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Past and present ancient and modern young and old Muslim and Christian rich and poor north and south urban and rural monarchist and socialist the extremes of Albanian society are vivid its tensions palpable But Albania is not another Yugoslavia it is more like a framework a stable structure of rigid poles positioned in space and linked together by flexible cables The cables are stressed but barring catastrophe they will not snap Albania this land that is very beautiful but only some Americans can tell Albania from Albany or Alabama and fewer still would be able to find the country on the map Despite its spectacular and varied beauty its rich natural resources and its extraordinary tradition of hospitality Albania is still struggling to leave its communist past and the almost eternal post communism transition behind and find the right route to economical political and social stability and prosperity Since 1991 Albania has welcomed foreign visitors but as the poorest country in Europe it has attracted relatively few of them Yet there are many reasons why the outside world should be interested in Albania and concerned for its future Albania is a Balkan country and thus a crossroad of East and West North and South it is as rich in history as it is in resources When Albania achieved independence in 1912 nearly half its population found itself outside its newly drawn borders in what is now called the former Yugoslavia But Albanians are not Slavs and the Albanian language is not Slavic Much has been written about historic transition from communism but Albanias transition is ignored in most of these accounts This is probably because Albanias brand of communism was different from the others and its society is more difficult for a Westerner to understand or maybe because people didnt pay much attention to what happens in a tinny little country in Eastern Europe The legacy of fifty years of Europes most draconian communism
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