|Italian invasion of Albania|
|Part of Interwar period|
Italian forces in Albania.
|Commanders and leaders|
| Benito Mussolini |
| Zog I |
Mujo Ulqinaku †
| 22,000 soldiers|
3 heavy cruisers
3 light cruisers
14 torpedo boats
10 auxiliary ships
9 transport ships
| 8,000 soldiers |
|Casualties and losses|
| 400-700 killed |
| 160 killed|
several hundred wounded
|Events leading to World War II|
The Italian invasion of Albania (April 7–12, 1939) was a brief military campaign by the Kingdom of Italy against the Albanian Kingdom. The conflict was a result of the imperialist policies of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Albania was rapidly overrun, its ruler, King Zog I, forced into exile, and the country made part of the Italian Empire as a separate kingdom in personal union with the Italian crown.
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician and journalist who was the leader of the National Fascist Party. He ruled Italy as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943; he constitutionally led the country until 1925, when he dropped the pretense of democracy and established a dictatorship.
The Italian colonial empire, or the Italian Empire between 1936 and 1943, comprised the colonies, protectorates, concessions, dependencies and trust territories of the Kingdom of Italy. The genesis of the Italian colonial empire was the purchase in 1869 of Assab Bay on the Red Sea by an Italian navigation company which intended to establish a coaling station at the time the Suez Canal was being opened to navigation. This was taken over by the Italian government in 1882, becoming modern Italy's first overseas territory.
A personal union is the combination of two or more states that have the same monarch while their boundaries, laws, and interests remain distinct. A real union, by contrast, would involve the constituent states being to some extent interlinked, such as by sharing some limited governmental institutions. In a federation and a unitary state, a central (federal) government spanning all member states exists, with the degree of self-governance distinguishing the two. The ruler in a personal union does not need to be a hereditary monarch.
Albania had long been of considerable strategic importance to the Kingdom of Italy. Italian naval strategists coveted the port of Vlorë and the island of Sazan at the entrance to the Bay of Vlorë, as they would give Italy control of the entrance to the Adriatic Sea.In addition, Albania could provide Italy with a beachhead in the Balkans. In the late Ottoman period, with a de-emphasis of Islam, the Albanian nationalist movement gained the strong support of two Adriatic sea powers Austria-Hungary and Italy who were concerned about pan-Slavism in the wider Balkans and Anglo-French hegemony purportedly represented through Greece in the area. Before World War I Italy and Austria-Hungary had been supportive to the creation of an independent Albanian state. At the outbreak of the war, Italy had seized the chance to occupy the southern half of Albania, to avoid it being captured by the Austro-Hungarians. That success did not last long, as Albanian resistance during the subsequent Vlora War and post-war domestic problems forced Italy to pull out in 1920. The desire to compensate for this failure would be one of Mussolini's major motives in invading Albania.
Albania, officially the Republic of Albania, is a country in Southeast Europe on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Sea. It otherwise shares land borders with Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast, and a maritime border with Italy to the west.
Vlorë is the third most populous city of the Republic of Albania. It is the capital of the surrounding Vlorë County. Located on the southeastern Adriatic Sea, it is one of the country's southernmost dominant economic and cultural centers.
Sazan is an island inside the Mediterranean Sea in southern Albania. It is the largest island in Albania and strategically located between the Strait of Otranto and the entrance to the Bay of Vlorë, forming the border between the Adriatic and Ionian Sea. The island has a surface area of 5.7 km2 (2.2 sq mi) with a length of 4.8 km (3.0 mi), width of 2 km (1.2 mi) and a coastline of about 15 km (9.3 mi).
Albania was important culturally and historically to the nationalist aims of the Italian Fascists, as the territory of Albania had long been part of the Roman Empire, even prior to the annexation of northern Italy by the Romans. Later, during the High Middle Ages, some coastal areas (like Durazzo) had been influenced and owned by Italian powers, chiefly the Kingdom of Naples and the Republic of Venice for many years (cf. Albania Veneta). The Italian Fascist regime legitimized its claim to Albania through studies proclaiming the racial affinity of Albanians and Italians, especially as opposed to the Slavic Yugoslavs.Italian Fascists claimed that Albanians were linked through ethnic heritage to Italians due to links between the prehistoric Italiotes, Roman and Illyrian populations, and that the major influence exhibited by the Roman and Venetian empires over Albania justified Italy's right to possess it.
The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. It had a government headed by emperors and large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the crisis of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from the city of Rome. The Roman Empire was then divided between a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople, and it was ruled by multiple emperors.
