Albania is rugged and mountainous, except for the fertile Adriatic coast. Mt. Korabit (9,066 ft/2,763 m), on the Macedonian-Albanian border, is the highest point in the country. The coastal climate is typically Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The mountainous interior, especially in the north, has severe winters and mild summers. The chief rivers of Albania are the Drin, Mat, Shkumbin, Vijose, and Seman, but they are mostly unnavigable. More than one third of Albania's land is covered by forests and swamps, about one third is pasture, and only about one fifth is cultivated. In addition to Tiranë, other important cities are Vlorë, Durrës, Shkodër, and Korçë.
The country's rugged and inaccessible terrain has traditionally isolated Albania from its neighbors, thus helping to preserve its ethnic homogeneity. About 90% of the population is ethnic Albanian, less than 10% is Greek, and there are scattered Vlach, Romani (Gypsy), Serb, Macedonian, and Bulgarian minorities. Many ethnic Albanians also live in Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that declared its independence in 2008. Some 70% of the people are Muslim, about 20% are Albanian Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholic. From 1967 to 1990 all mosques and churches were closed, and Albania was officially considered to be an atheist country. Albanian is an Indo-European language. The Shkumbin River, which virtually bisects the country, separates speakers of the northern dialect (Gheg) from those of the southern dialect (Tosk; the official dialect).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.