In 1928 Zogu secured the parliament's consent to its own dissolution.
A new constituent assembly amended the constitution, making Albania
a kingdom and transforming Zogu into Zog I, "King of the Albanians."
International recognition arrived forthwith, but many Albanians
regarded their country's nascent dynasty as a tragic farce. The
new constitution abolished the Senate, creating a unicameral National
Assembly, but King Zog retained the dictatorial powers he had
enjoyed as President Zogu. Soon after his coronation, Zog broke
off his engagement to Shefqet Bey Verlaci's daughter, and Verlaci
withdrew his support for the king and began plotting against him.
Zog had accumulated a great number of enemies over the years,
and the Albanian tradition of blood vengeance required them to
try to kill him. Zog surrounded himself with guards and rarely
appeared in public. The king's loyalists disarmed all of Albania's
tribes except for his own Mati tribesmen and their allies, the
Dibra. Nevertheless, on a visit to Vienna in 1931, Zog and his
bodyguards fought a gun battle with would-be assassins on the
Opera House steps.
Zog remained sensitive to steadily mounting disillusion with
Italy's domination of Albania. The Albanian army, though always
less than 15,000-strong, sapped the country's funds, and the Italians'
monopoly on training the armed forces rankled public opinion.
As a counterweight, Zog kept British officers in the Gendarmerie
despite strong Italian pressure to remove them. In 1931 Zog openly
stood up to the Italians, refusing to renew the 1926 First Treaty
of Tiranė. In 1932 and 1933, Albania could not make the interest
payments on its loans from the Society for the Economic Development
of Albania. In response, Rome turned up the pressure, demanding
that Tiranė name Italians to direct the Gendarmerie; join Italy
in a customs union; grant Italy control of the country's sugar,
telegraph, and electrical monopolies; teach the Italian language
in all Albanian schools; and admit Italian colonists. Zog refused.
Instead, he ordered the national budget slashed by 30 percent,
dismissed the Italian military advisers, and nationalized Italian-run
Roman Catholic schools in the northern part of the country.
By June 1934, Albania had signed trade agreements with Yugoslavia
and Greece, and Mussolini had suspended all payments to Tiranė.
An Italian attempt to intimidate the Albanians by sending a fleet
of warships to Albania failed because the Albanians only allowed
the forces to land unarmed. Mussolini then attempted to buy off
the Albanians. In 1935 he presented the Albanian government 3
million gold francs as a gift.
Zog's success in defeating two local rebellions convinced Mussolini
that the Italians had to reach a new agreement with the Albanian
king. A government of young men led by Mehdi Frasheri, an enlightened
Bektashi administrator, won a commitment from Italy to fulfill
financial promises that Mussolini had made to Albania and to grant
new loans for harbor improvements at Durrės and other projects
that kept the Albanian government afloat. Soon Italians began
taking positions in Albania's civil service, and Italian settlers
were allowed into the country.
Through all the turmoil of the interwar years, Albania remained
Europe's most economically backward nation. Peasant farmers accounted
for the vast majority of the Albanian population. Albania had
practically had no industry, and the country's potential for hydroelectric
power was virtually untapped. Oil represented the country's main
extractable resource. A pipeline between the Kuēovė oil field
and Vlorė's port expedited shipments of crude petroleum to Italy's
refineries after the Italians took over the oil-drilling concessions
of all other foreign companies in 1939. Albania also possessed
bitumen, lignite, iron, chromite, copper, bauxite, manganese,
and some gold. Shkodėr had a cement factory; Korēė, a brewery;
and Durrės and Shkodėr, cigarette factories that used locally
During much of the interwar period, Italians held most of the
technical jobs in the Albanian economy. Albania's main exports
were petroleum, animal skins, cheese, livestock, and eggs and
prime imports were grain and other foodstuffs, metal products,
and machinery. In 1939 the value of Albania's imports outstripped
that of its exports by about four times. About 70 percent of Albania's
exports went to Italy. Italian factories furnished about 40 percent
of Albania's imports, and the Italian government paid for the
Data as of April 1992