After World War II, Albania developed into a
fierce communist and atheist dictatorship, where
thousands of "class enemies" were executed in Europe's
most isolated country. Dictator Enver Hoxha died in
1985, and a cautious reform policy led to free elections
in 1991. Economic collapse was followed by popular
revolt, and a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping force was sent
into the country to establish the order. A few years
into the 2000s, the economy began to grow and a
modernization of Albania began.
When the Second World War was over, in December 1945,
an election was held in which only the Communists
participated. In 1946, the People's Republic of Albania
was formed. In the same year, a friendship agreement was
signed with Yugoslavia, and in the spring of 1947, the
Yugoslav leader Tito forged plans for a union between
Yugoslavia and Albania. The idea was that Albania would
merge with Kosovo into the seventh sub-republic of
Yugoslavia. These plans came to a quick end when the
Moscow regime broke with Yugoslavia in 1948. Albania
then became a faithful arms carrier to the Soviet Union,
which gained a naval base in the Albanian city of Durrės.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Albania. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Albanian-Soviet relations deteriorated as the Soviet
Union, following the death of leader Josef Stalin in
1953, approached Yugoslavia. In 1961 Albania broke with
the Soviet Union and instead made contact with China.
The Soviet Union was forced to leave the base in Durres
and Soviet assistance was replaced by Chinese. This
hampered the economy, which led to demands for change.
Hoxha responded with a series of purges in the
Terror and isolation
When China established relations with the United
States in the 1970s and sought to improve relations with
Yugoslavia, Albania also distanced itself from China. In
1978, Chinese aid ceased and Albania's international
isolation became almost total. The constitution of
Albania prohibited the government from borrowing money
abroad and receiving aid. Nor were foreign companies
allowed to establish themselves in Albania.
Hoxha's regime aroused the disgust of the outside
world, which further contributed to Albania's isolation.
No Eastern European country went as far as Albania in
imitating Stalin's methods of coercion and terror.
Thousands of "class enemies" were executed, imprisoned,
banished in the country or interned in labor camps. At
the same time, the Albanian leader became the subject of
a fanatical cult of personality.
Enver Hoxha died in 1985. He was succeeded by Ramiz
Alia, who initiated a cautious reform policy. But
Albania remained the poorest country in Europe and
Albanians' dissatisfaction with the regime increased. In
the end, the upheavals in Eastern Europe in 1989 also
spread to Albania. More and more people were trying to
leave the country, while the demands for democracy were
increasing. In December 1990, the regime gave in and
allowed multi-party systems.
The Communists win the first election
In March 1991, the first election was held. The
Communists got two-thirds of the vote, while the newly
formed Albanian Democratic Party (PD) received most of
the remainder. The newly elected Parliament recognized
the right to, among other things, private ownership,
freedom of expression and emigration. A new presidential
post was established and Ramiz Alia was appointed
president. But the unrest continued. A first government
was forced to resign after a few weeks, and in June a
coalition government took office in which both major
parties were included. The Communists changed their name
to the Albanian Socialist Party (PS).
At the same time, the Albanian economy collapsed. The
lack of food led to looting and hunger cravings. The
mass exodus accelerated. The government was forced to
resign and new elections were announced in March 1992.
Now the opposition won. PD formed government together
with two small parties. President Alia was succeeded by
PD leader Sali Berisha.
The Berisha government launched a campaign to wipe
out communism. The old Communist Party assets were
confiscated and lawsuits were initiated against several
former Communist leaders. Socialist Party leader Fatos
Nano was sentenced in 1994 to 12 years in prison for
abusing international relief. The Socialist Party
claimed that Nano was imprisoned for political reasons.
Hunting for old communists
Prior to the 1996 elections, the PD government's
political opponents were harassed. Laws were introduced
to exclude executives from the Communist era from public
records. Many of the Socialist Party politicians were
affected, while the government's sympathizers were
protected. Nevertheless, Sali Berisha himself was a
member of the Communist Party during the Hoxha era.
In May 1996, PD won an election boycotted by the
Socialists and most other parties. They protested
against cheating and were supported by foreign
observers. A new PD-led coalition government was formed.
Berisha began to control increasingly simply and gain
control over the media. Independent newspapers and the
political opposition were constantly harassed by the
In the New Year 1997, serious popular protests
erupted when so-called pyramid schemes collapsed. The
Pyramid Games were a kind of investment fund that worked
much like a chain letter. Each and every other Alban -
ignorant of how a capitalist economy works - had been
tempted to invest everything they owned in these funds,
which could initially pay out big profits to those who
invested money. Eventually, however, the money was not
enough and many people became completely exposed when
one pyramid after another collapsed.
The anger of the people now turned to the government,
and the political opposition encouraged the protests. By
March 1997, the revolt had spread throughout Albania,
but worst of all it came to the south. Enraged people
broke into weapons stockpiles and soon a large amount of
weapons were in circulation. Stores were looted,
official buildings set on fire and lawlessness
Finally, the government was forced to ask the outside
world for help to restore order. In April, 7,000
soldiers from eight countries arrived in Albania.
Meanwhile, Berisha had been forced to set up a
transitional government and announce new elections.
In the June 1997 elections, the Socialist Party
gained its own majority in Parliament. The new Socialist
Party Secretary-General Rexhep Meidani was appointed new
President. The party's chairman Fatos Nano, who had been
released during the revolt, formed a coalition
government. Most foreign soldiers left the country.
