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The Kummakivi Balancing Rock and its Unlikely Explanation in Finnish Folklore

The Kummakivi Balancing Rock and its Unlikely Explanation in Finnish Folklore


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The Kummakivi Balancing Rock is a natural feature found in a scenic forest region of Ruokolahti, a municipality in the region of South Karelia, in the southeastern part of Finland. This feature consists of two boulders, one perched precariously on the top of the other. Although the upper rock looks as though it would roll off at any given moment, this has not happened. Additionally, if a human being were to apply force to the rock, it would not budge even the slightest bit.

The Finnish Balancing Rock

The name of this Finnish balancing rock, ‘Kummakivi’, has been translated to mean ‘strange rock’. Two rocks make up this unusual geological formation. The rock on the bottom has the shape of a curved mound. It is lodged in the earth, and has a smooth, convex surface. Resting on the top of this bedrock is another huge rock. The contact point between these two rocks is rather small, and it looks as though the upper rock is performing an impossible balancing act.

Kummakivi (strange rock) found in Ruokolahti, South Kalelia, Finland. (Image: Retkipaikka)

Anyone looking at the Kummakivi Balancing Rock for the first time would probably be expecting the upper rock to roll off at any time. Yet, the rock is firmly anchored onto the bedrock, and it has yet to be pushed over (or even moved slightly) by any human being. The ancient inhabitants of this area, who no doubt were perplexed by the sight of this natural wonder, sought to find an explanation as to how this balancing rock came to be in such a baffling position.

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A Unique rock in the wilderness – the Kummakivi of Ruokolahti, Finland. (Image: finlandnaturally)

It is likely that this group of people tried to move the Kummakivi Balancing Rock with their own hands. Realising, however, that the physical force that they applied to it failed to move it, they speculated that a supernatural force must have moved the boulder to the site. The mythology of Finland is filled with supernatural creatures such as trolls and giants. Such creatures are believed to possess physical strength beyond that of any mere mortal. Moreover, some of these creatures have also been associated with rocky landscapes. For instance, a hiisi (‘hiidet’ in plural) is a type of giant in Finnish mythology said to dwell in rocky landscapes. Finnish folklore also states that such creatures have the habit of throwing boulders around, creating cairns, and carving out strange holes in rocky outcrops (which are believed to have been used by these giants to churn milk). Thus, the explanation provided by local folklore for the Kummakivi Balancing Rock is that it was brought / rolled / thrown there by a giant / troll.

A group of Hiidet as illustrated by eoghankerrigan ( Deviantart)

Geologists, however, have provided an alternate explanation for the formation of the Kummakivi Balancing Rock. It has been speculated that the huge rock had been brought there by glaciers during the last glacial period. When the glaciers retreated from the area to the north, about 12000 years ago, this rock was left behind, and hence became the Kummakivi Balancing Rock.

Other Precarious Boulders

It may be pointed out that the Kummakivi Balancing Rock is not the only example of a balancing rock (also known as precarious boulders) in the world. Such rocks have been found in many countries around the world, and are surrounded by colorful stories. In India, for example, there is a balancing rock called ‘Krishna’s Butter Ball’, a reference to an avatar of Hindu god Vishnu.

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Krishna’s Butter Ball, Mamallapuram, India. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Apart from providing people with interesting stories, balancing rocks have also been used for more scientific purposes. In the USA, for example, researchers have used balancing rocks as a kind of natural seismoscope. Whilst such rocks do not tell when earthquakes have occurred in the past, they are an indication that the region had not suffered from earthquakes strong enough to topple them. Information about the amount of force needed to move these rocks, the magnitude of past earthquakes, the recurrence intervals of large earthquakes may be obtained, which would be vital for probabilistic seismic hazard analyses. In other words, balancing rocks may save lives.

To conclude, the Kummakivi Balancing Rock is indeed a natural wonder to behold. Whilst people in ancient times have attributed its formation to mythological giants, a more scientific explanation is available today. Moreover, in the USA, balancing rocks have been used for seismic studies, and perhaps this balancing rock may be used for such a purpose in the future too.


    Сите му се смееле на научникот кој ја негирал гравитацијата – за овој феномен во Финска ниту NASA нема објаснување

    Сега неговите тврдења се истражуваат во лаборатории ширум светот.

    Во 1996 година рускиот научник Јуџин Подклетнов се подготвил да објави рецензирана студија за угледното британско списание за физика, докажувајќи дека гравитацијата може да биде негирана.


    Тогаш лондонските весници ги објавиле неговите заклучоци, но скептиците веднаш се упатиле до тоа место во природата за да ја видат чудната карпа.

    Сите знаеле дека не може да се „шегувате“ со законот за гравитација, а тоа го потврдил и Ајнштајн.

    Соочен со критиките, Подклетнов го повлекол својот труд, но контроверзиите не престанале затоа што неговите тврдења почнале да се истражуваат во разни лаборатории ширум светот, вклучувајќи ги и оние на NASA.

    The Kummakivi Balancing Rock and its Unlikely Explanation in Finnish Folklore https://t.co/pWvGiUdYYr pic.twitter.com/wLOLHepyR7

    &mdash Ancient Origins (@ancientorigins) February 5, 2021

    „Kummakivi“ на фински значи „чудна карпа“, а легендата има една приказна врзана за неа, додека пак геолозите друга – онаа која што е научно поткрепена, но сепак сите се согласни дека оваа карпа е необична и преубава.

    Секој кој што ќе наиде на оваа чудесна карпа ќе биде збунет и изненаден од погледот кон несекојдневната сцена која и натаму не може да биде разбрана од страна на човекот.


    Горниот огромен камен, со само мал дел се потпира на долниот камен, па едноставно изгледа како „одлично џиновско балансирање на еден прст“.

    Уште почудно е тоа што многумина се обидувале да ја поместат, но залудно.

    The Kummakivi Balancing Rock in Finland. Legend correctly states that the stone was placed there by giants.

    (from ancient wonders of archaeology) pic.twitter.com/Y5V0YUOTLJ

    &mdash The Aureus Press (@Trad_West_Art) December 29, 2020

    Се претпоставува дека карпата е поставена со сила на глечер во текот на леденото доба.


    How to tour the Finnish Lakeland?

    Finnish lifestyle revolves around outdoorsy culture. Even the capital, Helsinki, is situated merely a 2-hour drive away from 7 national parks, surrounded by woodlands and natural scenery.

    Did you know that more than the 10 th of Finland is covered with lakes? 2/3 rd of the country is known to be filled with wilderness. Spending time outdoors is an ingrained habit in Finnish culture, as the outdoors is literally next door.

    Let’s take a look at some of the Finnish traditions that you can enjoy on your tour of Finnish Lakeland.

    Unwind with the Sauna culture of Finnish Lakeland

    Other places have a sauna as well, what’s so special about the sauna culture of the Finns? Well, let’s hope you don’t end up muttering those words among the Finnish crowd. They take their passions seriously, and Sauna culture, more than just another way to relax, is a matter of passion for them.

    A Finnish sauna experience can start from morning and lead up to evening. You can enhance this experience by planning forest forage or swimming as a combination. After a day spent in physical activities, a relaxing sauna is a great way to loosen up.

    Let’s take a look at the different types of Sauna Culture experience that you can choose from.

    Woodstock sauna, a traditional experience

    It’s the most often tried and a traditional sauna culture experience. The process itself is easy enough, and as they say, “don’t try to fix which ain’t broke”. A classic method of wood-burning is employed.

    Woodstock sauna is a name that explains itself. In this Sauna experience, a metal stove is heated with Birchwood. Grasp a bundle of birch branches and tie them up. Next, you need to dip the branches in the water. It is intriguing to know that then you proceed with lashing(gently) with the water-dipped birch branches. Repeat this until you feel a tingling sensation on your skin.

    Winter Ice Sauna

    This one is for those with adventurous spirits. As the name suggests, It’s a sauna experience, featuring winter and ice. The curious combination of contrasting elements is what attracts people to try it out.

    First of all, ice from any frozen lake is married with a hut and thus a curious structure is erected. The wooden stove is installed within and the temperature maintained at around 60°. This place experience is a contradiction in action. After getting gently heated up, you can challenge yourself to a swim in a cold lake. Some guests even dare to roll around in the snow after this sauna.

    It’s not an experience for all, but for those of Adventurous heart? It’s a dare to compete and complete.

    Amazing ancient smoke sauna experience:

    Of all the kinds of sauna, the smoke sauna is the favorite of most of the fans of the experience. The heat spreads gently throughout your body and you feel a warm soothing sensation. The humidity is known to be much mild and gentler than the other types of sauna.

    You can rent a smoke sauna cabin in Finnish Lakeland. Loosen up your knotted muscles by spending some time in an old smoke hut.


    Glacial Erratics

    Almost anywhere we wander in New York, we are apt to encounter glacial erratics, rocks that were transported to their current locations by the great sheets of ice that covered the state as recently as 10,000 years ago. Typically we just step over, or walk around, these aberrant rocks. That is, unless we trip on them, in which case we curse their existence before we move on. Farmers detest them too, but will use them to build stone walls or cobblestone barns. Once in a while we might notice something interesting in them and stop to smack them with our hammers or mauls. Typically they resist such actions, providing us a reason to detest them even more.

    But there are some really famous glacial erratic boulders in the world. Some are famous for their size, others for their location. Perhaps you have a favorite one? I’ve selected a few to highlight.

    I think this is my favorite, although I’ve never visited it. Kummakivi (“strange stone”) rests precariously in Ruokotahti, a small municipality in southeastern Finland. So far, teenagers have not managed to topple it. Photo from Atlas Obscura

    Kummakivi is 7m long but due to the concave shape of a small part of its base it is able to sit almost miraculously on another rock. There is less than a square meter of contact between them. The lower boulder is an erratic itself with only a small portion exposed. You can imagine the ancient folklore that evolved to explain this formation. It involved giants and trolls who liked to throw rocks about and, on occasion, build large cairns and balance rocks.

    There is one such well known glacial erratic within 200’ of the top of Bald Mountain in the Adirondacks. Photo from Sweeney, 2010

    Has anyone climbed Bald Mountain and marveled at how a glacier could have dropped that off there while retreating? Bald Mountain is 2350’ high and the hike to the summit is 1.9 miles long. In addition to this erratic and the granite gneiss outcrops, the climb terminates at one of the best known and most picturesque fire towers in the Adirondacks.

    WCGMC visited this over-sized rock in Madison, New Hampshire on its 2016 collecting trip to New Hampshire and Maine. I posed in front (lower left with the yellow shirt) to highlight its enormity and my smallness!. Photo by L. Schmidtgall

    The Madison granite boulder is 83 feet long, 37 feet front to back, 23 feet tall, and is estimated to weigh 6000 tons. It is purported to be the largest glacial erratic in New England, although I am not certain that is an official title. Although clearly an erratic there is controversy about its source. Most trace the boulder to the Conway Granite of Mount Whitton about 4 miles northwest, but some maintain that the granitic composition better matches Mount Willard in Crawford Notch about 24 miles northwest. Regardless, the immense rock is now designated as a National Natural Landmark and is available for all to see, walk around, and climb in the Madison Boulder Nature Area.

    This is perhaps the most photographed glacial boulder in the world. Perhaps you have even been to the National Park where it resides and have taken its picture. In 1998, this 500 ton glacial erratic was guarded by a number of lodgepole pine trees as it rests near a trailhead in the park. Do you know which park? Answer – Yellowstone NP in Wyoming

    Aland is an archipelago consisting of some 6500 islands in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Sweden. As an autonomous province of Finland, they issue their own postage stamps and in 1995 they featured a large glacial erratic on one of their stamps. This artist’s rendition of an unknown erratic on one of the islands is the only glacial erratic that I know of that has been immortalized on a postage stamp. If anyone knows of another, I would like to know.

    Did you notice anything similar among all these large rocks? Look carefully. They all show some development of lichen on their surfaces. Some show cracks. All were placed at their current resting places at the end of the last glacial period some 10,000 years ago. And weathering has started. The lichen, in combination with rain, freeze/thaw and probably some human action, is starting to break them up. Eventually, they will be eroded to smaller and smaller rocks, and then sand that will be carried away. Geology is never stagnant. It can be slow, but it is relentless and continual. These rocks don’t have a chance. Eventually, they may become part of someone’s sand collection.

    Atlas Obscura webpage, Kummakivi Balancing Rock, Ruokolahti, Finland

    Martin, C., et. al., 2004. NH Has Got Stones, New Hampshire Public Radio webpage


    Using Apache Tears

    The Benefits Of Using Apache Tears

    Obsidian in its various forms can be a bit of a tricky stone to work with.

    It’s very powerful in dispelling negativity, but it can be temperamental and has a habit of dredging up negativity before you’re actually psychically prepared to deal with it.

    Apache Tears are a little gentler in this respect. This stone seems to have a more intuitive grasp of when it should do its job and when it should give you a rest!

    Using Apache Tears rather than other Obsidian types, you can find that you can address negativity more calmly and constructively.

    Beginner’s Guide to Healing Crystals

    Beginner’s Guide To Astrology

    Because of their mythological origin as the tears of suffering women and children, Apache tears are a deeply empathetic stone that can help you through struggles gracefully and gently.

    They are potent crystals for helping you to heal from grief.

