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Albanians () are a nation and ethnic group native to Albania and neighbouring countries. In the context of an ethnicity, they are commonly referred to as ethnic Albanians to distinguish the group from the use of the term Albanians as referring to citizens of Albania. They speak the Albanian language. More than half of all Albanians live in Albania and Kosovo. The Albanian diaspora also exists in a number of other countries.



While the exonym Albania for the general region inhabited by the Albanians does hark back to Classical Antiquity, and possibly to an Illyrian tribe, the name was lost within the Albanian language, the Albanian endonym being shqiptar, from the term for the Albanian language, shqip, a derivation of the verb shqiptoj "to utilize a correct Albanian pronunciation ". This theory pertains to Hahn and it holds that perhaps the word is ultimately a loan from Latin excipio.[1] Thus, the Albanian endonym, like Slav and others, is in origin a term for "those who speak [intelligibly, the same language]". However another plausible theory has been advanced by Maximilian Lambertz to explain the endonym as derived from the Albanian noun shqype or shqiponj (eagle), which, according to Albanian folk etymology, denoted a bird totem dating from the times of Skanderbeg, as displayed on the Albanian flag.[2]

In History written in 1079 1080, the Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium. It is disputed, however, whether that refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense.[3] However a later reference to Albanians from the same Attaliates, regarding the participation of Albanians in a rebellion around 1078, is undisputed.[4] The first reference to the Albanian language dates to the later 13th century (around 1285).[5]

The Albanians are and have been referred to by other terms as well. Some of them are:

  • Arb r, Arb n, Arb resh ; the old native term denoting ancient and medieval Albanians and sharing the same root with the latter. At the time the country was called Arb r (Gheg: Arb n) and Arb ria (Gheg: Arb nia). This term is still used for the Albanians that migrated to Italy during the Middle Ages.
  • Arnauts ( ); old term used mainly from Turks and by extension by European authors during the Ottoman Empire. A derivate of the Turkish Arvanid (Arnavut) ( ), which derives from the Greek Arvanites.
  • Skipetars; the historical rendering of the ethnonym Shqiptar (or Shqyptar by French, Austrian and German authors) in use from the 18th century (but probably earlier) to the present, the literal translation of which is subject of the eagle. The term iptari is a derivation used by Yugoslavs which the Albanians consider derogatory, preferring Albanci instead.


castle of Petrela]] was the access point to the region known with this name[6] Population movements, 14th century.

Albanians in the Middle Ages

What is possibly the earliest written reference to the Albanians is that to be found in an old Bulgarian text compiled around the beginning of the 11th century.[7] It was discovered in a Serbian manuscript dated 1628 and was first published in 1934 by Radoslav Grujic. This fragment of a legend from the time of Tsar Samuel endeavours, in a catechismal 'question and answer' form, to explain the origins of peoples and languages. It divides the world into seventy-two languages and three religious categories: Orthodox, half-believers (i.e. non-Orthodox Christians) and non-believers. The Albanians find their place among the nations of half-believers. If the dating of Grujic is accepted, which is based primarily upon the contents of the text as a whole, this would be the earliest written document referring to the Albanians as a people or language group.[8]

It can be seen that there are various languages on earth. Of them, there are five Orthodox languages: Bulgarian, Greek, Syrian, Iberian (Georgian) and Russian. Three of these have Orthodox alphabets: Greek, Bulgarian and Iberian. There are twelve languages of half-believers: Alamanians, Franks, Magyars (Hungarians), Indians, Jacobites, Armenians, Saxons, Lechs (Poles), Arbanasi (Albanians), Croatians, Hizi, Germans.

