Operation Kosovo
About Operation Kosovo Albanian Historical Resource


The Illyrians

The origins of the Albanian people are not definitely known, but data drawn from history and from linguistic, archaeological, and anthropological studies have led to the
conclusion that Albanians are the direct descendants of the ancient Illyrians and that
the latter were natives of the lands they inhabited. Similarly, the Albanian language
derives from the language of the Illyrians, the transition from Illyrian to Albanian
apparently occurring between the 4th and 6th centuries AD.

Illyrian culture is believed to have evolved from the Stone Age and to have manifested itself in the territory of Albania toward the beginning of the Bronze Age, about 2000 BC. The Illyrians were not a uniform body of people but a conglomeration of many tribes that inhabited the western part of the Balkans, from what is now Slovenia in the northwest to (and including) the region of Epirus, which extends about halfway down the mainland of modern Greece. In general, Illyrians in the highlands ofAlbania were more isolated than those in the lowlands, and their culture evolved more slowly--a distinction that persisted throughout Albania's history.

In its beginning, the kingdom of Illyria comprised the actual territories of
Dalmatia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, with a large part of
modern Serbia. Shkodra (Scutari) was its capital, just as it is now, the most
important center of Northern Albania.

The earliest known king of Illyria was Hyllus (The Star) who is recorded to
have died in the year 1225 B.C. The Kingdom, however, reached its zenith in
the fourth century B.C. when Bardhylus (White Star), one of the most
prominent of the Illyrian kings, united under scepter the kingdoms of Illyria,
Molossia (Epirus*) and a good part of Macedonia. But its decay began under
the same ruler as a result of the attacks made on it by Philip of Macedon,
father of Alexander the Great.

In the year 232 B.C. the Illyrian throne was occupied by Teuta, the celebrated
Queen whom historians have called Catherine the Great of Illyria. The
depredations of her thriving navy on the rising commercial development of the
Republic forced the Roman Senate to declare war against the Queen. A huge
army and navy under the command of of Santumalus and Alvinus attacked
Central Albania, and, after two years of protracted warfare, Teuta was induced
for peace (227 B.C.)

The last king of Illyria was Gentius, of pathetic memory. In 165 B.C. he was
defeated by the Romans and brought to Rome as a captive.

Henceforth, Illyria consisting of the Enkalayes, the Taulantes, the Epirotes, and
the Ardianes, became a Roman dependency. She was carved out into three
independent republics the capitals of which were respectively Scodar
(Shkoder), Epidamnus (Durres) and Dulcigno (todays' Ulqin in Montenegro)

Authors of antiquity relate that the Illyrians were a sociable and hospitable
people, renowned for their daring and bravery at war. Illyrian women were
fairly equal in status to the men, even to the point of becoming heads of tribal
federations. In matters of religion, Illyrians were pagans who believed in an
afterlife and buried their dead along with arms and various articles intended for
personal use.

The land of Illyria was rich in minerals--iron, copper, gold, silver--and Illyrians
became skillful in the mining and processing of metals. They were highly skilled
boat builders and sailors as well; indeed, their light, swift galleys known as
liburnae were of such superior design that the Romans incorporated them into
their own fleet as a type of warship called the Liburnian.

The Greeks.

From the 8th to the 6th century BC the Greeks founded a string of colonies on
Illyrian soil, two of the most prominent of which were Epidamnus (modern
Durrës) and Apollonia (near modern Vlorë). The presence of Greek colonies
on their soil brought the Illyrians into contact with a more advanced civilization,
which helped them to develop their own culture, while they in turn influenced
the economic and political life of the colonies. In the 3rd century BC the
colonies began to decline and eventually perished.

Roughly parallel with the rise of Greek colonies, Illyrian tribes began to evolve
politically from relatively small and simple entities into larger and more complex
ones. At first they formed temporary alliances with one another for defensive
or offensive purposes, then federations and, still later, kingdoms. The most
important of these kingdoms, which flourished from the 5th to the 2nd century
BC, were those of the Enkalayes, the Taulantes, the Epirotes, and the Ardianes.

