The name "Albania" is the Medieval Latin name of the nation. It may be derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Albani (Albant) recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria, who drafted a map in 150 AD, that shows the city of Albanopolis located northeast of the city of Durrs. The name may have a continuation in the name of a medieval settlement called Albanon or Arbanon, although it is not certain that this was the same place. In his History written in 1079 to 1080, the Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates was the first to refer to Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the Duke of Dyrrachium. During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country "Arbri" or "Arbni" and referred to themselves as "Arbresh" or "Arbnesh".
Albanians today call their country "Shqipri" or "Shqipria". As early as the 17th century the placename Shqipria and the ethnic demonym Shqiptar gradually replaced Arbria and Arbresh. The two terms are popularly interpreted as "Land of the Eagles" and "Children of the Eagles".
By the end of the second World War, the main military and political force of the nation, the Communist party sent forces to northern Albania against the nationalists to eliminate its rivals. They faced open resistance in Nikaj-Mrtur, Dukagjin and Kelmend led by Prek Cali. On 15 January 1945, a clash took place between partisans of the first Brigade and nationalist forces at the Tamara Bridge, resulting in the defeat of the nationalist forces. About 150 Kelmendi people were killed or tortured. This event was the starting point of many other issues which took place during Enver Hoxha's dictatorship. Class struggle was strictly applied, human freedom and human rights were denied. The Kelmend region was almost isolated by both the border and by a lack of roads for another 20 years, the institution of agricultural cooperatives brought about economic decline. Many Kelmendi people fled, some were executed trying to cross the border.
After the liberation of Albania from the Nazi occupation, the country became a Communist state. Afterwards, the People's Republic of Albania (renamed "People's Socialist Republic of Albania" in 1976) was founded, which was led by Enver Hoxha and the Labour Party of Albania. The socialist reconstruction of Albania was launched immediately after the annulling of the monarchy and the establishment of a People's Republic. In 1947, Albania's first railway line was completed, with the second one being completed eight months later. New land reform laws were passed granting ownership of the land to the workers and peasants who tilled it. Agriculture became cooperative, and production increased significantly, leading to Albania's becoming agriculturally self-sufficient. By 1955, illiteracy was eliminated among Albania's adult population.
During this period, Albania became industrialized and saw rapid economic growth, as well as unprecedented progress in the areas of education and health care. The average annual increase in Albania's national income was 29% higher than the world average and 56% higher than the European average.. The nation incurred large debts, first with Yugoslavia until 1948, then the Soviet Union until 1961, and China from the middle of the 1950s. The communist constitution did not allow taxes on individuals; instead, taxes were imposed on cooperatives and other organizations, with much the same effect. Religious freedoms were severely curtailed during the communist regime, with all forms of worship being outlawed. In August 1945, the Agrarian Reform Law meant that large swaths of property owned by religious groups (mostly Islamic waqfs) were nationalized, along with the estates of monasteries and dioceses. Many believers, along with the ulema and many priests, were arrested and executed. In 1949, a new Decree on Religious Communities required that all their activities be sanctioned by the state alone.
After hundreds of mosques and dozens of Islamic libraries, containing priceless manuscripts, were destroyed, Enver Hoxha proclaimed Albania the "World's first atheist state" in 1967. The churches had not been spared either, and many were converted into cultural centers for young people. A 1967 law banned all "fascist, religious, warmongerish, antisocialist activity and propaganda". Preaching religion carried a three to ten-year prison sentence. Nonetheless, many Albanians continued to practice their beliefs secretly. The Hoxha dictatorship's anti-religious policy attained its most fundamental legal and political expression a decade later: "The state recognizes no religion," states Albania's 1976 constitution, "and supports and carries out atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people." Enver Hoxha's political successor, Ramiz Alia oversaw the dismemberment of the "Hoxhaist" state during the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the late 1980s.