Settlement Patterns

Settlement Patterns

In the early 1990s, Albania remained predominantly rural, with about 65 percent of the population living in villages or the countryside. Urban dwellers, whose proportion of the national population had increased from one-fifth to almost one-third between 1950 and 1970, accounted for about 34 percent in the 1980s. Rural-to-urban migration was contained as a result of the regime's aggressive programs, initiated during the Third Five-Year Plan (1961-65), to restrict urban growth, build up agriculture, and accelerate rural development. (The campaign to improve rural living conditions is best exemplified by the expansion of the electric-power network to every village in the country by the winter of 1970.) The average village grew from about 400 residents in 1955 to nearly 700 in 1980.

The most heavily settled areas were in the western part of the country, in particular the fertile lowlands. In 1987 population density ranged from 30 persons per square kilometer in the eastern district of Kolonjė to 281 persons per square kilometer in the coastal district of Durrės. The proportion of urban dwellers was highest in the districts of Tiranė (67 percent), Durrės (49 percent), and Vlorė, which had 47 percent (see table 2, Appendix).

Several factors contributed to the pattern of settlement. Large expanses of mountains and generally rugged terrain complicated construction of land transportation routes. In many areas, large concentrations of people could not be supported because of poor soil and a lack of water during part of the year. Minerals and other natural resources generally were not readily accessible or were otherwise difficult to exploit.

Of the sixty-six cities and towns in Albania, nine had populations greater than 25,000 in 1987. Tiranė, the capital and largest city, grew from about 60,000 inhabitants in 1945 to 226,000 in 1987, largely because of the expansion of industry and government bureaucracy. Located on the inner margin of the coastal plain, the capital is surrounded by an area of relatively good soil. Tiranė was the country's main political, industrial, educational, and cultural center. Other major towns were Durrės, the principal port, Elbasan, Shkodėr, and Vlorė. About 44 percent of all towns had fewer than 5,000 inhabitants.

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