11th January

Kagami biraki day in Japan, where Japanese people can break the kagami mochi placed on the deities’ altar because 11 is a lucky number – make mochi;

First recorded lottery in England 1569 – so play Bingo

William Herschel discovers Uranus moons Titania and Oberon

1935 Amelia Earhart flies solo from Hawaii to California.

Birthday of Eugenio María de Hostos (a Puerto Rican who was very influential in Latin America)

Morocco’s Independence Resistance Day – see 18th November

Albania Republic Day

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You’re never going to guess what the Albanian for Albania is. Shqipëri. You weren’t even close, were you? But they did used to call themselves Arbëri; both names mean ‘Land of Eagles’ (how lovely).

Albania was once part of the Roman Dalmatia and Macedonia. It remained part of the Byzantine Roman Empire until Slavs overran it and then the Bulgarian Empire took it in the 9th century.

The Principality of Arbër and the Kingdom of Albania formed in the Middle Ages, founded by Progon, but it was dissolved in 1225.

The Ottomans occupied most of Albania by 1431, bringing Islam and forcing many Christians to flee west. In 1443 a revolt broke out, led by Albanian national hero Skanderbeg, and lasted until 1479.

Skanderbeg became Lord of Albania. As the Ottomans intended to use Albania as a springboard to invade Italy and western Europe, Skanderbeg received aid from western countries.

A group of Muslims calling themselves the League of Prizren or the Committee of the Real Muslims formed in 1878 in the name of protecting Muslim land from invasion, and at first the Ottoman Empire supported them until they started to focus on gaining Albanian independence. They requested merging the vilayets (provinces) of Kosovo, Scutari, Monastir and Ioannina into the Albanian Vilayet.

The league was defeated by the Ottomans, but the Albanian uprising of 1912, the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan Wars and the advancing Montenegrin, Serbian and Greek armies into Albanian territories led to the proclamation of independence in 1912.

Well, the Albanian peasants didn’t like this, thinking it was just a ruse by Christian Europe to oppress them, and the newly appointed prince, William of Wied, fled the country.

However, his monarchy wasn’t abolished until 1925, I suppose because WWI got in the way and confused everything.

Then they tried a republic for three years, then tried another monarchy 1928-39. During this period Albania was really getting along with Italy until they invaded, and during WWII Albania was occupied by Italy then Germany.

Italy also invaded Yugoslavia and redistributed the land so that the Albanian bits went to Albania, like Kosovo. A communist army formed to fight against the Nazi occupation, and after the war Albania became a socialist republic under Enver Hoxha.

Albania became agriculturally self-sufficient (kind of…ok, a lot of people were hungry) as land was given to the farmers who worked on it to own as co-operatives. Almost everyone was educated and literate. Incomes increased more than anywhere in Europe. However, there was no religious freedom because everyone had to be atheist.

The People’s Republic was dissolved around 1991 after protests from 1989, and the Republic of Albania was founded. The Communist Party stayed in power somehow after elections, but liberalisation actually made the economy unstable because of Ponzi schemes, etc., and the new Democratic Party took over.

However, an armed rebellion in 1997 made a lot of Albanians emigrate; and when the Kosovo War was happening in Yugoslavia a lot of Kosovo Albanians fled to Albania.

Over a third of Albania is still forest, with lynxes, wolves, bears, boars and chamois. The golden eagle is the country’s national symbol. Nearly 100% of its electricity is made by hydroelectric dams, although recent droughts are ruining that. It exports its own oil and gas.

Tourists can visit a number of national parks and lakes, as well as Gjirokastër, a medieval Ottoman town.

Prithvi Jayanti – Nepal celebrates the birthday of Prithvi Narayan Shah. See 28th May.

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