Culture Name


Alternative Names

The international terms "Albania" and "Albanian" are based on the root *alb- , *arb- , which also is the source of the word Arberesh , which is used to describe the Italo-Albanians of southern Italy. That root also appears as *lab- in Labëria , referring to the southern Albanian region from Vlorë southward to the Greek border, and *rab- in early Slavic, as in raban , rabanski ("Albanian"). Also related to this basic root are the Turkish and Greek words for Albanians and the Albanian language. Albanians now use the designation shqiptar ("Albanian") shqip ("Albanian language"), and Shqipëria ("Albania").


Identification. According to the Austrian linguist Gustav Meyer (1850–1900), shqip ("Albanian language"), shqiptar ("Albanian"), and Shqipëria ("Albania") are related to the Albanian verb shqipoj ("to speak clearly") and shqiptoj ("to pronounce") and can be linked to the Latin excipio and excipere ("to listen to, take up, hear"). The Albanologist Maximilian Lambertz (1882–1963) preferred a connection with the Albanian shqipe or shqiponjë ("eagle"), which is the symbol of Albania. The latter explanation may, however, simply be a folk etymology or constitute the reason why Albanians identify themselves with the eagle.

Albanians can be divided into two cultural groups: the northern Albanians, or Ghegs (sometimes spelled Gegs), and the southern Albanians, or Tosks. The geographic border between the two groups, based on dialect, runs roughly along the Shkumbin River, which flows through the central town of Elbasan to the Adriatic Sea. All Albanians north of the Shkumbin, along with the Albanians of Montenegro, Kosovo, and most of Macedonia (FYROM), speak Gheg dialects with their characteristic nasalization. All Albanians south of the Shkumbin, including the Albanians of Greece, southwestern Macedonia, and southern Italy, speak Tosk dialects with their characteristic rhotacism. Although dialect and cultural differences between the Ghegs and Tosks can be substantial, both sides identify strongly with the common national and ethnic culture.

Location and Geography. Albanians live in ethnically compact settlements in large areas of the southwest part of the Balkan peninsula, primarily in the Republic of Albania with its centrally located capital city of Tirana and in the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The Republic of Albania, which houses only about 60 percent of all the Albanians in the Balkans, is a mountainous country along the southern Adriatic coast across from the heel of Italy. Among the minority groups living with the Albanian majority are ethnic Greeks, Slavs, Aromunians (Vlachs), and Rom (Gypsies). Albania is bordered to the north by the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, which has an approximate 10 percent Albanian minority living in regions along the Albanian-Montenegrin border. The Montenegrin towns of Ulcinj, Tuz, Plava, and Gucinj were traditionally and are still inhabited by Albanians. To the northeast of the Republic of Albania is Kosovo, still a de jure part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Kosovo, which the Kosovo Albanians have declared to be a free and sovereign republic and which the Serbs insist must remain an integral part of Serbia, has about 90 percent Albanian speakers and 10 percent Serb speakers, with minorities of Turks, Rom, Montenegrins, Croats, and Cherkess. The Albanian enclaves of Presheva (Presevo) and Bujanovc (Bujanovac) are in southern Serbia, not far from Kosovo. To the east of the Republic of Albania is the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, one-third of which, along the Albanian border, has an Albanian majority. The central Macedonian towns of

Skopje, Kumanovo, and Bitola have sizable (15 to 50 percent) communities of Albanian speakers, whereas the western Macedonian centers of Tetova (Tetovo), Gostivar, and Dibra (Debar), along with the Struga area, all have an Albanian majority. The Albanians in Macedonia represent about 30 percent of the population, although there are no reliable statistics. The Albanian minority in Greece can be divided into two groups: those living in villages and settlements near the Albanian border and the largely assimilated Arvanites who populated much of central and southern Greece in the late Middle Ages. The Albanian language, known there in Albanian as arbërisht and in Greek as arvanitika , is still spoken to some extent in about three hundred twenty villages primarily in Boeotia (especially around Levadhia), southern Euboea, Attica, Corinth, and northern Andros. Southern Italy also has a substantial Albanian minority, known as the Arberesh, who are the descendants of refugees who fled from Albania after the death of Scanderbeg in 1468. Most of the Arberesh live in the mountain villages of Cosenza in Calabria and in the vicinity of Palermo in Sicily. In addition to these traditional settlements, there are large communities of Albanian emigrants in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany.

Demography. There are an estimated six million Albanians in Europe. The 1991 census for the Republic of Albania gives a total population of 3,255,891. In addition there are about two million Albanians in Kosovo, about five-hundred thousand in the Republic of Macedonia, and about one-hundred thousand in Montenegro. It is estimated that about one-hundred thousand people from the traditional Italo-Albanian communities in southern Italy can still speak Albanian. Figures for Albanian settlements in Greece are unavailable because the Greek government does not acknowledge the existence of an Albanian minority there. All these figures are estimates and fluctuate because of the extremely high birthrates of Albanians and the high level of emigration from Albania and Kosovo. An estimated three-hundred thousand emigrants from Albania now live in Greece, and about two-hundred thousand reside in Italy. In addition, there are about two-hundred thousand Albanians, mostly from Kosovo, living in central Europe (mainly Switzerland and Germany). In the last ten years, Albanians have emigrated to most other countries in Europe, as well as the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Albanian language, shqip , is Indo-European, although it is not a member of any of the major branches of the Indo-European family. Despite its Indo-European affiliation and presence in the Balkans since ancient times, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact ancestry of the Albanian language because of the radical transformations that have taken place within it through the centuries. Among these transformations has been a substantial reduction in word length and extreme morphological alterations. Whether the Albanian language stems from Illyrian or Thracian, both, or neither is a matter of contention. The theory of the Illyrian origin of the Albanian people is the one most widely accepted in Albania and has been raised to the level of a national and state ideology. There is little evidence to prove or disprove this theory, since little is known about the Illyrian language. Since ancient times, very substantial strata of Latin and of Slavic and Turkish have been added to Albanian, making the older strata more difficult to analyze.

