National Youth Day in Albania is a public holiday, celebrated on December 8, designed to commemorate student demonstrations that occurred in 1990. It was established as a public holiday in the country in 2010.
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History of the Holiday
Albania was liberated from Nazi occupation in 1944, becoming a socialist republic. It severed ties with the west and became dependent on aid from the USSR after World War II. When Ramiz Alia became head of state in 1985, he loosened some of the political controls, allowing people in Albania to discuss the problems of their society publicly. On December 8, 1990, student protests began in Tirana, the capital of Albania. Students of what was then the Enver Hoxha University, now the University of Tirana, marched through city streets, demanding reform, claiming that Alia was too cautious. The number of protesters reached 3,000 by December 11, causing Alia to meet with the students to quiet the unrest. He agreed to take further steps to democratise Albania.
In addition to recognising the efforts of students to effect change in Albania, the holiday is also a day to remember students who were poisoned by toxic gas in 1990. Albanian youth and others in Kosovo were targeted by the Serbians using poison gas which was later determined to be Sarin, a nerve gas. Initially, it was believed that children who were displaying symptoms were suffering from a mysterious illness. Children, some of which were toddlers and infants, suffered fainting spells, vomiting and convulsions. The majority of those affected were Albanian Kosovars and the suffering continued for most of a year. The illness coincided with the decision made by the Serbian government to segregate schools. Children reported a white powder on their desk that, when touched, led them to the symptoms initially thought to be an illness. It was not until a United Nations investigation in 1999 that the use of Sarin was discovered, although many Serbians still deny that the attacks occurred.
Traditions and Celebrations
On National Youth Day, concerts, cultural events and workshops to discuss political as well as social issues are held to commemorate the student protests. Many government officials meet with students and other young people in an effort to address issues faced by youth in Albania and around the world. Recent focus has been on promoting healthy lifestyles among young people. Officials seek to tackle issues such as tobacco use, alcohol, drugs, unsafe sex and the importance of communication with parents.