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The Albanian-Macedonian War was a conflict between the Kingdom of Macedonia and the People's Republic of Albania that was fought between May 15, 2009 and June 26, 2010. The war ended with the Macedonian capture of the Albanian capital of Elbasan and resulted in large parts of Albania being annexed by Macedonia and the dissolution of the People's Republic of Albania.
The background of the war began in late 2007, a harsh winter put a strain on the resources of Albania's government and it looked like the country might soon have to abandon its self-imposed isolation and look for outside sources for food and water. This occurred in November of 2008 when contact was made between Albania and its eastern neighbor, Macedonia.
The two countries established relations and Macedonia began to import large amounts of food into Albania. Then by March 2009, the Albanian government began to demand Macedonia also share their military technology, to which the Macedonian government staunchly refused. Tensions mounted between the two countries and in late March 2009, a Macedonian intelligence agent reported a build-up by the Albanian Army along border. The news comes as a surprise to the Macedonian government, but is pushed aside as Albania isn't seen as a serious threat.
But as the months roll on, reports of this build-up continues and the numbers continues to grow, until on May 12, 2009, the Macedonian Assembly issued an ultimatum to the Albanian government, stating they had 72 hours to break-up the build-up or Macedonia will declare war. On May 15, 2009, Macedonia, after Albania had not answered to the ultimatum, declared war, and the conflict began.
Albanian Invasion: May 2009-November 2009
On May 21, 2009 the Albanian First Army Group, consisting of 60,000 soldiers and 30 tanks, launched its offensive against a heavily defended Macedonian line along its border with Albania. The Macedonian Army had been organized into the Macedonian Domestic Defense Forces, consisting of 30,000 soldiers and 40 tanks. The Macedonians, even with all their strength through better technology and a largely defended line, were forced to retreat due to the sheer weight of the Albanian numbers.
The Albanian battle plan was to move deep into Macedonia and then move towards Skopje and Bitola, the two biggest Macedonian cities. The First Army Group was then split into two armies, each consisting of 30,000 soldiers, and then split into two divisions each of 15,000 soldiers. The First Army advanced towards Gostiver, a major Macedonian town and vital stop on the road to Skopje. The Second Army, meanwhile, advanced south into Kioevo, also a major road stop, then was to south to Bitola. The next few months of the war would prove to be long and treacherous, and plagued by bloodshed.
Winter War: December 2009-January 2010
The winter of 2009-2010 brought a wide-scale stalemate all along the front and the main priority of the Albanian commanding officers was keeping their soldiers alive and their morale high enough to fight in the spring. The Macedonians were better off as they moved into Macedonia's major towns to build formidable defenses over the winter and were given warm clothes, food, and housing. The Albanians, however, were given poor clothing and food and were forced to outlast the winter in their trenches and foxholes. Frostbite and disease were rampant among the Albanian lines and by the end of the summer as many as 9,000 Albanians were either killed or forced off the line because of disease. But as the winter rolled on, the Albanians continued to move troops up to the front to prepare for a full assault on Macedonia in the spring. But as the spring began to come the Albanians planned to move, and the Macedonians planned to counter them.
Renewed Albanian Advance: March 2010-May 2010
After the March thaw finally arrived in Macedonia, the Albanian forces had been reinforced over the winter so that their numbers reached up to 140,000 soldiers and 60 tanks. The Macedonians had used the winter to train new recruits conscripted from all over Macedonia and their numbers had been increased to 180,000.
Battle of Gostiver
The Battle of Gostiver began on April 16, 2010 when the Albanians arrived at the town of Gostiver, a major road stop on the Albanian path to Skopje. The Albanians attacked the city with 12,000 troops, while the Macedonians defended the city with 5,000 troops of the Macedonian 3rd Brigade. The Macedonians had spent the entire winter preparing for an attack on the town, and when it finally came, they were well prepared. The Albanians were divided into four 3,000-man brigades and were sent in on a general assault on the Macedonian lines, which were built mostly along the roads to the east of the town. While three of the these brigades were thrown straight at the Macedonians, the fourth one was sent south to go around the Macedonian lines from behind and flank them. This maneuver was successful, as the Macedonians were forced to retreat to a second line of defense within the town.
Over the next week their lines were pushed back to the city park, where the Macedonians had set up two howitzer guns that began to pound against the Albanian advance. Two other major centers of operation, the Cultural Center and Town Hall, were put near the front line that were also heavily defended. As the days poured on, however, Albanian casualties continued to mount and eventually their lines had stagnated so much that the Macedonians began planning a counterattack. On April 27 the Macedonians launched their counterattack, backed up with 7 tanks against the Albanians' 5, and with 4,500 soldiers left to fight the Albanians 9,200. Attacking in 5 groups of 900 men, they were able to push the Albanians back to the edge of the town in on April 28, and then completely out of the city the next day. On April 30 the last pocket of Albanian troops surrendered and the Battle of Gostiver was finally over.
