Getting started with Albanian research
Albania is a small Balkan state on the Adriatic Sea. The name in Albanian is Shqiperia. The Ottoman Empire controlled Albania from 1478 until 1912. Islam became the majority religion (about 70%). There are still many Orthodox (about 20%) and Roman Catholics (about 10%). There has not been a significant emigration out of Albania to North America and most of those who have emigrated are Roman Catholic. Many of those who have Albanian ancestry are actually descended from Christian Albanians who fled to Italy after Albania was conquered by the Turks. The Turkish occupation caused a great Albanian exodus to southern Italy, especially to the kingdom of Naples, as well as to Sicily and even to Greece.
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Albania has been a nation long subjected to foreign domination. The mountains still bear the ruined walls of fortresses that once garrisoned Roman legions, Byzantine armies, and Venetian crusaders. Nevertheless the Albanian tribes, isolated by mountains, lakes and swamps, were never fully subdued by their many conquerors. The mountain chieftains retained much authority over their clans. (Read the rest of the article at Historical Background of Albania
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The Albanians are considered to be descendants of Illyrian and Thracian tribes who settled the region in ancient times. The country is ethnically homogeneous with 96 percent of the population being Albanian. There are two major subgroups of Albanians - the Gegs and the Tosks. Historically, the Gegs of northern Albania were herdsmen, mostly Muslim and Roman-Catholic. The Tosks of the south were more generally settled farmers, and their religion was more often Greek-Orthodox but also many Muslims. Today their differences in dialect, religions and social customs are distinguishable but not pronounced. Ninety-five percent of the population are ethnically Albanian. Greeks are the largest minority; they constitute 3% of the population and live in the southern portion of the country. The other 2% include Vlachs (akin to Romanians), Gypsies, Bulgars, and Serbs.
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