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People's Socialist Republic of Albania

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People's Republic of Albania
(1946–1976)
Republika Popullore e Shqipërisë
People's Socialist Republic of Albania
(1976–1991)
Republika Popullore Socialiste e Shqipërisë
Map of the PSR Albania.png

Map of People's Republic of Albania
(1946–1976)
Republika Popullore e Shqipërisë
People's Socialist Republic of Albania
(1976–1991)
Republika Popullore Socialiste e Shqipërisë
Flag of Albania (1946–1992).svg.png Emblem of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania.png
Flag State Emblem

The People’s Socialist Republic of Albania, known as the People's Republic of Albania from 1946 to 1976, was a people’s republic in Southeast Europe that lasted until 1991, though the communist government continued to hold power until early 1992 in the succeeding Republic of Albania.

History

Before World War II, Albania was Europe’s poorest nation. The country had not even undergone a widespread industrial revolution; it was an entirely feudal and agricultural nation. The only fragments of industry were those which had been left behind by the anticommunist occupiers during the war, a war which damaged their economy even further. The socialists swiftly set about transforming the nation’s economy when they came to power in the mid-1940s, nationalizing the remaining industries, enacting land reform programmes, and organizing a planned economy in imitation of the Soviet Union. By 1951 the new republic successfully replaced all the existing market forms and mechanisms, and from then on the centralization of the economy intensified:

Based on the experience of the Soviet Union, the Albanian Communist Government introduced a centrally-planned economic system. By 1951, the government replaced all the existing market forms and mechanisms by central planning. From then on the centralization of the economy was intensified. The planning system was based on Five Year Plans, where all the economic decisions on production, pricing, wages, investments, external and internal trade were made at the beginning of the plan, and remained unchanged for the whole period. Changes between the plans were also minimal in terms of wages and prices.

— University of London, [1]

This resulted in impressive economic growth, as well as the rapid development of industry:

During the first period [1945–1975], the Albanian economy was relatively successful. It grew substantially until the break with China in the seventies. The growth of the Net Material Product from one five-year plan to the next was, on average, nearly 44 percent, with industry recording the fastest growth rates during this period. The average growth of industry from 1951 to 1975 was 82.5 percent. The share of agriculture declined from 80 percent during the first five-year plan (1951–55) to 36% in the fifth plan (1971–75), while the corresponding figures for industry were 14 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

— University of London, [1]

Albania played an important role in the Greek Civil War, with many of the guerrillas using Albania for sanctuary, to the extent that it was briefly feared at the time that the Greek government (which also claimed southern Albania as Greek territory and proclaimed itself in a "state of war" with Albania since 1940) would invade. The Soviets did intervene actively in the civil war insofar as they helped supply weapons to the insurgents and helped coordinate all sorts of aid from the People's Democracies. However, Stalin later concluded that the KKE was in a hopeless position and could not win, and therefore sought to wrap up the civil war. Hoxha agreed with Stalin's assessment.

From 1949 to 1953, some anti-socialist states parachuted disgruntled Albanians into the republic in order to overthrow the government, but their schemes failed.[2] In 1991 however the antisocialist states succeeded in bribing masses of people into causing widespread unrest, street demonstrations and a general strike lasting three weeks, leading to the discontinuation of the new administration.[3] The antisocialist state then prohibited communists from taking office.[4]

In summary:

Overall, how can we characterize communist Albania? Clearly, in spite of considerable economic development relative to its previous level, it remained poor and mostly rural. However, the social agenda of development made much more progress. Education and social security became virtually universal, and health care was available to all. Moreover, traditionally severe discrimination against women was greatly reduced.

— University of London, [1]

Some achievements of the communists are acknowledged even by antisocialists:

The reduction of long-standing traditions of discrimination against women, and the provision of universal education and primary health-care were achievements which even the regime’s enemies acknowledge.

— University of London, [1]

The communists also greatly developed the republic’s economy, developed its infrastructure, and liberated it from imperialist domination. One of the best summations of the PSRA’s achievements is given by the Encyclopædia Britannica:

Albania’s economy was revolutionized under Hoxha’s long rule. Farmland was confiscated from wealthy landowners and gathered into collective farms that eventually enabled Albania to become almost completely self-sufficient in food crops. Industry, which had previously been almost nonexistent, received huge amounts of investment, so that by the 1980s it had grown to contribute more than half of the gross national product. Electricity was brought to every rural district, epidemics of disease were stamped out, and illiteracy became a thing of the past.

