|Pop3:||500,000 - 1,300,000|
|Pop1:||3,438,789 (2008) |
|Pop11:||60,000 est (2007)|
The Albanian people (Albanian: Shqiptarët), from southeast Europe, live in Albania and neighbouring countries and speak the Albanian language. About half of Albanians live in Albania, with other large groups residing in Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro. There are also Albanian minorities and immigrant communities in a number of other countries (Turkey, Greece and Italy).
See also: Origin of the Albanians and Albania (toponym). Albanians are the descendants of a Paleo-Balkans people, perhaps the ancient Illyrians or the Thracians and Dacians. Scholarly opinion is divided on specifics. Names similar to the ones used to describe the Albanians, albeit much later, were used in the 2nd century BCE by Polybius (Arbanios, Arbanitai with their city Arbon), the 1st century CE by Pliny (Olbonensis), and the 2nd century CE by geographer and astronomer Ptolemy (Albanoi), to describe an Illyrian tribe situated in what is now Central Albania with Albanopolis as their main city.
The ethnonym applied to the people now known as Albanians is first attested from the 11th century (e.g. Anna Komnene, Alexiad 4.8.4), although such a nominal connection does not prove an actual link to the Illyrian tribe. The first reference to a Latin: lingua albanesca dates to the later 13th century.
Due to the high rate of migration of various ethnic groups throughout the Balkans in the last two decades, exact figures are difficult to obtain. A tenuous breakdown of Albanians by location is as follows:
Approximately 6 million Albanians are to be found within the Balkan peninsula with only about half this number residing in Albania and the other divided between Kosovo, Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece and to a much smaller extent Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and Romania. Approximately 1,5 million are dispersed throughout the rest of Europe, most of these in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy (the majority having arrived since 1991, but also older populations of Arbëreshë), Austria and France.
Both the Kosovo and the western regions of the Republic of Macedonia have in recent years seen armed movements (Kosovo Liberation Army, UCPMB, Macedonian NLA) aiming either for independence, greater autonomy, or increased political rights. Further clashes were also reported in the Preševo Valley during the period between 2000 to 2001 (in the lead-up to the Macedonian conflict).
In February 2008, the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, an assembly under UNMIK, declared Kosovo's independence as the Republic of Kosovo (Albanian: Republika e Kosovës). Its independence is recognized by some countries and opposed by others, including the Republic of Serbia, which continues to claim sovereignty over it as the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija.
The conflict in the Republic of Macedonia seems to have calmed down. It was resolved by the Macedonian government giving the Albanian minority a greater role in the government and the right to use the Albanian language in areas where the Albanians form a majority.
It is worth mentioning here that rights to use the Albanian language in education and government were given and guaranteed by the Constitution of SFRY and were widely utilized in Serbia, Macedonia, and in Montenegro long before Dissolution of Yugoslavia. The only thing that changed in that matter is that before NATO intervention in 1999, there were information services and news ("Dnevnik") broadcaster in Albanian language on the Serbian National Radio and Television, RTS.
According to a 2008 report prepared for the National Security Council of Turkey by academics of three Turkish universities in eastern Anatolia, there were approximately 1,300,000 Albanians living in Turkey. Most of these people are assimilated into Turkish nation, and consider themselves Turkish rather than Albanian. Around 500,000 Albanians remain unassimilated.
Albanians in Greece are divided into different groupings, due to distinct historical waves of migration. The first comprises the Chams, a group of ethnic Albanians who originally resided in areas of Greek Epirus but today live mainly in Albania, Turkey and United States. Chams speak the Albanian language and are predominantly Muslim. The designation of the Orthodox Christian Albanophone minority of Epirus as Chams is controversial, as most prefer to identify as Arvanites. The Arvanites are descendants of Albanian immigrants from the 11th to the 15th century that have been largely assimilated by the dominant Greek-speaking population and generally self-identify as Greeks. They reside mainly in Attica, Euboea and Morea. Finally, Albanian nationals who entered Greece during the 1990s, mainly as illegal immigrants, comprise the largest single expatriate group in the country. According to the 2001 census, there were 481,663 holders of Albanian citizenship in Greece. The Watson Institute raised this number to 600,000 Albanians in Greece in 2008. 
At the end of World War II, nearly all Muslim Chams in Greece were expelled to Albania. They were accused by EDES for having collaborated with occupation forces. Indeed, several hundred Chams had collaborated with the Axis Powers, as part of the Balli Kombëtar. However, approximately the same amount of Muslim Chams provided military support to the Greek resistance forces of the ELAS (Greek People's Liberation Army), while the rest were civilians uninvolved in the war.  Since the war, no criminal of Cham origin was ever brought to trial.
In the United States the number reaches 500,000 according to the latest 2006 US Census, while in Canada approximately 15,000 as of the 2001 census. Oceania: In Australia and New Zealand 12,000 in total. Africa: In Egypt there are 18,000 Albanians, mostly Tosk speakers. Many are descendants of the soldiers of Mehmet Ali. A large part of the former nobility of Egypt was Albanian in origin. A small community also resides in South Africa.
See main article: Religion in Albania.
The original culture continued until the Roman and Byzantine Empires crowned Christianity- as official religion of the regime, thus suffusing Paganism. Both were later overshadowed by Islam, which kept the scepter of the major religion during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule from the 15th century until year 1912. Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism and Paganism were continued practiced with less frequency.
During the 20th century the monarchy and later the totalitarian state followed a systematic secularization of the nation and the national culture. This policy was chiefly applied within the borders of the current Albanian state. It produced a secular majority in the population. All forms of Christianity, Islam and other religious practices were prohibited except for old non-institutional Pagan practices in the rural areas, which were seen as identifying with the national culture. The current Albanian state has revived some pagan festivals, such as the lunar Spring festival (Albanian: Dita e Verës) held yearly on March 14 in the city of Elbasan. It is a national holiday.
Most of the Muslim Albanians in Albania are nominal Sunni Muslims and Bektashis  . It is estimated that 92% of ethnic Albanians in the Republic of Kosovo are nominal Muslims . The statistics, however are pre-WWII and with the collapse of communism there has been a revival of religiosity. There are also Orthodox Christians, predominantly in Southern Albania, bordering Greece, and Roman Catholics is the main religion among those Albanians living predominantly in northern Albania, bordering the Republic of Montenegro. After 1992 an influx of foreign missionaries has brought more religious diversity with groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Hindus, Bahá'í, Scientologists, a variety of Christian denominations and others. This rich blend of religions has however rarely caused religious strife. People of different religions freely intermarry. For part of its history, Albania has also had a Jewish community. Some of the members of the Jewish community were saved by a group of Albanians during the Nazi occupation.  Many left for Israel circa 1990-1992 after borders were open due to fall of communist regime in Albania.
The Albanians are and have been referred to by other terms as well. Some of them are:
Because of confounding nationality with religious affiliation many authors from Byzantine times have also called and registered Albanians with the following names:
Prominent Albanians have included the defender of Albania during the mid-15th century Skenderbeg, Nobel Prize winner Mother Teresa, the writer Ismail Kadare, the painter Ibrahim Kodra, the composer Simon Gjoni, the Olympic athlete Klodiana Shala, and Pope Clement XI. Other well known individuals include the prime minister of the Ottoman Empire Ferhat Pasha and Mehemet Ali the viceroy of Egypt. John Belushi and his brother Jim Belushi were of Albanian parents who emigrated to the United States after WWII. The American actress Eliza Dushku was born of an Albanian father and a half-Danish mother, while Nobel Prize winner Ferid Murad has an Albanian father and an American mother.