The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the period of European history that commenced around 1000 and lasted until around 1250. The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and were followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention, ended around 1500.
Durrës, historically known as Epidamnos and Dyrrachium, is the second most populous city of the Republic of Albania. The city is the capital of the surrounding Durrës County, one of 12 constituent counties of the country. By air, it is 165 kilometres northwest of Sarandë, 31 kilometres west of Tirana, 83 kilometres south of Shkodër and 579 kilometres east of Rome. Located on the Adriatic Sea, it is the country's most ancient and economic and historic center.
When Mussolini took power in Italy he turned with renewed interest to Albania. Italy began penetration of Albania's economy in 1925, when Albania agreed to allow Italy to exploit its mineral resources.That was followed by the First Treaty of Tirana in 1926 and the Second Treaty of Tirana in 1927, whereby Italy and Albania entered into a defensive alliance. Among other things the Albanian government and economy were subsidised by Italian loans and the Royal Albanian Army was not only trained by Italian military instructors, but most officers in the army were Italians; other Italians were highly placed in the Albanian government. A third of Albanian imports came from Italy .
The Royal Albanian Army was the army of Albanian Kingdom and King Zogu from 1928 until 1939. Its commander-in-chief was King Zog; its commander General Xhemal Aranitasi; its Chief of Staff was General Gustav von Myrdacz. The army was mainly financed by Italy during period 1936–39.
Despite strong Italian influence, King Zog I refused to give in completely to Italian pressure.In 1931 he stood up openly to the Italians, refusing to renew the 1926 Treaty of Tirana. After Albania signed trade agreements with Yugoslavia and Greece in 1934, Mussolini made a failed attempt to intimidate the Albanians by sending a fleet of warships to Albania.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a state in Southeast Europe and Central Europe that existed from 1929 until 1941, during the interwar period and beginning of World War II.
The Second Hellenic Republic is a modern historiographical term used to refer to the Greek state during a period of republican governance between 1924 and 1935. To its contemporaries it was known officially as the Hellenic Republic or more commonly as Greece. It occupied virtually the coterminous territory of modern Greece and bordered Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey and the Italian Aegean Islands. The term Second Republic is used to differentiate it from the First and Third republics.
As Nazi Germany annexed Austria and moved against Czechoslovakia, Italy saw itself becoming the lesser member of the Pact of Steel.The imminent birth of an Albanian royal child meanwhile threatened to give Zog a lasting dynasty. After Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia (March 15, 1939) without notifying Mussolini in advance, the Italian dictator decided to proceed with his own annexation of Albania. Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III criticized the plan to take Albania as a great unnecessary risk for an almost negligible gain . Rome, however, delivered Tirana an ultimatum on March 25, 1939, demanding that it consent to Italy's occupation of Albania. Zog refused to accept money in exchange for allowing a full Italian takeover and colonization of Albania.
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.
Anschluss refers to the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on 12 March 1938. The word's German spelling, until the German orthography reform of 1996, was Anschluß and it was also known as the Anschluss Österreichs.
The German occupation of Czechoslovakia (1938–1945) began with the German annexation of Czechoslovakia's border regions known collectively as the Sudetenland, under terms outlined by the Munich Agreement. German leader Adolf Hitler's pretext for this action was the alleged privations suffered by the ethnic German population living in those regions. New and extensive Czechoslovak border fortifications were also located in the same area.
The Albanian government tried to keep secret the news of the Italian ultimatum. While Radio Tirana persistently broadcast that nothing was happening, people became suspicious; and the news of the Italian ultimatum was spread from unofficial sources. On April 5 the king's son was born and the news was announced by cannons. People poured out into the streets alarmed, but the news of the newborn prince calmed them. People were suspicious that something else was going on, which led to an anti-Italian demonstration in Tirana the same day. On 6 April there were several demonstrations in Albania's main cities. That same afternoon 100 Italian aircraft flew over Tirana, Durrës, and Vlorë, dropping leaflets instructing the people to submit to Italian occupation. The people were infuriated by this demonstration of force and called for the government to resist and to release the Albanians arrested as "communists". The crowd shouted, "Give us arms! We are being sold out! We are being betrayed!". While a mobilization of the reserves was called, many high-ranking officers left the country. Also the government was fading away. The Minister of the Interior, Musa Juka, left the country for Yugoslavia the same day. While King Zog broadcast to the nation that he would resist Italian occupation, people felt that they were being abandoned by their government.