    Many black stones are very good at dispelling negativity quickly and effectively. They remove the negative vibrations and leave a space for good vibrations to enter. Apache Tears go one step further than this and actively help you heal the wounds that tragic or traumatic experiences leave behind.

    Apache tears will also help you recognize dangerous situations before they are upon you.

    Much as the Apache warriors in the story recognized the defeat that they would face at the hands of the U.S. Cavalry and chose death as the preferable option, you will quickly develop a better intuitive sense of what you should put your energy into and what it may be best to leave alone.

    Never be afraid to leave a job or project unfinished if this is the right thing for you to do. Apache Tears can be used in meditation or simply some quiet thinking time if you feel that what you have invested time, money, and energy in is not worth it. It can help you be discerning and quit if that is the most beneficial course of action.

    Doctors and other people who work in medical and healing professions should consider investing in Apache tears to keep themselves psychically safe through the frequently traumatic experiences of working with the sick and dying.

    This stone will help you keep the barrier between yourself and work as clearly defined as possible so that you can do your best work to help those in need without sacrificing yourself along the way.

    How Best To Use Apache Tears

    The unique shape of Apache tears makes them fantastic for jewelry.

    From a purely aesthetic perspective, they make beautiful and striking pendants, rings, brooches, or stones in wide bracelets. If you choose to incorporate Apache Tears into your daily life in this way, you certainly will not be disappointed.

    Wearing Apache Tears near the heart is an excellent way to feel their power, as they will rest closest to the seat of your emotions.

    A heavy pendant that rests against the middle of your chest is especially powerful, as the weight will serve as a constant reminder of mindfulness, which will keep your energy focused on the power of the stone.

    You can also place Apache Tears in your home or office if you frequently feel distressed or lost in those places.

    Put it as close as possible to the spot where you usually are when these emotions start creeping up on you, whether that’s by the phone that your boss calls you on or by your bed where you have trouble sleeping.

    Beginner’s Guide to Healing Crystals

    Beginner’s Guide To Astrology

    If you feel that you need help in becoming grounded and more powerfully connected with the world of physical reality, you should blend this stone with the power of the root chakra.

    You can do this by wearing or carrying it somewhere close to the base of your spine, such as on a belt buckle for low-rise jeans or in your back pocket.

    This will keep its power closest to the seat of your grounding energy.


    Benefits Of Smoky Quartz

    Some critics complain that Smoky Quartz is not a very spiritually useful stone, preferring the cultural history tied to Rose Quartz or Clear Quartz.

    While these people may be right that Smoky Quartz has not enjoyed the same fame, they are wrong in suggesting that it doesn’t have benefits.

    Beginner’s Guide to Healing Crystals

    Beginner’s Guide To Astrology

    This is a crystal that enables you to see beyond what is often shrouded in life – as though the smoke within the stone itself absorbs all of the fuzziness that often impedes our understanding of intuition and psychic insight.

    In more practical ways though, this stone is hugely useful too. You’ll find that Smoky Quartz is able to offer you much in the way of emotional intelligence, helping you to not react on just the first flash of feeling that comes to you.

    When you need to take your time and take a step back to survey the real issue here, and its root cause, Smoky Quartz can offer wonderful clarity and insight.

    Getting to the bottom of anything seems to be all the more simplistic when Smoky Quartz is around – it has a somewhat Sherlock Holmes-like energy of deduction and reason, but with a little more compassion than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective often had too!

    Smoky Quartz enhances your ability to relate to the concrete world because of its ties to your root chakra.

    This means that it is a powerful stone for improving your survival instincts. It’s definitely the stone to take with you for a backpacking trip in the woods!

    But it’s also the perfect stone to help you through a tough business deal or a hard conversation with your partner.

    It is a good stone for cooperation – not necessarily for erasing problems, but for ensuring that everyone involved in them is able to approach them with a clear head. It can also improve creativity and lateral thinking in problem-solving.

    Like all dark stones, one of the key strengths of Smoky Quartz is its ability to banish negativity. It “absorbs” the bad vibrations of negative energy surrounding you, leaving the way clear for you to improve your life.

    While some dark stones, like Shungite, are beneficial at banishing negativity, they can have some drawbacks that Smoky Quartz avoids.

    Shungite, in particular, can lead to conflict, as problems are brought out of hiding and into the limelight. Smoky Quartz, however, relieves painful emotions as well as sucking up toxic energies.

    If you are someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, or jealousy, then wearing a piece of Smoky Quartz, especially in situations where those feelings are unusually strong, can be a powerful way to get to the root of your problems without allowing your negative emotions to overwhelm you.

    Because of its link with the earth, Smoky Quartz is said to have a unique ability to block the psychic “buzzing” caused by being around smog, electronics, and other people.

    If you are sensitive to these features in your environment, or have just moved to a big city and are adjusting, Smoky Quartz may be the stone for you.


    The myth and science of Haida Gwaii’s Balance Rock

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    Nested behind tall cedars on the Yellowhead Highway near Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, is a narrow gravel trail that leads to one of the most mysterious and photographed sights on Graham Island.

    The famous “Balance Rock” has been attracting visitors for decades: its perfect balancing act – both a mystery and a silent dare to try to knock it over.

    Many, including the Global BC crew, have tried, but failed to topple it.

    View image in full screen

    It turns out the forces of gravity and friction are largely to thank for the rock’s stability.

    Dan Gibson, associate professor of Structural Geology at the Department of Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University, says the boulder’s centre of gravity is centred exactly over the point of contact with the underlying rock, creating the seemingly unbreakable bond.

    “Because that boulder is so big and heavy, the mass of that rock and its centre of gravity create such a high, contact frictional force that it becomes a very stable object that’s difficult to move,” says Gibson. “The force of gravity is basically gluing it to the rock below.”

    PHOTO: A close-up of the base of the Balance Rock resting on another rock

    View image in full screen

    Gibson says the rock most likely ended up where it is today during a glacial retreat.

    He says, during the retreat, boulders become entrenched in the ice or on top of the ice, so when the ice eventually melts, it leaves behind different sizes of rocks, including very large boulders like the Balance Rock.

    Gibson says one can only guess that the rock came from the nearby coast mountains, which could have formed either in the Cretaceous Period, about 100 million years ago, or as far back as the Jurassic Period, perhaps 150-200 million years ago.

    However, the glacial movement that moved the rock most likely took place only thousands of years ago – a split moment, in geological terms.

    “Given enough time, thousands to millions of years, nature has a way of producing very stunning examples, such as this, which is a combination of erosion and how the boulder was left behind,” says Gibson.

    However, the Balance Rock is not one of a kind.

    In fact, Gibson says, there are hundreds of similar examples around the world, other parts of Canada and even here in B.C.

    Regardless, the Balance Rock in Skidegate has left many tourists and locals alike scratching their heads.

    “It’s so big and it’s right there on the ocean and you wonder why the waves have not knocked it over yet,” says Gibson. “It looks so amazing that it often defies logic.”

    The Balance Rock in Haida history

    Surprisingly, not much in the way of oral history survives about the legend of the Balance Rock in the Haida folklore.

    Fabled local historian and elder Richard Wilson, better known as Captain Gold, says it’s unusual for such an outstanding rock to not be recognized in oral stories.

    Wilson blames the smallpox epidemic that wiped out up to 90 per cent of the local population centuries ago, resulting in many of the oral records getting lost forever.

    However, Wilson does remember a story about a local miner, who, at the turn of the century, tried to use dynamite to blow the rock up. Luckily, he did not get far and was stopped by other residents.

    Wilson also remembers a group of women going down to the rock in the mid-1990s to make offerings and pray.

    It was during the time when many of the Haida remains taken by early colonizers were beginning to get repatriated.

    Wilson says the women were trying to make sure the spirits of their returning ancestors are at peace.

    PHOTO GALLERY: Haida Gwaii’s Balance Rock

    View image in gallery mode

    View image in gallery mode

    View image in gallery mode

    View image in gallery mode

    While the forces of nature have not managed to knock the Balance Rock over yet, Gibson says nothing is forever.

    “Its rock base will erode progressively through time and the boulder will fall over.”

    How much time that process will take is anyone’s guess, but for now, the Balance Rock continues to gracefully balance in the horizon, overlooking the Hecate Strait and delighting herds of photo-snapping tourists, always ready to give it another push.


    Galbanum – Inner Nature

    When considering Galbanum and its Inner Nature, I am reminded that it is one of the four named ingredients of the Sacred Incense used in the Jewish Tabernacle – the Qetoret (Ketoret).

    Exodus 30.34-38, outlines the instructions given to Moses for the creation of the Qetoret (Ketoret). Exodus only names 4 of the 11 ingredients. However, as Galbanum is one of the 4 that is named I believe this indicates it plays an important part in this Sacred Incense. Certainly, when I am considering what oils to add to a blend that has the intention of connecting to the Divine, Galbanum is always an oil that I will review.

    From Exodus 30.34-38 New International Version

    Incense

    34 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, 35 and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. 36 Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. 37 Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves consider it holy to the LORD. 38 Whoever makes incense like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from their people.

    As this recipe was passed down through the oral tradition, we are left with some gaps in our knowledge of the actual recipe. There is speculation as to which fragrant spices were actually added, as well as speculation as to what some of the four named ingredients actually referred to.

    Most sources agree that Galbanum refers to Ferula gumbosa and Frankincense refers to Boswellia scara, or a close relative. But there is uncertainty about where the gum resin came from. It is agreed that it is from a balsam tree, but which one is unclear. It has been suggested that it could have been from a Myrrh extract, or Styrax officinalis or its close relative Styrax benzoin, Benzoin. What onycha referred to is certainly a mystery. Some say it referred to a part of a sea snail. But as sea snails were considered to be ‘unclean, others say that this is unlikely. Based on scholarly translations and interpretations of the words, it has been suggested that this could, in fact, have referred to labdanum, the gum produced by Cistus (Rock Rose).

    From an aromatherapy perspective, a synergistic blend of Galbanum, Benzoin (or Myrrh), Labdanum (or Cistus) and Frankincense could prove to be a very powerful gateway to connecting to the Divine.

    Galbanum (Ferula gumbosa)

    Family: Umbelliferae (Apiaceae)

    Plant Description: Galbanum is a large perennial herb, which can grow up to 2 meters (6 feet) high. It has a smooth stem, shiny leaflets, and small white flowers. It has resin ducts, which exude a milky juice, a natural oleoresin.

    History/Folklore: It was used by ancient civilizations as incense and in Egypt, it was used for cosmetics and in the embalming process. In the East, it is generally used to treat wounds, inflammations and skin disorders as well as for respiratory, digestive and nervous complaints.

    Extraction: Water or steam distillation of the oleoresin (gum).

    Aroma: Green-woody, penetrating, earthy, spicy.

    Odour intensity: Very High

    Perfume Note: Top

    Blends well with: Bergamot, cedarwood, cypress, frankincense, violet, lavender, geranium, oakmoss, opopanax, pine, fir, and oriental bases. It is very odoriferous, so use sparingly.

    Perfume Key Qualities: Uplifting, clearing, purifying and soothing.

    Chemistry: Lactones (1%) Monoterpenes (84%)

    Cautions: Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.

    Traditionally used on a physical level for:
    Skin Care: Abscesses, acne, boils, cuts, scar tissue, inflammation, mature skin, wrinkles, wounds. (tones, softens and preserves the skin.)
    Circulation, muscles and joints: Poor circulation, muscular aches and pains, rheumatism.
    Respiratory System: Asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, chronic coughs.
    Digestive System: Cramp, flatulence, indigestion.
    Other: Insect repellent.

    Traditionally used on a psychological level to calm and balance. Used for nervous tension and stress-related conditions.

    On a subtle level, Galbanum is balancing for both the psyche and spirit.

    In his Spiritual PhytoEssencing Materia Medica profile on Galbanum, Dr. Bruce Berkowsky suggests that we consider using Galbanum for individuals who have a history of undergone surgery. It can also be considered when there is a history of being victims of a stabbing. One of the central themes associated with the Galbanum individual is that they do not perceive themselves, or feel that others perceive them, as being as important as other members of the group. Self-sacrifice and devotion are also integral parts of their nature.


    Der Kryptomarkt ist gecrasht, was nun?

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    Dienstag, 6. Februar 2018
    Der Kryptomarkt ist gecrasht, was nun?

