Albania > Tirana

Tirana (pronounced: Tih-rana) is the capital and the largest city (1991 est. pop. 300,000) of Albania. It is the administrative, cultural, economic, and industrial center of the Republic of Albania.

The founding and later development of the city of Tirana were made possible by its geographic position on a fertile plain, rich in forest lands and water, and crossroads of the Adriatic and eastern Albania, and through the Qafa e K‘rab‘s valley and the Shkumbin river with the inner parts of the Balkan peninsula. The area around Tirana has been inhabited since the neolithic age. On the mountainside of Dajti are the remains of an ancient castle dating back to the first century B.C., which happens to be the castle that the Byzantine historian Prokop (sixth century) mentions as the castle of Tirkan. The name of the city contains an ancient root that is present in other places that have been inhabited by Illyrians. There was a system of castles on the surrounding hills (Petrel‘, Prez‘, Ndroq, Fark‘, etc.) that served as protection for Durr‘s and Kruja. The oldest discovery in the area of Tirana has been a mosaic with several other remains of buildings of the later antiquity, found at the Kroi i Sh‘ngjinit (Fountain of Sh‘ngjin), near a Medieval temple.

The renovated Tirana International Hotel

The year 1614 is considered the date that Tirana was founded, when Sulejman Pasha Bargjini built a mosque, a hamam (Turkish bath), a bakery, and several shops. Tirana began to develop in the begining of the sixteenth century, when a bazar was established, and its craftsmen made silk, cotton, and leather fabrics, ceramics, iron, silver, and gold artifacts. The first quarter of Tirana was Bami and later the Mujos quarter. The Ethem Bey mosque was built in 1789, which has been preserved and is located at today's Skenderbeg Square. In 1830, the Sahat-Kulla (Clock Tower) was built, which is 35 meters tall. Albanian feudal lords were in conflict over the rule of the town. In the 19th century, the authority of the Toptani family grew in Tirana. During the Rilindja (Albanian national awakening of the 19th century), several of its activists had worked in Tirana. The schools of Tirana began teaching the Albanian language in 1889, and in 1908 the patriotic club "Bashkimi" (Unity) was founded here. On November 26th, 1912, the people of Tirana, in accordance with Ismajl Qemali, rose the Albanian flag to end the rule of the Ottoman Turks in Albania. During the First Balkan War, Tirana was captured by the Serbian army. A large population from Dibra, forcefully expelled from their homes by the Serbian army, in 1913-1915 and 1918-1920, took shelter and settled in Tirana. The inhabitants of Tirana and its surroundings took part in an uprising led by Haxhi Qamili in 1914.

On February 8th, 1920, the provisional government formed at the Congress of Lushje moved to Tirana, and at this point Tirana became the capital of the country. This played an important role for the development of the town. At this time it had 17,000 inhabitants, and new quarters were added to the town. The people of Tirana and its surroundings, in 1919 opposed Esat Pasha Toptani, considered a traitor to Albanian national interests, in 1922 Ahmet Zogu's efforts to gain power, and helped the uprisers of Dibra led by Isuf Elezi enter the town. In the years 1920-1924 the people of Tirana fought against the attacks of the Serbian army, and the forces of Zogu at the Shkalla e Tujanit (Step of Tujan). The people of Tirana demonstrated when on March 20th, 1924, Zog's agents killed Avni Rustemi, a distinguished Albanian patriot, leader of the "Bashkimi" national and democratic association.

The Sahat Kulla (Clock Tower) and Ethem Bey's Mosque

In June of 1924, the provisional government of the June Revolution, led by Fan S. Noli, was established in Tirana. After its fall, Tirana remained the center of opposition to Ahmet Zog's rule. Although the capital of Albania, until 1938 Tirana had a population of only 25,000. An urbanization plan was carried out in the beginning of the 1930s by the opening of new ministry and administration buildings, and the Skenderbeg Square. In 1937 the building of the National Bank was completed, the hospital and shops on the present Barrikada street were built, and east of the old bazar a new one was opened. New houses built on the western and southwestern part of the town were named New Tirana. The town had no running water, no sewage system, no electricity, narrow streets, and low houses, except several three to four floor houses of wealthy merchants.

Skenderbeg's monument in Tirana

The Italians captured Tirana with the occupation of Albania in 1939. The Italians built several administration and residential buildings in Tirana during their rule. In November 1941, Enver Hoxha with other Albanian communists founded the Communist Party of Albania in Tirana, and the town became the center of the Albanian communists' activities to mobilize the people of Tirana to fight the Italian fascists and later Nazi Germans and to spread ideological propaganda. The town was liberated after a fierce battle between the Communists and the people of Tirana against the German forces, on November 17th, 1944.

Before World War II, Tirana had one power plant, two printing presses, several wood processing plants using outdated techniques, and several soap factories. Today Tirana is the largest industrial center of Albania. During the 1980's, Tirana produced one fifth of the total industrial product, one third of the total mechanics industry product, 30 percent of the total coal production, and a half of the total textile production of Albania. Many industries, such as the building materials, textile, food, mechanical products, and electrical products, are based in Tirana.

Government buildings: the People's Assembly, the Ministries, the executive, the High Court, are in Tirana. The city has around 45 elementary schools (compared to 19 before World War II), the same number of secondary schools (compared to 6 before World War II), and in 1957 the University of Tirana was established, from which in 1991 emerged the Polytechnic University of Tirana. Other educational institutions include: the Academy of Arts, the Agricultural University, the Military Academy, the Institute of Physical Education "Vojo Kushi", and the Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Skenderbeg Square

The main cultural and artistic institutions of Tirana are the National Theater, The Theater of Opera and Ballet, The Estrada Theater, the Ensemble of Folk Music and Dances, and others. The National Library together with three other important libraries function here, including seven specialized libraries.

The look of the city has changed since the end of World War II, in accordance with urbanization plans made during the years 1952-1956. Old city quarters with no architectural value were demolished (such as the Tabak and Terzinje quarters, the old bazar in 1959, the eastern side of the Barrikada street, etc.), to make way for new quarters (such as the number 6, 7, and 9), new blocks (such as the "Vasil Shanto" and "Ali Demi"), and older ones were rebuilt. During the 1960s, the center was improved, with the new Cultural Palace and the Theater of Opera and Ballet (1966), Skenderbeg's monument (1968), Hotel Tirana (1979), and the Museum of National History (1981). The hills on the southeastern part of the city around the artificial lake were afforested, thus opening the new Park, which is connected with the Botanical Garden and the Zoo. On the southwestern part of the city is the Student City, which houses the students of the University of Tirana. The city has several hotels, the main ones include Dajti, Tirana, Arb‘ria, Arbana, Peza, and Drini.

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