Creating the new state. Shortly after the defeat of Turkey by the Balkan allies, a conference of ambassadors of the Great Powers (Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Italy) convened in London in December 1912 to settle the outstanding issues raised by the conflict. With support given to the Albanians by Austria-Hungary and Italy, the conference agreed to create an independent state of Albania. But, in drawing the borders of the new state, owing to strong pressure from Albania's neighbours, the Great Powers largely ignored demographic realities and ceded the vast region of Kosovo to Serbia, while, in the south, Greece was given the greater part of Çamria, a part of the old region of Epirus centred on the Thamis River. Many observers doubted whether the new state would be viable with about one-half of Albanian lands and population left outside its borders, especially since these lands were the most productive in food grains and livestock. On the other hand, a small community of about 35,000 ethnic Greeks was included within Albania's borders. (However, Greece, which counted all Albanians of the Orthodox faith--20 percent of the population--as Greeks, claimed that the number of ethnic Greeks was considerably larger.) Thereafter, Kosovo and the Çamria remained troublesome issues in Albanian-Greek and Albanian-Yugoslav relations.
The Great Powers also appointed a German prince, Wilhelm zu Wied, as ruler of Albania. Wilhelm arrived in Albania in March 1914, but his unfamiliarity with Albania and its problems, compounded by complications arising from the outbreak of World War I, led him to depart from Albania six months later. The war plunged the country into a new crisis, as the armies of Austria-Hungary, France, Italy, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia invaded and occupied it. Left without any political leadership or authority, the country was in chaos, and its very fate hung in the balance. At the Paris Peace Conference after the war, the extinction of Albania was averted largely through the efforts of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who vetoed a plan by Britain, France, and Italy to partition Albania among its neighbours. A national congress, held in Lushnje in January 1920, laid the foundations of a new government. In December of that year Albania, this time with the help of Britain, gained admission to the League of Nations, thereby winning for the first time international recognition as a sovereign nation and state. Bishop Noli and King Zog.
At the start of the 1920s, Albanian society was divided by two apparently irreconcilable forces. One, made up mainly of deeply conservative landowning beys and tribal bajraktars who were tied to the Ottoman and feudal past, was led by Ahmed Bey Zogu, a chieftain from the Mat region of north-central Albania. The other, made up of liberal intellectuals, democratic politicians, and progressive merchants who looked to the West and wanted to modernize and Westernize Albania, was led by Fan S. Noli, an American-educated bishop of the Orthodox church. In the event, this East-West polarization of Albanian society was of such magnitude and complexity that neither leader could master and overcome it.
In the unusually open and free political, social, and cultural climate that prevailed in Albania between 1920 and 1924, the liberal forces gathered strength, and, by mid-1924, a popular revolt forced Zogu to flee to Yugoslavia. Installed as prime minister of the new government in June 1924, Noli set out to build a Western-style democracy in Albania, and toward that end he announced a radical program of land reform and modernization. But his vacillation in carrying out the program, coupled with a depleted state treasury and a failure to obtain international recognition for his revolutionary, left-of-centre government, quickly alienated most of Noli's supporters, and six months later he was overthrown by an armed assault led by Zogu and aided by Yugoslavia.
Zogu began his 14-year reign in Albania--first as president (1925-28), then as King Zog I (1928-39)--in a country rife with political and social instability. Greatly in need of foreign aid and credit in order to stabilize the country, Zog signed a number of accords with Italy. These provided transitory financial relief to Albania, but they effected no basic change in its economy, especially under the conditions of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Italy, on the other hand, viewed Albania primarily as a bridgehead for military expansion into the Balkans. On April 7, 1939, Italy invaded and shortly after occupied the country. King Zog fled to Greece. The social base of Zog's power was a coalition of southern beys and northern bajraktars. With the support of this coalition--plus a vast Oriental bureaucracy, an efficient police force, and Italian money--King Zog brought a large measure of stability to Albania. He extended the authority of the government to the highlands, reduced the brigandage that had formerly plagued the country, laid the foundations of a modern educational system, and took a few steps to Westernize Albanian social life. On balance, however, his achievements were outweighed by his failures. Although formally a constitutional monarch, in reality Zog was a dictator, and Albania under him experienced the fragile stability of a dictatorship. Zog failed to resolve Albania's fundamental problem, that of land reform, leaving the peasantry as impoverished as before. In order to stave off famine, the government had to import food grains annually, but, even so, thousands of people migrated abroad in search of a better life. Moreover, Zog denied democratic freedoms to Albanians and created conditions that spawned periodic revolts against his regime, alienated most of the educated class, fomented labour unrest, and led to the formation of the first communist groups in the country.
