Albania is a small, mountainous country in the Balkan peninsula, with a long Adriatic and Ionian coastline.
Along with neighbouring and mainly Albanian-inhabited Kosovo, it has a Muslim majority - a legacy of its centuries of Ottoman rule. About 17% of the population are Christians, divided mainly between the Orthodox and smaller Catholic denominations.
After World War Two, Albania became a Stalinist state under Enver Hoxha, and remained staunchly isolationist until its transition to democracy after 1990.
The 1992 elections ended 47 years of communist rule, but the latter half of the decade saw a quick turnover of presidents and prime ministers.
Many Albanians left the country in search of work; the money they send home remains an important source of revenue.
REPUBLIC OF ALBANIA: FACTS
- Capital: Tirana
- Area: 28,748 sq km
- Major language: Albanian
- Population: 2.7 million
- Life expectancy: 74 years (men) 80 years (women)
President: Bajram Begaj
Bajram Begaj is a former army general who was elected as president by parliament in June 2022April 2017, having previously been chief of the general staff of the Albanian armed forces.
Prime minister: Edi Rama
Edi Rama became prime minister in September 2013, three months after elections in which his Socialist Party won a landslide victory that brought to an end eight years of conservative rule.
His party won a new mandate in elections in June 2017 and in April 2021.
Rama has pursued a neo-liberal economic policy, in terms of reducing public spending and promotes public-private partnerships.
He has argued that the European Union needs to accelerate the integration process of the Western Balkans, in order to prevent political fractures and violence that broke apart the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Rama has also denounced Russian influence as destabilising in the region.
TV is the most popular medium, but the internet is beginning to close the gap.
As well as TV networks run by public RTSH, there are three licensed national private networks and scores of local stations. Two companies offer digital terrestrial and satellite packages.
The media are generally free but press freedom groups say that self-censorship can arise from media owners' interests.
Some key dates in Albania's modern history
1939 - Shortly before the start of World War Two, Italy invades. King Zog flees to Greece.
1941 - Enver Hoxha becomes head of new Albanian Communist Party.
1943 - German forces invade and occupy Albania following Italian surrender.
1944 - Germans withdraw after Communist resistance. Enver Hoxha installed as new leader.
1946 - Purges of non-communists from government positions.
1948 - Albania breaks ties with Yugoslavia. Soviet Union begins economic aid to Albania.
1955 - Albania becomes a founding member of the Warsaw Pact.
1985 - After ruling for nearly half a century, Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha dies.
1989 - Communist rule in Eastern Europe collapses.
1990 - Independent political parties formed. Albanians granted right to travel abroad.
1991 - In multiparty elections, the Communist Party and allies win 169 of the 250 seats, the newly-formed Democratic Party takes 75.
1992 - Democratic Party wins elections. Party leader Sali Berisha becomes first elected president.
1999 - Nato air strikes against Yugoslav military targets. In Kosovo thousands flee attacks by Serb forces. Mass refugee exodus into Albania.
2009 - Albania officially joins Nato and formally applies for membership of the European Union.
2014 - The European Commission recommends Albania as a candidate for European Union membership.
2019 November - Albania is hit by the strongest earthquake to affect the country in more than 40 years, with 51 people killed and about 3,000 injured.
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