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The majority of Albanians today are atheists, implicit or explicit. According to the IRF Report, and other sources, up to 75% of the population in Albania declare no religious affiliation.
National Renaissance writer, poet
and publicist Pashko Vasa
The country does not have a history of religious extremism and takes pride in the harmony that has existed across religious traditions and practices. Religious tolerance in Albania was born of national expediency and a general lack of religious convictions.  This pragmatism continued as a distinctive trait of Albanian society where interreligious marriage has been very common throughout the centuries, in some places even the rule. There is a strong unifying cultural identity, where even Muslims and Christians see themselves as Albanian before anything else. This has been solidified historically by the common experience of struggling to protect the national culture in the face of various outside conquerors.
Adherence to ancient Albanian pagan beliefs also continued well in the 20th century, particularly in the northern mountain villages, many of which were devoid of churches and mosques. A Northern Albanian intellectual and poet, Pashko Vasa (18251892), made the trenchant remark, later co-opted by the totalitarian regime, that "Churches and mosques you shall not heed / The religion of Albanians is Albanism" (Albanian: Mos shikoni kisha e xhamia / Feja e shqyptarit āsht shqyptaria). Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg, is also misquoted as saying this, though he held a similar view.
The two main Illyrian cults were the Cult of the Sun and the Cult of the Snake which are still witnessed and practiced in rural regions throughout Albania. The main festivals in the Albanian calendar were the seasonal summer and winter festivals during the solstices and the spring and autumn festivals during the equinoxes. An organic system of assigning human personifications to natural phenomena was culturally developed and remnants of these appear in everyday Albanian folklore and tradition.
Children with national costumes on
the Summer Day 2007 festival,
In 2005, the Albanian government acknowledged the ancient vernal equinox festival as a national holiday.
Christianity was imposed in urban centers in Albanian territories during the later period of Roman and Byzantine invasions. It had to compete up to the Middle Ages with the native Illyrian paganism and culture. A Christian community in Dyrrhachium (the Roman name for Epidamnus) had already erected a local bishopric in 58 AD. Later, episcopal seats were established in Apollonia, Buthrotum (modern Butrint), and Scodra (modern Shkodra).
After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, Albania fell administratively under the umbrella of the Eastern Roman Empire, but its Christians remained ecclesiastically dependent on Rome. During the final schism on 1054 between the Western and Eastern churches, the Christians in southern Albania came under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, and those in the north under the purview of the Pope in Rome.
During this time more than half the population was holding strong to the old Albanian pagan faith, successfully resisting the Christian pressure by Rome and Byzantium.  This arrangement prevailed until the Ottoman invasion of the 16th-19th century, when Islam came to be officially imposed by various means upon Pagans and Christians in the country.
During the 20th century, after Independence, (1912) the democratic, monarchic and later the totalitarian regimes followed a systematic dereligionization of the nation and the national culture. Albania never had an official state religion, either as a republic, or as a kingdom, neither during the ancient, nor during the medieval state, nor after its restoration in 1912.
Originally under the monarchy, institutions of all confessions were put under state control. In 1923, following the 11-point government program, the Albanian Muslim congress, convened in the capital, decided to break with the Caliphate, established a new form of prayer (standing, instead of the traditional salah ritual), banished polygamy and did away with the mandatory use of veil (hijab) by women in public, which had all been forced on the urban population by the Ottoman Turks during the occupation. The prohibition of religious rituals foreign to Albanian culture was now sanctioned by law.
King Zogu and cabinet
In 1929 the Albanian Orthodox Church was declared autocephalous. 
A year later in 1930, the first and last official religious census was carried out. It reiterated conventional Ottoman Turkish data from a century earlier - actually covering double the new state's territory and population - where roughly 50% of the population was grouped as Sunni Muslim, 20% as Orthodox Christian, 20% as Bektashi Muslim and 10% as Catholic Christian.
The monarchy was determined that religion should no longer be a foreign-oriented master dividing the Albanians, but a nationalized servant uniting them. It was at this time that newspaper editorials began to disparage the almost universal adoption of Muslim and Christian names, suggesting instead that children be given neutral Albanian names.
Official slogans began to appear everywhere. "Religion separates, patriotism unites." "We are no longer Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic, we are all Albanians." "Our religion is Albanism." The national hymn characterized neither Muhammad nor Jesus Christ, but King Zogu as "Shpėtimtari i Atdheut" (Savior of the Fatherland). The hymn to the flag honored the soldier dying for his country as a "Saint." Increasingly the mosque and the church were expected to function as servants of the state, the patriotic clergy of all faiths preaching the gospel of Albanism.
Monarchy stipulated that the state should be neutral, with no official religion and that the free exercise of religion should be extended to all faiths. Neither in government nor in the school system should favor be shown to any one faith over another.
