* COUNTRY -- Albania is Europe's poorest and most isolated country. It is bounded by the Adriatic Sea on the west, Yugoslavia on the north and east, and Greece on the south and east. About the size of Maryland, it has a population of about 2.8 million, a majority of whom are Moslems. Of the two main ethnic groups, the more urbanized Tosks live south of the Shkumbin River and the highland Ghegs live in the mountainous northern region. There are also as many as 80,000 ethnic Greeks, mostly in the south.

* HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT -- Part of the Ottoman Empire for more than 450 years, Albania was declared independent in 1912. It was ruled as a monarchy from 1928 until World War II, when Italy invaded and annexed the country in 1939. Through guerrilla struggles against the Italian occupiers, Enver Hoxha rose to power and assumed control in 1944. With Hoxha as its leader, Albania became communist and is the only remaining self-proclaimed Stalinist country.

* FOREIGN RELATIONS -- Under communist rule, Albania's foreign policy has passed through four stages. Immediately after the war, it was aligned with Yugoslavia until 1948. The second phase was alignment with the Soviet Union. After 1960, Albania's refusal to cooperate with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's attempt to enlist world communist support for condemnation of China led to a break with Moscow and alignment with Peking. But in 1978 Albania became estranged from China as the post-Mao regime moved closer to detente with the West. Since then, although it still has diplomatic relations with China, it has chosen to be without a benefactor. The United States does not recognize the Albanian government; there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries.

* ECONOMY -- After the break with China, Peking suspended all economic and military assistance, reported to total $5 billion over a 24-year period. Since then, Albania has sought greater self-reliance and new trade links with other Mediterranean countries. About 60 percent of the work force is engaged in agriculture. In 1976, Albania proclaimed self-sufficiency in bread grains. The majority of exports, mainly such mineral products as chromium, copper and petroleum, go to other communist countries, although trade has been expanding with Austria, Greece, Italy, France and Turkey. The estimated GNP in 1979 was $2.1 billion.