Albania was the only European state with a Muslim majority; 70 per cent of Albanians were Muslim, 20 per cent Orthodox and 10 per cent Catholic. The population after the first world war was 92 per cent Albanian. But if Albania was one of the most ethnically homogeneous of states in eastern Europe, it was also the most backward. Four-fifths of the population were illiterate; in 1919 the only working motorised vehicles in the country were three dilapidated Ford trucks left behind by allied troops; in 1927 the country had one hundred trained doctors, twenty-one dentists, and fifty-nine pharmacists, whilst the districts of Dibër and Kosovë had hospitals but no doctors; in 1939 only 1.5 per cent of the population were engaged primarily in manufacturing industry.
At the end of the first world war Albania was partitioned and occupied by Serbian, Greek, French, British, and Italian troops; the only functioning Albanian government was that based in Durrës under Italian protection. This was not to the taste of the northern tribal chiefs, southern landowners, and those few members of the intelligentsia who wished to reassert their independence. They convened a congress which met at Lushnjë from 21 January to 9 February 1920. Its purpose was to secure the withdrawal of foreign forces, to protect Albania against further foreign domination, and to establish political institutions. The contrast between these modernist aspirations and the conditions in which they had to be sought was illustrated by the fact that the congress could only meet after a general besa, or suspension of blood feuds, had been declared.
The statute produced by the Lushnjë congress was the first constitutional document promulgated in Albania without foreign dictation. It provided for the calling of an assembly of seventy-nine members to be elected on a wide franchise, but given the backwardness of Albanian society this made those who organised the voting the decisive element in any poll; the statute also set up an executive in the form of a four-man supreme council which was to consist of one Catholic, one Orthodox and two Muslims, one of whom would be a Bektashi and one a Sunni.
After the Lushnjë congress the Durres government dissolved itself but other