modernism and Realism and characterised by the development to a more distinctive and expressive form of Albanian literature.[241] Pioneers of the time include Asdreni, Faik Konica, Fan Noli, Lasgush Poradeci, Migjeni who chose to portray themes of contemporary life and most notably Gjergj Fishta who created the epic masterpiece Lahuta e Malcís.[241]

Albania, post World War Two emerged as a communist state and Socialist realism became part of the literary scene.[242] Authors and poets emerged such as Sejfulla Malëshova, Dritero Agolli and Ismail Kadare who has become an internationally acclaimed novelist and others who challenged the regime through various sociopolitical and historic themes in their works.[242] Martin Camaj wrote in the diaspora while in neighbouring Yugoslavia, the emergence of Albanian cultural expression resulted in sociopolitical and poetic literature by notable authors like Adem Demaçi, Rexhep Qosja, Jusuf Buxhovi.[243] The Albanian literary scene at the beginning of the 21st century remains vibrant producing new novelists, authors, poets and other writers.[244]

The Albanian people have incorporated various natural materials from their local agriculture and livestock as a vital source for attire, clothing and fabrics. Their traditional apparel and handmade textile were primarily influenced by nature and the way of life and have been continuously changed since ancient times.[245] All of the Albanian ethnographic regions possesses their own exceptional clothing traditions and peculiarities varied occasionally in detail, colour, patterns, material, shape and form.

The traditional costume of Albanian men includes a white skirt garment called Fustanella, a white shirt with wide sleeves, and a thin black jacket or vest such as the Xhamadan or Xhurdia. In winter, they add a warm woolen coat or fur coat known as Flokata or Dollama made from sheepskin or goat fur. Another authentic piece is called Tirq which is a tight pair of felt trousers mostly white, sometimes dark brown or black.

The Albanian women's costumes are much more complicated, more colorful and elaborate than that of the Albanian mens. In all the Albanian ethnographic regions, the women clothing often was decorated with filigree ironwork, colorful embroidery, a lot of symbols and vivid accessories. An unique and ancient dress is called Xhubleta a bell shaped skirt reaching down to the calves and worn from the shoulders with two shoulder straps at the upper part.[246][247]

The Albanian traditional headdresses are a contrasting and recognisable feature of Albanian traditional clothing. Albanian men traditionally wore hats of various design, shape and size. A very common headgear is a Plis and Qylafë in contrast, Albanian women wore a Kapica adorned with jewels or embroidery on the forehead, and a Lëvere or Kryqe which usually covers the head, shoulders and neck. Wealthy Albanian women wore headdresses embellished with gems, gold or silver.

Different traditional handmade shoes and socks were worn by the Albanian people. The leather shoes called Opinga were made from rough animal skin and worn with knitted woolen socks known as Çorape worked either in wool or cotton.

For the Albanian people, music is a vital component to their culture and characterised by its own peculiar features and diverse melodic pattern reflecting the history, language and way of life.[248] It rather differs from region to another with two essential stylistic differences between the music of the Ghegs and Tosks. Thus, their geographic position in Southeast Europe in combination with cultural, political and social issues are often expressed through music.

Albanian music is contrasted by the heroic tone of the Ghegs and the relaxed sounds of the Tosks. Traditional iso-polyphony perhaps represents the most epic and important genre of the Tosks which was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.[249] Ghegs are in contrast popular for a distinctive variety of sung epic poetry often about the tumultuous history of the Albanian people.

There are a number of international acclaimed singers of Albanian origin across the world such as Action Bronson, Ava Max, Bebe Rexha, Dua Lipa, Era Istrefi, Gashi and Rita Ora.

In international competitions, Albania participated in the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in 2004. Albanians have also represented other countries in the contest as for instance Anna Oxa for Italy in 1989, Adrian Gaxha for Macedonia in 2008 as well as Ermal Meta for Italy in 2018. Kosovo has never participated but is currently applying to become a member of the EBU and therefore debut in the contest.

Religion


Many different spiritual traditions, religious faiths and beliefs are practised by the Albanian people who historically have succeeded to coexist peacefully over the centuries in Southeast Europe.[250] They are traditionally both Christians and Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox, Bektashis and Sunnis but also to a lesser extant Evangelists, Protestants and Jews, perhaps constituting the most religiously diverse people of Europe.[251]

In the medieval era, prior to the arrival of Islam into the Albanian inhabited lands, Christianity was the predominant religion among the Albanians. They were mostly following Orthodox traditions and practices until the middle of the 13th century as Gheg Albanians began to convert to Catholicism as a mean to resist the oppression of the Slavs.[8] During the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, Christianity began to be overtaken by Islam, and Catholicism and Orthodoxy continued to be practiced with less frequency.

During the modern era, the monarchy and communism in Albania as well as the socialism in Kosovo, historically part of Yugoslavia, followed a systematic secularisation of its people. This policy was chiefly applied within the borders of both territories and produced a secular majority of its population.

All forms of Christianity, Islam and other religious practices were prohibited except for old non-institutional pagan practices in the rural areas, which were seen as identifying with the national culture. The current Albanian state has revived some pagan festivals, such as the Spring festival (Albanian: Dita e Verës) held yearly on 14 March in the city of Elbasan. It is a national holiday.[253]

The communist regime which ruled Albania after World War II persecuted and suppressed religious observance and institutions, and entirely banned religion to the point where Albania was officially declared to be the world's first atheist state. Religious freedom returned to Albania following the regime's change in 1992. Albanian Sunni Muslims are found throughout the country, Albanian Orthodox Christians as well as Bektashis are concentrated in the south, while Roman Catholics are found primarily in the north of the country.[254]

In Albania, 58.79% of the population adheres to Islam, making it the largest religion in the country. Christianity is practiced by 16.99% of the population, making it the second largest religion in the country. The remaining population is either irreligious or belongs to other religious groups.[255] Before World War II, there was given a distribution of 70% Muslims, 20% Eastern Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholics.[256] Today, Gallup Global Reports 2010 shows that religion plays a role in the lives of only 39% of Albanians, and ranks Albania the thirteenth least religious country in the world.[257]

For part of its history, Albania has also had a Jewish community. Members of the Jewish community were saved by a group of Albanians during the Nazi occupation.[258] Many left for Israel c. 1990–1992 when the borders were opened after the fall of the communist regime, but about 200 Jews still live in Albania.

See also


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