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Historical Introduction

Communist nostalgia in the raw: an Albanian woman kisses the picture of late Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha at his grave, in the public cemetery of Tirana during celebrations for his birthday, 16 October 2007. Many communist supporters celebrated today the 99th birthday of the late dictator who ruled Albania with an iron fist for half a century. AFP

The tiny Albanian state in the south of Balkan Peninsula has repeatedly fallen under attacks from larger countries. Occupied by Italy before the beginning of World War II and later by Germany, Albania emerged from the war under a Communist regime that promptly launched a wave of terror. Opposition members and their alleged supporters were imprisoned or shot. Many local intellectuals shared the same fate. The government took control of the economy and revoked civil liberties. The Church fell under hard pressure, with its members ruthlessly persecuted. In 1967, the Communist party banned all religious activity in the country, rendering all religion lawless. Communist tyranny left Albania among the world’s poorest and backward countries, yet militarized to the extreme. The exact number of victims of Communism is unknown. By now, the names of 5577 persons murdered by Communists have been established. At least 48.217 persons, including 10.192 women and children, were imprisoned in concentration camps. Although Albania managed to free itself from Communism after the regime collapsed in 1989, it has yet to overcome the backwardness caused by Communist rule.