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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe

 

Albania

The early Balkans were heavily infiltrated in the second millennium BC by Indo-Europeans of the Yamnaya horizon. Initially they followed the Danube towards Hungary, but there was a long gestation period here before they began to fan out across southern and Central Europe. Climate-induced drought in the thirteenth and early twelfth centuries BC resulted in tremendous political instability in the entire eastern Mediterranean region, destroying the Hittite empire in the process. It also triggered migrations by West-Indo-European settlers along the Danube, and by South-West Indo-European settlers who now flooded the Balkans.

Today's Albania itself began with this migration. Its people - the Albanoi - and related groups such as Illyrians and Epirotes occupied much of the Illyrian coast at one point. In the first millennium BC the southern part of what would become Albania fell within the northernmost borders of the Greek kingdom of Epirus, while various Illyrian tribes populated the country beyond that.

During the Roman period, much of Albania (apart from the northernmost and southernmost sections) formed the province of Epirus Nova (Illyria Graeca). That was subsequently transferred to the Eastern Roman empire and remained a Byzantine possession - despite the brief formation of the principality of Arbër (or Arbanon) - until imperial fragmentation in the thirteenth century AD gave rise to the '(First) Kingdom of Albania'.

Illyrian warriors

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from European Dictatorships: A Comparative History of the Twentieth Century, Gerhard Besier & Katarzyna Stokłosa, from Denkschrift über Albanien, Wilhelm zu Wied (Berlin, 1917, in German), from Leopold Kammerhofer, Elisabeth Springer (Archiv und Forschung: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 1993, in German), and from External Links: CIA World Factbook (content no longer available there, but can be found on Grades Fixer), and Albania under Prince Wied.)

(Second) Kingdom of Albania
AD 1914 - 1925

During the Roman period, much of the territory of the Albanians (apart from the northernmost and southernmost sections) formed the province of Epirus Nova (Illyria Graeca). That was subsequently transferred to the Eastern Roman empire and remained a Byzantine possession until imperial fragmentation allowed the formation of the principality of Arbanon within modern Albanian borders in 1190. This is sometimes claimed as the first Albanian state.

The Albanian '(First) Kingdom' was established in 1272, but its founding coincided with a turbulent period in Balkans history as the Byzantine empire gradually collapsed and the Ottomans and various European interests fought over the scraps, especially the Bulgarians, Croatians, and Serbians. The kingdom lasted until its ever-diminishing territory saw it surrender to Venice in 1392. Thereafter the Balkans were largely a possession of the Ottomans (with Albania falling in the mid-fifteenth century). Albanians served in this empire, and Albanian units were part of Muhammad Ali's grab for power in Egypt in 1805 (Muhammad Ali himself was Albanian).

Modern Albania, one of Europe's poorest states, became unexpectedly independent after the Albanian Uprising of 1912 and the First Balkan War (1912-1913). The Ottoman empire was rapidly losing ground in Europe, and various new states were emerging from the turbulent collapse. Following the war it was decided that the newly formed kingdom of Yugoslavia would not take control of this Balkans coastal territory. Instead the (second) kingdom of Albania was declared, with Wilhelm of Wied as its monarch.

Mostar Bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Sofia Adventures

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from European Dictatorships: A Comparative History of the Twentieth Century, Gerhard Besier & Katarzyna Stokłosa, from Denkschrift über Albanien, Wilhelm zu Wied (Berlin, 1917, in German), from Leopold Kammerhofer, Elisabeth Springer (Archiv und Forschung: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 1993, in German), and from External Links: CIA World Factbook (content no longer available there, but can be found on Grades Fixer), and Albania under Prince Wied.)

1912

With independence comes the formation of a provisional government, on 4 December 1912. The man responsible for the Albanian declaration of independence, Ismail Qemali, leads the new government as prime minister.

Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1914
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Prussia and the German empire inspects his troops on the eve of war in 1914, a war which none of the tributary German principalities had any chance of escaping

1913 - 1914

In November 1913, Albanian pro-Ottoman forces offer the Albanian throne to the Ottoman war minister, Izzet Pasha, a man who is himself of Albanian origin. The Ottoman empire sends agents into the country to encourage a revolt, while Izzet Pasha sends Major Beqir Grebenali, another ethnic Albanian, to act as one of his chief representatives in Albania.