— Encyclopædia Britannica, [5]

There are three major Western books on the fall of socialism in Albania: Albania in Transition by Elez Biberaj, Modern Albania by Fred C. Abrahams, and The End of Communist Rule in Albania edited by Shinasi Rama. Basically, socialism in Albania fell for three simple reasons:

  1. The economy was unsustainable. Isolation meant that much of the industrial sector consisted of equipment that was decades out of date, and an inability to obtain spare parts, lighting fixtures, etc. when things broke. Mining was undermined by lack of dynamite. Furthermore, by 1989-1990 Western countries were requiring Albania to enact political and economic changes in return for loans and greater trade.
  2. The government's ban on religion, its restrictions on foreign culture, and overall harsh domestic policies meant that socialism was associated with repression and a puritanical approach toward society. This, together with the aforementioned economic problems, created resentment, especially among students and the intelligentsia.
  3. The fall of communism in Eastern Europe made many Albanians wonder why their country shouldn't be involved in the same process. Ramiz Alia himself later said that Ceaușescu's overthrow was what made him realize the possibility of the same thing happening in Albania.

During the course of 1990 Alia kept insisting that the single-party system in Albania would not be changed, that socialism would not be abandoned, and that what was going on in Eastern Europe "did not apply" to Albania. His proposed economic and political reforms were relatively mild and deemed insufficient by both anti-communists inside the country and by the Western governments. Finally, a strike in December by students at the Enver Hoxha University in the capital caused Alia to argue that the country had no other choice but to begin deviating from the principles of socialism. Later that same month Alia agreed to the legalization of other political parties and to the drafting of a new constitution. Therefore, December 1990 is likely the definitive point when socialism can be said to have "fallen" in Albania, in the political sense. In June 1991 the Party of Labour of Albania formally embraced social-democracy and became the Socialist Party.

Today, a strong majority of Albanians continue to describe communism as ‘a good idea’ (though many of them say that it was ‘poorly implemented’ under the Prime Ministry).[6] Regardless, in modern times, King Zog (a pre-revolutionary icon of the country) is largely embraced as part of Albania's national identity whereas Enver Hoxha is seen by many people in the country as a dark chapter in their history. There are several streets named after King Zog, including one of the most important streets in Tirana, and there exist at least two statues of Zog in Albania while all statues and monuments dedicated to Hoxha were toppled and destroyed. King Zog's rule was marked by corruption, violence, nepotism and blatant political assassination, among many other things, and while a lot of negative things no doubt happened during Hoxha's reign as well, only King Zog's sins seem to be forgiven and forgotten as far as most Albanians are concerned. In large part this is due to the Democratic Party of Albania (which was in power from 1992 to 1997 and 2005–2013), which sought to rehabilitate King Zog along with anti-communist resistance groups during WWII (which increasingly collaborated with the occupiers against the communists); changing school textbooks accordingly. Of course that's not the only reason why Hoxha has a poor reputation — criticisms of Hoxha by Albanian nationalists can be summarized as follows:

  • Hoxha was accused of persecuting many patriotic figures, including associates of Ismail Qemali (Albania's founding father.) Of course, communists could retort with much justification that many of these figures subsequently served the fascist occupiers or were otherwise allied to the forces of reaction.
  • Hoxha was accused of damaging Albania's cultural heritage (e.g. prohibiting the works of Gjergj Fishta), and his anti-religious campaign obviously had no equivalent to King Zog, who is portrayed as a relatively tolerant leader when it came to Albanian culture and especially religion.
  • Hoxha was accused of "betraying" the Kosovar Albanians, e.g. Albanian partisans shortly after Albania's liberation from fascism were sent to help the Yugoslav partisans put down a revolt in Kosovo. Albania did, however, in subsequent decades encourage Kosovar Albanian opposition to Yugoslavia, and that King Zog's record on Kosovo was not any better.
  • It is argued that King Zog, for all his faults, still deserved credit for promoting national unity and allowing a modest amount of cultural and economic development, whereas Hoxha was accused (as noted) of damaging Albanian culture, as well as hindering Albania's economic development by pursuing his policy of "self-reliance". Of course, it can be pointed out that industry and national unity were developed under Hoxha as well (and evidently more thoroughly than under Zog), albeit at considerable cost.

Politics

Despite the PSRA’s great achievements, there were nonetheless huge flaws which ultimately contributed to the republic’s decline:[tendency-based slant] for one, it was the rigid counter-revisionism of the Prime Ministry, which refused to allow any deviation from the model of socialism in one country, even when certain policies no longer made sense for current conditions. It was also the republic’s self-imposed[tendency-based slant] isolation, as the Prime Ministry cut ties with other planned economies that did not share its doctrinaire[tendency-based slant] interpretation of scientific socialism, along with any conceivably pro-Yugoslav, pro-Soviet, and eventually any pro-Chinese officials being dismissed, arrested, and/or executed, with NATO and Yugoslavia considering an isolated Albania at odds with the USSR to be an acceptable state of affairs. Aside from ideology, there were also certain remarks made by Khrushchev when he visited Albania in 1959 that upset Hoxha, the former having commented both to Hoxha as well as publicly that Albania could become an "orchard"/"garden" which would export lemons, oranges, etc. to other socialist countries, and in turn these countries would help the country gradually industrialize via their own exports to it. This was at odds with the Albanian leadership which still held to Stalin-era notions of rapid industrialization, and who evidently sought a "self-sufficient" economy. The paranoia[tendency-based slant] which resulted from this isolation was a hindrance as well, with the consequences of this including the infamous bunker campaign, carried out to stave off a feared invasion from the USSR or the SFRY. On average, each bunker had cost as many resources as a two-bedroom apartment, and the total resources devoted to building them could have easily resolved the PSRA’s housing deficiency.