Albanian is a synthetic language that is similar in structure to most other Indo-European languages. Nouns are marked for gender, number, and case as well as for definite and indefinite forms. The vast majority of nouns are masculine or feminine, though there are a few neuter nouns. The nominal system distinguishes five cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative; the genitive and dative endings are always the same. Attributive genitives are linked to the nouns they qualify by a system of connective particles. Albanian verbs have three persons, two numbers, ten tenses, two voices, and six moods. Unusual among the moods is the admirative, which is used to express astonishment. Among other particular features of Albanian and other Balkan languages are a postpositive definite article and the absence of a verbal infinitive. Although Albanian is not directly related to Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, or Bulgarian, it has much in common with all those Balkan languages after centuries of close contact.

The regional variants of spoken Albanian differ such that verbal communication between uneducated speakers of different dialects can be difficult. To overcome these problems, a standard literary language, gjuha letrare , was agreed on at an orthography congress in Tirana in late November 1972 and has been in use for the last three decades in virtually all publications and in education throughout Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. This Standard Albanian is based about 80 percent on Tosk dialect forms, reflecting the structure of political power at that time in communist Albania. The subject remains controversial, with northern intellectuals having reopened in recent years the possibility of reviving a literary standard for the Gheg dialect. The gjuha letrare seems to be a widely accepted standard and probably will survive the current turmoil.

Most Albanian speakers in Albania are monolingual, although in view of the strong cultural influence of Italian television, Italian is widely understood along the Adriatic coast. Greek not only is spoken by members of the Greek minority in southern Albania but also is understood by many Albanians near the Greek border. Most Kosovo Albanians speak and understand Serbo-Croatian.

Prayer room at the Mosque of Etem Bay, in the capital city at Tirana.
Prayer room at the Mosque of Etem Bay, in the capital city at Tirana.
Ironically, because the Belgrade authorities willfully destroyed the Albanian-language educational system in Kosovo in the mid-1980s, an increasing number of young people there, educated in "underground" schools, no longer speak and understand Serbo-Croatian.

Symbolism. The national and ethnic symbol of the Albanians is the eagle, which was used in that capacity in the earliest records. The eagle appears in a stone carving dating from 1190, the time of the so-called first Albanian principality, known as Arbanon, and was used as a heraldic symbol by a number of ruling families in Albania in the late Middle Ages, including the Castriotta (Kastrioti), the Muzakaj (Myzeqe), and the Dukagjini. A black double-headed eagle also was placed by the national hero Scanderbeg on his flag and seal. This form of the eagle, deriving from the banner of the Byzantine Empire, has been preserved as an ethnic symbol by the Arberesh of southern Italy. In the late nineteenth century, the double-headed eagle was taken up by the nationalist movement as a symbol of resistance to the Ottoman Empire and was used on the banners of freedom fighters seeking autonomy and independence. The current flag, bearing this black double-headed eagle on a red background, was officially raised on 28 November, 1912 to mark the declaration of Albanian independence in Vlorë and has been used since that time by the Republic of Albania and by Albanians everywhere as the national symbol.

In Albanian oral literature and folklore, the eagle appears as a symbol of freedom and heroism, and Albanians often refer to themselves as the "Sons of the Eagle." The popularity of the eagle among Albanians derives from the similarity between the words shqipe (eagle) and the terms for the Albanian language, an Albanian person, and Albania.

Another beloved symbol is the Albanian prince and national hero Scanderbeg (1405–1468). His real name was George Castriotta (Gjergj Kastrioti). Sent by his father as a hostage to the Turkish Sultan Murad II (ruled 1421–1451), he was converted to Islam and, after being educated in Edirne, was given the name Iskander (Alexander) and the rank of bey. In 1443, after the Turkish defeat at Nish by John Corvinus Hunyadi (1385–1456), Scanderbeg abandoned the Ottoman army, returned to Albania, and embraced Christianity. He took over the central Albanian fortress of Kruja and was proclaimed commander in chief of an independent Albanian army. In the following years, Scanderbeg successfully repulsed thirteen Ottoman invasions and was widely admired in the Christian world for his resistance to the Turks, being accorded the title Athleta Christi by Pope Calixtus III (ruled 1455–1458). Scanderbeg died on 17 January 1468 at Lezha (Alessio), and Albanian resistance collapsed a decade afterward. In 1478, his fortress at Kruja was taken by the Turks, and Albania experienced four centuries of Ottoman rule. For Albanians, Scanderbeg is the symbol of resistance to foreign domination and a source of inspiration in both oral and written literature. It is common in the homes of Albanian families living abroad to find not only an Albanian flag but also a bust or portrait of Scanderbeg.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Albanians are a native Balkan people, although their exact origin is unclear. The national ideology insists on an unequivocal ethnic relationship with the ancient Illyrians. As little is known about the Illyrians and there are no historical records referring to the existence of the Albanian people during the first millennium C . E ., it is difficult to affirm or deny the relationship. Albanians entered postclassical recorded history in the second half of the eleventh century, and only in this age can one speak with any degree of certainty about the Albanian people as they are known today. In his History written in 1079–1080, the Byzantine historian Michael Attaleiates was the 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. Similarly, the historian John Scylitzes refers (ca. 1081) to the Arbanites as forming part of the troops assembled in Durrës by Nicephorus Basilacius. It can be assumed that the Albanians began expanding from their mountain homeland in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, initially taking possession of the northern and central coastline and by the thirteenth century spreading southward toward what are now southern Albania and western Macedonia. In the middle of the fourteenth century, they migrated farther south into Greece, initially into Epirus, Thessaly (1320), Acarnania, and Aetolia. By the middle of the fifteenth century, which marks the end of this process of colonization, the Albanians had settled in over half of Greece in such great numbers that in many regions they constituted the majority of the population. Despite these extensive settlements, the Albanians, largely a herding and nomadic people, do not seem to have created any substantial urban centers. There were no noticeable Albanian communities in the cities of the Albanian coast during the Middle Ages. Durrës was inhabited by the Venetians, Greeks, Jews, and Slavs; Shkodra, by the Venetians and Slavs; and Vlorë, by the Byzantine Greeks. It is estimated that a considerable proportion of Albanians were assimilated by the time of the Turkish invasion; in other words, the Albanians had been largely marginalized in their own country. Only during the Ottoman period did they began to settle in towns and acquire some of the characteristics of a nation rather than those of nomadic tribes.

