A small country in south‐eastern Europe, on the Adriatic coast of the Balkan Peninsula, with Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia to its north and east, and Greece to its south.
Its coastal plain is marshy in the north but mostly fertile. Inland are rugged mountains, forested hills, and fast‐flowing rivers. It also has the shores of three large lakes within its frontiers.
Formerly a centrally planned economy under communism, since 1992 Albania has undertaken economic reforms, which include the privatization of farmland, state enterprises, and housing; the abolition of price subsidies; and the liberalization of trade. The economy is primarily agricultural, but crude oil is exported, and petroleum‐refining is an important industry. Industry, which is limited, is in great need of modernization.
As part of the Ottoman empire from the 15th century, Albania was noted for the military dictatorship of Ali Pasha (c. 1744–1822), whose court was described by the English poet Byron in Childe Harold. Nationalist resistance was crushed in 1831, but discontent persisted and a national league was created during the Russo‐Turkish War of 1877–78. It became an independent state as a result of the Balkan Wars in 1912, and after a brief period as a republic became a monarchy under King Zog in 1928. Invaded by Italy in 1939, it became a Communist state under Enver Hoxha after World War II. Under the strong influence of the Soviet Union until a rift in 1958, it became closely aligned with China until Mao Zedong's death in 1976. Albania was expelled from the Warsaw Pact in 1968, but remained Stalinist in policy and outlook until the death of Hoxha in 1985. From then on its isolationism began to ease, with cautious steps to restore democracy in 1990. The Communists (renamed the Socialist Party) held power in the first free elections in 1991, but were defeated by the Democratic Party in 1992. Elections in 1996 saw the return of the Democratic Party, but were widely suspected of being held under fraudulent conditions. Early in 1997 the collapse of several companies involved in pyramid investment schemes triggered anti‐government protests and rioting. A state of emergency was declared, the government resigned, and a Socialist‐led coalition came to power after elections in July 1997. Further rioting broke out in 1998 and a new constitution was established. In 1999 thousands of refugees from Kosovo arrived in the country, putting further pressure on the government. Following elections in 2005, the Socialist‐led government was replaced by a coalition led by the Democratic Party.
Alexander the GreatAlexander's victorious progress through Asia Minor against the Persians culminated in the defeat of King Darius at Issus (333 BC). Advancing through Phoenicia, where he met resistance from Tyre and Gaza, he reached Egypt in 332 and was welcomed as a liberator. After founding Alexandria he turned eastwards and won a decisive battle at Gaugamela (331). Babylonia offered no serious resistance and he advanced through Batria to the Jaxartes, founding Alexandria-the-Furthest as a defence against nomadic Scythians. His defeat of the Indian ruler Porus on the Hydaspes (326) took him into new territory, but his weary soldiers persuaded him to turn back. On the return journey he sailed down the Hydaspes to the Indus delta, as he was anxious both to conquer Sind and to see ‘Ocean’, the great river that was believed to encircle the world. After a gruelling desert march he reached Susa in 324. Alexander died at Babylon in 323, in his 33rd year.