Albanian Civil War (1997)
In late 1996 and early 1997, several failed get-rich-quick schemes robbed hundreds of thousands of Albanians of their life savings. When protestors demonstrated in the streets demanding restitution, riot police attacked them. The lack of an acceptable government solution to this problem exacerbated the situation, and the riots spread across the country. These riots, and the state of anarchy which they caused, are known as the Albanian civil war of 1997. At the end of the conflict, more than 360 people had been killed and power had transferred from the Democratic Party to the Socialist Party.
Although the Albanian civil war was a dramatic event which garnered international attention, it was but one piece of that country's long and difficult transition from an isolationist Communist state to a parliamentary democracy, which began in 1992.
The Albanian financial crisis had began earlier in December of 1996, when protestors in the capital city of Tirana demonstrated against the government, which they held responsible for the collapse of several investment funds. The problem was worsened when $1.2 billion of Albanians' savings were wiped out by pyramid schemes on January 24, and thousands of Albanians took to the streets in the southern city of Lushnje. During the ensuing riots, protestors stole over 500,000 rifles and other arms from government depots. On January 25, Foreign Minister Shehu is attacked by demonstrators. The next day, thousands of protestors convene at in Tirana and clash with riot police. The civil war had now expanded throughout the country, as governments buildings are set on fire across Albania.
The riots had now expanded from protests over lost money to a general protest against the government. On March 1, the Prime Minister, Aleksander Meksi, resigns, and the next day the government declares a national state of emergency. As the government and military establishments scatter to the wind and anarchy sweeps across the country, the southern half of Albania falls under the control of rebels and criminal gangs. In addition, over 10,000 Albanians flee to Italy, which creates resentment and a refugee crisis there. At this point, the insurgents have solidified their control of the country by seizing the last government stronghold of Gjirokaster.
On March 11, the members of the Socialist Party win a major victory when their Bashkim Fino is appointed prime minister. However, the transfer of power did not stop the unrest, as protests spread to northern Albania. By March 13, all major population centers were engulfed in demonstrations, and foreign countries began to evacuate their citizens from Albania. In the three months of protests, the Albanian economy suffered a heavy blow as unemployment and inflation sharply rose, while the gross domestic product and the value of the currency fell. In late March, the UN Security Council approved dispatching a multinational military force to Albania to oversee the distribution of international humanitarian aid and maintain order, and on April 15, the 7,000 troops participate in "Operation Alba," which helps restore rule of law to the country.
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