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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe


(Third) Kingdom of Albania
AD 1928 - 1939

What today is 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. Its population of Albanians 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.

The death of Emperor Stefan Dušan of Serbia in 1355 eventually led to Gjergj Kastrioti, known as 'Skanderbeg', creating a short-lived independent entity. He captured Kruja in November 1443 and declared its independence from the Ottomans. Under his leadership, the Albanian League, or 'League of Lezhë', was formed by the Albanian aristocracy as a military and diplomatic alliance.

A little over four 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. 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, Mainly this was 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

Former president of Albania in 1925. Later an exiled king.


Early in the decade the former tribal leader, president of the post '(Second) Kingdom' republic, and now ruler, King 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.

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

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.

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.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler at the height of his rule over Nazi Germany envisioned a 'Greater Germany' covering a vast swathe of Central Europe with 'living room' for Germans and a subservient Slavic population in the east to handle manual work

Instead its 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.

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