The Republic of Albania is located in the western Balkan peninsula at the southern entrance to the Adriatic Sea. The Albanian people refer to themselves as 'shqiptare' which means 'sons of eagles', and to their country as Shqiperia. Descended from the ancient Ilyrians, they have lived in relative isolation and obscurity for most of their difficult history. Albania has long served as a 'bridgehead' for empires and nations seeking conquest abroad. In the 2nd century BC, the Ilyrians were conquered by the Romans. From the end of the 4th century AD they were ruled by the Byzantines. Following centuries of invasions by Huns, Visigoths, Bulgars and Slavs, the Albanians were eventually conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. The Turkish rule cut Albania off from the rest of the World for more than 4 centuries, until late in the 19th century when it began associations with the West. Albania was declared independent in 1912, but the following year, the 'Great Powers of Europe' assigned about half its people and territory to neighbouring states during the demarcation of Albania's boundaries. Between the 1st & 2nd World Wars, Albania was ruled as a monarchy, however it emerged from WW2 as a Communist state which fiercely protected its sovereignty and in which almost all aspects of life were controlled by the ruling party. Following the collapse of other Communist regimes in 1989, new democratic political parties and social forces emerged, shifting Albania's orientation to the West. The modern emerging Albania and its people continue to retain there own strong ethnic identity, cultural heritage and individuality.

The Many faces of Beautiful Albania

ABOVE TOP: Coastal resort on the Adriatic Sea
ABOVE: The stunning mountain town of Kruje
BELOW: Radhima Beach at Vlora on the Ionian Sea
BELOW BOTTOM: Ancient Roman mountain bridge

Eric Boesenberg
Encyclopedia Brittanica