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Albania is a small country with a landmass of 28.748 sq km (about 11.000 sq miles). It is situated in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula in the southeastern part of Europe. It shares borders with Montenegro and Kosovo to the North and Northeast, Macedonia to the East and Greece to the South. To the West, Albania has a coast that adjoins the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The Adriatic separates it from Italy via the Strait of Otranto (72 km/45 mi). Much of Albania’s surface is mountainous – the average height above sea level is 708 m, (2,336 ft) and its highest peak, Mount Korab on the Macedonian border, is 2.753 m (9,085 ft). Most of the population lives in the south-central lowlands and on the coastal plain.
Over a third of the territory of Albania – about a million hectares (2.5 million acres) – is forested and the country is very rich in flora.
In antiquity, present-day Albania was settled by the Illyrians. The Greeks arrived in the 5th century B.C. to establish self-governing colonies. After its collapse in the year 30 B.C., Illyria came under the control of the Roman Empire. Upon the division of the Roman Empire in 395 A.D., Illyria became a part of the Byzantine Empire. Three early Byzantine Emperors were Illyrian in origin. Ongoing invasions by Visigoths, Huns, Ostrogoths, and Slavs continued through the 5th and 6th centuries.
In 1344, Albania was annexed by Serbia. Their control of the area was brief, though, as the Turks defeated the Serbians in 1389. At this point, the Venetians controlled some coastal towns but with the Serbian defeat, the entire region became vulnerable to Ottoman attack. The Ottomans overwhelmed Albanian resistance and took control of the country in 1479. For more than 400 years, Albania was under Ottoman rule. The subsequent insurrection efforts eventually brought about the proclamation of the independence of Albania in 1912. King Zog I ruled for nearly fourteen years until the country was invaded by Italy in 1939. In November of 1944, the Communist Party assumed power. For nearly fifty years, the regime enforced a policy of strict isolationism. The Democratic Party assumed control and led the country from 1991 until 1997.
Looking to the future, Albania’s leaders hope to integrate the country into the European Union (EU). Albania is now a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and part of many other international organizations.
Since the fall of Communism, the development of the Albanian economy has been fuelled primarily by the service and construction industries, though tourism has recently played an increasing role in the economy and is growing rapidly. Many people are curious to explore a country whose borders were closed to travel for many years. Given the continued development of both summer and winter resorts, people all over the world have begun to think of Albania as a tourist destination.
10 most popular study destinations for students in Albania
3. United States
9. United Kingdom