Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Most Albanians live in Albania, a country bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian seas to the west, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, and Macedonia to the north and east, and Greece to the south. A third of all Albanians live outside Albania's political borders, with large Albanian communities in Greece and Italy, and smaller enclaves in Turkey, Egypt, Russia, and the United States. In Albania, there are two main regional groups, the Tosk and Gheg, each speaking a unique Albanian dialect of the same name. Extended households and clans were the basis of local social and political organization until the 1950s when they were replaced by a socialist collective system and afterwards in the 1990s by a democratic system. Islam, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Catholicism are the three main religions practiced.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Europe --Southeastern Europe







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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF World Cultures collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number

The Eg01 Albanians collection is concerned primarily with the people and culture of twentieth-century Albania, and covers a wide range of ethnographic data ranging in time from approximately 1900 to 2003. Probably the best general ethnographies on the traditional culture of the Albanians will be found in Durham (1928, 1910, nos. 2 and 17), and Hasluck (1954, no. 10). These studies emphasize the time period from 1900 to 1910. These three documents discuss tribal groupings, law, blood feuds, the Albanian family, property, sorcery and witchcraft, medicine, marriage, women’s status, religion, and concepts of honor. The Albanian zadrugas or extended families are topics found in Erlich (1976 no. 13), and Grossmith (1976, no. 14). Erlich discusses extended families as they exist in the Kosovo region, while Grossmith describes these families among Muslim Albanians. Although women’s status in the society is discussed in many of the documents in this collection, this topic is given particular emphasis in Emadi (1992, n. 14), Shryock (1988, no. 18), and Senturia (1997, no. 19). Other subjects of interest in this collection are: the couvade in Alabania and its presence in other parts of Europe (Hasluck, 1939, no. 16); migration of Albanian workers to other parts of Europe ((Nicholson, 2004, no. 20); and problems in land privatization in changing from collective to private ownership (Lemel, n.d., no. 21).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

John Beierle

bairaks –clans, stocks, brotherhoods– Use SIBS ( 614)

bajraktars –“standard or flag bearers”; the bearer of honors who became the military leader of the tribe– Use MILITARY ORGANIZATION ( 701) and/or STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)

beys –feudal lords– Use STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)

Communist Party Use POLITICAL PARTIES ( 665) with POLITICAL MOVEMENTS ( 668)

derman –magic amulets against the evil eye– Use MAGIC ( 789)

is –a patrilineal descent group, sometimes referred to as tribe– Use SIBS ( 614) and/or TRIBE AND NATION ( 619)

hak –“blood”; the blood feud– Use INTER COMMUNITY RELATIONS ( 628)

jobtarë –fine collectors– Use TAXATION AND PUBLIC INCOME ( 651)

grosh –an Albanian monetary unit– Use MEDIUM OF EXCHANGE ( 436)

hekim –doctor– Use MEDICAL PERSONNEL ( 759)

hi –soul or shadow– Use ANIMISM ( 774)

kasnec –tribal messengers– Use DISSEMINATION OF NEWS AND INFORMATION ( 203)

omuna –an administrative level between village and district– Use TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631)

kula –a large fortresslike stone house– Use DWELLINGS ( 342)

urber –migration– Use EXTERNAL MIGRATION ( 167)

lagje –discrete housing clusters– Use SETTLEMENT PATTERNS ( 361)

lek dukagjini –an ancient lawgiver– Use LEGAL NORMS ( 671) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554) and/or CHIEF EXECUTIVE ( 643)

maghistar –a magician– Use MAGICIANS AND DIVINERS ( 791)

medjliss –council of elders– Use COUNCILS ( 623)

mexhlis –the General Assembly– Use PARLIAMENT ( 646) and/or TRIBE AND NATION ( 619)

mik –affines– Use KIN RELATIONSHIPS ( 602)

mohullas –neighborhoods– Use SETTLEMENT PATTERNS ( 361)

ore –evil spirits– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)


rakia –brandy distilled from grapes– Use ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES ( 273)

shpi –the household– Use HOUSEHOLD ( 592)

shtriga –a witch– Use SORCERY ( 754)

tapi –land ownership certificates– Use REAL PROPERTY ( 423)

vila –a female spirit who haunts the mountains– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Village Assembly Use COUNCILS ( 623)

vlazhii –brethren; an extended family– Use EXTENDED FAMILIES ( 596) with LINEAGES ( 613)

zadruga –the extended family– Use EXTENDED FAMILIES ( 596)

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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