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Albanians in Italy

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Albanians in Italy

Part of a series on
Balkan countries with substantial Albanian population
Albanian culture
Varieties of Albanian



Roman Catholicism


The Albanian diaspora encompasses Albanians outside of Albania, Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The greatest concentrations are found in Italy, Greece and Turkey. There are also smaller communities in Austria, Canada, France, Romania, Belgium, Russia, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Ukraine, UK, and the USA

The Albanian exodus, caused by the collapse of the communist regime in 1991 and the ensuing economic crisis, has been the largest emigration movement in Europe since the population movements after World War II. Between 1989 and 2001, roughly 800,000 people have migrated out of Albania, about 440,000 of them settling in Greece, where Albanians make up 60% of immigrants.[1] 350,000 Albanians have migrated to Italy over the 1990s to 2000s.[2] The situation in Kosovo is similar. More than a million Albanians have left Kosovo since the late 1980s permanently, not counting those fleeing the Kosovo War who have subsequently returned.[3] An important destination for emigrating Albanians from Kosovo has been Switzerland and Germany.[4]

In Albania, emigration dates back to the 15th century when many Albanians emigrated to Calabria in Southern Italy after the defeat of Skanderbeg by Ottoman forces. Other popular destinations were Turkey, Bulgaria, and later the United States and South America. Following the communist take over after World War II, emigration was outlawed and violations severely punished. Two major emigration waves in the 1990s were:

  • Post-1990 wave prior to the collapse of communism in Albania in the form of break-ins at foreign embassies and departures by ship
  • Post-1997 wave following the 1997 unrest in Albania mainly by sea

The preference for Italy, Greece and Western European countries during the first waves of emigration has given way to Canada and the United States due to stricter European immigration laws. The rate of emigration has decreased during the later 2000s.

In Albania, it is estimated that emigrant remittances account for 18% of GDP or $530 million annually.[5] Those who have come back have opened micro-enterprises, while the proximity of Greece and Italy to Albania where more than half of immigrants are located has contributed to continuous labor mobility.[6] Recently, following the 2010–2011 Greek Crisis, many Albanian emigrants have returned either temporarily or permanently to Albania.[7]

The mass emigration of the 1990s to early 2000s has resulted in massive brain drain to Albania. In the period 1990–2003, an estimated 45% of Albania's academics emigrated, as did more than 65% of the scholars who received PhDs in the West in the period 1980–1990.[8] In 2006, a "brain gain" program compiled by Albanian authorities and the UNDP was put into action to encourage the skilled diaspora to contribute to the country's development, though its success remains to be seen.



Main article: Mandritsa

In 1636, the Mandritsa, a typical village in Bulgaria, was found by Eastern Orthodox Albanian dairymen who supplied the Ottoman Army. They were allowed to pick a tract of land and were freed from taxes. In the 2001 census of Bulgaria, it was estimated that 278 Albanians live in the country.


There are Albanian immigrants, who have entered Greece in large numbers since the fall of the Socialist People's Republic of Albania, form the largest single expatriate group in the country today. After the fall of communism throughout Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a large number of economic refugees and immigrants from Greece's neighboring countries, Albania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, as well as from more distant countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia, arrived in Greece, mostly as illegal immigrants, to seek employment. The vast majority of the Albanians in Greece is estimated to be between 65–70% of the total number of immigrants in the country. According to the 2001 census, there are 443,550 holders of Albanian citizenship in Greece.


Further information: Arbëreshë and Albani family

The Albani were an aristocratic Roman family, members of which attained the highest dignities in the Roman Catholic Church, one, Clement XI, having been Pope. They were ethnic Albanians who originally moved to Urbino from the region of Malësi e Madhe in Albania.[9] and had been soldiers of Scanderbeg against the Ottoman Empire. Though eventually assimilated in their Italian environment, Clement XI's Albanian antecedents were evident in his having commissioned, during his reign as a Pope, the famous Illyricum Sacrum. Today it is one of the main sources of the field of Albanology, with over 5000 pages divided in several volumes written by Daniele Farlati and Dom. Coletti.

There is an Albanian community in southern Italy, known as Arbëreshë, who had settled in the country in the 15th and the 16th century, displaced by the changes brought about by the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. Some managed to escape and were offered refuge from the repression by the Kingdom of Naples and Kingdom of Sicily (both under Aragonese rule), where the Arbëreshë were given their own villages and protected. The Arbëreshë were estimated as numbering at a quarter million in the 1970s.

After the breakdown of the communist regime in Albania in 1990, Italy had been the main immigration target for Albanians leaving their country. This was because Italy had been a symbol of the West for many Albanians during the communist period, because of its geographic proximity. Italy reacted to the migration pressure by introducing the "Martelli" law, stipulating that any immigrant who could prove that he or she had come into the country before the end of 1989 be granted a two-year residency permit. From March 1997, Italy instituted a strict patrol of the Adriatic in an attempt to curb Albanian immigration. As a result, many Albanian immigrants in Italy do not have a legal status. Out of an estimated 450,000 Albanian immigrants in Italy in 1998, only some 82,000 were registered with authorities. In total there are 800,000 Albanians in Italy.[10]

The Italian Government has housed significant numbers of Albanians from Kosovo in the Arbëresh settlements, most notably in Piana degli Albanesi in Sicily.


