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The Republic of Albania is the official name of the country usually called simply Albania. It is surrounded by Montenegro on its northwest, Kosovo in the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to its east. and Greece on its south and southeast. Located in the western portion of the Balkan Peninsula, it is situated on the Strait of Otranto at the southern entrance to the Adriatic Sea. It is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic, and its capital is Tirana.

The people of Albania have been around for thousands of years. In the third century BC, the land that that is now Albania was annexed by the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, it was a Sicilian dependency called the medieval Kingdom of Albania, then part of the Serbian Empire, and in the 15th Century, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1912, the first independent Albanian state was founded, followed by an occupation by the Kingdom of Serbia, then it was a monarchy called the Principality of Albania from 1914 until 1925, and then the first Albanian Republic which lasted from 1925 to 1928. Just before World War II, the country was occupied by Italy, and after the collapse of the Axis powers, it became the communist state of the Socialist People's Republic of Albania under the head of state named Enver Hoxha who led the nation from 1944 until he died in 1985.

After Hoxha died, the second and final Communist leader of Albania ruled until 1991 when the communist regime collapsed, then he became the first President of Albania. Although he was still in the Socialist Party when he was elected, the changes were already underway, and they could not be stopped, a democratic system of government was what Albania would have, as the constitution established exactly that: a democracy and a government based on the rule of law which guarantees fundamental human rights.

Christianity came to Albania early. We know that it was around in the middle of the first century because Paul mentioned it by its name during that time, Illyria, in Romans 15:19: "Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ."

Bishops from the area participated in the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Albanians appear in the historical record in Byzantine writings for the first time in the 11th century, by which time, they were fully Christianized. The majority of Albanians during that time belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church once the schism of 1054 took place. That schism, also called the East-West Schism, was due to many reasons, but the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back was when Rome forced the Greek churches in southern Italy to conform to the Latin practices or close their doors. But by the end of the 12th century, more Eastern Orthodox Christians converted to Roman Catholicism.

In the 14th century, Roman Catholicism was the majority religion, and by the end of the 1300s, the Eastern Orthodox sect was vanquished in favor of the Roman Catholic faith, which had become the majority religion in Albania.

With the invasion by the Ottoman Empire, Islam began to take hold in Albania. In the 16th century, Muslims made up only 5% of the population. The Ottoman Empire, Christian churches were allowed to be active most of the time. Christian subjects were tolerated but they were discriminated against in numerous and obvious ways. For example, they paid substantially higher taxes, they won't permitted to have horses or weapons, and they could not take Muslims to court. The disadvantages served as a small incentive to convert to Islam, though many practiced crypto-Christianity, in other words, they secretly practiced Christianity while pretending to practice Islam. Others, still Pagans, practiced their faith in secret as well.

For the first two hundred years or so of Ottoman rule, it was the peasants of Albania who continued to practice Christianity, while the upper crust, military, and aristocrats were Muslim. In 1594, the Pope started a rebellion among the northern Albanian Catholics when he promised them that Spain would come to their assistance. That help never came, and the rebellion was put down in 1596, after which the Ottoman Empire changed their policies in order to become more repressive and and to put more pressure on the Christians to convert to Islam.

Just prior to World War II, 70% of the population was Muslim, 20% Eastern Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholic, and that has held steady.In 1967, the churches and mosques were all closed and the practice of any faith was made illegal. More than 200 clerics were put in prison and some were executed. In 1990, the an was lifted. According to the 2011 census, 59% of those in Albania are Muslim, 19% are either undeclared or non-affiliated, 10% are Roman Catholic, 7% are Eastern Orthodox, and 2.5% are atheists.

 

 

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