After warring for the better part of the 4th century BC against the expansionist
Macedonian state of Philip II and Alexander the Great, the Illyrians faced a
greater threat from the growing power of the Romans. Seeing Illyrian territory
as a bridgehead for conquests east of the Adriatic, Rome in 229 BC attacked
and defeated the Illyrians, led by Queen Teuta, and by 168 BC established
effective control over Illyria.

The Roman Empire.

The Romans ruled Illyria--which now became the province of Illyricum--for
about six centuries. Under Roman rule Illyrian society underwent great change,
especially in its outward, material aspect. Art and culture flourished, particularly
in Apollonia, whose school of philosophy became celebrated in antiquity. To a
great extent, though, the Illyrians resisted assimilation into Roman culture.
Illyrian culture survived, along with the Illyrian tongue, though many Latin
words entered the language and later became a part of the Albanian language.

Christianity manifested itself in Illyria during Roman rule, about the middle of
the 1st century AD. At first the new religion had to compete with Oriental
cults--among them that of Mithra, Persian god of light--which had entered the
land in the wake of Illyria's growing interaction with eastern regions of the
empire. For a long time it also had to compete with gods worshiped by Illyrian
pagans. The steady growth of the Christian community in Dyrrhachium (the
Roman name for Epidamnus) led to the creation there of a bishopric in AD 58.
Later, episcopal seats were established in Apollonia, Buthrotum (modern
Butrint), and Scodra (modern Shkodrë).

By the time the empire began to decline, the Illyrians, profiting from a long
tradition of martial habits and skills, had acquired great influence in the Roman
military hierarchy. Indeed, several of them went on from there to become
emperors. From the mid-3rd to the mid-4th century AD the reins of the empire
were almost continuously in the hands of emperors of Illyrian origin: Gaius
Decius, Claudius Gothicus, Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian, and Constantine the

The Byzantine Empire.

From Illyria to Albania.

When the Roman Empire divided into east and west in 395, the territories of
modern Albania became part of the Byzantine Empire. As in the Roman
Empire, some Illyrians rose to positions of eminence in the new empire. Three
of the emperors who shaped the early history of Byzantium (reigning from 491
to 565) were of Illyrian origin: Anastasius I, Justin I, and--the most celebrated
of Byzantine emperors--Justinian I.

In the first decades under Byzantine rule (until 461), Illyria suffered the
devastation of raids by Visigoths, Huns, and Ostrogoths. Not long after these
barbarian invaders swept through the Balkans, the Slavs appeared. Between
the 6th and 8th centuries they settled in Illyrian territories and proceeded to
assimilate Illyrian tribes in much of what is now Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, and Serbia. The tribes of southern Illyria, however--including
modern Albania--averted assimilation and preserved their native tongue.

In the course of several centuries, under the impact of Roman, Byzantine, and
Slavic cultures, the tribes of southern Illyria underwent a transformation, and a
transition occurred from the old Illyrian population to a new Albanian one. As a
consequence, from the 8th to the 11th century, the name Illyria gradually gave
way to the name, first mentioned in the 2nd century AD by the geographer
Ptolemy of Alexandria, of the Albanoi tribe, which inhabited what is now
central Albania. From a single tribe the name spread to include the rest of the
country as Arbri and, finally, Albania. The genesis of Albanian nationality
apparently occurred at this time as the Albanian people became aware that
they shared a common territory, name, language, and cultural heritage.
(Scholars have not been able to determine the origin of Shqiperia, the
Albanians' own name for their land, which is believed to have supplanted the
name Albania during the 16th and 17th centuries. It probably was derived from
shqipe, or "eagle," which, modified into shqipria, became "the land of the

Long before that event, Christianity had become the established religion in
Albania, supplanting pagan polytheism and eclipsing for the most part the
humanistic world outlook and institutions inherited from the Greek and Roman
civilizations. But, though the country was in the fold of Byzantium, Albanian
Christians remained under the jurisdiction of the Roman pope until 732. In that
year the iconoclast Byzantine emperor Leo III, angered by Albanian
archbishops because they had supported Rome in the Iconoclastic Controversy,
detached the Albanian church from the Roman pope and placed it under the
patriarch of Constantinople. When the Christian church split in 1054 between
the East and Rome, southern Albania retained its tie to Constantinople while
northern Albania reverted to the jurisdiction of Rome. This split in the Albanian
church marked the first significant religious fragmentation of the country.

Medieval culture.