Turkey has about five million citizens of full or partial Albanian descent,[11] and most still feel a connection to Albania. There is also a strong Turkish minority in Kosovo, a country which is predominantly Albanian. The bond between these two nations stems from historical reasons, especially since many Albanians embraced Islam, the official religion of the Ottoman Empire.

Albania was the last nation in southeastern Europe to claim independence from the Ottoman Empire, on 28 November 1912. To this day, relations between the two countries are excellent, with Turkey being one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo, and with polls showing that Turks are one of the best-received ethnic groups in Albania.

Many Albanians emigrated to Turkey between 1950 and 1970. In that period, Islam in Yugoslavia was repressed, and both Albanians and Muslim Slavs were encouraged to declare themselves Turkish and emigrate to Turkey. In the 1990s, Turkey received a wave of Kosovan refugees, fleeing from conflict. Today, the number of ethnic Albanians in Turkey is estimated to be around 500,000.[12]

Western Europe

Further information: Kosovan diaspora


Main article: Albanians in Germany

There are an estimated 500,000 Albanians living in Germany. They mostly migrated to Germany from Kosovo during the 1990s.


There are an estimated 350,000 ethnic Albanians in Switzerland, most of them from Kosovo, a sizeable minority arriving from Macedonia.[13] Albanians have migrated to Switzerland since 1960s,[14] but bulk of immigration took place during the 1990s, especially during 1998–1999. They account for about 2% of total Swiss population, making them the third largest immigrant community in Switzerland, after the Italian and German ones. The Albanian language is the second largest immigrant language spoken in Switzerland, following Serbo-Croatian. About 40,000 have been naturalized as Swiss citizens during the 1990s and 2000s, while an estimated 150,000 remain registered as nationals of either Serbia and Montenegro (carrying passports issued during the existence of that country, 1992–2006), the Republic of Kosovo (34,000 Kosovar passports registered with the Swiss authority by August 2010), the Republic of Macedonia, or Albania.


Main article: Albanians in France



It is estimated that 22,395 Albanians live in Canada (2006 Census). The first Albanians arrived in Canada at the beginning of the 20th century, following internal pre-war revolutionary upheavals. Few immigrated to Canada after WWII. Most of the post-war Albanian immigrants settled in either Montreal or Toronto. Some found jobs in Calgary and a few in small communities in Ontario (e.g., Peterborough). After the inter-ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia between ethnic Albanians and Serbian military and police forces, many Albanians left Kosovo as refugees. Some have come to Canada, and in 1999 the Canadian government created a program to offer safe haven to 7000 Kosovar Albanian refugees. However, they continue to appreciate their ethnic heritage and their Albanian national history, even though their ancestors may have left Albania several decades ago. Those Albanians from Albania proper are active in their business and social organizations.

United States

Main article: Albanian American

Albanians began to settle in the USA in the early 1920s from Greece, Turkey, Southern Italy and Kosovo, and in the 1990s from Albania, Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia, and refugees of war. The largest Albanian American (incl. Kosovar Albanian) populations are in New York City, Boston, Detroit, and Chicago. Another Albanian American community in Southern California such as the Los Angeles area. The Inland Empire (Riverside/San Bernardino) area of California includes Kosovars who entered the United States at the March Joint Air Reserve Base in Riverside. The Albanian-American population is currently 113,661, 0.04% of the US population.

Table of diaspora populations

Country Albanian population Year Source(s)
 Albania 3,002,859 (2012) [15]
 Kosovo 1,680,000 (2011) [16]
 Macedonia 500,083 (2002) [17]
 Montenegro 30,600 (2007) [18]
 Greece 443,550 (2001) [19]
 Turkey 500,000 (2007) [20]
 Italy 482,627 (2011) [21]
 USA 193,813 (2011) [22]
 Serbia 61,647 (2002) [23]
 Canada 22,395 (2006) [24]
 Sweden 55,000
 United Kingdom 30,000 (2002) [25]
 France 20,000-100,000
  Switzerland 200,000 (2007) [26][27]
 Germany 300,000 (2008) [28]
 Netherlands 55,706
 Belgium 200,962
 Slovenia 6,186 (2002) [29]
 Croatia 17,621 (2001) [29]
 Romania 15,000
 Norway 37,000
 Austria 28,212 (2001) [30][31]
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 4,295 (1991) [32]
 Denmark 38,000
 Ukraine 13,308 (2001) [29]
 Finland 23,293 (2000) [30]
 Spain 25,427 [33]
 Czech Republic 10,221 [34]
 Slovakia 5,851 (2001) [35][36][37]
 Australia 21,315 [38]
 Kazakhstan 46 (1999) [29]
 Moldova 1,204 (1989) [29]
 New Zealand 15,531 (2001) [30]
 Cyprus 997 (2001) [35]
 Philippines 1,495 (2000) [35]
 Ireland 1,301 (2002) [35]
 Luxembourg 4,976 (2001) [35]
 Poland 3,037 (2006) [35]
 Bulgaria 10,278 (2001) [39]
 Bolivia 5 (2002) [35]
 Argentina 50,000 (1997) [35]