The first undisputed mention of Albanians in the historical record is attested in Byzantine source for the first time in 1079 1080, in a work titled History by Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates, who referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium. It is disputed, however, whether the "Albanoi" of the events of 1043 refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense or whether "Albanoi" is a reference to Normans from Sicily under an archaic name (there was also tribe of Italy by the name of "Albanoi").[9] However a later reference to Albanians from the same Attaliates, regarding the participation of Albanians in a rebellion around 1078, is undisputed.[4] At this point, they are already fully Christianized, although Albanian mythology and folklore are part of the Paleo-Balkan pagan mythology,[10] in particular showing Greek influence.[11]

From late 11th century the Albanians were called Arb n/Arb r and their country as Arbanon,[12] a mountainous area to the west of Lake Ochrida and the upper valley of the river Shkumbin.[13] It was in 1190, when the rulers of Arbanon (local Albanian noble called Progon and his sons Dhimit r and Gjin) created their principality with its capital at Kruj .[14] After the fall of Progon Dynasty in 1216, the principality came under Grigor Kamona and Gulam of Albania. Finally the Principality was dissolved on 1255. Around 1230 the two main centers of Albanian settlements, one around Devoll river in what is now central Albania,[15] and the other around the region which was known with the name Arbanon.[14]

In 1271 Charles of Anjou after he captured Durr s from Despotate of Epirus, created the Kingdom of Albania. In 14th century a number of Albanian principalities were created.

Albanians under the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman supremacy in the Balkan region began in 1385 with the Battle of Savra but was briefly interrupted in the 15th century, when George Kastrioti, an Albanian warrior known as Skanderbeg, allied with some Albanian chiefs, formed the League of Lezhe and fought-off Turkish rule from 1443 1478 (although Kastrioti died in 1468). Kastrioti's strongholds included Kruja, Shkodra, Durr s, Lezha, Petrela, Koxhaxhik and Berat.

Upon the Ottomans' return, a large number of Albanians fled to Italy, Greece and Egypt and maintained their Arb resh identity.

Albanian national awakening

Some Albanians in Dibra, 1904

By the 1870s, the Sublime Porte's reforms aimed at checking the Ottoman Empire's disintegration had clearly failed. The image of the "Turkish yoke" had become fixed in the nationalist mythologies and psyches of the empire's Balkan peoples, and their march toward independence quickened. The Albanians, because of the higher degree of Islamic influence, their internal social divisions, and the fear that they would lose their Albanian-populated lands to the emerging Balkan states Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece were the last of the Balkan peoples to desire division from the Ottoman Empire.[16] The Albanian national awakening as a coherent political movement began after the Treaty of San Stefano, according to which Albanian-inhabited areas were to be ceded to other states of the Balkans, and focused on preventing that partition.[17][18] The Treaty of San Stefano was the impetus for the nation-building movement, which was based more on fear of partition than national identity.[18] Even after Albania became independent in 1912, Albanian national identity was fragmented and possible non-existent in much of the new country.[18] The state of disunity and fragmentation would remain until the communist period following World War 2, when the communist nation-building project would achieve greater success in nation-building and reach more people than any previous regime, thus creating Albanian national communist identity.[18]



Approximately 6 million Albanians are to be found within the Balkan peninsula with about half this number residing in Albania and the other divided between Kosovo, Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece and to a much smaller extent Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.


Albania has an estimated 3 million inhabitants, with ethnic Albanians comprising approximately 95% of the total.[19]

Former Yugoslavia

An estimated 2.2 million Albanians live in the territory of Former Yugoslavia, the greater part (close to two million) in Kosovo.

Rights to use the Albanian language in education and government were given and guaranteed by the 1974 Constitution of SFRY and were widely utilized in Macedonia and in Montenegro before the Dissolution of Yugoslavia.[20]


Tosk Albanians wearing traditional costumes from southern Albania.

An estimated 275,000 600,000 Albanians live in Greece, forming the largest immigrant community in the country.[21][22] They are economic migrants whose migration began in 1991, following the collapse of the Socialist People's Republic of Albania.