National Identity. Until the nineteenth century, collective identity in Albania, as elsewhere in the Balkans, was defined primarily by religion, reinforced at the state level by the Ottoman precept of the millet : To be of the Islamic faith was to be Turkish, and to be of the Orthodox faith was to be Greek. There was little room in either culture for the rising aspirations of Albanian nationalism during the national awakening ( Rilindja ) in the second half of the nineteenth century. During this period, nationalist leaders began to understand the divisive effects of religion among their people. The nationalist statesman Pashko Vasa (1825–1892) proclaimed in a widely read poem: "Albanians, you are killing your brothers, / Into a hundred factions you are divided, / Some say 'I believe in God,' others 'I in Allah,' /

A historical cemetery of martyrs overlooking the city of Korcë. Many graves date back to the independence movement of the early twentieth century.
A historical cemetery of martyrs overlooking the city of Korcë. Many graves date back to the independence movement of the early twentieth century.
Some say 'I am Turk,' others 'I am Latin,' / Some 'I am Greek,' others 'I am Slav,' / But you are brothers, all of you, my hapless people! .... Awaken, Albania, wake from your slumber, / Let us all, as brothers, swear a common oath / Not to look to church or mosque, / The faith of the Albanian is Albanianism!" The last line was taken up by Albanians everywhere as the catchword of the nationalist movement that led to independence in 1912.

Ethnic Relations. The Balkan peninsula is inhabited by a multitude of ethnic groups, and relations among them have never been good. Exacerbated nationalism and age-old rivalry for territory and supremacy have always created ethnic tension. This is especially true in regions with mixed settlement patterns, where ethnic groups are not separated by clear-cut political borders. While ethnic relations between Albanians and Greeks along their common border have improved substantially over the last decade, that cannot be said of relations between Albanians and their Slavic neighbors in the former Yugoslavia. In Kosovo, the Albanian majority was reduced to the status of an oppressed colonial people after the Serb conquest of the region at the beginning of the twentieth century. The open conflict that broke out in 1997 was, however, not initially one between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs but between Kosovo Albanians and a hostile Serb regime in Belgrade. Relations between Albanians and Macedonians in the western part of the Republic of Macedonia have been tense since the declaration of Macedonian independence and the downgrading of the status of Albanians there to that of a "national minority."

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The traditional architecture of Albania almost disappeared during the Stalinist dictatorship of 1944– 1990. The old towns and bazaars of Tirana and many other urban centers were demolished and replaced by socialist prestige objects or uniform housing blocks. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, virtually all the churches and mosques were razed or transformed beyond recognition. The Catholic cathedral of Shkodra, for instance, was transformed into a sports hall with a volleyball court, and that of Tirana into a movie theater. With the exception of Berat and Gjirokastër, which were declared museum cities, little of the traditional flavor of Albanian towns can now be found. Most of the older public buildings that survived the communist period in Tirana, such as the main government ministries

Agricultural workers travel between Tirana and Kavajë. While Albania has a large rural population, most families in the countryside can barely raise enough crops to feed themselves.
Agricultural workers travel between Tirana and Kavajë. While Albania has a large rural population, most families in the countryside can barely raise enough crops to feed themselves.
and the university, date from the Italian period (1930s–1940s). The main thoroughfare of Tirana from Scanderbeg Square to the university was constructed by the Italians as a symbol of Italian fascism. The lack of zoning regulations led in the 1990s to chaos in construction and the use of space, destroying the little that survived the communist regime. Old villas have been demolished, and most parks and public gardens disappeared under a myriad of kiosks and cafés.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. After half a century of Stalinist dictatorship, food culture is virtually nonexistent. For decades, there was little on the market beyond basic staples, and today, dire poverty has left most Albanians with little more to eat than bread, rice, yogurt, and beans. In as much as it has survived at all, Albanian cuisine is meat-oriented. Traditional dishes, which usually are reserved for guests and special occasions such as weddings, are easier to find among Albanians living abroad.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Despite their poverty, Albanians are exceptionally generous and hospitable. A person invited to dinner will be given enough to "feed an army," even though the host may go hungry the next day. It is not unusual for an Albanian family to spend a month's salary to feed a visitor. Meals for guests or for ceremonial occasions such as weddings usually involve copious amounts of meat, washed down with Albanian raki , an alcoholic beverage. Animals were formerly slaughtered and roasted on a spit for religious holidays such as the Muslim celebration of Great Bayram and the Christian feast days of Saint Basil on 1 January, Saint Athanasius on 18 January, Saint George on 23 April and 6 May, Saint Michael on 29 September, Saint Nicholas on 6 December, and Christmas on 25 December. These customs have largely died out, although some regional dishes have survived. The Orthodox of southeastern Albania still eat qumështor , a custard dish made of flour, eggs, and milk, before the beginning of Lent. During the annual spring festival ( Dita e Verës ), in central Albania on 14 March, the women of Elbasan and the surrounding regions bake a sweet cake known as ballakum Elbasani . Members of the Islamic Bektashi sect mark the end of the ten-day fasting period of matem with a special ashura (pudding) made of cracked wheat, sugar, dried fruit, crushed nuts, and cinnamon.

Basic Economy. Until 1990, Albania had a centralized socialist economy dominated by agricultural production on state farms. Food was in short supply, and despite communist propaganda, the country never attained self-sufficiency. While Albania still has a large rural peasantry, traditionally over 60 percent of the total population, most families in the countryside can do little more than feed themselves. Some farming surplus has reached urban markets in recent years, but food imports remain essential.

