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About Albania

The area of today's Albania has been populated since prehistoric times. In antiquity, much of it was settled by the ancient Illyrians, possible ancestors of Albanians. Surrounded by powerful, warring empires, Albania has experienced considerable violence and competition for control throughout its history. Greeks, Romans, Serbians, Venetians and Ottomans swept through, leaving their cultural mark as well as their ruins.

Ruins

Albania is rugged and mountainous, except for the fertile Adriatic coast. The coastal climate is typically Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. More than one third of Albania's land is covered by forests and swamps, about one third is pasture, and only about one fifth is cultivated. In addition to Tiranë, other important cities are Vlorë, Durrës, Shkodër, and Korçë .

The country's rugged and inaccessible terrain has traditionally isolated Albania from its neighbors, thus helping to preserve its ethnic homogeneity. About 90% of the population is ethnic Albanian, less than 10% is Greek, and there are scattered Vlach, Gypsy, Serb, Macedonian, and Bulgarian minorities. Some 70% of the people are Muslim, about 20% are Albanian Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholic. From 1967 to 1990 all mosques and churches were closed, and Albania was officially considered to be an atheist country. Albanian is an Indo-European language. The Shkumbin River, which virtually bisects the country, separates speakers of the northern dialect (Gheg) from those of the southern dialect (Tosk; the official dialect).

Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Approximately 60% of the workforce is engaged in agriculture; the balance is involved in services or industry. The country's economy contracted in the early 1990s as Albania attempted to move quickly from a tightly controlled state-run system to a market economy. During this period, the unemployment rate was about 40%, but by the end of the decade it was closer to 20%.

Agriculture was formerly socialized in the form of collective and state farms, but by 1992 most agricultural land had been privatized. Grains (especially wheat and corn), potatoes, vegetables, fruits, and sugar beets are grown and livestock is raised. Albania is rich in mineral resources, notably petroleum, natural gas, coal, bauxite, chromite, copper, iron ore, nickel, and salt. Agricultural processing, oil, mining, and the manufacture of textiles, clothing, lumber, cement, and chemicals are among the leading industries. Iron and steel plants have been developed, and the country has several hydroelectric stations. Because of economic disturbances during the 1990s, Albania remains essentially a developing country.

Map of Albania

Foreign trade is carried by sea, Durrës and Vlorë (also the terminus of the oil pipeline) being the major ports. Albania exports textiles and footwear, mined natural resources, foodstuffs, and tobacco and imports mostly machinery, other industrial products, and consumer goods. Its chief trading partners are Italy and Greece. In the early 1990s Albania joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

For more information about Albania:

National Tourist Organization Albania

U.S. State Department Factsheet

Library of Congress Pages for Albania

Albania on Wikipedia

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