    Eine Kolumne von Dr. Philipp Giese
    Die letzten Monate waren gerade für jüngere Bitcoin-Anleger sehr frustrierend. Ein Kursverlust von über 60 %, im Fall von Bitcoin sogar über 70 % und im Fall von Ripple über 80 % lässt viele Fragen, ob das das Ende der Kryptowährungen ist.
    Die angeführten Gründe sind ebenso zahlreich wie weithin bekannt:

    In den Medien wurde so ziemlich jeder Wirtschaftsexperte, der gegen Bitcoin eingestellt ist, um eine Stellungnahme gebeten. Derartige Negativaussagen kulminierten jüngst in einer “Kampfansage” seitens der Bank für internationalen Zahlungsausgleich.
    Die immer mehr umsichgreifende Regulation an den chinesischen und anderen Märkten führt verständlicherweise ebenso zu einer Verunsicherung wie der jüngste Werbe-Ban auf Facebook oder die Sperre bezüglich der Kreditkarten.
    Viele Leute haben im letzten Jahr sorglos investiert, teilweise mit Geld, welches sie nicht hatten – nun möchte der Fiskus seinen Anteil an Gewinnen haben.
    Die Sorgen um Tether kulminierten in den Gerüchten einer Marktmanipulation des Bitcoin-Preises, sodass viele in der aktuellen Preisentwicklung eine Marktmanipulation von Bitfinex sehen (ungeachtet dessen, dass Bitcoin auf deutlich mehr Exchanges kaufbar ist als nur auf Bitfinex).
    Oft wurden die Futures am CBoE und am CME als mögliche Gründe für einen sinkenden Bitcoin-Preis angeführt. Auch wenn hier zu betonen ist, dass das mit den Futures zusammenhängende Handelsvolumen zu gering für eine nachhaltige Kurskorrektur ist, sollte der psychologische Effekt beachtet werden.
    Auch kleinere technische Gründe wie dramatisch hohe Transaktionsgebühren Bitcoins und die Grabenkämpfe zwischen Bitcoin Cash und Bitcoin spielen hier eine Rolle.
    Schließlich, und ich denke, das ist der Hauptgrund, haben im letzten Quartal viele die Kryptowährungen für sich entdeckt. Deren Profite sind, wenn sie zum Beispiel in TRON investiert hatten, seit dem Allzeithoch um über 90 % gefallen. In dem Zusammenhang ist auch eine übertriebene Erwartung bezüglich der Preisentwicklung zu nennen – sei es bezüglich Bitcoin, sei es bezüglich anderer Währungen. Deshalb gibt es nicht wenige frustrierte Neuanleger, die ihr Geld jetzt aus dem Markt nehmen – auch auf Kosten von Verlusten.

    An der Stelle kann erwähnt werden, dass es auch den klassischen Aktienmärkten nicht gut geht: Seit Ende Januar sind alle großen Märkte wie der S&P500, der NASDAQ, der Dow Jones, der SSE Composite Index und auch der DAX am Fallen. Das ist interessant, da sich der Kryptomarkt bisher immer antizyklisch zu klassischen Märkten verhalten hat. Sowohl der Markt der Kryptowährungen als auch der Rohstoffe wurde immer als Sicherheiten gegenüber dem Aktienmarkt gesehen. Sicherlich könnte man hier der Hoffnung Ausdruck verleihen, dass gegebenenfalls ein derartiges antizyklisches Verhalten nun einsetzen könnte, doch ist es für solche Prognosen noch zu früh.
    Große Stürze sind nicht das Ende von Kryptowährungen
    All diese Gründe wurden seitens BTC-ECHO mit eigenen Artikeln bedacht und gerade gestern einen Blick auf die jüngste Erschütterung geworfen. Wir haben uns immer bemüht, sowohl überbordendem FOMO als auch übertriebenem FUD sanft entgegenzuwirken. Und heute muss gegen Letzteres etwas angeschrieben werden.
    Die oben genannten Gründe haben eine gemeinsame Eigenschaft: Keiner davon stellt den fundamentalen Wert Bitcoins in Frage. Sicherlich waren die Transaktionsgebühren im Fall von Bitcoin in die Höhe geschossen, sicherlich gab es Scam-ICOs, aber nichts davon hat den Sinn eines dezentralen, verteilten Peer-to-Peer-Netzwerkes insgesamt in Frage gestellt. Stattdessen wird über den Wert von Distributed Ledgers in verschiedenen Sektoren weiter nachgedacht. Auch das Interesse an Bitcoin wächst mit dem Lightning Network und den aktuell sehr geringen Gebühren. Auch andere Kryptowährungen entwickeln sich weiter, so soll Mitte des Jahres DASH Evolution erscheinen, um nur einen wichtigen Meilenstein zu nennen.
    Ebenso werden verschiedene Nachrichten negativer gesehen, als sie tatsächlich sind: Ein Verbot hinsichtlich des Erwerbs von Kryptowährungen über eine Kreditkarte ist, wenn man bedenkt, dass auch klassische Aktien nicht mithilfe einer Kreditkarte gekauft werden können, nicht überraschend, sondern die übliche Politik, was den Erwerb von Anlagen betrifft. Ebenso ist das Verbot von Werbung im Krypto-Bereich auf Facebook und Instagram, wenn man sich an einen Großteil der Werbungen erinnert, nicht das schlechteste. Wenn wir uns wünschen, dass Kryptowährungen ernst genommen werden, dann sollten wir Maßnahmen, die eine solche Seriosität unterstützen, nicht als Angriff sehen.
    Winter is coming? Dann lasst ihn kommen
    Ich bin ganz offen: Aktuell sehe ich keine kurzfristige Besserung. Es mag tatsächlich sein, dass den Anlegern im Kryptobereich ein längerer Winter bevorsteht. Ein Blick auf den vor einiger Zeit schon einmal diskutierten Wochenchart zeigt, dass Bitcoin nun nachhaltig unter den EMA20, einen wichtigen Support, gefallen ist:

    Neben dem Candlestick-Chart ist der MACD und der RSI eingezeichnet. Um das MACD-Verhalten über mehrere Jahre analysieren zu können, ist dieser ebenso wie der Candlestick-Chart logarithmisch geplottet. Wir sehen, dass ein Sinken unter den EMA20 seit längerer Zeit nicht mehr vorkam. Eingekreist sind die Male, an denen das passiert ist. Ein Blick auf den MACD zeigt, dass der Sturz im Mai 2014 sich von dem Anfang 2014 insofern unterscheidet, als dass der MACD deutlich steiler gefallen ist. Ein weiterer Unterschied ist, dass der RSI deutlich tiefer war. Wenn man das aktuelle Sinken unter den EMA20 mit den vorherigen Malen vergleicht, ähnelt die aktuelle Situation eher den rot als den violett eingekreisten – es kann also sein, dass der Kurs noch tiefer fällt.
    Nun, ist ein Winter das Ende? Wenn, wie weiter oben dargestellt, die Technologie und das disruptive Potential hinter Kryptowährungen nicht angegriffen ist, sicherlich nicht! Entsprechend sollte man die aktuellen Zeiten und den womöglich kommenden Winter eher temporär sehen. Vor einiger Zeit habe ich über das Mindset, was man im Fall von Kryptowährungen haben sollte, geschrieben und diese Worte stimmen heute noch: Wir sollten nicht nervös werden und mit großem Verlust verkaufen, sondern Ruhe bewahren. Mir persönlich hilft der Austausch in unserem Slack mit anderen Anlegern und mit Tradern, die den Markt fast rund um die Uhr unter die Lupe nehmen. Ebenso kann ich die Einschätzungen, die wir in unserem Kryptokompass teilen, gerade Neulingen auf dem Markt empfehlen.
    Denken wir doch eher in die Richtung: Wie häufig habe ich von Leuten gehört, dass sie in Bitcoin investieren würden, wäre dieser nur nicht so teuer! Der Bitcoin-Kurs ist dramatisch gefallen, entsprechend könnte man über ein Kaufen nachdenken. Und hinsichtlich der Sorge, den Dip zu erreichen: Dass ein Trader das zum Ziel hat, ist vollkommen nachvollziehbar. Der Langzeit-Investor sollte jedoch auch langfristig denken, weshalb hier eher ein Cost-Average-Ansatz, in dem jeden Monat ein fester Betrag in Bitcoin investiert wird, sinnvoll ist. Wie ich an anderer Stelle gezeigt habe, hätte selbst jener, der Anfang 2014 zum damaligen Allzeithoch mit einem derartigen Investment begonnen hätte, schon im Januar 2016, als der Bitcoin-Kurs noch deutlich unter dem Kurs von 2013 stand, ein Plus von fast 25 % verbuchen können.
    Das Gebot der Stunde ist also “Ruhe bewahren” (oder HODL, wem das lieber ist) und sich wieder bewusst machen, was uns an der Technologie und am disruptiven Potential begeisterte.
    BTC-ECHO

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    Contents

    The term Albania is the medieval Latin name of the country. It may be derived from the Illyrian tribe of Albani (Albanian: Albanët) recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria, who drafted a map in 150 AD which shows the city of Albanopolis located northeast of Durrës. [14] [15] The term may have a continuation in the name of a medieval settlement called Albanon or Arbanon, although it is not certain that this was the same place. [16] In his history written in the 10th century, the 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. [17] During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country Arbëri or Arbëni and referred to themselves as Arbëreshë or Arbëneshë. [18] [19]

    Nowadays, Albanians call their country Shqipëri or Shqipëria. The words Shqipëri and Shqiptar are attested from 14th century onward, [20] but it was only at the end of 17th and beginning of the early 18th centuries that the placename Shqipëria and the ethnic demonym Shqiptarë gradually replaced Arbëria and Arbëreshë amongst Albanian speakers. [20] [21] The two terms are popularly interpreted as "Land of the Eagles" and "Children of the Eagles". [22] [23]

    Prehistory

    The first attested traces of neanderthal presence in the territory of Albania dates back to the middle and upper Paleolithic period and were discovered in Xarrë and at Mount Dajt in the adjacent region of Tirana. [24] Archaeological sites from this period include the Kamenica Tumulus, Konispol Cave and Pellumbas Cave.

    The discovered objects in a cave near Xarrë include flint and jasper objects along with fossilised animal bones, while those discoveries at Mount Dajt comprise bone and stone tools similar to those of the Aurignacian culture. They also demonstrate notable similarities with objects of the equivalent period found at Crvena Stijena in Montenegro and northwestern Greece. [24]

    Multiple artifacts from the Iron and Bronze Ages near tumulus burials have been unearthed in central and southern Albania, which has similar affinity with the sites in southwestern Macedonia and Lefkada. Archaeologists have come to the conclusion that these regions were inhabited from the middle of the third millennium BC by Indo-European people who spoke a Proto-Greek language. Hence, a part of this historical population later moved to Mycenae around 1600 BC and properly established the Mycenaean civilisation. [25] [26] [27]

    Antiquity

    In ancient times, the incorporated territory of Albania was historically inhabited by Indo-European peoples, among them numerous Illyrian tribes, Ancient Greeks and Thracians. In view of the Illyrian tribes, there is no evidence that these tribes used any collective nomenclature for themselves, while it is regarded to be unlikely that they used a common endonym. [28] The endonym Illyrians seems to be the name applied to a specific Illyrian tribe, which was the first to come in liaison with the Ancient Greeks resulting the endonym Illyrians to be applied pars pro toto to all people of similar language and customs. [29] [30]

    The territory referred to as Illyria corresponded roughly to the area east of the Adriatic Sea in the Mediterranean Sea extending in the south to the mouth of the Vjosë. [31] [32] The first account of the Illyrian groups comes from Periplus of the Euxine Sea, an ancient Greek text written in the middle of the 4th century BC. [33] The west was inhabited by the Thracian tribe of the Bryges while the south was inhabited by the Ancient Greek-speaking tribe of the Chaonians, whose capital was at Phoenice. [33] [34] [35] Other colonies such as Apollonia, Epidamnos and Amantia, were established by Ancient Greek city-states on the coast by the 7th century BC. [33] [36] [37]

    The Illyrian Ardiaei tribe, centered in Montenegro, ruled over most of the territory of Albania. Their Ardiaean Kingdom reached its greatest extent under King Agron, the son of Pleuratus II. Agron extended his rule over other neighboring tribes as well. [38] Following Agron's death in 230 BC, his wife, Teuta, inherited the Ardiaean kingdom. Teuta's forces extended their operations further southward to the Ionian Sea. [39] In 229 BC, Rome declared war [40] on the kingdom for extensively plundering Roman ships. The war ended in Illyrian defeat in 227 BC. Teuta was eventually succeeded by Gentius in 181 BC. [41] Gentius clashed with the Romans in 168 BC, initiating the Third Illyrian War. The conflict resulted in Roman conquest of the region by 167 BC. The Romans split the region into three administrative divisions. [42]

    Middle Ages

    The Roman Empire was split in 395 upon the death of Theodosius I into an Eastern and Western Roman Empire in part because of the increasing pressure from threats during the Barbarian Invasions. From the 6th century into the 7th century, the Slavs crossed the Danube and largely absorbed the indigenous Ancient Greeks, Illyrians and Thracians in the Balkans thus, the Illyrians were mentioned for the last time in historical records in the 7th century. [43] [44]

    In the 11th century, the Great Schism formalised the break of communion between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Church that is reflected in Albania through the emergence of a Catholic north and Orthodox south. The Albanian people inhabited the west of Lake Ochrida and the upper valley of River Shkumbin and established the Principality of Arbanon in 1190 under the leadership of Progon of Kruja. [45] The realm was succeeded by his sons Gjin and Dhimitri.

    Upon the death of Dhimiter, the territory came under the rule of the Albanian-Greek Gregory Kamonas and subsequently under the Golem of Kruja. [46] [47] [48] In the 13th century, the principality was dissolved. [49] [50] [51] Arbanon is considered to be the first sketch of an Albanian state, that retained a semi-autonomous status as the western extremity of the Byzantine Empire, under the Byzantine Doukai of Epirus or Laskarids of Nicaea. [52]

    Towards the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries, Serbs and Venetians started to take possession over the territory. [53] The ethnogenesis of the Albanians is uncertain however the first undisputed mention of Albanians dates back in historical records from 1079 or 1080 in a work by Michael Attaliates, who referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople. [54] At this point the Albanians were fully Christianized.

