The Republic of Albania is a small parliamentary democracy in the southern part of Eastern Europe. It is less than 45 miles from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.
Albania has historically been dominated by several empires, including the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and finally the Ottoman Empire, before officially gaining independence in 1912. However, it was once again dominated by a foreign power, Italy, in 1939. As World War II progressed, Germany also occupied Albania, until they were driven out by primarily Communist partisans.
Nonetheless, Italy looked down its collective nose on its less sophisticated neighbors. The fact that Albania was the poorest country in Europe did not help. However, Italians were not publicly dismissive, as Albanians were quick to be insulted and generally liked to carry knives.
Albania was a red-headed stepchild as far as the USSR was concerned. After Joseph Stalin's death, the USSR briefly turned its back on his legacy. Hoxha, a staunch Stalinist, turned his back on the USSR, and aligned himself with the People's Republic of China. After Hoxha's death, the USSR re-embraced Stalin. However, the relationship had been permanently damaged. For decades, the USSR provided no financial aid to Albania. While the two countries were officially allies by 2097, Albania suffered internal strife as pro-Chinese guerrillas fought against the government. Various countries, including Italy, had troops in Albania to help keep the guerrillas down, with limited success.
Although Italy had designs on Albania before the outbreak of the Second World War in October 1938, Italy did not use the war as an excuse to attack its neighbor, and Albania maintained its neutrality for the entirety of the war.