With the exception of the coastline, all Albanian borders are artificial. They were established in principle at the 1912-1913 conference of ambassadors in London. The country was occupied by Italian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Austro-Hungarian, Greek, and French forces during World War I, but the 1913 boundaries were essentially reaffirmed by the victorious states in 1921. The original principle was to define the borders in accordance with the best interests of the Albanian people and the nationalities in adjacent areas.
The northern and eastern borders were intended, insofar as possible, to separate the Albanians from the Serbs and Montenegrins; the southeast border was to separate Albanians and Greeks; the valuable western Macedonia lake district was to be divided among the three states—Albania, Greece, and Yugoslavia—whose populations shared the area.
When there was no compromise involving other factors, borderlines were chosen to make the best possible separation of national groups, connecting the best marked physical features available.
Allowance was made for local economic situations, for example, to prevent separation of a village from its animals' grazing areas or the markets for its produce.
Political pressures also were a factor in the negotiations, but the outcome was subject to approval by powers having relatively abstract interests, most of which involved the balance of power rather than specific economic ambitions.
Division of the lake district among three states required that each of them have a share of the lowlands in the vicinity.
Such an artificial distribution, once made, necessarily affected the borderlines to the north and south. The border that runs generally north from the lakes, although it follows the ridges of the eastern highlands, stays sixteen to thirty-two kilometers west of the watershed divide.
Because negotiators at the London conference declined to use the watershed divide as the northeast boundary of the new state of Albania, the Albanian population of Kosovo was incorporated into Serbia.
In Albania's far north and the northeast mountainous sections, the border connects high points and follows mountain ridges through the largely inaccessible Prokletije, and further south Bjeshkët e Namuna (The Accursed Mountains).
For the most part, there is no natural boundary from the highlands to the Adriatic, although Lake Shkodër and a portion of the Buna River south of it were used to mark Albania's northwest border. From the lake district south and southwest to the Ionian Sea, the country's southeast border goes against the grain of the land, crossing a number of ridges instead of following them.
There are four main geographical regions in Albania: the Northern Mountain Range (Albanian: Krahina Malore Veriore) (the Albanian part of the Prokletije), the Southern Mountain Range, the Western Lowlands (Albanian: Ultësira Bregdetare), and the Central Mountain Range (Albanian: Krahina Malore Qendrore).