|Native Name:||Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë|
|Conventional Long Name:||Republic of Albania|
"Ti, Shqipëri, më jep nder, më jep emrin Shqiptar"
"You, Albania give me honor, you give me the name Albanian"
|National Anthem:||Albanian: [[Himni i Flamurit]]|
"Hymn to the Flag"
|Government Type:||Parliamentary republic|
|Ethnic Groups:||95% Albanians, |
|Leader Name1:||Bamir Topi|
|Leader Title2:||Prime Minister|
|Leader Name2:||Sali Berisha|
|Leader Title 3:||Chairman of the Albanian 'Parlamentit' (legislature)|
|Area Magnitude:||1 E10|
|Area Sq Mi:||11100|
|Population Census:||2,831,741 |
|Population Census Year:||2011|
|Population Density Km2:||98.5|
|Population Density Sq Mi:||38.03|
|Population Density Rank:||63|
|Gdp Ppp Year:||2011|
|Gdp Ppp:||$25.035 billion|
|Gdp Ppp Per Capita:||$7,780|
|Gdp Nominal Year:||2011|
|Gdp Nominal:||$13.292 billion|
|Gdp Nominal Per Capita:||$4,131|
|Established Event1:||Principality of Arbër|
|Established Event2:||League of Lezhë|
|Established Date2:||2 March 1444|
|Established Event3:||Independence from the Ottoman Empire|
|Established Date3:||28 November 1912|
|Established Event4:||Recognized by the Great Powers|
|Established Date4:||2 December 1912|
|Established Event5:||Current Constitution|
|Established Date5:||28 November 1998|
|Time Zone Dst:||CEST|
|Utc Offset Dst:||+2|
|Footnote1:||Greek, Macedonian and other regional languages, are government-recognized minority languages.|
Albania (, Albanian: Shqipëri/Shqipëria; Gheg Albanian: Shqipnia), officially known as the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë pronounced), is a country in Southern Europe. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west, and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 720NaN0 from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.Albania is a member of the UN, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and one of the founding members of the Union for the Mediterranean. Albania has been a potential candidate for accession to the European Union since January 2003, and it formally applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009.
Albania is a parliamentary democracy with a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to 421,286 of the country's 2,831,741 people. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure.   Albania was chosen as the No.1 Destination in Lonely Planet's list of ten top countries to visit for 2011.
See main article: Albania (toponym). Albania is the Medieval Latin name of the country which is called Shqipëri by its people. In Medieval Greek, the country's name is Albania besides variants Albanitia, Arbanitia.
The name may be derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Albani recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria who drafted a map in 150 AD that shows the city of Albanopolis (located northeast of Durrës).
The name may have a continuation in the name of a medieval settlement called Albanon and Arbanon, although it is not certain this was the same place. In his History written in 1079–1080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates was the first to refer to Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the Duke of Dyrrachium. During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country Arbër or Arbën and referred to themselves as Arbëresh or Arbnesh. 
As early as the 16th century the placename Shqipëria and the ethnic demonym Shqiptarë gradually replaced Arbëria and Arbëresh. While the two terms are popularly interpreted as "Land of the Eagles" and "Children of the Eagles", they derive from the adverb shqip, which means "understanding each other". 
Under the Ottoman Empire Albania was referred to officially as Arnavutluk and its inhabitants as Arnauts (officially, Arnavutlar). These terms remain the same officially and in common usage in the current Republic of Turkey. The word is considered to be a metathesis from the word Arvanite, which was the Medieval Greek name for the Albanians.
See main article: History of Albania. The history of Albania emerged from the prehistoric stage from the 4th century BC, with early records of Illyria in Greco-Roman historiography. The modern territory of Albania has no counterpart in antiquity, comprising parts of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia (southern Illyricum), Macedonia (particularly Epirus Nova), and Moesia Superior. The territory remained under Roman (Byzantine) control until the Slavic migrations of the 7th century, and was integrated into the Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century.
The territorial nucleus of the Albanian state formed in the Middle Ages, as the Principality of Arbër and the Kingdom of Albania. The first records of the Albanian people as a distinct ethnicity also date to this period. In 15th century there was a series of confrontations between Albanians led by Scanderbeg and the advancing Ottoman Empire. Soon after the death of Scanderbeg, upon the successful Ottoman siege of Shkodra in 1478, the organized resistance ceased and the country became part of Ottoman Empire. It remained under Ottoman control as part of the Rumelia province until 1912, when the first independent Albanian state was declared. The formation of an Albanian national consciousness dates to the latter 19th century and is part of the larger phenomenon of rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire.
