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PHOTO/ 100 year anniversary of Albanian Independence

100 years ago today, Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire after five hundred years and after a seven month long revolution. See photos here.

Albanian flag Albanian flag

After five hundred years of domination by the Ottoman Empire, Albania declared its independence on November 28, 1912. Dita e Pavarësisë (Independence Day) was declared by Ismail Qemali, who was the first head of the new Independent Albania. He raised the flag of his country, a black double headed eagle on a red background, in Vlora, Albania. Apart from a brief period of independence in the fifteenth century under the legendary hero Skanderbeg, Albania did not experience independence until this date.

The revolutions were sparked by new measures in the Ottoman Empire, instituted by the Young Turks, requiring Albanians to serve in the military and pay more taxes. These were among other measures designed to assimilate Albania further into the Empire. Albanians protested these measures first by forming the Albanian League in 1878 to unite the country. They developed their national language, education and literature. Then, in 1908 and in 1910 they fought against the Empire, though unsuccessfully until the final revolution in 1912.

The revolt started in the area of Kosovo. The Albanian Revolt of 1912 lasted from January until August, when the revolutionaries captured Skopje, the administrative center of the area within the Empire. The Ottoman government then agreed to the demands of the rebels that September, including the autonomy of Albanian schools and justice system.

The success of the revolt demonstrated to other countries that the Ottoman Empire was weak. This led to the First Balkan War, in which Macedonia and Old Serbia also rebelled against the Empire. They wished to divide their parts of the Empire among themselves, and Albania held an All-Albanian Congress in Vlora. At this Congress, they decided to officially declare their independence from the Empire. This independence was not officially recognized by the international community until July 29, 1913, after the Second Balkan War.

Modern Albania is a member of the UN, NATO, the Council of Europe, and is an applicant for admission to the European Union. Their national symbol is the golden eagle.

This anniversary has been celebrated all year in Albania this year, since it is the 100th. Much of the celebrations are held in Skopje, which was so central to the revolution, even though the city is currently part of the neighboring country of Macedonia. This has led to some problems, as many Macedonian citizens do not want their government to spend money on the independence celebrations of another country and because of continuing ethnic tensions exasperated by the presence in the streets of thousands of celebrating Albanians.