Back Tirana - Next 

Zog's Tirana

Tirana - Copyright © by Alan Grant
Bulevardi deshmoret e kombit

Today Tirana feels like a boomtown. New blocks are blossoming across the city and over the last few years, under the stewardship of Mayor Edi Rama, old blocks have been brightened up with colourful designs, while in the centre illegal kiosks and buildings have been swept away. Although Albania declared its independence in 1912, it was only in 1920 that Zog, the man who would become king, declared it, first, the country's provisional capital and then its permanent one in 1925. At that point Zog engaged a team of Italian architects headed by an urban planner named Armando Brasini. These descriptions of the making of Tirana come from Jason Tomes' biography of King Zog in which he writes that the first electric lighting appeared in the Albanian capital only in 1927 and piped water and sewerage just a decade later. Then as now the city was dominated by the great, central space of Skanderbeg Square:

Cypress trees and minarets retained their charm, and the eighteenth century Mosque of Ethem Bey, brightly frescoed with fruit and flowers, survived the demolitions to give a touch of architectural distinction to the dusty expanse of Skanderbeg Square. For six days a week, this much enlarged market place was a gaping hole in the heart of the city. It came to life only on Thursdays when buffalo wagons, pack trains, and women brought firewood and produce down from the hills. Not only did the women carry huge bundles on their backs, they also worked handheld spinning wheels as they walked. Their male protector was now more likely to bear a stick than a gun when in town. He did the buying and entertained onlookers with the ritual ferocious barter.

North and west of Skanderbeg Square two boulevards were built: Boulevard Zog and Boulevard Mussolini. The former, re-named during the Communist period, is now known once again by this title.

Today, everyone knows the ministry buildings beside the statue of Skanderbeg, where the statue of Stalin once stood. They were Italian built and completed in 1931:

The eight three-storey blocks of white stone and redbrick dwarfed the little parliament building on the edge of the square. Decorated with mustard-coloured facings and a Skanderbeg helmet above each entrance, they were a remarkable improvement on scattered ex-Turkish offices with smashed windows, broken locks and infamous latrines.

King Zog of Albania: Europe's Self-Made Muslim Monarch. Jason Tomes. 2004.
[pp. 107-108 / New York University Press]

January 2007
Tim Judah

 Back Tirana - Next 
  1. Istanbul: Pamuk's City
  2. Istanbul: Swimming across the Bosphorus
  3. Salonika and the Jews
  4. Salonica: Slaves and Trade
  5. Thessalonika: 1923
  6. Ohrid: Rise and Fall
  7. Tornado of Dust - 1944
  8. Awake Romania - 1989
  9. Novi Sad: Nest of the Serbian nation
  10. Nis: War Capital, 1915
  11. Belgrade and the Selenites
  12. 1996: Serbia Calling
  13. Belgrade Train Station - 1964
  14. Srebrenica: Vengeance
  15. Srebrenica: Blood
  16. Srebrenica: July 1995
  17. Mealtime - Interwar years in Travnik
  18. Dayton: The Napkin Shuttle
  19. London Buses in Sarajevo
  20. The Museum and Bosnian Identity
  21. Foča: The Bosniak
  22. Kosovo: The Swiss Front
  23. Mitrovica: 1908
  24. Pristina: Kosovo like Namibia?
  25. City without traffic - Pristina 1966
  26. Durham in Pristina - 1908
  27. Tirana: 1962
  28. Zog's Tirana
  29. The Kotor - Constantinople Express
  30. Kotor and the Montenegrins
  31. The Rabbi of Stolac
  32. Dubrovnik: England, Wine and Wool
  33. Cetinje: Nikola Under the Elm
  34. Cetinje: 1858
  35. Dalmatia: Ships & Grapes
  36. Prophet of Yugoslavism
  37. The head of the world
  38. 1919: Mushrooms and Lies
  39. Sofia: Bulgaria's Jews during WWII
  40. Zamfirovo: Rural livelihoods in the mid-1990s
  41. Kosovo
  42. Romania: 1914
  43. Istanbul: Food and the frugal Turks
  44. Micklagard: Surprising, cosmopolitan Constantinople
  45. Sukhumi: The history of the region became ashes
  46. Black Sea: The coming of steam and rail
  47. Mestrovic: Motherhood and the Victor
  48. Rizvanovici, Bosnia: Gnashing
  49. Down the Danube with Magris: Ruse
  50. From Pristina to Tskhinvali
  51. Serbia, Historians and Hitler's War
  52. Balkan Strongmen: Bulgaria's Zhivkov
  53. Sarajevo: The Siege Within
  54. Turkey: Osman's Dream
  55. Durres 1961: Beijing on Sea
  56. Cetinje: Eggs for the Ladies
  57. Bosnia: Land of Immigrants
  58. Ottoman Croatia
  59. Harem: All the Sultan's Women
  60. Sibiu: Regime Change, European Style
  61. 1929: The Balkans and the Great Crash
  62. Rumeli and how the Balkans became the Balkans
  63. 1948: Stalin, Kosovo and Swallowing Albania
  64. Transforming Turkey: the 1950s
  65. McMafia and the Balkans
  66. 1916: Serbia in Corfu
  67. Princes Amongst Men
  68. Limp Shevardnadze
  69. Knin: War and Suburbia
  70. In the Mountains of Poetry