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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in Albanian, the singular is shqipetar).

(1)The nation which forms the basic population of Albania, numbering about 1,855,000 (1966). About 1 million Albanians live in Yugoslavia, mainly in Kosovo, Metohija, and Macedonia; there are several thousand in Greece and 100,000–150,000 in the southern regions of Italy and the island of Sicily. A small number of Albanians live in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Rumania; there are 5,000 Albanians in the USSR, in Odessa and Zaporozh’e oblasts of the Ukrainian SSR. The Albanian language constitutes an independent branch of the Indo-European family. Seventy-one percent of the Albanians who are religious are Muslims, 19 percent are Orthodox, and 10 percent are Catholics.

Opinions differ on the ethnogeny of the Albanians. Some scholars (including Albanian) see the Illyrians as the basic element in their ancestry, while others consider the Thracians the basic element. Roman rule in Illyria (second century B.C. to fourth century A.D.) left its traces in the language and culture of Albanians. During the Middle Ages, the Albanian lands were the scene of uninterrupted struggle among Byzantines, Bulgarians, Normans, Serbs, and others, and this too has left its mark on the ethnic makeup of Albanians. The term “Albanians,” which first appeared in the second century as a tribal name, began to be applied to all the inhabitants of present-day Albania in the 11th century.

Turkish hegemony, which lasted from the late 15th century until 1912, served as a brake on the historical development of Albanians. Feudal fragmentation meant the disruption of economic ties between regions and the deepening of differences of dialect; regional designations of Albanians emerged. The old term “Albanians” was gradually replaced by the newer Shqipetar, by which those speaking fluent Albanian—that is, shqip —were distinguished from foreigners. In the second half of the 18th and early 19th centuries, designations for the two basic regions of Albania and their inhabitants took shape: Toskeria and the Tosks in the south and Ghegeria and the Ghegs in the north.

The ethnic consolidation of Albanians, which took place in the context of uninterrupted resistance to Turkish rule, increased particularly in the mid-19th century, when capitalist relations began to arise and the sharp struggle for national self-determination unfolded. The victory of the people’s revolution in Albania (1944) and the transition to the construction of socialism brought about the national unification of Albanians.


Arsh,G. L., I. G. Senkevich, and N. D.Smirnova. Kratkaia istoriia Albanii. Moscow, 1965.

Historia e Shqipërisë, vols. 1–2. Tirana, 1959–65.


(2) Caucasian Albanians were one of the ancient tribes of the Eastern Transcaucasus.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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