Alongside the communist party a rival nationalist resistance to the Italian occupiers emerged in October 1942. Ali Klissura and Midhat Frasheri formed the Western- perspective and anticommunist Balli Kombetar (National Front), a movement that recruited supporters from both the large landowners and peasantry. It was ‘dedicated to forming a republican, ethnic–based Albanian state.’ (Hupchick, 2002: 374) The Balli Kombetar opposed King Zog's return to power and called for the creation of a republic and the introduction of economic and social reforms. The Balli Kombetar's leaders acted cautiously, however, fearing that the Italian occupiers would carry out severe retribution against innocent peasants or confiscate the landowners' estates. This also meant that the large landowners often cooperated with the Italians and later on with the Germans, to maintain there holding, wealth and lands.
With the surrender of Italy in 1943, the Italian military control of Albania collapsed. In this anarchical environment the communist were quick to take control of most of Albania’s southern cities and the nationalist who cooperated with the NLF took control over much of the north. Due to their ability to perform strategically, British operatives working in Albania at the time urged the different political groups to unite their efforts against the invading armies. In 1943 the communist and the Balli Kombetar (BK) factions met in a town near Tirane and formed the ‘Albanian National Liberation Army’ and later went on to set up the Committee for the Salvation of Albania ‘which consisted of six members from the NFL and six from the BK. It was further agreed that both factions would fight jointly against the occupiers.’(Crampton, 2002: 40) However the collaboration was short lived due to a disagreement of the postwar status of Kosovo. The communists, under Yugoslav tutelage, supported returning the region to Yugoslavia after the war, while the nationalist Balli Kombetar advocated keeping the province. Tensions were high and cival war seemed imminent. The situation was further complicated by the emergence of a third sizeable group, the Loyalist Legality Movement (LM), whose main intentions were to bring back King Zog as head of the state.
A month later, the communists attacked Balli Kombetar forces, igniting a civil war that was fought for the next year, mostly in southern Albania. ‘Hoxha’s communist held clear advantages over their opponents. ‘They adamantly were committed to liquidating their opposition and taking control of the state.’(Hupchick, 2002: 375) It seems the communists believed so unfalteringly in their ideology that they were prepared to fight both a civil war and defend Albania against German invasion. This illustrates another factor why communist came out the ruling class in 1944. Unlike the Balli Kombetar and to a lesser extent the Loyalist Legality Movement who were prepared to compromise with the Germans, the communist would not give up their belief that the creation of a communist state in Albania was for the greater good of society and the only way for advancement.
Germany occupied Albania in September 1943, dropping paratroopers into Tirane before the Albanian guerrillas could take the capital, and the German army soon drove the guerrillas into the hills and to the south. ‘The Germans did not exert heavy-handed control over Albania's administration. Rather, they sought to gain popular support by backing causes popular with Albanians, especially the annexation of Kosovo.’ (Martell, 1983:146) Some Balli Kombetar units even cooperated with the Germans against the communists, and some influential figures even held position in the German sponsored regimes. Albanian collaborators, especially the Skanderbeg SS Division, also expelled and killed Serbs living in Kosovo. This did not help the popularity of the Balli Kombetar as they were seen as traitors to Albania’s freedom by many. This also placed more support for the communist as they were seen by many of the populace to be fighting for the greater good of the country.
The communist partisans gained control of southern Albania in January 1944. In May they called a congress of members of the National Liberation Front, which chose an Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation to act as Albania's administration and legislature. Hoxha became the chairman of the council's executive committee and the National Liberation Army's supreme commander. By summer 1944 the Communist had eradicated all existence of the Balli Kombetar in southern Albania and faced little resistance by the time they entered central and northern Albania in August. ‘Before the end of November, the Germans had withdrawn from Tirane, and the communists, supported by Allied air cover, had no problem taking control of the capital.’(Martell, 1983:148) A provisional government set up by the communist in October allowed Enver Hoxha to effectively become prime minister by the end of 1944.
It is important at this time to emphasise the assistance received by the communist in Albania, not only by Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union but also the support gained from the British. The communist were supplied with weapons as well as information by British operatives, as they believed that the communists would be able to drive the Germans out of Albania, and Britain felt this was more important than the fact that the communist could later on gain control of the country. This amount of external support could only have strengthened the communist cause and enable Hoxha to become prime minister without any real form of opposition.
The arrival of communism in Albania was not the result of a revolution aimed at the destruction of the old order and the creation of a new socialist society. Like that of all the other countries in Eastern Europe it had been a ‘product of the Axis aggression and the assumption by the Communist of the leading role in the resistance movement.’(Hammond, 1977: 290) Luck also played a part in the Communist takeover of Albania. For example if the British landings in Greece had been extended to Albania as well, under the circumstances at the time even Stalin would not have been able to prevent British intervention.
The communist party out of all the rival factions was the only group that had a vision to establish a well organised and disciplined political party with the unfaltering aim of seizing power. This was mainly due to the guidance of Tito and his representatives. Rival parties also lacked strong leadership and this combined with self-help attitudes towards themselves made them unable to gain support from the people. Also the non-existence of a government and the removal of all forms of opposition by 1944 allowed for a more smooth transition into government for the communist.
In conclusion the communist takeover in Albania differed immensely to that of other Eastern European countries. Albania was not “liberated” by the Russians, nor did Yugoslavian troops set foot in Albania. The communist seizure of power was in essence a people’s movement supported by society and encouraged by the population.
Book: Dennis P.Hupchick , (2002) The Balkans from Constantinople to Communism. (New York: Palgrave).
Book: R.J. Crampton, (2002) The Balkans Since The Second World War. (Great Britain: Pearson Education Limited).
Book: John Martell, (1983) The Twentieth-Century world, third edition.
(Great Britain: Harrap Limited).
Book: Thomas T. Hammond, (1977) The Anatomy of Communist Takeovers.
(Great Britain: Yale University Press).