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Zog of Albania

King Zog (October 8 1895 - April 9 1961) was an Albanian politician and the first king of Albania from 1928-1939.

King Zog of Albania

Ahmed Bey Zogu was born in Castle Burgajet, Albania to Xhemal Pasha Zogu and Sadije Toptani. His original last name Zogolli translates to "hawk" in Slavic, whereas Zog translates to "bird" in Albanian. He became a chieftain of a Gheg clan in the Mat region of north-central Albania. During the First World War, when various armies marched through Albania, Zogu sided with Austria-Hungary when Albania as a whole was nominally neutral.

Zogu held various ministerial posts in the fledgling Albanian government that began in 1920. His power base was composed of southern landowning beys and northern bajraktars, tribal leaders. Zogu became a leader of a reformist Popular Party and a prime minister of republican government 1922. Next year he was shot and wounded in parliament. His main rival was US-educated bishop Fan S. Noli, leader of the Liberal opposition.

A popular liberal-minded revolt led by Noliís faction forced Zogu into exile in June 1924. Noliís government tried to institute land reform but failed to achieve international recognition. Zogu returned with the assistance of Tsarist Russian troops (settled in Yugoslavia) who wanted to overthrow Noli since he had recognized the Soviet regime.

February 1, 1925 he became a president of a similarly newly-proclaimed republic. His regime, however, resembled a military dictatorship from the start. He relied on gendarmes, informers and warriors of his Mati clan and intimidated uncooperative chiefs into submission by implied threat of silent execution. He played various social and ethnic groups against each other Ė and ended as a target of various blood feuds and assassination attempts.

He also began to strengthen relations with Italy in exchange for loans. In 1927, he formed a treaty of friendship with Italy and a military alliance followed; it was intended to last for 20 years.

On September 1, 1928 Zogu declared Albania to be a monarchy and proclaimed himself King Zog. Nominally his regime was a constitutional monarchy but for all practical purposes he was still a military dictator. His rule seemed to share many of the characteristics of the Italian monarchial government, with a strong police force and a complex and inefficient bureaucracy. He also instituted a Zogist salute - flat hand over heart with palm facing forwards. He claimed to be a successor of Gjergj Kastriot Skanderbeg. He collected gold coins and other precious jewelry and compensated the people with printed or stamped money by establishing the first official currency of Albania. Expenses of his household amounted to 2% of the total national budget, which was still much less than other European courts spent. Other European monarchs primarily ignored him.

Zog's regime brought a semblance of stability in Albania. He worked to crush brigands and institute an education system. Unfortunately it also increased the countryís dependence on Mussoliniís Italy. Mussolini made Albania his link to Balkans and began to control Albania's finances and army. In 1932, Zog tried to resist his influence but failed miserably. When depression grew bleaker, Albania had to import grain from abroad and many Albanians emigrated.

In April 1938, the Moslem Zog married a Catholic, Countess Geraldine Apponyi de Nagy-Apponyi, who was half Hungarian and half American. Their only son, Crown Prince Leka, was born April 5, 1939.

Two days later, in April 7, 1939, Italian troops entered Albania. Mussolini turned the country into a protectorate under the rule of Italy's king Victor Emmanuel III and forced Zog into exile. He moved first to Greece and then to Britain.

During World War Two, the northern Albanian resistance groups that were officially royalist were not particularly successful. After 1942, the republic-minded groups eclipsed them.

After the war, Zog's attempt to reclaim the throne was stymied by Enver Hoxha's communists, who turned the country into a People's Republic. He abdicated officially in January 2, 1946 although he did not abandon his claim to the throne. He died in Suresnes, France on April 9, 1961. Queen Geraldine died in 2002.

After the fall of communist regime, Zog's son, Leka returned to Albania in 1997. Voters rejected the monarchy in a referendum.

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