The Throne of Zog: Monarchy in Albania 1928-1939

Jason Tomes looks at the reign of King Zog.

Shortly before five o’clock on Saturday, September 1st, 1928, Europe gained a new kingdom and its only Muslim king: thirty-two year-old Zog I of Albania. Few foreign journalists were actually present in the Parliament House in Tirana to see him swear his oath on the Koran and the Bible, yet the birth of the Kingdom of Albania – a native monarchy, not an alien imposition – did attract a flicker of international attention. King Zog was a curiosity. So he has remained. Information about him was scarce enough even during his reign. Then the Albanian Communists, who governed from 1944 to 1991, minimised his place in history and shunned the rest of the world. For five decades, Albania was synonymous with hard-line Marxism-Leninism. Two visitations of the global media circus – in 1997 and 1999 – have latterly conveyed a picture of the disorder that has followed Communism. What about the Zogist monarchy that went before it?

The modern state of Albania came into being as a result of the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 after 500 years of Ottoman Turkish rule. The Great Powers recognised its independence yet drew its boundaries so tightly that half of all Albanians were outside them. A German princeling, Wilhelm of Wied, was chosen to be its ruler. He stayed a mere six months in a land so racked by revolt and subversion as to be widely reckoned ungovernable.

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