Land Tenure and Property. Albania is a mountainous country with an extremely high birthrate, and there is not enough farmland. Agriculture was reprivatized in the early 1990s after the fall of the communist regime, and many properties were returned to their former owners. Most families, however, received extremely small plots barely large enough to survive on. Property disputes are common and have been a major cause of blood feuding. Although most political parties have strategies for the further privatization of industry and nonagricultural land, many problems remain.

Commercial Activities, Major Industries, and Trade. Aside from agricultural output, Albania is a major producer of chrome. There are also significant deposits of copper and nickel and some oil. The country is still reeling from the radical transformation from a socialist to a free market economy, and commercial activity has not attained its potential. Virtually all the major industries went bankrupt and collapsed in the early 1990s when a free market economy was introduced. Some mines, chrome in particular, are still in production, but most have stagnated under pressure from foreign competition. Among the few sectors of the economy that are doing well is the construction industry. Domestic building materials are now widely available on the local market and increasingly on foreign markets. The European Union is the major trading partner, with Italy, Greece, and Germany leading in imports and exports. The national trade deficit has been compensated to some extent by foreign exchange remittances from Albanian emigrants working abroad.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Under the communist regime, which called for absolute equality and the rule of a single working class, there were in fact three social castes. The ruling caste was composed of the extended families of politburo members and related communist families and clans. The majority of the population was in the working class. The

Workmen at a metallurgical plant in Elbasan, Albania. Much of the Albanian industrial sector collapsed with the introduction of a free market economy in the early 1990s.
Workmen at a metallurgical plant in Elbasan, Albania. Much of the Albanian industrial sector collapsed with the introduction of a free market economy in the early 1990s.
lowest caste consisted of once prosperous farming families, the precommunist middle class, and opponents of the regime. Many of those families were sent to the countryside into internment or internal exile and were denied access to many professions and to education for their children. This caste system broke down with the fall of the communist regime and has been replaced by a system where status is determined exclusively by wealth.

Political Life

Government. The Republic of Albania is a parliamentary republic with a democratic constitution that was promulgated in 1998. Political turmoil has continued since the ousting of the authoritarian Berisha regime in 1997, and there is little sign of consensus or cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties. Political tension remains high.

Leadership and Political Officials. The current president, Rexhep Meidani, is a former university professor from the ruling Socialist Party. The government coalition, now under the leadership of Prime Minister Ilir Meta, is dominated by the Socialist Party. Former president Sali Berisha of the Democratic Party continues to lead the opposition.

Social Problems and Control. Public order broke down in 1997 as a result of a lack of political and economic planning. During the spring of 1997, arms depots were plundered throughout the country; as a result, crime became a major problem. Since the 1997 breakdown, there has been a substantial degree of taking the law into one's own hands. However, this is not a new phenomenon but part of Albanian tradition. For centuries, it was not the central government but Albanian customary or traditional law that governed social behavior and almost every facet of life in northern Albania. This customary law is widely respected today. In its definitive form, the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini had chapters covering church; the family; marriage; house, livestock, and property; work; transfer of property; the spoken word; honor; damages; crimes; judicial law; and exemptions and exceptions. It was strictly observed by the tribes of the northern highlands and had priority over all other laws, ecclesiastical or secular. With the help of this ancient code, the highland tribes were able to preserve their identity, autonomy, and way of life under the Ottoman Empire for five centuries. Some aspects of the Kanun may appear harsh to a modern observer. Vengeance, for instance, was accepted as the prime instrument for exacting and maintaining justice. This led to blood feuding that decimated the northern tribes in the early years of the twentieth century and that is again a major problem of social life in northern Albania.

Gender Roles and Statuses

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Albania is a patriarchal society based on male predominance. Women are accorded subordinate roles. The communist Party of Labor did much to emancipate women during a revolutionary campaign in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but many of the gains of that social revolution have been reversed since the introduction of democracy and a free market economy. Old traditions have revived, and despite legal equality and acceptance in the workforce, women have much less representation in public life than they did under the former regime.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages in Albania are socially and legally restricted to heterosexual couples. They often are arranged at an early age in the countryside, traditionally by the parents of the groom with the help of a matchmaker rather than by the couple. Remaining unmarried is looked on as a great misfortune. In some mountain regions, the bride was stolen from her family, that is, spirited away by an armed bridegroom or by his male relatives and companions. This usually symbolic though occasionally real theft of a bride was also a common custom among the Italo-Albanians of Calabria. In other regions, it was customary to purchase a wife. In zones such as Mirditë and the northern mountains, the father, brother, or another male relative of the bride still presents the groom with a bullet wrapped in straw. The new husband is thus free to kill his wife with the approval of her family if she proves to be disobedient.

Albanian weddings are impressive festivities. They are virtually the only popular celebrations observed today and thus are taken very seriously. Whole villages and, in towns, hundreds of people may be invited to take part in a wedding banquet. The celebrations can last several days. Traditionally, weddings take place during the full moon to ensure offspring. Monogamy was always the rule in Albania, but polygamous marriages existed up to the beginning of the twentieth century in some areas, particularly if the first wife was not able to bear a son. Live-in concubines were not uncommon in the mountains up to World War II. Albanian women were as a rule faithful to their husbands. Since a wife was considered the property of her husband, adultery amounted to theft. Thus, cases of adultery were punished severely under traditional law. Premarital and extramarital sex was more prevalent in the northern highlands, the part of the country with the most rigid moral code. Divorce is now a common phenomenon.

A group of women near Korcë. In Albania's patriarchal society, women are generally placed in subordinate roles.
A group of women near Korcë. In Albania's patriarchal society, women are generally placed in subordinate roles.