At the same time as the parliamentary elections, a
referendum was held on whether to reinstate the
monarchy. The official result showed that 67 percent of
the voters had said no, but the faithful deputy Leka
claimed that the figures were false and that a majority
had said yes.
The Kosovo crisis is a turning point
The new government's primary task was to restore
order, collect all weapons in operation, deal with the
many gang members and dissolve the rebel councils that
ruled in several places in the south. To some extent
this succeeded, but far from completely. Large numbers
of weapons were still out in the community and the
economy was in chaos. The government presented an
ambitious reform program and was supported by, among
others, the IMF.
During the unrest in the Serbian province of Kosovo
in 1998–1999 and NATO military intervention, some
450,000 Kosovo Albanians fled to Albania. A NATO force
was stationed in the country to protect humanitarian
efforts for the refugees. UN staff and aid organizations
also came to Albania. The crisis sounded faster than
expected when most refugees returned after NATO ceased
The Kosovo crisis indirectly became a turning point
for developments in Albania. The large presence of
foreign personnel meant that the country began to be
incorporated into the outside world and both the
administration and the economy were pushed in the right
direction by the inflow of expertise and money.
The parliamentary elections in June 2001 could be
carried out with much less of the violence and cheating
that affected previous elections. The Socialist Party
secured its own majority and could continue to govern.
The socialists' government holdings had always been
characterized by internal power struggles and the
government was reformed several times. Fatos Nano, who
formed the first government after the 1997 elections,
had to resign after just over a year. He was replaced as
prime minister by Pandeli Majko, who after one year was
allowed to leave Ilir Meta. This one formed a new
government after the 2001 election, but had to leave
only six months later. Majko then returned as prime
minister. After another six months he was allowed to go;
Fatos Nano returned as head of government in July 2002.
Nano had been forced to give up trying to become
president when Rexhep Meidani's replacement was elected
in June of that year. Instead, the two major parties had
agreed on a compromise candidate: former General Alfred
Despite the great internal turbulence during the
Socialist Party's reign, the democratic structures in
the country were strengthened gradually. More parties
were formed, new media were founded and both individual
organizations and business operations grew. But the
contradictions were still great between the two dominant
In February 2004, Berisha and PD called for
government-critical protests in Tirana. Police were
deployed to prevent thousands of protesters from
storming government buildings. Later that month, 50,000
people demonstrated in Tirana demanding Nano's
Cooperation agreement with the EU
Ever since the fall of communism, a rapprochement
with the EU had been an overall goal for both PS and PD.
Ahead of the 2005 parliamentary elections, the European
Commission had made clear that free and fair elections
were a prerequisite for opening negotiations on Albanian
EU membership. However, observers pointed to inadequate
identification of voters and criticized the two major
parties for claiming victory even before the polling
stations had closed.
In the election, the PD secured allies in the
parliament with allied parties, but the formation of the
government dragged on at the time. Only in September was
PD able to form a coalition government with six smaller
parties. Sali Berisha became new prime minister.
Socialist leader Fatos Nano resigned after the election
and was succeeded as party leader by Tirana Mayor Edi
Eventually, the EU noted that Albania had made some
progress in a democratic direction. The reward was a
Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in
2006. Such an agreement is regarded as the first step
towards a membership of the Union. In April 2008,
Albania was offered membership in NATO and a year later,
the country entered the defense alliance.
In the 2009 election, the ruling PD won in an
alliance of 17 parties, with barely a margin over a
five-party alliance dominated by the Socialist Party.
The Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), an
outbreak of the Socialist Party, also took place in
Boycotts and violent protests
But the opposition accused PD of electoral fraud and
refused to accept the result. For many months, the left
boycotted Parliament, with the result that laws needed
for the EU's rapprochement could not be adopted. Sali
Berisha, who, after extended negotiations, was able to
form a government with LSI, refused to meet the
opposition's demand that the votes be recalculated.
Foreign observers felt that the election was better
conducted than in the past, although there was pressure
In the spring of 2010, the opposition boycott was
canceled after mediation by the EU, but the conflict
escalated. A major protest in Tirana in January 2011
degenerated into violence and harsh police intervention,
leading to four protesters being shot dead and many
Local elections in May were accompanied by new
violent protests from the opposition, especially in
Tirana where Edi Rama was first declared re-elected
mayor and then lost to PD's candidate by a marginal
margin. Rama appealed to the Supreme Court before
accepting the election loss. In June, the Socialists
launched a new boycott of Parliament and returned only
after three months. The boycott crippled the legislative
Long road to EU membership
Following pressure from the Council of Europe and the
OSCE, among other parties, the parties agreed in 2012 to
reform the electoral law. Not least, it involved the
formation of a more independent election commission. The
Council of Europe and the OSCE also stressed that the
parties must accept the rules of democracy.
The political power struggle continued to extend
Albania's long road to EU membership. In 2012, the EU
found that the country fulfilled only one of the basic
requirements for becoming a candidate country: the
establishment of a Justice Ombudsman.
In September of that year, the Albanian Parliament
voted unanimously to severely limit the judicial
immunity of MEPs, senior judges and senior officials.
Thus, one of the requirements set by the European
Commission was met. Shortly thereafter, the EU
Commission recommended that Albania be granted candidate
status, provided that a number of other judicial and
human rights reforms were completed.