    Few years after the dissolution of Arbanon, Charles of Anjou concluded an agreement with the Albanian rulers, promising to protect them and their ancient liberties. In 1272, he established the Kingdom of Albania and conquered regions back from the Despotate of Epirus. The kingdom claimed all of central Albania territory from Dyrrhachium along the Adriatic Sea coast down to Butrint. A catholic political structure was a basis for the papal plans of spreading Catholicism in the Balkan Peninsula. This plan found also the support of Helen of Anjou, a cousin of Charles of Anjou. Around 30 Catholic churches and monasteries were built during her rule mainly in northern Albania. [55] Internal power struggles within the Byzantine Empire in the 14th century enabled Serbs' most powerful medieval ruler, Stefan Dusan, to establish a short-lived empire that included all of Albania except Durrës. [53] In 1367, various Albanian rulers established the Despotate of Arta. During that time, several Albanian principalities were created, notably the Balsha, Thopia, Kastrioti, Muzaka and Arianiti. In the first half of the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire invaded most of Albania, and the League of Lezhë was held under Skanderbeg as a ruler, who became the national hero of the Albanian medieval history.

    Ottoman Empire

    With the fall of Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire continued an extended period of conquest and expansion with its borders going deep into Southeast Europe. They reached the Albanian Ionian Sea Coast in 1385 and erected their garrisons across Southern Albania in 1415 and then occupied most of Albania in 1431. [56] [57] Thousands of Albanians consequently fled to Western Europe, particularly to Calabria, Naples, Ragusa and Sicily, whereby others sought protection at the often inaccessible Mountains of Albania. [58] [59]

    The Albanians, as Christians, were considered as an inferior class of people, and as such they were subjected to heavy taxes among others by the Devshirme system that allowed the Sultan to collect a requisite percentage of Christian adolescents from their families to compose the Janissary. [60] The Ottoman conquest was also accompanied with the gradual process of Islamisation and the rapid construction of mosques which consequently modified the religious picture of Albania.

    A prosperous and longstanding revolution erupted after the formation of the Assembly of Lezhë until the Siege of Shkodër under the leadership of Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, multiple times defeating major Ottoman armies led by Sultans Murad II and Mehmed II. Skanderbeg managed to gather several of the Albanian principals, amongst them the Arianitis, Dukagjinis, Zaharias and Thopias, and establish a centralised authority over most of the non-conquered territories, becoming the Lord of Albania. [61]

    Skanderbeg consistently pursued the goal relentlessly but rather unsuccessfully to constitute a European coalition against the Ottomans. He thwarted every attempt by the Ottomans to regain Albania, which they envisioned as a springboard for the invasion of Italy and Western Europe. His unequal fight against them won the esteem of Europe also among others financial and military aid from the Papacy and Naples, Venice and Ragusa. [62]

    When the Ottomans were gaining a firm foothold in the region, Albanian towns were organised into four principal sanjaks. The government fostered trade by settling a sizeable Jewish colony of refugees fleeing persecution in Spain. The city of Vlorë saw passing through its ports imported merchandise from Europe such as velvets, cotton goods, mohairs, carpets, spices and leather from Bursa and Constantinople. Some citizens of Vlorë even had business associates throughout Europe. [63]

    The phenomenon of Islamisation among the Albanians became primarily widespread from the 17th century and continued into the 18th century. [64] Islam offered them equal opportunities and advancement within the Ottoman Empire. However, motives for conversion were, according to some scholars, diverse depending on the context though the lack of source material does not help when investigating such issues. [64] Because of increasing suppression of Catholicism, mostly catholic Albanians converted in the 17th century, while orthodox Albanians followed suit mainly in the following century.

    Since the Albanians were seen as strategically important, they made up a significant proportion of the Ottoman military and bureaucracy. A couple of Muslim Albanians attained important political and military positions who culturally contributed to the broader Muslim world. [64] Enjoying this privileged position, they held various high administrative positions with over two dozen Albanian Grand Viziers among others members of the prominent Köprülü family, Zagan Pasha, Muhammad Ali of Egypt and Ali Pasha of Tepelena however, two sultans such as Bayezid II and Mehmed III had both mothers of Albanian origin. [63] [65] [66]

    Rilindja

    The Albanian Renaissance was a period with its roots in the late 18th century and continuing into the 19th century, during which the Albanian people gathered spiritual and intellectual strength for an independent cultural and political life within an independent nation. Modern Albanian culture flourished too, especially Albanian literature and arts, and was frequently linked to the influences of the Romanticism and Enlightenment principles. [67]

    Prior to the rise of nationalism, Albania was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for almost five centuries, and Ottoman authorities suppressed any expression of national unity or conscience by the Albanian people. Through literature, Albanians started to make a conscious effort to awaken feelings of pride and unity among their people that would call to mind the rich history and hopes for a more decent future.

    The victory of Russia over the Ottoman Empire following the Russian-Ottoman Wars resulted the execution of the Treaty of San Stefano which overlooked to assign Albanian-populated lands to the Slavic and Greek neighbours. However, the United Kingdom and Austro-Hungarian Empire consequently blocked the arrangement and caused the Treaty of Berlin. From this point, Albanians started to organise themselves with the goal to protect and unite the Albanian-populated lands into a unitary nation, leading to the formation of the League of Prizren.

    The league had initially the assistance of the Ottoman authorities whose position was based on the religious solidarity of Muslim people and landlords connected with the Ottoman administration. They favoured and protected the Muslim solidarity and called for defense of Muslim lands simultaneously constituting the reason for titling the league Committee of the Real Muslims. [69]

    Approximately 300 Muslims participated in the assembly composed by delegates from Bosnia, the administrator of the Sanjak of Prizren as representatives of the central authorities and no delegates from Vilayet of Scutari. [70] [ check quotation syntax ] Signed by only 47 Muslim deputies, the league issued the Kararname that contained a proclamation that the people from northern Albania, Epirus and Bosnia and Herzegovina are willing to defend the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire by all possible means against the troops of Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro. [71]

    Ottomans authorities cancelled their assistance when the league, under Abdyl Frashëri, became focused on working toward Albanian autonomy and requested merging four vilayets, including Kosovo, Shkodër, Monastir and Ioannina, into an unified vilayet, the Albanian Vilayet. The league used military force to prevent the annexing areas of Plav and Gusinje assigned to Montenegro. After several successful battles with Montenegrin troops, such as the Battle of Novšiće, the league was forced to retreat from their contested regions. The league was later defeated by the Ottoman army sent by the sultan. [72]

    Independence

    Albania declared independence from the Ottoman Empire on 28 November 1912, accompanied with the establishment of the Senate and Government by the Assembly of Vlorë on 4 December 1912. [73] [74] [75] [76] Its sovereignty was recognised by the Conference of London. On 29 July 1913, the Treaty of London delineated the borders of the country and its neighbors, leaving many Albanians outside Albania, predominantly partitioned between Montenegro, Serbia and Greece. [77]

    Headquartered in Vlorë, the International Commission of Control was established on 15 October 1913 to take care of the administration of newly established Albania, until its own political institutions were in order. [78] [79] The International Gendarmerie was established as the first law enforcement agency of the Principality of Albania. In November, the first gendarmerie members arrived in the country. Prince of Albania Wilhelm of Wied (Princ Vilhelm Vidi) was selected as the first prince of the principality. [80] On 7 March, he arrived in the provisional capital of Durrës and started to organise his government, appointing Turhan Pasha Përmeti to form the first Albanian cabinet.

    In November 1913, the Albanian pro-Ottoman forces had offered the throne of Albania to the Ottoman war Minister of Albanian origin, Ahmed Izzet Pasha. [81] The pro-Ottoman peasants believed that the new regime was a tool of the six Christian Great Powers and local landowners, that owned half of the arable land. [82]

    In February 1914, the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus was proclaimed in Gjirokastër by the local Greek population against incorporation to Albania. This initiative was short lived, and in 1921 the southern provinces were incorporated into the Albanian Principality. [83] [84] Meanwhile, the revolt of Albanian peasants against the new Albanian regime erupted under the leadership of the group of Muslim clerics gathered around Essad Pasha Toptani, who proclaimed himself the savior of Albania and Islam. [85] [86] In order to gain support of the Mirdita Catholic volunteers from the northern part of Albania, Prince Wied appointed their leader, Prênk Bibë Doda, to be the foreign minister of the Principality of Albania. In May and June 1914, the International Gendarmerie was joined by Isa Boletini and his men, mostly from Kosovo, [87] and northern Mirdita Catholics, were defeated by the rebels who captured most of Central Albania by the end of August 1914. [88] The regime of Prince Wied collapsed, and he left the country on 3 September 1914. [89]

    First Republic

    Following the end of the government of Fan Noli, the parliament adopted a new constitution and proclaimed the country as a parliamentary republic in which King Zog I of Albania (Ahmet Muhtar Zogu) served as the head of state for a seven-year term. Immediately after, Tirana was endorsed officially as the country's permanent capital. [90]

    The politics of Zogu was authoritarian and conservative with the primary aim of the maintenance of stability and order. He was forced to adopt a policy of cooperation with Italy where a pact had been signed between both countries, whereby Italy gained a monopoly on shipping and trade concessions. [91] Italians exercised control over nearly every Albanian official through money and patronage. [92] In 1928, the country was eventually replaced by another monarchy with a strong support by the fascist regime of Italy however, both maintained close relations until the Italian invasion of the country. Zogu remained a conservative but initiated reforms and placed great emphasis on the development of infrastructure.

    In an attempt at social modernisation, the custom of adding one's region to one's name was dropped. He also made donations of land to international organisations for the building of schools and hospitals. The armed forces were trained and supervised by instructors from Italy, and as a counterweight, he kept British officers in the Gendarmerie despite strong Italian pressure to remove them.

    After being militarily occupied by Italy from 1939 until 1943, the Kingdom of Albania was a protectorate and a dependency of the Kingdom of Italy governed by Victor Emmanuel III and his government. In October 1940, Albania served as a staging ground for an unsuccessful Italian invasion of Greece. A counterattack resulted in a sizeable portion of southern Albania coming under Greek military control until April 1941 when Greece capitulated during the German invasion. In April 1941, territories of Yugoslavia with substantial Albanian population were annexed to Albania inclusively western Macedonia, a strip of eastern Montenegro, the town of Tutin in central Serbia and most of Kosovo [c] . [93]

    Germans started to occupy the country in September 1943 and subsequently announced that they would recognise the independence of a neutral Albania and set about organising a new government, military and law enforcement. Balli Kombëtar, which had fought against Italy, formed a neutral government and side by side with the Germans fought against the communist-led National Liberation Movement of Albania. [94]

    During the last years of the war, the country fell into a civil war-like state between the communists and nationalists. The communists defeated the last anti-communist forces in the south in 1944. Before the end of November, the main German troops had withdrawn from Tirana, and the communists took control by attacking it. The partisans entirely liberated the country from German occupation on 29 November 1944. A provisional government, which the communists had formed at Berat in October, administered Albania with Enver Hoxha as the head of government.

    By the end of the Second World War, the main military and political force of the nation, the Communist party sent forces to northern Albania against the nationalists to eliminate its rivals. They faced open resistance in Nikaj-Mërtur, Dukagjin and Kelmend led by Prek Cali. [ citation needed ] On 15 January 1945, a clash took place between partisans of the first Brigade and nationalist forces at the Tamara Bridge, resulting in the defeat of the nationalist forces. About 150 Kelmendi [95] people were killed or tortured. This event was the starting point of many other issues which took place during Enver Hoxha's dictatorship. Class struggle was strictly applied, human freedom and human rights were denied. [96] The Kelmend region was almost isolated by both the border and by a lack of roads for another 20 years, the institution of agricultural cooperatives brought about economic decline. Many Kelmendi people fled, and some were executed trying to cross the border. [96]

    Communism

    In the aftermath of World War II and the defeat of the Axis Powers, the country became initially a satellite state of the Soviet Union, and Enver Hoxha emerged as the leader of the newly established People's Republic of Albania. [97] Soviet-Albanian relations began to deteriorate after Stalin's death in 1953. At this point, the country started to develop foreign relations with other communist countries, among others with the People's Republic of China.

    During this period, the country experienced an increasing industrialisation and urbanisation, a rapid collectivisation and economic growth which led to a higher standard of living. [96] The government called for the development of infrastructure and most notably the introduction of a railway system that completely revamped transportation.

    The new land reform laws were passed granting ownership of the land to the workers and peasants who tilled it. Agriculture became cooperative, and production increased significantly, leading to the country becoming agriculturally self-sufficient. In the field of education, illiteracy was eliminated among the country's adult population. [98] The government also oversaw the emancipation of women and the expansion of healthcare and education throughout the country. [99]

    The average annual increase in the country's national income was 29% and 56% higher than the world and European average, respectively. [100] [ failed verification ] The nation incurred large debts initially with Yugoslavia until 1948, then the Soviet Union until 1961 and China from the middle of the 1950s. [101] The constitution of the communist regime did not allow taxes on individuals, instead, taxes were imposed on cooperatives and other organisations, with much the same effect. [102]

    Today a secular state without any official religion, religious freedoms and practices were severely curtailed during the communist era with all forms of worship being outlawed. In 1945, the Agrarian Reform Law meant that large swaths of property owned by religious groups were nationalised, mostly the waqfs along with the estates of mosques, tekkes, monasteries and dioceses. Many believers, along with the ulema and many priests, were arrested and executed. In 1949, a new Decree on Religious Communities required that all their activities be sanctioned by the state alone. [104]

    After hundreds of mosques and dozens of Islamic libraries containing priceless manuscripts were destroyed, Hoxha proclaimed Albania the world's first atheist state in 1967. [105] [106] The churches had not been spared either and many were converted into cultural centres for young people. A 1967 law banned all fascist, religious, and antisocialist activity and propaganda. Preaching religion carried a three to ten-year prison sentence.

