Culture of Albania

The Culture of Albania is a term that embodies the artistic, culinary, literary, musical, political and social elements that are representative of Albania and Albanians. It has been shaped by the geography and profound history of Albania. Albanian culture grew from that of the Illyrians, with their pagan beliefs and specific way of life in the wooded areas of far Southern Europe.

Albanians can be divided into two cultural and linguistic groups such as the northern Ghegs and the southern Tosks. [1] [2] The geographic border between the groups based on dialect is the Shkumbin River and Via Egnatia. The Gheg dialect is mostly spoken, along with the Albanians of Croatia ( Arbanasi), Kosovo, Montenegro and northwestern Macedonia. However, the Tosks includes the Albanians of Greece, ( Chams), southwestern Macedonia and southern Italy ( Arbëreshë). The diversity between the Ghegs and Tosks can be substantial, both sides identify strongly with the common national and ethnic culture.

Albania is the name of the country attested in Medieval Latin. The name has derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Albanoi and their capital in Albanopolis, noted by Ptolemy in ancient times. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] Albanians called their country Arbëri or Arbëni and referred to themselves as Arbëreshë or Arbëneshë. [8] [9] In the 16th century the placename Shqipëria and the ethnic demonym Shqiptarë gradually replaced Arbëria and Arbëresh. [10] [11] The terms are interpreted as the Land of Eagles and Children of Eagles.

The double-headed eagle is the national and ethnic symbol of all Albanian-speaking people. It appears in a stone carving dating from the 10th century, when the Principality of Arbanon was founded and was used as a heraldic symbol by a numerous noble families in Albania at that time. The double-headed eagle appears as a symbol for bravery, valor, freedom and heroism.

Home of Muslims, Christians and Jews, religious tolerance is one of the most important values of the tradition of the Albanian people. It is widely accepted, that Albanians are well known about those values, about a peaceful coexistence among the believers of different religious communities in the country. [12] [13]

Thanks to its long history, Albania is home to many valuable cultural and historical landmarks such as the ancient city of Butrint, the medieval Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastër, the Roman Amphitheatre of Durrës, the Royal Illyrian Tombs of Selca e Poshtme, the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region, the ancient cities of Apollonia, Byllis, Amantia, Phoenice, Shkodër and many others. [14]


Distribution of speakers of the Albanian language.

Albanian is the most widely spoken language in Albania. It has two distinct dialects such as Tosk spoken in the south and Gheg spoken in the north. The geographical dividing line between those dialects appears to be the river of Shkumbin. Moreover, Albanian dialects are traditional local varieties and are traced back to the different Albanian tribes.

Albanian is an Indo-European language and occupies an independent branch within this family. Scholars and linguists argue that Albanian derives from the ancient Illyrian language, which were spoken in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula by Illyrian tribes. [15]

Today, the language is spoken primarily in Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro as well. [16] Due to the large Albanian diaspora around the world, centuries-old communities speaking Albanian-based dialects can be particularly found scattered in Greece ( Arvanitika, Çam), Italy ( Arbëreshë), Southern Serbia and in Croatia ( Arbanasi). However the total number of speakers is much higher than the native speakers in Southern Europe. The four dialects include Tosk Albanian, Gheg Albanian, Arbëresh and Arvanitika. [17]


The mythology of Albania consist of myths, legends, folks, fairy tales and gods of the Albanian people. Many characters in its mythology are included in the Songs of the Frontier Warriors ( Albanian: Këngë Kreshnikësh or Cikli i Kreshnikëve). It is divided into two major groups such as legends of metamorphosis and historical legends. The Albanian mythology has its origin to the ancient Illyrians, that inhabited the modern area of Albania during the classical time. [18] Some of the legends, songs and characters include Bardha, Baloz, E Bukura e Dheut, E Bukura e Qiellit, En, Perëndi, Prende, Tomor and Zana e malit.


Naum Veqilharxhi lawyer and scholar (1797–1854)

The cultural renaissance was first of all expressed through the development of the Albanian language in the area of church texts and publications, mainly of the catholic region in the North, but also of the orthodox in the South. The Protestant reforms invigorated hopes for the development of the local language and literary tradition when cleric Gjon Buzuku brought into the Albanian language the Catholic liturgy, trying to do for the Albanian language what Luther did for the German perople.

The Meshari (The Missal) by Gjon Buzuku, published in 1555 is considered as one of the first literary work of written Albanian. The refined level of the language and the stabilised orthography must be the result of an earlier tradition of written Albanian, a tradition that is not well understood. However, there is some fragmented evidence, pre-dating Buzuku, which indicates that Albanian was written from at least the 14th century.

Parashqevi Qiriazi teacher and feminist (1880–1970)

The earliest evidence dates from 1332 AD with a Latin report from the French Dominican Guillelmus Adae, Archbishop of Antivari, who wrote that Albanians used Latin letters in their books although their language was quite different from Latin. Other significant examples include: a baptism formula (Unte paghesont premenit Atit et Birit et spertit senit) from 1462, written in Albanian within a Latin text by the Bishop of Durrës, Pal Engjëlli; a glossary of Albanian words of 1497 by Arnold von Harff, a German who had travelled through Albania, and a 15th-century fragment of the Bible from the Gospel of Matthew, also in Albanian, but written in Greek letters.

Albanian writings from these centuries must not have been religious texts only, but historical chronicles too. They are mentioned by the humanist Marin Barleti, who, in his book Rrethimi i Shkodrës (The Siege of Shkodër) (1504), confirms that he leafed through such chronicles written in the language of the people (in vernacula lingua) as well as his famous biography of Skanderbeg Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi Epirotarum principis (History of Skanderbeg) (1508). The History of Skanderbeg is still the foundation of Scanderbeg studies and is considered an Albanian cultural treasure, vital to the formation of Albanian national self-consciousness.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the catechism E mbësuame krishterë (Christian Teachings) by Lekë Matrënga in 1592, Doktrina e krishterë (The Christian Doctrine) in 1618 and Rituale romanum in 1621 by Pjetër Budi, the first writer of original Albanian prose and poetry, an apology for George Castriot in 1636 by Frang Bardhi, who also published a dictionary and folklore creations, the theological-philosophical treaty Cuneus Prophetarum (The Band of Prophets) in 1685 by Pjetër Bogdani, the most universal personality of Albanian Middle Ages, were published in Albanian. Today, the most famous Albanian writer is probably Ismail Kadare.

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