Military Review

How Italy occupied Albania

80 years ago, in April 1939, Italy occupied Albania, creating its empire in the Mediterranean and preparing for an invasion of Greece. 7 April 1939, the Italian army invaded Albania. 14 April Rome announced the inclusion of Albania into the Italian state.

"Foundation of the Empire"

Back in 1925, Mussolini formulated the basic principles of the foreign policy of the fascist state. His goal was the foundation of the 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 should have been the "century of Italian rule". Mussolini dreamed of restoring the Roman Empire, which once owned a large part of the world, considered Italy to be 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 be the first prey of the new empire. The Balkan states were weak, feuding among themselves, which gave Rome chances for 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 Zog came to power (King of Albania since 1928), Mussolini immediately generously singled out weapon and finance to make it your puppet. Zog pursued a policy of modernization, but the matter was extremely difficult, as the country and society were archaic. Italy begins the economic absorption of Albania: Italian companies were given preferential rights to develop mineral deposits (including oil); put under Italian control, the National Bank began to issue Albanian money and perform the functions of the treasury. In Rome, the Albanian Economic Development Society was established, which financed the construction of roads, bridges and other public facilities.

In the 1926 year, when Zog's position was weakened by a rebellion in the north of the country, Rome was able to influence the foreign policy of Tirana. In November, the Treaty of Friendship and Security (the so-called 1 Tyrant 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 reached on a defensive alliance (2-th Tiran 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 it was coming to a logical conclusion. Albania will become part of the Italian Empire. However, Zog did not want to be a puppet. In 1931, the Albanian monarch refused to renew the 1 Tyrant Pact. Then Tirana rejected the proposal to establish a customs union with Italy. Italian officers are sent, Italian schools are closed. In 1934, the Italian fleet conducts maneuvers off the coast of Albania, but this does not help get new concessions. Albania concludes trade agreements with Greece and Yugoslavia.

In 1936, a new short period of rapprochement between Italy and Albania began. The tyrant was in a difficult financial situation, new injections were needed. In March 1936, a new agreement was signed that established closer economic relations. Tirana wrote off the old debts, allocated new loans. In return, the Albanian government granted Italy new concessions in the oil and mining industries, the right to explore for minerals, returned Italian advisers to the Albanian army, and civilian instructors to the state apparatus. Removed all customs barriers to the importation of Italian goods.

Thus, Albania has de facto already been in the sphere of influence of Italy. The economy, finances and army of Albania were mainly under the control of Rome. That is, there was no vital military and economic need to seize Albania for Italy. Erroneous were the calculations for the great wealth of Albania, and for the availability of land for the resettlement of millions of Italian colonists.

However, Italy soon decided to complete the subordination of Albania through occupation. The decisive factor was the political factor. Participation in the war in Spain did not bring Rome big dividends - only large expenses, material losses. The victorious Franco did not show "gratitude" and was not going to fight for Italy and Germany in the future in the upcoming big European war. He clearly showed that Spain needs a durable peace to recover. 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 scattered. Now Mussolini needed a quick victory. Weak Albania seemed to be a convenient adversary to show the power of the Italian army, to return her confidence.

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

How Italy occupied Albania

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

Italian duce Benito Mussolini. Source:

The 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 join Albania. The policy of Berlin - the Anschluss of Austria, the seizure of the Sudeten, and then the whole of Czechoslovakia, spurred the appetites of the Mussolini regime. They decided to make Albania a part of the empire. Italian fascists believed Albania historical part of Italy, since the region went to the Roman Empire, then was part of the Venetian Republic. The port of Vlore 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 to become a strategic springboard for the further expansion of Italy: a throw to Greece and Yugoslavia - the capture of Kosovo and parts of Macedonia.

