Hoxha, Enver (1908–1985)

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HOXHA, ENVER (1908–1985)


Albanian statesman.

Enver Hoxha, the undisputed leader of Albania until his death, headed the Party of Labor from its foundation as the Albanian Communist Party in 1941 until his death, and served as prime minister (1944–1954) and minister of foreign affairs (1946–1953). He can be described as an ardent nationalist and communist, whose legacy, autocratic and isolationist in the political sphere, effectuated the transformation of Albanian society from an agricultural backwater to a self-sufficient socialist industrial economy.

Born into the family of a Muslim Tosk, Hoxha was under the influence of his uncle, who participated in the national struggle for Albanian independence and later opposed the regime of King Zog (r. 1928–1939). He went to a French high school in Korçë and in 1930 won a state scholarship to study natural sciences in Montpellier, France. He moved to Paris to study philosophy but was mostly involved in reading Marxism and collaborating with the French communist newspaper Humanité. Between 1934 and 1936 he was secretary at the Albanian consulate in Brussels and studied law. Dismissed from his job for communist sympathies, Hoxha returned to Korçë, where his was employed as a teacher in the French lycée.

When Albania was occupied by Italy in 1939 and Hoxha refused to join the Fascist Party, he lost his job and relocated to Tiranë. He opened a small tobacco shop, which served as a cover for communist activities. With the help of Yugoslav communists, Hoxha founded the Albanian Communist Party (later Party of Labor) in 1941 and was the most influential of the seven-member Central Committee. In 1942 he became the political commissar of the communist-dominated Army of National Liberation, as well as First Secretary of the ACP in 1943.

With the resistance movement taking power in November 1944, Hoxha headed the provisional government and, after the elections of December 1945, became prime minister of the People's Republic of Albania. In the Paris Peace conference (August 1945) he dismissed Greece's territorial claims, and in the following years (1947–1948) opposed Josip Broz Tito's (1892–1980) intentions to annex Albania as a Yugoslav republic, claiming that Tito had promised Kosovo to Albania. He aligned himself with Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) and supported Moscow in the ideological breach with Yugoslavia (1948).

The 1950s saw the implementation of radical changes along Stalinist lines in all spheres of life: forceful nationalization of land and the creation of cooperatives; industrialization; and the development of education and culture. Aiming at complete economic autarky, by the end of Hoxha's rule, Albania had become virtually self-sufficient in food production; its industry, from practically nonexistent beginnings, made up half of the gross national product. Illiteracy was liquidated in a country that had been 80–85 percent illiterate, and epidemics were wiped out.

An admirer of Stalin, and himself notorious for his human-rights abuses, Hoxha repudiated Nikita Khrushchev's (1894–1971) denunciation of the cult of personality, as well as the USSR's hegemonic policies in the socialist bloc and its rapprochement with the United States. By 1961 Hoxha announced the "dual adversary theory" and rejected imperialism and revisionism as equal threats to Marxism-Leninism. In 1961 Albania broke off relations with the USSR and following the departure of Soviet advisors and aid Mao Zedong's China (1893–1976) stepped in, providing assistance and equipment for the Albanian army. In a 1967 attempt to promote national unity, Hoxha banned religion, destroyed mosques and churches, and proclaimed Albania the first atheist state. In 1968 he condemned the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia as an imperialistic move and also quit the World Trade Organization. His isolationism bordering on paranoia, he built six hundred thousand concrete bunkers as protection against foreign invasion.

The early 1970s saw temporary relaxations of his isolationist policies and domestic controls. Unhappy with the results, Hoxha cracked down and starting in 1973, purges of the party leadership, the officer corps, and the economic bureaucracy marked a reactionary backlash. The secret policeSigurimi—was notorious for its brutality. Relations with China were soured over the latter's rapprochement with the United States, as well as its insistence that Albania seek closer links to Yugoslavia. After Mao's death in 1976, China suspended aid to Albania in 1978. Hoxha reverted to his complete autarky and announced that Albania was the only authentic socialist country left.

Having suffered a heart attack in 1973 and with deteriorating health, Hoxha finally retired from active political activities in 1981 but not before carrying out a final bloody purge at the highest party level, in which his longtime associate and prime minister Mehmet Shehu (1913–1981) allegedly committed suicide. Hoxha passed most state functions to his protégé Ramiz Alia (b. 1925), who succeeded Hoxha formally upon his death in 1985.

See alsoAlbania.


Primary Sources

Hoxha, Enver. The Artful Albanian: Memoirs of Enver Hoxha. Edited By Jon Halliday. London, 1986.

Secondary Sources

Biberaj, Elez. Albania: A Socialist Maverick. Boulder, Colo., 1990.

Crampton, R. J. The Balkans since the Second World War. New York, 2002.

O'Donnell, James S. A Coming of Age: Albania under Enver Hoxha. Boulder, Colo., 1999.

Maria Todorova