In the latter part of the Middle Ages, Albanian urban society reached a high
point of development. Foreign commerce flourished to such an extent that
leading Albanian merchants had their own agencies in Venice, Ragusa (modern
Dubrovnik, Croatia), and Thessalonica (now Thessaloniki, Greece). The
prosperity of the cities also stimulated the development of education and the

Albanian, however, was not the language used in schools, churches, and official
government transactions. Instead, Greek and Latin, which had the powerful
support of the state and the church, were the official languages of culture and

The new administrative system of the themes, or military provinces created by
the Byzantine Empire, contributed to the eventual rise of feudalism in Albania,
as peasant soldiers who served military lords became serfs on their landed
estates. Among the leading families of the Albanian feudal nobility were the
Thopias, Balshas, Shpatas, Muzakas, Aranitis, Dukagjinis, and Kastriotis. The
first three of these rose to become rulers of principalities that were practically
independent of Byzantium.

The decline of Byzantium.

Owing partly to the weakness of the Byzantine Empire, Albania, beginning in
the 9th century, came under the domination, in whole or in part, of a succession
of foreign powers: Bulgarians, Norman crusaders, the Angevins of southern
Italy, Serbs, and Venetians. The final occupation of the country in 1347 by the
Serbs, led by Stefan Dusan, caused massive migrations of Albanians abroad,
especially to Greece and the Aegean islands. By the mid-14th century,
Byzantine rule had come to an end in Albania, after nearly 1,000 years.

A few decades later the country was confronted with a new threat, that of the
Turks, who at this juncture were expanding their power in the Balkans. The
Ottoman Turks invaded Albania in 1388 and completed the occupation of the
country about four decades later (1430). But after 1443 an Albanian of military
genius--Gjergj Kastrioti (1405-68), known as Skanderbeg--rallied the Albanian
princes and succeeded in driving the occupiers out. For the next 25 years,
operating out of his stronghold in the mountain town of Kruj, Skanderbeg
frustrated every attempt by the Turks to regain Albania, which they envisioned
as a springboard for the invasion of Italy and western Europe. His unequal fight
against the mightiest power of the time won the esteem of Europe as well as
some support in the form of money and military aid from Naples, the papacy,
Venice, and Ragusa. After he died, Albanian resistance gradually collapsed,
and many Albanians fled to Italy enabling the Turks to reoccupy the country by

Skanderbeg's long struggle to keep Albania free became highly significant to
the Albanian people, as it strengthened their solidarity, made them more
conscious of their national identity, and served later as a great source of
inspiration in their struggle for national unity, freedom, and independence.

The Ottoman Empire.

The nature of Turkish rule.

The Turks established their dominion over Albania just as the Renaissance
began to unfold in Europe, so that, cut off from contact and exchanges with
western Europe, Albania had no chance to participate in, or benefit from, the
humanistic achievements of that era. Conquest also caused great suffering and
vast destruction of the country's economy, commerce, art, and culture.
Moreover, to escape persecution by their conquerors, about one-fourth of the
country's population fled abroad to southern Italy, Sicily, and the Dalmatian

Although the Turks ruled Albania for more than four centuries, they were
unable to extend their authority throughout the country. In the highland regions
Turkish authorities exercised only a formal sovereignty, as the highlanders
refused to pay taxes, serve in the army, or surrender their arms--although they
did pay an annual tribute to Constantinople.

Albanians rose in rebellion time and again against Ottoman occupation. In order
to check the ravages of Albanian resistance--which was partly motivated by
religious feelings, namely, defense of the Christian faith--as well as to bring
Albania spiritually closer to Turkey, the Ottomans initiated a systematic drive
toward the end of the 16th century to Islamize the population. This drive
continued through the following century, by the end of which two-thirds of the
people had converted to Islam. A major reason Albanians became Muslims
was to escape Turkish violence and exploitation, an instance of which was a
crushing tax that Christians would have to pay if they refused to convert.

Islamization aggravated the religious fragmentation of Albanian society, which
had first appeared in the Middle Ages and which was later used by
Constantinople and Albania's neighbours in attempts to divide and denationalize
the Albanian people. Hence leaders of the Albanian national movement in the
19th century used the rallying cry "The religion of Albanians is Albanianism" in
order to overcome religious divisions and foster national unity.

