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Albania - 1949-1958

Albania's relations with the West soured after the communist regime's refusal to allow free elections in December 1945. Albania restricted the movements of United States and British personnel in the country, charging that they had instigated anticommunist uprisings in the northern mountains. Britain announced in April that it would not send a diplomatic mission to Tiranë; the United States withdrew its mission in November; and both the United States and Britain opposed admitting Albania to the United Nations (UN). The Albanian regime feared that the United States and Britain, which were supporting anticommunist forces in the civil war in Greece, would back Greek demands for territory in southern Albania; and anxieties grew in July when a United States Senate resolution backed the Greek demands.

A major incident between Albania and Britain erupted in 1946 after Tiranë claimed jurisdiction over the channel between the Albanian mainland and the Greek island of Corfu. Britain challenged Albania by sailing four destroyers into the channel. Two of the ships struck mines on October 22, 1946, and forty-four crew members died. Britain complained to the UN and the International Court of Justice which, in its first case ever, ruled against Tiranë.

After 1946 the United States and Britain began implementing an elaborate covert plan to overthrow Albania's communist regime by backing anticommunist and royalist forces within the country. By 1949 the United States and British intelligence organizations were working with King Zog and the fanatic mountainmen 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.

A wave of subversive activity, including the failed infiltration and the March 1951 bombing of the Soviet embassy in Tiranë, encouraged the Albanian regime to implement harsh internal security measures. In September 1952, the assembly enacted a penal code that required the death penalty for anyone over eleven years old found guilty of conspiring against the state, damaging state property, or committing economic sabotage.

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.

An early estimate, SE 34, Consequences of an Attempt to Overthrow the Present Regime in Albania (30 December 1952) had an initial "dissemination" in a single copy. A few weeks later when the need for security had slackened other copies were distributed, but probably no more than a score or so.

"In Albania there is widespread dissatisfaction with the present regime. Even within Uie Albanian Government and within the Albanian Communist Party there is a widespread loss of confidence in the long-term prospects of the regime and an increased sense of personal insecurity appear to have developed. Resistance activlty in Albania has increased during the past year, in part a result of activity by emigre elements, some of whom are supported by Western governments. Rumors and reports of plans for the over-throw of the Hoxha regime have been circulated. Most of the European services, including those of the USSR and Albania, are aware of connections of the emigres with Western governments and believe that some sort ot plan for the overthrow of the Hoxha regime ls in the making. Both the USSR and the present Albanian leaders have demonstrated sensitivity and uneasiness over this situation and have publicly accused the West, and especially the US, of "organizing provocations" against Albania. The USSR almost certainly desires to keep Albania within the Soviet Bloc, even though an economic liability and an isolated outpost. Loss of Albania would be damaging to Soviet prestige and would reduce Soviet capabilities for exerting pressure on Yugoslavia and Greece. Nevertheless, the USSR has not entered into a mutual assistance pact with Albania, as it has with its other European Satellites (except East Germany)."

A succession of failed covert operations began with the attempted infiltration of agents into Albania and the Soviet Union, not one of whom escaped apprehension, and climaxed in the Bay of Pigs and various embarrassing efforts -- all fortunately unsuccessful -- to assassinate foreign political leaders.

  • OBOPUS (formerly BGFIEND) (1949-58) was initially a joint US-British covert action program designed to overthrow the Soviet dominated regime of Enver Hoxha in Albania and evolved into establishing and exploiting National Committee for Free Albania (NCFA), propaganda media, infiltration agents, and economic warfare. VALUABLE was the British Albanian plan.
  • OBDURATE (formerly OBSTACLE, Plan CHARITY) (1954-56), incorporated into OBLONG in 1956, exploited the intelligence potential of a significant Albanian émigré group in Rome (Balli Kombetar).
  • OBHUNT Infiltration missions into Albania via airdrops or overland to organize underground resistance, establish safe houses, collect operational intelligence, and to spread propaganda. These missions were associated with Project BGFIEND.
  • OBLIVIOUS (1949-55), formerly HTNEIGH and part of OBOPUS/BGFIEND, provided support to National Committee for Free Albania (NCFA) as CIA's overt vehicle for political, psychological, paramilitary activities against Albania. Hasan Dosti associated with OBLIVIOUS.
  • OBLONG OBDURATE (formerly OBSTACLE, Plan CHARITY) (1954-56), incorporated into OBLONG in 1956, exploited the intelligence potential of a significant Albanian émigré group in Rome (Balli Kombetar).
  • OBSIDIOUS Infiltration missions into Albania via airdrops or overland to organize underground resistance, establish safe houses, collect operational intelligence, and to spread propaganda. These missions were associated with Project BGFIEND
  • OBTEST Clandestine radio broadcasts into Albania and associated with Project BGFIEND.
  • OBTUSE Propaganda campaign against Albania, which included distribution of leaflets, printed matter, and a small quantity of consumer goods via overflights and a limited mail campaign. This propaganda campaign was associated with Project BGFIEND.
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.

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Page last modified: 22-11-2013 00:03:00 ZULU