The Albanians (/ælˈbɛɪniənz/; Albanian: Shqiptarët, pronounced [ʃcipˈta:ɾət]) are an ethnic group native to the Balkan Peninsula and are identified by a common Albanian ancestry, culture, history and language. They primarily live in Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia as well as in Croatia, Greece and Italy. They also constitute a diaspora with several communities established in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. The ethnogenesis of the Albanians and the Albanian language is a matter of controversy among the historians and ethnologists. They appear for the first time in historical records from the 11th century mentioning a tribe of people living in the area which today constitutes the mountainous region around the Mat and Drin. The Shkumbin splits the Albanians into two cultural and linguistical subgroups, the Ghegs and Tosks, though both groups identify with a common ethnic and national culture. The history of the Albanian diaspora is centuries old and has its roots in migration from the Middle Ages, initially established in Southern Europe and subsequently on across other parts of the world. Between the 13th and 18th centuries, sizeable numbers of Albanians migrated to escape either various social, economic or political difficulties. One population who became the Arvanites settled Southern Greece between the 13th and 16th centuries assimilating into and now self-identifying as Greeks. Another population who emerged as the Arbëreshës settled Sicily and Southern Italy constituting the oldest continuous Albanian diaspora. Smaller populations such as the Arbanasis whose migration dates back to the 18th century are located in Southern Croatia and scattered across Southern Ukraine. In the 13th century, the Ghegs converted to Roman Catholicism from Eastern Orthodoxy as a means to resist the Slavic Serbs. In the 15th century, Skanderbeg led the medieval Albanian resistance to the Ottoman conquest. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Albanians in large numbers converted to Islam, in part due to the privileged legal and social position of Muslims in the empire and coercion by Ottoman authorities in times of war. Albanians attained important political and military positions within the Ottoman Empire and culturally contributed to the wider Muslim world. Following the Albanian National Awakening, during the Balkan Wars, in 1912, Albanians were partitioned between the newly-formed Independent Albania and Serbia, Greece and Montenegro. From 1945 to 1992, Albania was ruled by a communist government. Albanians in neighbouring Yugoslavia underwent periods of discrimination that concluded with the breakup of that state in the early 1990s and eventually the independence of Kosovo in 2008.


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