The original Italian plans for the invasion called for up to 50,000 men supported by 51 naval units and 400 airplanes. Ultimately the invasion force grew to 100,000 men supported by 600 airplanes,but only 22,000 took part in the invasion. On April 7 Mussolini's troops, led by General Alfredo Guzzoni, invaded Albania, attacking all Albanian ports simultaneously. The Italian naval forces involved in the invasion consisted of the battleships Giulio Cesare and Conte di Cavour, three heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, nine destroyers, fourteen torpedo boats, one minelayer, ten auxiliary ships and nine transport ships. The ships were divided into four groups, that carried out landings in Vlore, Durres, Shengjin and Sarande, including the concession there given to Romania in 1934. However, the Romanian Royal Army were never deployed to the area and it was conquered by Italy, along with the rest of Albania, during the invasion.
On the other side the regular Albanian army had 15,000 poorly equipped troops who had been trained by Italian officers. King Zog's plan was to mount a resistance in the mountains, leaving the ports and main cities undefended; but Italian agents placed in Albania as military instructors sabotaged this plan. The Albanians discovered that artillery pieces had been disabled and there was no ammunition. As a consequence, the main resistance was offered by the Royal Albanian Gendarmerie and small groups of patriots.
In Durrës, a force of 500 Albanians, including gendarmes and armed volunteers, led by Major Abaz Kupi (the commander of the gendarmerie in Durrës), and Mujo Ulqinaku, a naval sergeant, tried to halt the Italian advance. Equipped with small arms and three machine guns and supported by a coastal battery, the defenders resisted for a few hours before being overcome with the help of naval gunfire. mm guns, the latter also being involved in the fighting. Mujo Ulqinaku, the commander of the patrol boat Tiranë, used his machine gun to kill and wound many Italian troops until himself being killed by an artillery shell from an Italian warship. Eventually, a large number of light tanks were unloaded from the Italian ships. After that, resistance began to crumble, and within five hours the Italians had captured the city.The Royal Albanian Navy stationed in Durrës consisted of four patrol boats (each armed with a machine gun) and a coastal battery with four 75
By 1:30 pm on the first day, all Albanian ports were in Italian hands. That same day King Zog, his wife, Queen Geraldine Apponyi, and their infant son Leka fled to Greece, taking with them part of the gold reserves of the Albanian Central Bank. On hearing the news, an angry mob attacked the prisons, liberated the prisoners and sacked the King's residence. At 9:30 am on April 8, Italian troops entered Tirana and quickly captured all government buildings. Italian columns of soldiers then marched to Shkodër, Fier and Elbasan. Shkodër surrendered in the evening after 12 hours of fighting. However, two officers garrisoned at Rozafa castle refused to obey the ceasefire order and continued to fight until they ran out of ammunition. The Italian troops later paid homage to the Albanian troops in Shkodër who had halted their advance for an entire day. During the Italian advance in Shkodër the mob besieged the prison and liberated some 200 prisoners.
The number of casualties in these battles is disputed. Italian military propaganda stated that at Durrës 25 Italians were killed and 97 wounded, while the local townspeople claimed that 400 Italians were killed. Casualties for the Albanians were given as 160 dead and several hundreds wounded. The Italians immediately carried away the bodies of their dead and washed blood from the streets and harbor of Durrës to cover up the number of their casualties.
On April 12, the Albanian parliament voted to depose Zog and unite the nation with Italy "in personal union" by offering the Albanian crown to Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III.The parliament elected Albania's largest landowner, Shefqet Vërlaci, as Prime Minister. Vërlaci served as interim head of state for five days until Victor Emmanuel III formally accepted the Albanian crown in a ceremony at the Quirinale palace in Rome. Victor Emmanuel III appointed Francesco Jacomoni di San Savino, a former ambassador to Albania, to represent him in Albania as "Lieutenant-General of the King" (effectively a viceroy).
In general the Italian invasion was poorly planned, badly executed and succeeded only because Albanian resistance was too weak. As Fillipo Anfuso, Count Ciano's chief assistant sarcastically commenced "...if only the Albanians had possessed a well-armed fire-brigade, they could have driven us into the Adriatic".
On April 15, 1939, Albania withdrew from the League of Nations, from which Italy had resigned in 1937. On June 3, 1939, the Albanian foreign ministry was merged into the Italian foreign ministry, and the Albanian Foreign Minister, Xhemil Dino, was given the rank of an Italian ambassador. Upon the capture of Albania, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini declared the official creation of the Italian Empire and the figurehead King Victor Emmanuel III was crowned King of the Albanians in addition to his title of Emperor of Ethiopia, which had been occupied three years before. The Albanian military was placed under Italian command and formally merged into the Italian Army in 1940. Additionally, the Italian Blackshirts formed four legions of Albanian Militia, initially recruited from Italian colonists living in Albania, but later from ethnic Albanians.
