Enver Hoxha (1908-1985) was the preeminent Alba nian political leader of the 20th century. He was the leader of the Communist Party of Albania from its formation in 1941 and led the effort to force German withdrawal in 1944. He headed the Albanian government for the next four decades, longer than any other postwar European leader.
During the years from its proclamation of independence (1912) to its final liberation from German occupation (1944), Albania's history was characterized by dismal economic and political conditions at home and almost continuous intrigue and interference in the affairs of the country from abroad. Independence was declared during a period of chaotic internal conditions and occupation of much of the Albanians' lands by the armies of Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro, allies in a war against the Ottoman Empire, of which Albania was a part. World War I followed, and Albania was occupied by several regional and great power belligerents.
A tenuous independence was finally established after the war, but it was marked by increasing domestic political instability, culminating in the rise to power of Ahmet Zogu (later, King Zog I). Zog's regime was one of ever greater authoritarianism at home and political and economic subservience to fascist Italy abroad. Rome invaded Albania outright in 1939 and proclaimed the country's union with the Italian crown. In the fall of 1943, following the collapse of Mussolini's regime, German troops occupied Albania. These conditions formed the environment in which Hoxha was born and matured.
Rise of Albanian Communism
Hoxha was born on October 16, 1908, the son of a Muslim landowner from the southern Albanian town of Gjirokastër. Graduating from the French lycée of Korçë—an institution of decidedly liberal inclinations—Hoxha in 1930 received an Albanian state scholarship to study engineering in France. He apparently soon became involved in socialist and communist activities there, however, and the grant was suspended. After a period in which he wrote articles critical of the Zog regime for the French Communist newspaper L'Humanité, he briefly served as private secretary to the Albanian consul in Brussels. He studied law but did not earn a degree. In 1936 Hoxha returned to Korçë, where he obtained a teaching post at the lycée and became active with one of the few groups of Communists operating in Albania.
When Hoxha returned to Albania there was no single, Comintern-recognized, Communist Party there; rather, there were several independent and mutually antagonistic groups. The Italian occupation found these groups at odds with one another, and the possibilities for united resistance were limited. The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, however, forced the Albanian Communists to submerge their differences, and, with the assistance of emissaries sent by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY), the Communist Party of Albania (CPA) was formed on November 8, 1941. Hoxha was elected general secretary—that is, leader—of the party.
Hoxha and his colleagues immediately set about organizing the numerous, disparate resistance groups operating in Albania. The outgrowth of this activity was a meeting organized by the party in Pezë in September 1942 at which the National Liberation Movement (NLM)—of which Hoxha became chief commissar—was formed. Later, in July 1943, the first brigades of the NLM's Army of National Liberation were activated and began large scale operations against the occupiers. While some prominent non-communists joined the NLM's ranks, many others who felt the NLM was merely a communist front remained aloof. Their organizations gradually were discredited by the fact that NLM was better organized and fought the occupation forces, whereas they lapsed into inactivity and even cooperation with the Axis. By November 1944 the NLM's brigades succeeded in forcing the Germans to withdraw completely from the country. This achievement was accomplished entirely in the absence of Allied troops. The leadership of the NLM assumed control of the country, with Hoxha—the dominant personality in the organization—filling the posts of prime minister, minister of defense, minister of foreign affairs, and commander-in-chief of the army.
The years between 1944 and 1948 were marked by the Hoxha government's attempts to solidify its position and put the country on the road to socialism. A number of trials of the government's opponents were held, including some of individuals who had cooperated with the occupation regimes. In 1945 and 1946 Hoxha ordered expropriation of nearly all significant private industry and large landed estates, eliminating the influence of foreign companies and the pre-war Albanian elite. These years also saw increasingly blatant attempts by the Yugoslav government of Josip Broz Tito to control Albania politically and economically through pro-Belgrade Albanian communist leaders such as Koçi Xoxe, the minister of interior. The expulsion of the CPY from the Cominform in June 1948 enabled Hoxha and his supporters to denounce the Yugoslavs and execute Xoxe in May 1949.
Thereafter, Hoxha enthusiastically embraced the Soviet Union and its model of socialism as propounded by Stalin. The early 1950s saw a continuation of Hoxha's campaign against "Titoism" both at home and abroad, as well as the crushing of several attempts by the United States and Britain to foment an anti-communist insurgency using Albanian exiles trained abroad and covertly returned to Albania. During this period Hoxha's government received large amounts of Soviet aid for the initial phases of socialist construction; at the same time it became a fully integrated member of the socialist bloc, participating in both the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact.
