Useful country information
Land area: 10,579 sq mi (27,400 sq km); total area: 11,100 sq mi (28,748 sq km)
Population: 3,020,209 (growth rate: 0.3%); birth rate: 12.73/1000; infant mortality rate: 13.19/1000; life expectancy: 77.96; density per sq mi: 272
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Tirana, 419,000
Other large cities: Durres, 113,900; Elbasan, 97,000
Monetary unit: Lek
National name: Republika e Shqiperise
Languages: Albanian 98.8% (official - derived from Tosk dialect), Greek 0.5%, other 0.6% (including Macedonian, Roma, Vlach, Turkish, Italian, and Serbo-Croatian), unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)
Ethnicity/race: Albanian 82.6%, Greek 0.9%, other 1% (including Vlach, Roma (Gypsy), Macedonian, Montenegrin, and Egyptian), unspecified 15.5% (2011 est.)
Religions: Muslim 56.7%, Roman Catholic 10%, Orthodox 6.8%, atheist 2.5%, Bektashi (a Sufi order) 2.1%, other 5.7%, unspecified 16.2% (2011 est.)
National Holiday: Independence Day, November 28
Literacy rate: 98.7% (2011 est.)
Previously part of the Byzantine and later the Ottoman empires, Albania gained independence in 1912. It became a Stalinist regime under Enver Hoxha after World War II and remained extremely isolationist in policy and outlook until the Communists lost power in 1992.
Albania ended 44 years of xenophobic communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven difficult as corrupt governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, a dilapidated infrastructure, widespread gangsterism, and disruptive political opponents. International observers judged local elections in 2000 to be acceptable and a step toward democratic development, but serious deficiencies remain to be corrected.
Albania joined NATO in April 2009 and is a potential candidate for EU accession. Although Albania's economy continues to grow, the country is still one of the poorest in Europe, hampered by a large informal economy and an inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure.
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