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The small mountainous country of Albania is about the size of Wales and is bordered by Kosovo and Montenegro to the north, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south. An enigmatic land, it was until 20 years ago closed to western tourists having suffered for decades under an oppressive communist regime. It is now a youngbutrinti-compressed (1)
parliamentary democracy, a member of NATO and hoping to join the European Union in due course. Originally settled by Illyrians, with Greek colonies on the coast it was part of the region known as Illyrian until the Middle Ages. Conquered and occupied many times Albania formed part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire for almost 500 years. Independent in 1912 Albania became a Kingdom under King Zog who assumed the throne in 1928 until the country was occupied by Mussolini’s Italian forces in 1939. Resistance was led by the communist partisans who took power in 1944. The new Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha fell out with a succession of allies, Tito’s Yugoslavia; The Soviet Union and Mao’s China, before retreating into almost total isolation until Hoxha’s death in 1985. This long and gripping story has left behind a rich archaeological heritage and diverse scenery, unspoilt beaches, wild mountain ranges and dense emerald forests.