Albanian Arms 1910-1979



 by RK Smith

In 1910 the Albanian populous was made up of Serbs, Gypsies, Jews, Turks and Albanians.  Ethnic and tribal problems existed, with the Albanians, blood feuds among their own were also a part of their lives.  The poor Albanians were armed with flintlock rifles, the middle class were armed with the Peabody Martini and the wealthy were armed with Mausers M1890, M93, M1903.  The Serbs in Albania were supplied arms by Austria and were armed with the M90 and M95 Mannlichers. The Albanians were anxious to throw the Turks out of the country and rule themselves, so in May 1912 the Albanians rose against the Ottoman Empire and took the Macedonian capitol, Uskub.  The Young Turks, who had taken power in 1909, acceded to some of the rebels' demands, but the First Balkan War erupted before a final settlement could be worked out.  Albania remained neutral through both of the Balkan wars, during which the Balkan allies the Serbs*, Bulgarians (pic) and Greeks*,quickly drove the Turks to Constantinople.  The Serb’s took much of Northern Albania, and the Greeks captured Janina and parts of Southern Albania. * will take you to our pages for these countries and the rifles used by these armies.

On November 28, 1912 Albania was declared an independent country and a provisional government was setup.  In July 1913, the Great Powers opted to recognize an independent, neutral Albanian state ruled by a Constitutional Monarchy and under the protection of the Great Powers.  The August 1913 Treaty of Bucharest established that independent Albania was a country with borders that gave the new state about 11,500 square miles of territory and a population of 800,000.  Serbia withdrew from northern Albania and Greece from Southern Albania.  The treaty, however, left large areas with majority Albanian populations that were not within Albanian borders, and failed to solve the region's ethnic problems. Turkey 1914 to 1915

 The Great Powers choose Prince Wilhelm of Wied, a thirty-five-year-old German army captain, to head the new state.  In March 1914, he moved into a building hastily converted into a palace.

Greece, dissatisfied that the Great Powers did not award it Southern Albania, encouraged uprisings against the Albanian government, and armed Greek bands carried out atrocities against Albanian villagers, killing, burning, stealing and raping without mercy.   Italy, Montenegro and Serbia were also plotting against the new government.

Political unrest overcame Albania after the outbreak of World War I and Prince Wilhelm departed the country in September 1914, and joined the German army to serve on the Eastern Front.  In late 1914, Greece occupied Southern Albania, December 28, 1914 Italy occupied Vloree, and in May 29, 1915 Serbia and Montenegro occupied parts of Northern Albania.
By the end of 1915 the Serbian Army faced defeat and after being attacked from several directions, by the Austro-Hungarian, German, Bulgarian and Turkish forces, the decision was made to retreat South through the Prokletije Mountains.  After reaching the Adriatic coast the Army was transported by the French to Thessaloniki.  Under the secret Treaty of London signed on April 26,1915, the Triple Entente powers promised Italy that it would gain the Central and Southern lands and act as a protectorate over Albania in exchange for entering the war against Austria Hungary.  Serbia and Montenegro, were allocated Northern Albania.  The treaty left a tiny Albanian state that would be represented by Italy in its relations with the other countries.

By October 1918 Italian and French forces had expelled the Austro-Hungarian forces from Albania.  During this time period Italy captured and was given as war reparations Steyr M95s in 8x50mm and unlike, Serbia that converted them to 8mm short rifles, they did not.  The Italians used these weapons to arm their Colonial Armies in Libya and Ethiopia, manufacturing 8X50Rmm ammo into the 40's.  In 1920, 3,000 Albanian peasants attacked the Italians forcing them to withdraw from the country they thought, but the Italians actually withdrew because Woodrow Wilson refused to recognize the Treaty of London.

Some 15,000 Japanese rifles were given to Suojeluskunta soon after the Finnish Civil War. The Japanese rifles given to Suojeluskunta were little by little replaced with Mosin-Nagant rifles in 1920's.  So the Japanese rifles were gathered back and put in storage in the late 1920's.  Some 8,000 that yet remained in Finish Army warehouses were sold to Albania in 1928.

This was not the end to Italian intervention in Albania as Italy once again invaded in April 1939 and occupied the country, setting up a puppet government.  The Italians were armed with Carcano M91 rifles M91 cavalry carbines,  M91TS carbines, M91/24 and M91/28 TS carbines, M38 Carbines of both types in 6.5 and 7.35, M91/38 carbines of both types, M38SR in 6.5 and 7.35, M38 Beretta SMG, 8mm M1935 Fiat Revelli MG and M30 Breda light machine guns in 6.5 and 7.35 mm, as well as a full complement of heavier armament, including the 75mm 1875/1927 field gun, which along with their other heavy armament was obsolete.  Italy's army of 1,600,000+  would have been quite capable of fighting on one front, but it had been split in two, one on the North Africa Front and one here in the Balkans.   Italy invaded Greece from Albania on October 28 1940 and after going five or six miles into Greece found themselves bogged down against larger forces than they had anticipated.  Greece launched a counter assault and pushed the Italian forces back into Albania.  Italy had  absorbed 7000 men from the Albanian Army into their own to help fight against the Greeks and they did very badly, even firing against their own troops.  Italy was being over run and the Germans came to their aid, invading from Bulgaria and quickly over taking the country.  Albanians played a part in over running Yugoslavia, where they did better, with the Germans and Italians, for which they were given Kosovo.

In 1941 Enver Hoxha formed the Communist party of Albania, later called the Party of Labour.  Hoxha became first secretary of the party's Central Committee and political commissar of the communist-dominated Army of National Liberation.  He was prime minister of Albania from its liberation in 1944 until 1954, simultaneously holding the ministry of foreign affairs from 1946 to 1953.  As first secretary of the Party of Labour's Central Committee, he retained effective control of the government until his death.   Hoxha was a Stalinist and after a period of steadily deteriorating relations with the Russians beginning at Stalins death and ending in 65, he sided only with Red China.  Albania received small arms from China after 1958, including Type 56 SKS, Type 56 AK, RPD and RP46 as well as TT, Type 59 Mak, Type 68 etc.  He provided a Naval base to the Chi-Coms before breaking with them also in 1978.  During the period of 1967 to 1979  SKS's were manufactured in the  Umgransh Arsenal  with approximately 18,000 made.