Child Rearing and Education. Albanians have always lived in a world of extreme hardship and deprivation. Underdevelopment and a high incidence of infant mortality have been compounded by warring and blood feuding that at times decimated the male population. Reproduction, as the key to survival, therefore took on a more elementary significance among Albanians than it did among neighboring peoples. Even today, Albanian birthrates are significantly higher than those anywhere else in Europe. As in other third world cultures, it is believed that the more children, especially male children, one raises, the more security one will have in one's old age. A childless marriage is considered a great misfortune, and a woman living without a husband and children is inconceivable.

Given the extremely patriarchal nature of Albanian society, greater importance is attributed to the birth of sons than to that of daughters. Even today, pregnant women are greeted with the expression të lindtënjëdjalë ("May a son be born"). In Mirditë and the mountains of the north, the birth of a son was marked by rejoicing throughout the tribe and the firing of rifles. It was often the custom in the north of Albania for a woman to be wed officially only after she had given birth to her first son. In Berat, the main beam of a house was painted black at the birth of a girl as a token of the family's disappointment.

Male children generally were better treated, for instance, by being better protected against the "evil eye." As the Kosova scholar Mark Krasniqi (born 1920) points out, boys are given names such as Ujk ("Wolf"), Luan ("Lion"), and Hekuran ("The Iron One"), whereas girls are named Mjafte ,or Mjaftime ("Enough"), Shkurte ("The Short One"), Mbarime ("The Last One"), and Sose ("The Final One").


Religious Beliefs. Albania is on the border dividing three religions: Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, and Islam. According to the last reliable statistics on religion (1942), among a population of 1,128,143, there were 779,417 (69 percent) Muslims, including the Bektashi; 232,320 (21 percent) Orthodox; and 116,259 (10 percent) Catholics. One can estimate today that approximately 70 percent of Albanians in the republic are of Muslim, including Bektashi, background; about 20 percent, mostly in the south, are Orthodox; and about 10 percent, mostly in the north, are Catholic. In 1967, all religious communities were dissolved when a communist government edict banned the public practice of religion. The law was rescinded only in December 1990 during the collapse of the regime. Despite the return of religious freedom, there seems to be more interest in the revival of Christianity and Islam among foreign missionaries and groups than there is among Albanians. Albanians have never had a national religion with which to identify as a people. For the last century and a half, national (ethnic) identity has predominated over religious identity, and this is unlikely to change in the coming years in a small and struggling nation surrounded by hostile neighbors. Organized religion still plays only a marginal role in public life. Religious fervor is extremely rare, and religious extremism is virtually unknown.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. The foundations of a national literature were laid in the second half of the nineteenth century with the rise of a nationalist movement striving for Albania's independence from a decaying Ottoman Empire. The literature of this so-called Rilindja period of national awakening was characterized by romantic nationalism and provides a key to an understanding of the Albanian mentality today.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Catholic education facilities set up by the Franciscans and Jesuits in Shkodra under the auspices of the Austro-Hungarian Kultusprotektorat paved the way for the creation of an intellectual élite that produced the rudiments of a more sophisticated literature which expressed itself primarily in poetry. The culmination of Albanian literature before World War II appears in the works of the Franciscan priest Gjergj Fishta (1871–1940), once lauded as the national poet. From 1945 to 1990, for primarily political reasons, Fishta was ostracized from the Albanian literary world and the mention of his name was forbidden.

Virtually all prewar Albanian literature was swept away by the political revolution that took place during and after World War II. Most prewar writers and intellectuals who had not left the country by 1944 regretted their decision to stay. The persecution of intellectuals and the break with virtually all cultural traditions created a literary and cultural vacuum that lasted until the 1960s and whose results can still be felt.

With Albania's integration into the Soviet bloc during the 1950s, Soviet literary models were introduced and slavishly imitated. Writers were encouraged to concentrate their creative energies on specific themes, such as the partisan struggle of the "national liberation war" and the building of socialism. Despite the constraints of socialist realism and Stalinist dictatorship, Albanian literature made much progress in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the best examples of creativity and originality in Albanian letters then and now is Ismail Kadare (b. 1936), the only Albanian writer with a broad international reputation. Kadare's talents both as a poet and as a prose writer have lost none of their innovative force over the last three decades. His influence is still felt among the young postcommunist writers of the 1990s, the first generation to be able to express itself freely.


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——. Between Serbs and Albanians: a History of Kosovo , 1998.

—— and James Pettifer. Albania: From Anarchy to a Balkan Identity , 1996.

Zymberi, Isa. Colloquial Albanian , 1991.


