Albanians - Orientation

Identification. The name "Albanian" derives from the ancient town of Albanopolis, mentioned by Ptolemy in the Second century B.C. and located within present-day Albania. Etymologically this derives from the Latin albus, "white," a possible reference to the whiteness of the nearby mountains. "Arbëresh" comes from Albanian arbër, a term for Albanians in Italy. "Arbanit," "Arvanit"—designating Greek Albanians—changed to "Arbërit" and "Arbëreshët," which were initially names for Catholic Albanians only. "Arnaut" derives from the Ottoman designation and—like "Albanoi," the original French name—is to be found in older sources. "Illyrian" is the name for the autochthonous population that lived partly on modern Albanian territory, from the time of the Iron Age, and it is sometimes used in Albanian nationalist literature as a designation for "ancestral Albanians." "Shiptare," "sons of the eagle," originally the self-designation of the people of the northern highlands only, is in modern Albanian the correct ethnonym for all Albanian people.

Location. Present-day Albania covers an area of 28,748 square kilometers located between 39°38′ and 42°39′ N and 19°16′ and 21°4′ E and is bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian seas to the west, Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia to the north and east, and Greece to the south. Seventy-six percent of Albania is hill and mountain, 23.4 percent plains. The climate is Mediterranean in the coastal plains and foothills. In the mountain area of inner Albania, the climate becomes more continental, with less dry summers and cooler, often snowy winters.

Demography. In 1990 there were about 3.25 million Albanians in Albania, 35 percent of them urban. The population growth rate is up to 2 percent per year with an extremely high birthrate of 24 per 1,000 inhabitants (1985-1990 average) . The population has the youngest average age in Europe, with 33.9 percent under 14, 51.8 percent between 15 and 49, and only 14.3 percent above 50 in 1985. Life expectancy is 69 for men and 74 for women. More than a third of all Albanians live outside Albania's political borders, which were fixed in 1913 after the Balkan Wars. More than 2 million Albanians live in Kosovo in the Republic of Serbia, Yugoslavia, with Others Montenegro and Macedonia. There is also a large Albanian community in Greece, mainly in the Tshamaria (Greek Epirus), in the Peloponnesos, in Thrace, in Greek Macedonia, and on the islands of Angistri, Euboea, Hydra, Poros, Spetsai, etc. There are another 100,000 in south Italy and Sicily, descendants of religious refugees from the Ottoman advance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Thousands of Albanians have come very recently (1990-1991) as Political refugees to Greece, Italy, and other western European states. There are also Albanian enclaves in Turkey, Egypt, Russia, and the United States.

linguistic Affiliation. Albanian is the sole member of one branch of Indo-European languages. There are two main dialects whose names are also the names of the two main Regional groups in Albania, which are also differentiated by their traditional social organization: Tosk, influenced by Turkish, roughly to the south of the Shkumbin River; and Gheg, with many Romance, Greek, and Slavonic influences, to the north. The modern official Albanian language dates from the period 1908 to 1912, when, as a result of the nation-building process, the language was standardized on the Tosk variant and the Latin alphabet was introduced.

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