Queen Teuta (3rd century BC)
Teuta was regent of the kingdom of Illyria, 230-228 BC, following the death of her consort, Agroni. In 230 BC she acquired Epirus as an ally, but was less successful with Rome in 229 BC.

Georg Castrioti Skanderbeg (Gjergj Kastrioti Sknderbeu) (1405-68)
National hero of the Albanians, Gjergj was taken as a child hostage by Sultan Murad II, converted to Islam, and trained as a janissary in the Ottoman Army, where he later excelled and was given the name Iskender and rank of bey (Sknderbeu). In 1443, Skanderbeg abandoned the Ottoman Army and went to the Albanians' defence, converting back to Catholicism. From that time until his death, Skanderbeg led armies to fight off Ottoman attacks.

Lek Dukagjini (1410-81)
Born of a feudal ruling family in northern Albania, Dukagjini is best known for his part in codifying the intricate laws already in place in his native area, which became known as the Kanun of Lek Dukagjini. These laws guided all aspects of daily life and were passed on orally through generations until the end of the 19th century when they were committed to print by Shtjefn Gjeovi.

Marin Barleti (ca. 1450-ca. 1512)
Born in Shkodra, Barleti survived the siege by the Ottomans, following which the city came under their rule. Barleti left for Venice and Rome where he published several historical works. His History of the life and exploits of Scanderbeg, Prince of the Epirots (q.v.) has been the main source of material on Skanderbeg.

Ali Pasha Tepelen (1740-1822)
Ali gained the Sultan's attention as a warrior and brigand, and was rewarded with the title of Pasha of Toskria and Epirus, later conquering further areas until, by 1811, he ruled all southern Albania, Thessaly and most of Epirus. A ruthless and unscrupulous man, Ali Pasha gradually lost the power and following which had earned his such extensive territory, and was finally murdered at his place of refuge near Ioannina.

Dora d'Istria (pseudonym of Helena Gjika) (1828-82)
Born of Albanian parents in Romania, Dora travelled with them to the courts of Vienna, Dresden and Berlin. She spent the last twenty years of her life devoted to the aspirations of national minorities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to the equality of women and to popular education. Her writing had a considerable impact on the Albanian nationalist movement, and was the subject of much of her lengthy correspondence with Jeronim de Rada.

Abdyl Frashri (1839-92)
An influential founding member of the League of Prizren (1878) in the struggle for Albania's autonomy, Abdyl was imprisoned for three years for his political activity and died in Istanbul.

Jeronim de Rada (1814-1903)
An Arbresh writer, folklorist, philologist, teacher and passionate nationalist, de Rada is best known for his influence on the Albanian national awakening, and as a poet.

Ismail Qemali (1844-1919)
Qemali is renowned for his proclamation of Albania's independence from Ottoman rule in Vlora in 1912. This was the culmination of a lifetime's work which brought him continual trouble from the Ottoman authorities. Qemali stood briefly as parliamentary representative for Berat, but lived most of his life in exile and died in Italy.

Naim Frashri (1846-1900)
Educated in his home village of Frashr and in Janina (Ioannina), Frashri (a brother of Abdyl) became multilingual and intellectually comfortable in both Western and Oriental cultures. He published poetry in several languages, particularly on the themes of patriotism, the emancipation of women and universal education. Frashri had enormous influence on Albanian writers at the beginning of the 20th century.

Sami Frashri (1850-1904)
The youngest of the three Frashri brothers, Sami also had an international education and later became involved in the national awakening. Sami devised an Albanian alphabet which was accepted by the Alphabet Committee of 1879, but later banned under Ottoman rule. Frashri wrote around fifty works in several languages.

Gjergj Fishta (1871-1940)
Fishta is considered to be the greatest and most influential figure of Albanian literature in the first half of the 20th century. Fishta received ecclesiastical and literary training in Shkodra and then in Bosnia and was appointed director of Franciscan schools in the Shkodra district. He edited periodicals devoted to literature, history, politics and folklore as well as memorializing tradition, events and legends in verse. In 1919 Fishta served as secretary general of the Albanian delegation at the Paris Peace Conference.

Faik Konica (1876-1942)
Konica was a prominent writer, publicist and politician involved in the national awakening. His extensive writing and editorship of several journals helped make the Albanian cause, culture and literature known in Europe. In 1926 he was appointed Albanian ambassador to the United States, a position he held until the outbreak of the Second World War, and he never returned to Albania.

