Albania mid 1800s to WWII

Image result for ottoman empire mapWhen I was told to write a paper on the history of Albania, I was not aware that Albania has had a long and violence filled past. It was so long that I decided to split it into a few papers and that this one would be about this history from the mid-1800s to just after World War II. While very few people even know about Albania that has not stopped it from playing a key role in many of history’s major debates and battles. I hope you enjoy the history as much as I have.

In the late 1800’s Albania was still a part of the Ottoman Empire which had ruled them for over 400 years. Still, the people wanted the freedom to govern themselves. They wanted to make the decisions that affected them and not have them be made by a king in a palace hundreds of miles away. Albania worked with the other Balkan states to find the best solution to the problem they were facing. Montenegro, who was a bordering country, revolted and left the Ottoman empire. However, Albania’s leaders decided that they wanted to protect the integrity of Albania and decided that if they left they would be taken over. They went to war with the Montenegrin troops and it was brutal. The great powers of the world blockaded one of the Ottoman cities with their navies to convince the Ottoman authorities to calm down the Albanians.

The first Balkan war started in 1912 when Albania revolted to stop the weakening of the Ottoman empire. Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria still declared war on the empire and Albania was occupied by Serbia to the north and Greece to the south. On November 28, 1912, Ismail Qemali made a declaration of independence and waved around a flag of the double-headed eagle that had been used before as the family crest of the conquer who became Albanian king hundreds of years ago.  On the 29 of July Albania’s Independence was recognized by the Conference of London. However, the Conference drew the borders of the countries in the area and left more than half the ethnic Albanians outside the border. Naturally, the Albanians were not to pleased by this. Around the same time, a Greek uprising in the south caused the formation of a brand new country called the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus. When WWI began this new nation fell and Greece took control of it and Albania. However 3 years later Greece was driven from the area and Italy took control. During the war, Albania’s leader Prince William of Wied who was from Germany fled after a revolt and joined the German army but never renounced his claim to the throne! In 1919 Albania’s territory was given to Greece but soon after the land became sovereign again. In March 1920 Woodrow Wilson who was the president of the U.S. at the time brought an official representative of Albania to Washington showing he supported their independence. Albania became a Country after WWI but many others believed they should control the land. Italy, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia all wanted to control Albania.

Between July and December of 1921, The government changed 5 times. In late December however a government with Fan S. Noli as the Foreign Minister and Ahmed Bey Zogu as Internal Affairs Minister. When Noli resigned soon after Zogu started to try to de-arm some Albanians which was against traditional customs. In early 1922 the enemies this had made for the government attacked the capital city of Tirana. Zogu decided to stay in the city while it was under attack and with the help of a British ambassador helped successfully defend the city from attack. Many people did not like Zogu as he supported the Islamic landowner’s ideas and many of the orthodox people disliked this. He also didn’t help many Albanian minorities in both Greece and Yugoslavia which caused unrest for many people. Zogu political party won elections in the National assembly in 1924 but Zogu himself stepped down after an assassination attempt caused him to be wounded. His opposition withdrew from the assembly when  Avni Rustemi the leader of a national youth party was murdered on the front steps of the parliament building. In the wake of this event, rebels started to grow in size and number and in June 1924 the rebels and taken control of Tirana putting Noli back in power as prime minister forcing Zogu to flee to Yugoslavia. Noli wanted to make Albania a first world country that was similar to the U.S. He met much resistance to this by the people who had put him in power. He however never got any of the foreign aid that was going to help transform the nation. The new government put death sentences on all the former leaders and took everything they owned. In Yugoslavia, Zogu was busy recruiting a mercenary army to help Serbia take control of some of the disputed border areas. On December 13 Zogu started battling into the country and by Christmas Eve they had taken the capital forcing Noli and his government to flee to Italy. Zogu soon called the parliament back together to decide the type of government they would have. They gave dictatorial powers to choose a third of the Senate and veto any legislation he did not like along with the ability to fire and appoint new members. He was soon voted to be President for 7 years. In this time he ruled brutally with political murders and strict rules for the press. He had 4 military governors that he alone controlled. Soon he ignored his helpers in the retaking of the country and turned instead to Fascist Italy. In 1928 he had parliament dismiss themselves and Albania became a full monarchy. With him thinking he was invincible he broke ties to all his large supporters so his only loyalty was to himself. The Albanian tradition of Blood Vengeance stated that they must kill him. He surrounded himself with the best guards and only appeared to the public at the most important times. Multiple assassination attempts failed to kill Zogu. Soon tensions began to rise with the Italians and in the end, Zogu refused to renew their treaty. Over the next few years Albania had a major financial crisis where king Zog started to hand over some control to Italy for financial support and in 1939 Italy successfully invaded and captured the country. Italy became the dictators of Albania not allowing Albanian to be taught in schools. Zog fled to Greece who had been his longtime enemies. In late 1940 Italy used Albania as a waypoint to attack Greece. Greece repealed the invaders and took some of Southern Albania. The Albanian parliament voted to unite with Italy and give the throne to another person named Victor Emmanuel III. In April 1941 after the falls of both Greece and Yugoslavia, most of the land that had been owned by those countries that Albania had claimed was rightfully theirs was given back to them. In September of 1943 when the Italian army surrendered Albania was occupied by the Germans. Around this time The German government recognized Albania as a neutral country and helped them set up a new political system. The Germans controlled Albania through projects that made the population happy like the conquest of some of their neighbors.

This paper has been about this history of Albania from 1850 or so on to the end of WWII. There is still more history to go but there is so much information, I thought it would be better as seperate post. Albania has had a crazy history that very few know about. I have greatly enjoyed it and I hope you have too. Look out for my next paper soon!

3 Responses to “Albania mid 1800s to WWII

  • Barb Walker
    4 years ago

    Wow, that country has quite a long, interesting history. Don’t know how you keep track of it all.

  • I feel like I just got out of History 101…Well done sir!

  • Great job Rhys….I have been following your amazing trip. I would say a lot of people know very little about Albania. Keep it coming. It’s very interesting and you’ve done a great job
    Anne Paulson

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