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King Zog: Self-Made Monarch of Albania by…
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King Zog: Self-Made Monarch of Albania

by Jason Tomes

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King Zog is one of those almost surreal figures of twentieth century history that look completely out of place. A Muslim European king with no royal or aristocratic background who managed to carve out a kingdom and then kept it for thirteen years. Add to that the fact that all good cricketing historians know; that C.B. Fry was also in the running to gain the Albanian crowd (and he had no Albanian heritage at all, and he had never even visited Albania for that matter) means that King Zog and his Albania is a story I've long wanted to read.

When all is said and done though, "King Zog" disappoints. In Tomes's defence, King Zog never kept a diary (as far as anyone is aware) and with no compatriots still living, the author was required to use secondary sources about a man who, outside Albania, gained little media coverage. Still, parts of Zog's temperament ad idiosyncrasies stand out, such as his habit of contacting Tirana's main hotel to see if any westerners were staying there and inviting them over for tea.

Still, "King Zog" reads like a book that sorely misses some first hand sources, especially in the latter, post- World War II era until his death, which is covered perfunctory at best. It makes us wonder what C.B. Fry would have done with the Albanian crown; perhaps cricket would now be the national sport of Albania. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Feb 4, 2018 |
As a kid I was entranced by the cartoonish name “Zog” so when I saw the title King Zog of Albania, well, no way I was passing that by. Plus, after reading Ismail Kadare’s novel Chronicle in Stone I wanted to learn more about his country. A King Zog biography seemed just the ticket.

The violence depicted in Chronicle in Stone, which we first see at large scale at the outset of WWII and then with more lasting consequence when the fractures of internal politics break into the city of Gjirokastër, is something King Zog of Albania makes clear was nothing new. Albanians form an ethnic group but their customs and religious practices, when Albania became a nation, differed enough among the country’s varied regions to cause fierce conflict. National government was hampered in most all the ways one might conceive, particularly by lack of money, clan loyalties, and internal violence. To rule here meant people would try to kill you. Author Jason Tomes writes, “No people in the Balkans was more attached to feuding. On hearing that a man was dead, the normal inquiry in the highlands was not ‘What did he die of?’ but ‘Who killed him?’ In certain valleys, feuds accounted for a quarter of male deaths.” Zog survived more than one attempt on his life. The man had moxie.

Zog was young when he seized power but had the political experience to rule, having been prominent in the government from age twenty-five before declaring himself King Zog I at thirty-two. Kingship wasn’t easy. Benito Mussolini supplied much of the money for the Zog-led government and Benito’s efforts to control the country, as a geopolitical tool in Italy’s frosty relations with Yugoslavia, were a heavy obstacle to true independence.

Tomes, faced with no abundance of reliable information, has produced a decent biography. He has done much to winnow the likely from the false. However, despite Zog’s often shrewd political dealing, his fighting history, and his aspirations, he was not a ruler of first-rate significance on the world scene and even his importance to Albania is debated. This may dampen a reader’s interest.

I was pleased, though, with how Dr. Tomes’s book presented a broader picture of Albania than I had from reading Kadare’s more locally focused Chronicle in Stone. ( )
1 vote dypaloh | Jan 26, 2018 |
A look at the life of King Zog of Albania. The book is vastly political, in fact, I'd say it was 75% a political history of the nation of Albania and it's relationship with other European countries, mainly Italy. However, this WAS Zog's life. He was intricately involved with the political life of the country. King Zog's personal life and his relationships with his family members is a fascinating study. Of particular note is the all too brief look at the lives of this sisters, called "Zoglets". An interesting book for anyone looking to get their feet wet with Albanian history. ( )
1 vote briandrewz | Feb 12, 2017 |
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King Zog I of the Albanians was the most unusual European monarch of the twentieth century - a man entirely without royal connections who founded his own kingdom in 1928.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0814782833, Hardcover)

Shortly before 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 1, 1928, Europe gained a new kingdom and its only Muslim king: 32-year-old Zog I of the Albanians. Few foreign journalists were present in the Parliament House in Tirana to hear him swear his oath on the Koran and the Bible, yet the birth of the Kingdom of Albania—a native monarchy, not an alien imposition—did not go unnoticed abroad.

King Zog (1895–1961) was a curiosity, and so he has remained: the most atypical European monarch of the twentieth century, a man entirely without royal connections who created his own kingdom. By contemporaries, he was variously labeled "the last ruler of romance," "an appalling gangster," "the modern Napoleon," "the finest patriot," and "frankly a cad." Even today his reputation is disputed, but Zog is undeniably one of the foremost figures in Albanian history. Though notorious for cut-throat political intrigue, he promised to bring order and progress to a land that had long known little of either. "It was I who made Albania," he claimed.

Zog's reign ended in 1939; Italian Fascists forced him into exile and post-war Stalinists kept him there despite his best efforts to return. In this first full biography, Jason Tomes explores the reality behind the man described in The Times as "the bizarre King Zog" and shows him to have been the product of a unique time and place. Tomes invites readers to set aside their assumptions about modern European monarchy and meet a king who fired back at assassins and paid his bills with gold bullion.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:46 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

King Zog was a curiosity, and so he has remained the most unusual European monarch of the 20th century, a man entirely without royal connections who created his own kingdom. By contemporaries, he was variously labeled "the last ruler of romance," "an appalling gangster," "the modern Napoleon," "the finest patriot," and "frankly a cad." Even today his reputation is disputed, but Zog was undeniably one of the foremost figures in Albanian history. Though notorious for cut-throat political intrigue, he promised to bring order and progress to a land that had long known little of either. "It was I who made Albania," he claimed.… (more)

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