    Nonetheless, many Albanians continued to practice their beliefs secretly. The anti-religious policy of Hoxha attained its most fundamental legal and political expression a decade later: "The state recognizes no religion", states the 1976 constitution, "and supports and carries out atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people". [106]

    Fourth Republic

    After forty years of communism and isolation as well as the revolutions of 1989, people, most notably students, became politically active and campaigned against the government that led to the transformation of the existing order. Following the popular support in the first multi-party elections of 1991, the communists retained a stronghold in the parliament until the victory in the general elections of 1992 led by the Democratic Party. [107]

    Considerable economic and financial resources were devoted to pyramid schemes that were widely supported by the government. The schemes swept up somewhere between one sixth and one third of the population of the country. [108] [109] Despite the warnings of the International Monetary Fund, Sali Berisha defended the schemes as large investment firms, leading more people to redirect their remittances and sell their homes and cattle for cash to deposit in the schemes. [110]

    The schemes began to collapse in late 1996, leading many of the investors to join initially peaceful protests against the government, requesting their money back. The protests turned violent in February 1997 as government forces responded by firing on the demonstrators. In March, the Police and Republican Guard deserted, leaving their armouries open. These were promptly emptied by militias and criminal gangs. The resulting civil war caused a wave of evacuations of foreign nationals and refugees. [111]

    The crisis led both Aleksandër Meksi and Sali Berisha to resign from office in the wake of the general election. In April 1997, Operation Alba, a UN peacekeeping force led by Italy, entered the country with two goals exclusively to assist with the evacuation of expatriates and to secure the ground for international organisations. The main international organisation that was involved was the Western European Union's multinational Albanian Police element, which worked with the government to restructure the judicial system and simultaneously the Albanian police.

    Contemporary

    Following the disintegration of the communist system, Albania focussed on an active process of Westernisation with the goal of accession to the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). [113] In 2009, the country, along with Croatia, gained active membership for accession to the NATO simultaneously becoming among the first countries in Southeast Europe to enter the partnership for peace programme. [114] [115] Outside of it, it also applied to join the European Union on 28 April 2009 however, it received, upon its application, an official candidate status on 24 June 2014. [116] [117] Following its application, the EU twice rejected the country's accession to its EU membership.

    Between 2013 and 2017, Edi Rama of the Socialist Party won both the 2013 and 2017 parliamentary elections. As a Prime Minister, he implemented numerous reforms focused on modernising the economy, as well as democratising the state institutions, including the country's judiciary and law enforcement. Unemployment has been steadily reduced while having the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the Balkans. [118] Rama has also placed gender equality at the center of its agenda, since 2017 almost 50% of the ministers are female, making it the largest number of women serving in the country's history. [119]

    On 26 November 2019, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake ravaged Albania with the epicenter positioned 16 km (10 mi) southwest of the town of Mamurras. [120] The tremor was felt in Tirana and in places as far away as Taranto, Italy, and Belgrade, Serbia, thus, the most affected areas were the coastal city of Durrës and Kodër-Thumanë. [121] Response to the earthquake included substantial humanitarian aid, designed to help the Albanian people, from the Albanian diaspora and several countries around the world. [122]

    On 9 March 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was confirmed to have spread to Albania. [123] [124] From March to June, the government declared a state of emergency, as a measure to limit the rapid spread of the pandemic in the country. [125] [126] [127] On 28 July 2020, the country reported 5000 cases to date with nearly 150 reported deaths. [128]

    Albania has an area of 28,748 km 2 (11,100 sq mi) and is located on the Balkan Peninsula in South and Southeast Europe. [129] Its shoreline faces the Adriatic Sea to the northwest and the Ionian Sea to the southwest along the Mediterranean Sea. Albania lies between latitudes 42° and 39° N, and longitudes 21° and 19° E. Its northernmost point is Vërmosh at 42° 35' 34" northern latitude the southernmost is Konispol at 39° 40' 0" northern latitude the westernmost point is Sazan at 19° 16' 50" eastern longitude and the easternmost point is Vërnik at 21° 1' 26" eastern longitude. [130] The highest point is Mount Korab at 2,764 m (9,068.24 ft) above the Adriatic the lowest point is the Mediterranean Sea at 0 m (0.00 ft). The distance from the east to west is 148 km (92 mi) and from the north to south about 340 km (211 mi).

    For a small country, much of Albania rises into mountains and hills that run in different directions across the length and breadth of its territory. The most extensive mountain ranges are the Albanian Alps in the north, the Korab Mountains in the east, the Pindus Mountains in the southeast, the Ceraunian Mountains in the southwest and the Skanderbeg Mountains in the centre.

    Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the country is the presence of numerous important lakes. The Lake of Shkodër is the largest lake in Southern Europe and located in northwest. [131] In the southeast rises the Lake of Ohrid that is one of the oldest continuously existing lakes in the world. [132] [133] Farther south extends the Large and Small Lake of Prespa, which are among the highest positioned lakes in the Balkans. Rivers rise mostly in the east of Albania and discharge into the Adriatic Sea but as well as into the Ionian Sea to a lesser extent. The longest river in the country, measured from its mouth to its source, is the Drin that starts at the confluence of its two headwaters, the Black and White Drin. Of particular concern is the Vjosë, which represents one of the last intact large river systems in Europe.

    Climate

    The climate in the country is extremely variable and diverse owing to the differences in latitude, longitude and altitude. [134] [135] Albania experiences predominantly a mediterranean and continental climate, with four distinct seasons. [136] Defined by the Köppen classification, it accommodates five major climatic types ranging from mediterranean and subtropical in the western half to oceanic, continental and subarctic in the eastern half of Albania.

    The warmest areas of the country are immediately placed along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea Coasts. On the contrary, the coldest areas are positioned within the northern and eastern highlands. [137] The mean monthly temperature ranges between −1 °C (30 °F) in winter to 21.8 °C (71.2 °F) in summer. The highest temperature of 43.9 °C (111.0 °F) was recorded in Kuçovë on 18 July 1973. The lowest temperature of −29 °C (−20 °F) was registered in the village of Shtyllë, Librazhd on 9 January 2017. [138] [139]

    Rainfall naturally varies from season to season and from year to year. The country receives most of the precipitation in winter months and less in summer months. [135] The average precipitation is about 1,485 millimetres (58.5 inches). [137] The mean annual precipitation ranges between 600 millimetres (24 inches) and 3,000 millimetres (120 inches) depending on geographical location. [136] The northwestern and southeastern highlands receive the intenser amount of precipitation, whilst the northeastern and southwestern highlands as well as the Western Lowlands the more limited amount. [137]

    The Albanian Alps in the far north of the country are considered to be among the most humid regions of Europe, receiving at least 3,100 mm (122.0 in) of rain annually. [137] An expedition from the University of Colorado discovered four glaciers within these mountains at a relatively low altitude of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), which is extremely rare for such a southerly latitude. [140]

    Snowfall occurs frequently in winter in the highlands of the country, particularly on the mountains in the north and east, including the Albanian Alps and Korab Mountains. Snow also falls on the coastal areas in the southwest almost every winter such as in the Ceraunian Mountains, where it can lie even beyond March.

    Biodiversity

    A biodiversity hotspot, Albania possesses an exceptionally rich and contrasting biodiversity on account of its geographical location at the centre of the Mediterranean Sea and the great diversity in its climatic, geological and hydrological conditions. [141] [142] Because of remoteness, the mountains and hills of Albania are endowed with forests, trees and grasses that are essential to the lives for a wide variety of animals, among others for two of the most endangered species of the country, the lynx and brown bear, as well as the wildcat, gray wolf, red fox, golden jackal, egyptian vulture and golden eagle, the latter constituting the national animal of the country. [143] [144] [145] [146]

    The estuaries, wetlands and lakes are extraordinarily important for the greater flamingo, pygmy cormorant and the extremely rare and perhaps the most iconic bird of the country, the dalmatian pelican. [147] Of particular importance are the mediterranean monk seal, loggerhead sea turtle and green sea turtle that use to nest on the country's coastal waters and shores.

    In terms of phytogeography, Albania is part of the Boreal Kingdom and stretches specifically within the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal and Mediterranean Region. Its territory can be subdivided into four terrestrial ecoregions of the Palearctic realm namely within the Illyrian deciduous forests, Balkan mixed forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Dinaric Mountains mixed forests. [148] [149]

    Approximately 3,500 different species of plants can be found in Albania which refers principally to a Mediterranean and Eurasian character. The country maintains a vibrant tradition of herbal and medicinal practices. At the minimum 300 plants growing locally are used in the preparation of herbs and medicines. [150] The trees within the forests are primarily made up of fir, oak, beech and pine.

    In the 2010 Environmental Performance Index, Albania was ranked 23rd out of 163 countries in the world. [151] It advanced from 23rd to 15th in the 2012 index while simultaneously ranking among the highest in South and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. [152] In 2005, the country was the 24th greenest country in the world according to the Environmental Sustainability Index. [153] Nevertheless, for 2016, it was ranked the 13th best performing country on the Happy Planet Index. [154] Albania had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 6.77 of total 10, ranking it 64th globally out of 172 countries. [155]

    Protected areas

    The protected areas of Albania are areas designated and managed by the Albanian government. There are 15 national parks, 4 ramsar sites, 1 biosphere reserve and 786 other types of conservation reserves. [156]

    Albania has fifteen officially designated national parks scattered across its territory. [157] Encircled by numerous two-thousanders, Valbonë Valley National Park and Theth National Park cover a combined territory of 106.3 square kilometres (41.0 sq mi) within the rugged Albanian Alps in northern Albania. Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park and Prespa National Park protect the spectacular mountainous scenery of eastern Albania as well as the country's sections of the Great and Small Lakes of Prespa.

    Divjakë-Karavasta National Park extends along the central Albanian Adriatic Sea Coast and possesses one of the largest lagoons in the Mediterranean Sea, the Lagoon of Karavasta. The Ceraunian Mountains in southern Albania, rising immediately along the Albanian Ionian Sea Coast, characterises the topographical picture of Llogara National Park and continue on the Peninsula of Karaburun within the Karaburun-Sazan Marine Park. Further south sprawls the Butrint National Park on a peninsula that is surrounded by the Lake of Butrint and Channel of Vivari on the eastern half of the Straits of Corfu. Dajti National Park is equipped with a cable car and trails to some spectacular scenery is a popular retreat in the capital, Tirana.

    Albania is a parliamentary constitutional republic and sovereign state whose politics operate under a framework laid out in the constitution wherein the president functions as the head of state and the prime minister as the head of government. [158] The sovereignty is vested in the Albanian people and exercised by the Albanian people through their representatives or directly. [158]

    The government is based on the separation and balancing of powers among the legislative, judiciary and executive. [158] The legislative power is held by the parliament and is elected every four years by a system of party-list proportional representation by the Albanian people on the basis of free, equal, universal and periodic suffrage by secret ballot. [158]

    The civil law, codified and based on the Napoleonic Code, is divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and administrative courts. The judicial power is vested in the supreme court, constitutional court, appeal court and administrative court. [159] Law enforcement in the country is primarily the responsibility of the Albanian Police, the main and largest state law enforcement agency. It carries out nearly all general police duties including criminal investigation, patrol activity, traffic policing and border control.

    The executive power is exercised by the president and prime minister whereby the power of the president is very limited. The president is the commander-in-chief of the military and the representative of the unity of the Albanian people. [160] The tenure of the president depends on the confidence of the parliament and is elected for a five-year term by the parliament by a majority of three-fifths of all its members. The prime minister, appointed by the president and approved by the parliament, is authorized to constitute the cabinet. The cabinet is composed primarily of the prime minister inclusively its deputies and ministers. [161]

    Foreign relations

    In the time since the end of communism and isolationism, Albania has extended its responsibilities and position in continental and international affairs, developing and establishing friendly relations with other countries around the world. The country's foreign policy priorities are its accession into the European Union (EU), the international recognition of Kosovo and the expulsion of Cham Albanians, as well as helping and protecting the rights of the Albanians in Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Greece, Serbia, Italy and the Diaspora. [163]

    Albania's admission into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was considered by Albanian politicians as a significant ambition for the country's foreign policy. The country has been extensively engaged with the NATO and has maintained its position as a stability factor and a strong ally of the United States and the European Union (EU) in the region of the Balkans. Albania maintains strong ties with the United States ever after it supported the Albania's independence and democracy. [164] Nowadays, both countries have signed a number of agreements and treaties. In 2007, Albania welcomed George W. Bush who became the first President of the United States ever to visit the country.

    Albania and Kosovo are culturally, socially and economically very closely rooted due to the Albanian majority population in Kosovo. In 1998, the country contributed in supporting allied efforts to end the humanitarian tragedy in Kosovo and secure the peace after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.

