Albanian (Shqipja) is an Indo-European language with many Latin, Slavonic and modern Greek words. It has two main forms, Tosk and Gheg, which diverged about 1000 years ago. In 1972, the Congress of Orthography established a unified written language, which is now universally accepted for both languages. Italian is useful for travel in Albania; many Albanians learned it before 1943, but others have picked it up by watching Italian TV stations or through recent trips to Italy. Albania not only has a fascinating and mountanous natural environment but also a very rich culture. Through the ages, the country has been ruled by different people who all left their mark on the culture.
The climate in this southern-european country is sunny and warm.In 1990 Albania ended 44 years of xenophobic communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven difficult as corrupt governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, a dilapidated infrastructure, widespread gangsterism, and disruptive political opponents. International observers judged local elections in 2000 to be acceptable and a step toward democratic development, but serious deficiencies remain to be corrected before the the 2001 parliamentary elections.
Tirana, the capital of Albania, is an ancient city with an early history enriched by the interplay of cultural forces originating in the Islamic and European Christian worlds. The area around Tirana has been inhabited since the neolithic age. It is the largest city and the chief industrial and cultural center of the country. Tiranë is located on a fertile plain that yields a variety of agricultural products. Its manufactures include metal products, agricultural machinery, textiles, pharmaceuticals, and foodstuffs. The founding and later development of the city of Tirana were made possible by its geographic position on the fertile plain, rich in forest lands and water, and crossroads of the Adriatic and eastern Albania, and through the Qafa e K‘rab‘s valley and the Shkumbin river with the inner parts of the Balkan peninsula.
The name of the city contains an ancient root that is present in other places that have been inhabited by Illyrians. There was a system of castles on the surrounding hills (Petrel‘, Prez‘, Ndroq, Fark‘, etc.) that served as protection for Durr‘s and Kruja. The oldest discovery in the area of Tirana has been a mosaic with several other remains of buildings of the later antiquity, found at the Kroi i Sh‘ngjinit (Fountain of Sh‘ngjin), near a Medieval temple.Records of the first land registrations under the Ottomans in 1431-32 reveal that Tirana then consisted of 60 inhabited areas, with nearly 1000 houses and 7300 inhabitants.
According to the historian Marin Barleti in the 15th century there was a ‘Tirana e Madhe’ and a ‘Tirana e Vogël’ (Great and Small Tirana) in the 15th century. Barleti, a Catholic priest and scholar, was largely responsible, through his biography of him, for creating what became the cult of Iskander Bey, the title (in Turkish) (rendered in Albanian as ‘Skenderbeu’, and frequently anglicized as ‘Skanderbeg’) given to Gjergj Kastrioti, an Albanian nobleman who, after being forcibly brought to Adrianople as a youth and given military training, distinguished himself in a number of campaigns for the Ottomans, and was promoted to the rank of general, but then returned to Albania to liberate it, and spent the next 25 years, until his death, leading a successful guerilla resistance against the forces of the Turkish empire. Skenderbeu continues to be the national hero of Albania.
On November 26th, 1912, the people of Tirana, in accordance with Ismajl Qemali, rose the Albanian flag to end the rule of the Ottoman Turks in Albania. During the First Balkan War, Tirana was captured by the Serbian army. A large population from Dibra, forcefully expelled from their homes by the Serbian army, in 1913-1915 and 1918-1920, took shelter and settled in Tirana. The inhabitants of Tirana and its surroundings took part in an uprising led by Haxhi Qamili in 1914. On February 8th, 1920, the provisional government formed at the Congress of Lushje moved to Tirana, and at this point Tirana became the capital of the country. This played an important role for the development of the town.
Most of the modern part of Tirana was built after 1920, when it was selected as the capital of Albania. A new residential quarter was built under Italian rule (1939-43). Also, an industrial sector was developed after the Second World war . On Jan. 11, 1946, the Communist government of Enver Hoxha was proclaimed there. In the early 1990s, Tirana was rocked by massive and often violent demonstrations that forced the Communist government to institute substantial political and economic reforms. After 1990 new industries sprang up in scattered locations around the city.