The first organization which opposed the partition of Albania and pushed for greater autonomy was the League of Prizren, formed on 1 June 1878, in Prizren, Kosovo. The League of Prizren used military force to prevent the annexing of northern Albanian areas assigned to Montenegro, and Serbia, and southern Albanian areas assigned to Greece by the Congress of Berlin. After several battles with the Montenegran troops, the league was forced to cede Ulcinj to Montenegro and then was defeated by the Ottoman Army sent by the Sultan in order to prevent the league from achieving autonomy for Albania. The uprisings of 1910–1912, and the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan Wars, and the advancing Montenegran, Serbian, and Greek armies into the territory of what is now Albania, led to the proclamation of independence by Ismail Qemali in Vlora, on 28 November 1912. Albania's independence was recognized by the Conference of London on July 29, 1913, but the drawing of the borders of Albania ignored the demographic realities of the time.
The short-lived monarchy (1914–1925) was succeeded by an even shorter-lived first Albanian Republic (1925–1928), to be replaced by another monarchy (1928–1939), which was annexed by Fascist Italy and then by Nazi Germany during World War II. After the collapse of the Axis powers, Albania became a communist state, the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, which was dominated by Enver Hoxha (died 1985). Hoxha's political heir Ramiz Alia oversaw the disintegration of the "Hoxhaist" state during the wider collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the later 1980s.
The communist regime collapsed in 1990, and the Republic of Albania was founded in 1991. The old communist party was routed in the elections of March 1992, amid economic collapse and social unrest. An economic crisis spread in the late 1996 following the failure of some Ponzi schemes operating in the country, peaking in 1997 in an armed rebellion, that led to another mass emigration of Albanians, mostly to Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and North America.
In 1999 the country was affected by the Kosovo War, when a great number of Albanians from Kosovo found refuge in Albania.
Albania is divided into 12 administrative counties (Albanian: qark or prefekturë). These counties include 36 districts (Albanian: rreth) and 373 municipalities (Albanian: bashki or komunë). 72 municipalities have city status (Albanian: qytet). There are overall 2980 villages/communities (Albanian: fshat) in all Albania. Each district has its council which is composed of a number of municipalities. The municipalities are the first level of local governance, responsible for local needs and law enforcement.
|10||Shkodër||Shkodër||Malësi e Madhe|
See main article: Politics of Albania.
The Albanian republic is a parliamentary democracy established under a constitution renewed in 1998. Elections are held every four years to a unicameral 140-seat chamber, the People's Assembly. In June 2002, a compromise candidate, Alfred Moisiu, former Army General, was elected to succeed President Rexhep Meidani. Parliamentary elections in July 2005 brought Sali Berisha, an ex-Albanian communist party member, back to power as leader of the Democratic Party. The current president Bamir Topi was elected by Parliament in July 2007.
The Euro-Atlantic integration of Albania has been the ultimate goal of the post-communist governments. Albania's EU membership bid has been set as a priority by the European Commission.
Albania, along with Croatia, joined NATO on 1 April 2009, becoming the 27th and 28th members of the alliance.
The workforce of Albania has continued to migrate to Greece, Italy, Germany, other parts of Europe, and North America. However, the migration flux is slowly decreasing, as more and more opportunities are emerging in Albania itself as its economy steadily develops.
The head of state in Albania is the President of the Republic. The President is elected to a 5-year term by the Assembly of the Republic of Albania by secret ballot, requiring a 50%+1 majority of the votes of all deputies. The next election will be held in 2012. The current President of the Republic is Bamir Topi.
The President has the power to guarantee observation of the constitution and all laws, act as commander in chief of the armed forces, exercise the duties of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania when the Assembly is not in session, and appoint the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (prime minister).
Executive power rests with the Council of Ministers (cabinet). The Chairman of the Council (prime minister) is appointed by the president; ministers are nominated by the president on the basis of the prime minister's recommendation. The People's Assembly must give final approval of the composition of the Council. The Council is responsible for carrying out both foreign and domestic policies. It directs and controls the activities of the ministries and other state organs.
|President||Bamir Topi||PD||20 July 2007|
|Prime Minister||Sali Berisha||PD||9 September 2009|
The Assembly of the Republic of Albania (Kuvendi i Republikës së Shqipërisë) is the lawmaking body in Albania. There are 140 deputies in the Assembly, which are elected through a party-list proportional representation system. The President of the Assembly (or Speaker), who has two deputies, chairs the Assembly. There are 15 permanent commissions, or committees. Parliamentary elections are held at least every four years.