    Albania has been an active member of the United Nations since 1955. They country took on membership for the United Nations Economic and Social Council from 2005 to 2007 as well as in 2012. [165] It served as vice president of the ECOSOC in 2006 and 2013. [165] In 2014, it also joined the United Nations Human Rights Council from 2015 to 2017 and was elected vice president in 2015. [166] Albania is a full member of numerous international organisations inclusively the Council of Europe, International Organisation for Migration, World Health Organization, Union for the Mediterranean, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and La Francophonie.

    Military

    The Albanian Armed Forces consist of Land, Air and Naval Forces and constitute the military and paramilitary forces of the country. They are led by a commander-in-chief under the supervision of the Ministry of Defence and by the President as the supreme commander during wartime however, in times of peace its powers are executed through the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister. [167]

    The chief purpose of the armed forces of Albania is the defence of the independence, the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country, as well as the participation in humanitarian, combat, non-combat and peace support operations. [167] Military service is voluntary since 2010 with the age of 19 being the legal minimum age for the duty. [168] [169]

    Albania has committed to increase the participations in multinational operations. [170] Since the fall of communism, the country has participated in six international missions but participated in only one United Nations mission in Georgia, where it sent 3 military observers. Since February 2008, Albania has participated officially in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea. [171] It was invited to join NATO on 3 April 2008, and it became a full member on 2 April 2009. [172]

    Albania reduced the number of active troops from 65,000 in 1988 to 14,500 in 2009. [173] [174] 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 from China, such as tanks and SAM systems. Increasing the military budget was one of the most important conditions for NATO integration. Military spending has generally been low. As of 1996 military spending was an estimated 1.5% of the country's GDP, only to peak in 2009 at 2% and fall again to 1.5%. [175]

    Administrative divisions

    Albania is defined within a territorial area of 28,748 km 2 (11,100 sq mi) in the Balkan Peninsula. The country is divided into three regions, the Northern, Central and Southern Region, which consist of a number of counties (qarqe) and municipalities (bashkia). The highest level of administrative divisions are the twelve constituent counties. [176] Each county has the same status but vary in their areas, populations and contributions to the economy. Nonetheless, they are further subdivided into 61 municipalities with each of them being responsible for geographical, economic, social and cultural purposes inside the counties. [177]

    The counties were created on 31 July 2000 to replace the 36 former districts. [178] [179] The government introduced the new administrative divisions to be implemented in 2015, whereby municipalities were reduced to 61, while the rurals were abolished. The defunct municipalities are known as neighborhoods or villages. [180] [181] There are overall 2980 villages or communities in the entire country, formerly known as localities. The municipalities are the first level of local governance, responsible for local needs and law enforcement. [182] [183] [184]

    The largest county in Albania, by population, is Tirana County with over 800,000 people. The smallest county, by population, is Gjirokastër County with over 70,000 people. The largest in the county, by area, is Korçë County encompassing 3,711 square kilometres (1,433 sq mi) of the southeast of Albania. The smallest county, by area, is Durrës County with an area of 766 square kilometres (296 sq mi) in the west of Albania.

    The transition from a socialist planned economy to a capitalist mixed economy in Albania has been largely successful. [187] The country has a developing mixed economy classified by the World Bank as an upper-middle income economy. In 2016, it had the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the Balkans with an estimated value of 14.7%. Its largest trading partners are Italy, Greece, China, Spain, Kosovo and the United States. The lek (ALL) is the country's currency and is pegged at approximately 132,51 lek per euro.

    The cities of Tirana and Durrës constitute the economic and financial heart of Albania due to their high population, modern infrastructure and strategic geographical location. The country's most important infrastructure facilities take course through both of the cities, connecting the north to the south as well as the west to the east. Among the largest companies are the petroleum Taçi Oil, Albpetrol, ARMO and Kastrati, the mineral AlbChrome, the cement Antea, the investment BALFIN Group and the technology Albtelecom, Vodafone, Telekom Albania and others.

    In 2012, Albania's GDP per capita stood at 30% of the European Union average, while GDP (PPP) per capita was 35%. [188] Albania was one of three countries in Europe to record an economic growth in the first quarter of 2010 after the global financial crisis. [189] [190] The International Monetary Fund predicted 2.6% growth for Albania in 2010 and 3.2% in 2011. [191] According to Forbes, as of December 2016 [update] , the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was growing at 2.8%. The country had a trade balance of −9.7% and unemployment rate of 14.7%. [192] The Foreign direct investment has increased significantly in recent years as the government has embarked on an ambitious program to improve the business climate through fiscal and legislative reforms. The economy is expected to expand in the near term, driven by a recovery in consumption and robust investments. Growth is projected to be 3.2% in 2016, 3.5% in 2017, and 3.8% in 2018.

    Primary sector

    Agriculture in the country is based on small to medium-sized family-owned dispersed units. It remains a significant sector of the economy of Albania. It employs 41% [193] of the population, and about 24.31% of the land is used for agricultural purposes. One of the earliest farming sites in Europe has been found in the southeast of the country. [194] As part of the pre-accession process of Albania to the European Union, farmers are being aided through IPA funds to improve Albanian agriculture standards. [195]

    Albania produces significant amounts of fruits (apples, olives, grapes, oranges, lemons, apricots, peaches, cherries, figs, sour cherries, plums, and strawberries), vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, maize, onions, and wheat), sugar beets, tobacco, meat, honey, dairy products, traditional medicine and aromatic plants. Further, the country is a worldwide significant producer of salvia, rosemary and yellow gentian. [196] The country's proximity to the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea give the underdeveloped fishing industry great potential. The World Bank and European Community economists report that, Albania's fishing industry has good potential to generate export earnings because prices in the nearby Greek and Italian markets are many times higher than those in the Albanian market. The fish available off the coasts of the country are carp, trout, sea bream, mussels and crustaceans.

    Albania has one of Europe's longest histories of viticulture. [197] The today's region was one of the few places where vine was naturally grown during the ice age. The oldest found seeds in the region are 4,000 to 6,000 years old. [198] In 2009, the nation produced an estimated 17,500 tonnes of wine. [199] During the communist era, the production area expanded to some 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres). [200]

    Secondary sector

    The secondary sector of Albania have undergone many changes and diversification, since the collapse of the communist regime in the country. It is very diversified, from electronics, manufacturing, [201] textiles, to food, cement, mining, [202] and energy. The Antea Cement plant in Fushë-Krujë is considered as one of the largest industrial greenfield investments in the country. [203] Albanian oil and gas is represents of the most promising albeit strictly regulated sectors of its economy. Albania has the second largest oil deposits in the Balkan peninsula after Romania, and the largest oil reserves [204] in Europe. The Albpetrol company is owned by the Albanian state and monitors the state petroleum agreements in the country. The textile industry has seen an extensive expansion by approaching companies from the European Union (EU) in Albania. According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) as of 2016 [update] , the textile production marked an annual growth of 5.3% and an annual turnover of around 1.5 billion euros. [205]

    Albania is a significant minerals producer and is ranked among the world's leading chromium producers and exporters. [206] The nation is also a notable producer of copper, nickel and coal. [207] The Batra mine, Bulqizë mine, and Thekna mine are among the most recognised Albanian mines that are still in operation.

    Tertiary sector

    The tertiary sector represents the fastest growing sector of the country's economy. 36% of the population work in the service sector which contributes to 65% of the country's GDP. [208] Ever since the end of the 20th century, the banking industry is a major component of the tertiary sector and remains in good conditions overall due to privatization and the commendable monetary policy. [209] [208]

    Previously one of the most isolated and controlled countries in the world, telecommunication industry represents nowadays another major contributor to the sector. It developed largely through privatisation and subsequent investment by both domestic and foreign investors. [208] Eagle, Vodafone and Telekom Albania are the leading telecommunications service providers in the country.

    Tourism is recognised as an industry of national importance and has been steadily increasing since the beginnings of the 21st century. [210] [211] It directly accounted for 8.4% of GDP in 2016 though including indirect contributions pushes the proportion to 26%. [212] In the same year, the country received approximately 4.74 million visitors mostly from across Europe and the United States as well. [213]

    The increase of foreign visitors has been dramatic. Albania had only 500,000 visitors in 2005, while in 2012 had an estimated 4.2 million, an increase of 740 percent in only 7 years. In 2015, tourism in summer increased by 25 percent in contrast the previous year according to the country's tourism agency. [214] In 2011, Lonely Planet named as a top travel destination, [215] [ failed verification ] while The New York Times placed Albania as number 4 global touristic destination in 2014. [216]

    The bulk of the tourist industry is concentrated along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea in the west of the country. However, the Albanian Riviera in the southwest has the most scenic and pristine beaches, and is often called the pearl of the Albanian coast. Its coastline has a considerable length of 446 kilometres (277 miles). [217] The coast has a particular character because it is rich in varieties of virgin beaches, capes, coves, covered bays, lagoons, small gravel beaches, sea caves and many landforms. Some parts of this seaside are very clean ecologically, which represent in this prospective unexplored areas, which are very rare within the Mediterranean. [218] Other attractions include the mountainous areas such as the Albanian Alps, Ceraunian Mountains and Korab Mountains but also the historical cities of Berat, Durrës, Gjirokastër, Sarandë, Shkodër and Korçë.

    Transport

    Transportation in Albania is managed within the functions of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy and entities such as the Albanian Road Authority (ARRSH), responsible for the construction and maintenance of the highways and motorways in Albania, as well as the Albanian Aviation Authority (AAC), with the responsibility of coordinating civil aviation and airports in the country.

    The international airport of Tirana is the premier air gateway to the country, and is also the principal hub for Albania's national flag carrier airline, Air Albania. The airport carried more than 3.3 million passengers in 2019 with connections to many destinations in other countries around Europe, Africa and Asia. [219] The country plans to progressively increase the number of airports especially in the south with possible locations in Sarandë, Gjirokastër and Vlorë. [220]

    The highways and motorways in Albania are properly maintained and often still under construction and renovation. The Autostrada 1 (A1) represents an integral transportation corridor in Albania and the longest motorway of the country. It will prospectively link Durrës on the Adriatic Sea across Pristina in Kosovo with the Pan-European Corridor X in Serbia. [221] [222] The Autostrada 2 (A2) is part of the Adriatic–Ionian Corridor as well as the Pan-European Corridor VIII and connects Fier with Vlorë. [221] The Autostrada 3 (A3) is currently under construction and will connect, after its completion, Tirana and Elbasan with the Pan-European Corridor VIII. When all three corridors are completed, Albania will have an estimated 759 kilometres (472 mi) of highway linking it with all of its neighboring countries.

    Durrës is the busiest and largest seaport in the country, followed by Vlorë, Shëngjin and Sarandë. As of 2014 [update] , it is as one of the largest passenger ports on the Adriatic Sea with annual passenger volume of approximately 1.5 million. The principal ports serve a system of ferries connecting Albania with numerous islands and coastal cities in Croatia, Greece and Italy.

    The rail network is administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare which was extensively promoted by the dictator Enver Hoxha. There has been a considerable increase in private car ownership and bus usage while rail use decreased since the end of communism. However, a new railway line from Tirana and its airport to Durrës is currently planned. The specific location of this railway, connecting the most populated urban areas in Albania, merely makes it an important economic development project. [223] [224]

    Education

    In the country, education is secular, free, compulsory and based on three levels of education segmented in primary, secondary and tertiary education. [225] [226] The academic year is apportioned into two semesters beginning in September or October, and ending in June or July. Albanian serves as the primary language of instruction in all academic institutions across the country. [226] The study of a first foreign language is mandatory and taught most often at elementary and bilingual schools. [227] The languages taught in schools are English, Italian, French and German. [227] The country has a school life expectancy of 16 years and a literacy rate of 98.7%, with 99.2% for males and 98.3% for females. [228] [7]

    Compulsory primary education is divided into two levels, elementary and secondary school, from grade one to five and six to nine, respectively. [225] Pupils are required to attend school from the age of six until they turn 16. Upon successful completion of primary education, all pupils are entitled to attend high schools with specialising in any particular field including arts, sports, languages, sciences or technology. [225]

    The country's tertiary education, an optional stage of formal learning following secondary education, has undergone a thorough reformation and restructuring in compliance with the principles of the Bologna Process. There is a significant number of private and public institutions of higher education well dispersed in the major cities of Albania. [229] [226] Studies in tertiary education are organized at three successive levels which include the bachelor, master and doctorate.