Albanian students during monarchy, 1938
Albanism was substituted for religion, and officials and schoolteachers were called "apostles" and "missionaries." Religious schools were closed throughout the country as also over half of the mosques erected during the Ottoman Turk occupation and Albania's sacred symbols were no longer the cross and the crescent, but the Flag and the King. Hymns idealizing the nation, Skanderbeg, war heroes and national symbols predominated in public-school music classes to the exclusion of virtually every other theme.
The first reading lesson in elementary schools introduced a patriotic catechism beginning with this sentence, "I am an Albanian. My country is Albania." Then there followed in poetic form, "But man himself, what does he love in life?" "He loves his country." "Where does he live with hope? Where does he want to die?" "In his country." "Where may he be happy, and live with honor?" "In Albania."
The trend was taken to extreme during the totalitarian regime, when Abrahamic religions, identified as imports foreign to Albanian culture, were banned altogether. This policy was mainly applied and felt within the borders of the present Albanian state (leaving out territories occupied by Yugoslavia and Greece), thus producing a nonreligious majority within the state.
The Agrarian Reform Law of August 1945 nationalized most property of religious institutions, including the estates of monasteries, orders, and dioceses. By May 1967, religious institutions had relinquished all 2,169 churches, mosques, cloisters, and shrines, many of which were converted into cultural centers for young people. Many Muslim imams and Orthodox priests renounced their "parasitic" past. More than 200 clerics of various faiths were imprisoned, others were forced to seek work in either industry or agriculture. As the literary monthly "Nėndori" reported the event, the youth had thus "created the first atheist nation in the world."
Albanian youth during voluntary works, 1969
From year 1967 to the end of the totalitarian regime, religious practices were banned and the country was proclaimed officially atheist, marking an event that happened for the first time in world history. Albanians born during the regime were never indoctrinated into, nor taught about religion, so they grew up to become atheists.
Article 37 of the Albanian Constitution of 1976 stipulated, "The State recognizes no religion, and supports and carries out atheist propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic worldview in people."
The article was interpreted by Danes as violating The United Nations Charter (chapter 9, article 55) which declares that religious freedom is an inalienable human right. The first time that the question came before the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights at Geneva was as late as 7 March 1983. A delegation from Denmark got its protest over Albania's violation of religious liberty placed on the agenda of the thirty-ninth meeting of the commission, item 25, reading, "Implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief.", and on 20 July 1984 a member of the Danish Parliament inserted an article in one of Denmark's major newspapers protesting the violation of religious freedom in Albania.
Despite these moves by the Danes, according to the official Albanian state stance, religion served anti-Albanian interests, thus the prohibition of religious propaganda was not in any case seen as a violation of human rights, but as a necessary measure to protect human rights within the country and its culture.
Old non-institutional pagan practices in rural areas, which were seen as identifying with the national culture, were left intact. As a result the current Albanian state has recognized the old pagan festivals as national holidays, like the solar Summer Day festival (Albanian: Dita e Verės) held yearly throughout the country on March 14 (national date) to 21, reaching the vernal equinox.
Summer Day festival, 2009, Tiranė
2.Current status of religious freedom
The current Albanian Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. According to the Constitution, there is no official religion and all religions are equal. The government is secular and the Ministry of Education asserts that public schools in the country are secular. The law prohibits ideological and religious indoctrination; religion is not taught and religious symbolism is not allowed in public schools.
The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom. The 4 religious communities, Bektashis, Sunni Muslims, Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians, enjoy a greater degree of official recognition (e.g., national holidays) and social status based on their historical presence. All registered religious groups have the right to hold bank accounts and to own property and buildings. The Ministry of Education has the right to approve the curricula of religious schools to ensure their compliance with national education standards, and the State Committee on Cults oversees implementation. There are also 68 vocational training centers administered by religious communities.
Albanian children during Summer Day fest
in London, UK, 2007
Foreign religious missionaries who have come to Albania since 1991 include Catholics, Evangelicals and Mormons who come mainly from the USA, Muslims from Arab countries and Turkey, Bahį'ķs, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hindus, and many others. According to the State Committee on Cults, as of 2002 there were 31 Christian Societies representing more than 45 different organizations, about 17 different Islamic Societies and Groups and 500 to 600 other Christian and Bahį'ķ missionaries. The largest foreign missionary groups were American, British, Italian, Arab and Greek.
2.3.Places of worship
According to recent statistics from the religious communities, there are 1119 churches and 638 mosques in Albania. The Roman Catholic mission holds 694 churches; the Christian Orthodox community, 425 churches; the Muslim community, 568 mosques (half of which built illegally without construction license ) and the Bektashi community 70 tekkes. Churches and mosques have been built with foreign funding, and a considerable number stay closed due to lack of interest from the population and lack of religious personnel.
