History of Albania

Early History

The history of the Albanian people predates the Greek and Roman empires. A variety of Stone Age era artifacts have been found near the capital, Tirana, the most famous site being the Cave of Pellumbas. Most tools produced from a variety of materials, namely flint, jasper, and bone have been found. Interestingly, most scholars agree that Albania, along with the rest of the Balkans, functioned as a kind of refuge during the most recent ice age because the climate in the region changed much less drastically than in other parts of Europe. It is also believed that an Albanian tribe migrated from the Balkans to found the ancient city of Mycenae during the late Bronze Age.


Early Antiquity 

However, since early antiquity the Albanian history has been a story of subjugation by the various powers that have arisen around the Mediterranean Sea. Beginning as a nuisance to Greek and Roman commerce in the Adriatic Sea, the Albanians, or Illyrians as they were known then, were conquered and subjugated by the Romans in about 229 BC. The region that would later become Albania would remain a Roman province until the schism that divided the Roman from the Byzantine Empire. Albania had an odd place during this split: though administratively ruled by the Eastern Empire, ecclesiastically it remained under the jurisdiction of the Pope in Rome. 


Medieval Period

In the Medieval period, the Byzantines vied for control of the land with the Bulgarian and Serbian Empires. Ultimately, Albania came under Ottoman rule in the fifteenth century and it remained as such until the early twentieth century. 


Twentieth Century-Present

After gaining its independence at long last, Albania spent the next twenty years in between world wars shifting between a republic and monarchial state. During World War II, the newly independent nation was once again conquered by Italy in 1939 before becoming part of Nazi Germany in 1943.

Following the end of the war and the defeat of the Axis Powers, Albania became a communist nation under Enver Hoxha. The country was a part of the Soviet Bloc until the 1960s, when Hoxha withdrew from the Warsaw Pact. When Hoxha died in 1985 his successor, Ramiz Alia, started the slow process of democratization. Elections held in 1992 brought Aleksander Meksi to power. Though he later resigned as Albania’s economy collapsed, Meksi was Albania’s first Prime Minister outside of communist rule.

Currently, Albania is in the process of applying to join the European Union and has been a member of NATO since 2009.