Prime minister of Albania, First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania and Albanian communist politician. Hoxha ruled Albania with an iron grip for 40 years.
Hoxha was a firm adherer to anti-revolutionist Marxism-Leninism and admirer of Joseph Stalin. The Tirana newspaper Gazeta Shqiptare reported that over his years in power he had squandered a total of $15m of state funds.
Born in 1908 in Gjirokaster, Southern Albania, part of the Ottoman Empire to a Muslim family. He studied in France at the University of Montpellier but lost his scholarship due to involvement in leftwing politics. He eventually returned to Albania to work as a teacher.
Entry into Politics
In 1941 Hoxha founded the Communist Party of Albania, later renamed to the Party of Labour of Albania, following Italy’s invasion of Albania. His first focus was to enlist support against the fascist Italian rule and unite anti-fascists regardless of class or ideology. By 1943 he was formally elected to First Secretary and established the Albanian National Liberation Army to defend the country in WWII.
The Anti-Fascist Committee for National Liberation was founded and chaired by Hoxha. In 1944 it became known as the Democratic Government of Albania and Hoxha was elected as Prime Minister.
As Prime Minister, foreign minister, minister of defence and commander-in-chief of the army, Hoxha consolidated power and began a strict modernisation policy. Land was redistributed; confiscated and organised into collective farms. Businesses were nationalised, modern industry developed, education improved with the establishment of the University of Tirana, and religion was outlawed. Those who opposed the movement were sent to prison camps or executed.
Hoxha greatly admired the Soviet Union and quickly aligned himself with them once relations with Yugoslavia broke down.
It is reported that $200 million in Soviet aid was given to Albania under Stalin. Relations remained close until Stalin’s death in 1953 when investment, and therefore development, in Albania was significantly reduced. Relations declined rapidly after Stalin and eventually, in 1961 Hoxha publicly declared that Stalin was the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union and ended all Soviet relations.
Albania was torn apart by a cultural revolution modelled on Mao Zedong’s in China. All diplomatic links with the Soviet Union were broken. China’s investment in Albania did not dictate their economic output, unlike previous investors and labour was cheap.
After Mao’s death Albania found itself without an ally or a major trading partner. An ideological hibernation followed and several hundred thousand concrete bunkers were built against the threat of invasion.
Towards the end of Hoxha’s life, under the constitution which promoted self-reliance and banned foreign investment, Albania was one of the poorest and most isolated country in Europe. Over 6000 Albanians were executed as opponents of the Hoxha regime. Around 34000 jailed and 59000 sent into internal exile.
In 1973 Hoxha had a heart attack and turned over most state functions to Ramiz Ali. He eventually died in 1985 and left Albania with a legacy of isolation and fear of the outside world. It was only with the transition to capitalism in 1992 that diminished his legacy.