Fan Noli (1882-1965)
Born in Ibrik Tepe. south of Edirne in European Turkey, Noli later moved to Alexandria and settled in an Albanian colony where he made contact with nationalist leaders who encouraged him to emigrate to America. In Boston, Massachusetts Noli was ordained as an Orthodox priest and assisted in the founding of the Albanian autocephalous Orthodox Church. He edited several periodicals and translated many religious texts and international literary masterpieces. In 1923 Noli became head of the Orthodox Church in Albania and leader of a liberal party in opposition to Zog. In 1924 Noli was proclaimed Prime Minister and led a democratic government for six months, but was unable to implement his democratization programme and was overthrown by Zogist supporters and forced to leave Albania.

Ahmet Zogu (1895-1961)
Born of a chieftain family in the Mati District of northern Albania. Zog was obligated to train in Istanbul as future leader of the Ottoman Empire. On his return to Albania he gained enough support to become Minister of the Interior and later Prime Minister. In 1928, with the assistance of Italy, he proclaimed himself 'Zog, King of the Albanians'. When Italy invaded in 1939, Zog fled the country with his family and retinue. He died in Paris without ever returning to Albania.

Enver Hoxha (1908-85)
Born into a landowning family in Gjirokastra, Hoxha was educated at the French Lyce in Kora. He later studied law in Montpellier, France where he became active in politics and wrote for the communist paper, L'Humanit. Hoxha returned to Albania before the Second World War where he became an underground communist leader, gaining support throughout the War until the 1945 elections gave his leadership full legitimacy. Hoxha's ruthless Stalinist rgime lasted forty years until his death.

Mother Teresa (1910-97)
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu of Albanian parents in Skopje (now capital of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Mother Teresa was internationally known for her work with the sick and underprivileged in India. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her services to humanity. She first visited Albania in 1990 and since then several institutions bearing her name have been established in the country.

Mehmet Shehu (1913-81)
Educated at the American Vocational School in Tirana, Shehu joined the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War and was a member of the Spanish and Italian Communist parties. Under Iloxha, Shehu became Prime Minister until his sudden death (alleged suicide, but suspected murder) following accusations of working for the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia; his whole family was arrested and detained, and released only with the collapse of the communist rgime.

Ramiz Alia (1925- )
Born in Shkodra of a Muslim family of Kosovar origin, Alia joined the Communist Party at the age of eighteen at its foundation of 1943 and became head of state in 1982, working in close collaboration with Hoxha. On Hoxha's death Alia became first secretary of the APL. He resigned from party functions in May 1991. In April 1994 he was put under house arrest and imprisoned shortly afterwards. He was released in March 1997 and fled to Paris.

Ismail Kadare (1936- )
Kadare is a prolific writer of mostly allegorical novels related to Albania's history, whose work was been translated into more than twenty languages. Although he managed to survive as a dissident writer throughout the Hoxha years, Kadare felt threatened in 1990; he moved to Paris with his family and has since visited Albania only briefly. He became a member of the French Academy in October 1996.

Adem Demai (1936- )
Known as the 'Mandela of Kosova', Demai spent twenty-eight years in Serbian prisons after his first imprisonment in 1959 for his controversial novel, Gjarpit e gjakut (The snakes of blood). Since his release from prison in 1990 he has worked for the human rights of the Albanians of Kosova as Chairman of the Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedom in Prishtina. Demai was awarded the Sakharov Prize in 1991.

Ibrahim Rugova (1944- )
Rugova studied under Roland Barthes at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris. Chairman of the Democratic League of Kosova since 1989, Rugova was elected President of Kosova in 1992 by the Albanian population, a position not recognized by the Serbs. His strategy of nonviolence is criticized by some but is followed by the majority.

Sali Berisha (1944- )
Born of a Muslim family in Tropoja, northern Albania, Berisha trained and worked as a cardiologist. He was a founder member of the DP and became President when they won the 1992 elections. Berisha's promises of democracy and regard for human rights were not honoured; he failed to win the referendum vote in November 1994 for a new constitution and reached crisis point in January 1997 with the failure of the 'pyramid' investment schemes, in which his government were allegedly implicated. Refusing to resign from presidential office, Berisha was voted out as President in the 29 June 1997 elections, but retained a seat in the new Socialist-dominated parliament.

Fatos Nano (1952- )
A graduate in economics from Tirana University and a critic of the one-party system, Nano was made premier in the Central Committee under Alia in 1990. After the DP won the 1992 elections, Nano was sentenced to jail for the alleged misappropriation of $9 million of Italian foreign aid during his premiership, and was arrested in July that year. Nano continued to co-ordinate SP activities from jail and managed to defeat neo-communist hardliners. He was released on 13 March 1997 and led his party to victory in the 29 June elections later that year.