Official Albanian scribes and artists presented the history of communist Albania as the saga of a backward, besieged people marching toward a Stalinist utopia. The actual story of communist Albania is, however, quintessentially dystopian, a bleak inventory of bloody purges and repression, a case study in betrayal and obsessive xenophobia, a cacophony of bitter polemics with real and fantasized enemies that the outside world barely took time to notice.
After five years of party infighting and extermination campaigns against the country's anticommunist opposition, Enver Hoxha and Mehmet Shehu emerged as the dominant figures in Albania. The duumvirate concentrated primarily on securing and maintaining their power base and secondarily on preserving Albania's independence and reshaping the country according to the procrustean precepts of orthodox Stalinism. In pursuit of these goals, the communist elite co-opted or terrorized the entire Albanian population into blind obedience, herding them into obligatory front organizations, bombarding them with propaganda, and disciplining them with a police leviathan untrammeled by anything resembling legal, ethical, religious, or political norms. Hoxha and Shehu dominated Albania and denied the Albanian people the most basic human and civil rights by presenting themselves, as well as the communist party and state security apparatus they controlled, as the vigilant defenders of the country's independence. After Albania's break with Yugoslavia in late 1948, Albania was a client of the Soviet Union. Following the Soviet Union's rapprochement with Tito after Stalin's death, Albania turned away from Moscow and found a new benefactor in China. When China's isolation ended in the 1970s, Albania turned away from its giant Asian patron and adopted a strict policy of autarky that brought the country economic ruin. But through it all, Hoxha engineered an elaborate cult of personality (see Glossary) whose spokesmen elevated his persona to the status of a god-man. When he died in 1985, few Albanian eyes were without tears.
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