Wikijunior Europe: Albania
Albania is a small country in south-eastern Europe in the Balkan peninsula. It shares borders with Greece, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia. The capital is Tirana. The currency of Albania is the Lek. Other large cities are Durrës and Elbasan. Albania isn't part of the European Union.
During the fifteenth century Albania enjoyed a brief period of independence under the legendary hero, Skanderbeg. Aside from this exception, the country did not enjoy independence until the twentieth century. After five hundred years of Ottoman rule, an independent Albania was proclaimed in 1912. The country adopted a republican form of government in 1920. In 1939 the Italians invaded the country. Because of this event Albania was one of the first countries occupied by the Axis Powers in World War II.
After the war Albania became a communist state known as the Socialist People's Republic of Albania and was ruled by Enver Hoxha until 1985. Albania became a democratic country in 1991 but faced problems throughout the 1990s. In 1996 there were severe economic problems because of the failure of Ponzi schemes in the country. In 1997 there was an armed rebellion and hundreds of thousands of people emigrated to other parts of Europe and North America. In 1999 Albania faced an influx of refugees from Kosovo, Serbia during violence in that province.
Albania has a total area of 28,750 square kilometers. Albania has coastline on the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. Albania has a continental climate with hot summers and fairly cold temperatures. 70% of the country is mountainous with the highest mountain being Korab at 2,753 metres.
Albania has many fairly big lakes including one of central Europe's biggest lakes - Lake Shkodër - which is located partly in Albania and partly in neighbouring Montenegro.
Albania has been populated since prehistoric times and in recent history the country has been home to large numbers of Catholic Christians and Jews but in the past few hundred years people have either converted to Islam or moved elsewhere. About 40% of the population are Muslim, 40% are Christian and 20% are Atheist (no religion). One of the most internationally famous Albanians was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa who was a Roman Catholic nun who worked with the poor around the world, especially India.
Between 1945 and 1992 Albania was a communist country but currently the country is hoping to join organizations like the European Union. The national language is Albanian. Many Albanians also speak English, Italian and Greek. A large number of Albanians also live in Macedonia, Greece, Italy and in Kosovo.
The literacy rate for the total population, age 9 or older, is about 94%. Elementary education is required for grades 1-9, but most students continue at least until a secondary education (grades 10-12). Students must successfully pass graduation exams at the end of the 9th grade and at the end of the 12th grade in order to continue their education. The school year begins in September and finishes in late May or early June.
The most popular sport in Albania is football and the most followed sports event is the World Cup. Other played sports include basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics.
Today Albania is a popular destination for tourists from Europe and elsewhere. Tourists visit for the Greek, Roman and Ottoman archaeological buildings as well as some remnants from Communist times. The mountains and beaches in Albania are said to be as good, or better, than elsewhere in Europe but much less crowded. In 2011 Lonely Planet said that Albania is the number 1 destination to visit and most tourists who visit come from Kosovo (Serbia), Greece, Macedonia and Italy. Other visitors come from Poland, Czech Republic, France and Sweden.
There are 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Albania including the Greek and Roman city of Butrint and a medieval Ottoman town called Gjirokastër.
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