Although Hoxha formally relinquished his governmental titles in 1953 and 1954, he retained his position as leader of the renamed CPA, the Party of Labor of Albania (PLA). In the years after Stalin's death, Hoxha grew increasingly distressed by the policies of the Soviet leadership and of Khrushchev in particular. Hoxha especially was not prepared to accept either the Soviet leader's attempts at destalinization in the USSR and elsewhere or his overtures to Tito's Yugoslavia. China, too, was for its own reasons disillusioned with Soviet behavior at this time, and Hoxha found common ground with Mao Zedong's criticisms of Moscow. By 1961 Hoxha's attacks on the "revisionist" Soviet leadership had so infuriated Khrushchev that he elected first to terminate Moscow's economic aid to Albania and ultimately to sever diplomatic relations entirely.
China's Ally in Europe
The end of relations with Moscow forced Hoxha to align himself still more closely with the Chinese. During the 1960s Chinese aid and technicians largely replaced assistance formerly given by the Soviet Union and its East European allies. Hoxha frequently denounced Soviet "social imperialism" in tones not unlike those reserved for American "imperialism." In 1968, following Hoxha's blistering condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Albania formally withdrew from the Warsaw Pact (in which it had not participated since 1961).
The 1960s saw an Albanian version of China's Cultural Revolution. Unlike that in China, the Albanian variant was closely controlled by Hoxha from the outset as he sought to rekindle revolutionary fervor in Albanian life and eliminate the last vestiges of the old order. Perhaps best known of this campaign were Hoxha's speeches of 1967 on the subjects of liberation of Albanian women and the elimination of bureaucratism. At the same time Hoxha spearheaded a parallel drive against religion which resulted in a September 1967 decree banning all religious activity and proclaiming Albania the "first atheist state in the world."
By the mid-1970s Hoxha grew critical of China's policies, particularly in the wake of Beijing's opening to the United States and its rapprochement with Yugoslavia. Branding the Chinese theory of the "three worlds" as "revisionism," he charged that Mao's successors aimed to make China a great power by aligning themselves with Washington and betraying revolutionary movements in developing countries. In mid-1978 the Chinese suspended their aid program and recalled their technicians. The loss of this assistance forced a re-evaluation of Albanian foreign policy which some analysts regard as the explanation for the mysterious suicide in December 1981 of Mehmet Shehu, the longtime prime minister of Albania and formerly Hoxha's most trusted associate. These observers theorize that Shehu favored a greater opening to Western countries in the wake of the Chinese rift. Hoxha later charged that Shehu was simultaneously an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the Soviet KGB, and the Yugoslav intelligence service.
In his last years, as Albania strove to maintain his policy of "self-reliance," Hoxha withdrew more and more from public view, apparently for reasons of health and to finish his voluminous reminiscences. He died on April 11, 1985, having shaped Albania into a land vastly different from that into which he was born. Hoxha was survived by his wife, Nexhmije, herself a leading figure in the PLA. They had two sons and a daughter.
To succeed Hoxha the Albanian Communist Party selected Ramiz Alia (born 1925), a strict Marxist who had been propaganda chief of the Albanian Workers' Party.
Further Reading on Enver Hoxha
There is at present no full-length biography of Hoxha available in English. There are, however, several surveys of contemporary Albania which include information on Hoxha's life. The official Albanian chronology may be found in Stefanaq Pollo and Arben Puto, The History of Albania from its Origins to the Present Day (1981). Anton Logoreci's The Albanians, Europe's Forgotten Survivors (1977) is an account by an Albanian exile. Nicholas Pano's The People's Republic of Albania (1968) and Peter R. Prifti's Socialist Albania Since 1944: Domestic and Foreign Developments (1978) are very useful studies by Albanian-American scholars. Albania and the Albanians (1975) by Ramadan Marmullaku is a somewhat sympathetic work by an Albanian in Yugoslavia.
Finally, and most importantly, are Hoxha's own writings. Many are available in English, such as his five volume Selected Works (1974-1985) and certain of his memoirs including Reflections on China (1979, 2 volumes), With Stalin (1979), The Anglo-American Threat to Albania (1982), and others. Read carefully, Hoxha's words present the most illuminating insights available into his theories and activities.