The Assembly has the power to decide the direction of domestic and foreign policy; approve or amend the constitution; declare war on another state; ratify or annul international treaties; elect the President of the Republic, the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General and his or her deputies; and control the activity of state radio and television, state news agency and other official information media.
See main article: Military of Albania.
The Albanian Armed Forces (Forcat e Armatosura të Shqipërisë) were first formed after independence in 1912. Albania reduced the number of active troops from 65,000 in 1988 to 14,500 in 2009 and the military now consists mainly of a small fleet of aircraft and sea vessels. In the 1990s, the country scrapped enormous amounts of obsolete hardware, such as tanks and SAM systems from China.
Today, it consists of the General Staff Headquarters, the Albanian Land Forces, Albanian Air Force, Albanian Naval Defense Forces, the Albanian Logistic Brigade and the Albanian Training and Doctrine Command. Increasing the military budget was one of the most important conditions for NATO integration. Military spending accounted for about 2% of GDP in 2008. Since February 2008, Albania participates officially in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea. It received a NATO membership invitation on 3 April 2008. Albania became a full member of NATO on 1 April 2009.
See main article: Geography of Albania.
Albania has a total area of 28,748 square kilometers. It lies between latitudes 39° and 43° N, and mostly between longitudes 19° and 21° E (a small area lies east of 21°). Albania's coastline length is 476km and extends along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The lowlands of the west face the Adriatic Sea. The 70% of the country that is mountainous is rugged and often inaccessible from the outside. The highest mountain is Korab situated in the district of Dibër, reaching up to 2753m (9,032feet). The climate on the coast is typically Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and warm, sunny, and rather dry summers.
Inland conditions vary depending on altitude, but the higher areas above 1,500 m/5,000 ft are rather cold and frequently snowy in winter; here cold conditions with snow may linger into spring. Besides the capital city of Tirana, which has 800,000 inhabitants, the principal cities are Durrës, Korçë, Elbasan, Shkodër, Gjirokastër, Vlorë and Kukës. In Albanian grammar, a word can have indefinite and definite forms, and this also applies to city names: both Tiranë and Tirana, Shkodër and Shkodra are used.
The three largest and deepest tectonic lakes of the Balkan Peninsula are partly located in Albania. Lake Shkodër in the country's northwest has a surface which can vary between 370km2 and 530 km2, out of which one third belongs to Albania and rest to Montenegro. The Albanian shoreline of the lake is 57km. Ohrid Lake is situated in the country's southeast and is shared between Albania and Republic of Macedonia. It has a maximal depth of 289 meters and a variety of unique flora and fauna can be found there, including "living fossils" and many endemic species. Because of its natural and historical value, Ohrid Lake is under the protection of UNESCO. There is also Butrinti Lake which is a small tectonic lake. It is located in the national park of Butrint.
With its coastline facing the Adriatic and Ionian seas, its highlands backed upon the elevated Balkan landmass, and the entire country lying at a latitude subject to a variety of weather patterns during the winter and summer seasons, Albania has a high number of climatic regions relative to its landmass. The coastal lowlands have typically Mediterranean weather; the highlands have a Mediterranean continental climate. In both the lowlands and the interior, the weather varies markedly from north to south.
The lowlands have mild winters, averaging about 7°C. Summer temperatures average 24°C. In the southern lowlands, temperatures average about 5C-change higher throughout the year. The difference is greater than 5C-change during the summer and somewhat less during the winter.
Inland temperatures are affected more by differences in elevation than by latitude or any other factor. Low winter temperatures in the mountains are caused by the continental air mass that dominates the weather in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Northerly and northeasterly winds blow much of the time. Average summer temperatures are lower than in the coastal areas and much lower at higher elevations, but daily fluctuations are greater. Daytime maximum temperatures in the interior basins and river valleys are very high, but the nights are almost always cool.
Average precipitation is heavy, a result of the convergence of the prevailing airflow from the Mediterranean Sea and the continental air mass. Because they usually meet at the point where the terrain rises, the heaviest rain falls in the central uplands. Vertical currents initiated when the Mediterranean air is uplifted also cause frequent thunderstorms. Many of these storms are accompanied by high local winds and torrential downpours.
When the continental air mass is weak, Mediterranean winds drop their moisture farther inland. When there is a dominant continental air mass, cold air spills onto the lowland areas, which occurs most frequently in the winter. Because the season's lower temperatures damage olive trees and citrus fruits, groves and orchards are restricted to sheltered places with southern and western exposures, even in areas with high average winter temperatures.