Also read article about Albania from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Ilir Doci
I am proud to read a true story that is inherited generation by generation and not distorted by politics. The people in earth need to know the truth where they come from. Identity is the bread that gives power and hope to be what you are.
Tami Merriam
Thank-you for the informative information. It was well written and gave a realistic insight into what is Albania today. I have relatives who are from Albania and frequenty visit there, this is a very accurate depiction of albanian life. Thank-you for your hard work in bring us this important information.
ayub alkaka
this article was writtn really nice and helpful.i'm proud to read a true story , and now i'm liveing in Tirana so mostly same as i read in this article.
this article was really the best article i had ever immportant for me and other students.
nasser repishti
My father leave Albania at 1945 to CAIRO-EGYPT and he live
until 1968 when he died.I ame one of three sons of him .My
All my family from father live in ALBANIA.I wish to contact
with anyone of my family to know more about of ALBANIA.
My email[ ]
Many thanks
This is great to see a piece of Albanian History that is 99% exact and to see it is not based on religious thoughts but on real facts. More and more the Albanian history is being distorted by fanatics then on truth. This piece is being spoken by a outsider who put all that nonsence aside and based it on FACT!
This makes me even prouder to be Albanian!
My many thanks to the Author.
it was useful B I G T I M E but didn't really help me with my homework =þ
Labinot Shala
Well said , brilliant narrative history of Albanians. Would be very helpful start for individuals who want to know about Albanians. I would not agree completely when it comes to rights of women. Female factor always played great role in Albanian society. In both current governments in Albania and Kosovo there are female ministers. I also think that the narrative needs to be updated, Kosovo proclaimed own independence and is recognized by 63 counties.
Avni Bonaj
Well written by an outsider who is not part of a ballkan mambo jumbo! Although i would like to correct the author when he says that the husband had the right to kill his wife for not being obidient! That is not true unless the wife comitted addultery.And that was long time ago whwn the same customs were widley the same throughout europe in some extent.Anway well done and thankyou for the impartial article!
It does not mention Scanderbeg's Serbian origins. It mentions how Albanians are very much slavic influenced because of close contact but it failed to mention all the slavic toponyms in Albania, and in their family tribal names.
This was awesome but how big were the families and how were the elders treated
Legendary, Its extremely amazing what all this story is about. I have an albanian good friend and he a;ways talks about culture and life rules, but as an American I am I was never going to listen to him before I read this story. Its kinnda awesome to hear that people were leaving in 1000 AC, in america we think that the population started existing only during 1789 when america was discovered by americo vespuci
It wasn't all accurate, but it did hit some points. The truth about the Albanians and were they come from will never be known. Its kinda like the Illyrians who didn't record there history and never really left a big enough mark in history. same go's for today's Albanians I guess when your constantly at war with outsiders you really don't have the time to build great monuments on the run. HUMMM! I just thought of some thing. That just might be the link between the Albanian and the Illyrians! That for there whole history they never had the time to settle and write the things in there history cause it kept changing. constantly at war defending there lands! WOW! GREEKS, ROMANS, SLAVS, TURKS, SERBS, HISTORIANS, SYMPOTHIZERS, That's the connection! Its just who they are and the way they've been doing it for thousands of years. if you think about it, its easier to let the invader build and write all those over exaggerated tales of history. An so that later in history people could figure out the truth. So now pointing out some of the characteristics of those invading groups. Some things are now making sense,such as not having to worry about the Albanians/Illyrian destroying it. How the Ilyyrians/Albanians were used as soldiers. How some even gained high military and political status. "History repeats it self" An that's a fact the Albanians know all to well. Its better to build nothing cause it can be destroy and better to survive as a race! an that's there mark TO SURVIE.
My best friend is albanian and this really helped me uderstand his culture a little more(:
This was really great and it helped out a lot I'm not sure if it is 100% correct but I hope it is. I wanted to learn about Albania so I picked it for my project in school keep up the good work!
great article! its very genuine and clearly describes the history of albanians and our culture.
very impresive great article thank you so much would like to read much more especially todays issues in this great country both of my parents left albainia at a very young age.
my dad spent 8 years in tepelen during the begining of communist thereafter left to former yougoslavia and thereafter 8 years to USA this is a great article thank you very much
after all these are my roots and my childrens roots where there father left albainia during the sizzeling years of communist again thank you ! e/mail
Informative, factual and enlightening without the emotive bias that pervades so many commentaries
hi i wanted to know do albanins or have they ever had big age gaps in there marriages? if so are they accepted?
Beverly yes we do have age gaps in our marriages, and they are accepted.
My grandfather was 10 years older than my grandmother
I am from Albania. My children are always curious about their culture, traditions and their routes. I set with them today and read this great informational article, from which I learned a lot myself. Many thanks to the author.
i was just wondering if there was a way for the femail to be able to date some one that is not albanin and not have to worry about any of this stuff happening to her? like if she lives in a different country ?
I loved this article as I like one Albanian lady so I wanted to know more about Albanian culture and traditions. This article was helpful and I was surprised to read many customs are similar in my culture and Albanian.
Thank you so much to whoever wrote this article. 90% of it, it is true! It is sad to think that,we have been through a lot as a country. However, i am very proud to be Albanian. I have been leaving in England for about 12 years and i have got great respect for this country, but there is not where, like where i was born.
Kosovo Independence was confirmed by International Law exactly International Court of Justice declared that "the declaration of independence of the 17th of February 2008 did not violate general international law because international law contains no 'prohibition on declarations of independence'."

ORIGIN -The Albanians are the most ancient race in southesatern Europe. All indications point to the fact that they are descendants of the earliest Aryan immigrants who were represented in historical times by the kindred Illyrians, Macedonians and Epirots. According to the opinion of most ethnologists and linguists, the Illyrians formed the core of pre-Hellenic, Tyrrhenopelasgian population, which inhabited the southern portion of the Peninsula and extended its limits to Thrace and Italy. The Illyrians were also Pelasgians, but in a wider sense. Moreover it is believed that of these cognate races, which are described by the ancient Greek writers as "barbarous" and "non-Hellenic," the Illyrians were the progenitors of the Ghegs, or Northern Albanians, and the Epirots the progenitors of the Tosks, or Southern Albanians. This general opinion is borne out the statement of Strabo that the Via Egnatia or ®gitana, which he describes as forming the boundary between the Illyrians and the Epirots, practically corresponds with the course of river Shkumbini, which now seperates the Ghegs from the Tosks. The same geographer states that Epirots were also called Pelasgians. The Pelasgian Zeus, whose memory survives even today in the appellation of God as "Zot" by the modern Albanians, was worshiped at Dodona, where the most famous oracle of ancient times was situated. According to Herodotus the neighborhood of the sanctuary was called Pelasgia.

