Albania: Languages and Other Interesting Facts - Part 2
The two main dialects of the Albanian language are Tosk and Ghag, with the Shkumbin River being the dividing line between them.
Main Dialects of the Albanian Language
The two main dialects of the Albanian language are Tosk and Ghag, with the Shkumbin River being the dividing line between them. The official language of Albania is the Tosk dialect of Albanian; it’s also one of the official languages of Macedonia and Kosovo and is spoken in Greece, Turkey and Italy. On the other hand, Gheg is spoken in Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria and northern Albania. These dialects are more or less mutually intelligible, with transitional varieties of Albanian being spoken in central Albania.
With Albanian being spoken by almost 98% of the population, the minority languages making up the remaining 2% are around 60,000 Greek speakers, 60,000 Romani speakers, with some others speaking Bulgarian and Serb.
The Written Albanian Language
Since the 15th century the Albanian language has been written with various alphabets. The Tosk dialect was originally written with the Greek alphabet, and the Gheg dialect was written with the Latin alphabet. Both of these dialects have also been written with the Turkish version of the Arabic alphabet. Then, in 1909, the Latin alphabet for Albanian was standardised, and in 1972 a unified literary version of Albanian (which was based on the Tosk dialect) was established.
The Albanian language has also been written with various other alphabets, including Beitha Kukju, Elbasan, and Todhri: these were local inventions from the 18th and 19th centuries, however they were not widely used.
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A Short History of Albania
In ancient times Albania was a part of Illyria, later becoming part of the Roman Empire. Between the years 535 and 1204 Albania was ruled by the Byzantine Empire. The Albanian chiefs failed to stop the advance of the Ottoman Turks, leaving Albania under Turkish rule for more than four centuries: it wasn’t until November 1912 that Albania proclaimed its independence.
Albania is a largely agricultural country, and is one of the poorest countries in Europe. During World War I it was a battlefield: it became a republic after the war, and in 1925 a Muslim landlord by the name of Ahmad Zogu declared himself President; then King in 1928. He ruled until 1939 when Italy annexed Albania. In 1944, towards the end of World War II, Communist guerrillas seized power. Their leader, Enver Hoxha, was a Stalin devotee and he used the same repressive tactics of either executing or imprisoning landowners and others who refused to conform to his socialist ideals. Eventually, in 1961 Hoxha severed ties with Soviet communism because of his differences with Khrushchev, aligning himself instead with Chinese communism. After the death of Mao in 1978 this alignment was also abandoned.
Since that time Albania has forged its own individual version of a socialist state and has become one of the most economically underdeveloped and isolated countries in the world. In 1982, Hoxha was succeeded by Ramiz Alia.
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