Lowland rainfall averages from 10001NaN1 to more than 15001NaN1 annually, with the higher levels in the north. Nearly 95% of the rain falls in the winter.
Rainfall in the upland mountain ranges is heavier. Adequate records are not available, and estimates vary widely, but annual averages are probably about 18001NaN1 and are as high as 25501NaN1 in some northern areas. The western Albanian Alps (valley of Boga) are among the wettest areas in Europe, receiving some 3100mm of rain annually. The seasonal variation is not quite as great in the coastal area.
The higher inland mountains receive less precipitation than the intermediate uplands. Terrain differences cause wide local variations, but the seasonal distribution is the most consistent of any area.
In 2009 an expedition from University of Colorado discovered four small glaciers in the 'Cursed' mountains in North Albania. The glaciers are at the relatively low level of 2,000 meters – almost unique for such a southerly latitude.
Although a small country, Albania is distinguished for its rich biological diversity. The variation of geomorphology, climate and terrain create favorable conditions for a number of endemic and sub-endemic species with 27 endemic and 160 subendemic vascular plants present in the country. The total number of plants is over 3250 species, approximately 30% of the entire flora species found in Europe.
Over a third of the territory of Albania – about 10,000 square kilometers (2.5 million acres) – is forested and the country is very rich in flora. About 3,000 different species of plants grow in Albania, many of which are used for medicinal purposes. Phytogeographically, Albania belongs to the Boreal Kingdom and is shared between the Adriatic and East Mediterranean provinces of the Mediterranean Region and the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region. Coastal regions and lowlands have typical Mediterranean macchia vegetation, whereas oak forests and vegetation are found on higher altitudes. Vast forests of black pine, beech and fir are found on higher mountains and alpine grasslands grow at altitudes above 1800 meters.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature and Digital Map of European Ecological Regions by the European Environment Agency, the territory of Albania can be subdivided into three ecoregions: the Illyrian deciduous forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Dinaric Alpine mixed forests. The forests are home to a wide range of mammals, including wolves, bears, wild boars and chamois. Lynx, wildcats, pine martens and polecats are rare, but survive in some parts of the country.
There are around 760 vertebrate species found so far in Albania. Among these there are over 350 bird species, 330 freshwater and marine fish and 80 mammal species. There are some 91 globally threatened species found within the country, among which the Dalmatian pelican, Pygmy cormorant, and the European sea sturgeon. Rocky coastal regions in the south provide good habitats for the endangered Mediterranean monk seal.
Some of the most significant bird species found in the country include the golden eagle – known as the national symbol of Albania – vulture species, capercaillie and numerous waterfowl. The Albanian forests still maintain significant communities of large mammals such as the brown bear, gray wolf, chamois and wild boar. The north and eastern mountains of the country are home to the last remaining Balkan Lynx – a critically endangered population of the Eurasian lynx.
See main article: Economy of Albania.
See also: Agriculture in Albania.
Albania remains a poor country by Western European standards. Its GDP per capita (expressed in PPS—Purchasing Power Standards) stood at 28 percent of the EU average in 2010. Still, Albania has shown potential for economic growth, as more and more businesses relocate there and consumer goods are becoming available from emerging market traders as part of the current massive global cost-cutting exercise. Albania, Cyprus, and Poland are the only countries in Europe that recorded economic growth in the first quarter of 2009.  International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted 2.6% growth for Albania in 2010 and 3.2% in 2011. There are signs of increasing investments, and power cuts are reduced to the extent that Albania is now exporting energy.
Albania and Croatia have discussed the possibility of jointly building a nuclear power plant at Lake Shkoder, close to the border with Montenegro, a plan that has gathered criticism from Montenegro due to seismicity in the area. In addition, there is some doubt whether Albania would be able to finance a project of such a scale with a total national budget of less than $ 5 billion. However, in February 2009 Italian company Enel announced plans to build an 800 MW coal-fired power plant in Albania, to diversify electricity sources. Nearly 100% of the electricity is generated by ageing hydroelectric power plants, which are becoming more ineffective due to increasing droughts.
The country has some deposits of petroleum and natural gas, but produced only 5,400 barrels of oil per day as of 2009. Natural gas production, estimated at about 30 million cubic meters, is sufficient to meet consumer demands. Other natural resources include coal, bauxite, copper and iron ore.
