Enver Hoxha greeting a member of a Chinese Red Guard delegation to Albania in 1967.
Learn more about Hoxha, Enver with a free trial on Britannica.com.
In 1930, Hoxha went to study at the University of Montpellier in France on a state scholarship given to him by the Queen Mother for the faculty of natural sciences. He attended the lessons and the conferences of the Association of Workers organized by the French Communist Party, but he soon dropped out because he wanted to pursue a degree in either philosophy or law. After a year, not having much interest in biology he left Montepellier to go to Paris, hoping to continue his university studies. He took courses in the faculty of philosophy at the Sorbonne and, in the Marxist environment of the French capital, he collaborated with L'Humanité, writing articles on the situation in Albania, but he soon dropped out once more. From 1934 to 1936 he was a secretary at the Albanian consulate in Brussels, attached to the personnel office of Queen Mother Sadia. He was dismissed after the consul discovered that his employee had deposited Marxist materials and books in his office. He returned to Albania in 1936 and became a grammar school teacher in Korçë.
Hoxha was dismissed from his teaching post following the 1939 Italian invasion for refusing to join the Albanian Fascist Party. He opened a tobacco shop in Tirana called Flora where soon a small communist group started gathering. Eventually the Fascist government closed it down.
By March 1943, the first National Conference of the Communist Party elected him formally as First Secretary. During the war, the Soviet Union's role was an advisory one, which makes Albania the only nation in Eastern Europe whose independence was not determined by the Soviets during World War II. Communist partisans in Yugoslavia had a much more practical role, helping to plan attacks and exchanging supplies, but communication between them and the Albanians was limited and letters would often arrive late, sometimes well after a plan had been agreed upon by the National Liberation Army without consultation from the Yugoslav partisans. In August, a secret meeting was held at Mukjë between the Balli Kombëtar (National Front), which was both anti-Communist and anti-Fascist, and the Communist Party. The result of this was an agreement to fight together against the Italians. In order to encourage the Balli Kombëtar to sign, a Greater Albania was agreed too, which included Kosovo (owned by Yugoslavia) and Çamëria (owned by Greece).
A situation soon developed however when the Yugoslav Communists had disagreed with the goal of a Greater Albania and had asked the Communists in Albania to withdraw their agreement. According to Hoxha, Josip Broz Tito had agreed that "Kosovë was Albanian" but that Serbian opposition made transfer an unwise option. After the Albanian Communists repudiated the Greater Albania agreement, the Balli Kombëtar condemned the Communists and the Communists accused the Balli Kombëtar of siding with the Italians. The Balli Kombëtar however lacked support from the people, because they were seen as corrupt and as supporters of King Zog. Faced with destruction, the Balli Kombëtar sided with the Germans, which only further hurt their popularity. By May 1944, the Balli Kombëtar had faded into irrelevancy.
The Permet National Congress held during that time called for a "new democratic Albania for the people." King Zog was prohibited from visiting Albania ever again, which further improved the Communists popularity. The Anti-Fascist Committee for National Liberation was founded, with Hoxha at the head. On 22 October, the Committee became the provisional government of Albania after a meeting in Berat and Hoxha was chosen as interim Prime Minister. Tribunals were set up to try alleged war criminals who were designated "enemy of the people" and were presided over by Koçi Xoxe. Thousands were sentenced to death or to long terms in prison.
After liberation from the fascist occupation on 29 November 1944, several Albanian partisan divisions crossed the border into German occupied Yugoslavia and there contributed to the chasing out of the last pockets of German resistance alongside Tito's partisans and the Soviet Red Army. This was during the last months of the German occupation of Yugoslavia. Marshal Tito, during a Yugoslavian conference in his latter years thanked Hoxha for the assistance that the Albanian partisans gave during the War for National Liberation (Lufta Nacionalçlirimtare). The terms National Liberation Army or National Liberation War were used in both Albania and Yugoslavia. Albanians celebrate their independence day on November 28 (which is the date on which they declared their independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912), while the National Liberation festivity date is 29 November in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The first elections in post-war Albania were held on 2 December. Only members of the Communist Party could stand, and the government reported that 90% of Albanians voted for the Party.
