Albania has been the site of several Greek colonies, and was later part of the Roman province of Illyricum. After being conquered by a number of nations, it became a part of the Ottoman Empire in 1478.
Until 1990, five years after the death of Hoxha, Albania was an extremely isolationist communist state, with little contact even with the other communist states. A multi-party democracy is emerging, but the country suffers from economic problems, organised crime, and a large number of Albanian refugees from Kosovo.
Head of state is the president, which is elected by the Kuvendi Popullor, or People's Assembly. The main part of the Assembly's 155 members are elected by the Albanians in elections every 5 years. The president is assisted by a council of ministers, which is appointed by the president.
Albania is divided into 36 districts called rrethe. Several districts are then grouped into a county or prefecture called qark, of which there are 12. The capital city, Tiranë, has a special status. The districts are:
Albania is one of Europe's poorest countries, with half of the economically-active population still engaged in agriculture and a fifth said to be working abroad. The country has to deal with a high unemployment rate, corruption up to high government levels and organised crime.
Albania is aided financially from abroad, notably by Greece and Italy.
The country exports nearly nothing and imports a lot from Greece and Italy. The money for imports comes from the financial aid and from the money that refugees working abroad bring to Albania. This is a good status-quo business for both Greece and Italy. The Greek government also makes money by unofficially selling visass to Albanian citizens, who are not allowed to travel freely abroad. For this reason both countries have several visa consulates in major cities of Albania, and oppose indirectly every possibility of free movement from Albanian citizens in EU.
Most of the population is Albanian (95% 1989 est.), but there is a sizeable Greek minority (3% 1989 est.). Many ethnic Albanians also live in bordering Kosovo. The language is Albanian, although some Greek is also spoken.
Since the occupation by the Ottomans, the majority of Albanians have been Muslim (70%), even though religion was prohibited during the communist era. The Eastern Orthodox (20%) and Catholic Church (10%) are the other main religions in Albania.