Much Albanian popular lore is based on the exploits of the national hero Gjergj Kastrioti (known as Scanderbeg, 1405–68), who led his people against the Turks.
Ahmet Bey Zogu (1895–1961), shepherd, military commander, minister of the interior, and premier, was elected first president of the new republic in 1925; in 1928, when Albania became a kingdom, he ascended the throne as Zog I. After Italian forces occupied Albania in April 1939, he fled the country, dying in exile in southern France. Two major political leaders were Enver Hoxha (1908–85), postwar Albania's first premier, minister of foreign affairs, and defense minister; and Mahmet Shehu (1913–81), who replaced Hoxha as premier in 1954, when Hoxha became first secretary of the Workers Party's Central Committee.
Albania's written literature of a nationalist character first developed among Italo-Albanians in Calabria in the mid-19th century and among the Albanian intellectuals in Constantinople in the second half of the 19th century. Naim Erashëri (1846–1900), Albania's national poet, belonged to the Constantinople group. His most highly regarded works are Bagëti e Bujqësi (Cattle and Land), Histori e Skenderbeut (History of Scanderbeg), and a collection of short poems, Lulet e Verës (Spring Flowers). Kostandin Kristoforidhi (K. Nelko, 1827–95) translated the Old and New Testaments into Albanian and compiled a standard Albanian-Greek dictionary. Faik Konitza (1875–1942), prewar Albanian minister to Washington, edited a literary review, Albania, which became the focal publication of Albanian writers living abroad. Gjergj Fishta (1871–1940), a Franciscan friar who was active in the nationalist movement, wrote a long epic poem, Lahuta e Malcís (The Lute of the Mountains), which is regarded as a masterpiece of Albanian literature. Bishop Fan Stylian Noli (1882–1965), a political leader in the early 1920s, was Albania's foremost translator of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Cervantes, and other world classics. Lasgush Poradeci (1899–1987) was a highly regarded lyric poet.