The provisional government captures Major Grebenali and executes him, angering the Great Powers in the process. The 'International Commission of Control' is established by the Great Powers to oversee the country's establishment as a fully independent state, and Qemali is forced to step aside, resigning in January 1914.

As the two neighbouring countries with the greatest interest in Balkan affairs, Austria-Hungary and Italy are able to select Prince Wied as the first prince of an independent Albania. This prince from Neuwied on the Rhine is a cousin of the German emperor, with several other royal connections. He arrives in Albania on 7 March 1914.

King Wilhelm of Wied of Albania
William of Wied was a prince of northern German extraction from Neuwied on the Rhine, a cousin of Germany's Emperor Wilhelm II and with several other relations in positions of high nobility in Europe

1914 - 1925

Wilhelm of Wied

Left the country never to return after 6 months.

1914 - 1918

With its neighbours around it going to war, including Greece, Serbia, and Austria-Hungary, Albania remains neutral throughout the First World War. However, Prince Wilhelm elects to leave the country due to serious levels of unrest within its borders which make it virtually ungovernable despite his best intentions. He departs on 3 September 1914, never to return.

1925

The official declaration of an Albanian republic ends Wilhelm's reign in exile. However, he retains his title and his son, Carol Victor, succeeds him in 1945 as an hereditary prince of Albania. This individual and any successive claimants to the throne are shown below with a shaded background.

Ahmed Zogu is elected as the first president of the new republic, but he has regal ambitions of his own. Albanian borders by now are much reduced from those of the so-called Greater Albanian territory which had left the Ottoman empire in 1912.

Benito Mussolini
Would-be creator of an Italian empire but largely possessing second-rate military forces, Benito Mussolini as 'Il Duce' became the country's dictatorial leader in the run-up to the Second World War

1925 - 1945

Wilhelm of Wied

Retained his claim from exile. Succeeded by his son.

1927 - 1928

Diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia reach an absolute low, and are terminated on 5 April 1927. Italy seizes the opportunity to agree closer relations with Albania (embodied in the person of Ahmed Zogu) and also increase its encirclement of Belgrade with the signing of the Second Tirana Pact on 22 November 1927.

Zogu's incentive is the recreation of an Albanian monarchy with him as king. Both chambers of parliament decide to dissolve themselves on 7 June 1928, and Zogu - with Italian money - organises a successful proclamation of a (third) kingdom of Albania.

(Third) Kingdom of Albania
AD 1928 - 1939

Albania remained one of Europe's poorest states, always seeming to be on the fringes of meaningful advances in social conditions but never quite enjoying them. It had found a semblance of independence from a millennium of control by the Eastern Roman empire when that edifice was crumbling in the thirteenth century. The Albanian '(First) Kingdom' lasted until 1392 when the Ottoman empire conquered and subsumed it.

A little over five hundred years later, Albania became unexpectedly independent following the Albanian Uprising of 1912 and the First Balkan War (1912-1913). Various new states were emerging from the turbulent collapse of the Ottoman empire, and the Balkans was a caldron of political intrigue and manoeuvring. Following the war's conclusion it was decided that the newly formed kingdom of Yugoslavia would not take control of this Balkans coastal territory. Instead the 'Second Kingdom' of Albania was declared, with Wilhelm of Wied as its monarch. That state was derailed by the First World War, and was replaced by a republic in 1925.

The equally short-lived (third) kingdom of Albania was effectively a protectorate of an expansionist Italy. It was proclaimed on 1 September 1928. The process of switching from a presidential democracy on the US model to a near-absolute monarchy was carefully managed, mostly by President Ahmed Zogu (Ahmet Muhtar Zogolli) himself, the former first president of the republic of 1925. The new kingdom was recognised immediately by Italy - naturally as it was Italian money which was propping up Zogu's takeover - and then by Greece, Hungary, the USA, and the Vatican. A reluctant Belgrade in Serbia followed soon after, in mid-September 1928.

The kingdom's new constitution was announced on 1 December 1928, precisely two months after the state's proclamation. A parliament and executive body would, in theory, manage the country but in fact King Zog's rule would be absolute. Despite trying to engineer a more western-orientated visual appearance for his people, he fuelled a cult of personality which was very much in the oriental fashion of the time. Nevertheless, he did try to modernise the country, encouraging education for all, banning polygamy, and discouraging the veil.

