History
Modern day Albania covers the lands referred to in ancient history as “Illyria”. Albania’s modern name comes from Medieval Latin, possibly derived from the “Albani”, one of the Illyrian tribes – along with the Taulanti, Ardiaei, Enchelei, etc. In the Albanian language, though, the country is called "Shqipëria" which means ”Land of the Eagles”, the people are the Shqiptarë and the language Shqip. An eagle, in Albanian is “shqiponjë” and as there are many eagles in the mountains, it somehow seems a suitable name for the land, language and its peoples. Shakespeare sets one of his plays in “Illyria”, (Twelfth Night), but is not thought to have been here.
  A map drawn in AD 150 by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria, depicts Albanopolis, a city situated northeast of Durrës.
The first traces of human settlements are thought to date back about 100,000 years. From around 1000 BC the Illyrian tribes inhabited present-day Albania, with the main settlements at Scodra(Shkodra) and Rhizon(Risan in Montenegro). Traces from Stone-Age settlements have been found in some of the areas we will visit, such as Grunas.
The Ancient Greeks founded several cities along the Albanian coast until the western Balkans and its peoples, such as the Illyrians, came under the influence of the Romans at the end of the third century BC. With the new conquerors living along the coast, the Illyrians took refuge in the mountain valleys and high pastures and their influence in coastal areas lessened.
During the Roman Empire, Albania was located exactly between the capital cities of Rome and Constantinople. The Empire needed effective trade and communications routes and Albania was home to two of the more important port cities( Durres and Apollonia) on the Via Egnatia running between the east (Byzantium) and Rome in the west. The province of Illyria was an important wheat supplier in the empire and was an important destination for travellers from both east and west. The Apostle Paul tells of his extensive travels all through “Illyricum,” in the New Testament (Romans 15.19)
When the Roman Empire started to pull apart into East and West Empire, starting from the 5th century and culminating in The Great Schism in the 11th century, Albania too was split. Southern Albania came under the influence of Constantinople, and Orthodoxy, while northern Albania stayed more connected with Italy and Rome and Roman Catholicism.
From the end of the 5th century, as the ruling Empire weakened, Albania saw a rise in sea and land invasions and attacks by other peoples, such as the Slavs, Serbs, Venetians, who with the Normans and other crusaders all wrought havoc on Illyria and its peoples until the first conquest of the Ottoman Turks in 1388.
During the early Middle Ages, several local princes began to consolidate their power within their own territories, such as the Principality of Karl Topia in Central Albania (1359-1388), the Principality of Balsha in northern Albania(1360-1388)
  The most famous principality was that of Kruje, north of modern day Tirana and was the heart of the Kastriot family. Gjergj Kastiot, later “Skenderbeg” (from “Alexander”) had been taken as a child to Constantinople as a hostage, along with other sons of newly conquered nobles. On his return to his family lands, as a trained soldier and “Ottoman” ruler, he threw off the Ottoman rule and rallied the other local princes together to resist the Ottomans. From 1443-1468, with the princes sticking together, and until his death, Skenderbeg helped them resist and defeat the invaders, and so kept Albania free from attack for 25 years.  After his death the Ottomans returned and for the next five centuries, Albania remained a part of the Ottoman Empire.
  In a wave of mass emigration, many of the Albanians living in the central plains and fertile lands nearer the coast fled to Italy (or Greece) to avoid religious persecution or forced changes. These early migrants are known as the “Arbaresh”, found in both Italy and Greece, who continued to use a form of Albanian in their communities over the next few hundred years. Over time and under different pressures, most Albanians who remained, then converted to Islam and the rule of the Ottomans kept Albania locked out of the political, economic and religious changes characteristic of European movements, thoughts, philosophies and politics between the 15th and 20th centuries.
  In 1912, after the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire from the Balkan Peninsula following defeat in the First Balkan War, Albania became independent for the first time, apart from 25 years in the fifteenth century. The London Conference and the Great Powers drew up and designated the boundaries for many peoples in the Balkans, including the Albanians. The failure to take into account the smaller people groups and the pressure to balance the powers of the greater nations involved in the region resulted in most of subsequent Balkan wars and conflicts.
  Between 1919 and 1924, Albania sank into a post-war confusion, with no sustainable government. In 1294 Ahmet Zog, a northern noble, assumed power and in 1928, proclaimed himself King of Albania. Under his rule the foundations of a modern state and government institutions were laid and the first constitution was adopted. His reign was cut short by the arrival of the Second World War. King Zog fled, Albania was occupied by the Italians and then later by  the German armies. In 1944, the tide of war changed, the Axis powers started to withdraw, local resistance and communist groups took control and Albania disappeared under the communist dictatorship of Enve Hoxha who presided over what is called “the darkest 46 years of its modern history.”
  In 1990/91, as elsewhere in Eastern Europe, state communism collapsed. Thousands of starving Albanians fled overseas to escape the poverty gripping their country, now so dependent on foreign aid. A new “democratic” system allowed for multiparty elections for the first time ever and in 1992, the Democratic Party, under Sali Berisha, was able to initiate a process of economic and political reforms. In 1995 Albania was admitted to the Council of Europe and in 2006 became a member signatory of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA)with the European Union. In April, 2009Albania was admitted to NATO and on 28th April 2009 submitted an official request to join the European Union. In October 2010 the European Union agreed an easier visa system for Albanian citizens wishing to enter the Schengen area.