Hoxha declared himself a Marxist-Leninist and strongly admired Joseph Stalin. During the period of 1945-1950, the government adopted relatively moderate policies intended to consolidate power. The Agrarian Reform Law was passed in August 1945. It ended the power of the beys and large landowners, giving it without compensation to peasants. 52% of all land was owned by large landowners before the law was passed; it declined to 16% after the laws passage. A large rise in population was called for and the government banned abortion except in the case of rape or danger to the mother's life. Illiteracy, which was 90-95% in rural areas in 1939 went down to 30% by 1950 and by 1985 was equal to that of the United States of America.. The Enver Hoxha University was established in 1957, which was the first of its kind in Albania. The Medieval Gjakmarrja (blood feud) was banned. Malaria, the most widespread disease, was successfully fought through advances in health care and through the draining of swamplands. By 1985 a case had not been heard of in the past twenty years whereas previously Albania had the greatest number of patients infected in Europe. A case of syphilis had not been recorded for 30 years. In order to solve the Gheg-Tosk divide, books were written in Tosk, and a majority of the Party came from southern Albania where the Tosk language is spoken.
The first issue was that the Albanian lek became revalued in terms of the Yugoslav dinar as a customs union was formed and Albania's economic plan was decided more by Yugoslavia. Albanian economists H. Banja and V. Toci stated that:
Hoxha then began to accuse Yugoslavia of misconduct.
Joseph Stalin gave advice to Hoxha and stated that Yugoslavia was attempting to annex Albania. "We did not know that the Yugoslav's, under the pretext of 'defending' your country against an attack from the Greek fascists, wanted to bring units of their army into the PRA [People's Republic of Albania]. They tried to do this in a very secret manner. In reality, their aim in this direction was utterly hostile, for they intended to overturn the situation in Albania. By June of 1947, the Central Committee of Yugoslavia began publically condemning Hoxha, accusing him of talking an individualistic and anti-Marxist line. When Albania responded by making agreements with the Soviet Union to purchase a supply of agricultural machinery, Yugoslavia said that Albania could not enter into any agreements with other countries without Yugoslav approval. Koçi Xoxe tried to stop Hoxha from improving relations with Bulgaria, reasoning that Albania will be more stable with one trading partner rather than many. Nako Spiru, an anti-Yugoslav member of the Party, condemned Xoxe and Xoxe condemned him. With no one coming to Spiru's defense, he viewed the situation as hopeless and that Yugoslav domination of his nation was imminent, causing him to commit suicide in November.
In the Eighth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party which lasted from February 26-March 8, 1948, Xoxe was implicated in a plot to isolate Hoxha and consolidate his [Xoxe's] own power. He accused Hoxha of being responsible for the decline in relations with Yugoslavia, and that a Soviet military mission be expelled in favor of a Yugoslav counterpart. Hoxha managed to remain firm and his support had not declined. When Yugoslavia publically broke with the Soviet Union, Hoxha's support base grew stronger and on July 1, Tiranë called on all Yugoslav technical advisors to leave the country and unilaterally declared all treaties and agreements null and void. Xoxe was expelled from the party and on June 13, 1949 he was executed by a firing squad.
By 1949 the United States and British intelligence organizations were working with King Zog and the mountain men of his personal guard. They recruited Albanian refugees and émigrés from Egypt, Italy, and Greece; trained them in Cyprus, Malta, and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany); and infiltrated them into Albania. Guerrilla units entered Albania in 1950 and 1952, but Albanian security forces killed or captured all of them. Kim Philby, a Soviet double agent working as a liaison officer between the British intelligence service and the United States Central Intelligence Agency, had leaked details of the infiltration plan to Moscow, and the security breach claimed the lives of about 300 infiltrators.
From May 16-June 17, 1955, Bulganin and Mikoyan visited Yugoslavia and Khrushchev renounced the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Communist bloc. Khrushchev also began making references to Palmiro Togliatti's polycentrism theory. Hoxha was offended and had not been consulted on this. Yugoslavia began asking for Hoxha to rehabilitate the image of Koçi Xoxe, which Hoxha steadfastly rejected. In 1956 at the Twentieth Party Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, Khrushchev condemned the cult of personality that had been built up around Stalin and also accused him of many grave mistakes. Khrushchev then announced the theory of peaceful coexistence, which angered Hoxha greatly. Hoxha believed that the U.S.S.R. was becoming social-imperialist and would not operate as a beacon of hope for the world Communist movement, but rather as another capitalist state; especially after Khrushchev's economic reforms. The Institute of Marxist-Leninist Studies, led by Hoxha's wife Nexhmije, quoted Lenin: "The fundamental principle of the foreign policy of a socialist country and of a Communist party is proletarian internationalism (The official definition of proletarian internationalism is 'the alliance with the revolutionaries of the advanced countries and with the oppressed peoples against the imperialists of all hues.'); not peaceful coexistence. Hoxha now took a more active stand against perceived revisionism.