Soviet-Albanian split

In Khrushchev's view, the split was "the result of [Albanian leaders'] fear of the democratization of the country, fear of democratization in public and party life".[7]

There were obvious ideological differences between Hoxha and the Soviets after 1953, as Hoxha, for one, did not agree with the criticisms of Stalin at the 20th CPSU Congress (though publicly he endorsed it at the time, as did every communist party the world over, he was however privately dismayed). He also concurred with the Chinese in their criticisms of Khrushchev's domestic and foreign policies (e.g. Hoxha complained that the "Soviet revisionists" were permitting the spread of jazz and other "decadent" Western culture). De-Stalinization threatened Hoxha personally, and Hoxha's own views were largely in line with China's. The big break in Soviet-Albanian relations occurred at the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties in November 1960, where Hoxha delivered a speech openly attacking Khrushchev.

Hoxha did also clearly feel threatened by changes going on in the international communist movement after Stalin's death. For instance, a Tirana party conference in 1956 (shortly after the 20th CPSU Congress) contained criticisms of the situation inside Albania and inside the ruling Party of Labour, which led to Hoxha denouncing the critics as supposed Yugoslav agents. Khrushchev also wanted to overthrow Hoxha for the simple reason that Albania was a Warsaw Pact and Comecon country that was openly defying the Soviets, and siding with the Chinese to boot. Khrushchev wanted to punish this "insubordination" much as he tried to punish Mao by withdrawing Soviet technical personnel from China, and much as Stalin tried to punish and overthrow Tito through the various means of pressuring Yugoslavia. Albania ceased participating in the Warsaw Pact in 1961, although it nominally remained a member until 1968. It left in response to the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia, whereupon Hoxha argued the Pact had been fundamentally transformed from an instrument of defense into an instrument of "aggression". Albanian leaders also worried that membership in the Pact could conceivably give the Soviets a pretext to intervene in Albania at some point in the future as they did in Czechoslovakia.

Support for the Mujahideen

Hoxha, like China and Maoists in general, supported the revolutionary elements found within the Mujahideen:[8][clarification needed]

Frequently when I read reports or see on the TV shots of the fighting and daring actions which the Afghan fighters carry out against powerful formations or motorized columns of the Soviet army of occupation, jumping from rock to rock amongst the snow and ice, the rain and countless other difficulties, and armed only with rifles, my mind goes back to our glorious National Liberation War, to the heroism and sacrifices of our valiant, patriotic and revolutionary people. Of course, our war was at a much higher level and much better organized and, above all, it was led by our Communist Party. . . Nevertheless, I repeat that the struggle of the people of Afghanistan is a just struggle, and the Afghan patriotic fighters deserve to be honoured and respected by all the patriotic forces of the world, to be supported so that they can step up their liberation war even further until they drive the Soviet occupiers completely from their homeland.

— Enver Hoxha, Reflections on the Middle East[9]

Albania's pioneer movement

Albania had its own pioneer organization, the Pioneers of Enver, which was structured similarly to that of the USSR's.

Economy

Most of Albania's development, economically and socially, was made possible due to Soviet and later Chinese assistance,[citation needed] which can be seen by how badly hit the economy was when this assistance was terminated.

[A]s many as 250 projects planned within the framework of the third Five-Year Plan (1961-1965) [which otherwise would have been backed by Soviet assistance] had to be suspended, and 40% of them had still not been successfully completed by 1965 … The break of economic cooperation with China in 1978 signified the breakdown of ambitious investment plans. Among 35 objects which were planned to be finished in the 1970s with Chinese aid, only fifteen had been completed by 1978.

— Tadeusz Czekalski, The Shining Beacon of Socialism in Europe: The Albanian State and Society in the Period of Communist Dictatorship[10], quote

Of course, Albania's planned economy made such rapid industrial development possible, albeit generally to the detriment of other parts of the economy.

Albania's feudal-tribal aspects were resolved quite simply: the exploiting classes were expropriated and either arrested, shot, or made to flee. The government's control over the north was also far stronger than King Zog (let alone Zog's predecessors) had been able to establish, thus allowing blood feuds for example to be suppressed.

[The People’s Socialist Republic of] Albania is among the European countries with least arable land per head of population. Nevertheless, by relying on the cooperativist order, the ever increasing needs of consumption, industry and export for bread grain and other agricultural and livestock products are ever better fulfilled in conformity with the requirements of the socio-economic development of the country.

