LOCATION: Southeastern Europe
AREA: 11,101 sq. mi.
Population: 2,893,005 (est. 2011)
FIRST STAMPS: Turkish, from 1870
FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: October 1913
40 paras = 1 piastre or grosch; 100 qint = 1 franc (1913-1947)
100 qint = 1 lek (1947-1965)
100 older = 1 new lek (1965-date)
Albania is a republic in southeast Europe, bordering on the Adriatic Sea. Formerly part of ancient Epirus, it was defeated by the Turks in the 14th century and became a province in the European portion of the Ottoman Empire. A national hero, Scanderberg, rose up about 1443 and liberated Albania from Turkish control until the siege of Scutari in 1478. During the period of Turkish control there were seven post offices in Albania each with its own special hand-stamp. Frequently the hand-stamps were only used as arrival marks, and stamps were applied at the office of delivery.
Italy, as part of its policy of expansion in the Mediterranean opened post offices in Albania in 1902 which used Italian stamps overprinted ALBANIA and in Turkish currency. Offices were opened at Durazzo, Scutari and Valona. The first issue was replaced in 1909 by a further issue overprinted for each of the towns.
Albania did not take part in the first Balkan War in 1912-13, but declared its independence on 28 November 1912. This was confirmed by the Treaty of London, which ended the war. The country issued its first stamps in October and November 1913 with overprints on various Turkish adhesives. The overprints featured a double-headed eagle and the legend SHQIPËNIA. “Shqipënia” would be the first of a large number of variations of the country’s name on Albanian stamps over the years. The first permanent series was released in December 1913, inscribed SHQIPËNIE E LIRË.
However, the new country was to suffer immediate problems. Overrun by German, Serbian, Montenegrin, Greek, Bulgarian, Italian, French and Austrian troops during World War I, foreign forces remained in Albania until 1921. Essad Pasha set up his own regime and issued stamps for central Albania. The Greeks also issued stamps in 1914 for Epirus and Northern Epirus, which they had occupied. To try to bring peace, the Dutch were asked to send a detachment of police. These used their own special stamps at their headquarters in Koritza. The Montenegrins had occupied Scutari. Postmarks of SCUTARI-SKADOR are found on the stamps of Montenegro and Albania.
Stamps of this time included many different overprints, plus different inscriptions for the name of the country, including SHQIPËNIË, POSTA SHQYPTARE, POSTE SHQYPTARE, REPUBLIKA SHQIPTARE, and REP. SHQIPTARE. Others have no inscription at all, and may be identified by the prominent double-headed eagle.
The country fell into a state of anarchy when the prince and all members of the International Commission left Albania. Subsequently General Ferrero in command of Italian troops declared Albania an independent country. A constitution was adopted and a republican form of government was instituted which continued until 1928 when, by constitutional amendment, Albania was declared to be a monarchy. The President of the republic, Ahmed Zogu, became king of the new state.
On 7 April 1939, Italy invaded Albania. King Zog fled but did not abdicate. The King of Italy acquired the crown. Stamps were issued almost immediately and were overprinted ‘Constituent Assembly 12 IV 1939 XVII’. This referred to the body who offered the crown of Albania to the King of Italy. The figure XVII refers to the 17th year of Fascist rule in Italy. Italy did not enter World War II until June 1940. After the fall of France it used Albania as its base for the invasion of Greece on 28 October 1940. The Greeks counterattacked and soon overran almost half of Albania. They issued stamps overprinted for southern Albania on 10 December 1940.
When Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941, it returned the control of Albania to Italy. However, when Italy surrendered in September 1943, Germany immediately assumed the occupation of Albania. Stamps were again issued. These were from the Italian occupation overprinted.
In 1944 a guerilla leader, General Enver Hoxha, drove German forces from the country and proclaimed Albania to be a democratic republic on 22 November 1944. In January 1945 definitive stamps from the Italian occupation were further overprinted for the new republic. Stamps in 1945 were issued inscribed QEVERIA DEMOKRATIKE E SHQIPNIS. In 1946, the new appellation REPUBLIKA POPULLORE E SHQIPERISE was used, first as an overprint, then as an inscription on new stamp issues. This was subsequently shortened on some stamps to a variation of RP E SHQIPERISE, SHQIPERIA, SHQIPËRIJA, etc.
In January 1946, a communist people’s republic was proclaimed. At first it appeared that Albania would become a satellite of Yugoslavia, but it maintained its independence, under Hoxha’s repressive regime. In 1960, because of the Soviet Union’s de-Stalinization campaign, Albania broke with the Soviet Union and aligned its foreign policy with that of the People’s Republic of China. In 1978 China’s liberalization brought a break between that country and Albania. From 1978 to 1991, Albania was one of the most economically undeveloped nations in Europe and one of the most isolated nations in the world.
In 1991, Albania held its first multi-party elections and became a Socialist Republic on 29 April 1991 with an elected President and a new Constitution. Since 1991, with the collapse of communism in Europe, Albania has instituted a democratic republican government. Economic reverses in 1997 threatened the country with a return to the anarchy that has characterized so much of its history. Rioting broke out in January 1997 following the collapse of a number of pyramid investment schemes. Anti-Government protests were followed by open rebellion and a State of Emergency was declared in March. The attacks on the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by the Serbs led to a general move by the refugees into Albania.
As of 2011, the capital, Tirana, was home to 421,286 of the country’s 2,893,005 people within the city limits, 763,634 in the metropolitan area.[ Tirana is also the financial capital of the country. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania provides a universal health care system and free primary and secondary education. The country is an upper-middle income economy with the service sector dominating the country’s economy, followed by the industrial sector and agriculture.
By my count*, there are a total of 3229 Albanian stamps listed in the 2009 Scott Catalogue. Of these, 3064 are general issues, 40 semi-postals (the charity going mainly to health-related organizations such as the Albanian Red Cross), 79 airmail stamps, three special delivery stamps and 43 postage dues. The early issues tend to be priced quite high.
I have exactly one stamp from Albania in my collection. Scott #1057 was released on 25 August 1967, the 80q value in a set of eight portraying regional costumes. This stamp shows a man and woman from Dropullit.