From Academic Kids

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Gjirokastra.jpg
Gjirokastėr, as seen from the Citadel. (Photo by Marc Morell)

Gjirokastėr (Albanian: Gjirokastėr or Gjirokastra, Greek: Αργυρόκαστρο or Γυρόκαστρο, Argyrókastro or Gyrókastro, Italian: Argirocastro) is a city in southern Albania at Template:Coor dm with a population of around 30,000, including a substantial Greek community.

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History

Gjirokastėr is an ancient city with traces of human habitation dating back to the 1st century BC. It is located on the slopes of the Mali i Gjerė ("Wide Mountain"). The city was probably founded some time in the 4th century AD around a fortress on the hillside. Under the rule of the Byzantine Empire, it developed into a major commercial centre known as Argyropolis ("Silver City") or Argyrokastron ("Silver Castle"). It was part of the Despotate of Epirus in the 14th century before passing to the Ottoman Empire in 1417. It was captured in 1811 by Ali Pasha and in the late 19th century became a centre of resistance to Turkish rule. The Assembly of Gjirokastėr, a key event in the history of the Albanian liberation movement, was held there in 1880.

During the 20th century, the city was repeatedly contested by outside powers. During the Balkan Wars, the First World War and the Second World War, Gjirokastėr was occupied on various occasions by Italy, Greece and Germany before returning to permanent Albanian control in 1944. The postwar Communist regime developed the city as an industrial and commercial centre, and elevated it to the status of a "museum town" largely due to the fact that it was the birthplace of the dictator Enver Hoxha. Gjirokastėr suffered severe economic problems following the end of communist rule in 1991. It was particularly badly affected by the 1997 collapse of a massive pyramid scheme, which destabilised the entire Albanian economy. Violent anti-government protests took place in the town; on December 16, 1997, Hoxha's house was blown up by unknown (but presumably anti-communist) attackers. Its population has fallen since the 1990s, with many ethnic Greeks departing for Greece.

Economy

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Lockheed T-33 reconnaissance plane forced down in December, 1957 in Gjirokastra, Albania. (Photo by Marc Morell)

Gjirokastėr is the capital of the eponymous Gjirokastėr District. It is principally a commercial centre with some industries, notably the production of foodstuffs, leather, and textiles.

Culture and places of interest

Many houses in Gjirokastėr have a distinctive local style that has earned the city the nickname of the "town of the stones", because most of the old houses have roofs covered with stones. Due to Gjirokastėr's importance to the Communist regime, its city centre was spared at least some of the thoughtless redevelopment that afflicted other cities in Albania, but its designation as a "museum town" unfortunately did not translate into maintaining the old town. Consequently many of its historic buildings have become dilapidated, a problem that is only slowly being resolved.

Gjirokastėr also features an old bazaar which was originally built in the 17th century, but which had to be rebuilt in the 19th after it burned down. There are over 20 museums in Gjirokastėr today and it is also the site of the annual National Folk Festival.

Famous inhabitants

See also

External links

et:Gjirokastėr nl:Gjirokastėr pl:Gjirokastra sq:Gjirokastra sv:Gjirokastėr

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