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1944-1945 - Communist Takeover of Albania

The communist partisans regrouped and, thanks to freshly supplied British weapons, gained control of southern Albania in January 1944. In May they called a congress of members of the National Liberation Front (NLF, as the movement was by then called) at Pėrmet, which chose an Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation to act as Albania's administration and legislature. Hoxha became the chairman of the council's executive committee and the National Liberation Army's supreme commander. The communist partisans defeated the last Balli Kombetar forces in southern Albania by mid-summer 1944 and encountered only scattered resistance from the Balli Kombetar and Legality when they entered central and northern Albania by the end of July. The British military mission urged the nationalists not to oppose the communists' advance, and the Allies evacuated Kupi to Italy. Before the end of November, the Germans had withdrawn from Tiranė, and the communists, supported by Allied air cover, had no problem taking control of the capital. A provisional government the communists had formed at Berat in October administered Albania with Enver Hoxha as prime minister, and in late 1944 Hoxha dispatched Albanian partisans to help Tito's forces rout Albanian nationalists in Kosovo.

Albania stood in an unenviable position after World War II. Greece and Yugoslavia hungered for Albanian lands they had lost or claimed. The NLF's strong links with Yugoslavia's communists, who also enjoyed British military and diplomatic support, guaranteed that Belgrade would play a key role in Albania's postwar order. The Allies never recognized an Albanian government in exile or King Zog, nor did they ever raise the question of Albania or its borders at any of the major wartime conferences. No reliable statistics on Albania's wartime losses exist, but the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration reported about 30,000 Albanian war dead, 200 destroyed villages, 18,000 destroyed houses, and about 100,000 people left homeless. Albanian official statistics claim somewhat higher losses.

A tiny collection of militant communists moved quickly after World War II to subdue all potential political enemies in Albania, break the country's landowners and minuscule middle class, and isolate Albania from the noncommunist world. By early 1945, the communists had liquidated, discredited, or driven into exile most of the country's interwar elite. The internal affairs minister, Koci Xoxe, a pro-Yugoslav erstwhile tinsmith, presided over the trial and the execution of thousands of opposition politicians, clan chiefs, and members of former Albanian governments who were condemned as "war criminals." Thousands of their family members were imprisoned for years in work camps and jails and later exiled for decades to miserable state farms built on reclaimed marshlands. The communists' consolidation of control also produced a shift in political power in Albania from the northern Gegs to the southern Tosks. Most communist leaders were middle-class Tosks, and the party drew most of its recruits from Tosk-inhabited areas, while the Gegs, with their centuries-old tradition of opposing authority, distrusted the new Albanian rulers and their alien Marxist doctrines.

The communists also undertook economic measures to expand their power. In December 1944, the provisional government adopted laws allowing the state to regulate foreign and domestic trade, commercial enterprises, and the few industries the country possessed. The laws sanctioned confiscation of property belonging to political exiles and "enemies of the people." The state also expropriated all German- and Italian-owned property, nationalized transportation enterprises, and canceled all concessions granted by previous Albanian governments to foreign companies.



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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:50:45 ZULU