World War II
Using Albania as a military base, in October 1940, Italian forces invaded Greece, but they were quickly thrown back into Albania. After Nazi Germany defeated Greece and Yugoslavia in 1941, the regions of Kosovo and Çamria were joined to Albania, thus creating an ethnically united Albanian state. The new state lasted until November 1944, when the Germans--who had replaced the Italian occupation forces following Italy's surrender in 1943--withdrew from Albania. Kosovo was then reincorporated into the Serbian part of Yugoslavia, and Çamria into Greece. Meanwhile, the various communist groups that had germinated in Zog's Albania merged in November 1941 to form the Albanian Communist Party and began to fight the occupiers as a unified resistance force. After a successful struggle against the fascists and two other resistance groups--the National Front (Balli Kombtar) and the pro-Zog Legality Party(Legaliteti)--which contended for power with them, the communists seized control of the country on Nov. 29, 1944. Enver Hoxha, a college instructor who had led the resistance struggle of communist forces, became the leader of Albania by virtue of his post as secretary-general of the party. Albania, which before the war had been under the personal dictatorship of King Zog, now fell under the collective dictatorship of the Albanian Communist Party. The country became officially the People's Republic of Albania in 1946 and, in 1976, the People's Socialist Republic of Albania.
The man who became the dominating figure of the Communist resistance movement almost from the beginning was the party leader Enver Hoxha (1908-85). Hoxha rose from a boiling crucible made up of several explosive ingredients: the daily travail of poorly armed and badly organised guerrilla units fighting against well-equipped and highly trained occupying armies; a nationalist determination to prevent the more powerful Yugoslav resistance movement from interfering unduly in Albanian domestic affairs; constant bickering with mainly right-wing British liaison Officers operating in Albania during the war years; and the civil war of 1943-4. Hoxha emerged from this blood-stained period as a very ambitious, ruthless, cunning and fanatical Communist guerrilla leader and politician. He also managed to combine very dogmatic Communist beliefs with fierce nationalism. After pursuing the retreating Nazi armies from Albania and defeating their right-wing rivals the Communists set up their own government, under Hoxha's leadership, in November 1944. Unlike the Yugoslav Communists, their Albanian counterparts had no direct links with Moscow during the war. This state of affairs continued in the early post-war years, when the Albanian regime was in effect a Yugoslav satellite. But Tito and his colleagues soon discovered that their desire to make Albania part of the Yugoslav federation was strongly opposed by Hoxha himself. They consequently tried hard to replace him with a more pliant leader. But Hoxha employed all his machiavellian deviousness to thwart Yugoslav efforts to topple him, and in fact succeeded in doing so. Hoxha came to display the same ruthlessness in his determination to create a one-party state. All opposition - political, economic, social and cultural - was crushed with the utmost brutality. The only group towards whom he showed any wariness or consideration during the early years was the peasants, who made up the great majority of the population. He first introduced a mild agrarian reform in order to win their support. But later, when he had consolidated his own position in the party and the country, he embarked upon a fierce campaign of full collectivisation of agriculture. The Yugoslav ambition to annex Albania created a split within the Albanian party between a pro-Yugoslav and an anti-Yugoslav faction. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the leader of the pro-Yugoslav faction, Koci Xoxe, was appointed Minister of the Interior, thus in control of the secret police and all other security forces. The 1948 schism between Stalin and Tito suddenly gave Hoxha an opportunity to achieve three main political ambitions: to escape once and for all from Yugoslavia's clutches; eliminate pro-Tito opponents who had made life difficult for him for several years; and to establish his first direct links with Moscow. From 1948 onwards he was to embrace Stalinism with unparalleled eagerness and fervour. One could say he became one of the Soviet dictator's most natural and consistent disciples. Hoxha visited Stalin in Moscow on several occasions, when he discovered, to his delight, that there was great affinity between them. Although the Albanian leader had been a natural pro-Stalinist most of his life, the close alliance and friendship with Stalin served to confirm and reinforce all his innate domineering and bloodthirsty propensities. Both believed in absolute personal power, which was justified by a very flexible ideology which could be manipulated to suit all possible situations. Like Stalin, Hoxha was utterly determined to destroy all opponents, real or imaginary, and remove every obstacle his policies encountered. Hence under his rule every trace of natural justice, of freedom of thought and expression, as these terms are understood in the civilised world, was wiped out in his country, just as it had been in the Soviet Union under Stalin.
