HOXHA AND THE COMMUNIST STATE
By early 1945 Hoxha had driven out or exiled most of the interwar elite, including Zog I. Hoxha’s internal affairs minister presided over the trials of hundreds of Albanians who were executed for “war crimes"; mostly, however, these were politicians, clan chiefs, or former members of government who were opposed to the communist state. Many of these people had family members executed, exiled, or sentenced to work in prison camps for the rest of their lives.
The communist regime’s consolidation of power similarly led to a shift in political clout. For centuries the Ghegs, tribal groups in the northern mountains, had held the most power among ethnic Albanians. However, with the death of many of their chieftains and a shift towards a more industrialized economy, the Ghegs lost much of their power, while the Tosks in the south became the more powerful ethnic group.
In December of 1945 elections were held for the new People’s Assembly. Only members of the Democratic Front, a movement organized by Albania’s Party of Labour, appeared on ballots, as the communists used scare tactics and propaganda to keep others off the ballots. Official data showed that 92% of the electorate voted and that 93% of voters voted for the Democratic Front ticket. When the People’s Assembly convened a month later in 1946, it annulled the monarchy, transforming Albania into a people’s republic.
COMMUNIST TIES IN THE NEW WORLD
Hoxha and his ally Mehmet Shehu, a military commander of the resistance in WWII, reshaped Albania according the principles of Stalinism. Political executions remained common, with estimates ranging from 5,000-25,000 total killed between 1945 and 1989. Under Hoxha, Albania remained allies with the Soviet Union and was highly dependent on Soviet aid. When Stalin died in 1953, neither of Albania’s leaders travelled to Moscow for his funeral, fearing rivals within the Party of Labour would plot a takeover in their absence.
When the Soviets began the process of de-Salinization and transitioned to collective leadership, they urged the Albanians to follow suit. However, Hoxha and Shehu transitioned to collective leadership only nominally. By 1956 Albania had completely cut ties with the Soviet Union due to the leadership’s fears that the Soviets preferred Yugoslavia.
In the following years, during the Sino-Soviet split, the Albanians sided with China, who assumed the Soviet’s former role of providing billions of dollars in financial aid to the Albanian regime. However, China cut off all foreign aid to Albania in 1978 after Hoxha’s criticism of China’s policies following Mao Zedong’s death.
DISSOLUTION OF THE ONE PARTY STATE
In the 1980s, after ruling Albania for nearly four decades, Hoxha’s health began to deteriorate, prompting his search for a successor. Overlooking his longtime ally, Shehu, Hoxha appointed Ramiz Alia to the position. Shehu refused Hoxha’s offer to resign quietly. In November of 1981, Shehu was found dead in his bathroom. Following his death Hoxha purged Shehu’s family and declared that Shehu had been a spy for Yugoslavia, the CIA, MI6, and the KGB who had been plotting the death of Hoxha. The official cause of death remains suicide.
Hoxha died in 1985. Alia attempted to rule in his place for a time. However, changes in Soviet policy, economic stagnation, and policies of liberalization led to the dissolution of the one party state. Though many citizens remained unaware of events outside Albania, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, liberal policies continued to bring change to the remote nation.
In 1991 the first pluralist elections took place since before World War II. Thought Alia’s party remained in power, the change to a democratic system of government was clear. This change finally came in 1998 with the ratification of a new Albanian constitution that guaranteed the protection of human rights and a democratic system of government. Since then Albania’s democracy has continued to strengthen and grow.