The basis of Ottoman rule in Albania was a feudalmilitary system of landed
estates, called timars, which were awarded to military lords for loyalty and
service to the empire. As Ottoman power began to decline in the 18th century,
the central authority of the empire in Albania gave way to the local authority of
autonomy-minded lords. The most successful of these lords were three
generations of pashas of the Bushati family, who dominated most of northern
Albania from 1757 to 1831, and Ali Pasa Tepelen of Janina (now Ionnina,
Greece), a colourful Oriental-type despot who ruled over southern Albania and
northern Greece from 1788 to 1822. These pashas created separate states
within the Ottoman state until they were overthrown by the sultan.

After the fall of the pashas, in 1831 Turkey officially abolished the timar
system. In the wake of its collapse, economic and social power passed from
the feudal lords to private landowning beys and, in the northern highlands, to
tribal chieftains called bajraktars, who presided over given territories with rigid
patriarchal societies that were often torn by blood feuds. Peasants who were
formerly serfs now worked on the estates of the beys as tenant farmers.

Ottoman rule in Albania remained backward and oppressive to the end. In
these circumstances, many Albanians went abroad in search of careers and
advancement within the empire, and an unusually large number of them, in
proportion to Albania's population, rose to positions of prominence as
government and military leaders. More than two dozen grand viziers (similar to
prime ministers) of Turkey were of Albanian origin.

Albanian nationalism.

By the mid-19th century Turkey was in the throes of the "Eastern Question," as
the peoples of the Balkans, including Albanians, sought to realize their national
aspirations. To defend and promote their national interests, Albanians met in
Prizren, a town in Kosovo, in 1878 and founded the Albanian League. The
league had two main goals, one political and the other cultural. First, it strove
(unsuccessfully) to unify all Albanian territories--at the time divided among the
four vilayets, or provinces, of Kosovo, Shkodr, Monastir, and Janina--into one
autonomous state within the framework of the Ottoman Empire. Second, it
spearheaded a movement to develop Albanian language, literature, education,
and culture. In line with the second program, in 1908 Albanian leaders met in
the town of Monastir (now Bitola, Macedonia) and adopted a national alphabet.
Based mostly on the Latin script, this supplanted several other alphabets,
including Arabic and Greek, that were in use until then.

The Albanian League was suppressed by the Turks in 1881, in part because
they were alarmed by its strong nationalistic orientation. By then, however, the
league had become a powerful symbol of Albania's national awakening, and its
ideas and objectives fueled the drive that culminated later in national

When the Young Turks, who seized power in Istanbul in 1908, ignored their
commitments to Albanians to institute democratic reforms and to grant
autonomy, Albanians embarked on an armed struggle, which, at the end of
three years (1910-12), forced the Turks to agree, in effect, to grant their
demands. Alarmed at the prospect of Albanian autonomy, Albania's Balkan
neighbours, who had already made plans to partition the region, declared war
on Turkey in October 1912, and Greek, Serbian, and Montenegrin armies
advanced into Albanian territories.

To prevent the annihilation of the country, Albanian national delegates met at a
congress in Vlorë. They were led by Ismail Qemal, an Albanian who had held
several high positions in the Ottoman government. On Nov. 28, 1912, the
congress issued the Vlorë proclamation, which declared Albania's

Independent Albania.

Creating the new state.

Shortly after the defeat of Turkey by the Balkan allies, a conference of
ambassadors of the Great Powers (Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary,
France, and Italy) convened in London in December 1912 to settle the
outstanding issues raised by the conflict. With support given to the Albanians by
Austria-Hungary and Italy, the conference agreed to create an independent
state of Albania. But, in drawing the borders of the new state, owing to strong
pressure from Albania's neighbours, the Great Powers largely ignored
demographic realities and ceded the vast region of Kosovo to Serbia, while, in
the south, Greece was given the greater part of Çamria, a part of the old region
of Epirus centred on the Thamis River. Many observers doubted whether the
new state would be viable with about one-half of Albanian lands and population
left outside its borders, especially since these lands were the most productive in
food grains and livestock. On the other hand, a small community of about
35,000 ethnic Greeks was included within Albania's borders. (However,
Greece, which counted all Albanians of the Orthodox faith--20 percent of the
population--as Greeks, claimed that the number of ethnic Greeks was
considerably larger.) Thereafter, Kosovo and the Çamria remained troublesome
issues in Albanian-Greek and Albanian-Yugoslav relations.