Unity within the Albanian Party of Labour began to decline, with a special delegate meeting being held at Tiranë in April, 1956 composed of 450 delegates having unexpected results. The delegates...
Hoxha called for a resolution which would uphold the current leadership of the Party. It was accepted, and all the delegates who had spoken out were expelled from the party and imprisoned. Hoxha stated that this was yet another of many attempts to overthrow the leadership of Albania organized by Yugoslavia. This incident further consolidated Hoxha's power, effectively making Khrushchev-esque reforms nearly impossible. In the same year, Hoxha went to the People's Republic of China, then enduring the Sino-Soviet Split, and met with Mao Zedong. Relations with China improved, as evidenced by Chinese aid to Albania being 4.2% in 1955 before the visit, and rising to 21.6% in 1957. In an effort to keep Albania in the Soviet sphere, increased aid was given but the Albanian leadership continued to move closer towards China. During the Hungarian Revolution, Hoxha condemned the Soviets although also condemning Imre Nagy. Regardless, relations with the Soviet Union remained at the same level until 1960, when Khrushchev met with Sophocles Venizelos, a left-wing Greek politician. Khrushchev sympathized with the concept of an autonomous Greek North Epirus. Hoxha had accused the minority of having petty-bourgeois nationalist views that would harm the national unity of the nation. He also claimed that many separatists conducted terrorist acts. Relations between Albania and Greece were extremely strained until some improvement was made in the 1980s.
Relations with the Soviet Union began to decline rapidly. A hardline policy was adopted and the Soviets reduced aid shipments, specifically grain, at a time when Albania needed them due to famine-inducing floods. In July 1960, a plot to overthrow the government was discovered. It was to be organized by Soviet-trained Rear Admiral Teme Sejko. After this, the two pro-Soviet members of the Party; Liri Belishova and Koco Tashko were both expelled, with a humorous incident involving Tashko pronouncing tochka (Russian for "period.")
In August, the Party's Central Committee sent a letter of protest to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, stating the displeasure of having an anti-Albanian Soviet Ambassador in Tiranë. The Fourth Congress of the Party held from February 13-20, 1961, was the last meeting Soviet or other East European nations would attend in Albania. During the congress, the Soviet Union was condemned while China was praised. Mehmet Shehu stated that while many members of the Party were accused of tyranny, he stated that this was a baseless charge and that unlike the Soviet Union, Albania was composed of genuine Marxists. The Soviet Union retaliated by threatening "dire consequences" if the condemnations were not retracted. Days later, Khrushchev and Antonin Novotny, President of Czechoslovakia (which was Albania's largest source of aid besides the Soviets) threatened to cut off economic aid. In March, Albania was not invited to attend the meeting of the Warsaw Pact nations (Albania had been one of its founding members in 1955) and in April all Soviet technicians were withdrawn from the nation. In May, all Soviet submarines at Sazan were withdrawn.
On November 7, 1961, Hoxha made a speech in which he called Khrushchev a "revisionist, anti-Marxist and a defeatist." Hoxha portrayed Stalin as the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union and began to stress Albania's independence. By November 11, every Warsaw Pact nation including the USSR broke relations with Albania. Albania was unofficially excluded (by not being invited) from both the Warsaw Pact and COMECON. The Soviet Union had also attempted to claim control of the Vlorë port due to a lease agreement, which made the Party pass a law prohibiting any other nation from owning a port through lease or otherwise.
In 1969, direct taxation was abolished and during this period the quality of schooling and health care continued to improve. An electrification campaign was begun in 1960 and the entire nation was expected to have electricity by 1985. Instead, it achieved this on October 25, 1970, making it one of the first nations with complete electrification. During the Cultural & Ideological Revolution of 1967-1968, military ranks were abolished, uniforms were made simple, and saluting was rare, although military ranks were reintroduced by 1985 in a reduced fashion.