The most important result of the battle was that the commanding officer of the Albanian army, one of the members of the Albanian Supreme Council, was captured and remained in Macedonian hands until the end of the war. The battle would pave the way for a major counteroffensive to begin later in May.
Battle of Kioevo
The Battle of Kioevo began on March 17, when the fast moving Second Albanian Army, accompanied by 40 tanks, moved into Macedonia, with plans to capture Kioevo, a major road stop on the way to Bitola, the army's ultimate goal. Defending the town were only 10,000 men against the Albanian Second Army of 100,000. The Macedonians had heavily prepared for this assault, which they knew had to come by road, and set up blockades to keep the tanks out of the town.
The Albanian attack came from two directions, the north and the south. After the first two days of fighting, the Macedonian had been pushed back widely in the north, but only a minimum in the south. Knowing that this northern area would likely be the route taken by the Albanian tanks, it was heavily defended. The next two days, the Macedonians would be pushed back further. On March 22, they had been surrounded by two pincers of the Albanian forces and were forced to surrender.
The battle had been a clear and decisive victory for the Albanians, who then moved south into Bitola, but it ended up working to the Macedonian's advantage, as the days the Albanians had been stalled had allowed the forces in Bitola to prepare their final defenses that would prove to be very decisive in the next few days.
Battle of BitolaThe Battle of Bitola began on March 19, when, after having received a swift victory at Kioevo, the Albanian Second Army, numbering still at around 100,000, attacked the city's out limits and began pushing into the city's heavy defenses. By the time their second advance came on March 24, they had 8,000 soldier killed or wounded.
The Albanian general in charge of the operation, Maksim Malaj, believed the victory was supposed to have gone like that at Kioevo, but became severely distraught when this didn't happen. And by March 30, the Albanians had launched their final attack, advanced well into the city, but by this time, their numbers were cut from 100,000 soldiers and 40 tanks, to 76,000 soldiers and 27 tanks. The Albanian advance had been bogged down and their advance officially stopped on April 1.
The next day, April 2, the Macedonian Army, numbering at 80,000 soldiers and 40 tanks, counterattacked and took a heavy toll on the Albanian forces. Having taken only 2,000 casualties and lost no tanks, the Macedonians advanced again on April 5 and pushed the Albanians back into the suburbs. Two days later, with 75,000 troops and having lost only one tank to an enemy mine, the army advanced again and, although not pushing them back very far, took a massive toll on the Albanians and pushed them into only a small sector in the city's suburb. Their final attack on April 10, with 74,000 soldiers and 39 tanks, using the same tactics of the Albanians did at Kioevo, surrounded them into a small pocket, cut off their retreat and forced the remaining 12,000 Albanians into the area around the old church in the city's northwest sector. They surrendered on April 12, 2010, as all 100,000 Albanians had all been killed, wounded, or captured. This was a great victory for the Macedonians, as they had lost very few men and it set the place for their grand counterattack in May.
Macedonian Counterattack and Invasion of Albania: May 2010-June 2010By May 4, all Albanian forces in Macedonia had been defeated and on May 5, 2010, Operation Молња (Lightening) began with a massive 6 hour artillery barrage all along the remaining Albanian border defenses. The invasion began with 40,000 men of the Macedonian Army Reserves, along 23,000 paramilitary troops, and this size would increase exponentially as the weeks went on. Although the war was clearly likely to be won by the Macedonians, the Albanian Army still continued a desperate fight for survival.
Battle of KukesThe Battle of Kukes began on May 16 when 50,000 men assaulted the city of Kukes on their road to attack Shkodra. The 20,000 Albanians defending the city quickly assembled to defend the city from the Macedonians, but they were quickly thrown back by the Macedonian advance, along with their 12 tanks and the Albanian defenses fell into chaos and retreated deep into the city. On May 17, the Macedonians assaulted the Albanians main headquarters in the town hospital and captures the hospital the next day. Finally, on May 19, the had caught the Albanians on their attempt to retreat across the bridge. But the Albanian generals had ordered Albanian engineers to blow up the two bridges connecting the town after they had crossed it. But a problem with communications led to both bridges being destroyed before the Albanians could cross them, trapping the remaining 12,000 Albanians, and forcing them to surrender on May 19. Although the bridges were destroyed, new bridges were soon constructed, and three days later, they continued on the road to Shkodra.