The Great Powers also appointed a German prince, Wilhelm zu Wied, as ruler
of Albania. Wilhelm arrived in Albania in March 1914, but his unfamiliarity with
Albania and its problems, compounded by complications arising from the
outbreak of World War I, led him to depart from Albania six months later. The
war plunged the country into a new crisis, as the armies of Austria-Hungary,
France, Italy, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia invaded and occupied it. Left
without any political leadership or authority, the country was in chaos, and its
very fate hung in the balance. At the Paris Peace Conference after the war,
the extinction of Albania was averted largely through the efforts of U.S.
President Woodrow Wilson, who vetoed a plan by Britain, France, and Italy to
partition Albania among its neighbours.

A national congress, held in Lushnje in January 1920, laid the foundations of a
new government. In December of that year Albania, this time with the help of
Britain, gained admission to the League of Nations, thereby winning for the first
time international recognition as a sovereign nation and state.

Bishop Noli and King Zog.

At the start of the 1920s, Albanian society was divided by two apparently
irreconcilable forces. One, made up mainly of deeply conservative landowning
beys and tribal bajraktars who were tied to the Ottoman and feudal past, was
led by Ahmed Bey Zogu, a chieftain from the Mat region of north-central
Albania. The other, made up of liberal intellectuals, democratic politicians, and
progressive merchants who looked to the West and wanted to modernize and
Westernize Albania, was led by Fan S. Noli, an American-educated bishop of
the Orthodox church. In the event, this East-West polarization of Albanian
society was of such magnitude and complexity that neither leader could master
and overcome it.

In the unusually open and free political, social, and cultural climate that
prevailed in Albania between 1920 and 1924, the liberal forces gathered
strength, and, by mid-1924, a popular revolt forced Zogu to flee to Yugoslavia.
Installed as prime minister of the new government in June 1924, Noli set out to
build a Western-style democracy in Albania, and toward that end he announced
a radical program of land reform and modernization. But his vacillation in
carrying out the program, coupled with a depleted state treasury and a failure to
obtain international recognition for his revolutionary, left-of-centre government,
quickly alienated most of Noli's supporters, and six months later he was
overthrown by an armed assault led by Zogu and aided by Yugoslavia.

Zogu began his 14-year reign in Albania--first as president (1925-28), then as
King Zog I (1928-39)--in a country rife with political and social instability.
Greatly in need of foreign aid and credit in order to stabilize the country, Zog
signed a number of accords with Italy. These provided transitory financial relief
to Albania, but they effected no basic change in its economy, especially under
the conditions of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Italy, on the other hand,
viewed Albania primarily as a bridgehead for military expansion into the
Balkans. On April 7, 1939, Italy invaded and shortly after occupied the country.
King Zog fled to Greece.

The social base of Zog's power was a coalition of southern beys and northern
bajraktars. With the support of this coalition--plus a vast Oriental bureaucracy,
an efficient police force, and Italian money--King Zog brought a large measure
of stability to Albania. He extended the authority of the government to the
highlands, reduced the brigandage that had formerly plagued the country, laid
the foundations of a modern educational system, and took a few steps to
Westernize Albanian social life. On balance, however, his achievements were
outweighed by his failures. Although formally a constitutional monarch, in
reality Zog was a dictator, and Albania under him experienced the fragile
stability of a dictatorship. Zog failed to resolve Albania's fundamental problem,
that of land reform, leaving the peasantry as impoverished as before. In order
to stave off famine, the government had to import food grains annually, but,
even so, thousands of people migrated abroad in search of a better life.
Moreover, Zog denied democratic freedoms to Albanians and created
conditions that spawned periodic revolts against his regime, alienated most of
the educated class, fomented labour unrest, and led to the formation of the first
communist groups in the country.

World War II.

