Albanian Communism: Background information when reading Brass

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Brass

by Xhenet Aliu

Brass by Xhenet Aliu X
Brass by Xhenet Aliu
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2018, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2019, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Albanian Communism

This article relates to Brass

Print Review

Bashkim Hasani, who is Elsie's boyfriend and Luljeta's father in Xhenet Aliu's novel Brass, was born in an Albanian work camp, one of many which were set up under Communist rule.

The Albanian Communist Party was founded in 1941 with the help of Yugoslavia's communist leader, Josip Tito. An Albanian communist politician, Enver Hoxha, was its first secretary. In 1946, Hoxha became the country's prime minister, defense minister, foreign minister, and commander-in-chief—in effect, an absolute dictator. There followed 45 years of increasingly xenophobic Communist rule, 40 of which were under the leadership of Hoxha, who died in April 1985. During much of this time, from 1946 to 1976, the country was officially known as the People's Socialist Republic of Albania or the People's Republic of Albania.

Albanian Labor Camp Like the Soviet Union, Communist Albania was characterized by its extreme poverty, harassment of ethnic minorities, prisons, exile, and political murders. Its isolationist policies were reinforced by a foreign travel ban starting in 1968. This was designed to curb the influence of other European cultures and religions. Albania also operated 14 forced labor camps, where it sent enemies of the Party. It's estimated that 25,000 Albanians were executed during Hoxha's rule, and that 200,000 people spent time in the work camps. According to Worldometers, the population of Albania during the 1946 to '76 period would have been between 1.2 and 2.2 million people. As of 2012, there were still 2,700 camp survivors alive; many of them never received the full compensation they were promised for their sufferings.

Communism collapsed in Albania in 1990, spurred by similar revolutions across Europe and by student demonstrations. In 1991 the country's first free elections were held. Hoxha's successor as secretary of the ruling Albanian Party of Labor was Ramiz Alia, who kept much of the existing system in place but tried to reform the more repressive aspects of the regime. He was followed by the first Democratic Party president, Sali Berisha, who took over in 1992. Since then the government has made progress in dealing with high unemployment, widespread corruption, a dilapidated physical infrastructure, and powerful organized crime networks, but there is still a long way to go. Thousands of Albanians emigrate each year in search of better opportunities, mostly to Italy and Greece. Although some return later, annual net migration has hovered around 3-4% for the past 15 years.

Editor's Note: For additional information on the earlier history of Albania, see the 'Beyond the Book' for Agamemnon's Daughter.

Picture of courtyard of a political prison in Girokaster, Albania by Joonasl

Filed under Society and Politics

Article by Rebecca Foster

This "beyond the book article" relates to Brass. It originally ran in February 2018 and has been updated for the January 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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