In 1969 the PSRA abolished direct taxation,[11] and during this period they continued to improve the quality of schooling and healthcare. It was during this period that the PSRA achieved full electrification, becoming one of the first nations on Earth (possibly the first, according to some sources) to do so. The socialists brought electricity to every rural district in the republic (the vast majority of the population was rural), and they gave cities full power as well. A detailed assessment of the PSRA’s economic development was made by John Salibur O'Donnell:

On the positive side, an objective analysis must conclude that Enver Hoxha's plan to mobilize all of Albania's resources under the regimentation of a central plan was effective and quite successful. […] Albania was a tribal society, not necessarily primitive but certainly less developed than most. It had no industrial or working class tradition and no experience using modern production techniques. Thus, the results achieved, especially during the phases of initial planning and construction of the economic base were both impressive and positive.

— John Salibur O'Donnell, [12]

Labor unions and cooperatives were structured similar to those of the USSR, the most noteworthy difference being that starting in 1971, Albania introduced a number of "higher-type cooperatives" (HTCs), a transitional form between collective farms and the state farms (e.g. members are paid wages like on state farms). While Hoxha or the other socialists of Albania did not contribute any significant theory, they did however perform a rather unique experiment in the field of agriculture with these:

In 1971, however, a new form of agricultural cooperative was established as a means of faciliating the transformation of all cooperatives into state farms … The first 'higher-type agricultural cooperative' (HTC) was inaugurated in that year, and was given exclusive access to one MTS, thereby creating an agricultural unit which was intermediate between the typical cooperative farm, which shares an MTS's equipment with other cooperatives, and the state farm, which owns its own machinery. Moreover, methods of payment to the members of HTCs were made to resemble those of state farms more closely than those of other cooperatives in that ninety percent of the planned salary is paid during the year, with the remaining ten percent being paid at the end, if the plan is fulfilled … each member of the cooperative is guaranteed a minimum wage …

In addition to the HTCs, it has been claimed that Albanian agriculture has also made two other unique contributions to Marxist-Leninist theory. Firstly, previously scattered, privately-owned livestock has been brought together into joint herds, and, secondly, the extinguishing of the personal plot, in the wake of the transition to complete state farming, has been explicitly adopted as an aim of policy. . . it is argued that personal plots are incompatible with social ownership, and that in any case the farmer can now buy products at prices in the cooperative shop which are lower than the cost of growing them on his plot.[13]

Despite the developments that Albania had made, after the break with the PRC in 1975 the economy started to stagnate:

In contrast with the previous period, the eighties witnessed a marked slowdown in economic activity, which virtually stagnated during the second half of the decade, reflecting Albania’s self-imposed isolation since 1976 and the emergence of serious internal and external imbalances. The real NMP, which had grown by nearly 44% in the previous period 1970-1980, but in 1980-1989 rose only by an average of 1 percent per year, declining from an average of 1.6 percent during 1980-85 to no growth during 1985-90. Real GDP followed a similar pattern, growing by 1 percent during 1980-1990, declining from 2 percent during 1980-85 to a marginal negative growth during 1985-90.

— University of London, [1]

This resulted from the PSRA’s self-imposed isolation from other planned economies, as well as a lack of economic investment, which resulted from excessive and unnecessary military spending (particularly the infamous and costly bunker project):

There are many reasons that sent the Albanian economy into a dead-end street in the eighties. Most significant are the orthodox objectives and methods of management of the communist leadership; the lack of investment in the economy, which brought about a lack in advanced technology; and, most of all, the self-isolation of the country, which brought the Albanian economy to a state of total collapse in 1990.

— University of London, [1]

The PSRA achieved remarkable economic growth for about three decades, which eventually slowed to a halt as a result of questionable policy and self-imposed isolation. The country eventually began to run low on spare parts and other materials, so that there would be things like factories with many lights not working or insufficient dynamite for mining. A lot of this was because Albania refused to normalize relations with the USSR after Khrushchev's ousting. Brezhnev and subsequent Soviet leaders offered to restore diplomatic and trade ties, however Hoxha and Ramiz Alia refused until 1990. Albania's allergic attitude towards countries with differing ideologies was even in its constitution. From Article 28 of the 1976 version:

The granting of concessions to, and the creation of, foreign economic and financial companies and other institutions or ones formed jointly with bourgeois and revisionist capitalist monopolies and states, as well as obtaining credits from them, are prohibited in the People's Socialist Republic of Albania.