Using Albania as a military base, in October 1940, Italian forces invaded
Greece, but they were quickly thrown back into Albania. After Nazi Germany
defeated Greece and Yugoslavia in 1941, the regions of Kosovo and Çamria
were joined to Albania, thus creating an ethnically united Albanian state. The
new state lasted until November 1944, when the Germans--who had replaced
the Italian occupation forces following Italy's surrender in 1943--withdrew from
Albania. Kosovo was then reincorporated into the Serbian part of Yugoslavia,
and Çamria into Greece.

Meanwhile, the various communist groups that had germinated in Zog's Albania
merged in November 1941 to form the Albanian Communist Party and began to
fight the occupiers as a unified resistance force. After a successful struggle
against the fascists and two other resistance groups--the National Front (Balli
Kombtar) and the pro-Zog Legality Party(Legaliteti)--which contended for
power with them, the communists seized control of the country on Nov. 29,
1944. Enver Hoxha, a college instructor who had led the resistance struggle of
communist forces, became the leader of Albania by virtue of his post as
secretary-general of the party. Albania, which before the war had been under
the personal dictatorship of King Zog, now fell under the collective dictatorship
of the Albanian Communist Party. The country became officially the People's
Republic of Albania in 1946 and, in 1976, the People's Socialist Republic of

The man who became the dominating figure of the Communist resistance
movement almost from the beginning was the party leader Enver Hoxha
(1908-85). Hoxha rose from a boiling crucible made up of several explosive
ingredients: the daily travail of poorly armed and badly organised guerrilla units
fighting against well-equipped and highly trained occupying armies; a nationalist
determination to prevent the more powerful Yugoslav resistance movement
from interfering unduly in Albanian domestic affairs; constant bickering with
mainly right-wing British liaison Officers operating in Albania during the war
years; and the civil war of 1943-4. Hoxha emerged from this blood-stained
period as a very ambitious, ruthless, cunning and fanatical Communist guerrilla
leader and politician. He also managed to combine very dogmatic Communist
beliefs with fierce nationalism.

After pursuing the retreating Nazi armies from Albania and defeating their
right-wing rivals the Communists set up their own government, under Hoxha's
leadership, in November 1944. Unlike the Yugoslav Communists, their Albanian
counterparts had no direct links with Moscow during the war. This state of
affairs continued in the early post-war years, when the Albanian regime was in
effect a Yugoslav satellite. But Tito and his colleagues soon discovered that
their desire to make Albania part of the Yugoslav federation was strongly
opposed by Hoxha himself. They consequently tried hard to replace him with a
more pliant leader. But Hoxha employed all his machiavellian deviousness to
thwart Yugoslav efforts to topple him, and in fact succeeded in doing so.
Hoxha came to display the same ruthlessness in his determination to create a
one-party state. All opposition - political, economic, social and cultural - was
crushed with the utmost brutality. The only group towards whom he showed
any wariness or consideration during the early years was the peasants, who
made up the great majority of the population. He first introduced a mild
agrarian reform in order to win their support. But later, when he had
consolidated his own position in the party and the country, he embarked upon a
fierce campaign of full collectivisation of agriculture.