Battle of PogradecThe Macedonians, seeing the strategical position of the town of Pogradec, decided an assault on the town would be necessary in the invasion of Albania, and the Albanians knew this, too. The Albanians believed that the Macedonians would attempt a pincer movement, a move that had become a favored move of the Macedonians, and prepared to defend the town on its flanks. But as they saw Macedonian riverboats traveling around the lake recently, they put some of their forces on the lake-front just in case. This proved little help when 15,000 Macedonian soldiers landed on the unprotected center of the lake-front forces on May 14 and quickly surrounded the two lake-front companies and launched flanking maneuver on the remaining Albanians as Macedonian land forces, numbering in 30,000 on each side, attacked the front of the Albanian defenses and forced their surrender on May 17.
Battle of ShkodraThe Battle of Shkodra began on May 17 when the Albanians, who had planned an entrapment of the Macedonian forces coming from the northeast, were surprised to see the Macedonian Army, numbering at 40,000 crossed the Kirit River and moved into the southeastern part of the city. Meanwhile, while many Albanians from the northeast were moving south to counter the Macedonians, the Macedonians actually attacked from the northeast and made a rapid advancement south into the city, launching multiple flanking maneuvers and surrounding many little parts of the Albanian forces. The Albanians fell back in disarray, and failed to establish a true defensive line, the main part of the Albanian forces was surrounded on May 19, and the remainder of their forces were surrounded and surrendered on May 20. The Battle of Shkodra was another great victory for the Macedonian forces, and the Macedonian Army then immediately began their advance toward Elbasan.
Battle of DurresOn May 19, the Macedonian Marine Corps landed in the city of Durres to capture the city so it could be used to land Macedonian troops in eastern Albania. The Albanian troops that had been in the city were called to Elbasan to help build its defenses for the inevitable battle there, leaving only 500 Militia troops in the city to defend it from a possible naval attack on the city's port. They never suspected that a battle of this scale was about to begin. The 10,000 men of the Macedonian Marine Corps were landed on the city's port and quickly moved from establishing beachheads to fighting the 500 Militiamen in the city, as well as 200 armed civilians who joined the fight when the Macedonians began advancing. By the day's end, all of the militiamen and armed civilians were either killed or captured and only 2 Marines were wounded. They then moved to fortify the roads on the city's eastern sector and for a coming counterattack reported to them by a few captured militia officers. This attack came on May 21, when 15,000 Albanian Army soldiers attempted to attack the town via the roads, but after taking 700 casualties in a single hour, they retreated and went back to Elbasan. The next day, 30,000 Macedonian Army soldiers arrived in the city and then 20,000 the next day, after that, the Macedonians moved southeast for the Battle of Elbasan, the last battle of the war.
Battle of ElbasanOn May 31, after more than a year of fighting between Macedonian and Albania, the Albanian capital, Elbasan, was surrounded by Macedonian forces and on this day 280,000 Macedonian Army soldier moved into the city, defended by 70,000 Albanians. The Albanians had spent weeks preparing the city's defenses, and when the assault on the city came, they were confident of victory. They had prepared the city so it could be defended in case the Macedonians attempted a flanking maneuver or pincer movement, and thought their defenses impenetrable. An unexpected occurrence came when the Macedonians from the northeast, instead of attacking the Albanians stationed in front of them, turned around and attacked the southeast Albanian positions from behind. With them defeated, they attacked the secondary southeast defenses and pushed deep into the city, eventually they achieved a breakthrough on all fronts and pushed even deeper into the city. Fighting continued in the city's streets and buildings, between Macedonian soldiers, and Albanian soldiers, militiamen, and armed civilians, taking a small toll on Macedonian lives, but it prolonged their total capture of the city. This finally came on June 26, 2010 when the last Albanian holdouts, holding themselves up in the city's hospital, finally surrendered. The war was finally over, and the Macedonians could finally return home.
Treaty and Aftermath
On June 29, three days after the surrender of Elbsasan, a provisional committee representing the Albanian government, arrived in Skopje to discuss peace negotiations with the Macedonian government. 2 days later, on June 31, a peace was signed, with the following conditions:
- Albania will be occupied for however long is seen necessary by the Macedonian government.
- The People's Republic of Albania and its military will be disestablished.
- After a short period of occupation a new government will be established under order from Macedonia.
The required period for occupation was far smaller than anticipated, and on July 19, 2010, the Republic of Albania was established and all five of the communist dictators were executed in the rebuilt streets of Shkodra. The new Republic of Albania is a Macedonian protectorate, but as the new state was created, Macedonia annexed certain parts of Albania, and the new government was in no position to deny their claims.