History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: £175

Target: £400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe


Modern Albania
AD 1939 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1939-2024)

The modern Balkan republic of Albania and its population of Albanians (or Albinoi) 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.

Various attempts have been made in the past to establish an independent Albanian state. The principality of Arbanon, the '(First) Kingdom', and the Albanian League had all been terminated by much greater regional powers by 1479. The much more recent '(Second) Kingdom' had been replaced by a hardline republic in 1925.

Fascist Italy invaded and occupied the short-lived 'Third 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 percent (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, continued to claim the throne. They are shown below 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, and Albania’s former leader stripped of immunity (The Guardian).)

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.


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.

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

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.


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.


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.

Those 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


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.


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.


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 the 'Second Kingdom' 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, ruler of the equally defunct 'Third Kingdom'.

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


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.

That conflict sees hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians 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.


Crown Prince Leka, considered to be King Leka by Albanian monarchists of the 'Third Kingdom', 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


Skënder Gjinushi

Acting president on 24 July.

1997 - 2002

Rexhep Kemal Mejdani

President. Albanian Socialist Party.

2002 - 2007

Alfred Moisiu

President. No party affiliation.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


To the jeers of his loyal MPs, who light coloured flares in protest, Albania's parliament votes to strip the country's former president of his legal immunity after he had been charged with corruption. Sali Berisha (president in 1992-1997 and conservative prime minister between 2005-2013) is now aged seventy-nine and faces probable arrest. If found guilty a sentence of between four and twelve years in jail awaits him.

Albanian President Bajram Begaj
In 2023 the fate of President Bajram Begaj was looking extremely uncertain, with charges of corruption hanging over his head and his presidential immunity having been removed

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.