Mostar Bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Sofia Adventures

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from European Dictatorships: A Comparative History of the Twentieth Century, Gerhard Besier & Katarzyna Stokłosa, from Denkschrift über Albanien, Wilhelm zu Wied (Berlin, 1917, in German), from Leopold Kammerhofer, Elisabeth Springer (Archiv und Forschung: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 1993, in German), and from External Links: CIA World Factbook (content no longer available there, but can be found on Grades Fixer), and Albania under Prince Wied.)

1928 - 1939

Zog I / Ahmed Zogu

Tribal leader and former president. Became an exiled king.

1930s

Early in the decade Zog attempts grandiose land reforms. The majority of agricultural land is owned by a small propertied class and the poor farm workers have to lease the land and property they hold. A policy of transferring the land into their ownership is largely side-stepped by the landowners because they can decrease their visible holdings through gifts and sales to family members. The policy fails.

King Zog I of Albania
King Zog I of Albania was the country's former president who had engineered the transition to monarchy with the firm support of Italy, which itself expected obedience from its tool

1931 - 1935

An attempt is made on Zog's life on 20 February 1931. In mid-August 1935 constabulary and army officers attempt a coup in central Albania. The king survives both uninjured, but the latter event perhaps persuades him to introduce a liberal government. However, the new liberalists are no match for the entrenched former Ottoman-era politicians, and there is no money at all for reforms to be enacted. The cabinet resigns a year later.

1939 - 1943

Zog has been attempting to ease Albania away from Italy's influence and domination without actually appearing to rebel. With Nazi Germany expanding its control over other states, Italy takes the decision to do the same and ends its pretence of cooperation with Albania. Instead Italy's army invades and occupies the country on 7 April 1939. The king flees first to Greece and then to London. He dies on 9 April 1961 near Paris, never having been able to return home to what is now republican Albania.

Modern Albania
AD 1939 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1939-2022)

The modern Balkan republic of Albania borders the Adriatic Sea in Southern Europe. Its mountainous territory is small, as is its population of about 3.2 million, whilst the country's capital is Tirana. The republic is bordered by Montenegro and the republic of Kosovo to the north, North Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south, while the heel of Italy lies a short distance to the west.

Fascist Italy invaded and occupied the short-lived 'Third Kingdom' kingdom of Albania on 7 April 1939, despite Italy having supported the kingdom's creation in 1928 with its own money. The king fled ultimately to London while his country was ruled by Italians, then Germans, and then by staunch communists who set back society by a generation. It took almost fifty years of effective overlordship before democracy could be introduced into Albania, and for a semblance of modern life with some of its luxuries and freedoms to be experienced there.

In common with the neighbouring and mainly ethnically-Albanian autonomous region of Kosovo, the majority of Albanians are Muslim, the legacy of centuries of rule by the Ottoman empire. A further twenty-five per cent (approximately) are Christians, principally Orthodox and other minor denominations, while religious tolerance is practised throughout the country. Despite emerging into the democratic sphere of politics, the country remains one of the poorest in Europe, and also the most corrupt according to a 2012 report.

The country's former kings, who came from the House of Wied and commanded the country's 'Second Kingdom' between 1914-1925, still claim the throne. They are shown below in black text with a shaded background. The non-regal House of Zogu also retains its own claim to the title - thanks to its leading role in the creation of the 'Third Kingdom' of 1928-1939 - and its principal members remained in exile until the start of the twenty-first century. Claimants from this house are shown in green on a shaded background.

Mostar Bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Sofia Adventures

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information from European Dictatorships: A Comparative History of the Twentieth Century, Gerhard Besier & Katarzyna Stokłosa, from Denkschrift über Albanien, Wilhelm zu Wied (Berlin, 1917, in German), from Leopold Kammerhofer, Elisabeth Springer (Archiv und Forschung: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 1993, in German), and from External Links: CIA World Factbook (content no longer available there, but can be found on Grades Fixer), and Albania under Prince Wied, and BBC Country Profiles, and the official Albania website, and Albania earthquake (The Guardian), and The Albanian Royal Court.)

1939 - 1961

(Ahmed Zogu) Zog I

Exiled king of the Third Kingdom. Died 9 April 1961.

1939 - 1943

Francesco Jacomoni di San Savino

Italian lieutenant-general.