Albania refused any trade whatsoever with the US and USSR – no other socialist country had this level of restriction from trade. All that these measures did in effect was to hinder the economic development of Albania.[tendency-based slant] Despite this, Albania still traded with France, Italy, Yugoslavia, some Warsaw Pact countries, and smaller capitalist countries like Austria. If Albania had completely forbid trade with the outside world then it would have collapsed within years of foundation as a socialist state.[citation needed]

Infrastructure

It was not just that the industry that experienced rapid growth, infrastructure was also developed. The country’s highway system was greatly expanded, and by 1985 consisted of 6,900 kilometres of roads capable of carrying motor vehicle traffic, and with a small rail network of about 603 kilometres. Within industry, the mineral sector and the electricity generation were initially developed. During 1956-60, the production of chrome made great strides, giving Albania first place in the world in per capita production of chrome ore, and later in the eighties the third place in the world for total output. Because of the large number of rivers and their mountainous nature, Albania developed its hydro-electric potential HEP, estimated at 2500 MW, second to Norway within Europe. Thus, in the eighties Albania reached agreement with neighboring countries (Yugoslavia and Greece) to supply them with electricity.

— University of London, [1]

Health

After WWII, Albanian healthcare’s situation was rather desperate:

As explained earlier in this Chapter, when the communists took over in Albania in 1945, the state of the population's health and the Albanian health system were in a very bad state. Before the War, the health system consisted only of 10 state hospitals and an Institute of Hygiene founded in Tirana in 1938. The number of doctors was very low - only 102 Albanian doctors and a very small number of foreign doctors. Thus, the number of physicians (doctors and dentists) per 10,000 of the population was only 1.17, while the number of beds for 1,000 of population only 0.98.

— University of London, [1]

Life expectancy and mortality were among the worst in the world:

According to the League of Nations in 1941, the crude death rate for Albania in 1938 was 17.7 per thousand. In a later study a figure on life expectancy at birth is given for 1938 as 38 years. Even these figures are thought not to be accurate, because death registration was not complete. There was no death certificate form, the posting of registers was always in arrears, and very little information on cause of death was recorded. The majority of villagers died without any medical intervention. In the early twenties over half of the country's 2,540 villages had never been visited by a doctor.

— University of London, [1]

Due to this, the PSRA made healthcare a top priority:

In order to address this situation, the government starting in 1947, introduced a wide-ranging social insurance and medical scheme. Most medical treatments (thought not the medicines) were provided free. Legislation was introduced to protect the mother and child, and set up the pension scheme, as well as other regulations on sanitary conditions and control, and for the treatment of infectious diseases.

— University of London, [1]

As a result of the PSRA’s healthcare policy, Albanian life expectancy increased rapidly:

Most of the improvement in life expectancy at birth occurred in the first decade, when life expectancy at birth increased by 10.4 years for both sexes, more than one year for each year of the decade. In the next three decades mortality continued to improve, although not at the same pace as in the first decade.

— University of London, [1]

The following table charts Albanian life expectancy from 1950 to 1990, as given by the aforementioned study:

Years Life Expectancy (All Genders)
1938 ∼38
1950 51.6
1954–55 55.0
1960 62.0
1964–65 64.1
1969 66.5
1975–76 67.0
1979 68.0
1989 70.7

From these statistics, it is clear that the PSRA achieved an enormous increase in life expectancy, from 38 years in 1938, to 68 years in 1979, an increase of thirty years in just four decades. It continued to improve until 1989, albeit more slowly. The PSRA also succeeded in eliminating various infectious diseases which had plagued the country, particularly malaria, which had been the biggest killer in antebellum Albania:

A number of endemic diseases were brought under control, including malaria, tuberculosis and syphilis. […] If one looks at the mortality transition from 1950 to 1990, it is clear that the pattern changes as life expectancy improves. Thus, the infectious and parasitic (tuberculosis included) diseases decline and almost disappear in the seventies and eighties.

— University of London, [1]

While the PSRA made a number of extremely impressive achievements in the field of healthcare, this too, unfortunately, began to suffer at the tail-end of the short twentieth century, as a lack of investment and self-imposed isolation took their toll.

Social security

Social Insurance was first introduced by the Albanian communist government in 1947. The initial social security scheme covered approximately 75,000 people. The social insurance program was administered by state organisations and covered medical care, compensation for disability, old-age pensions, family allowances, and rest and recreation. Several modifications were made latter to the basic program. The law of 1953 provided a program closely resembling that of the Soviet Union, i.e. a classic cradle-to-grave system of social security. For a number of years trade unions administered a large number of social insurance activities. In 1965 the state took over the administration of all phases except those for rest and recreation facilities.

— University of London, [1]

Maternity leave and disability insurance were provided:

If people lost their capacity to work totally or partially, they were granted invalidity pensions. The amount of the pension varied between 40-85% of the wage depending on the scale of invalidity, cause of invalidity and the number of years that the person had been working. Pregnant women were given eighty-four days leave under normal circumstances and were paid at 95% of their wage if they had worked for more than five years and 75% if they had worked less than five. The pregnancy leave period was extended to six months in 1981. Workers could stay at home for limited periods to care for the sick and during this period received 60% of their pay.