Public schools and all public institutions throughout the country prohibit display of religious symbols, clothing, etc. which are considered as endorsement of religion. Instances of trying to circumvent public school regulation on appropriate clothing always result in school authorities expelling noncomplying students.
Bektashi communities outside the capital have experienced intimidation, vandalism, and threats of violence by foreign citizens that have been identified by the state and expelled for immigration laws violations. Bektashi leaders believe foreign religious influences seeking to settle in the country were at the root of these incidents. Other religious leaders have expressed similar concerns about the potentially divisive role played by non-citizen religious extremists. 
In January 2003, the General Secretary of the Islamic Community of Albania, Sali Tivari, was shot and killed at the Community's headquarters. The General Prosecutor's Office returned the case to the authorities for further investigation and it has remained unsolved. 
A 2005 speech from Albania's president in London, caused a public protest from a Muslim group in the country that accused the president of insulting Islam. 
In April 2008, a novel by an Albanian author was condemned by some Muslim NGO's as racist and Islamophobic. According to the NGO's the author shows signs of racism against the Turks, Gypsies and Muslims in the novel, and "portrays the prophet Muhammad in a very disrespectful way".
Mosques, churches, crosses, and other religious buildings of all denominations have been targets of vandalism by non-identified perpetrators. Religious leaders have appealed to the police to prevent such acts as they "deface the image of religion", but vandalism continues sporadically each year. 
3.Propaganda & misinformation
Western European countries (with the exception of Germany and Austria) have considered Albania as a Turkish colony for almost five centuries (1400-1900), mainly because they wrongly believed, some still do, that Albanians are Muslims.
Albania's perception in the West as an 'Islamic' country has also been reinforced because of Serbian and Russian propaganda since the end of the nineteenth century onwards to present the Albanians as 'fanatic adherents' of the Islamic faith and as such as 'non-Europeans'.  Documents made public recently by the US government reveal that during the Cold War the West as well as the USSR often referred to Albania as a 'Muslim' country in spite of the officially atheist stance of the Albanian government and people. 
Oddly, the trend of declaring Albanians as 70% Muslims and 30% Christians, both of different denominations, and thus as a 100% religious people, or of declaring Albania as a 'Muslim Country' or 'religious country', still carries on in international media, press, tv and the internet, thus perpetuating misinformation, outdated perceptions and distortion of reality.
1. U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report (2007) - http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90160.htm
2. "Instantanés dAlbanķe, un autre regard sur les Balkans" (2005), Etudiants en Tourisme et Actions Patrimoniales. (Plus de 72 % irréligieux ou non pratiquants.) - http://www.membres.lycos.fr/instanta...erdepresse.pdf
3. Zuckerman, Phil. "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns ", chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK (2005) - http://www.adherents.com/Na/Na_472.html
4. O'Brien, Joanne and Martin Palmer (1993). The State of Religion Atlas. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster ("Over 50% of Albanians claim 'no religious alliance.'") - http://www.adherents.com/Na/Na_472.html
5. Goring, Rosemary (ed). Larousse Dictionary of Beliefs & Religions (Larousse: 1994); pg. 581-584. Table: "Population Distribution of Major Beliefs" (Nonreligious 74.00%) - http://www.adherents.com/Na/Na_472.html
6. John Hutchinson, Anthony D. Smith, "Nationalism: Critical Concepts in Political Science".
7. Aleksandar Stipčević - Iliri: povijest, ivot, kultura, Zagreb, kolska knjiga, (1989).
8. Mark Tirta, "Mitologjia ndėr shqiptarė", Akademia e Shkencave e Shqipėrisė, Tirana, (2004).
9. 1308, O. Gorka, Anonymi Descriptio Europae Orientalis, pg. 25-29.
10. 1332, Monumentis pour l'histoire des province de Namur, vol. IV, pg. 293-298.
11. Stavro Skendi, ed., Albania (New York: Published for the Mid-European Studies Center of the Free Europe Committee, Inc. by Frederick A. Praeger, 1956), p. 287.
12. Albania dispatch, Time magazine, April 14, (1923) - http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...727115,00.html
13. Swiss Laws, Greek Patriarch, Time magazine - http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...881789,00.html
14. Edwin Jacques, "The Albanians, an ethnic history from prehistoric times to the present".
15. Korrieri, "Kultet: Gjysma e xhamive, pa leje" - http://web.archive.org/web/200505230...hp?k=1&i=15799
16. Tirana Observer Report, August 16, 2008 - http://www.tiranaobserver.com.al/al/...74&Ite mid=26
17. 18. 19. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2004/35434.htm
23. 24. Gėzim Alpion, Western Media and the European "Other": Images of Albania in the British Press in the New Millennium.
Ndryshuar sė fundmi nga VNf : 9.12.2016 nė 16:41. Arsyeja: photo updates
Here's the latest poll conducted worldwide in 2008, by Gallup Inc. The two relevant questions and results for Albania are concatenated below: