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The only modern Albanian King


Ahmet Bey 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.

Son of 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.

Having 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.

Rightly 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.

Any hopes 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.


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