These findings of the ethnologists are, moreover, strenghthened by the unbroken traditions of the natives, who regard themselves, and with pride as the descendants of the aboriginal settlers of the Balkan Peninsula. They, therefore, they think have the best claims on it. It is also on the strength of these traditions that the Albanian looks upon the other Balkan nationalities as mere intruders who have expropriated him of much that was properly his own. Hence the constsant border warfare which has gone on for centuries between the Albanian and his neighbors.
This description is very good. it's the reality of the Albanian country before the democracy. Thanky yuo for that.
this info was just amazing and i could't stop reading it. literally my teacher wouldn't let me stop reading it!
Interesting article, I'm not Albanian, but the man I've been dating is. Unfortunately we've come across a problem because although he's 24, his parents say to have chosen a wife for him who is also Albanian... any suggestion as to what can be done here? he is afraid of losing his entire family if he chooses me.
Interesting article, I'm not Albanian, but the man I've been dating is. Unfortunately we've come across a problem because although he's 24, his parents say to have chosen a wife for him who is also Albanian... any suggestion as to what can be done here? he is afraid of losing his entire family if he chooses me.
i am married to a kosovan and am english we have been together 9 yers and married for 4 . i was welcomed with open arms by his family. only a month a go he went home and i av since found out he got engaged to another girl i am heartbroken and have thrown him out of our home. he keeps denyin it
this article was very nice to read but i have a question. we have a man working for us that is from albania and he keeps refering to bitches that are trying to make his life bad. he keeps saying they are trying to kill him slowly. can someone please explain this to me. or are we dealling with more of a health issue. he says it is people from his country that are doing this so i was wondering if they actually believe in voddo and stuff like that..
90% true facts, much better than other websites. The only problem I saw like usual was the biast view of socialism in the country, few people know ( or accept to know) what achievments it had for the Albanian people, but there were some positive remarks about it always. Just a tip for anyone trying to learn or write about albanian history.
Just Perfect! It really is the best article i have ever learned. Is a good job.
Thank you for this article. My boyfriend is Albanian and I really wanted to know more about his culture.
Interesting article, I'm not Albanian, but the man I've been dating is. Unfortunately we've come across a problem because although he's 24, his parents say to have chosen a wife for him who is also Albanian... any suggestion as to what can be done here? he is afraid of losing his entire family if he chooses me.
This helped me a lot but i need some more information. I am doing a project in school and i have to find out the history of the albanian flag and the eagle. I read on wikipedia a myth about the eagle and the snake but i need to know what do the heads mean and what it represents. Can anyone help me? I'd appreciate it alot :)
i want to know if there is any women that r older then there albanian husband im 22 yrs older than mine im not accepted and cant have any thing to do with them we married in the uk im just upset if there anyone out there who knows of or r married with an albanian man please let me know thanks
Jordan Cratic
This gives off a lot of information that I can us for my research this is a good place to do research on! I LOVE IT!
I applaud your focused overview of Albanian Culture. There's a tendency to dwell into the causes of conflicts that have affected Albanian Culture and Life. That usualy leads to endless back and forth conflicting claims that go back 500 years. Though myself affected by the conflicts, where I was born and raised in Northern Mitrovice, a divided town in Northern Kosovo, but to this day I can't go visit my Home due to ethnic adversity, and forced to leave Kosovo and live in Canada. I am sick and tired of claims of ethnic supperiority and claims of land ownership, thus leading to animosity between, Albanians on one side, and Serbs, Macedonians, Greeks and Montenegrins on the other. All these arguments lead to animosity that lead to so much suffering during the breakup of Yugoslavia. By reading this article, I appreciated the writting, that let those contencious issues asside. I, though, would have liked to see a little more detail about the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, because, it still plays a big role in the rural areas in Northern Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. In my opinion, it survives to this day, because, the area was ruled by Non-Albanians, thus the rule of law was often non-existent. For example, murders in Kosovo almost never were investigated, because in 90% albanian populated Kosovo, 99% of the police officers were Serbian. The accepted thinking in Serbian Society was to see us in a subhuman light, thus deserving of extermination. The Kanun of L. D. is a form of Law, which the society used it as a tool of conflict resolution. I have not seen enywhere else this form of self-imposed laws, rules and regulations. In my opinion, this shows that people need to have a form of socialy acceptable rules and regulations, in order to preserve their heritage, in addition to self-preservation.

One important fact that not very many people know is that, Albanian populated areas, were the only place in Europe, that did not send Jews to the Nazis, during WWII. This, mainly due to provsions contained in the Kanun. My family for example, had 5 Jewish families, during the war.

These facts, are very rarely stated, which to me is curious, since is such an important part of Europian History.
Overall though, this article incorporates most important facets of Albanian Culture, and it gives a layperson a good concise overview.