Notable Albanians from the Diaspora

  • Mustafa Kemal Ataturk- Ottoman and Turkish with Albanian descent army officer, revolutionary statesman, writer, and the first President of Turkey. He is credited with being the founder of the modern Turkish state.
  • Fatmire Bajramaj- Famous Woman Albanian Football player. She has announced to move to 1. FFC Frankfurt for the 2011–12 season. The transfer is the most expensive in women's Bundesliga history
  • Giorgio Basta- Italian general of Arbëreshë descent, employed by the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II to command Habsburg forces in the Long War of 1591–1606 and later to administer Transylvania as an Imperial vassal to restore Catholicism as a predominant religion in Transylvania.
  • Francesco Crispi- Italian politician of Albanian Arberesh ancestry. He was instrumental in the formation of the united country and was its 17th and 20th Prime Minister from 1887 until 1891 and again from 1893 until 1896.
  • Joe DioGuardi- Albanian-American certified public accountant and a Republican politician.
  • Tie Domi- Canadian professional ice hockey player of Albanian heritage. During a sixteen-year NHL career when he was known for his role as an enforcer, he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets.
  • Eliza Dushku- American-Albanian actress known for her television roles.
  • Lee Elia- Albanian-American former professional baseball player and manager in Major League Baseball.
  • Farouk I of Egypt- (11 February 1920 – 18 March 1965), Tenth ruler (Muhammad Ali Dynasty) and penultimate King of Egypt and Sudan, 1936, was of Albanian descent as well as native Egyptian and Turkish
  • Mit’hat Frashëri- Albanian diplomat, writer and politician. The son of Abdyl Frashëri, one of the most important activists of the Albanian National Awakening in 1908 he participated in the Congress of Monastir
  • Giorgio Kastriota Scanderbeg (~Iskander Bey)- as a 15th-century Albanian lord[D], who as leader of the federation of the League of Lezhë defended the region of Albania against the Ottoman Empire for more than two decades.
  • Mirela Manjani- is a retired Albanian javelin thrower that represented Greece.
  • Inva Mula- Inva Mula is an Albanian opera soprano. She comes from an artistic family. She began her soprano career at a very early age.
  • Muhammad Ali Pasha- Regarded as the founder of modern Egypt, was an Albanian commander of the Ottoman Sultan's, Mahmud II, army sent to drive Napoleon's forces out of Egypt, upon French withdrawal, became Governor of Egypt (1805), then Khedive (Viceroy) of Egypt and Sudan. He founded a dynasty.
  • Regis Philbin- Albanian-American media personality, actor and singer, known for hosting talk and game shows from the 1960s to the present.
  • Rexhep Qosja- prominent Albanian politician and literary critic.
  • Oruç Reis- Oruç Reis (also called Barbarossa or Redbeard) was a Turkish privateer and Ottoman Bey (Governor) of Algiers and Beylerbey (Chief Governor) of the West Mediterranean with Albanian descent
  • Girolamo de Rada (Arbëresh: Jeronim de Rada) (1814–1903) was an Italian writer of Italo-Albanian literature of Arbëreshë descent he was the foremost figure of the Albanian National Awakening in 19th Italy.

See also

  • Lamerica
  • Karaburun tragedy
  • Tragedy of Otranto


Further reading

  • Vullnetari, Julie. "Albanian Migration and Development: State of the Art Review", Working Paper No. 18, Universiteit van Amsterdam: Amsterdam, 2007
  • 15, no.4, (2004): 100–114
  • Germenji, Etleva and Ilir Gedeshi. "Highly Skilled Migration from Albania: An Assessment of Current Trends and the Ways Ahead", University of Sussex: 2008
  • Labrianidis, Lois; Brikena Kazazi. “Albanian Return-Migrants from Greece and Italy: Their Impact upon Spatial Disparities within Albania.” European Urban and Regional Studies 13, no. 1 (2006): 59–74
  • King, Russell and Julie Vullnetari. "Migration and Development in Albania", Sussex Centre for Migration Research, University of Sussex, 2003
  • 56, no. 6 (2004): 877–890
  • Piperno, Flavia. "From Albania to Italy: Formation and Basic Features of a Binational Migration System", CeSPI, 2002
  • Piracha, Matloob; Florin Vadean. “Return Migration and Occupational Choice: Evidence from Albania.” World Development 38, no. 8 (2010): 1141–1155

External links

  • History of Emigration from Albania (Albanian)

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