are a people of the western Balkan peninsula
, numbering today approximately six million. Due to the high rate of migration of various ethnic groups throughout the Balkans in the last two decades, exact figures are difficult to obtain. A tenuous breakdown of Albanians by location is as follows:
- 2,900,000 in Albania according to the preliminary data from the 2001 census , but estimates for 2002  put it at around 3,544,841
- 1,303,034 in Serbia (mostly in Kosovo) according to the last census of 1981, including refugees abroad following the conflict of 1998-1999.
- 40,415 in Montenegro according to the 1991 census; an estimated 50,000  by Albanian accounts.
- 509,000 in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from the 2002 census.
- 100,000 Albanians in southern Italy, mostly in the Calabria region, the majority having arrived since 1991
- According to unofficial estimates , over 500,000 in Greece (Orthodox Albanians - Arvanites, Cham Albanians, Albanian nationals). Most of these are illegal; some put the figures at around 150,000.
Some believe the Albanians to be descendants of the Illyrians
while others give them origins that date back to 1043
when they were first mentioned in the Balkans. Islam
as the majority religion during the period of Ottoman
Turkish rule from the 15th century
, though Eastern Orthodox Christianity
and Roman Catholicism
are also practiced. Among the poorest of the Continent's nationalities, in the latter half of the 20th century
Albanians experienced the highest rate of natural population growth of any of Europe
's major indigenous ethnic groups, increasing their numbers from 1.5 million around 1900
and fewer than 2.5 million in 1950
The Albanians speak Albanian.
Both Kosovo (a Serbian province though governed since June 1999 by UNMIK, backed by KFOR, a NATO-led international force) and western Macedonia have in recent years seen armed extremist movements (Kosovo Liberation Army, UCPMB, Macedonian NLA) aiming either for independence, greater autonomy, or increased human and political rights.
The fate of Kosovo remains uncertain owing to the reluctance of the Albanian majority to contemplate a restoration of Serbian sovereignty and of the United Nations and NATO to separate the territory definitively from Serbia in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 1999. August of 2003 was marked by renewed terrorist attacks by the ANA (Albanian National Army) both against Serb border guards and Serb civilians.
The situation in Macedonia seems to have been resolved by giving the Albanian minority greater government representation and the right to use the Albanian language in education and government.
Albanian is also a term often given to what would otherwise be called an ethnic Albanian. This is usually someone who is considered by himself or others to be Albanian or of Albanian descent. Several distinguishing characteristics might be:
There are ethnic Albanian minorities in several European countries, as well as in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
- Cultural connection with Albanian culture
- Speaking the Albanian language
- Having ancestors who lived in Albania or an area out of which the current Albanian state was formed (i.e. the occupied lands that were part of the Ottoman Empire)