Upon the occupation of Albania and installation of a new government, the economies of Albania and Italy were connected through a customs union that resulted in the removal of most trade restrictions.Through a tariff union, the Italian tariff system was put in place in Albania. Due to the expected economic losses in Albania from the alteration in tariff policy, the Italian government provided Albania 15 million Albanian leks each year in compensation. Italian customs laws were to apply in Albania and only Italy alone could conclude treaties with third parties. Italian capital was allowed to dominate the Albanian economy. As a result, Italian companies were allowed to hold monopolies in the exploitation of Albanian natural resources. All petroleum resources in Albania went through Agip, Italy's state petroleum company.
Albania followed Italy into war against Britain and France on June 10, 1940. Albania served as the base for the Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940, and Albanian troops participated in the Greek campaign, but they massively deserted the front line. The country's southern areas (including the cities of Gjirokastër and Korçë) were temporarily occupied by the Greek army during that campaign, but Italy, regardless of the fact of not even winning one battle against the Greek Army, eventually was given charge of Albania, due to Germany's assistance with its Greek campaign and the subsequent occupation of Greece by the German Army. Albania was enlarged in May 1941 by the annexation of Kosovo and parts of Montenegro and the Vardar Banovina, going a long way towards realizing nationalistic claims for a "Greater Albania". Part of the western coast of Epirus called Chameria was also annexed, and put under an Albanian High Commissioner, who exercised nominal control over it. When Italy left the Axis in September 1943, German troops immediately occupied Albania after a short campaign, with relatively strong resistance.
During the Second World War, the Albanian Partisans, including some sporadic Albanian nationalist groups, fought against the Italians (after autumn 1942) and, subsequently, the Germans. By October 1944 the Germans had withdrawn from the southern Balkans in response to military defeats by the Red Army, the collapse of Romania and the imminent fall of Bulgaria.After the Germans left due to the rapid advance of Albanian Communist forces, the Albanian Partisans crushed nationalist resistance and the leader of the Albanian Communist Party, Enver Hoxha, became the leader of the country.
The events surrounding the Italian annexation of Albania formed part of the inspiration for the eighth volume of The Adventures of Tintin comics titled King Ottokar's Sceptre , with a plot based on a fictional Balkan country Syldavia and uneasy tensions with its larger neighbour Borduria.The author of the Tintin comics Hergé also insisted that his editor publish the work to take advantage of current events in 1939 as he felt "Syldavia is Albania".
The history of Albania forms a part of the history of Europe. During the classical times, Albania was home to several Illyrian tribes such as the Ardiaei, Albanoi, Amantini, Enchele, Taulantii and many others, but also 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. Afterwards, the territory remained under Roman and Byzantine control until the Slavic migrations of the 7th century. It was integrated into the Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century.
Chronology of Important Events of Albania:
In Albania, World War II began with its invasion by Italy in April 1939. Fascist Italy set up Albania as its protectorate or puppet state. The resistance was largely carried out by Communist groups against the Italian and then German occupation in Albania. At first independent, the Communist groups united in the beginning of 1942, which ultimately led to the successful liberation of the country in 1944.
The Vlora War or the War of 1920 was a series of battles between Italian forces garrisoned throughout the Vlorë region and Albanian nationalists, who were divided into small groups of fighters. The war lasted three months and had great impact in the struggle of Albania for the safeguard of its territories while Albanian borders and future were discussed in the Paris Peace Conference. The Vlora War is seen as a turning point in the establishment of Albanian independence.
Tepelenë is a town and a municipality in Gjirokastër County, in the south of Albania. The town is located on the left bank of the Vjosa River, about three kilometres downstream from its union with the Drino.
The Kingdom of Albania was the official name of Albania between 1928 and 1939. Albania was declared a monarchy by the Constituent Assembly, and President Ahmet Bej Zogu was declared King Zog I. The kingdom was supported by the fascist regime in Italy, and the two countries maintained close relations until Italy's sudden invasion of the country in 1939. Zog fled into exile and never saw his country again. The Communist Party of Labor of Albania gained control of the country toward the end of World War II, established a communist government, and formally deposed Zog.
The Principality of Albania refers to the short-lived monarchy in Albania, headed by William, Prince of Albania, that lasted from the Treaty of London of 1913 which ended the First Balkan War, through the invasions of Albania during World War I and the subsequent disputes over Albanian independence during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, until 1925, when the monarchy was abolished and the Albanian Republic declared.
