Italian imperialism in the Balkans and the conquest of Albania 1939-1943
On 7 April 1939, Italian troops occupied Albania, the country ceased to be an independent and sovereign state and was fully incorporated into the fascist empire. This operation represented the culmination of Mussolini's Balkan policy and was the result of a long political, economic and cultural encirclement. Albania was to become not only an integral part of the Fascist imperial community but also the centre of irradiation of Fascist power policy in Balkan and Danubian Europe and of Rome's future control of the entire Adriatic basin, reinforcing Italy's projection on the eastern Mediterranean. Italy landed in force on the eastern Adriatic shore and arrived to stay there. This was demonstrated not only by the deployment of armed forces and police with which the Albanian territory was first occupied and then capillarily garrisoned, but also by the launching of an enormous and ambitious programme of public works destined to change the urban fabric of Tirana. Fascist propaganda presented the occupation as a necessary operation to bring sqipetarian society into modernity. However, most of the promises remained unfulfilled, only a small elite of beys and politicians managed to improve their social and economic situation, the vital ganglia of Albania's public and economic life were occupied almost exclusively by Italians. The Greek war opened a rift in Italian power undermined by the passive resistance of students and intellectuals and the active resistance of partisan bands. Not even the creation of Greater Albania (spring 1942) improved the situation and Albania became the mirror of the limits of Fascist imperialism and the racist prejudices that, beyond the proclamations, defined the regime's actions towards its eastern European neighbours, both Albanian and Slavic.
Alberto Basciani is Professor of East European History at Roma Tre University where he heads the Interdepartmental Research Centre on Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Eurasia (CRIERE).