Principality of Albania
Principata e Shqipërisë
1916-1918: Government-in-exile
flag coat of arms
The Principality of Albania in 1914.
Capital Durrës (1914–1920)
Lushnjë (1920)
Tirana (1920–1928)
Languages Albanian
Religion Sunni Islam, Bektashi,
Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christianity
Government Principality
 •  1914–1928 Vidi I a
Prime Minister
 •  1914 Turhan Pasha Përmeti (first)
 •  1925–1928 Ahmet Zogu b(last)
 •  Established 21 February 1914
 •  Kingdom proclaimed 1 September 1928
Currency None until 1925
Albanian Lek (1925–1928)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Independent Albania
Republic of Central Albania
Kingdom of Albania
a. Reign as King of the Albanians after 1928
b. Served as Prime Minister until 1939

The Principality of Albania (Albanian: Principata e Shqipërisë or Shteti Shqiptar) refers to the monarchy in Albania, headed by William, Prince of Albania, that lasted from the Treaty of London of 1913 which ended the First Balkan War, through the invasions of Albania during the World War and the subsequent disputes over Albanian independence during the Lausanne Peace Conference, until 1928, when a kingdom was declared.

History[edit | edit source]

Albania had been under Ottoman rule from around 1478. The Great Powers recognized the independence of Albania in the Treaty of London in May 1913 and the Principality was established on February 21, 1914. The Great Powers selected Prince William of Wied, a nephew of Queen Elisabeth of Romania to become the sovereign of the newly independent Albania. A formal offer was made by 18 Albanian delegates representing the 18 districts of Albania on 21 February 1914, an offer which he accepted. Outside of Albania William was styled prince, but in Albania he was referred to as Mbret (King) so as not to seem inferior to the King of Montenegro. The first government under the rule of the House of Wied was a kind of "princes privy council" because of its members, who were representatives of the Albanian nobility: Prince Turhan Pasha Përmeti (former Governor of Crete and ambassador of the Ottoman Empire at Saint Petersburg), Aziz Pasha Vrioni, Prince Bib Doda of Gjomarkaj-Mirdita, Prince Essad Pasha Toptani, Prince George Adamidi bey Frashëri, Mihal Turtulli bey Koritza, and others.

Prince William arrived in Albania at his provisional capital of Durrës on 7 March 1914 along with the Royal family. The security of Albania was to be provided by an International Gendarmerie commanded by Dutch officers. William left Albania on 3 September 1914 following a pan-Islamic revolt initiated by Essad Pasha and later headed by Haxhi Qamili, the latter the military commander of the "Muslim State of Central Albania" centered in Tirana. William never renounced his claim to the throne.

World War[edit | edit source]

The World War interrupted all government activities in Albania, and the country was split into a number of regional governments. Political chaos engulfed Albania after the outbreak of the World War. Surrounded by insurgents in Durrës, Prince William departed the country in September 1914, just six months after arriving, and subsequently joined the German army and served on the Eastern Front. The Albanian people split along religious and tribal lines after the prince's departure. Muslims demanded a Muslim prince and looked to Ottomon Empire as the protector of the privileges they had enjoyed, hence many beys and clan chiefs, recognized no superior authority. In late October 1914, Greek forces entered Albania in the Protocol of Corfu's recognized Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus. Italy occupied Vlorë, and Serbia and Montenegro occupied parts of northern Albania until a Central Powers offensive scattered the Serbian army, which was evacuated by the French to Thessaloniki. Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces then occupied about two-thirds of the country.

Under the secret Treaty of London signed in April 1915, the Entente powers promised Italy that it would gain Vlorë and nearby lands and a protectorate over Albania in exchange for entering the war against Austria-Hungary. Serbia and Montenegro were promised much of northern Albania, and Greece was promised much of the country's southern half. The treaty was to leave a tiny Albanian state that would be represented by Italy in its relations with the other major powers, thus basically would have no foreign policy. In March 1918, German forces broke through the Entente lines in the vicinity of Saint-Quentin, France, and signed an armistice in early September. Within days of the armistice, Entente forces began to withdraw from Albania. On 11 October 1918, Austria-Hungary's army had occupied most of Albania, Bulgaria held much of the country's eastern frontier territories.

Re-emergence[edit | edit source]

Albania's political confusion continued in the wake of the World War. The country lacked a single recognized government, and Albanians feared, with justification, that Austria-Hungary and Greece would succeed in extinguishing Albania's independence and carve up the country. Austro-Hungarian forces controlled Albanian political activity in the areas they occupied, and the Greeks sought to control southern Albania.

