King Zog of Albania
King Zog (October 8, 1895–April 9, 1961) was an Albanian politician and the first king of Albania from 1928 to 1939.
Background and early political career
Ahmed Bey Zogu (Zogolli) was born in Castle Burgajet, Albania to Xhemal Pasha Zogu and Sadije Toptani. As a young man during the First World War Zogu was pro-Austria-Hungary, counter to Albanian tradition which had tended to align with Eastern Europe or the Ottoman Turks.
Zogu held ministerial posts in the fledgling Albanian government that began in 1920. His political support included southern feudal landowners called beys (Turkish for village chieftain) and noble families in the north along with merchants, industrialists and intellectuals. Zogu became leader of a major reformist party and later a prime minister of the republican government. In 1923 he was shot and wounded in parliament. His primary rivals were Luigj Gurakuqi and Fan S. Noli.
A leftist revolt led by Noli forced Zogu into exile in June 1924. He returned to Albania with the assistance of Yugoslavia-based White Russian troops.
Albanian president and king
He became president of a newly proclaimed republic on February 1, 1925. Zogu's government followed the European model while large parts of Albania still had an Arab-Turkish social structure and most villages were serf plantations run by the beys. A Muslim himself, his reforms included the prohibition of veils and cruelty to animals. Zogu's principal ally was Italy, which loaned his government funds in exchange for a role in its fiscal policy.
Serfdom was gradually eliminated and Albania began to take shape as a nation (rather than a feudal patchwork of local beys) for the first time since the death of Skanderbeg.
Zogu crowned himself King Zog of Albania on September 1, 1928 and declared a constitutional monarchy sharing similarities with the Italian monarchal government (which included a strong police force). He instituted a Zogist salute (flat hand over the heart with palm facing forwards) and claimed to be a successor of Gjergj Kastriot Skanderbeg. Zog hoarded gold coins and precious stones which were used to back Albania's first paper currency, but his household expenses hovered near 2% of the national budget. He was mostly ignored by European monarchs.
King Zog (left) with Italian Count Ciano, 1937
Zog's regime brought stability to Albania and the king organized an educational system. Albania's fiscal dependence on Italy continued to increase at a time when Italian dictator Mussolini was extending his sphere of influence into the Balkans and exerted increasing control over Albania's finances and army. During the worldwide depression of the early 1930s Zog's government became almost completely dependent on Mussolini. Grain had to be imported from abroad and many Albanians emigrated.
In April 1938 Zog married Countess Geraldine Apponyi de Nagy-Apponyi, a Catholic who was half Hungarian and half American. Their only son Leka Zogu was born April 5, 1939.
Two days later, on April 7, 1939, Italian troops entered Albania. Mussolini declared Albania a protectorate under Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III. Zog went into exile, moving first to Greece and then to Great Britain.
During World War II royalist Albanian resistance in the north was largely ineffective, later merging with communist insurgents (partisans) made up of former serfs from the south led by Yugoslavian militants. While the Albanian establishment mostly chose collaboration with the Italians and Germans, it was the uneducated partisans who took control with Russian support as the war ended.
Zog attempted to reclaim his throne but Albania had fallen firmly into the Soviet sphere and a Stalinist communist government led by Enver Hoxha would remain in power for 45 years. Zog abdicated on January 2, 1946 but retained his claim to the throne. He died in Suresnes, France on April 9, 1961. His wife Queen Geraldine died in 2002.
In 1997, well after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of Albania's communist regime, Zog's son Leka Zogu (who since 1961 had been calling himself Leka I, King of the Albanians), returned despite resistance from the Albanian government under Sali Berisha. During the early 2000s Leka Zogu was active in the country's politics, characterizing the socialist government (which was derived for the most part from former communist party officials) as "mafiosi" with little expertise. The socialists' difficulties in creating jobs and maintaining social order made Zogu seem like an attractive alternative to many Albanians.
- Photos of the royal family (http://pub76.ezboard.com/falbasoulhistoriaeshqiperise.showMessage?topicID=305.topic)