Stalin's death in 1953 and the emergence of Nikita Khrushchev as party leader in Moscow were a severe blow to Hoxha. Not only did he lose a powerful friend and like-minded teacher, he suddenly passed under the control of a highly volatile and unpredictable political leader who held dangerous reformist ideas. Hoxha's first shock came in 1955 when Khrushchev decided to bring about a reconciliation between Moscow and Yugoslavia, whose relations had remained frozen since 1948. The Albanian leader was asked to bring to an end his regime's long hostility towards Yugoslavia and establish normal relations with it. Although he made a few superficial friendly gestures towards his neighbour, Hoxha was at heart opposed to any genuine reconciliation, and he remained so mainly because he feared Tito's reformist ideas. Another greater shock was Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin in his 'secret speech' of 1956. Hoxha saw this as an attack not only against the policies of his regime but also against his own personal position in the Party and government. The Soviet leader's efforts to persuade Hoxha to reform his rule and give up some of his Stalinist policies also proved ineffective. As a result, tension between Moscow and Albania steadily grew from 1955-61, when the final break occurred. The first signs of trouble in the Soviet-Albanian alliance appeared in 1960, when Hoxha sided with China in the early stages of the Soviet-Chinese ideological dispute. Matters came to a head at the international conference of 81 Communist parties held in Moscow in November 1960, where the Albanian leader openly defied Moscow by supporting China's cause. A year later Moscow broke off diplomatic relations with Albania and stopped all economic, industrial and military aid. The Chinese quickly came to the rescue of their small ally in Europe with a package of economic help. They undertook to build 25 industrial plants in Albania with the assistance of Chinese technicians. But relations between the two countries faced great difficulties from the beginning because of their immense difference in size and the huge cultural and political chasm that divided them. Nevertheless, Mao's cultural revolution did have a profound impact on Hoxha: it led him to make all religious practices illegal in 1967. However, serious strains between the two countries arose when the Chinese government opened up to the USA and Yugoslavia in the early 1970's. Hoxha rejected China's advice that his government should do the same. The alliance finally came to an end in 1978, when Peking stopped all economic and military aid and withdrew its experts. As a result, not only was Albania left completely isolated, it was also deprived of all foreign aid it so desperately needed. The end of the alliance with China marked the beginning of a period of steady economic and industrial decline. Factories and industrial plants built in the 1950's with Soviet bloc aid became outdated and derelict. Shortage of new machinery and equipment led to the widespread use of manual labour in collective farms. The situation was aggravated by a highly centralised bureaucratic system and inefficient management. At the same time, incessant official propaganda exhorted people to increase production and to rely more than ever on their own efforts and on natural resources. 1985 was an important watershed for all communist countries of Europe, especially for Albania. In March, Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet Communist leader. In April, Enver Hoxha died at the age of 76, after having ruled the country almost like his private life for over 40 years. He was succeeded by Ramiz Alia, a member of the Politburo who had served for several years as Hoxha's principal deputy.
February 20th 1991, thousands of demonstrators protesting in the capital, Tirana, topple down the statue of Enver Hoxha. Religion is legalised, the religious institutions are opened and the ex-persecuted priests and hoxha's are allowed to exercise their profession freely. March 31, elections are organised all over Albania. The Party of Labour (reformed as Socialist Party) wins the elections. In June, the formation of coalition government for national stability. In December the collapse of the coalition government is forced by the Democratic Party, because the Socialists are seen to be stalling on the reform programme. Fresh general election is held in March 1992, the Democratic Party wins a landslide victory with over 65% of the popular vote. In April, Dr Sali Berisha is sworn in as the new President. The new government vowed to implement a wide-ranging reform programme which will affect all aspects of life in Albania.
Throughout the life of the present Government, the focus of reform has been to radically change the economic and social foundations of the country. It has achieved many of its goals, and as a consequence, the DP won a landslide victory in the General Election of 26th May 1996. The new Government has vowed to continue with its wide ranging reform program and intends to bring
Albania into the the 21st Century.