Mallakaster region, in southern Albania; he was a Tosk. He graduated from the American Vocational School in Tirana in 1932. He then went to Italy and enrolled at the Military Academy in Naples. Four months later, however, he was expelled for alleged communist sympathies. He then enrolled and attended the officer's training school of the Albanian armed forces in Tirana.
During the Spanish civil war, he served in the Garibaldi International Brigade on the side of the loyalists. He eventually rose to the command of the fourth battalion of the brigade. After the victory of General Francisco Franco, Shehu was sent to a French concentration camp and spent the years from 1939 to 1942 as a prisoner.
Shehu returned to Albania in 1942 following the French defeat by the Germans and immediately joined the clandestine Albanian Communist party. He was a commander of the Partisan army fighting the occupiers. He was also a commander of the forces engaged in the civil war in Albania, struggling against the non-communist resistance (see National Front for the Liberation of Albania). After the war, he was a faithful follower of Enver Hoxha (see Hoxha, Enver), and supported him in the struggle against the Titoists and against the Soviet "revisionists."
During 1945 and 1946, Shehu attended the Voroshilov Military Academy in Moscow. After his return, he held many high positions in the party and state as well as in the Albanian armed forces. At various times, he was army chief of staff, minister of the interior, and minister of defense.
He was a ruthless, radical Marxist-Leninist who gladly cooperated in the extermination of the opponents of the communist regime. He was considered for a long time the designated heir apparent for Enver Hoxha. When Hoxha decided otherwise and chose Ramiz Alia (see Alia, Ramiz), he also excluded Shehu from the succession and denounced him in the Politburo. Following the denunciation, Shehu committed suicide. True to communist practices, his wife and other family members were subsequently murdered.
Skendi Stavro, Albania ( New York, 1956); Pipa Arshi, Albanian Stalinism: Ideo-Political Aspects ( Boulder, CO, 1990).
Soviet-Albanian Relations. Until 1947, Albania was, for all practical purposes, a satellite of Yugoslavia. With the break between Stalin and Tito, however, Enver Hoxha (see Hoxha, Enver) saw an opportunity to untangle his country from the Yugoslav embrace. In January 1949, Albania applied for and was accepted for membership in COMECON, the economic organization of East European communist countries and the Soviet Union. These countries concluded separate trade agreements with Albania. Soviet technical advisers were sent to Albania and took the place of the departed Yugoslavs. At the same time, Albania became a base for the Greek communist insurgency.
In 1950, a Soviet naval base was built on the island of Sazan, threatening the opening of the Adriatic sea to the Mediterranean. By 1952, the naval base was opera