1940 - 1941

Italy demands to be allowed to station troops in Greece, but the Greek king refuses. The resultant Greco-Italian War is a victory for Greece, with southern Albania also being occupied. Nazi Germany is forced to intervene, invading Greece in 1941 and capturing it. In the same year, Enver Hoxha becomes head of the new Albanian Communist party.

Italian invasion of Greece
Having been denied its request to station troops in Greece, Italy went to war - with the Italian Julia Alpini Division shown here marching towards the Greek border from inside occupied Albania in 1940

1943 - 1944

Nazi Germany forcefully assumes control of Albania in September 1943 shortly before Italy surrenders to the allies. Germany creates a client state which is known as the 'Albanian Kingdom', a regency constitutional monarchy under military occupation. This has a nominal head of state who is also supported by the Balli Kombëtar nationalist movement which staunchly opposes communist influence in the country.

1944

With the weakening of Italian and Nazi power in Southern Europe, communists seize control of the state in November 1944. The Germans are forced to withdraw. following sustained communist resistance to their presence. Enver Hoxha is installed as the new leader and the country sees the introduction of a strict Stalinist power structure and a long period of isolation from other European countries.

1945 - 1985

Enver Halil Hoxha

Communist leader and dictator. Died.

1945 - 1973

Crown Prince Carol Victor

Son of King Wilhelm. Last hereditary Wied prince of Albania.

1948

The communist leadership in Albania has always been plagued by factional division, and by now has split into two camps. The rift between Josip Tito in Yugoslavia and Joseph Stalin in this year gives Enver Hoxha a Soviet ally with whose support he can now act to preserve his own position, and he soon manages to eliminate his rivals. By June 1948, after several years of Yugoslavian tutelage, Albania enters the Soviet fold.

1955

The USSR forms the Warsaw Pact in direct response to the admission of the 'Federal Republic of Germany' West Germany) into Nato whilst itself being barred from joining. The states which are involved in the founding of this eastern alliance are Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Russia.

Warsaw Pact meeting
Russia, plus its seven Warsaw Pact allies, signed the treaty of establishment in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on 14 May 1955, with the location of signing giving the pact its name

1956

When Nikita Khrushchev denounces Joseph Stalin's crimes and personality cult in a secret report to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in February 1956, Enver Hoxha decries Russia's revisionism. After some shrewd and ruthless political manoeuvring, he manages to overcome criticism of his own Stalinist policies to maintain power.

1961

By December 1961, the Soviet Union breaks off diplomatic ties with Albania, and Enver Hoxha, in search of a new patron, turns his attention to the Far East. The Sino-Albanian alliance, which lasts until July 1978, radicalises political, economic and social life in Albania and isolates the country even more from Europe and the rest of the world.

1961 - 2011

Crown Prince Leka I / Zog II

Son of Zog I. Crowned king-in-exile in Paris. Died in Tirana.

1965

As part of the Sino-Albanian alliance, China has been providing Albania with a good deal of development assistance, including goods and low-interest loans, but this aid is not enough to promote economic growth. To stem the tide of popular dissatisfaction with his rule, Enver Hoxha employs his usual tactic of counterattack, launching a Chinese-style campaign at the end of 1965 for the 'revolutionising of all aspects of life in the country', a campaign which coincides with the Cultural Revolution in China.

Enver Hoxha with Nexhmije Hoxha
Enver Hoxha, here photographed alongside his wife, Nexhmije Hoxha, pursued a ruthless purge of intellectuals of the like which was often seen during the brutal pro-communist years of the post-Second World War period

1973 - 1975

Enver Hoxha's version of the cultural revolution has introduced a reign of terror against Albanian writers and intellectuals which is comparable, in spirit at least, to the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. These years constitute a major setback for the development of Albanian culture. A series of purges keeps the entire country in a state of confusion and insecurity.

1973 - 1975

At the same time, in 1973, Carol Victor dies. He is the hereditary prince of Albania from the House of Wied whose father had ruled in 1914, but he dies childless, leaving the Wied claim uncertain. Until a candidate can be found the claim would seem to be extinct, leaving the field entirely to the House of Zogu.

1985 - 1991

Ramiz Alia

Dictator. Ruled with a lighter hand. Resigned.

1990 - 1991

The foundations of the communist system are finally shaken in early July 1990 when thousands of young Albanians risk their lives to seek political asylum in the German, Italian and French embassies in Tirana.