The economic factor for the occupation of Albania was “black gold”. Italian campaigns have developed oil in Albania since 1933. Mining grew rapidly: from 13 thousand tons in the 1934 year to 134 thousand tons in the 1938 year. Most of the oil was exported to Italy. In 1937, the Italian government demanded from Albania perpetual rent of wells in the center of the country, but Tirana refused. And in 1939, the term of the concession contracts ended and Rome wanted to reissue them as perpetual. But the Albanian authorities were going to establish local oil refining. As a result, Rome decided to seize the oil fields.

7 April 1939 Italy introduced the 50-thousandth corps under the command of Alfredo Guzzoni to Albania. Italian troops attacked all ports simultaneously. Weak, having the old weapons, the Albanian army could not provide decent resistance to the enemy. In addition, Italian officers, who were military instructors of the Albanian army before the war, sabotaged military activities. In particular, disabled artillery. However, in the coastal zone, the Italians were stuck for almost a day. So, for several hours they could not crush the resistance in the port of Durres, where the resistance was mainly provided by gendarmes and local militias. The preparations for the invasion were so hasty that the operation was poorly prepared and she almost failed. If Albanians were in place of 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 closed its eyes 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 Greece, offered help to Tirana. 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 10 April, Albania was occupied by Italian forces. The Zogu government fled to Greece and then moved to London. 12 April a new government of Albania formed a union with Italy. Shefket Verlaji became Prime Minister of the Transitional Government. Later the power passed to the Albanian fascist party. The real control was exercised by the Italian governor, to whom the local Albanian administration was subordinate. 14 April Rome announced the inclusion of Albania into the Italian state. From 16 on April, the Italian king Victor Emmanuel III also became king of Albania.

Italian soldiers in Durres, 7 April 1939 of the year

London and Paris continued the policy of "appeasing the aggressor." France and England for a long time turned a blind eye, moreover, they even condoned the expansion and aggression of fascist Italy, as well as of Nazi Germany. The masters of the West deliberately created hotbeds of a future big (world) war. Anti-Communist Italy and Germany were planning to incite Russia-USSR. The world also had to destroy the old order in Europe, create conditions for the future world domination of London and Washington. Therefore, Paris and London surrendered Italy to Ethiopia 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 in the Middle East. However, miscalculated. So, already in 1939, Rome supported Turkey at weaning from the French of northwestern Syria (rejection of Alexandretti Sanjak). And after the capitulation of France, Mussolini took away a number of border areas from her, the Italian troops entered Corsica, Monaco and Tunisia.

The Albanian people, unlike the authorities, did not capitulate. The guerrilla war began. The Albanian rebels (the Greeks and Serbs were also in their ranks) were supported by weapons from Greece and Yugoslavia, rightly fearing that Albania would become a springboard for the further expansion of Italy. In Greece and Yugoslavia, the remnants of the Albanian troops retreated. In October, 1940, the Italian army from the southern and eastern Albania invaded Greece. The Greek army, with the support of the Albanian formations, defeated the enemy and by the spring of 1941, she was already fighting in Albania. The Italian Spring Offensive in March 1941 ended in failure. It 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, who was busy preparing for war against the USSR, to come to the aid of an ally. In April, the Wehrmacht 1941 conducted the Greek and Yugoslav operations in order to secure a strategic rear in the Balkans.

Italian troops in Albania

12 August 1941, by the decree of the Italian king Victor Emanuel III in the occupied Albanian territories, the Grand Duchy of Albania was established, which also included the territories of Metohija, central Kosovo and Western Macedonia. Over time, Albania was to become a natural part of Italy, so the policy of Italianization was pursued there. Italians got the right to settle in Albania as colonists. At the same time, the Italians drove the Serbs and Montenegrins out of Kosovo. And local Albanian Nazis burned Serbian settlements and houses. Albanian fascist militia legions, infantry and volunteer battalions were formed for war with Greece, policing and fighting partisans, and at the end of 1941 of the year - infantry regiments. Subsequently, the Albanian units staged a genocide of the Slavic population.