The Arvanites and Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace are a group descended from Tosk Albanians who migrated to southern and central Greece between the 13th and 16th centuries. They are Greek Orthodox Christians, and though they traditionally speak a dialect of Tosk Albanian known as Arvanitika, they have fully assimilated into the Greek nation and do not identify as Albanians. Arvanitika is in a state of attrition due to language shift towards Greek and large-scale internal migration to the cities and subsequent intermingling of the population during the 20th century.

The Cham Albanians were a group that formerly inhabited a region of Epirus known as Chameria, nowadays Thesprotia in northwestern Greece. Most Cham Albanians converted to Islam during the Ottoman era. Muslim Chams were expelled from Greece during World War II, by an anti-communist resistance group, as a result of their participation in a communist resistance group and the collaboration with the Axis occupation, while Orthodox Chams have largely assimilated into the Greek nation.



Approximately 1 million are dispersed throughout the rest of Europe, most of these in Italy (438,000), Germany (320,000), Switzerland (200,000), Sweden (60,000), and the UK.

Italy has a historical Albanian minority known as the Arb resh (260,000) which are scattered across Southern Italy, but the majority of Albanians in Italy arrived in 1991 and have since surpassed the older populations of Arb resh . Flag of the Italian Arberesh.svg|right|200px


According to a 2008 report prepared for the National Security Council of Turkey by academics of three Turkish universities in eastern Anatolia, there were approximately 1,300,000 people of Albanian descent living in Turkey.[23] A part of these people have assimilated to the culture of Turkey, and consider themselves more Turkish than Albanian. Nonetheless, more than 500,000 Albanian descents still recognize their ancestry like their languages, culture and traditions.


In Egypt there are 18,000 Albanians, mostly Tosk speakers. Many are descendants of the Janissary of Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Albanian who became W li, and self-declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan. In addition to the dynasty that he established, a large part of the former Egyptian and Sudanese aristocracy was of Albanian origin.


According to data from the 2008 Census of the United States Government, there are 201,118 Albanian Americans (US citizens of full or partial Albanian descent).[24]

In Australia and New Zealand 22,000 in total. Albanians are also known to reside in China, India, Iran, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore, but the numbers are generally small. Albanians have been present in Arab countries such as Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria for about 5 centuries as a legacy of Ottoman Turkish rule.


The Albanian language forms a separate branch of Indo-European languages family tree. A traditional view links the origin of Albanian with Illyrian, though this theory is broadly contested and challenged.[25]

Unattested prior to the second half of the 15th century, the Albanian language is one of the youngest languages of Europe in terms of first written account.

A map showing Tosk/Geg speakers in Albania (19th century)

Albanian in a revised form of the Tosk dialect is the official language of Albania and Kosovo; and is official in the municipalities where there are more than 20% ethnic Albanian inhabitants in the Republic of Macedonia. It is also an official language of Montenegro where it is spoken in the municipalities with ethnic Albanian populations.


The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late 11th century.[26] At this point, they were already fully Christianized. Christianity was later overtaken by Islam, which kept the scepter of the major religion during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule from the 15th century until year 1912. Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism continued to be practiced with less frequency.

Et'hem Bey Mosque in Tirana

During the 20th century the monarchy and later the totalitarian state followed a systematic secularization of the nation and the national culture. This policy was chiefly applied within the borders of the current Albanian state. It produced a secular majority in the population. All forms of Christianity, Islam and other religious practices were prohibited except for old non-institutional Pagan practices in the rural areas, which were seen as identifying with the national culture. The current Albanian state has revived some pagan festivals, such as the lunar Spring festival () held yearly on March 14 in the city of Elbasan. It is a national holiday.

Most of the Muslims in Albania are Sunni Muslims and Bektashi Muslims[27][28] There are also Orthodox Christians, predominantly in Southern Albania, bordering Greece, and Roman Catholicism is the main religion among those Albanians living predominantly in northern Albania, bordering the Republic of Montenegro. After 1992 an influx of foreign missionaries has brought more religious diversity with groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Hindus, Bah ' , a variety of Christian denominations and others. This rich blend of religions has however rarely caused religious strife. People of different religions freely intermarry. For part of its history, Albania has also had a Jewish community. Some of the members of the Jewish community were saved by a group of Albanians during the Nazi occupation.[29] Many left for Israel circa 1990 1992 after borders were open due to fall of communist regime in Albania, while in modern times about 200 Albanian Jews still live in Albania.