Agriculture is the most significant sector, employing some 58% of the labor force and generating about 21% of GDP. Albania produces significant amounts of wheat, corn, tobacco, figs (13th largest producer in the world) and olives.
Tourism is gaining a fair share of Albania's GDP with visitors growing every year.
See main article: Science and technology in Albania.
Expenditure for scientific research and Development in Albania does not exceed 0.18% of GDP, which marks the lowest level in Europe. Economic competitiveness and exports are low, with the economy still heavily skewed towards low technology. From 1993 human resources in sciences and technology have drastically decreased. Various surveys show that during 1991–2005, approximately 50% of the professors and research scientists of the universities and science institutions in the country have emigrated.
However in 2009 the government approved the "National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation in Albania" covering the period 2009–2015. It aims to triple public spending on research and development (R&D) to 0.6% of GDP and augment the share of gross domestic expenditure on R&D from foreign sources, including via the European Union's Framework Programmes for Research, to the point where it covers 40% of research spending, among others.
See main article: Transport in Albania.
The Albania-Kosovo Highway links Kosovo to Albania's Adriatic coast: the Albanian side was completed in June 2009, and now it takes only two hours and a half to go from the Kosovo border to Durrës. Overall the highway will be around 250km when it reaches Pristina. The project was the biggest and most expensive infrastructure project ever undertaken in Albania. The cost of the highway appears to have breached €800 million, although the exact cost for the total highway has yet to be confirmed by the government.
Two additional highways will be built in Albania in the near future: Corridor VIII, which will link Albania with the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria, and the north-south highway, which corresponds to the Albanian side of the Adriatic–Ionian motorway, a larger regional highway connecting Croatia with Greece along the Adriatic and Ionian coasts. When all three corridors are completed Albania will have an estimated 759 kilometers of highway linking it with all its neighboring countries: Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Greece.
The civil air transport in Albania marked its beginnings in November 1924, when the Republic of Albania signed a governmental agreement with German Air Company Deutsche Luft Hansa. On the basis of a ten-year concession agreement, the Albanian Airlines Company Adria Aero Lloyd was established. In the spring of 1925, the first domestic flights from Tirana to Shkoder and Vlora began.
In August 1927, the office of Civil Aviation of Air Traffic Ministry of Italy purchased Adria Aero Lloyd. The company, now in Italian hands, expanded its flights to other cities, such as Elbasan, Korça, Kukësi, Peshkopia and Gjirokastra, and opened up international lines to Rome, Milan, Thessaloniki, Sofia, Belgrade, and Podgorica.
The construction of a more modern airport in Lapraka started in 1934 and was completed by the end of 1935. This new airport, which was later officially named "Airport of Tirana", was constructed in conformity with optimal technological parameters of that time, with a reinforced concrete runway of 2700m (8,900feet), and complemented with technical equipment and appropriate buildings.
During 1955–1957, the Rinasi Airport was constructed for military purposes. Later, its administration was shifted to the Ministry of Transport. On 25 January 1957 the State-owned Enterprise of International Air Transport (Albtransport) established its headquarters in Tirana. Aeroflot, Jat, Malev, Tarom and Interflug were the air companies that started to have flights with Albania until 1960.
During 1960–1978, several airlines ceased to operate in Albania due to the impact of the politics, resulting in a decrease of influx of flights and passengers. In 1977 Albania's government signed an agreement with Greece to open the country's first air links with non-communist Europe. As a result, Olympic Airways was the first non-communist airline to commercially fly into Albania after World War II. By 1991 Albania had air links with many major European cities, including Paris, Rome, Zurich, Vienna and Budapest, but no regular domestic air service.
A French-Albanian joint venture Ada Air, was launched in Albania as the first private airline, in 1991. The company offered flights in a thirty-six-passenger airplane four days a week between Tirana and Bari, Italy and a charter service for domestic and international destinations.
From 1989 to 1991, because of political changes in the Eastern European countries, Albania adhered to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), opened its air space to international flights, and had its duties of Air Traffic Control defined. As a result of these developments, conditions were created to separate the activities of air traffic control from Albtransport. Instead, the National Agency of Air Traffic (NATA) was established as an independent enterprise. In addition, during these years, governmental agreements of civil air transport were established with countries such as Bulgaria, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, Russia, Austria, the UK and Macedonia. The Directory General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was established on 3 February 1991, to cope with the development required by the time.As of 2007 Albania has one international airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza. The airport is linked to 29 destinations by 14 airlines. It has seen a dramatic rise in passenger numbers and aircraft movements since the early 1990s. The data for 2009 is 1.3 million passengers served and an average of 44 landings and takeoffs per day.
