Hoxha, Enver (Albania)
Enver Hoxha was Albania’s head of state from 1946–85. A dedicated Stalinist, he revolutionized the essentially feudal Albanian economy by enforcing agricultural collectivization and the nationalization of industry. His rule was dictatorial and he often relied on terror to enforce his policies but while his effect on the economy was significant, poverty remained widespread. On the international stage he looked to Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and China for support but fell out with each in turn. At his death Albania was almost entirely isolated.
The son of a textile trader, Hoxha was born on 16 Oct. 1908 in Gjirokastër, Albania. His family was Muslim, though Hoxha became a determined atheist. He attended a French school in Korçë and then the American Technical School in Tirana. Between 1930 and 1936 he lived in France and Belgium, studying in Montpellier and then working at the Albanian Consulate in Brussels. Between 1936 and 1939 he took a teaching position back in Korçë but was removed from his job, following the Italian invasion of Albania and his refusal to join the Albanian Fascist Party.
Hoxha moved to Tirana to be a tobacconist, using his shop for subterfuge communist activities. In 1941 he received assistance from Yugoslav communists in establishing the Albanian Communist Party (re-named the Party of Labour in 1948), with Hoxha installed as its Secretary General. The following year he was prominent in the setting up of the Army of National Liberation, a resistance movement that fought the occupying fascist forces as well as two rival Albanian resistance movements. In late Nov. 1944, following the liberation of Albania, Hoxha and the Communists (including his close ally Mehmet Shehu) seized power.
Hoxha served as Prime Minister from 1944–54 and was also Foreign Minister from 1946–53. Albania changed its name to the People’s Republic of Albania in 1946, the same year in which the USA broke off ties with the regime, an act that stalled Albania’s entry into the UN until 1955. Between 1944–48 Hoxha had close ties with Yugoslavia but after 1948, when Tito and Stalin fell out, he became more reliant on the Soviet Union. Profoundly influenced by Stalin and his methods, Hoxha instigated a programme on agricultural collectivization and industrial nationalization. Like Stalin, he encouraged a cult of personality and dealt ruthlessly with any opposition. Purges were common and enemies and potential enemies were routinely removed from their jobs, persecuted, imprisoned and executed. Religious institutions were outlawed, private property confiscated and freedom of expression that went against the official line ruthlessly stamped out.
In 1954 Hoxha passed the premiership to Shehu, a position he would hold until his death in 1981, though Hoxha remained the effective leader of the country. Hoxha’s relationship with the Soviet Union deteriorated after the death of Stalin. Hoxha perceived it as a move away from the true ideals of Marxist-Leninism that Krushchev should refuse to support the worst excesses of the Stalin regime. Removed from the Warsaw Pact and Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) in 1961, Albania turned to China for international support. This relationship also became strained and broke down in 1978 after numerous ideological disputes and Hoxha’s disgust at China’s closer ties with the USA.
Hoxha opted now for international isolation, claiming that Albania was the world’s only true remaining socialist country and that it would develop into the model socialist state. It was true that under Hoxha Albania had become more self-reliant, that basic education had improved and that there was an industrial sector where previously there had been virtually none. However, the price Albania paid for these developments was a wretched standard of living for most people, heavy-handed government and international isolation.
The early-1980s witnessed another round of purges as Hoxha endeavoured to ensure his succession. Shehu had opposed the policy of isolation and was accused of being a Yugoslav spy shortly before it was reported that he had committed suicide. A number of Shehu’s followers were removed from positions of power the following year and, as Hoxha gradually withdrew from the political life, Ramiz Alia (a favourite of Hoxha) was installed as his replacement. Made nominal head of government in 1982, he duly took over as head of the Party and the State when Hoxha died in Tirana on 11 April 1985, leaving his country financially destitute and politically friendless.