Hoxha's legacy also included a complex of 750,000 one-man concrete bunkers across a country of 3 million inhabitants, to act as look-outs and gun emplacements. The bunkers were built strong and mobile, with the intention that they could be easily placed by a crane or a helicopter in a previously dug hole. The types of bunkers vary from machine gun pillboxes, beach bunkers, to naval underground facilities, and even Air Force Mountain and underground bunkers. Over 700,000 pillboxes were built and around 500,000 pillboxes were reported to still be in good condition and ready to serve as shelters in case of war.
Hoxha's internal policies were true to Stalin's paradigm which he admired, and the personality cult developed in the 1970s organized around him by the Party also bore a striking resemblance to that of Stalin. At times it was even at a status similar to Kim Il Sung, with Hoxha being portrayed as a genius, commenting on virtually all facets of life from culture to economics to military matters. Each schoolbook required one or more quotations from him on the subjects being studied. Albanian émigré Sonja Beribashi stated that "...in a Physics class, credit was given to Enver Hoxha and not Newton for the law of gravity. The Party honored him with titles such as Supreme Comrade, Sole Force and Great Teacher. Internally, the Sigurimi Albanian secret police made sure to replicate the repressive methods of the NKVD, MGB, KGB, and Stasi. Its activities permeated Albanian society to the extent that every third citizen had either served time in labor camps or been interrogated by Sigurimi officers. To eliminate dissent, the government resorted systematically to purges, in which opponents were dismissed from their jobs. If this was not enough, they were imprisoned in forced-labour camps, and often executed. Travel abroad was forbidden to all but those on official business. Western-style dancing was banned, and art was made to reflect the styles of socialist realism.
Albania, being the most predominantly Muslim nation in Europe due to Turkish influence in the region, had, like the Ottoman Empire, merged religion with ethnicity. In the Ottoman Empire, Muslims were viewed as "Turks," Orthodox as Greeks and Catholics as "Latins." Hoxha believed this was a serious issue, feeling that it both gave further legitimacy to the Greek separatists in North Epirus and also divided the nation in general. In response, Hoxha stated that "The Religion of Albania is Albanianism." The Agrarian Reform Law of 1945 confiscated much of church property in the country. Catholics were the earliest religion targeted, as the Vatican was seen as being an agent of Fascism and anti-Communism. In 1946 the Jesuit Order and in 1947 the Franciscans were banned. Decree No. 743 (On Religion) sought a national church and forbade religious leaders from associating with foreign powers.
When the religious groups refused to do this, the Party focused on atheist education in schools. This tactic was effective, primarily due to the high birthrate policy encouraged after the war. During holy days such as Ramadan or Lent, many forbidden foods (dairy products, meat, etc.) were distributed in schools and factories, and those who refused to eat those foods were denounced. Starting on February 6, 1967, the Party began a new offensive against religion. Hoxha, who had declared a "Cultural and Ideological Revolution" after being partly inspired by China's Cultural Revolution, encouraged students and workers to use more forceful tactics to promote atheism, although so-called excessive violence was condemned. According to Hoxha, the surge in anti-religious activity began with the youth. The result of this "spontaneous, unprovoked movement" was the closing of all 2,169 churches and mosques in Albania. State atheism became official policy, and Albania was declared the worlds first atheist state. Religiously-based town and city names were changed, as well as personal names. During this period Greek names were also made illegal. The Dictionary of People's Names, published in 1982, contained 3,000 approved, secular names. Monsignor Dias, the Papal Nuncio for Albania appointed by Pope John Paul II, said that of the three hundred Catholic priests present in Albania prior to the Communists coming to power, only thirty survive.
During this period, Albania became the second largest producer of chromium in the world, which was considered an important export for Albania. Strategically, the Adriatic Sea was also attractive to China, and the Chinese leadership had hoped to gain more allies in Eastern Europe with the help of Albania, although this failed. Zhou Enlai visited Albania in January 1964. On January 9, "The 1964 Sino-Albanian Joint Statement" was signed in Tiranë. Like Albania, China defended the "purity" of Marxism by attacking both "U.S. imperialism" as well as "Soviet and Yugoslav revisionism", both equally as part of a "dual adversary" theory. Yugoslavia was viewed as a "special detachment of U.S. imperialism" and a "saboteur against world revolution." These views however began to change in China, which was one of the major issues Albania had with the alliance. Also unlike Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, the Sino-Albanian alliance lacked "...an organizational structure for regular consultations and policy coordination, and was characterized by an informal relationship conducted on an ad hoc basis." Mao made a speech on November 3, 1966 which claimed that Albania was the only socialist state in Europe and that "an attack on Albania will have to reckon with great People's China. If the U.S. imperialists, the modern Soviet revisionists or any of their lackeys dare to touch Albania in the slightest, nothing lies ahead for them but a complete, shameful and memorable defeat. Likewise, Hoxha stated that "You may rest assured, comrades, that come what may in the world at large, our two parties and our two peoples will certainly remain together. They will fight together and they will win together.
