Many Albanians, who are descended from the Illyrians and Pelasgians, trace their roots to Achilles and other heroes of the siege of Troy, and claim Alexander the Great as their own. During twelve consecutive periods of foreign domination, the ethnic identity of the Albanians has been constantly threatened, first by the Eastern and Western empires of Christendom, then by the Ottoman Turks, and most recently by Soviet and Chinese communists. Present-day Albania is located between the former Yugoslavia and Greece on the western shore of the Balkan peninsula, and is the least known European country. As the last Turkish province in Europe it was tightly closed to foreigners over the centuries, and until recently the country was even more isolated by its postwar Communist regime. Historically described as mysterious and xenophobic, the people and the country are both little known to most westerners-but are destined to enter the world's consciousness situated as they are in the midst of explosive Balkan conflicts. With the employment of Albanian, French, Italian and many other documentary sources, the roots of Albanian civilization, the struggle of the Albanians' to maintain their cultural and linguistic integrity, the impact of foreign influence on the country, and its recent move toward democracy are all detailed here.Edwin E. Jacques is the author of 'The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present' with ISBN 9780899509327 and ISBN 0899509320.