The Yugoslav ambition to annex Albania created a split within the Albanian
party between a pro-Yugoslav and an anti-Yugoslav faction. The situation was
aggravated by the fact that the leader of the pro-Yugoslav faction, Koci Xoxe,
was appointed Minister of the Interior, thus in control of the secret police and
all other security forces. The 1948 schism between Stalin and Tito suddenly
gave Hoxha an opportunity to achieve three main political ambitions: to escape
once and for all from Yugoslavia's clutches; eliminate pro-Tito opponents who
had made life difficult for him for several years; and to establish his first direct
links with Moscow. From 1948 onwards he was to embrace Stalinism with
unparalleled eagerness and fervour. One could say he became one of the
Soviet dictator's most natural and consistent disciples. Hoxha visited Stalin in
Moscow on several occasions, when he discovered, to his delight, that there
was great affinity between them. Although the Albanian leader had been a
natural pro-Stalinist most of his life, the close alliance and friendship with Stalin
served to confirm and reinforce all his innate domineering and bloodthirsty
propensities. Both believed in absolute personal power, which was justified by a
very flexible ideology which could be manipulated to suit all possible situations.
Like Stalin, Hoxha was utterly determined to destroy all opponents, real or
imaginary, and remove every obstacle his policies encountered. Hence under
his rule every trace of natural justice, of freedom of thought and expression, as
these terms are understood in the civilised world, was wiped out in his country,
just as it had been in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Stalin's death in 1953 and the emergence of Nikita Khrushchev as party leader
in Moscow were a severe blow to Hoxha. Not only did he lose a powerful
friend and like-minded teacher, he suddenly passed under the control of a highly
volatile and unpredictable political leader who held dangerous reformist ideas.
Hoxha's first shock came in 1955 when Khrushchev decided to bring about a
reconciliation between Moscow and Yugoslavia, whose relations had remained
frozen since 1948. The Albanian leader was asked to bring to an end his
regime's long hostility towards Yugoslavia and establish normal relations with it.
Although he made a few superficial friendly gestures towards his neighbour,
Hoxha was at heart opposed to any genuine reconciliation, and he remained so
mainly because he feared Tito's reformist ideas. Another greater shock was
Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin in his 'secret speech' of 1956. Hoxha saw
this as an attack not only against the policies of his regime but also against his
own personal position in the Party and government. The Soviet leader's efforts
to persuade Hoxha to reform his rule and give up some of his Stalinist policies
also proved ineffective. As a result, tension between Moscow and Albania
steadily grew from 1955-61, when the final break occurred. The first signs of
trouble in the Soviet-Albanian alliance appeared in 1960, when Hoxha sided
with China in the early stages of the Soviet-Chinese ideological dispute.
Matters came to a head at the international conference of 81 Communist
parties held in Moscow in November 1960, where the Albanian leader openly
defied Moscow by supporting China's cause. A year later Moscow broke off
diplomatic relations with Albania and stopped all economic, industrial and
military aid. The Chinese quickly came to the rescue of their small ally in
Europe with a package of economic help. They undertook to build 25 industrial
plants in Albania with the assistance of Chinese technicians. But relations
between the two countries faced great difficulties from the beginning because
of their immense difference in size and the huge cultural and political chasm
that divided them. Nevertheless, Mao's cultural revolution did have a profound
impact on Hoxha: it led him to make all religious practices illegal in 1967.
However, serious strains between the two countries arose when the Chinese
government opened up to the USA and Yugoslavia in the early 1970's. Hoxha
rejected China's advice that his government should do the same. The alliance
finally came to an end in 1978, when Peking stopped all economic and military
aid and withdrew its experts. As a result, not only was Albania left completely
isolated, it was also deprived of all foreign aid it so desperately needed.

The end of the alliance with China marked the beginning of a period of steady
economic and industrial decline. Factories and industrial plants built in the
1950's with Soviet bloc aid became outdated and derelict. Shortage of new
machinery and equipment led to the widespread use of manual labour in
collective farms. The situation was aggravated by a highly centralised
bureaucratic system and inefficient management. At the same time, incessant
official propaganda exhorted people to increase production and to rely more
than ever on their own efforts and on natural resources. 1985 was an important
watershed for all communist countries of Europe, especially for Albania. In
March, Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet Communist leader. In April, Enver
Hoxha died at the age of 76, after having ruled the country almost like his
private life for over 40 years. He was succeeded by Ramiz Alia, a member of
the Politburo who had served for several years as Hoxha's principal deputy.

February 20th 1991, thousands of demonstrators protesting in the capital,
Tirana, topple down the statue of Enver Hoxha. Religion is legalised, the
religious institutions are opened and the ex-persecuted priests and hoxha's are
allowed to exercise their profession freely. March 31, elections are organised
all over Albania. The Party of Labour (reformed as Socialist Party) wins the
elections. In June, the formation of coalition government for national stability. In
December the collapse of the coalition government is forced by the Democratic
Party, because the Socialists are seen to be stalling on the reform programme.
Fresh general election is held in March 1992, the Democratic Party wins a
landslide victory with over 65% of the popular vote. In April, Dr Sali Berisha is
sworn in as the new President. The new government vowed to implement a
wide-ranging reform programme which will affect all aspects of life in Albania.

Throughout the life of the present Government, the focus of reform has been to
radically change the economic and social foundations of the country. It has
achieved many of its goals, and as a consequence, the DP won a landslide
victory in the General Election of 26th May 1996. The new Government has
vowed to continue with its wide ranging reform program and intends to bring
Albania into the the 21st Century.

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