Albania: A neo-dictatorial kleptocracy masquerading as liberalism?

by Shpendi Gashi

The following article was translated from the Albanian by Bjorna Hoxhallari.

Bjorna is an entrepreneur, author, and political activist. She has seven years of experience managing start-up companies and a bachelor’s degree in political science. She is passionate about giving life to words. She attempts to explain the human narrative behind today’s political and artistic frameworks using a combination of professional opinion, science, and design.

Albania – or rather, what remains of what has long been referred to as the land of the Albanians –  is a relatively tiny nation in terms of size and population, situated in the south-west of the Balkan Peninsula, which has seen recurrent exodus throughout its history. No one, in their natural state or under normal circumstances, is inclined to leave their nation; alternatively, to be more explicit and unambiguous, no one leaves their country voluntarily.

Population movements are not a new phenomena in human history. They have methodically happened at certain periods and in almost every region of the world. The question is the departure’s motivation. A population that lives in the Siberian cold, or even in the Sahara or desolate areas, is logically inclined to move. However, I would refer to the aforementioned migrations as demographic migrations in quest of better living circumstances, and not as exoduses.

Exoduses are inextricably linked to coercion from historical, economic, or even political situations, launched by internal or even invading parties who wield armed power and, by means of these elements, inflict intolerable conditions on local communities, or even after natural disasters; but never due to intent and desire.

Albanian mass migrations recall the biblical exodus. The first large recorded migration occurred in 1555, when the rulers of this region, then known as the Arbers, fled to the southern Apennine Peninsula on the other side of the Adriatic. After the death of General Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbej, this time was marked by the brutal operations of the Ottoman hordes, who unleashed all of their savagery upon Albania.

The second large migration happened following the collapse of Enver Hoxha’s Monist Dictatorship, the most notorious dictator in Albanian history, who outlawed belief in God and anthropomorphized the image of the Creator with his own. During the civil war between 1941 and 1944, the communist terror was able to disfigure every diverse manner of life, delivering the equality it had promised. Equivalently in misery it was feasible to produce the socialist person, a lady who wore trousers and drove a tractor, and agricultural cooperatives, which were effectively the violent theft of private property. Under the justification of “War against Anglo-American revisionism,” a network of domestic espionage was established to monitor regime opponents. Thousands of individuals were persecuted, and hundreds were executed without trial; others experienced horror. People reached a stage where they feared their own thinking. My late grandma regularly informed me that even the walls here had ears at those times. From 1945 until 1991, Albania resembled the regime depicted by George Orwell in 1984: “Nothing and no one can escape Big Brother!” 

After enduring so much torment, the whole exodus is justifiable. Even if I did not want to condone the actions of my countrymen, their violent and brutal attitude to Western norms is justifiable. Those individuals were just appearances. The soul, if not already dead, had yielded to instinct. This elderly population has mutated into a mixture of men and savages.

Eastern European dictatorships collapsed in 1991. This tsunami also hit Albania, but not as violently as it did Romania or Yugoslavia. The Republic was filled with screams of “We love Albania as much as the rest of Europe.” There was passion, but absolutely no technique. In idea, democracy was a foreign term. In addition, some months prior to the alterations, many individuals stated it, very few individuals knew it, and everyone despised it. In short, nobody understood how to live in a democracy.

How did the Albanians behave? Neither more nor less than repairing it with the communist “values” pumped into their veins. They constructed an inseparable hybrid system by accident. As in the book “Joseph Fouché” by Stephan Zweig, in which a pastor becomes a machine gunner in Lyon, the former insurers of the past have become the saviors of the Western ideal.

Therefore, there are both new and ancient customs. Regardless of how sodium and chlorine molecules are combined, according to Einstein, the result is always salt and never sugar. In Albania, the same events occurred. The lustration files were never opened, the archives were destroyed, and the files were cleansed, and now it is the regime’s communists who are praised as liberals and reformers, as individuals with European culture and a profound understanding of government building. It is enough that they lack written evidence and that nobody fears trials by the people. 

The conclusion is people’s traumatic memories. What would this process create if not a neo-dictatorship maintained by a junta rather than a single individual?

In the first years after the rule, there was a sense of candor and the expectation that everything would change. Perhaps gradually, but it would shift. With the passing of time, Albania endured a fratricidal civil war in the dreadful year of 1997, shattering what little optimism had been generated. Gangs that ruled the streets and gangs that took political positions, either directly or indirectly by funding campaigns.

The ghosts of 1997 continue to haunt us to this day. Edi Rama’s power rise as leader of the Rilindja (left-wing Socialist Party) in 2013 concealed the truth that democracy in Albania was really a beautiful fiction. Others were unable to get all the abilities. Rama, or “Sun King” as I like to mockingly refer to him, labored every day in politics to make his spiritual father, Enver Hoxha, pleased.

The Prime Minister’s rhetoric suggests that Albania has the same level of state functioning as Denmark, although the actual level is somewhat higher than in Eritrea. It is surrounded by ministers who have provided no service to the nation in the government, other than using public cash and being party militants, and who have no other worth. Ministers who lack inspiration and whose names are unknown.

Arrested Mayors, Arrested MPs, Patronages, Vote Stealing, Collaborating with Crime, Selling National Interests, Stealing National Assets, Corruption at Scary Scary Levels, Incinerator Scandal, Inter-City Mafia Murders, Gambling Control, the destruction of education, medicine, concessions without logic, public procurements in open violation, arrests for cases that pass with administrative fines, the purchase of the media – this is the equilibrium of modernized Albania.

Albania’s greatest wound is the exodus of its youth, since the cost of living is completely insignificant. Fiscal policies are ludicrous. The typical monthly wage is 30,000 ALL (258.6 euros), rent for a flat begins at 200 euros, and a liter of oil costs more than 2 euros. In comparison to the German norm, which has an average pay seven times greater, the average American wage is seven times lower.

Practically speaking, the nation is in a state of starvation under these circumstances. In addition, this location provides neither innovation nor potential. To exist, you must either evade taxes, despite the fact that our nation does not function on taxes but rather tributes, or sell drugs, or become a slave, since we do not know what to do with our taxes. The outcome of contests is fixed, therefore the competition is unfair. Large corporations serve as money launderers for governments and often impose penalties on other rivals. The media is almost caught up. Functional illiteracy has become the norm, and those who value education are seen as odd. Understanding is the adversary of this system. Ministers detected plagiarizing do not lose their positions. The cops are subservient to the powerful and arrogant toward the taxpayer, their true superior. Cities in Albania are teeming with retirees. The streets of Europe and America are filled with youth. Professions have been abandoned, and schools and colleges are now devoid of students.

If the system were shown in a simple diagram, it would have the form of a pyramid. At the apex sits a political-kleptocratic Junta, clad in the garb of politicians who belong to the membership in the West, and at the bottom is a population that is evidently destined not to enjoy freedom and quality of life for an extended period of time.

Currently, the administration in our country has become a tyranny!

Quite contrary to what was anticipated!

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