Thank you,
Great article, my father left Albania back in 1945 to come to the states and went back there in 1992 to die in his son's arms that he had left at the age of 7, his family there suffered a great deal due to him being with the anti-communist party. I've heard a lot of his stories and now wish I had written them down or had taped them.
i am dating a woman from Albania and wanted to learn about her culture. this was an amazing insight to an amazing person. being from European back ground i still knew little about Albania.
I found this article enlightening. I am taking a trip to Greece to meet with a man from Albania and it is most helpful to know more about the culture before getting too deeply involved. Thank you to the writer for taking the time and writing this article.
Albanians, proud people we are, probably we haven't had enough time to write our history, but you can see it by looking at an Albanian's eyes. always being threatened by our neighbors and their propaganda for what they could never claim and be. more than anything else Albanians should be known as heroes, because they always fought to protect their "troje"-trove. every Albanian family has a hero, what a great nation my people are, now we overcame the hard times, and we are ready to give our contribution to the world's well being. Greetings from Kosovo, a great article, indeed!
S Hoxha
Since 24 May this year Im married to my true love in this life and he is 100% Albanian, Im Swedish myself and i have always loved cultures and my mother in law is my best friend in the world, she have been teaching me Albanian cuisine, traditions and about the Albanian culture and history. I really liked this artical. I want my twin sons, Marco and Angelo to know about their fathers heritage and upbringing so this really helped me about things I didnt know, my sons is just 10 months but I want to start early. Marco have just spoken his first word and of course it is "Babi", now i just wait for him and Angelo to say "Mami" to. :P
The article was overall great, but something was wrong: the case of high birthrates. Check anywhere, Albania doesn't have 'extremely high' birthrates. The population is suffering a decline, and there are 1.48 children born/woman (2012 est.) according to CIA world factbook. It's 1.9 in the US, so in a comparative scale it's the US the one with extremely high birthrates.
this is great. i am doing a project and this article filled up most of it.
thank you author
This is great. The article is great for my project and this article incorporates most important facets of Albanian Culture.
Hi. Found this article very useful. I am a female who works as a lawyer in London and was born in England. I am now with an Albanian man who is 8 years younger than me. At 44, I have never married. I am planning to visit Albania soon as we are planning to get married but am concerned about the comments about the misfortune of older, unmarried women and also about the age gap. Can anyone envisage any problems? My partner is very Western. Thanks in advance.
Khristinia Buhuri Covey
Thank you so much. My father was born in Albania- I was a child when he died..I want to go there so bad to find his birth city but as I have turned 57 it seems like my desire to go is so much more. the pictures reminded me of old pictures that I have alot of them I don't know who is.. Thank you so much..
Hi everyone. I am Albanian from Tirana. I am married with a foreigner and live abroad.
Just for information that usually the wife should be younger than her husband. And if the opposite happens better do not announce it. People with always see that as an ugly thing.
Hello! Fascinating article about a fascinating country. I am writing a novel about a Jewish man who is given shelter by an Albanian in the mountains of rural Northern Albania during WWII, and I'd really like to know more about day to day life in the mountains at that time, particularly during the winter. For example: What time would people get up? What would they have for breakfast/lunch and dinner? What jobs/activities would they do throughout the day? How would women's jobs differ from mens? What would a typical evening have been like? How would the people cope with the cold and snow? What is the inside of a typical mountain house like and how are the rooms used? How is it's architecture adapted to the cold? I'd also love to hear from anyone whose family sheltered Jews during the war. Hopefully someone could help me or point me in the right direction. Thanks in advance!
Sarahfina Sua
This is the best article ever .Nice culture nd language.I wish I'm one of them.Have a good day Albanian people.
I think the article is slightly old, accurate if Albania in the 90s is to be considered but nowadays things have changed especially where women are concerned. Because many of us have emigrated, assimilated or integrated with other cultures, women have attained much more freedom than before. It is true that during communism, women were more represented in government positions and so on, and it is true that now there is no such institutional support, women have pushed for their rights in all fields. Women in the 90s and under communism were in fact much more repressed than they are now. Virginity is no longer seen as an ideal by young women or the society at large; and having a boyfriend or multiple boyefriends is no longer a problem for the average Albanian teenager.
A lot more needs to be done to fight domestic violence in rural areas, something which the governments of Albania have failed to do up until now. Improving social assistance, providing shelters and education is one of the steps that Albanian, especially rural Albanian women need. These measures must meet the needs of increasing liberal attitudes in urban and rural areas, so that the liberalization process of the society can speed up.

To Ryan Vaner Heyden: a lot of Albanian women I know, including cousins and friends have dated or are married to foreign nationals. My sister is married to a Brittish guy for instance, other cousins of mine are married to Italian, Latvian, and American men respectively. Twenty years ago this would have been a problem, but now it is quite frequent. Obviously it depends where one comes from, since people living in rural areas tend to be more conservative,so I suggest that if you have a special rural lady in mind, be careful on the customs of her family.
I am 18 years old ,I live in KOSOVA that now is an independent country,I would like to say that I really enjoy this article , it shows pretty much the truth of Albanians, but nowadays some things are changed in good way specially the woman rights.The best think is that even that time has change the "Traditional" of Albanian never change , I hope this will last forever because it is the only thing that we try to save very carefully .
Of course we have to fight for some things that really need to be change. We'll continue to try and never give up till things gets better for my and other generation.
It's good to see that even other people from different countries and different culture would like to know more about Albanian.
I have to do research about albania and present it to the classnext week.
I am married to an albanian and I am an asian from Philippines.
This article helps me a lot.
I have to bring albanian food maybe I have to bring Pita
sabir asipi
Hello everyone. .. I am albanian, just read the whole article cuz my girlfriend is american and she suggested to me. She was freaking out. I liked the article exept for some parts. So I would say that this article is about 85 % true.
it was PERFECT and it really help my for my project : a brochure for my country I LOVE ALBANIA
wonderful i am doing a research project and this article has helped me so much thankyou who ever wrote this
American brother marrying Albanian woman. Came here looking for some type of cultural information to use in a wedding toast. What a bleak history, but such resiliency! Anybody have any Albanian toasts, jokes, or anecdotes?
I liked the article a lot I am doing a research project for school and it helped me with a lot of the info I needed but I wanted to know more about the social life there and how people interact with others there but to be fair it was a good article
Mark Nikprelaj
We refer to each other as eagles, because we are free and with God's grace we will always be. Just because in the old days the wife was always younger, does not come from the bible. The only reason Albania exists today is because of the Virgin Mary. She used us to help her defend Christianity. Constantine the Great made Christianity Rome's religion, Gjerj Kastrioti was given nicknames by 3 Popes, Defender of Christ, Athlete of Christ, and defender of western civilization. Mother Theresa is tending to the helpless in this battle of good and evil. Also do not forget the Battle of Deciq, where my people wrote Albania's national epic with God's grace. The Rosary is the best thing you can do for your loved ones, Amen
Charlene Jenkins
I am from South Africa. Albania and people from this beautiful country fascinates me for many years.
There are famous and not so famous people from Albania all over the world. To name one: The Kardashians. (I am NOT one of their fans).
Also, I saw many young women who are independent and try to escape some of the old, unfair traditions. They study law, medicine, doctors etc etc.
There are also many models coming from Albania and some of them are staying in Albania. Albania does have some of the most beautiful women on earth.
It is really a beautiful country. I am sure tourism will help Albania lot.
How strong is the tourism business in Albania? How difficult or easy is it to invest in Albania? They do have strong construction businesses I believe?
Thank you.
Charlene Jenkins.
Albania is booty and the United States is way better
Yes "Sons OF The Eagle" Albania was invaded by many. During World War II the Germans invaded Albania. They killed many many Albanians. The Italians also were there during World War II but they treated the Albania people much better. During World War II my father fought the Germans and served in the OSS in Albania. It is a sad thing that the United States Government has nothing to do with Albania. Albania to this day is not allowed in the United Nations... Albania is a great country with a great history.

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