After the Second World War, communist Albania conceived a perfidious combination of propaganda and control: the so-called "Letrat nga populli," the Letters of the People. Without having to deal with any bureaucratic obstacles, every citizen could personally address the First Secretary of the "Party of Labor of Albania," Enver Hoxha, by writing him a letter. For 40 years, until Hoxha’s death in 1985, thousands of Albanians made use of this offer and approached the dictator with all sorts of private matters.
Actually, the letters were not read by Hoxha himself. In fact, the Central Committee of the "Party of Labor of Albania" established a special department within the General Directorate headed by Hoxha’s personal secretary Haxhi Kroi, only to deal with them: The letters were meticulously categorized, catalogued and archived, the senders checked by State Security, their concerns discussed in detail and answered accordingly. These letters together with the documentation of the "Section Letters and Complaints" of the General Directorate give insights into the inner life of the Albanian dictatorship, in equally tragic, heart-warming, and absurd episodes. In many cases, those who wrote the letters or their close relatives are still alive; in other cases, the reasons for writing the letters or the consequences of the matters discussed in them have survived over time.
From this material – the letters and the circumstances of their production, the processing by the authorities and the long shadows they cast into present day Albania – Nikolai Antoniadis makes a book which not only highlights personal stories from four decades but also mirrors the mindset of today’s Albania: the wounds, caused by the dictatorship, are still open, while the memory of the past is not only contested, but mainly blurred or outrightly denied.
Communist Albania developed a perfidious propaganda tool: the "Letters of the People". Without having to deal with bureaucratic obstacles, every citizen could personally address the First Secretary of the "Party of Labour" by writing him a letter. These letters, which were actually read by state security, do not only give unique insights into the reality of socialism. They reveal how Albania's denied past is shaping its present.