King Zog I returns to Albania 51 years after dying in France
The remains of Albania’s King Zog I were flown back to his country on Thursday after being exhumed in a cemetery near Paris. Zog, who reigned from 1928 to 1939, died in France in 1961.
Zog’s remains were to be put on show in Tirana on arrival Thursday before being transferred on Saturday to a mausoleum for the royal family that has just been built as part of festivities to mark the centenary of independence from the Ottoman empire.
About 100 people attended the exhumation, which had been organised by the Albanian embassy, and took place with full military honours.
Speaking at the cemetery in Thiais, just outside Paris, Albania’s European Integration Minister Majlinda Bregu described Zog as “one of the most illustrious figures” of the country.
Having served as prime minister and president of the country after the empire’s break-up, Ahmet Muhtar Bej Zogolli declared himself King Zog I in 1928.
He survived 55 assassination attempts before being deposed by his erstwhile ally, fascist Italy, in 1939 and going into exile in Greece, moving on to four other countries end ending his days in France.
Albania’s Socialist opposition is to boycott Saturday’s interment, accusing the right-wing government of “manipulating” Zog’s controversial heritage for its own political purposes.
Zog’s grandson, Leka, is a “political adviser” to President Bujar Nashani.
A referendum in 1997 rejected a return to the monarchy but Zog’s son, Leka Zogu, declared the result fraudulent and launched an armed uprising.
It failed and he was forced into exile, although he later returned to Tirana where he died in 2011.