The railways in Albania are administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare (HSH) (which means Albanian Railways). It operates a gauge (standard gauge) rail system in Albania. All trains are hauled by Czech-built ČKD diesel-electric locomotives.
The railway system was extensively promoted by the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha, during which time the use of private transport was effectively prohibited. Since the collapse of the former regime, there has been a considerable increase in car ownership and bus usage. Whilst some of the country's roads are still in very poor condition, there have been other developments (such as the construction of a motorway between Tirana and Durrës) which have taken much traffic away from the railways.
See main article: Demographics of Albania.
|Population in Albania|
|Source: OECD/World Bank|
The Albanian population is relatively young by European standards, with a median age of 28.9 years. After 1990 the Albanian population hasfaced new phenomena like migration, which greatly affected the distribution by districts and prefectures. Between 1991 and 2004, roughly 900,000 people have migrated out of Albania, about 600,000 of them settling in Greece. Districts in the North have seen a decreasing population, while Tirana and Durrës districts have increased their population, due to internal immigration.
As of the last census data from 2001, Albania's population was 3,069,275. Officially, the Albanian Institute of Statistics estimated it at 3,152,600 on 1 January 2007, at 3,170,048 on 1 January 2008 and at 3,195,000 on 1 January 2010. Alternative sources (CIA) estimate the population in July 2011 at 2,994,667. Albania is a largely ethnically homogeneous country with only a few minorities. The majority of the population is ethnically Albanian. The exact amount of ethnic minorities is not known, as the last census that contained ethnographic data was conducted in 1989. According to the latest news, the next census containing ethnographic data will begin in April 2011 with EU counsels assisting in certain fields. The pilot census is already being conducted, while the official one was scheduled to being on 2 April 2011. In February 2011 the government announced that the census would be postponed to prepare for municipal elections in May, while it has come under pressure from various groups and politicians to scrap the questions on ethnicity and religion. The census was rescheduled to take place in October 2011, and was to include questions on ethnicity. However, minority groups have sharply criticized Article 20 of the Census law, according to which a $1,000 fine will be imposed on anyone who will declare an ethnicity other than what was written down on his or her birth certificate. This is believed to be an attempt to intimidate minorities into declaring Albanian ethnicity, as the Albanian government has furthermore additionally stated that it will jail anyone who does not participate in the census or refuse to declare his or her ethnicity.
Minorities include Greeks, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Gorani, Vlachs, Montenegrins, Serbs, Balkan Egyptians, Roma, and Jews. "It is difficult to know how many Greeks there are in Albania. The Greek government, it is typically claimed, says that there are around 300,000 ethnic Greeks in Albania, but most western estimates are around 200,000 mark (although EEN puts the number at a probable 100,0000...) The Albanian government puts the number at only 60,000."  The CIA Factbook estimates the Greek minority at 3% of the total population and the US State Department uses 1.17% for Greeks and 0.23% for other minorities.
See main article: Languages of Albania. The dominant and official language is Albanian, a revised and merged form of the two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk, but with a bigger influence of Tosk as compared to the Gheg. The Shkumbin River is the dividing line between the two dialects. In the areas inhabited by the Greek minority, a dialect of Greek is spoken that preserves features now lost in standard modern Greek. Other languages spoken by ethnic minorities in Albania include Aromanian, Serbian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Gorani, and Roma.
See main article: Religion in Albania.
See also: Freedom of religion in Albania.
There are no official statistics regarding religious affiliation in Albania. The CIA World Factbook gives a distribution of 70% Muslims, 20% Orthodox Christians, and 10% Roman Catholics. A Pew Research Center demographic study from 2009 put the percentage of Muslims in Albania at 79.9%. In 2009 According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, roughly 38% of Albanians are Muslim, and 36% Christian. According to the US State Department, estimates for active participation in religious services are between 25 and 40%. Gallup Global Reports 2010 also shows that religion plays a role only to 39% of Albanians, and puts Albania in the list of the 14 least religious countries in the world, where Estonia is the first, and Albania the thirteenth least religious country in the world.
The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late-11th century. At this point, they are already fully Christianised. Christianity was later overtaken by Islam. After independence (1912) from the Ottoman Empire, the Albanian republican, monarchic and later Communist regimes followed a systematic policy of separating religion from official functions and cultural life. Albania never had an official state religion either as a republic or as a kingdom. In the 20th century, the clergy of all faiths was weakened under the monarchy, and ultimately eradicated during the 1940s and 1950s, under the state policy of obliterating all organised religion from Albanian territories.
