I think Albania is a fascinating country and I spend a good amount of my free time here reading its history and exploring its past on foot. Thus, when I read this paltry list entitled “Top 10 facts about Albania” I realized that I could, off the top of my head, create a much more worthwhile list of facts. So, in no particular order, here are my 10 actually interesting facts about Albania.
1 Albania had 3 million people but only 3000 cars at the end of the communist era in 1991 because private cars were illegal. Today, Albania has many cars and perhaps 1/3 are Mercedes of varying legal statuses. Albanians do not wear seat-belts.
2 Albania has the second highest rate of sex selective abortion in the world, between India and China.
3 Albania had a Stalinist government for almost 50 years (1944-1991) and 1 out of 100 Albanians was imprisoned at some point by this regime. There still remains much nostalgia for this system which brought electricity, modern medicine, and literacy to much of the population for the first time in history. Check out some translated propaganda from that time.
4 The republic of Albania wouldn’t exist without the intervention of Woodrow Wilson at the end of WW1. Even with his help, much of the Albanian people were still divided by the borders of Macedonia, Kosovo/Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. Read more about Kosovo, the other Albanian country, here.
5 Albania descended into anarchy/civil war in 1997 after pyramid schemes left much of the already very poor country even poorer. Arms depots were raided by the general population, putting millions of AK47’s into their hands. This is the only occasion that Albania’s 700,000 concrete bunkers were actually used for military purposes. Read more about the fate of Albania’s bunkers.
6 Significant portions of the population in Albania’s Mountainous Region are stunted due to malnutrition.
7 Albania’s “hero” Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu or known better by her nom de guerr “Mother Teresa” is widely lauded internationally perhaps because few actually know her views. On accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, she claimed Abortion was basically the worst thing ever. When Ireland voted to legalize divorce, she campaigned against it. She was also against contraception.
8 Albania is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It is tied at 113 out of 176 with Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Niger on the corruption index. I write here about what it is like to live and work in a “culture of corruption.”
9 33% of Albanian voters voted to re-establish the monarchy in 1997.
10 For about 10 years (1968-1978) , Albania’s only ally in the world was China. After China, Albania had no allies and was basically a more isolated European North Korea until 1991.