— University of London, [1]

Old-age pensions were also provided to all retired workers:

Old-age pensions were based on age and years of work. Payments were calculated at the rate of 70% of the worker’s average monthly wage. Two exceptions were the veterans of the Second World War and the Party leaders who received an additional 10%. The law also provided for widow’s and orphan’s pensions.

— University of London, [1]

All workers were guaranteed time off from work, with pay:

All insured persons were entitled to a paid vacation. The duration of the vacation depended on the type of work and the length of active employment.

— University of London, [1]

Childcare insurance was also an aspect of the social security system:

When children under seven years of age were ill, one of the parents was permitted up to ten days leave during a three month period. A one-time payment was made to the family for each child that was born. In case of death a fixed sum was paid to the family for funeral expenses.

— University of London, [1]

Eventually, the system was expanded to include peasants in farming cooperatives:

From 1st July 1972 the system of pensions and social security was extended to cover peasants working in agriculture cooperatives. This aimed at the narrowing of the differences between urban and rural areas. Some agricultural cooperatives had already introduced some forms of pensions and social insurance providing help for their members in old age and when they were unable to work. The financing of this social security system in the rural areas came from the contributions of the cooperatives with some subsidization from the state.

— University of London, [1]

The provision of a cradle-to-grave social welfare system is an enormous achievement, and one of the main advances made by the PSRA.

Education

The end of the second World War found Albania in a very poor educational state. At that time 80% of the population was illiterate, and in the rural areas this figure reached 90-95%. Illiteracy was widespread in rural areas and in particular among women. Immediately upon seizure of power in 1944, the communist regime gave high priority to opening schools and organizing the whole educational system along communist lines. An intensive campaign against illiteracy started immediately.

— University of London, [1]

This resulted in enormous improvements in the educational system:

In terms of enrollments, Albania had a broad-based education system, with almost 90% of the pupils completing the compulsory basic 8-year school and 74% of them continuing into secondary school. From these, more than 40% went to the university. According to official figures, at the end of 1972 there were 700,000 schoolchildren and university students, which meant that every third citizen was enrolled in some kind of educational institution. The number of kindergartens in urban areas increased by 112% from 1970 to 1990, while in rural areas it increased by 150%. The number of primary schools in urban areas, for the same period of time, rose 31%, and in rural areas 24%. The total number of secondary schools increased by 291%, and that of high schools by 60%. A similar trend is seen for the number of students that graduated. Thus the number of pupils that graduated from primary schools for the period 1970-1990 increased by 74.8%, for the secondary school, the number rose 914.2%, and for university 147%. Education tuition was free of charge. Students whose families had low incomes were entitled to scholarships, which gave them free accommodation, food, etc.

— University of London, [1]

As a result, illiteracy was virtually wiped out across the country:

At the end of eighties, Albania had a rate of illiteracy of less than 5%, placing it among the developed countries. […] The achievement of universal education must be judged one of the communist regime’s main achievements.

— University of London, [1]

Culture

Gender relations

Antebellum Albania was one of the most reactionary societies on Earth with regards to women’s rights:

For most women, traditional Albanian life was characterized by discrimination and inequality compared with men, reinforced by a wide range of cultural norms. […] In the immediate pre-war period there were just 21 female teachers in the country, a couple of women doctors and no female engineers, agronomists or chemists. Only 2.4 percent of secondary school students were girls.

— University of London, [1]

The Code of Leke (the traditional, antebellum Albanian code of law relating to women) was harshly discriminatory. Even murder of somebody pregnant was punished differently depending on the sex of the fetus that she was carrying:

[T]he dead woman [is] to be opened up, in order to see whether the fetus is a boy or a girl. If it is a boy, the murderer must pay 3 purses [a set amount of local currency] for the woman's blood and 6 purses for the boy’s blood; if it is a girl, aside from the three purses for the murdered woman, 3 purses must also be paid for the female child.

— University of London, [1]

In order to rectify this situation, the PSRA placed an enormous emphasis on women’s rights:

When the communists came to power they considered the emancipation of women as an important political measure, linking it with the destiny of socialism and communism. […] Equality between men and women was stressed continuously and was even included in the Constitution. The Introduction to the Constitution of the PSR of Albania says that “In the unceasing process of the revolution, the Albanian woman won equality in all fields, became a great social force and is advancing towards her complete emancipation." Article 41 of the constitution says: “The woman enjoys equal rights with a man in work, pay, holidays, social security, education, in all social-political activities as well as in the family.”

— University of London, [1]

Women became an active part of the workforce, while previously they had been almost entirely excluded:

Equal rights included amongst others the equal right to have a job. Subsidized day-care nurseries and kindergartens, launderettes and canteens at both workplace, and in residential areas were provided, to make it easier for mothers to work. By 1980 women made up 46% of the economically active population, an increase over one quarter compared with 1960.