    Health

    The constitution of Albania guarantees equal, free and universal health care for all its citizens. [231] The health care system of the country is currently organised in three levels, among others primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare, and is in a process of modernisation and development. [232] [233] The life expectancy at birth in Albania is at 77.8 years and ranks 37th in the world outperforming several developed countries. [234] The average healthy life expectancy is at 68.8 years and ranks as well 37th in the world. [235] The country's infant mortality rate is estimated at 12 per 1,000 live births in 2015. In 2000, the country had the 55th best healthcare performance in the world, as defined by the World Health Organization. [236]

    Cardiovascular disease remain the principal cause of death in the country accounting 52% of total deaths. [232] Accidents, injuries, malignant and respiratory diseases are other primary causes of death. [232] Neuropsychiatric disease has also increased due to recent demographic, social and economic changes in the country. [232]

    In 2009, the country had a fruit and vegetable supply of 886 grams per capita per day, the fifth highest supply in Europe. [237] In comparison to other developed and developing countries, Albania has a relatively low rate of obesity probably thanks to the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. [238] [239] According to World Health Organization data from 2016, 21.7% of adults in the country are clinically overweight, with a Body mass index (BMI) score of 25 or more. [240]

    Energy

    Due to its geographical location and natural resources, Albania has a wide variety of energy resources ranging from gas, oil and coal, to wind, solar and water as well as other renewable sources. [241] [242] Currently, the electricity generation sector of Albania is dependent on hydroelectricity simultaneously ranking fifth in the world in percentage terms. [243] [244] [245] The Drin, located in the north, hosts four hydroelectric power stations, including Fierza, Koman, Skavica and Vau i Dejës. Two other power stations, such as the Banjë and Moglicë, are located along the Devoll in the south. [246]

    Albania has considerably large deposits of oil. It has the 10th largest oil reserves in Europe and the 58th in the world. [247] The country's main petroleum deposits are located around the Albanian Adriatic Sea Coast and Myzeqe Plain within the Western Lowlands, where the country's largest reserve is located. Although, Patos-Marinza, also located within the area, is the largest onshore oil field in Europe. [248]

    After the completion of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), Albania will be significantly connected to the planned Southern Gas Corridor, that will transport natural gas from the Caspian Sea through Albania to Europe. [249] Withal the TAP runs for 215 kilometres (134 miles) across Albania's territory before entering the Albanian Adriatic Sea Coast approximately 17 kilometres (11 miles) northwest of Fier. [250] In 2009, the company Enel announced plans to build an 800 MW coal-fired power plant in the country, to diversify electricity sources. [251]

    The water resources of Albania are particularly abundant in all the regions of the country and comprise lakes, rivers, springs and groundwater aquifers. [252] The country's available average quantity of fresh water is estimated at 1,297 cubic metres (45,803 cubic feet) per inhabitant per year, which is one of the highest rates in Europe. [253] According to the data presented by the Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) in 2015, about 93% of the country's total population had access to improved sanitation. [254]

    Technology

    After the fall of communism in 1991, human resources in sciences and technology in Albania have drastically decreased. As of various reports, during 1991 to 2005 approximately 50% of the professors and scientists of the universities and science institutions in the country have left Albania. [255] In 2009, the government approved the National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation in Albania covering the period 2009 to 2015. [256] It aims to triple public spending on research and development to 0.6% of GDP and augment the share of GDE from foreign sources, including the framework programmes for research of the European Union, to the point where it covers 40% of research spending, among others.

    Telecommunication represents one of the fastest growing and dynamic sectors in Albania. [257] [258] Vodafone Albania, Telekom Albania and Albtelecom are the three large providers of mobile and internet in Albania. [257] As of the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) in 2018, the country had approximately 2.7 million active mobile users with almost 1.8 million active broadband subscribers. [259] Vodafone Albania alone served more than 931,000 mobile users, Telekom Albania had about 605,000 users and Albtelecom had more than 272,000 users. [259]

    As defined by the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), the population of Albania was estimated in 2020 at 2,845,955. [260] The country's total fertility rate of 1.51 children born per woman is one of the lowest in the world. [261] Its population density stands at 259 inhabitants per square kilometre. The overall life expectancy at birth is 78.5 years 75.8 years for males and 81.4 years for females. [261] The country is the 8th most populous country in the Balkans and ranks as the 137th most populous country in the world. Nonetheless, the country's population rose steadily from 2,5 million in 1979 until 1989, when it peaked at 3.1 million. [262] It is forecasted that the population will continue shrinking for the next decade at least, depending on the actual birth rate and the level of net migration. [263]

    The explanation for the recent population decrease is the fall of communism in Albania in the late twentieth century. That period was marked by economic mass emigration from Albania to Greece, Italy and the United States. Four decades of total isolation from the world, combined with its disastrous economic, social and political situation, had caused this exodus. The external migration was prohibited outright during the communist era, while internal migration was quite limited, hence this was a new phenomenon. At least, 900,000 people left Albania during this period, with about 600,000 of them settling in Greece. [264] The migration affected the country's internal population distribution. It decreased particularly in the north and south, while it increased in the center within the cities of Tirana and Durrës. [ citation needed ]

    About 53.4% of the country's population lives in cities. The three largest counties by population account for half of the total population. Almost 30% of the total population is found in Tirana County followed by Fier County with 11% and Durrës County with 10%. [265] Over 1 million people are concentrated in Tirana and Durrës, making it the largest urban area in Albania. [266] Tirana is one of largest cities in the Balkan Peninsula and ranks seventh with a population about 800,000. [267] The second largest city in the country by population is Durrës, with a population of 201,110, followed by Vlorë with a population of 141,513.

    Minorities

    Issues of ethnicity are a delicate topic and subject to debate. Contrary to official statistics that show an over 97 per cent Albanian majority in the country, minority groups (such as Greeks, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Roma and Aromanians) have frequently disputed the official numbers, asserting a higher percentage of the country's population. According to the disputed 2011 census, ethnic affiliation was as follows: Albanians 2,312,356 (82.6% of the total), Greeks 24,243 (0.9%), Macedonians 5,512 (0.2%), Montenegrins 366 (0.01%), Aromanians 8,266 (0.30%), Romani 8,301 (0.3%), Balkan Egyptians 3,368 (0.1%), other ethnicities 2,644 (0.1%), no declared ethnicity 390,938 (14.0%), and not relevant 44,144 (1.6%). [2] On the quality of the specific data the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities stated that "the results of the census should be viewed with the utmost caution and calls on the authorities not to rely exclusively on the data on nationality collected during the census in determining its policy on the protection of national minorities.". [269]

    Albania recognises nine national or cultural minorities: Aromanian, Greek, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Serb, Roma, Egyptian, Bosnian and Bulgarian peoples. [270] Other Albanian minorities are the Gorani people and Jews. [271] Regarding the Greeks, "it is difficult to know how many Greeks there are in Albania". The estimates vary between 60,000 and 300,000 ethnic Greeks in Albania. According to Ian Jeffries, most of Western sources put the number at around 200,000. The 300,000 mark is supported by Greek government as well. [272] [273] [274] [275] [276] The CIA World Factbook estimates the Greek minority to constitute 0.9% [277] of the total population. The US State Department estimates that Greeks make up 1.17%, and other minorities 0.23%, of the population. [278] The latter questions the validity of the census data about the Greek minority, due to the fact that measurements have been affected by boycott. [279]

    Macedonians and some Greek minority groups have sharply criticised 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 is stated on his or her birth certificate. This is claimed to be an attempt to intimidate minorities into declaring Albanian ethnicity according to them the Albanian government has stated that it will jail anyone who does not participate in the census or refuse to declare his or her ethnicity. [280] Genc Pollo, the minister in charge has declared that: "Albanian citizens will be able to freely express their ethnic and religious affiliation and mother tongue. However, they are not forced to answer these sensitive questions". [281] The amendments criticized do not include jailing or forced declaration of ethnicity or religion only a fine is envisioned which can be overthrown by court. [282] [283]

    Greek representatives form part of the Albanian parliament and the government has invited Albanian Greeks to register, as the only way to improve their status. [284] On the other hand, nationalists, various organisations and political parties in Albania have expressed their concern that the census might artificially increase the numbers of the Greek minority, which might be then exploited by Greece to threaten Albania's territorial integrity. [284] [285] [286] [287] [288] [289] [290]

    Language

    The official language of the country is Albanian which is spoken by the vast majority of the country's population. [291] Its standard spoken and written form is revised and merged from the two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk, though it is notably based more on the Tosk dialect. The Shkumbin river is the rough dividing line between the two dialects. Also a dialect of Greek that preserves features now lost in standard modern Greek is spoken in areas inhabited by the Greek minority. Other languages spoken by ethnic minorities in Albania include Aromanian, Serbian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Gorani, and Roma. [292] Macedonian is official in the Pustec Municipality in East Albania. According to the 2011 population census, 2,765,610 or 98.767% of the population declared Albanian as their mother tongue (mother tongue is defined as the first or main language spoken at home during childhood). [2]

    In recent years, the shrinking number of pupils in schools dedicated to the Greek minority has caused problems for teachers. [293] The Greek language is spoken by an important percentage in the southern part of the country, due to cultural and economic links with adjacent Greece. [294] In a 2017 study carried out by Instat, the Albanian government statistical agency, 39.9% of the 25–64 years old is able to use at least one foreign language, with English first at 40.0%, followed by Italian with 27.8% and Greek with 22.9%. [295] Among young people aged 25 or less, English, German and Turkish have seen rising interest after 2000. Italian and French have had a stable interest, while Greek has lost much of its previous interest. The trends are linked with cultural and economic factors. [296]

    Greek is the second most-spoken language in the country, with 0.5 to 3% of the population speaking it as first language, [297] [298] [299] and with two-thirds of mainly Albanian families having at least one member that speaks Greek, most having learned it in the post communist era (1992–present) due to private schools or migration to Greece. [299] Outside of the small designated "minority area" in the south the teaching of Greek was banned during the communist era. [300] As of 2003 Greek was offered at over 100 private tutoring centers all over Albania and at a private school in Tirana, the first of its kind outside Greece. [299]

    Young people have shown a growing interest in German language in recent years. Some of them go to Germany for studying or various experiences. Albania and Germany have agreements for cooperating in helping young people of the two countries know both cultures better. [301] Due to a sharp rise in economic relations with Turkey, interest in learning Turkish, in particular among young people, has been growing on a yearly basis. Young people, attracted by economic importance of Turkish investments and common values between the two nations, gain from cultural and academic collaboration of universities. [302]

    Religion

    Religion in Albania as of the 2011 census conducted by the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT). [303]

    Albania is a secular and religiously diverse country with no official religion and thus, freedom of religion, belief and conscience are guaranteed under the country's constitution. [304] Culturally, religious tolerance is one of the most considerable values of the tradition of the Albanians. It is widely accepted that they generally value a peaceful coexistence among the believers of different religious communities in the country. [305] [306] Pope Francis hailed Albania during his official visit in Tirana as model of religious harmony, due to the long tradition of religious coexistence and tolerance. [307]

    During classical times, there are thought to have been about seventy Christian families in Durrës, as early as the time of the Apostles. [308] The Archbishopric of Durrës was purportedly founded by Paul the Apostle, while preaching in Illyria and Epirus. [309] [310] Meanwhile, in medieval times, the Albanian people first appeared within historical records from the Byzantines. At this point, they were mostly Christianised. Islam arrived for the first time in the late 9th century to the region, when Arabs raided parts of the eastern banks of the Adriatic Sea. [311] It later emerged as the majority religion, during centuries of Ottoman rule, [312] though a significant Christian minority remained.

    During modern times, the Albanian republican, monarchic and later communist regimes followed a systematic policy of separating religion from official functions and cultural life. The country has never had an official 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 1950s and 1960s, under the state policy of obliterating all organised religion from the territories of Albania. The communist regime persecuted and suppressed religious observance and institutions and entirely banned religion. The country was then officially declared to be the world's first atheist state. Religious freedom has returned, however, since the end of communism.

    Islam survived communist era persecution and reemerged in the modern era as a practised religion in Albania. [312] Some smaller Christian sects in Albania include Evangelicals and several Protestant communities including Seventh-day Adventist Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses. [313] [314] [315] [316] The first recorded Protestant of Albania was Said Toptani, who travelled around Europe and returned to Tirana in 1853, where he preached Protestantism. Due to that, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Ottoman authorities in 1864. The first evangelical Protestants appeared in the 19th century and the Evangelical Alliance was founded in 1892. Nowadays, it has 160 member congregations from different Protestant denominations. Following mass emigration to Israel after the fall of communism, there are only 200 Albanian Jews left in the country. [317] [318]

    As of the 2011 census, there were 1,587,608 (56.7%) Sunni Muslims, 280,921 (10.03%) Roman Catholics, 188,992 (6.75%) Eastern Orthodox, 58,628 (2.09%) Bektashi Muslims, 3,797 (0.14%) Evangelicals, 1,919 (0.07%) other Christians, 602 (0.02%) of other religions and 153,630 (5.49%) believers without denomination. [303] 69,995 people (2.5%) were irreligious while 386,024 (13.79%) did not declare their religion. [303] The country is ranked among the least religious countries in the world. [319] Religion plays an important role in the lives of only 39% of its population. [320] In another report, 56% considered themselves religious, 30% considered themselves non-religious, while 9% defined themselves as convinced atheists. 80% believed in God and 40% believed in life after death. However, 40% believed in hell, while 42% believed in heaven. [321]

    The preliminary results of the 2011 census seemed to give widely different results, with 70% of respondents refusing to declare belief in any of the listed faiths. [322] [323] The Albanian Orthodox Church officially refused to recognize the results, claiming that 24% of the total population adhered to its faith. [324] [325] Some Muslim Community officials expressed unhappiness with the data claiming that many Muslims were not counted and that the number of adherents numbered some 70% of the Albanian population. [326] [327] The Albanian Catholic Bishops Conference also cast doubts on the census, complaining that many of its believers were not contacted. [328] The Muslim Albanians are spread throughout the country. Orthodox and Bektashis are mostly found in the south, whereas Catholics mainly live in the north. [329] In 2008, there were 694 Catholic churches and 425 orthodox churches, 568 mosques and 70 bektashi tekkes in the country. [330] [331]

    Symbols

    Albania shares many symbols associated with its history, culture and belief. These include the colours red and black, animals such as the golden eagle living across the country, costumes such as the fustanella, plis and opinga which are worn to special events and celebrations, plants such as the olive and red poppy growing as well across the country.

