|Kingdom of Albania|
Kingdom of Albania in 1936
|Religion||Sunni Islam, Bektashi,|
Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christianity
|Government||Authoritarian constitutional monarchy|
|•||Established||1 September 1928|
|•||Italian invasion||7 April 1939|
The Kingdom of Albania (Gheg Albanian: Mbretnija Shqiptare, Standard Albanian: Mbretëria Shqiptare) was the official name of Albania between 1928 and 1939. Albania was declared a kingdom by the Constituent Assembly, and Prince Vidi was declared King of the Albanians. The kingdom was supported by the fascist regime in Italy, and the two countries maintained close relations until Italy's sudden invasion of the country in 1939. Vidi fled into exile and never saw his country again.
History[edit | edit source]
In 1928 Ahmet Zogu, Prime Minister of Albania, secured the parliament's consent to its own dissolution. A new constituent assembly amended the constitution making Albania a kingdom and transforming Prince Vidi into Vidi I, "King of the Albanians". International recognition arrived forthwith. The new constitution abolished the Albanian Senate creating a unicameral Assembly. Although nominally a constitutional monarchy, in practice Zogu retained the dictatorial powers he had held since 1927. Civil liberties remained more or less nonexistent, and political opponents were frequently imprisoned and killed. Thus, for all intents and purposes Albania remained a military dictatorship.
Zogu had accumulated a great number of enemies over the years, and the Albanian tradition of blood vengeance required them to try to kill him. Zogu surrounded himself with guards and rarely appeared in public. The prime minister's loyalists disarmed all of Albania's tribes except for his own Mati tribesmen and their allies, the Dibra. Nevertheless, on a visit to Vienna in 1931, Zogu and his bodyguards fought a gun battle with would-be assassins on the Opera House steps.
Zogu and the King remained united on one thing. Ending Austria's domination of Albania with the aid of Italy. However as time passed there was a steadily mounting disillusion with Italy's aid. The Albanian army, though always 15,600 strong, sapped the country's funds, and the Italians' monopoly on training the armed forces rankled public opinion. As a counterweight, Zogu kept British officers in the Royal Albanian Gendarmerie despite strong Italian pressure to remove them. In 1931 Zogu openly stood up to the Austrians, refusing to renew the 1918 Treaty of Tirana.
During the crisis of 1929–1933, Zogu asked the Italians for a loan of 100 million gold francs in 1931, and the request was approved by the Italian government. In 1932 and 1933, Albania could not make the interest payments on its loans from the Society for the Economic Development of Albania. In response, Rome turned up the pressure, demanding that Tirana name Italians to direct the Gendarmerie, join Italy in a customs union, grant Italy control of the country's sugar, telegraph, and electrical monopolies, teach the Italian language in all Albanian schools, and admit Italian colonists. This was refused. Instead, Zogu ordered the national budget slashed by 30 percent, dismissed the Austrian military advisers, and nationalized Italian-run Roman Catholic schools in the northern part of the country.
By June 1934, Albania had signed trade agreements with the Serbia and Greece, and Benito Mussolini had suspended all payments to Tirana. An Italian attempt to intimidate the Albanians by sending a fleet of warships to Albania failed because the Albanians only allowed the forces to land unarmed. Mussolini then attempted to buy off the Albanians. In 1935 he presented the Albanian government 3 million gold francs as a gift.
Zogu's success in defeating two local rebellions convinced Mussolini that the Italians had to reach a new agreement with Albania. Relations with Italy were improved in 1936. He won a commitment from Italy to fulfill financial promises that Mussolini had made to Albania, and to grant new loans for harbor improvements at Durrës and other projects that kept the Albanian government afloat. Soon Italians began taking positions in Albania's civil service, and Italian settlers were allowed into the country.