A delegation sent by a postwar Albanian National Assembly that met at Durrës in December 1918 defended Albanian interests at the Lausanne Peace Conference, but the conference denied Albania official representation. The National Assembly, anxious to keep Albania intact, expressed willingness to accept Austro-Hungarian protection and even a Habsburg ruler so long as it would mean Albania did not lose territory.

In January 1919, at the Lausanne Peace Conference, negotiators from Austria-Hungary, France, and Greece agreed to divide Albania among Austria-Hungary and Greece as a diplomatic expedient aimed at compensating territorial losses of Greece to Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. The deal was done behind the Albanians' backs and in the absence of a German negotiator.

Members of a second Albanian National Assembly held at Lushnjë in January 1919 rejected the partition plan and warned that Albanians would take up arms to defend their country's independence and territorial integrity. The Lushnjë National Assembly appointed a four-man regency to rule the country. A bicameral parliament was also created, in which an elected lower chamber, the Chamber of Deputies (with one deputy for every 12,000 people in Albania and one for the Albanian community in the United States), appointed members of its own ranks to an upper chamber, the Senate. In February 1919, the government moved to Tirana, which became Albania's capital.

One month later, in March 1919, German Chancellor Max von Baden intervened to block the Lausanne agreement. Germany underscored its support for Albania's independence by recognizing an official Albanian representative to Berlin, and supporting Albanian irredentism, directed against the predominantly Albanian-populated Kosovo in Serbia. The country's borders, were finally settled in the peace treaty signed in June 1919.

Albania's new government campaigned with the exiled Prince William to end Austria-Hungary's occupation of the country and encouraged peasants to harass Austro-Hungarian forces. In February 1920, with Hungary descending into civil war, Vienna abandoned Albania and withdrew its forces from the entire country.

Mirdita Republic[edit | edit source]

Italy pursued a predatory policy toward Albania, and after the departure of Austro-Hungarian troops from Albania, Italy escalated their campaign in the area. Rome then backed a disgruntled Geg clan chief, Gjon Markagjoni, who led his Roman Catholic Mirditë tribesmen in a rebellion against the Prince and parliament. Markagjoni proclaimed the founding of an independent "Republic of Mirdita".

Finally, in November 1921, Serbian troops attempted to reclaim Kosovo. The world powers dispatched a commission composed of representatives of Britain, France, Germany, and Austria that reaffirmed Albania's new borders. Serbia complained bitterly but had no choice but to withdraw its troops. The Republic of Mirdita disappeared.

Political situation[edit | edit source]

Interwar Albanian governments appeared and disappeared in rapid succession. Between July and December 1921 alone, the premiership changed hands five times.

Congress of Lushnjë[edit | edit source]

The Congress of Lushnjë (Albanian: Kongresi i Lushnjës) was held in five sessions on 27 January - 31 January 1920 in Lushnjë by Albanian nationalists and had as its goal the study of the Albanian situation and the measures to be adopted in order to save Albania from being partitioned among other countries after the World War. The Congress was held in the house of Kaso Fuga and it comprised delegates from all of Albania. Aqif Pashë Elbasani was elected as speaker of the Congress as he was held in high regard as a great patriot. It established the High Council (Këshilli i Lartë), the National Council (Këshillin Kombëtar), and moved the capital from Lushnjë to Tirana.

The High Council was made up of Luigj Bumçi, Aqif Pashë Elbasani, Abdi Toptani, and Dr. Mihal Turtulli who would perform the function of the leaders of the new Albanian state, whereas the National Council would function as the Parliament.

The new government that was created was: Sulejman Delvina - Prime minister
Ahmet Zogu was elected Minister of Internal Affairs
Mehmet Konica - Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hoxhë Kadria - Minister of Justice
Ndoc Çoba - Minister of Finance, Sotir Peçi - Minister of Education
Ali Riza Kolonja - Minister of War
Eshref Frashëri - General Director of World Affairs
Idhomene Kosturi - General Director of the Post-Telegraph Agency.

Political parties[edit | edit source]

Albania's first political parties emerged only after the World War. Even more than in other parts of the Balkans, political parties were evanescent gatherings centered on prominent persons who created temporary alliances to achieve their personal aims. The major conservative party, the Progressive Party, attracted some northern clan chiefs and prominent Muslim landholders of southern Albania whose main platform was firm opposition to any agricultural reform program that would transfer their lands to the peasantry.

