Open data Albania pursued an in depth investigation on religious affiliation of population of Albania. Data for this classification are available for years 1923, 1927 and 2011.  Data for 1923 and 2011 derives from population censuses while those of 1927 are drawn from civic registers. Data for 1923 and 1927 were published by T.Selenica, Shqipëria in 1927 while those of 2011 are published by the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), Main Results of Population and Housing Census, Tirana, 2012.


Religion as legal status: Counting population according to their religious affiliation was an important task for the Ottoman Empire because religion was a legal status apart from being a personal belief. Christians had different obligations from Muslims in terms of taxes and military service while Jews had also their own religiously related limitations and rights.

Source: INSTAT / Census 2011
Comments and processing: ODA

The Albanian census of 1923 and population counting according to the religion affiliation seems to be an unforgotten legacy of the Ottoman era. ‘Religions’ in 1923 census were considered namely Muslims, Christian Orthodox, Catholics and Israelites. Other religions, for which we know that were present in Albania at that time, were not counted because were not part of the Ottoman era definitions.

Religion as belief: Differently from 1923, the 2011 census aimed to enumerate religious affiliation of the population according to their belief. As result, the two censuses are not strictly comparable.
Regional division: In 1923 there were 9 administrative divisions, called Prefectures in the country. Later Tirana was divided from Durres and become the tenth prefecture, which appears in 1927 data. Albanian population living abroad is not included in these statistics.

Data reliability

There is an underreporting for 1923 data but the level of underreporting is difficult to assess. Data from 1927 reflects births, deaths and migration that were registered in state offices. These data are also underreported.

Data from 2011 are published by the Institute of Statistics and are produced by projecting on overall population data collected from 2011 census. Census interviewers asked Albanians that they met on their religious beliefs.

Data comparability

All three set of data are not strictly comparable because they measures different things. Comparing the numbers of religious groups in time thus yield suspicious results.

Religion affiliation in 1923 and 1927

In all, 814k people were enumerated in 1923 in Albania. Approximately 558k or 68.5 per cent, belonged to Islam, 171k or 20.5 per cent were Christian orthodox and approximately 85K, or 10.5 per cent were Catholics. On 1927, total population registered was 833K. Approximately, 563K or 67.6 per cent were muslims, 181K or 21.7 per cent belonged to the Christian Orthodox Church and 88,739 or 10.6 per cent were Catholics. At that time, in Albania lived also 99 Israelis, in the Prefectures of Gjirokastra, Vlora and Tirana.

Source: INSTAT / Census 2011
Comments and processing: ODA

Between 1923 and 1927, total population increased by 2.4 per cent. Muslims increased by 1 per cent, orthodox population increased by 5.8 per cent and Catholics by 4.6 per cent. Given the fact that data for 1927 were extracted by life events reported in the offices of the state, we cannot draw firm conclusions with these data. It is impossible to know if underreporting of life events was higher or lower in a certain religious group. In 1923 and 1927, those belonging to Bektashi order were counted as Muslims because at that time, they were not conceived as a different religious group.

Religious groups in different prefectures

In 1927 it is visible that Muslims were present in all Prefectures of the country and constitute a large majority of more than two thirds of the total population on six out of ten prefectures. In Gjirokastra, Muslims makes less than half of the population while in Shkodra, they are only 34.6 per cent of the population.

Source: INSTAT / Census 2011
Comments and processing: ODA

Christian Orthodox population is also present in whole territory except from Kukes/Kosovo, but they are concentrated in big numbers on Berat, Korça, Vlora and Gjirokastra. Gjirokastra is the only prefecture in the country where Orthodox population constitutes a majority.

Catholics are present in Diber, Durres, Kosovo/Kukes and Tirana, but the majority of them lives in the prefecture of Shkodra. From 88,739 Catholics present in Albania in 1927, about 73k lived in Shkodra where they constituted 64 per cent of the population.

Religious affiliation in 2011

Total population in Albania in 2011 was 2.8 million. About 1.58 million or 56.7 per cent were self declared Muslims, 58,624 people or 2.1 Bektashi, 281k or 10 per cent were Catholics and 189k or 6.7 per cent were Orthodox.

Source: INSTAT / Census 2011
Comments and processing: ODA

Albania has also 154k or 5.5 per cent of the population believers without religion, 70k or 2.5 per cent atheists and other minor groups. About 14 per cent of the population refused to answer on religious affiliation. Data on religious affiliation in respective prefectures for 2011 are not yet made available.