History and Culture

In antiquity most of the territory of Albania was inhabited by Ilyrians. They are considered to be the  ancestors of the modern Albanians and some scholars believe the modern Albanian language derives from Ilyrian. In the II c. BC. the land was invaded by the Romans. The Roman Era lasted almost six centuries, art and culture flourished as did trade. With the fall of the Roman Empire the region came under Byzantine rule. The Christian religion was introduced in the Greek Orthodox rite. At the turn of the VI and VII century Slavic tribes settled in the area. In the XV c. Ottoman Turks expanded their Empire into the Balkans. Much of the Albanian population was converted to Islam. Some parts of modern Albania were incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Albanian Roman Catholics are descendants of these times.

Throughout this history of occupation the native people resisted assimilation. In the Middle Ages the name Arberia began to be applied to the region that is Modern Albania. In 1443 Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg lead the first uprising against the Ottoman Turks, this is one of the most prominent figures in Albania’s history and he is considered a national hero. For a brief time Albania became independent. In 1479 Albania was concurred by the Turks. Despite even the Turkish occupation the Albanian people did not lose their national identity. John Hobhouse who accompanied George Byron on his trip across the Ottoman Empire notes that in other Turkish provinces the inhabitants call themselves Turks or say they are Christians, while in Albania the inhabitants asked who they are reply they are Albanians.

The mid XIX century is often called the ‘Spring of Nations’, Albanian nationalism was also revived. In 1878 the Albanian League was formed. In 1912 in the town of Vlora independence was proclaimed, but the official borders left many natural Albanians living outside the territory. During the second World War the country came under Italian and later German occupation. Albanian nationalist groups formed a resistance movement that expulsed the invader by November 1944. In the post-war turmoil the partially French-educated Enver Hoxha became the leader of the country through his position of Secretary General of the Party of Labor (Albanian Communist Party). By 1991 the political changes had lead to a peaceful transition form communist to democratic government. Albania is aspiring to EU Membership.

The Albanian language is part of the Indo-European group of languages, but it bares little resemblance to the group. The grammatical structure is complicated through noun declinations and verb moods. After the II World War Albanians spoke in a number of dialects. In 1972 a conference was held in an attempt to standardize the language. Currently there are two main dialects.

Albanians are a very hospitable people. A guest is always welcome. There is no hurry, the concept of time is typically “Mediterranean”. Tradition is very important to Albanians. In the mountain regions the traditional family model where the husband has all the decisive power is still dominant.

Religion had little influence on the traditional ethical code that was rather set by the Kanun a set of customary laws. The code governed every stage of life from birth to death, it was divided into sections concerning family, religion, property, work, honour, crimes ect. The most controversial rules concern blood feuds. The murder or dishonour of a family member is transposed to the whole family or clan. Families were obliged to retrieve their honour and take revenge, this often led to a massacre of the male population (women were not involved). Before the I World War in extreme cases up to 19% of the men in a clan were eliminated.      

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