— University of London, [1]

Women also made huge advanced in access to education, as well as in positions of government power:

Educational opportunities for women also improved considerably. Table 2.5 shows the increase in the percentage of students who were women graduating from university according to specialties. The table shows that the increase in the percentage during the period 1960-1990, for women engineers was 258.6%, while that for agronomists was 206%, for economists 192%. The same policy was adopted for the participation of women in governing of the country.

— University of London, [1]

According to Edwin E. Jacques, during the Cultural and Ideological Revolution, women were encouraged to take up all jobs, including government posts, which resulted in 40.7% of the People's Councils and 30.4% of the People's Assembly being made up of women, including two women in the Central Committee by 1985. In 1978, 15.1 times as many females attended eight-year schools as had done so in 1938 and 175.7 times as many females attended secondary schools. By 1978, 101.9 times as many women attended higher schools as in 1957.[14]

The PSRA made a number of enormous achievements in terms of gender equality. Even the most reactionary of commentators have acknowledged this. For example, take the following article authored by an antisocialist who grew up in the PSRA:

Inspired by the ongoing debate on women’s inequalities, I have recently reflected on my own childhood politics and have come to the surprising conclusion that the place to look for solutions to gender inequality is the Communist model.

— Klentiana Mahmutaj, [15]

She comments on the communist encouragement of women in the workforce:

The Communist promise that women should be equal players in the workforce was not an empty one. Women were positively encouraged by government campaigns to embark on all professions, including “manly” jobs, building on the fact they had fought in large numbers alongside the men as partisans during the Second World War. To achieve this they were given trainee-ships, professional qualifications and scholarships. […] Growing up, I never encountered any suggestion that women in these professions were in any way less capable than men by virtue of their gender and additional role as mothers. On the whole, they faced no barriers of gender discrimination. I remember my parents and their friends frequently praising excellent female doctors and teachers. […] This form of equal partnership was commonplace in the Albanian society I grew up and importantly women’s role in the family informed how women were viewed in the workplace and vice-versa. If men suggested that women should be relegated to the house they were mocked for their anachronistic ideas.

— Klentiana Mahmutaj, [15]

Gun control

Before 1966 at least, the state of civilian ownership of firearms could be described as it was by a West German journalist, who wrote that "Not all civilians are armed in Albania's border regions, and in practice the motto quoted earlier ['Build up Socialism with the pickaxe in one hand and the rifle in the other'] should in all probability be reformulated to read, 'The pickaxe for all, but the rifle only for him who can be trusted.'"[16]

However, from 1966 onward Hoxha launched what was termed the "Cultural and Ideological Revolution", inspired by the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Part of this involved de-professionalizing the armed forces and emphasizing military training. Hoxha claimed during this period that "every Albanian city-dweller or villager has his weapon at home." Jan Myrdal, a Maoist who was given a tour of Albania in the early 70s, likewise reported "the entire Albanian people are armed, have weapons. There are weapons in every village. Ten minutes after the alarm sounds, the entire population of a village must be ready for combat. There has never been any shortage of weapons in Albania, but never have the people been as armed as they are today."[17]

Besides that, by far most resources on Albania do not mention the availability of guns in socialist Albania. Traditionally, many northern Albanians (organized on the basis of tribes) did possess their own weaponry, and there were certainly military drills for the civilian population of the cities from 1966 onward. However, considering that the only sources for the universal arming of Albania's civilian population seem to consist of Enver Hoxha and a communist political tourist (Myrdal) probably just repeating what his guides tell him, there remains to be no solid evidence any way on the state of gun ownership in socialist Albania.

There's also a question of "gun laws" as opposed to physical gun ownership, since merely having possession of a weapon is not equivalent to being able to legally purchase and individually own a gun. If gun possession was indeed widespread in urban areas then it may have simply been a case of local officials handing out rifles and telling people to regularly report for practice.

Blood feuds

Blood feuds are states of long-standing mutual hostility in which family members or associates take revenge for someone who has been killed or severely disgraced, usually by either killing the person who caused the offense or someone related to them. This in turn would be answered by the family members or associates of the slain offender or their relative, and the cycle continues perpetually. In Albania, this has been a problem for centuries, however under the communist government these were put to a halt through strict punishments; one famous example of these punishments being that the perpetrator of a blood feud would be buried alive in the same coffin as their victim. The fall of socialism in the country precipitated an immediate revival of blood feuds.[18]

Religion

Freedom of religion was permitted, though often discouraged, in pretty much all socialist countries to a significant degree, however Albania is an extreme example where all places of worship were close down, the clergy was outlawed, and even private worship at home could get one in trouble.[citation needed]

On how religion was after socialism:

Private religious feelings no doubt survived, primarily among older people who remembered. But among people who had grown up in postwar times, there seemed to be almost none who would profess any kind of religious faith whatsoever. The vestiges of belief that did survive were pathetic remnants at best. For instance, one refugee reported having secretly worn a crucifix, but only after his escape from Albania did he discover that it had something to do with Christianity. A Muslim escapee recalled having heard his father muttering behind closed curtains. It never dawned on him that this was a prayer until he heard something similar outside Albania. … The first public mass was celebrated November 4 [1990], in a cemetery chapel in Shkodra, by Simon Jubani, released in 1989 after twenty-six years of imprisonment. The crowd of 5,000 worshipers was made up of Catholics, few of whom could remember this central rite of the Church. Interestingly enough, there were also substantial numbers of Muslims present, most of them apparently unaware of the difference between Christianity and Islam.

