‘King’ Zog’s remains return to Tirana


Ceremony at the new Zog tomb in Tirana

Ceremony on 17th November 2012

The ‘democratic’ government of Albania embraces the country’s reactionary, feudal and fascist past in a ceremony marking the return of the remains of Ahmet Zogu.

On the 17th November 2012 a closed ceremony was held in a former royal palace (now a military barracks) to mark the return of Zogu’s bones from a cemetery in Paris where they had lain since the tyrants death in 1961. Very much an event for the politicians (it went virtually unnoticed in the city of Tirana) this occasion says much of how matters have developed in the small Balkan country since the chaos of the 1990s.

In politics such occasions are never ‘coincidental’, despite the protestations of the present Prime Minister, Sali Berisha. The date is very relevant for Tirana as it was on the 17th November 1944 that the city was finally liberated from German Fascism after a long and bitter battle (following years of guerrilla warfare) by the Communist led Partisan Army.

Neither was the location of the new tomb a matter of chance. It’s on the site of one of his former palaces and the place where his mother was buried after her death in 1934. Ten years later hatred of the Zogu family’s collaboration with Italian fascism meant that this tomb was blown up by the liberators of Tirana. Also the entrance to this once palace is directly across the road (Elbasan Road) to the National Martyrs’ Cemetery where those who died in the more than 5 year battle against fascist occupation are honoured. The cemetery overlooks the city from a high point in the south and is where the huge statue of Mother Albania holds high the red star of liberation.

Mother Albania, National Martyrs' Cemetery, Tirana

Mother Albania, National Martyrs’ Cemetery, Tirana

Berisha also sought to re-write history in his statement to the media. For the present Prime Minister Zogu’s running away from the country and making it to Britain when the Italians decided that direct rule was more desirable than his acquiescent collaboration; his suffering during his stay at The Ritz in London; and that his time in Parmoor Country House in Buckinghamshire are all indications of his ‘staunch anti-fascist struggle’. Whilst Zogu lived in such ‘hardship’ more than 30,000 Albanians died as a result of the fascist occupations, first Italian Fascist and then German Nazi, as well as huge material and economic destruction of what was still at that time a country barely out of feudalism.

The so-called Socialist Party didn’t attend the ceremony, some of the leadership claiming they were involved in a celebrations for those who fell in the liberation of Tirana, others in the town of Korca in the north working on a new party programme yet a couple of opportunist renegades did attend the dinner (anything for a free lunch?). But the Socialist Party can’t really hold the high ground when it comes to monarchism. It was they who, in 2002/3, used their majority in favour of allowing the return to Albania of the ersatz king’s descendants.

Zog's new tomb in Tirana

Zog’s new tomb in Tirana

Zogu as tyrant and usurper

Here it’s perhaps worthwhile to look at Zogu’s history before his cowardly desertion of the country in 1939. He was from a feudal landowning family and when he entered politics this was to maintain the control of the country in the hands of his class, and as much in his own hands as possible. He was Prime Minister from 1922-4 and due to his policies (after many years of feudal oppression of the people) was thrown out by a popular uprising. He returned with the support of the White Russian General Wrangle (who had been defeated earlier by the then young Soviet Red Army) as well as some Yugoslav fascists – so early on establishing himself as a collaborator with any foreign power that would support his ambitions, whatever the consequences for his country.

With military might on his side he was ‘elected’ President and three years later declared himself King Zogu I with the justification that he had some family connection to Skanderbeg, the 15th century national hero. (Even though Skanderbeg was a feudal lord the Communist government from 1944 to 1990 recognised that he stood, and fought, for national independence against the Ottoman Turks.) Claiming a blood relationship after a period of about 450 years was pushing it a bit far, probably all Albanians could have claimed some link to Skanderbeg in a country that barely had a million population at the beginning of the 20th century.


Visiting Enver Hoxha’s grave in Tirana


Enver Hoxha;s Grave in Tirana

Enver Hoxha’s grave

After his death on 11th April 1985 Enver Hoxha was buried next to the Mother Albania statue in the Martyr’s Cemetery overlooking Tirana. However, the counter-revolution that took place in 1990 allowed his political enemies to take their revenge by denying him a place of honour in the country’s history and he was reburied in the main public cemetery of the city.

To get there take the bus to Kombinat, an orange and always crowded bus, from the top end of Rruga Kavajes, the road that leads away from Skënderbeu Square in a westerly direction. Cost of the fare is 30 leke. Stay on the bus and if you are the only one on and it heads back the way you came it is time to get off.

Continue walking in the direction you were travelling until there is a bend in the road towards the left, by a petrol station. Cross over the main road and go up the side road that is lined with flower sellers and gravestone producers. Continue along this road for a few minutes until it turns to the right and in less than 50 metres go through the gate on the left. There are always flower sellers on either side of this gate.

Once through the gates take the path to the left and then the first path, heading up hill, to the right. When you see a sign with ‘Parcela 6’ on your right you know you are getting close. Look for the back of the doubled-headed eagle symbol, ubiquitous throughout Albania, and that’s where Enver’s remains currently reside. If you arrive at the same level as a second caged grave (presumably the relatives were afraid s/he would escape otherwise) you have gone too far.

It’s a modest grave, two in from the path, of red marble and the only inscription being his name and dates (1908-1985), surmounted by a small star. At the head there are two pillars which support a black metal, double-headed eagle. There are always flowers on the stone, a mixture of real and artificial.

Enver’s remains were moved to the public cemetery in Kombinat in April 1992 from its location in the Martyrs’ Cemetery that looks down on the city of Tirana, in the north-west of the city, beside the road to Elbasin.

Even in its original setting the grave wasn’t ostentatious. It was a bigger piece of marble but the inscription was no different. What made it special was its location, the Martyr’s Cemetery being the place of honour for those who died in the fight against fascism during the Second World War. This was just a spiteful, political move by those opposed to Socialism as has been demonstrated by the installation of a pro-fascist monument to the right of the Mother Albania statue.

The original tomb stone was later used as the principle monument to the English military who dies fighting in Albania during the Second World War. The English Cemetery is in Tirana Park just behind the main Tirana University Building.

To read Enver Hoxha’s son’s (Ilir) account of the exhumation click here.

Or to read that account as a Word document Lilo Hoxha on his father’s, Enver Hoxha, exhumation.

Enver Hoxha's Grave October 2014

Enver Hoxha’s Grave October 2014

The above picture was taken a few days after the celebration of Enver Hoxha’s birth, which falls on October 16th.