Orthodox Cathedral of Kor .

Albanian music displays a variety of influences. Albanian folk music traditions differ by region, with major stylistic differences between the traditional music of the Ghegs in the north and Tosks in the south. Modern popular music has developed around the centers of Korca, Shkod r and Tirana. Since the 1920s, some composers such as Fan S. Noli have also produced works of Albanian classical music.

Notable Albanians

  • Gjon Buzuku a northern Albanian Catholic cleric born in the 16th century; the author of the first book written and published in Albanian.
  • Mit hat Frash ri- Albanian diplomat, writer and politician. The son of Abdyl Frash ri, one of the most important activists of the Albanian National Awakening in 1908 he participated in the Congress of Manastir
  • Lorik Cana- Famous Albanian Football player
  • Ismail Kadare- Famous Albanian writer
  • Gjek Marinaj- Eminent Albanian-American writer and literary critic.
  • Agim Kaba- Emmy nominated actor and artist.
  • Rexhep Qosja- prominent Albanian politician and literary critic.
  • Naim Krieziu- Albanian football player famous in Italy in 1940s and 1950s.
  • Sedefkar Mehmed Agha- Albanian architect of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the "Blue Mosque") in Istanbul.
  • Mother Teresa- was a Catholic nun of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship, who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta,
  • Skanderbeg- as a 15th-century Albanian lord[D], who as leader of the federation of the League of Lezh defended the region of Albania against the Ottoman Empire for more than two decades.
  • Mohammed Ali Pasha Viceroy of Egypt and Sudan
  • Mirela Manjani- is a retired Albanian javelin thrower who represented Greece.
  • James Biberi- James Biberi is an Albanian actor. He was born in Kosovo.
  • Gjon Mili- Famous Albanian-American photographer
  • Inva Mula- Inva Mula is an Albanian opera soprano. She comes from an artistic family. She began her soprano career at a very early age.
  • Aleksander Moisiu- Famous Albanian stage actor.
  • Ernesto Sabato (1911 2011) Argentinian writer, painter and physicist of Arb resh -Albanian descent. His writings led him to receive many international prizes, including the Legion of Honour (France), the Prix M dicis (Italy) and the Miguel de Cervantes Prize (Spain).
  • Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani (1914 October 2, 1999) was an influential Albanian Sunni Islamic scholar of the 20th Century; he specialised in the fields of hadith and fiqh. He was also a prolific writer and speaker.


File:Albanians in Europe.jpg|Albanians in Europe. File:Presence of Albanians in "Greater Albania".png|Presence of Albanians in Albania, Kosovo and neighboring countries. Note that the Arvanites from Central Greece and Arberesh of Southern Italy are not represented and that there is no census data available for Greece.

See also

  • Albanian diaspora
  • Albanian-American
  • Albanoi
  • Arb resh
  • Arvanites
  • Demographics of Albania
  • Cham Albanians
  • List of Albanian-Americans
  • List of Albanians
  • Mandritsa




Further reading

External links

ar: an:Albaneses az:Albanlar be: be-x-old: bg: bs:Albanci ca:Albanesos cv: cs:Alb nci cy:Albaniaid de:Albaner et:Albaanlased eo:Albanoj fa: fr:Albanais (peuple) fy:Albanezen ko: hr:Albanci it:Albanesi kk: lv:Alb i lt:Albanai hu:Alb nok mk: nl:Albanezen ja: no:Albanere pl:Alba czycy pt:Albaneses ro:Albanezi ru: sq:Shqiptar t sk:Alb nci sl:Albanci sr: sh:Albanci fi:Albaanit sv:Albaner tr:Arnavutlar uk: zh:

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