The Albanian Census of 1918
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The population census of 1918: its quality and importance

The general scholarly opinion is that in Albania accurate population censuses were not carried out before the census of 1945 (which was succeeded by the censuses of 1950, 1955, 1960, 1969, 1979 and 1989)  the results of which have been published by the Statistical Office. The first population census conducted by the Albanian governmental administration was taken in 1923; many of its results on a macro level have been published.  The next population census was taken in 1930, the original data of which is still available although not as compact stock. This census is obviously of less value than that of a population census the quality of which has been underestimated in the scholarly literature until now, namely the census of 1918 which was organized by an expert on statistics, the Graz-based Franz Seiner.
In January of 1916 almost the whole territory of Albania was occupied by the Austrian-Hungarian army with the exception of the fringes in the south of the country, which were occupied by Bulgarian, French, Italian and Greek troops. Shkodra, at that time the country's largest city, became the seat of the military administration, which left the traditional civil administrative structures unchanged. 
 The population census was taken on the appointed date of March 1st 1918. The whole material was transported to Shkodra and safely stored. “With the help of a large number of intelligent young Albanians”  the material was processed. By the end of September 1918 the data had been double checked and completions and supplements had been carried out. These activities had to be stopped because in the course of October the withdrawal of the army had to begin. The order to destroy the whole census material was neglected with the only exception of the district headquarters of Lushnja. Therefore, the material concerning the Berat, Fier, Lushnja and Shkrapar areas (89,142 persons) is missing.  The surviving material covering the major part of the country is as follows: 435,075 out of the 803,959 (this figure was calculated too high) persons counted in 1923 (54 %) or 20,096 sq. km out of the country's total area of 28,748 sq. km (70 %). It was very difficult to transport the census material to Vienna. The military administration unit responsible agreed to hand out the material to the Austrian Academy of Sciences along with the permission to publish and to work with it. The Academy asked the director of the population census, Franz Seiner, to work out the basic statistics. These tables were published in 1922, supported by funds of the Albanian government.  Ordered by the Albanian government, Seiner published separately also the results of the census in the tribal areas of Northern Albania. On the basis of these results he prepared the first map on the distribution, size and borders of the tribal territories.  One year earlier, the director of the Balkan Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, E. Oberhummer, published first preliminary statistical results. In those years it was also planned to publish the data on the village level, but the Academy was not able to find adequate funding for the publication. Oberhummer concluded: “If we do not receive outside support, this material indispensable for both scholarly work and any orderly administration in Albania will go to waste”. And this is what happened.
 The population census was taken very carefully and precisely conducted and prepared for more than one year in advance. The statistical data collection began two months after the Austrian-Hungarian army entered the country: in March 1916 a provisional population census was taken, linked with a livestock census and a survey of food supply. It was badly prepared and full of crucial mistakes. In the March of 1917 Franz Seiner, a census expert and statistician, was sent to Albania in order to take over the position of the official responsible for statistics in the occupied territories. It was his duty to establish a provincial office for statistics and after that to organize a general population census.

by Siegfried Gruber, June 16, 2003