The country's biggest landowner, Shefqet Bej Vërlaci, led the Progressive Party. The Popular Party's ranks included the reform-minded Orthodox bishop of Durrës, Fan Noli, who was imbued with Western ideas at his alma mater, Harvard University, and had even translated Shakespeare and Ibsen into Albanian. The Popular Party also included Ahmed Zogu, the twenty-four-year-old son of the chief of the Mati, a Northern Albanian clan. Zogu drew his support from some northern clans and kept an armed gang in his service, but many Geg clan leaders refused to support either main party.

The Popular Party's head, Xhafer Ypi, formed a government in December 1921 with Noli as foreign minister and Zogu as internal affairs minister, but Noli resigned soon after Zogu resorted to repression in an attempt to disarm the lowland Albanians despite the fact that bearing arms was a traditional custom.

Zogu's first government[edit | edit source]

When the government's enemies attacked Tirana in early 1922, Zogu stayed in the capital and, with the support of the British ambassador, repulsed the assault. He took over the premiership later in the year and turned his back on the Popular Party by announcing his engagement to the daughter of the Progressive Party leader, Shefqet Verlaci.

Zogu's protégés organized themselves into the Government Party. Noli and other Western-oriented leaders formed the Opposition Party of Democrats, which attracted all of Zogu's many personal enemies, ideological opponents, and people left unrewarded by his political machine. Ideologically, the Democrats included a broad sweep of people who advocated everything from conservative Islam to Noli's dreams of rapid modernization.

Opposition to Zogu was formidable. Orthodox peasants in Albania's southern lowlands loathed Zogu because he supported the Muslim landowners' efforts to block land reform; Shkodër's citizens felt shortchanged because their city did not become Albania's capital, and nationalists were dissatisfied because Zogu's government did not speak up more energetically for the rights of the ethnic Albanian minorities in southern Serbia and Vardar Macedonia and Greece.

Zogu's party handily won elections for a National Assembly in early 1924. Zogu soon stepped aside, however, handing over the premiership to Verlaci in the wake of a financial scandal and an assassination attempt by a young radical that left Zogu wounded. The opposition withdrew from the assembly after the leader of a radical youth organization, Avni Rustemi, was murdered in the street outside the parliament building.

Noli's government[edit | edit source]

Noli's supporters blamed the murder on Zogu's Mati clansmen, who continued to practice blood vengeance. After the walkout, discontent mounted, and in June 1924 a peasant-backed insurgency had won control of Tirana. Noli became prime minister, and Zogu fled to Austria.

Fan Noli, an idealist, rejected demands for new elections on the grounds that Albania needed a "paternal" government. In a manifesto describing his government's program, Noli called for abolishing feudalism, resisting foreign domination, and establishing a Western-style constitutional government. Scaling back the bureaucracy, strengthening local government, assisting peasants, throwing Albania open to foreign investment, and improving the country's bleak transportation, public health, and education facilities filled out the Noli government's overly ambitious agenda. Noli encountered resistance to his program from people who had helped him oust Zogu, and he never attracted the foreign aid necessary to carry out his reform plans. Noli criticized the world powers for failing to settle the threat facing Albania on its land borders.

Under Fan Noli, the government set up a special tribunal that passed death sentences, in absentia, on Zogu, Verlaci, and others and confiscated their property. In Austria, Zogu recruited a mercenary army, and Vienna furnished the Albanian leader with weapons, about 1,000 Austrian army regulars to mount an invasion that the Austrians hoped would bring them influence. After Noli's regime decided to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, a bitter enemy of the Austrian ruling family, Vienna began making wild allegations that the Albanian regime was about to embrace Bolshevism. On 13 December 1924, Zogu's Austrian-backed army crossed into Albanian territory. By Christmas Eve, Zogu had reclaimed the capital, and Noli and his government had fled to Italy. But his government lasted just six months, and Ahmet Zogu returned with another coup d'état and regained the control, changing the political situation.

Zogu's second government[edit | edit source]

After defeating Fan Noli's government, Ahmet Zogu was recalled by Prince William in order to find a solution for the lawless principality of Albania. Parliament quickly adopted a new constitution and granted Zogu dictatorial powers that allowed him to appoint and dismiss ministers, veto legislation, name all major administrative personnel, and choose a third of the Senate's members.

The new constitution provided for a parliamentary monarchy, with a powerful prime minister serving as head of government, the prince only had the power to dismiss the prime minister after a two thirds vote of no confidence. Zogu ruled Albania using four military governors, and appointed clan chieftains as reserve army officers who were kept on call to protect the regime against domestic or foreign threats. He also maintained good relations with Benito Mussolini's fascist regime in Italy and supported Italy's foreign policy.

The Zogu regime was said to be responsible for the disappearance of opposition parties and civil liberties. The press was also strictly censored during the regime.

