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Ahmet Zogu

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


King Zog of Albania

Ahmed Bey Zogu was born in Castle Burgajet[?], Albania. His surname means “bird”. He became a chieftain of a cheg[?] 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 started at 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 a parliament. His main rival was US-educated bishop Fan S. Noli, leader of Greek Orthodox Albanians.

Popular liberal-minded revolt led by Noli’s faction forced Zogu into exile in June 1924. Noli’s government tried to institute land reform but failed to achieve international recognition and Zogu returned with Yugoslavian assistance in December.

February 1 1925 he became a president of similarly newly-proclaimed republic. His regime, however, resembled 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 – and ended as a target of various blood feuds[?] and assassination attempts.

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

On September 1st, 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 military dictator. His rule seemed to share many of the characteristics of the Italian monarchial government, with a strong police force and complex yet 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. Expenses of his household amounted to 2% of total national budget – which still was not very much compared to European courts. Other European monarchs primarily ignored him.

Zog’s regime brought a semblance of stability in Albania. He worked to crush brigands and institute education system. Unfortunately it also increased the country’s dependence on Mussolini’s Italy. Mussolini made Albania his link to Balkans and begun to control Albania’s finances and army. 1932 Zog tried to resist his influence but failed miserably. When depression grew bleaker, Albania had to import grain 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 child, 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. Only his own Mati tribe seemed to miss him.

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

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

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



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