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Population: 2.774 million (2013)
Unemployment Rate: 13.3% (2014 estimate)
Life Expectancy: 77 years (2012)
GDP (nominal per capita): US$4,600 (2013)
Reporters Without Borders WorldwidePress Freedom Index 2015
Rank: 82 of 180
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2015
Rank: 88 of 168
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report (2015) Rank: 93 of 140
Albania is the medieval Latin name, however locals call their country "Shqipëri".
Illyrian tribes originally occupied the area which is modern day Albania, as a province of the Roman Empire, and Macedonia, at different times in antiquity. Byzantine, Bulgarian and Serbian control of the Albanian region occurred through the middle ages, and eventually Ottoman control, despite several decades of resistance by Albanian national hero George Castrioti Skanderbeg in the mid-late 15th century. With Ottoman control, the region changed from majority Christian to mainly Muslim.
Albania declared independence in 1912, suffered Italian, and then German occupation during World War II, with further suffering in ensuing years under Enver Hoxha's Communist regime. Like other nations behind the Iron Curtain, the time around 1991 was the beginning of the end of absolute Communist Rule in Albania.
Part of Albania's interest and charm comes from being one of the "New Republics" finding its feet in the post Soviet bloc era. I found the people incredibly welcoming and keen to provide assistance to visitors. Relics of Communist history, such as the bomb shelters are fascinating. Albania is a majority Muslim country, with one of the highest percentages (around 70%) in Europe. Pebbly, but pretty beaches dot the Adriatic coast. Tourism facilities may be underdeveloped, but also refreshingly underpopulated compared to Europe's more established tourist destinations.