Much of Albania's 11,100 square miles is taken up by soaring mountains and most of the population live in the cities on the coast, in a comfortable climate where temperatures seldom fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or rise above 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
Albania has remained remote, sinister and apart since World War II. The country had been under Turkish rule for 400 years until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1912, when it nominally became independant.
By the time World War 1 broke out it had been occupied in the north by the Serbs and in the south by the Greeks.
Sovereign status was confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1921, and Ahmed Zogu becoming Albania's 1st Prime Minister in 1922, became King Zog I six years later.
His reign ended when Mussolini invaded in 1939, and during World War II it was the Communist leader Enver Hoxha, who formed the biggest resistance group to the subsequent German occupation. The Allies gave them the bulk of their miltary support during the latter stage of the Balkan campaign. The Communist party established itself quickly, with Hoxha declaring a Communist state in November 1944; it was then he assumed his role of First Secretary.
Support came initially from Yugoslavia, but the relationship was abruptly ended when Tito broke with Stalin, Hoxha's political idol. Thereafter close alliance with the Soviet Union allowed Hoxha's police state to consolidate its hold.
But when Khrushchev denounced Albania's Stalinism in 1961, what had become an increasingly tenuous relationship was ended, and the Soviet navy was unceremoniously expelled from its cherished base at Vlora, with Hoxha accusing the KGB of trying to de-stablise his government.
Hoxha had dreamed of large factories symbolising the power of the party. But after the break with arch 'revisionist' Soviet Union, there was no longer a wealthy ally to feed the vision and Albania had no alternaitve but to turn to agriculture.
Within a decade, however, the dream reappeared with a trade agreement signed with Mao's China.
The Chinese began to build light manufacturing plants and a vast integrated iron and steel works. Then Mao died and his successors were dubbed 'revisionist'; by 1978 Albania was alone again.
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