The Ottomans invaded Albania in 1385 and ruled for 500 years. The 19th century brought uprisings, fights for autonomy, struggles against Albania’s partitioning, proclamations of independence, and local unrest. In 1914 Italy invaded. Six years later Albania declared its independence, and 2 years after that Ahmet Muhtar Zogolli became its Prime Minister and then President Zogu three years later. In 1928 he declared himself King Zog I of the Albanians. Never officially crowned and not accepted by European royalty who ignored him, King Zog became Benito Mussolini’s buddy and moved the Bank of Albania to Rome. Ahmet invented the Zogist salute, hand over heart with palm facing down, built a villa at Durres, Albania’s now-congested Adriatic Sea resort city, and collected precious stones and gold coins.
Engaged to be married before declaring himself King, Zog broke the engagement. The girl’s father now had the right to kill his never-to-be son-in-law. Zog hired a guard, carried a gun, and feared poisoning. He often used that gun as he reportedly survived 55+ assassination attempts. He finally married a Hungarian princess in 1938, and the next year his buddy Mussolini ordered the invasion of Albania. King Zog headed for England with Queen Geraldine and their new son Leka where he rented an entire floor in the Ritz Hotel.
Two years later the Albanian Communist Party formed with Envar Hoxha as its first secretary. Hoxha ruled as dictator, and not a benevolent one, until his death in 1985. In 1967 Albania became the 1st declared atheist country in the world.
King Zogu acquired a new buddy, King Farouk, and lived in Egypt for a while. He bought a 66-room estate in New York State but never resided there. He died in 1961 in Paris and was buried in a royal mausoleum in Tirana. The family maintained that Leka was Albania’s legitimate ruler until his death in 2011.
Now free but surrounded by potential enemies, Albanians need and deserve, at the very least, a group hug.