The Italian protectorate of Albania, also known as Greater Albania, existed as a protectorate of the Kingdom of Italy. It was practically a union between Italy and Albania, officially led by Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III and its government: Albania was led by Italian governors, after being militarily occupied by Italy, from 1939 until 1943. During this time, Albania ceased to exist as an independent country and remained as an autonomous part of the Italian Empire led by Italian government officials, who intended to make Albania part of a Greater Italy by assimilating Albanians as Italians and colonizing Albania with Italian settlers from the Italian Peninsula to transform it gradually into an Italian land.
The German occupation of Albania occurred between 1943 and 1944 during World War II. Before the armistice between Italy and the Allied armed forces on 8 September 1943, Albania had been in a de jure personal union with and was de facto under the control of the Kingdom of Italy. After the armistice and the Italian exit from the Axis, German military forces entered Albania and it came under German occupation, creating the client-state, the Albanian Kingdom under Mehdi Frashëri.
The Italian colonists in Albania were Italians who, between the two world wars, moved to Albania to colonize the Balkan country for the Kingdom of Italy.
The Chameria battalion was a battalion of the National Anti-Fascist Liberation Army of Albania during the Second World War. It was formed from the organized resistance groups of Cham Albanians on 15 June 1943 and was renamed as the IV Chameria Group in October 1943, which ceased to exist after the Liberation of Albania. It included at the time of its creation more than 500 armed troops, the vast majority of whom were Albanians from the Greek part of Chameria region and the rest from the Albanian part, and about 40 members of the Greek minority in Albania.
The National Liberation Movement, also translated as National Liberation Front, was an Albanian resistance organization that fought in World War II. It was created on 16 September 1942, in a conference held in Pezë, a village near Tirana. Apart from the communist figures which had the majority in the General Council it also included known nationalist figures like Myslim Peza, etc. The Albanian National Liberation Front was later transformed in May 1944 into the government of Albania and its leaders became government members. It was replaced in August 1945 by the Democratic Front.
Independent Albania was proclaimed on 28 November 1912. This chapter of Albanian history was shrouded in controversy and conflict as the larger part of the self-proclaimed region had found itself controlled by the Balkan League states: Serbia, Montenegro and Greece from the time of the declaration until the period of recognition when Albania relinquished many of the lands originally included in the declared state. Since the proclamation of the state in November 1912, the Provisional Government of Albania asserted its control over a small part of central Albania including the important cities of Vlorë and Berat.
Mujo Ulqinaku was an Albanian sergeant of the Royal Albanian Navy, known for his resistance on April 7, 1939 to the Italian forces during the Italian Invasion of Albania. He was given the People's Hero of Albania award posthumously.
Albania during World War I was an independent state, having gained independence from the Ottoman Empire on November 28, 1912, recognized by the Great Powers in 1913. A new country with various ethnic groups, it quickly unraveled and just a few months after taking power, its leader William of Wied, was forced to flee. After World War I broke out, anarchy took hold of the country as tribes and regions rebelled against central rule. To protect the Greek minority, Greek control was established in the southern districts replacing the Northern Epirote units. In response to this, Italy also landed troops, while Serbia and Montenegro took control of northern regions. In 1915 Serbia was overrun by the Austro-Hungarian Army and the Serbian army retreated through Albania, quickly followed by the Austro-Hungarian Army. As a result, the Austrians occupied most of the country, until a multinational Allied force broke through Austrian and German lines in 1918.
Durrës Castle is the fortified old city of Durrës, Albania. It is enclosed by city walls built in the late 5th century, and repaired and reinforced in the Middle Ages and early modern periods.
Albania–Italy relations refer to the current, cultural and historical relations of Albania and Italy. Albania has an embassy in Rome and 2 general consulates in Bari and Milan. Italy has an embassy in Tirana and a general consulate in Vlorë.
The Battle of Durrës was one of the main confrontations during the April 1939 Italian invasion of Albania. It took place on 7 April, the first day of the invasion, between the Italian invaders and the Albanian defenders and resulted in an Italian victory.
Italians in Albania, or the migration of Italians to Albania, has been occurring in waves over the course of centuries, beginning after the fall of the Roman Empire and continuing until present times. As of January 2017, there were 1,385 Italians residing in Albania. Other figures show about 19,000 Italians living and working in Albania.
As a result of the Ottoman collapse, a group of Albanians, with Austrian and Italian support, declared Albanian independence at Valona (Vlorë) on 28 November 1912.
The invasion of Albania in 1939 resulted in the addition of territory on the Adriatic, a compensation for the territory Italy had not been given in the 1919 peace settlement. These policies were, however, carried out at immense cost, which eventually shattered the regime's limited infrastructure. There are also examples of direct