    The flag of Albania is a red flag with a black double-headed eagle positioned in the centre. [332] The red colour used in the flag symbolises the bravery, strength and valour of the Albanian people, while the black colour appears as a symbol of freedom and heroism. [332] The eagle has been used by Albanians since the Middle Ages including the establishment of the Principality of Arbër and by numerous noble ruling families such as the Kastrioti, Muzaka, Thopia and Dukagjini. [333] Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, who fought and began a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire which halted Ottoman advance into Europe for nearly 25 years, placed the double-headed eagle on his flag and seal. [334] [335]

    The country's national motto, Ti Shqipëri, më jep nder, më jep emrin Shqipëtar ("You Albania, you give me honour, you give me the name Albanian"), finds its origins in the Albanian National Awakening. The first to express this motto was Naim Frashëri in his poem Ti Shqipëri më jep nder. [336]

    The artistic history of Albania has been particularly influenced by a multitude of ancient and medieval people, traditions and religions. It covers a broad spectrum with mediums and disciplines that include painting, pottery, sculpture, ceramics and architecture all of them exemplifying a great variety in style and shape, in different regions and period.

    The rise of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire in the Middle Ages was accompanied by a corresponding growth in Christian and Islamic art in the lands of Albania which are apparent in examples of architecture and mosaics throughout the country. [337] Centuries later, the Albanian Renaissance proved crucial to the emancipation of the modern Albanian culture and saw unprecedented developments in all fields of literature and art whereas artists sought to return to the ideals of Impressionism and Romanticism. [338] However, Onufri, Kolë Idromeno, David Selenica, Kostandin Shpataraku and the Zografi Brothers are the most eminent representatives of Albanian art.

    The architecture of Albania reflects the legacy of various civilisations tracing back to the classical antiquity. Major cities in Albania have evolved from within the castle to include dwellings, religious and commercial structures, with constant redesigning of town squares and evolution of building techniques. Nowadays, the cities and towns reflect a whole spectrum of various architectural styles. In the 20th century, many historical as well as sacred buildings bearing the ancient influence were demolished during the communist era. [340]

    Ancient architecture is found throughout Albania and most visible in Byllis, Amantia, Phoenice, Apollonia, Butrint, Antigonia, Shkodër and Durrës. Considering the long period of rule of the Byzantine Empire, they introduced castles, citadels, churches and monasteries with spectacular wealth of visible murals and frescos. Perhaps the best known examples can be found in the southern Albanian cities and surroundings of Korçë, Berat, Voskopojë and Gjirokastër. Involving the introduction of Ottoman architecture there was a development of mosques and other Islamic buildings, particularly seen in Berat and Gjirokastër.

    A productive period of Historicism, Art Nouveau and Neoclassicism merged into the 19th century, best exemplified in Korçë. The 20th century brought new architectural styles such as the modern Italian style, which is present in Tirana such as the Skanderbeg Square and Ministries. It is also present in Shkodër, Vlorë, Sarandë and Durrës. Moreover, other towns received their present-day Albania-unique appearance through various cultural or economic influences.

    Socialist classicism arrived during the communist era in Albania after the Second World War. At this period many socialist-styled complexes, wide roads and factories were constructed, while town squares were redesigned and numerous of historic and important buildings demolished. Notable examples of that style include the Mother Teresa Square, Pyramid of Tirana, Palace of Congresses and so on.

    Three Albanian archaeological sites are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include the ancient remains of Butrint, the medieval Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastër, and Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region site shared with North Macedonia since 2019. [342] [343] Furthermore, the royal Illyrian tombs, the remains of Apollonia, the ancient Amphitheatre of Durrës and the Fortress of Bashtovë has been included on the tentative list of Albania.

    Cuisine

    Throughout the centuries, Albanian cuisine has been widely influenced by Albanian culture, geography and history, and as such, different parts of the country enjoy specific regional cuisines. Cooking traditions especially vary between the north and the south, owing to differing topography and climate that essentially contribute to the excellent growth conditions for a wide array of herbs, fruits, and vegetables. [344]

    Albanians produce and use many varieties of fruits such as lemons, oranges, figs, and most notably, olives, which are perhaps the most important element of Albanian cooking. Spices and other herbs such as basil, lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary, and thyme are widely used, as are vegetables such as garlic, onions, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, as well as legumes of all types.

    With a coastline along the Adriatic and Ionian in the Mediterranean Sea, fish, crustaceans, and seafood are a popular and an integral part of the Albanian diet. Otherwise, lamb is the traditional meat for different holidays and religious festivals for both Christians and Muslims, although poultry, beef, and pork are also in plentiful supply.

    Tavë kosi ("soured milk casserole") is the national dish of Albania, consisting of lamb and rice baked under a thick, tart veil of yogurt. Fërgesë is another national dish, made up of peppers, tomatoes, and cottage cheese. Pite is also popular, a baked pastry with a filling of a mixture of spinach and gjizë (curd) or mish (ground meat).

    Petulla, a traditional fried dough, is also a popular speciality, and is served with powdered sugar or feta cheese and different sorts of fruit jams. Flia consists of multiple crêpe-like layers brushed with cream and served with sour cream. Krofne, similar to Berliner doughnuts, are filled with jam, or chocolate and often eaten during cold winter months.

    Coffee is an integral part of the Albanian lifestyle. The country has more coffee houses per capita than any other country in the world. [345] Tea is also enjoyed both at home or outside at cafés, bars, or restaurants. Çaj Mali (Sideritis tea) is enormously beloved, and a part of the daily routine for most Albanians. It is cultivated across Southern Albania and noted for its medicinal properties. Black tea with a slice of lemon and sugar, milk, or honey is also popular.

    Albanian wine is also common throughout the country, and has been cultivated for thousands of years. Albania has a long and ancient history of wine production, and belongs to the Old World of wine producing countries. [346] [347] Its wine is characterized by its sweet taste and traditionally indigenous varieties.

    Media

    The freedom of press and speech, and the right to free expression is guaranteed in the constitution of Albania. [348] Albania was ranked 84th on the Press Freedom Index of 2020 compiled by the Reporters Without Borders, with its score steadily declining since 2003. [349] Nevertheless, in the 2020 report of Freedom in the World, the Freedom House classified the freedoms of press and speech in Albania as partly free from political interference and manipulation. [350]

    Radio Televizioni Shqiptar (RTSH) is the national broadcaster corporation of Albania operating numerous television and radio stations in the country. [351] The three major private broadcaster corporations are Top Channel, Televizioni Klan and Vizion Plus whose content are distributed throughout Albania and beyond its territory in Kosovo and other Albanian-speaking territories. [261]

    Albanian cinema has its roots in the 20th century and developed after the country's declaration of independence. [352] The first movie theater exclusively devoted to showing motion pictures was built in 1912 in Shkodër by an Austrian distribution company with strong efforts by Albanian painter Kolë Idromeno. [352] The opening of other movie theaters followed by 1920 in Shkodër, Berat, Tirana and Vlorë. [352]

    During the Peoples Republic of Albania, Albanian cinema developed rapidly with the inauguration of the Kinostudio Shqipëria e Re in Tirana. [352] In 1953, the Albanian-Soviet epic film, the Great Warrior Skanderbeg, was released chronicling the life and fight of the medieval Albanian hero Skanderbeg. It went on to win the international prize at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival. In 2003, the Tirana International Film Festival was established, the largest film festival in the country. Durrës is host to the Durrës International Film Festival, the second largest film festival, taking place at the Durrës Amphitheatre.

    Music

    Albanian folk music is a prominent part of the national identity, and continues to play a major part in overall Albanian music. Folk music can be divided into two stylistic groups, mainly the northern Gheg varieties, and southern Lab and Tosk varieties. Northern and southern traditions are contrasted by a rugged tone from the north, and the more relaxed southern form of music.

    Many songs concern events from Albanian history and culture, including traditional themes of honour, hospitality, treachery, and revenge. The first compilation of Albanian folk music was made by two Himariot musicians, Neço Muka and Koço Çakali, in Paris, during their work with Albanian soprano Tefta Tashko-Koço. Several gramophone compilations were recorded at the time by the three artists, which eventually led to the recognition of Albanian iso-polyphony as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. [354]

    Festivali i Këngës is a traditional Albanian song contest organised by the national broadcaster Radio Televizioni Shqiptar (RTSH). The festival is celebrated annually since its inauguration in 1962 and has launched the careers of some of Albania's most successful singers including Vaçe Zela and Parashqevi Simaku. [355] It is significantly a music competition among Albanian performers presenting unreleased songs in premiere, composed by Albanian authors and voted by juries or by public.

    Contemporary artists Rita Ora, Bebe Rexha, Era Istrefi, Dua Lipa, Ava Max, Bleona, Elvana Gjata, Ermonela Jaho, and Inva Mula have achieved international recognition for their music, [356] while soprano Ermonela Jaho has been described by some as the "world's most acclaimed soprano". [357] Albanian opera singer Saimir Pirgu was nominated for the 2017 Grammy Award. [358]

    Traditional clothing

    Every cultural and geographical region of Albania has its own specific variety of costume that vary in style, material, color, shape, detail, and form. [359] Presently, national costumes are most often worn during special events and celebrations, mostly at ethnic festivals, religious holidays, weddings, and by performing dance groups. Some elderly people continue to wear traditional clothing in their daily lives. Clothing was traditionally made mainly from local materials such as leather, wool, linen, hemp fibre, and silk Albanian textiles are still embroidered in elaborate ancient patterns.

    Literature

    The Albanian language comprises an independent branch and is a language isolate within the Indo-European family of languages it is not connected to any other known living language in Europe. Its origin is conclusively unknown, but it is believed to have descended from an ancient Paleo-Balkan language. [360] [361] [362]

    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 northern of Albania, 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 Martin Luther did for the German language. Meshari (The Missal) written by Gjon Buzuku was published in 1555 and is considered as one of the first literary work of written Albanian during the Middle Ages. 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 Siege of Shkodër (Rrethimi i Shkodrës) from 1504, confirms that he leafed through such chronicles written in the language of the people (in vernacula lingua) as well as his famous biography of Skanderbeg Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi Epirotarum principis (History of Skanderbeg) from 1508. The History of Skanderbeg is still the foundation of Skanderbeg studies and is considered an Albanian cultural treasure, vital to the formation of Albanian national self-consciousness.

    During the 16th and the 17th centuries, the catechism (E mbësuame krishterë) (Christian Teachings) from 1592 written by Lekë Matrënga, (Doktrina e krishterë) (The Christian Doctrine) from 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 in the 20th and 21st century is probably Ismail Kadare. He has been mentioned as a possible recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature several times.

    Sports

    Albania participated at the Olympic Games in 1972 for the first time. The country made their Winter Olympic Games debut in 2006. Albania missed the next four games, two of them due to the 1980 and 1984 boycotts, but returned for the 1992 games in Barcelona. Since then, Albania have participated in all games. Albania normally competes in events that include swimming, athletics, weightlifting, shooting and wrestling. The country have been represented by the National Olympic Committee of Albania since 1972. The nation has participated at the Mediterranean Games since the games of 1987 in Syria. The Albanian athletes have won a total of 43 (8 gold, 17 silver and 18 bronze) medals from 1987 to 2013.

    Popular sports in Albania include Football, weightlifting, basketball, volleyball, tennis, swimming, rugby union and gymnastics. Football is by far the most popular sport in Albania. It is governed by the Football Association of Albania (Albanian: Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit, F.SH.F.), which was created in 1930 and has membership in FIFA and UEFA. Football arrived in Albania early in the 20th century when the inhabitants of the northern city of Shkodër were surprised to see a strange game being played by students at a Christian mission.

    The Albania national football team, ranking 51st in the World in 2017 (highest 22nd on 22 August 2015) have won the 1946 Balkan Cup and the Malta Rothmans International Tournament 2000, but had never participated in any major UEFA or FIFA tournament, until UEFA Euro 2016, Albania's first ever appearance at the continental tournament and at a major men's football tournament. Albania scored their first ever goal in a major tournament and secured their first ever win in European Championship when they beat Romania by 1–0 in a UEFA Euro 2016 match on 19 June 2016. [363] [364] The most successful football clubs in the country are Skënderbeu, KF Tirana, Dinamo Tirana, Partizani and Vllaznia.

    Weightlifting is one of the most successful individual sport for the Albanians, with the national team winning medals at the European Weightlifting Championships and the rest international competitions. Albanian weightlifters have won a total of 16 medals at the European Championships with 1 of them being gold, 7 silver and 8 bronze. In the World Weightlifting Championships, the Albanian weightlifting team has won in 1972 a gold in 2002 a silver and in 2011 a bronze medal.

    Diaspora

    Historically, the Albanian people have established several communities in many regions throughout Southern Europe. The Albanian diaspora has been formed since the late Middle Ages, when they emigrated to places such as Italy, especially in Sicily and Calabria, and Greece to escape either various socio-political difficulties or the Ottoman conquest of Albania. [365] Following the fall of communism, large numbers of Albanians have migrated to countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Scandinavia, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. Albanian minorities are present in the neighbouring territories such as the west of North Macedonia, the east of Montenegro, Kosovo in its entirety and southern Serbia. In Kosovo, Albanians make up the largest ethnic group in the country. Altogether, the number of ethnic Albanian living abroad its territory is estimated to be higher than the total population inside the territory of Albania.