The only modern Albanian King
ZOGU (born 1895, Castle Burgajet, Albania; died April 9, 1961,
Suresnes, France), was president of Albania from 1925 to 1928
and king from 1928 to 1939.
a midland chieftain, he was an opportunist politician and admirer
of Mussolini who, with Serbian help, overthrew the government
of Fan Noli in 1924. Having been occupied by Serbia, Greece and
Italy during the First World War, and had large chunks of its
territory gobbled up, Albania emerged very fragile and torn from
the Paris Peace Conference. In fact it was a miracle that it survived
at all, even in the truncated form that it remains to this day.
Between 1921 and 1924 there were several governments in Tirana,
and Zogu's armed coup established stability in the young and divided
nation. It followed the defeat of the Harvard-educated reformist
Fan Noli who was ousted by powerful landowners who did not want
to give up their fiefdoms.
supported Austria during World War I, Zog thereafter became a
leader of the quasi-reformist Popular Party. In the various governments
which formed after the first democratic elections in 1921 he held
ministerial posts (including Minister of the Interior) from 1920
until he was forced into exile in June 1924 - but he returned
with Yugoslav assistance in December, and was elected president
on February 1, 1925 by a tame Constituent Assembly. He got rid
of his political opponents, and with British help managed to establish
a police force so that for the first time in decades a traveller
could move around the country without fear of brigandage.
apprehensive about Yugoslavia's intentions, he began a fateful
association with Italy in 1925. A loan in that year was followed
in 1926 by a treaty of friendship and security and in 1927 by
a 20-year defensive military alliance between the two countries.
On September 1, 1928, he had himself declared King. Mussolini
made Albania his bridgehead to the Balkans, and by 1939 Italy
controlled the country's finances and army. Zog tried but failed
to break that hold from 1932 onward. On April 7, 1939, Mussolini's
armies - having committed terrible atrocities in Ethiopia and
Libya - marched into Albania which was declared a protectorate.
Victor Emmanuel III became king, and Zog went into exile.
At the beginning
of the Second World War Italian troops poured through Albania
into Greece, but were beaten back. Greek forces then occupied
Southern Albania which they regarded as part of Greater Hellas
along with Yugoslav Macedonia. The story of Italy's ineffectual
campaign in war-torn Greece is the background of Louis de Bernières'
celebrated novel, Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Germany then
swept through Yugoslavia and gave the province of Kosova and part
of Western Macedonia to the Italian Protectorate of Albania. After
Italy was knocked out of the war in 1943, the Germans restored
the Zogist constitution, but with a puppet Council of Regency
instead of the exiled monarch.
After the Soviet
Union entered the war, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia encouraged
the formation of a party in Albania. Just as the Yugoslavs found
a natural leader in the brilliant Partisan Tito, so the tiny Albanian
Communist Party increased its following under the brilliant guerrilla
leadership of Enver Hoxha.
that Zog had of returning after the war were disappointed by the
rapid establishment of a communist republic under the successful
Partisan leader Hoxha in 1945. Zog formally abdicated on January
2, 1946, leaving Albania in the hands of a much more terrible
monarch, who successfully resisted the attempt by his erstwhile
Partisan ally, Tito, to annexe Albania after reclaiming Kosova.