Albania--China's Beachhead in Europe

Albania--China's Beachhead in Europe

Albania--China's Beachhead in Europe

Albania--China's Beachhead in Europe

Excerpt

For a long time it had been difficult, if not impossible, for nationals of Western countries to obtain a visa for entry into Albania. For journalists, such a visa had been out of the question. Since the end of World War II, not a single newspaper correspondent from West Germany had been granted permission to enter the country. The last time any reporter from the free world was allowed entry had been in 1957, and the reports brought back from the most isolated of all Moscow's satellites caused a sensation. Since then, Albania had kept itself rigidly isolated from the outside world. What was happening in the craggy mountainous country on the Adriatic, particularly with the course of political developments, could only be speculated about. Official propaganda handouts and highly doubtful reports and rumors originating in the countries bordering on Albania were the basis of these speculations. The smallest of the chain of Communist people's democracies had turned itself into a kind of Tibet.

It was therefore all the more astonishing that in August, 1961, three of my German colleagues and I received official permission from Tirana not only to enter Albania but to stay in the country for almost four weeks. Western diplomats were certain that the remarkable news was all a mistake which would soon be corrected. Our journalist colleagues made no secret of their envy. Newspapermen from Iron Curtain countries simply did not know what to make of this decision by the Tirana authorities. It was so unexpected and so contrary to all previous practice that newspapermen suspected some political skullduggery behind it. Some of them gave expression to their secret fears by dark warnings about lack of food, the survival of Stalinism, and execution squads.

Uncertainty was also written on the faces of the Albanian officials who received us when our plane landed in Tirana. Their . . .

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