The Communist regime that took control of Albania after World War II persecuted and suppressed religious observance and institutions and entirely banned religion to the point where Albania was officially declared to be the world's first atheist state. Religious freedom has returned to Albania since the regime's change in 1992. Albanian Muslim populations (mainly secular and of the Sunni branch) are found throughout the country whereas Orthodox Christians are concentrated in the south and Roman Catholics are found in the north of the country. No reliable data are available on active participation in formal religious services, but estimates range from 25% to 40%.
The first recorded Albanian Protestant was Said Toptani, who traveled around Europe, and in 1853 returned to Tirana and preached Protestantism. He was arrested and imprisoned by the Ottoman authorities in 1864. Mainline evangelical Protestants date back to the work of Congregational and later Methodist missionaries and the work of the British and Foreign Bible Society in the 19th century. The Evangelical Alliance, which is known as VUSh http://www.vush.org/ was founded in 1892. Today VUSh has about 160 member congregations from different Protestant denominations. VUSh organises marches in Tirana including one against blood feuds in 2010. Bibles are provided by the Interconfessional Bible Society of Albania. The first full Albanian Bible to be printed was the Filipaj translation printed in 1990.
There are about 4,000 active Jehovah's Witnesses in Albania. Among other religious organizations making inroads into this nation is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or 'Mormons'). LDS involvement in Albania began with humanitarian aid during the 1990s. The first missionaries were sent in 1992 with the Albania Tirana Mission being opened in 1996. As of 2008, there were nearly 2,000 members of the LDS church in Albania, spread throughout ten branches with two purpose-built chapels and one Family History Center.
See main article: Culture of Albania.
See also: Tourism in Albania.
See main article: Music of Albania. Albanian folk music falls into three stylistic groups, with other important music areas around Shkodër and Tirana; the major groupings are the Ghegs of the north and southern Labs and Tosks. The northern and southern traditions are contrasted by the "rugged and heroic" tone of the north and the "relaxed" form of the south.
These disparate styles are unified by "the intensity that both performers and listeners give to their music as a medium for patriotic expression and as a vehicle carrying the narrative of oral history", as well as certain characteristics like the use of obscure rhythms such as 3/8, 5/8 and 10/8. The first compilation of Albanian folk music was made by Pjetër Dungu in 1940.
Albanian folk songs can be divided into major groups, the heroic epics of the north, and the sweetly melodic lullabies, love songs, wedding music, work songs and other kinds of song. The music of various festivals and holidays is also an important part of Albanian folk song, especially those that celebrate St. Lazarus Day, which inaugurates the springtime. Lullabies and vajtims are very important kinds of Albanian folk song, and are generally performed by solo women.
Some scholars believe that Albanian derives from Illyrian while others, claim that it derives from Daco-Thracian. (Illyrian and Daco-Thracian, however, might have been closely related languages; see Thraco-Illyrian.)
Establishing longer relations, Albanian is often compared to Balto-Slavic on the one hand and Germanic on the other, both of which share a number of isoglosses with Albanian. Moreover, Albanian has undergone a vowel shift in which stressed, long o has fallen to a, much like in the former and opposite the latter. Likewise, Albanian has taken the old relative jos and innovatively used it exclusively to qualify adjectives, much in the way Balto-Slavic has used this word to provide the definite ending of adjectives.
The cultural renaissance was first of all expressed through the development of the Albanian language in the area of church texts and publications, mainly of the Catholic region in the North, but also of the Orthodox in the South. The Protestant reforms invigorated hopes for the development of the local language and literary tradition when cleric Gjon Buzuku brought into the Albanian language the Catholic liturgy, trying to do for the Albanian language what Luther did for German.
Meshari (The Missal) by Gjon Buzuku, published in 1555, is considered the first literary work of written Albanian. The refined level of the language and the stabilised orthography must be the result of an earlier tradition of written Albanian, a tradition that is not well understood. However, there is some fragmented evidence, pre-dating Buzuku, which indicates that Albanian was written from at least the 14th century.
The earliest evidence dates from 1332 AD with a Latin report from the French Dominican Guillelmus Adae, Archbishop of Antivari, who wrote that Albanians used Latin letters in their books although their language was quite different from Latin. Other significant examples include: a baptism formula (Unte paghesont premenit Atit et Birit et spertit senit) from 1462, written in Albanian within a Latin text by the Bishop of Durrës, Pal Engjëlli; a glossary of Albanian words of 1497 by Arnold von Harff, a German who had travelled through Albania, and a 15th century fragment of the Bible from the Gospel of Matthew, also in Albanian, but written in Greek letters.
