Albania (Listeni/ælˈbeɪniə, ɔːl-/, a(w)l-BAY-nee-ə; Albanian: Shqipëri/Shqipëria; Gheg Albanian: Shqipni/Shqipnia or Shqypni/Shqypnia), officially the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë, pronounced [ɾɛpuˈblika ɛ ʃcipəˈɾiːsə]), is a country in Southeastern Europe. Albania spans 28,748 square kilometres (11,100 square miles) and had a total population of almost 3 million people as of 2016.
Albania is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic with the capital in Tirana, the country’s largest city and main economic and commercial centre, followed by Durrës and Vlorë. It is located in the south-western part of the Balkan peninsula, bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo[a] to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast. The country has a coastline on the northern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, the Adriatic Sea to the west and the Ionian Sea to the southwest where the Albanian Riviera begins. Albania is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which connects the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.
During the classical times, the modern area of Albania was home to several Illyrian, Thracian and Greek tribes, as well as several Greek colonies established on the Illyrian coast. In the 3rd century BC, the area was annexed by Rome and became part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia, Macedonia and Moesia Superior. In 1190, the first Albanian entity, the Principality of Arbanon was established by archon Progon in the region of Krujë, within the Byzantine Empire. The territory of Albania was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, of which it remained part of for the next five centuries. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Europe, following the Balkan Wars, Albania declared its independence in 1912 and was recognized the following year. The Kingdom of Albania was invaded by Italy in 1939, which formed Greater Albania, before becoming a Nazi German protectorate in 1943. The following year, a socialist People’s Republic was established under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour. Albania experienced widespread social and political transformations in the communist era, as well as isolation from much of the international community. In 1991, the Socialist Republic was dissolved and the Republic of Albania was established.
Albania is a democratic and developing country with an upper-middle income economy. The service sector dominates the country’s economy, followed by the industrial and agriculture sector. After the fall of communism in Albania, free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania has a high HDI and provides universal health care system and free primary and secondary education to its citizens.
Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATO, WTO, World Bank, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It is also an official candidate for membership in the European Union. Albania is one of the founding members of the Energy Community, Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the Union for the Mediterranean. It is home to the largest lake in Southern Europe and one of the oldest lakes in Europe.