How Italy occupied Albania

How Italy occupied Albania
How Italy occupied Albania

80 years ago, in April 1939, Italy occupied Albania, establishing its empire in the Mediterranean and preparing to invade Greece. On April 7, 1939, the Italian army invaded Albania. On April 14, Rome announced the incorporation of Albania into the Italian state.

Founding of an empire

Back in 1925, Mussolini formulated the basic principles of the foreign policy of the fascist state. His goal was the founding of an empire, the conquest of "glory and power", "the creation of a new generation of warriors." The policy was supposed to be "military in nature." The century was to be "the century of Italian rule." Mussolini dreamed of restoring the Roman Empire, which once owned a significant part of the world; he considered Italy its heir and the core of the future empire. To do this, it was necessary to conquer the "living space" in the Mediterranean basin. Duce represented Europe as a bloc of fascist states.

The Balkan Peninsula was to become the first prey of the new empire. The Balkan states were weak, they were at enmity with each other, which gave Rome a chance of success. Having come to power, Mussolini tried to turn Albania into an Italian protectorate. When in 1924 in Tirana, with the support of Yugoslavia (a detachment of Russian officers was sent to help Zog), Ahmet Zogu came to power (since 1928 the king of Albania), Mussolini immediately generously allocated weapons and finances to make him his puppet. Zogu pursued a policy of modernization, but the matter was extremely difficult, since the country and society were archaic. Italy begins the economic takeover of Albania: Italian companies were granted pre-emptive rights to develop mineral deposits (including oil); placed under Italian control, the National Bank began to issue Albanian money and perform the functions of the treasury. The Society for the Economic Development of Albania was established in Rome, which financed the construction of roads, bridges and other public facilities.

In 1926, when Zogu's position was weakened by an uprising in the north of the country, Rome was able to influence the foreign policy of Tirana. In November, a Treaty of Friendship and Security (the so-called 1st Tirana Pact) was signed in the Albanian capital for a period of 5 years. The agreement established the political, legal and territorial status quo of Albania. Both countries have pledged not to sign political and military agreements that could harm one of the parties. A year later, in November 1927, an agreement was signed on a defensive alliance (2nd Tirana Pact) for a period of 20 years. In fact, Rome gained control of the Albanian army. Italy undertook to modernize the Albanian army, supplied weapons, Italian officers trained the Albanian military.

Rome believed that things were coming to a logical conclusion. Albania will become part of the Italian empire. However, Zogu did not want to be a puppet. In 1931, the Albanian monarch refused to renew the 1st Tirana Pact. Tirana then rejected the proposal to establish a customs union with Italy. Italian officers are expelled, Italian schools are closed. In 1934, the Italian fleet maneuvers off the coast of Albania, but this does not help to obtain new concessions. Albania enters into trade agreements with Greece and Yugoslavia.

In 1936, a new short period of rapprochement between Italy and Albania began.The tyrant was in dire financial straits and new investments were required. In March 1936, a new agreement was signed, which established closer economic relations. The tyrants have written off their old debts, have allocated new loans. In return, the Albanian government provided Italy with new concessions in the oil and mining industries, the right to prospect for minerals, Italian advisers were returned to the Albanian army, and civilian instructors were returned to the state apparatus. All customs barriers to the import of Italian goods were removed.

Thus, Albania was already de facto in the Italian sphere of influence. The economy, finance and army of Albania were mainly under the control of Rome. That is, there was no vital military-economic necessity for the capture of Albania for Italy. The calculations on the great wealth of Albania and on the availability of free land for the resettlement of millions of Italian colonists were erroneous.

However, Italy soon decided to end the subjugation of Albania with the help of the occupation. The political factor was decisive. Participation in the war in Spain did not bring big dividends to Rome - only big expenses, material losses. The victorious Franco did not show "gratitude" and did not intend to fight for Italy and Germany in the coming great European war in the future. He made it clear that Spain needed a lasting peace to rebuild. In addition, the whole world saw the weakness of the Italian army in Spain. The illusions about the "invincibility" of the Italian army, created by the propaganda of Rome, were dispelled. Now Mussolini needed a quick victory. Weak Albania seemed to be a convenient adversary to show the power of the Italian army and restore its confidence.

Mussolini was also annoyed by Hitler's successes - Italy could become a junior partner of the German Empire. After Hitler captured Austria and Czechoslovakia, Mussolini decided to repeat his success in Albania, and then Greece. In March 1939, Rome sent an ultimatum to Tirana, demanding the establishment of an Italian protectorate and consent to the introduction of Italian troops into Albania.

How Italy occupied Albania

Albanian President (1925-1928) and King (1928-1939) Ahmet Zogu


Italian duce Benito Mussolini. Source:

Occupation of Albania

The political reason for the capture of Albania was the creation of Mussolini by the "Roman Empire". Albania has been an ally of Italy since 1925, but Rome, trying to create its own empire, decided to annex Albania. Berlin's policy - the Anschluss of Austria, the capture of the Sudetenland, and then the whole of Czechoslovakia, whetted the appetites of the Mussolini regime. They decided to make Albania a part of the empire. The Italian fascists considered Albania a historical part of Italy, since the region went to the Roman Empire, then it was part of the Venetian Republic. The port of Vlora in southern Albania gave Italy control over the entrance to the Adriatic Sea. In addition, Rome dreamed of dominance in the eastern Mediterranean, and Albania occupied a strategic position in the west of the Balkan Peninsula. Albania was supposed to become a strategic springboard for the further expansion of Italy: a throw into Greece and Yugoslavia - the capture of Kosovo and part of Macedonia.

