Publié le 02/12/2021

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Situated on the western Balkan Peninsula at theStrait of Otranto, the southern entrance to theAdriatic Sea, Albania was, at the outbreak of WorldWar II, a monarchy with a population of a littlemore than 1 million. During the reign of Albania'sKing Zog I, Italy became increasingly influential inthe country, and on April 7, 1939, the forces of Italy'sBenito Mussolini invaded. Resistance wasminimal, but two battalions plus a handful of tribalirregulars delayed the Italian advance for 36 hours,just long enough to allow Zog, his queen, and theirinfant son to flee the country. The royal family tookup residence in exile in Britain for the duration ofthe war, although the British government did notrecognize Zog as a head of state; in an attempt todiscourage Italy from joining forces with Germany,Britain had, in fact, recognized Italy's annexationof Albania.Italy's king, Victor Emmanuel III, was proclaimedking of Albania, and a fascist regime wasinstalled in the Albanian capital, Tirana. Early in1940, the British government supported an abortiveAlbanian revolt against the Italians. The revoltwas led from Kosovo, a Yugoslav province. WhenYugoslavia was invaded by the Germans in April1941, however, Kosovo was transferred to Albaniancontrol, and the revolt collapsed. It wasrenewed during late 1942 and early 1943 undercollege professor and communist activist EnverHoxha, who, encouraged by Yugoslavia's (JosipBroz) Tito, formed a partisan movement. BritishSpecial Operations Executive (SOE) operativescoordinated with and supported partisan activitiesbeginning in 1943. Thus, a resistance movementwas in place when, in July 1943, Mussolini wasoverthrown. A general insurrection began. Two ofthe five Italian divisions occupying Albania obeyedthe orders of the new Italian prime minister, MarshalPietro Badoglio, and joined the partisans.The other three divisions either joined Germanunits or dispersed, and by fall 1943, Albanianguerrillas had seized most of the equipment of theItalian garrison.Albania was liberated from Italian occupation—only to be overrun by German forces, whichinstituted a regime of fierce reprisals against thepartisans. This had the effect of terrorizing thecivilian population, which largely withdrew itssupport from the resistance. The Germans, however,were more interested in neutralizing Albaniathan in dominating it. Mehdi Frasheri, a formergovernor of Jerusalem under the Ottoman Empire,formed a neutral government, which held swayover the cities and the coastal plain. The rest of thecountry fell prey to a variety of warlords and guerrillaleaders.Enver Hoxha decided that the time was ripe toexploit the chaos and suppress the anticommunisttraditionalist resistance known as the Balli Kombetar.This prompted the Germans to align withthe resistance in order to exacerbate internal discord.Through the Tirana government, Germanyhelped to supply the Balli Kombetar with equipmentand weapons. This incited the partisans toaccuse the Ballists of collaboration with Germany.The result was outright civil war, which so destabilizedAlbania that by early 1944, Germany hadregained dominion over the coast and the majorcities. At this point in the war, the Allies understoodthat Albania could provide a means by whichthe German armies could retreat, intact, fromGreece. Britain once again worked to encourageand aid Albanians to abandon internecine warfareand to harass the common enemy, the Germanarmy. To this end, Britain began supplying theprincipal Albanian factions with arms. Unfortunately,these were used not against the Germansbut to perpetuate the civil war, which expanded.When the German army began its retreat throughAlbania in September 1944, the tribal leader Abas46 AlbaniaKupi, aided by members of the Balli Kombetar(who were on the run from communist forces), didharass retreating troops, but civil war made itimpossible for British agents to incite all of northernAlbania against them.As World War II wound down, the communistsgained ascendancy in Albania, and all British operativeswere evacuated to Italy, together with AbasKupi and the major leaders of the Balli Kombetar.Immediately after the surrender of Germany, Albania,under Hoxha, withdrew into extreme anti-Western isolation and remained politically andeconomically isolated under the dictatorship of theAlbanian Communist Party as the People's Republicof Albania, which became, in 1976, the People'sSocialist Republic of Albania.Further reading: Fischer, Bernd Jurgen. Albania at War,1939–1945. Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press,1999; Tomes, Jason. King Zog of Albania: Europe's Self-Made Muslim Monarch. New York: New York UniversityPress, 2004; Vickers, Miranda, and James Pettifer. Albania:From Anarchy to Balkan Identity. New York: NewYork University Press, 2000.

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