Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Agamemnon's Daughter

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Agamemnon's Daughter

A Novella and Stories

by Ismail Kadare

Agamemnon's Daughter by Ismail Kadare
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  • Published:
    Nov 2006, 240 pages

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A Short History of Albania

Today, Albania is a country slightly smaller than the USA State of Maryland with a population of about 3.5 million.  It is bordered by Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and the Adriatic Sea. Albanian is spoken by about 6 million people living in Albania, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia.

It is believed by most that Albanians are direct descendants of an Illyrian tribe named "Albanoi".  The Illyrians were Indo-European tribesman who populated the Balkan Peninsula around 1000 BC (Bronze Age/early Iron Age).  The area fell under Roman control in 165 BC, and Christianity arrived in the first century AD (Paul preached in Illyricum).  Following the fall of the Roman Empire the area was invaded by various groups including Goths, Huns, Serbs, Croats and Bulgars.  In 1054 the "Great Schism" (the separation of the Catholic and Orthodox churches) placed Christians in southern Albania under the rule of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the northern people under the rule of the Pope in Rome.  

Between the 12th and 15th centuries, various countries/city states had a controlling interest in Albania, including Serbia, Venice and Naples.  In 1478 the Ottoman Empire took control and by the mid 17th century about 2/3rds of Albanians had converted to Islam

In 1878, the Treaty of San Stefano and the Treaty of Berlin carved up Albania, while recognizing the complete independence of the principalities of Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and the autonomy of Bulgaria.

Albanian resistance fighters pushed back but were crushed by the Ottomans in 1881, and in 1897 Albanian language books were banned.   In 1912 Albania rose up against the Ottoman Empire (First Balkan War), and in 1913, following the end of the Second Balkan War, Albania was recognized as an independent state.  However, about half of the territories occupied by Albanians (such as Kosova) were divided among Montenegro, Serbia and Greece. 

At the end of World War I Albania was occupied by troops from Italy, Serbia, Greece and France.   Denied representation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 Albania was divided up between Greece, Italy and Yugoslavia, but Albanians fought back and Albania was admitted to the League of Nations in 1920.  About two decades of unsettled rule followed until 1939 when Mussolini's Italian troops invaded.

With the help of Yugoslavia's communist leader, Tito, the Albanian Communist Party was founded in 1941, with Enver Hoxha as first secretary.  In 1944, with Communist Partisans take control of the southern parts of Albania (then occupied by the Germans) and agree to return Kosova to Yugoslavia.  In 1946 Enver Hoxha became prime minister, defense minister, foreign minister and commander-in-chief;  then followed 46 years of increasingly xenophobic Communist rule, 40 of which were under the leadership of Hoxha. 

In 1991 the first free elections were held.  Since then the democratic government has made progress in dealing with high unemployment, widespread corruption, a dilapidated physical infrastructure and powerful organized crime networks, but still has a long way to go - thousands of unemployed Albanians emigrate annually to nearby countries.

This article is from the January 4, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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