The economic factor for the occupation of Albania was the "black gold". Italian companies have been developing oil in Albania since 1933. Production grew rapidly: from 13 thousand tons in 1934 to 134 thousand tons in 1938. The overwhelming majority of oil was exported to Italy. In 1937, the Italian government demanded from Albania an indefinite lease of wells in the center of the country, but Tirana refused. And in 1939, the term of the concession contracts was coming to an end and Rome wanted to reissue them into perpetual ones. But the Albanian authorities were going to establish local oil refining. As a result, Rome decided to seize the oil fields.

On April 7, 1939, Italy introduced a 50,000-strong corps to Albania under the command of Alfredo Guzzoni. Italian troops attacked all ports at the same time.Weak, with old weapons, the Albanian army was unable to provide a worthy resistance to the enemy. In addition, Italian officers, who were military instructors of the Albanian army before the war, sabotaged the military measures. In particular, the artillery was disabled. However, the Italians were stuck in the coastal zone for almost a day. So, for several hours they could not suppress the resistance in the port of Durres, where the resistance was mainly from gendarmes and local militias. The preparations for the invasion were so hasty that the operation was poorly prepared and almost failed. If in the place of the Albanians there was a more serious force, like the Greeks, then the Italian invasion would have ended in disaster.

The government of King Ahmet Zogu called on the Western powers to provide military assistance to Albania. However, the West turned a blind eye to the occupation of Albania. Western countries only supported the condemnation of the Italian intervention in the League of Nations, proposed by the Soviet delegation. Only the head of the Greek government, General Metaxas, seeing the threat from Italy already to Greece, offered Tirana assistance. However, the Albanian government refused, fearing that, having entered southern Albania (there was a large Greek community and territorial disputes existed between Greece and Albania), the Greek army would remain there. By April 10, Albania was occupied by Italian forces. Zogu's government fled to Greece and then moved to London. On April 12, the new government of Albania formalized a union with Italy. Shefket Verlaci became the prime minister of the transitional government. Later, power passed to the Albanian Fascist Party. The real management was carried out by the Italian governor, to whom the local Albanian administration was subordinate. On April 14, Rome announced the incorporation of Albania into the Italian state. On April 16, the Italian king Victor Emmanuel III also became the king of Albania.


Italian soldiers in Durres, April 7, 1939

London and Paris continued their policy of appeasing the aggressor. France and England closed their eyes for a long time, moreover, they even condoned the expansion and aggression of fascist Italy, as well as Nazi Germany. The masters of the West deliberately created hotbeds of a future great (world) war. Anti-communist Italy and Germany planned to incite Russia-USSR. Also, the world was supposed to destroy the previous order in Europe, create conditions for the future world domination of London and Washington. Therefore, Paris and London surrendered Ethiopia to Italy in 1935-1936. and Albania. At the same time, the political circles of Paris hoped that these concessions would allow them to preserve their possessions and sphere of influence in North Africa and the Middle East. However, they miscalculated. So, already in 1939, Rome supported Turkey in taking away northwestern Syria from the French (rejection of the Alexandretta sandjak). And after the surrender of France, Mussolini took away a number of border areas from her, Italian troops entered Corsica, Monaco and Tunisia.

The Albanian people, unlike the authorities, did not capitulate. A partisan war began. The Albanian rebels (there were also Greeks and Serbs in their ranks) were supported by weapons by Greece and Yugoslavia, who rightly feared that Albania would become a springboard for further Italian expansion. The remnants of the Albanian troops also retreated to Greece and Yugoslavia. In October 1940, an Italian army from southern and eastern Albania invaded Greece. The Greek army, with the support of Albanian formations, defeated the enemy and by the spring of 1941 was fighting in Albania. The Italian spring offensive in March 1941 ended in failure. This was the first military victory over the German-fascist bloc, and without the participation of England. London did not help Greece. The defeat of Italy forced the Third Reich, which was busy preparing a war against the USSR, to come to the aid of an ally.In April 1941, the Wehrmacht conducted the Greek and Yugoslavian operations in order to ensure the strategic rear in the Balkans.


Italian troops in Albania

On August 12, 1941, by decree of the Italian king Victor Emmanuel III, the Grand Duchy of Albania was created in the occupied Albanian territories, which also included the territories of Metohija, central Kosovo and Western Macedonia. Albania, over time, was supposed to become a natural part of Italy, so the policy of Italianization was carried out there. Italians obtained the right to settle in Albania as colonists. At the same time, the Italians expelled Serbs and Montenegrins from there to Kosovo. And local Albanian Nazis burned Serbian settlements and houses. Albanian fascist militia legions, infantry and volunteer battalions, at the end of 1941 - rifle regiments were formed for the war with Greece, the protection of order and the fight against partisans. Subsequently, the Albanian units staged a genocide of the Slavic population.

In September 1943, Italy, having suffered defeat and lost colonies in Africa, as well as Sicily, surrendered. Mussolini was arrested. The new Italian government has entered into a truce with the United States and Great Britain. In response, the Third Reich occupied Northern and Central Italy, the Germans were able to liberate Mussolini. In the German-occupied Italian territories, the Italian Social Republic was proclaimed, which continued the war until its collapse in April 1945.

Albania during this period was occupied by the German army. The Germans announced that they intend to restore the sovereignty of Albania, trampled by the Italians, and relied on a puppet Nazi government. The wealthy Kosovar landowner Recep Mitrovica became the prime minister of the pro-German government. Albanian Nazis relied on the support of the armed forces of Northern Albania and Kosovo (Kosovars). They perpetrated terror against all "dissenters." The partisan movement in Albania became widespread. In November 1944, the Germans retreated from Albania. Tirana was liberated by the National Liberation Army of Albania (it was under the leadership of the communists).


Occupation of Albania by Italy and Germany

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