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Enver Hoxha

Enver Hoxha (October 16, 1908 Gjirokastėr - April 11, 1985) was prime minister of Albania from 1944 to 1954 and minister of foreign affairs from 1946 to 1953. He headed of the Party of Labour of Albania from its foundation (as the Communist Party) in 1941. This allowed him to seize dictatorial power and become president of the country until his death. Hoxha forced the transformation of Albania from a semifeudal relic of the Ottoman Empire into a tightly controlled society and an industrialized economy.

In 1930, he went to study at the University of Montpellier, France on a state scholarship, but he soon dropped out. From 1934 to 1936 he was a secretary at the Albanian consulate in Brussels. He also studied law at the university there. He returned to Albania in 1936 and became a teacher in Korēė.

Hoxha was dismissed from his teaching post following the 1939 Italian invasion of World War II for refusing to join the Albanian Fascist Party. Then he opened a tobacco shop in Tiranė where soon a small communist group started gathering. He was helped by Yugoslav communists to found and became political leader of the Albanian Communist Party (called Party of Labour afterwards) and the resistance movement (National Liberation Army) which took power in November 1944.

Hoxha was ultra-orthodox in his leanings towards the model of communist and strongly admired Joseph Stalin. He adopted the model of the Soviet Union and severed relations with his former Yugoslav communist allies following their ideological breach with Moscow in 1948. He executed defence minister Koēi Xoxe (pron. Kochi Dzodze) a year later for alleged pro-Yugoslav activities.

Hoxha confiscated farmland from wealthy landowners and consolidated it into collective farms (Cooperatives) that eventually enabled Albania to become almost completely self-sufficient in food crops. He also developed the industry and brought electricity to most rural areas. Epidemics of disease and illiteracy were stamped out, but so were political and human rights as Albania became a totalitarian state. Many people were sent to internment camps and prisons while others were killed for speaking out or because they were believed to be against the government. The families of the condemned would likely also suffer because of the association. It would not be until 1992 that political prisoners would be released and the atrocities of the regime would become known.

Finding his brand of communism increasingly isolated in Europe following new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's repudiation of Stalin's excesses in 1956, Hoxha in 1960 aligned Albania with the People's Republic of China, severing relations with Moscow the following year. In 1967, at the height of Chinese leader Mao Zedong's "Cultural Revolution", Hoxha procaimed Albania the world's first atheist state.

Mao's death in 1976 and the defeat of the left in China's subsequent inner-party struggle led to Albania's retreat into political isolation, as relations between the two countries cooled in 1977 - 1978. Prime minister Mehmet Shehu was reported to have committed suicide following a further dispute within the Albanian leadership in December 1981.

In 1981, Hoxha ordered the execution of several party and government officials in a purge. Later he withdrew into semiretirement and turned most state functions over to Ramiz Alia. Hoxha's death on April 11, 1985 led to some relaxation in internal and foreign policies under his successor Ramiz Alia, as communist party rule weakened throughout eastern Europe, culminating in Albania's abandonment of one-party rule in 1990 and the reformed Socialist Party's defeat in the 1992 elections.

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