The Albanian Pyramid scheme crisis

14 March 1997 - 16 March 1997
Military personnel

After the definitive fall of the communist regime in 1991, Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe at the time, opted for the introduction of a western system based on the principles of capitalism. Infected by a ‘gold fever’, a large number of people succumbed to the temptation to participate in a so-called pyramid scheme at the beginning of the 1990s.

Investment structure proves to be a house of cards

The hope of getting rich quick evaporated when the investment structure eventually collapsed like a house of cards. More than half of the Albanian families lost all they had, which had not been much to begin with. So many people were affected that the entire Albanian economy, already ailing, sank even further into decline.

Popular uprising and chaos

The people blamed the government and at the end of January 1997, this discontent led to all-out rebellion but President Sali Berisha's government, already unpopular, refused to step down. The chaos resulted in total anarchy. Army units were driven out, shops, banks and arms depots were looted, criminals were let out of jail and local militias and gangs seized power. Thousands of foreigners and Albanians fled.