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Not mentioned directly is the fact that at Yalta and Teheran, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt agreed that Greece would be in the Western sphere, whereas Albania and Yugoslavia would be in the Eastern sphere. If Stalin had broken the agreement and supplied arms and support, the Greek communists would certainly have won control of the country after the war.
You have done a great work publishing all of these issues. I hope you will publish more on your blog in the next month. That would be amazing. I hope you’re still active
The reason there are gaps in the postings is that I don’t have access to those issues. I’m constantly looking for a source but, to date, without any luck.
If that situation changes then I will certainly post the missing issues as soon as possible.
But not in the next month, I’m afraid
Hi Michael, an incredible work you have done with pulling together all this content. I am the found out albaniangallery.art website and was wondering if I can republish some of your articles on my website. Without saying the credits will go to you as author/curator. let me know if I get your permission. Regards Alban
There’s no problem using items from my site. Good to hear you find my blog useful.
Are you related to the Michael Harrison who was moved to leave the rather disobliging assessment of Rinas airport, and those who work in it, last year ? If you are, it sounds as things do not only get better…
I posted on the airport more than nine years ago. Since then I’ve both arrived and left Rinas a number of times. It’s a small airport – though much busier now than it was when I wrote the post – as well as being quite modern and because of that is one of the more ‘pleasant’ airports to pass through. (ALL airports are unpleasant to a lesser or greater extent.) I don’t have any serious criticisms of the airport and I’m not the person that has posted on any site about Rinas – I don’t post on review sites for anything.
Another attempt by the imperial core to offload the blame for their own problems onto the victims of neocolonialism. Perhaps somewhat related to this was the recent remark by William Windsor blaming environmental damage on “Africa’s rapidly growing human population.”
Exactly. The problem is they have been doing it for decades and still get away with it. They blame someone else to protect themselves.
Interesting site/content. A 1952/3 book caught my eye: https://michaelharrison.org.uk/2018/08/jv-stalin-biographies-reminiscences-and-appraisals/
I became skeptical and did a search. According to the only Amazon review of the Budu Svanidze book, it “was exposed as a forgery shortly after it came out by historian Boris Souvarine (Bulletin de l’Association d’Etudes et d’Informations Politiques Internationales, May 1953, Nos. 88 and 89.)” I acquired the articles and confirmed they do indeed refer to this book as a forgery – along with several others. I could send them along with my translations if you’d like.
It’s a long time since I read ‘My Uncle Joseph Stalin’ but my memory was that it was quite benign. How Joe came out of it I can’t remember exactly but I don’t think the book tried to make out that Stalin was a perfect husband and partner – the only reason why I could think of of it being a ‘forgery’.
At the same time I would think that anything written by Souvarine has to be considered suspect – especially when it comes to the topic of Joseph Stalin. Souvarine was a Trotskyite and like all Trotskyites spent much of his time from the mid 1920s attacking the Soviet Union and its leadership.
By all means send the article you mentioned (with translation) if you have them to hand. It would be interesting to read Souvarine’s ‘proof’ that the publication was a ‘forgery’, by whom and for what reason it was ‘forged’ and what political gain there was in such an elaborate task over a book that is hardly well known. I’ve never come across any reference to it so if it was concocted then the aim was a failure.
Yes, your memory is still quite sharp. It is _unusually_ benign. That’s partly the rub. And the BEIPI analysis isn’t free of errors either. Perhaps I should have elaborated more up front.
Two sample points that can be checked independently of BEIPI on the “Svanidze” book (“forgery” = not Stalin’s nephew):  Stalin’s second wife didn’t overdose but instead shot herself by the morning of 8 Nov 1932 due to a migraine episode that started Nov 6 and was made worse by attending the Nov 7 anniversary parade;  Rosa (Rachel) Kaganovich could not have been an option to be Stalin’s third wife because she died in 1926.
 Artem Sergeev, Stalin’s adopted son, comments on Nadezhda’s migraines: translate.yandex.com/translate?url=hrono.ru/biograf/bio_a/alliluevans.php&lang=ru-en – “…Nadezhda Sergeevna had constant, very powerful, completely unbearable headaches. She often held her head in her hands and cried out: ‘My head! My head!’” “Svanidze” may have known this: “‘I have a headache,’ Nadia said stiffly. ‘Please excuse me.’” (p. 59) “Svanidze” says: “One night she took an overdose, with fatal effect.” (p. 98)
 Kaganovich family comments on ‘Wolf of the Kremlin’ (1987): revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv1n2/kaganfam.htm – “LMK’s [Lazar Kaganovich’s] only sister, by mistake named in the book as Rosa (her name was Rachel), died in 1926…” Therefore the statement in “Svanidze’s” book that “Molotov, Kaganovitch, Mikoyan, Beria […] now that Stalin was once more a widower […] took the liberty of selecting a wife for him—Rosa Kaganovitch, the beautiful sister of Lazar Kaganovitch” (p. 99) is false.
