Enver Hoxha [en-vehr hoj-e]
(October 16, 1908–April 11, 1985) was the communist leader of Albania from the end of World War II until his death, primarily as the First Secretary of the Albanian Party of Labour. He was also prime minister of Albania from 1944 to 1954 and the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1946 to 1953. Under Hoxha, whose rule was characterized by isolation from the rest of Europe and firm adherence to Stalinism, Albania emerged from semi-feudalism to become an industrialized state.
Hoxha was dismissed from his teaching post following the 1939 Italian invasion of World War II for refusing to join the Albanian Fascist Party. He opened a tobacco shop in Tiranë where soon a small communist group started gathering. He was helped by Yugoslav communists to found and become leader of the Albanian Communist Party (called Party of Labour afterwards) in November 1941, as well as the resistance movement (National Liberation Army), which took power in November 1944.
Hoxha declared himself an orthodox Marxist-Leninist and strongly admired Joseph Stalin. He adopted the model of the Soviet Union and severed relations with his former Yugoslav communist allies following their ideological breach with Moscow in 1948. He had defence minister Koçi Xoxe (pron. Kochi Dzodze) executed a year later for alleged pro-Yugoslav activities.
Hoxha confiscated farmland from wealthy landowners and consolidated it into collective farms (Cooperatives) that eventually enabled Albania to become almost completely self-sufficient in food crops. He also developed the industry and brought electricity to most rural areas, and epidemics of disease and illiteracy were stamped out. Worried about an invasion from the Soviet bloc, Italy or the United States, from 1950 Hoxha authorised the construction of thousands of one-man concrete bunkers across the country, to act as look outs and gun emplacements, possibly numbering in excess of 500,000.
In 1967, following two decades of progressively harsher persecution of religion under his rule, Hoxha triumphantly declared his nation to be the first atheist state in history. Partially inspired by China's Cultural Revolution, he proceeded to confiscate mosques, churches, monasteries, and shrines. Many were immediately razed, others turned into machine shops, warehouses, stables, and movie theaters. Parents were forbidden to give their children religious names. Anyone caught with the Qur'an, Bibles, icons, or religious objects faced long prison sentences. In the south, where the ethnic Greek population was concentrated, villages named after saints were given secular names.
According to a landmark Amnesty International report published in 1984 Albania's human rights record was dismal under Hoxha. The regime denied its citizens freedom of expression, religion, movement, and association although the constitution of 1976 ostensibly guaranteed each of these rights. In fact, certain clauses in the constitution effectively circumscribed the exercise of political liberties that the regime interpreted as contrary to the established order. In addition, the regime tried to deny the population access to information other than that disseminated by the government-controlled media. The Sigurimi routinely violated the privacy of persons, homes, and communications and made arbitrary arrests. The courts ensured that verdicts were rendered from the party's political perspective rather than affording due process to the accused, who were occasionally sentenced without even the formality of a trial.
Later, Hoxha withdrew into semiretirement and turned most state functions over to Ramiz Alia. Hoxha's death on April 11, 1985 led to some relaxation in internal and foreign policies under his successor Ramiz Alia, as communist party rule weakened throughout Eastern Europe, culminating in Albania's abandonment of one-party rule in 1990 and the reformed Socialist Party's defeat in the 1992 elections.