China entered into a four-year period of relative diplomatic isolation following the Cultural Revolution and at this point relations between China and Albania reached their zenith. On August 20, 1968, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was condemned by Albania, as was the Brezhnev doctrine. Albania then officially withdrew from the Warsaw Pact on September 5. Relations with China began to deteriorate on July 15, 1971, when United States' President Richard Nixon agreed to visit China to meet with Zhou Enlai. Hoxha felt betrayed and the government was in a state of shock. On August 6 a letter was sent from the Central Committee of the Albanian Party of Labour to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, calling Nixon a "frenzied anti-Communist." The result was a 1971 message from the Chinese leadership stating that Albania could not depend on an indefinite flow of further Chinese aid and in 1972 Albania was advised to "curb its expectations about further Chinese contributions to its economic development. By 1973, Hoxha wrote in his diary Reflections on China that the Chinese leaders: In response, trade with COMECON (although trade with the Soviet Union was still blocked) and Yugoslavia grew. Trade with Third World nations was $0.5 million in 1973, but $8.3 million in 1974. Trade rose from 0.1% to 1.6%. Following Mao's death on September 9, 1976, Hoxha remained optimistic about Sino-Albanian relations, but in August of 1977, Hua Guofeng, the new leader of China, stated that Mao's Three Worlds Theory would become official foreign policy. Hoxha viewed this as a way for China to justify having the U.S. as the "secondary enemy" while viewing the Soviet Union as the main one, thus allowing China to trade with the U.S. "...the Chinese plan of the 'third world' is a major diabolical plan, with the aim that China should become another superpower, precisely by placing itself at the head of the 'third world' and 'non-aligned world.' From August 30-September 7, 1977, Tito visited Beijing and was welcomed by the Chinese leadership. At this point, the Albanian Party of Labour had declared that China was now a revisionist state akin to the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia and that Albania was the only socialist state on earth. On July 13, 1978, China announced that it was cutting of all aid to Albania. For the first time in modern history, Albania did not have an ally.
A new Constitution was decided on by the Seventh Congress of the Albanian Party of Labour from November 1-7, 1976. According to Hoxha, "The old Constitution was the Constitution of the building of the foundations of socialism, whereas the new Constitution will be the Constitution of the complete construction of a socialist society. Self-reliance was now stressed more than ever. Citizens were encouraged to train in the use of weapons and such activity was also taught in schools. This was to encourage the creation of quick partisans. Albania had very little, if any foreign debt. In 1983, Albania imported goods worth $280 million but exported goods with $290 million, producing a trade surplus of $10 million.
In 1981, Hoxha ordered the execution of several party and government officials in a new purge. Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu was reported to have committed suicide following a further dispute within the Albanian leadership in December 1981, but it is widely believed that he was killed. The 1980s were spent improving diplomatic relations with Italy and Greece as well as writing a large assortment of books. Hoxha wrote over 65 volumes. Imperialism and the Revolution (1978) is mainly concerned with Maoism, China's role in the world, and its perceived intentions. It is considered one of the most important things defining Hoxhaism, since he believed that Marxism-Leninism had been corrupted by Khrushchev and Mao.
Later, Hoxha withdrew into semi-retirement due to failing health, having suffered a heart attack in 1973 from which he never fully recovered. He turned most state functions over to Ramiz Alia. In his final days he was confined to a wheelchair and was suffering from diabetes, which he had suffered from since 1948. Hoxha's death on 11 April 1985 left Albania with a legacy of isolation and fear of the outside world. Despite some progress made by Hoxha, the economy was into stagnation and Albania had been the poorest European country throughout much of the Cold War period. As Communist governments rule weakened and subsequently were overthrown in the Revolutions of 1989 throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union lost the Cold War and disintegrated, his succession by Ramiz Alia led to some relaxation in internal and foreign policies, culminating in Albania's abandonment of Communism and one-party rule in 1990 and the reformed Socialist Party's defeat in the 1992 elections. As of the early 21st century, very little of Hoxha's legacies are still in place in today's Albania.