Albania Essay Research Paper Past and present

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Albania Essay, Research Paper Past and present, ancient and modern, young and old, Muslim and Christian, rich and poor, north and south, urban and rural, monarchist and socialist: the extremes of Albanian society are vivid, it s tensions palpable. But Albania is not another Yugoslavia: it is more like a tensegrity framework, a stable structure of rigid poles positioned in space and linked together by flexible cables. The cables are stressed but, barring catastrophe, they will not snap. Albania, this land that is very beautiful, but only some Americans can tell Albania from Albany or Alabama, and fewer still would be able to find the country on the map. Despite it s spectacular and varied beauty, it s rich natural resources, and it s extraordinary tradition of hospitality,

Albania has always been the most isolated country in Europe, and from World War II until very recently, one of the most isolated countries on earth. Since 1991, Albania has welcomed foreign visitors but, as the poorest country in Europe, it has attracted relatively few of them. Yet there are many reasons why the outside world should be interested in Albania and concerned for it s future. Albania is a Balkan country and thus a crossroads of East and West, North and South; it is as rich in history as it is in resources. When Albania achieved independence, nearly half its population found itself outside its newly drawn borders, in what is now called the former Yugoslavia. But Albanians are not Slavs, and the Albanian language is not Slavic. Much has been written about historic

transition from communism, but Albania s transition is ignored in most of these accounts. This is probably because Albania s brand of communism was different from the others, and its society is more difficult for a Westerner to understand, or maybe because people didn t pay much attention to what happenes in a tinny little country in Eastern Europe (Long life to your Children 118). The legacy of fifty years of Europe s most draconian communism is the darkest shadow of the past , that ended only in 1991. (16) Writing recent history is always problematic; an objective account of the past fifty years in Albania, where extremes and excesses of the communist regime are recent memory, is probably impossible. But everyone agrees in one thing: Albanian communism was not like the others.

It brought this country overwhelming disasters and poverty. Albania’s economy changed drastically in the early 1990s, as the government moved from a Communist system to a more democratic organization. Albania emerged from the Communist era as the poorest country in Europe. For the first time Albanians were granted the right to foreign travel. The country still relied on tens of thousands of Albanians who work in Greece, Italy, and Germany and send money home to support their families. (Jacques 294) Throughout 1990 thousands of Albanian citizens tried to flee the country through Western embassies. A multinational relief operation arranged for safe evacuation of more than 5000 Albanians, and 20,000 more sailed illegally to Italy in vessels seized at civilian ports. ( Albania a

country study 227) From 1944 to 1991 Albania’s government was under the complete control of the Communist Party. Power was consolidated in one man, Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania with an iron fist and stifled any dissent. After Hoxha’s death in 1985, Albania began to emerge from its isolation. As Communist rule in Eastern Europe collapsed in 1989, some Albanians demanded extensive reforms. In 1990 the government endorsed the creation of independent political parties. (191) Albanian citizens had few of the guarantees of human rights and fundamental freedoms that have become standard in Western democracies. According to Amnesty International, political prisoners were tortured and beaten by the Sigurimi during investigations, and political detainees lacked adequate legal