Within about six months the one party dictatorship which has dominated all aspects of Albanian life for almost half a century has imploded. Political pluralism is introduced in December 1990, with the country's first multi-party elections on their way on 31 March 1991.

Albania 1992
Despite free and fair elections in the post-communist period (which in themselves were controversial as a good deal of corruption was cited in connection with them), many ordinary people still faced grinding poverty in the country

1992

Elections end forty-seven years of communist rule, with Ramiz Alia being elected as president. The situation is still relatively unstable, however, and the latter half of the decade sees a quick turnover of presidents and prime ministers.

1992 - 1997

Sali Berisha

President. Albanian Democratic Party. Resigned.

1995 - 1999

A democratically elected government rules in Albania, which is still the poorest state in Europe. It is affected by occasional widespread discontent from within (1997), but offers support to Nato in 1999 during the conflict with Serbia, in which hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians are forcibly expelled from the Kosovo region of Yugoslavia. Much of the weaponry being used by the Kosovan Albanians has come from Albanian weapons stores, looted during the 1997 troubles.

1997

Crown Prince Leka, considered to be King Leka by Albanian monarchists, tries to rally support for reinstating the monarchy in post-communist Albania. A referendum is held in which, following a recount, two-thirds of the voters decline the option of a return to monarchy, although vote-rigging is alleged. When Leka questions the independence of the vote, police intervene and a bystander is killed. Leka flees the country again.

Berat in Albania
With twenty-first century Albania reinventing itself as a democratic country which values sexual equality and free and fair elections (albeit with improvements yet to be made), it is also becoming a tourist hot-spot, with Berat (shown here) highly prized for its location

1997

Skënder Gjinushi

Acting president on 24 July.

1997 - 2002

Rexhep Kemal Mejdani

President. Albanian Socialist Party.

2002 - 2007

Alfred Moisiu

President. No party affiliation.

2003

Prime minister in 1997, Salih Berisha now admits that the monarchy referendum had been held within the context of the aftermath of the communist rebellion. The Stalinist principle of 'you vote, but I count the votes' had been applied, in which a majority of Albanians had in fact voted for their king. Therefore the subject of a reintroduction of the monarchy cannot be considered to be a closed matter. Leka is able to return and to provide political advice to various later governments.

2007 - 2012

Bamir Topi

President. Democratic Party of Albania, Later no party.

2009

Having been a member of Nato's 'Partnership for Peace' since 1994, and receiving an invitation to become a full Nato member in 2008, Albania now joins the organisation. Along with Croatia it is the first of the Balkans nations to do so.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Croatia's Adriatic coast and the medieval port of Dubrovnik continue to draw large numbers of tourists following the easing of the economic crisis of 2008 - severe in Croatia

2011 - Present

Crown Prince Leka II

Son of Leka I. Born 1982.

2012 - 2017

Bujar Nishani

President. Democratic Party of Albania. Later no party.

2013 - 2017

Edi Rama's Socialist Party wins three concurrent parliamentary terms in 2013, 2017, and 2021 following national elections. Under his prime ministerial leadership, the focus is on modernising the economy and introducing further democratic reforms to the state infrastructure, including the judiciary. Gender equality is also a major platform, with almost half of ministers being women by 2017.

2016

Crown Prince Leka II marries Elia Muji-Zaharia, an Albanian native with parents who are involved in teaching and the arts. The wedding on 8 October 2016 raises Elia to the position of 'Crown Princess of the Albanians'. Although the couple have no political power, the prince has been political advisor to various government ministries since 2006.

Crown Prince Leka II marries Elia Muji-Zaharia
The marriage between Crown Prince Leka II and Elia Muji-Zaharia brought Albanian royalists new hope of a golden future for the dispossessed monarchy in the country

2017 - 2022

Ilir Meta

President. SocMov for Integration. Later no party. Dismissed.

2019

Albania is struck by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in the early hours of Tuesday 26 November 2019. At least twenty-one are killed and hundreds are injured as buildings collapse in Tirana and in nearby towns and villages. It is the second powerful tremor to hit the region in two months, while Croatia suffers a major earthquake of its own in 2020.

2022

On 9 June, the Albanian parliament votes to dismiss President Meta, a decision which will require ratification by the constitutional court within three months. His replacement is a retired army major-general.

2022 - On

Bajram Begaj

President. Retired major-general. No party.

 
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