In September, 1943, Italy, suffered defeat and lost colonies in Africa, as well as Sicily, capitulated. Mussolini was arrested. The new Italian government entered into a truce with the United States and Britain. In response, the Third Reich occupied Northern and Central Italy, the Germans were able to liberate Mussolini. In the Italian territories occupied by Germany, 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, violated by the Italians, and made a bet on the puppet Nazi government. The rich Kosovo landowner Recep Mitrovica became prime minister of the pro-German government. Albanian Nazis relied on the support of the armed forces of Northern Albania and Kosovo (Kosovars). They committed terror against all the "dissenters." The guerrilla movement in Albania has become widespread. In November 1944, the Germans retreated from Albania. The Tirana was liberated by the National Liberation Army of Albania (it was under the leadership of the communists).

The occupation of Albania by Italy and Germany
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  1. 2329 Carpenter
    2329 Carpenter April 10 2019 06: 00
    We know little about Albania. Somehow imperceptibly it exists for many.
    So thanks, Alexander, for this article.
    Now we know at least about this period of the history of this country.
    1. Ingvar 72
      Ingvar 72 April 10 2019 07: 00
      Quote: Carpenter 2329
      Somehow imperceptibly it exists for many.

      But Europe is moaning from the Albanian criminal world.
      1. Machito
        Machito April 10 2019 09: 17
        Kosovo - Serbia.
        1. Ingvar 72
          Ingvar 72 April 10 2019 18: 29
          Quote: Bearded
          Kosovo - Serbia.

          In France, almost all drug trafficking under the Albanians.
      2. 2329 Carpenter
        2329 Carpenter April 10 2019 11: 57
        Quote: Ingvar 72
        Quote: Carpenter 2329
        Somehow imperceptibly it exists for many.

        But Europe is moaning from the Albanian criminal world.

        Well, this is also from the opera
        "Quo vadis" (who benefits).
        1. AK1972
          AK1972 April 10 2019 12: 53
          Quote: Carpenter 2329
          "Quo vadis"
          (who benefits).

          I am not a great connoisseur of Latin, but Quo vadis means: "Where are you going?" In the gospel "Kamo comedy?", But "who benefits" sounds: "cui prodest?", If I'm not mistaken.
  2. Harpoon
    Harpoon April 10 2019 07: 09
    Albanians have a bad reputation. Although those Albanians with whom I worked, there were normal guys.
  3. cobalt
    cobalt April 10 2019 07: 27
    The principle if you have oil means you have little democracy (in the history of the Duce - autocracy) and we are going to urgently fix this, I already acted with might and main.
  4. Hunghuz
    Hunghuz April 10 2019 09: 01
    Such criminal enclaves as Albania must be someone else's and regularly cleaned. The Italians were ultimately out of luck, so I sympathize with this
  5. Ural-4320
    Ural-4320 April 10 2019 09: 32
    How did they understand their leaders there? Mussolini conquered Albania, and King Emmanuel III of Italy became ruler.
    (Turgenev wrote "Mumu", and a monument to Pushkin is being erected.)
    1. Hunghuz
      Hunghuz April 10 2019 09: 38
      Do you know that Italy was a kingdom?
      Duce ruled, and the king, nevertheless, was the head of state
      1. Ural-4320
        Ural-4320 April 10 2019 09: 42
        The fact of the matter is that he did not know. If Mussolini is often mentioned, even in the movies, then he read about the king for the first time. repeat
        I remember that the Duce translates as a leader, but the fact that the leader also had a king on top - I discovered it just now.
        1. Hunghuz
          Hunghuz April 10 2019 09: 50
          It was the allies who threw the king, even though in 43 he switched to their side.
          With Mussolini they got along quite well.
          1. Town Hall
            Town Hall April 10 2019 09: 52
            Quote: Hunghouse
            It was the allies who threw the king, even though in 43 he switched to their side.
            With Mussolini they got along quite well.

