3. Albania

Albania is a country located in the southwestern part of Balkan peninsula. It is bordered by Montenegro (northwest), Kosova (north), Macedonia (east), Greece (south and southeast) and has a coast on the Adriatic and Ionian seas to the west.

It is a country with a very rich history and heritage. It has been part of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires for centuries, in less than 100  years has experienced monarchy and republic, communism and democracy (better say a long transition period), it has a muslim majority but is considered to have served as a barrier for the western Europe against ottomans.

The territory of modern Albania was inhabited by tribal group of Illyrians, considered as the ancestors of today albanians. Starting from the fifth century B.C, they created several organised territorial formations such as Kingdom of Illyria, Kingdom of Dardania and State of Epirus.

Around seventh century B.C, a series of Greek colonies were founded along the coast. The largest were Apollonia and Dyrrachium.

Romans occupied this territories in the second century B.C and ruled them until 395, when the empire split up and Illyria was left under the authority of the eastern empire (Byzantine empire).

After the schism of 1054, the dividing line between Catholicism and Orthodoxy stretched across Albania (Catholics in the north and Orthodox in the south). The weakening Byzantine empire, was forced to abandon these lands in 1341 allowing Albanian feudal lords to gain control.

But their rule did not last for long, due to the increasing power of the Ottomans.  They invaded and occupied the region dominating it for the next 500 years. The most visible effect of the ottoman rule in Albania is the presence of a muslim community, converted to Islam during this time.

In 1912, Albania declared its independece from the Ottoman empire. This was followed by a brief period as a republic and than as monarchy under king Zogu.

When World War II ended, communists took control of Albania. The communist leader, Enver Hoxha, applied a strict Stalinist governance. He died in 1985 but communism in Albania endeavored until 1991.

Today Albania is a pluralist country with a free market economy. Since April 2008, the country joined NATO while is trying to get an invitation to become part of the European Union.

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