Albanians - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The extended household was basically self-sufficient, with property and labor held in common. Surplus produce was sold in sometimes distant markets to provide weapons, household utensils, bride-wealth, etc. During the Socialist period farming and stock raising were carried out by cooperatives and collective farms, and many villagers commuted to jobs in industry and state services. Privatization started in the early 1980s, after expropriations had led to the slaughter of stock by protesting farmers and consequent meat shortages. As a result, the government introduced a brigade economy (a brigade being a cooperative workers' unit representing approximately the population of a former village), and workers sold the surplus products at state shops at prices guaranteed by the state. No research has been carried out on the secondary economy in Albania, but people evidently provided themselves with raki (a spirit), vegetables, herbs, and fruits on the black Market. Since 1990, a transformation toward a free-market Economy has been going on. Industrial production declined by about 50 percent in 1991. Strikes, especially in the mines, the worthlessness of the Albanian currency, and a 60 percent unemployment rate currently are the main features of a very unstable economic situation.

Industrial Arts. In the past there were urban centers and certain streets in the cities where male artisans and specialists sold various products of pottery, metal, and wood: for example, agricultural and household tools, instruments, religious icons in Eastern Orthodox areas, ironwork, silver and gold filigree, embroidery, and other needlework. Ottoman style Influenced carvings in wood for interior decoration all over Albania. Shepherds carved their crooks. Farmers produced and carved wooden spoons, pipes, distaffs, spindles, and Musical instruments such as flutes, the cifteli (a two-stringed mandolin), and the lahuta (a one-stringed instrument); some regions were famous for their ornamented carved wooden chairs, cradles, and bridal chests. Women worked for family needs and in many urban and rural regions for the market, specializing in textiles.

Trade. Until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, an Important trade route between Rome and Byzantium, the Via Egnatia, passed through Durrës. In the nineteenth century, Orthodox Greek and Vlach citizens in the southern parts of Albania traded with the Ottoman Empire, economic centers in the north being Shkodër and Prizren (the latter now in Kosovo). Economic relations with Yugoslavia ended two years after the proclamation of the Albanian Socialist People's Republic in 1946. From 1949 Albania was a member of the Soviet-East European Council of Mutual Economic Assistance, and the Soviet Union was the most important trading partner until 1961, when relations were broken off. Economic assistance was provided by China from 1961 until 1978, when it ended and Chinese experts withdrew. In 1968 Albania left the Warsaw Pact. Until May 1990 the constitution did not permit the raising of foreign loans, and this restricted foreign investment. In recent years Albania has exported different types of ore and metals (primarily iron ore and chromite), electricity, gas, agricultural products, some finished goods (textiles, handicrafts, etc.), building materials, chemical products, plastics, and cigarettes and tobacco. Grain, luxury goods, machinery, vehicles, chemical and electromechanical products were imported. The principle of "no import without export," broadly realized until 1987, was intended to guarantee economic autarchy. The increasing deterioration of Eastern European economies—Albania's major trading partners—together with the problems of drought and an inflexible system of central planning, have led to severe shortages. Since September 1991 the Albanian Population has been supported largely through European Community programs designed to avoid further movements of refugees.

Division of Labor. In general, the men of the clan society were concerned with agriculture and stock raising. Transhumant pastoralism, lumbering, and hunting were men's seasonal tasks. In addition to housekeeping, women were responsible for small-scale production such as weaving and sewing for the household or for one's dowry, plus dairy farming and child care. Often, when a family was involved in a feud, the men went into hiding and the women took over their work too. The household head was allowed a horse in order to represent the family to the outside world, and he also decided the organization of labor among the agnates. He appointed his female counterpart, the "mistress of the house" ( zonjë, not necessarily his wife), who was similarly responsible for the female labor of the household. In modern times, the socialist constitution declared women equal to men. In reality this principle often creates an added burden for women, Because in public life they are employed equally with men in agricultural and industrial production and in civilian and military service, whereas their emancipation in private life, though official policy, is often more theory than fact.

Land Tenure. In the clan society land was owned jointly by the clan and owned locally by the agnates of an extended household. In the plains latifundia ( çiftlics ) developed when the formerly independent villages were integrated into the patronage system in Ottoman times. With the weakening of the Ottoman Empire, regional feudal rulers (beys), Albanian converts to Islam with lucrative positions in the Ottoman administration, extended their power and kept the mostly Eastern Orthodox peasants under their control as tenants. Endogamous family aristocracies arose, the best-known from 1778 being the Bushatli family, with large properties around Shkodër in northern Albania, and the family of Ali Pasha of Tepelena (1785-1822), with extensive landholdings in Present-day Greek and Albanian Epirus. In the area around the city of Tirana up to the neighboring mountainous district of Mati, the two systems met and a mixed system of land tenure developed. Family heads were already known as beys, and some estates belonged to wealthier families, but in general land still was communally held by the different clans. The Albanian beys were expropriated after the war, when socialist land reforms in 1946 divided the land among farmers formerly dependent on feudal landlords. Later, the land was nationalized and collectivized in state farms, though this action was delayed somewhat in mountain areas because of a combination of underdeveloped infrastructure and popular resistance. People were organized in cooperatives, first on the level of single villages and later in groups of villages. Since the collapse of socialism, a process of privatization of land has been set in motion, accompanied and hampered by numerous conflicts.

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