GEOGRAPHY: Area: 28,748 km ². Local Time: +4 h. Climate: Mediterranean. Capital: Tirana. City: Tirana (343,078), Durres (99,546), Elbasan (87,797), Shkoder (82,455) (2010).

POPULATION: 3.6 million (2010); nationality: Albanian, composition: 90% Albanians, Greeks 8%, other 2% (1996). Languages: Albanian (official), regional dialects (main Guegue, coarse). Religion: Islam 38.8%, Christianity 35.4% (Catholic 16.8%, Orthodox 16.1%, other 2.6%), no religion 16.6%, 9% atheist, Bahai 0.2%.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Organizations: World Bank, IMF, WTO, UN. Honorary Consulate: Tel (11) 3875-6922, fax (11) 3875-5344 - São Paulo (SP), e-mail:

GOVERNMENT: Parliamentary Republic. Administrative Div: 12 regions subdivided into communes and municipalities. President Alfred Moisiu (since 2002). Prime Minister, Fatos Nano (PSS) (since 2002). Parties: Socialist Albania (PSS), a coalition Union for Victory (PDS-Democratic Albania, Albanian National Front-PBK, among others). Legislative branch: unicameral - People's Assembly, with 140 deputies. Constitution: 1998.

Located on the Balkan Peninsula, Albania borders Greece, Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro, countries with which it shares three large lakes. The main one is Ohrid, fed by the river Drin, whose dams provide 80% of the electricity in the country. After 40 years of isolation under the communist regime, emerged as the poorest nation in Europe. The economic crisis has led thousands of Albanians to emigrate. Out of Albania are ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Albania now corresponds to the ancient Illyria, the coastal area occupied by people of Indo-European language around the tenth century BC conquered by Macedonians in the fourth century BC and the Romans in 168 BC, is incorporated into the Byzantine Empire in 395. In the fifteenth century falls into the power of the Turks, the people who convert to Islam and adopt a policy despotic. It awakens in the late nineteenth century, the Albanian nationalism, harshly repressed. After the Balkan Wars in 1912, the country achieved independence, being under the protection of great powers. The province of Kosovo, however, remains with Serbia, although possessing a population of 800,000 Albanians. After a brief republican experience, becomes a conservative monarchy led by Ahmet Beg Zogu, proclaimed king in 1928 under the name Zog I.

Communist regime - Invaded by Italy in 1939, Albania became communist after the end of World War II, under the command of Enver Hoxha, who had led the resistance. He rules dictatorially until his death in 1985. During this period, distinguished by successive breaking with former allies. The first is Yugoslavia in 1948: the Albanians support the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the conflict with Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito. In 1961, Hoxha cut relations with the Soviet Union and joins the China of Mao Tse-tung. In 1981 he broke with the Chinese.

Political opening - Hoxha's successor, Ramiz Alia, promotes openness. The scheme supports the opposition parties and restored religious freedom. The 1992 elections led Sali Berisha, the Albanian Democratic Party (PDS), the Presidency. In 1997, the bankruptcy of a fraudulent financial scheme backed by the state, which promised annual profits of up to 300%, cause damage to the population. The Socialist Party of Albania (PSS), a former communist, led protests in Tirana. There are clashes in which at least 1,500 dead people. More than 15,000 have taken refuge in Italy. To end the crisis, parliamentary elections are anticipated. The PSS wins and Sali Berisha resigns. The Parliament elects the leader to the presidency of the PSS, Rexhep Mejdani. Fatos Nano, also of the PSS is the new prime minister.

Conflict in Kosovo - In 1998, the assassination of Mr Azem Hajdari, leader of the PDS, creates disturbances in the capital. Accused of involvement in crime, Nano resigns and is replaced as prime minister by Pandeli Majko (PSS). In the same year, the escalation of violence in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo takes thousands of ethnic Albanian Kosovars to take refuge in Albania. The outbreak of conflict brings out the design of a "Greater Albania", a country that borders close on the Albanians in the region. The bombing of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Yugoslavia in March 1999, increase the flow of Kosovar Albanians in the country.

In the 2001 elections, the PSS obtained 73 seats in Parliament, against 46 of the Union for Victory coalition, led by the PDS. In 2002, PSS PDS and elect the retired general as president Alfred Moisiu. Moisiu indicates Nano (PSS) for prime minister. The opposition rally held in February 2004 in which thousands of people calling for the resignation of Nano, accused of not having improved the standard of living.