In early 1925, a series of reforms focused on the economy were initiated, but results were mixed. Some of the reforms included organizing private initiatives in industry, construction, and transportation. That same year, the first Albanian coin, the Albanian Gold Franga, was minted. Foreign capital was introduced as a part of the official policy of the Zogu government, but the aim of his regime was actually to strengthen personal power, and to enrich his supporters. The foreign capital, loans and other forms, was used as a tool to provide income for the regime, and was later used for overcoming economic crises.

Fourteen new societies were created at about this time, with an initial capital of 7.6 million gold francs, about 28% more than the capital of the societies in the period 1921-1924. In 1928, the number of enterprises reached 127, and domestic capital was six times greater than in 1927, while the economy began to stabilise.

In 1925, the Albanian National Bank was created, and was awarded concessions to Italian investors. The Albanian state had a 49% share of the bank, while Italy had a 51% share. Under these conditions Italy gained a stronger position in Albania. During the 1925-1928 period, the Albanian government also significantly increased its costs. In 1925, the SVEA society (Society for the Economic Development of Albania) was established, helping to facilitate a loan to Albania worth 50 million gold francs. In 1927, the loan was estimated at 65 million gold francs. Annual interest for this 40-year loan was 7.5%. Repayment amounts consisted of 30%-40% of the entire country's income.

In 1925, agreements between Albanian financial agencies (such as SVEA) and Italian financial groups, financed 96.4% of the road building projects in Albania. These loans were not exclusively for the country's immediate economic needs, but to create conditions for further penetration of foreign capital into the country. Government departmental responsibilities were also shuffled to increase road-building. In 1928, fiefdoms occupied an area of 200,000 hectares (100,000 were private fiefdoms). Berat was the city with the largest number of fiefdoms, with about 36,000.

Infrastructure was poorly maintained during this period. Roads could only carry lighter vehicles, while poorly maintained bridges hampered car transport. Maritime transport was primarily conducted by foreign companies. Mail air transport was operated by Italians. Trade was the largest element of the economy, and during this time circulation of goods grew. Raw materials and livestock were the main exports.

Many Italian, English, French, and American companies began to do business in the Albanian market, and they were helped by trade agreements or through direct investment. Italy's position was further strengthened by the Maritime Trade Treaty, which gave the state the status of "most favored nation". This legalized the Italian monopoly on foreign trade.

Italian penetration[edit | edit source]

In return for aiding Zogu's invasion, Vienna expected repayment in the form of influence in Tirana. Instead, the Albanian leader continued to press Albania's own territorial claims. On 30 July 1925, the two nations signed an agreement relinquishing claims to Dukagjini, and other disputed borderlands, to Austrian Montenegro. Austria, however, never reaped the dividends it hoped for when it invested in Zogu. He shunned Vienna and turned Albania toward Italy for protection.

Italian advocates of territorial expansion in Albania gained strength in October 1922 when Benito Mussolini took power in Rome. His fascist supporters undertook an unabashed program aimed at establishing a new Roman empire in the Mediterranean region that would rival Britain and France, and Mussolini saw Albania as a foothold in the Balkans.

In May 1925, Italy began a penetration into Albania's national life that would culminate fourteen years later in its occupation and annexation of Albania. The first major step in this process was an agreement between Rome and Tirana that allowed Italy to exploit Albania's mineral resources. Soon, Albania's parliament agreed to allow the Italians to found the Albanian National Bank, which acted as the Albanian treasury even though its main office was in Rome, and Italian banks effectively controlled it. The Albanians also awarded Italian shipping companies a monopoly on freight and passenger transport to and from Albania.

In late 1925, the Italian-backed Society for the Economic Development of Albania began to lend the Albanian government funds at high interest rates for transportation, agriculture, and public-works projects, including the royal palace. In the end, the loans turned out to be subsidies.

In mid-1926, Italy set out to extend its political influence in Albania, asking Tirana to recognize Rome's special interest in Albania and accept Italian instructors in the army and police. Zogu resisted until an uprising in the northern mountains pressured the Albanian leader to conclude the First Treaty of Tirana with the Italians on 27 November 1926. In the treaty, both states agreed not to conclude any agreements with any other states prejudicial to their mutual interests. The agreement, in effect, guaranteed Zogu's political position in Albania, as well as the country's territorial integrity.

In November 1927, Albania and Italy entered into a defensive alliance, the Second Treaty of Tirana, which brought an Italian general and about forty officers to train the Albanian army. Italian military experts soon began instructing paramilitary youth groups. Tirana also allowed the Italian navy access to the port of Vlorë, and the Albanians received large deliveries of armaments from Italy.

See also[edit | edit source]

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.