Albania : History

"The Albanian people have hacked their way through history, sword in hand," proclaims the preamble to Albania's 1976 Stalinist constitution. These words were penned by the most dominant figure in Albania's modern history, the Orwellian postwar despot, Enver Hoxha. The fact that Hoxha enshrined them in Albania's supreme law is indicative of how he--like his mentor.

The Albanians are likely an ethnic outcropping of the Illyrians, an ancient Balkan people who intermingled and made war with the Greeks, Thracians, and Macedonians before succumbing to Roman rule around the time of Christ. Eastern and Western powers, secular and religious, battled for centuries after the fall of Rome to control the lands that constitute modern-day Albania. All the Illyrian tribes except the Albanians disappeared during the Dark Ages under the waves of migrating barbarians.

After the world war II, communist strongmen Enver Hoxha and Mehmet Shehu eliminated their rivals inside the communist party and liquidated anticommunist opposition. Concentrating primarily on maintaining their grip on power, they reorganized the nation's economy along strict Stalinist lines, turning first to Yugoslavia, then to the Soviet Union, and later to China for support. In pursuit of their goals, the communists repressed the Albanian people, subjecting them to isolation, propaganda, and brutal police measures.

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