In this Fellows Colloquium, Robert C. Austin presented his research on Albania’s Enver Hoxha (1908-1985), who is likely the least understood of the twentieth century’s communist dictators that took power in the aftermath of the Second World War in Europe. Hoxha was also one of the most violent, ruthless, and repressive communist leaders. Albanians could easily claim that they endured the worst type of communist rule: Hoxha’s form of (violent) communism was without parallel in Europe.
With four decades in power (1944-1985) Hoxha would not only impose a distinctly Albanian form of communism, but he would also punch way above his weight in terms of impact on the international communist movement giving his Albania a reputation for often bizarre policy choices. Indeed, in his cult-like devotion to Stalin and Stalinism as an economic and political tool for Albania’s modernization, Hoxha would see off not just any number of internal threats but multiple external ones as well, as he shifted Albania’s allegiances from Yugoslavia to the USSR and then to China before choosing a totally independent foreign policy line in the late 1970s. It is a story that is invariably violent and tragic as Hoxha successfully kept not just his party faithful in a state of permanent fear but the population as well who understood that dissent meant death or jail. Till his last days, he was the master of the party purge and was forever able to keep people guessing as to what was next.
Robert C. Austin is a specialist on East Central and Southeastern Europe in historic and contemporary perspective at the University of Toronto. At the IWM he is completing a new biography of Enver Hoxha under contract with Reaktion Books and researching the fate of Muslims during the Balkan Wars.
Nikolai Antoniadis, journalist and author, fact checker at Der Spiegel, Guest of the Institute at IWM in 2022, provided commentary.
Misha Glenny, IWM Rector, introduced the speaker and moderated the discussion.