— Denis R. Janz, World Christianity and Marxism[19]

It is important to keep in mind though that Albania never had a reputation for religious fundamentalism. Pashko Vasa, himself a Catholic and one of Albania's leading cultural figures in the 19th century, wrote the following lines:

Christian and Moslem priests have benumbed you,

To divide you, and impoverish you!
Look not to churches or to mosques,
For the religion of the Albanian is Albanianism!"

— Peter R. Prifti, Socialist Albania since 1944[20]

Hoxha himself claimed of Islam in Albania:

Even before the [Italian fascist] occupation of the country, but still more so after it, the hierarchy of the Moslem religion was weak, without any experience to worry us. The mosques existed. They had a hodja, but those who practised the religion were very few. The rites had been abandoned, no marriages were conducted according to the Sheriat and everything else, such as the observance of Ramadan and the feast of Bajram, had become routine customs which were practised here and there in certain regions mostly 'from force of habit.' The hodjas were all ignorant, none of them was able to propagate the philosophy, ethics and the morality of the Koran, and no one understood the Koran, because it was recited in a foreign language (Arabic) … The broad masses of the people were virtually liberated from the bonds of religion, the development of the intellect of the Moslem believers was more extensive, and there was much greater liberalism and tolerance.[21]

Which rather begs the question why Albania went further than any other socialist country in trying to repress religion. Much of the reason is hinted at in Vasa's aforementioned lines: religion was seen as an impediment to Albanian nationalism. It is why the government in the 1970s-80s required parents to pick "authentic Albanian" names for their children as opposed to religious/foreign-based names like Pjetër, Dhimitri, or Mehmet. Many of the "approved" names were of Illyrian origin, and thus bolstered the government's effort to promote Albanian claims to Kosovo, etc.

Cuisine

Albanians ate mutton, garlic soup, sea trout, salami, shish kebab, apricots, and other dishes.

External links

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 Gjonça, Arjan (1998). "Mortality Transition in Albania: 1950–1990" (PDF). ProQuest LLC. {{cite web}}: Unknown parameter |year_published= ignored (help)
  2. Blum, William (2004). "6". Killing Hope: US Military & CIA Interventions since World War II (third ed.). London: Zed Books. p. 57. ISBN 1 84277 368 2. {{cite book}}: Unknown parameter |pageurl= ignored (help)
  3. Blum, William. "Killing Hope: US Military & CIA Interventions since World War II". Retrieved 2020-03-21. {{cite web}}: |chapter= ignored (help)
  4. Parenti, Michael (1997). "6". Blackshirts & Reds: Rational Fascism & the Overthrow of Communism (PDF). San Francisco: City Light Books. p. 94. ISBN 0-87288-330-1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-08-28. {{cite book}}: Check |isbn= value: checksum (help)
  5. "Enver Hoxha". Retrieved 2020-03-21.
  6. "Survey on Albanian Communist Period".
  7. Memoirs Vol. III, p. 522
  8. The Aggressors must get out of Afghanistan! Hoxha, Selected Works Vol. 5 pp. 752
  9. Hoxha, Reflections on the Middle East, 1984, pp. 530-531
  10. Czekalski, The Shining Beacon of Socialism in Europe: The Albanian State and Society in the Period of Communist Dictatorship, 2013, p. 69
  11. https://www.google.com/search?tbo=p&tbm=bks&q=taxes+Socialist+Republic+of+Albania
  12. O’Donnell, John. A Coming of Age: Albania Under Enver Hoxha (PDF). East European Monographs. p. 186. ISBN 0880334150.
  13. Planning in Eastern Europe, Andrew H. Dawson, pages 45-46
  14. Jaques, Edwin (1995). The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present. McFarland. ISBN 0899509320.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Mahmutaj, Klentiana (2015-12-23). "Growing up under Communist rule made me the tough feminist I am today". Archived from the original on 2015-12-24.
  16. Harry Hamm, Albania—China's Beachhead in Europe, 1963, p. 66)
  17. Albania Defiant, 1976, p. 146
  18. "In Albanian Feuds, Isolation Engulfs Families".
  19. pp. 107-108
  20. p. 158
  21. Laying the Foundations of the New Albania, pp. 32-33