Albanian writings from these centuries must not have been religious texts only, but historical chronicles too. They are mentioned by the humanist Marin Barleti, who, in his book Rrethimi i Shkodrës (The Siege of Shkodër) (1504), confirms that he leafed through such chronicles written in the language of the people (in vernacula lingua).
During the 16th to 17th centuries, the catechism E mbësuame krishterë (Christian Teachings) (1592) by Lekë Matrënga, Doktrina e krishterë (The Christian Doctrine) (1618) and Rituale romanum (1621) by Pjetër Budi, the first writer of original Albanian prose and poetry, an apology for George Castriot (1636) by Frang Bardhi, who also published a dictionary and folklore creations, the theological-philosophical treaty Cuneus Prophetarum (The Band of Prophets) (1685) by Pjetër Bogdani, the most universal personality of Albanian Middle Ages, were published in Albanian. The most famous Albanian writer is probably Ismail Kadare.
See main article: Education in Albania.
Before the rise of Communist regime, Albania's illiteracy rate was as high as 85%. Schools were scarce between World War I and World War II. When the Communist regime gained control in 1944, it gave high priority to the wiping out of illiteracy. Strict regulations were introduced, anyone between the ages of 12 and 40 who could not read or write was mandated to attend classes to learn. Since then the country's literacy rate has improved remarkably. Today the overall literacy rate in Albania is 98.7%, the male literacy rate is 99.2% and female literacy rate is 98.3%. With large population movements in the 1990s to urban areas, the provision of education has undergone transformation as well. The University of Tirana is the oldest university in Albania, founded in October 1957.
Football is the most popular Sport in Albania, both at a participatory and spectator level. The Sport is governed by the Football Association of Albania (Albanian: Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit, F.SH.F.), created in 1930, member of FIFA and a founding member of UEFA. Other sports played include Basketball, Volleyball, Rugby union, and Gymnastics.
See main article: RTSH.
See also: Television in Albania and List of radio stations in Albania. Radio Televizioni Shqiptar (RTSH) is the public radio and TV broadcaster of Albania, founded in 1938 in Tirana. RTSH runs three television stations named Televizioni Shqiptar (TVSH, TVSH 2, and TVSH Sat), and three radio stations, using the name Radio Tirana in addition to 4 regional radio stations. The international service broadcasts radio programmes in Albanian and seven other languages via medium wave (AM) and short wave (SW). The international service has used the theme from the song "Keputa një gjethe dafine" as its signature tune. The international television service via satellite was launched since 1993 and aims at Albanian communities in Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and northern Greece, plus the Albanian diaspora in the rest of Europe. RTSH has a past of being heavily influenced by the ruling party in its reporting, whether that party be left or right wing.
According the National Council of Radio and Television (KKRT), Albania has an estimated 257 media outlets, including 66 radio stations and 67 television stations, with three national, 62 local and more than 50 cable TV stations.Last years Albania has organized several shows as a part of worldwide series like Dancing with the Stars, Big Brother Albania, Albanians Got Talent and The Voice of Albania.
Health care has been in a steep decline after the collapse of socialism in the country, but a process of modernization has been taking place since 2000. As of the 2000s (decade), there were 51 hospitals in the country, including a military hospital and specialist facilities. Albania has successfully removed diseases such as malaria.
Life expectancy is estimated at 77.43 years, ranking 51st worldwide, and outperforming a number of European Union countries, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic. The most common causes of death are circulatory disease followed by cancerous illnesses. Demographic and Health Surveys completed a survey in April 2009, detailing various health statistics in Albania, including Male Circumcision, Abortion and more.
The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tirana is the main medical school in the country. There are also nursing schools in other cities. Newsweek ranked Albania 57 out of 100 Best Countries in the World in 2010.
See main article: Albanian cuisine.
The cuisine of Albania – as with most Mediterranean and Balkan nations – is strongly influenced by its long history. At different times, the territory which is now Albania has been claimed or occupied by Greece, Bulgaria, Italy and the Ottoman Turks and each group has left its mark on Albanian cuisine. The main meal of Albanians is lunch, and it is usually accompanied by a salad of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and olives with olive oil, vinegar and salt. Lunch also includes a main dish of vegetables and meat. Seafood specialties are also common in the coastal cities of Durrës, Sarandë and Vlorë. In high altitude localities, smoked meat and pickling is very common.