            The king was "thrown" by the people in a referendum in June 46, actually.
            1. Hunghuz
              Hunghuz April 10 2019 09: 59
              And then I do not know when.
              In fact, learn to read what they write before shaking.
              Did I write that the king was thrown off in the year 43 ??
              No, he wrote that in the year 43 he switched to the side of the Allies.
              And since then it was doomed - where allies, there is "democracy"))
              1. Town Hall
                Town Hall April 10 2019 10: 02
                You have trouble expressing your own thoughts.
                1. Hunghuz
                  Hunghuz April 10 2019 10: 07
                  This is your problem with the perception of the written)
                  There is a concept of literal interpretation. Have you heard about this?
                  And you interpret broadly.
                  I can’t write lectures here, because now I’m busy. But the main thing is that my idea is clear - the transition to the side of the Allies did not save the throne. And with Mussolini they got along already since 1919.
                  1. Town Hall
                    Town Hall April 10 2019 10: 15
                    It’s clear that the people are not welcome. Everything is decided by the Washington Regional Committee. The idea is fresh and original.
                    1. Hunghuz
                      Hunghuz April 10 2019 10: 48
                      And in that madness that you just wrote - there is no thought at all. Traditionally, what is clear to you is incomprehensible to others.
                      What your Washington regional committee decides for you is unknown to me. And the time spent on you is a pity.
                      Good luck to you. And good brides))
        2. Sergej1972
          Sergej1972 April 11 2019 13: 37
          You probably had a bad history teacher.
  6. Sergey Oreshin
    Sergey Oreshin April 10 2019 22: 01
    Quote: Hunghouse
    But the main thing is that my idea is clear - the transition to the side of the Allies did not save the throne. And with Mussolini they got along already since 1919.

    I am afraid that nothing could save the Savoy dynasty. Her reputation by 1943 was completely killed in the eyes of a large part of Italians.
    Actually, Victor-Emmanuel perfectly understood this fact and actually went into the shadows, in 1944-1945. his eldest son Umberto came to the fore. But the prince, too, could not restore the shaken authority of the dynasty. I have read the memoirs of an Italian communist-partisan, where he writes - "If Mussolini had fallen into our hands, we would have shot him right away. But even if Umberto of Savoy were with us, he would most likely also have received a bullet along with his father."
    And although after the war, Victor Emanuel officially renounced power in favor of Umberto and he became king, but ... most of the Italians were very, very skeptical about the royal house.
    Italy generally very strongly toward the end of the war
  7. Sergey Oreshin
    Sergey Oreshin April 10 2019 22: 02
    Ahmed Zogu, of course, he is still mediocrity! In a few days, he lost an entire country, and he merged dryly by far not the most powerful army in the world.
  8. M. Michelson
    M. Michelson April 11 2019 05: 04
    Common mistake.
    Politics of Berlin - Anschluss of Austria, the capture of the Sudeten, and then the whole of Czechoslovakia

    Either the "annexation of the Czech Republic", or "and then the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia" (the Germans did not capture Slovakia).
    Anti-communist Italy and Germany planned to set against Russia-USSR.

    And how did they plan to "incite Italy against the USSR"? By air? Yes, Italy took part in the campaign to the East, but together with Germany and when almost all of Europe was already under the rule of the Axis.
    1. Edward Vashchenko
      Edward Vashchenko April 11 2019 07: 31
      Substitution of logic. The Anti-Comintern Pact already existed. The global economic crisis was raging in all, it was required to exit from it by acquiring new markets and cheap raw materials. And how Italy would go to war against the USSR by air or by sea, the tenth question. In 1941 found a way for her.
  9. Edward Vashchenko
    Edward Vashchenko April 11 2019 07: 32
    Good, informative article.
    Thank you!
  10. cat Rusich
    cat Rusich April 11 2019 20: 41
    Albania was captured by Italy, and the Albanians themselves (not the communists) began to fight the Serbs. According to the plans of Duce (Mussolini), only Italians were to remain in the “Italian Empire”. All the rest "where Makar did not drive calves ..."
  11. Marina250
    Marina250 9 May 2019 23: 54
    I learned about these historical facts when I went on a tour of Italy from the company After the trip, I became more and more interested in the history of Italy. Your article is very interesting, thank you very much!