The Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe: An Introduction

By Richard F. Staar | Go to book overview

Chapter 1 ALBANIA: Land of the Eagles

STILL a thorn in the flank of Yugoslavia, a shadow on a formerly Soviet sphere of influence, Albania provides a window into Europe for the Chinese communists. The region now known as the People's Republic of Albania, bordering on Yugoslavia and Greece as well as the Adriatic Sea, has an area of about 11, 100 square miles and a population of about 2 million. Yet this small, poor, and unproductive land of mountaineers, no larger in area than the state of Maryland, plays a significant role in communist international politics. From the days of the Greek and Roman empires, when traders plied its coasts, Albania remained aloof and detached from world affairs well into modern times.1 It was ruled by the Ottomans for nearly four hundred years, commencing in 1468 with the defeat of the Albanian national patriot Skanderbeg, who had defended the country against the Turkish army for almost a quarter of a century with his rugged mountain warriors.

Although the people of Albania have usually stood aside from affairs outside their borders, they found themselves overrun and engulfed by events of the Second World War. A little-known schoolteacher and later self-appointed army general, Enver Hoxha, organized a clandestine movement which became known as the National Liberation Front. As the Italians and Germans withdrew in 1944, Hoxha and his communist-dominated "democratic front" succeeded in liquidating most of the Albanian anticommunist organizations, such as the Nationalist Front (Balli Kombetar) and the Legality (Legaliteti) movement.2

____________________
1
For a good historical introduction see Stavro Skendi (ed.), Albania ( New York, 1956), pp. 1-30; and Nicholas J. Pano, The People's Republic of Albania ( Baltimore, 1968), pp. 13-43.
2
About 15,000 Albanians were executed and 50,000 others imprisoned. See ACEN News, no. 144, January-February 1970, p. 26, and [ Albania], Twenty Years of Socialism in Albania (Tirana, 1964), p. 12.

-3-

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