“Waverly Root” (“Svanidze” again?) in the preface: “If Molotov is to be one of the future rulers of Russia also, it is not unimportant to know that he is a bad loser, or that he dislikes to take responsibility in critical situations.” Fake Stalin quote: “Everyone complains of Molotov’s stiffness, his inability to show the slightest flexibility. It’s true, you know. Sometimes he is really unbearable.” Fake Mikeladze quote: “…we’ll arrange for you to come again when you have that memorandum to prove that Molotov has become anti-Marxist.” Even without BEIPI or the sources above it’s not impossible to see “Svanidze” only pretended to be favorable to the Soviet leadership while in substance making them appear ridiculous.
I’m not really sure where this discussion is going and neither could I couldn’t really understand the points made by the BEIPI analysis.
If the Trotskyites want to make out it is a forgery then it’s to use that against the Soviet Union. But then it would have to have been produced in the Soviet Union. However, the simple mistakes which you point out would seem to suggest it wasn’t produced by someone who knew all the facts.
Then who do you suggest created this ‘forgery’ and for what purpose? And is it really important? It is a rather obscure book and I can’t remember exactly where or when I came across my copy.
If it was created for some ‘ill intent’ then what was it? As it doesn’t seem to have been very successful – especially in the great scheme of things when Uncle Joe has been accused of everything apart from causing the present climate emergency.
This was written just prior to Khrushchev’s slander of “Uncle Joe” and it’s true the book was soon overshadowed. One of the points made in BEIPI is that this series of publications, including those by “Svanidze”, occurred with unusual (or even impossible) speed, so the implication is that the book was authored by international imperialism. The purpose would have been to create confusion and dissatisfaction abroad with the Soviet leadership, potentially for people to quit their parties. And from the description in “The Wolf of the Kremlin” (1987): “The true story of Stalin’s third wife, Rosa, who was Lazar’s sister.” This was decades later so was this sort of narrative really unsuccessful? As to where this is going, the whole point of reading history is to learn, isn’t it? And if it’s disinformation, to alert people. I’ve given my contact info if more needs to be said. I don’t want to spam this page.
I don’t disagree with anything you say. Your memory/knowledge of some of the facts is better than mine and I also agree it’s good to point out these situations in the past to remind people what the enemies to socialism are prepared to do. We only have to look at the ‘Zinoviev Letter’ to realise that the idea of ‘fake news’ is not something invented in the last few years. There’s a book, which I have but have yet to scan, called ‘The Great Conspiracy against Russia’. That documents just such incidents to cause confusion amongst those who might have been sympathetic to the aims of the Soviet Union. I’ll see if I can get it scanned and posted on the Soviet Union page on this blog in the next few weeks.
A Reeeeally Wonderful Website! Learn a lot from it ! Precious documentaries!
—— From a Maoist Researcher China
I read your reviews regularly. It would be helpful to know whether you have been to North Korea, either as a tourist (as I have); as a guest of the DPRK; or in your own right. It might actually help people to understand more clearly the pluses and minuses of that amazing country.
Like you I have only visited the country as a tourist, the once towards the end of 2017.
Hi, can tell you now, the Historical Basis for socialism in Ireland is from 1919, originally published in New York
Thanks for the detail. Post now updated.
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It is a pity there are still uninformed people like you Michael and Thomas Mrett that believe executed innocents during communism in Albania do not deserve rehabilitation. Communist’s leaders in Albania were nothing more than murderers! They isolated the country to destruction only for their privileges.
During king Zog, Albania recognized economic growth. Private property and free speech was never denied, nor were people executed for speaking their mind.
Your hero Zogolli;
returned to Albania in 1924 with the support of foreign, reactionary forces;
bestowed dictatorial powers upon himself;
made an alliance with Italian Fascism;
in a similar act to the megalomaniacal Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself king;
like a coward ran away when the Italians invaded Albania in 1939;
no doubt was instrumental in post-war efforts of the British government to undermine the government of the people following liberation in 1944;
and lived a life of luxury at the expense of the Albanian people.
Albania today still celebrates Skenderbeu and the idea of Independence but Zogolli’s actions and life were the antithesis of the national hero. He would have preferred to preen himself in a mirror in his dress uniform than get his hands dirty in actually fighting against the fascist (or any other) invaders. That task was left to the working men and women of Albania under the leadership of Comrade Hoxha and the Albanian Communists.
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“The organisation still exists but seems to function more as a mouthpiece of the Chinese government in Britain and providing its members with official visits to capitalist China.”
“…Now it praises the erstwhile Socialist country for its capitalist (and imperialist) development.”
Excuse me, what?
Not really sure what you getting at. Is China a capitalist and imperialist country or do you think it is still a ‘socialist’ society?
Those who produced the SACU News in the 1960s and early 1970s were promoting Socialist China at a time when it wasn’t easy to get information about developments in the country. By continuing to support ‘socialist’ China after the coup against the revolutionaries within the Party very soon after the death of Chairman Mao. If such support in the early years of capitalist restoration could be excused as ignorance of the reality any support, or thought that the country still follows a socialist agenda so many years later, is just plain stupidity.
Any support organisations, for example, set up to promote the interests of the United Kingdom or the United States would be to support the dominant economic and social system in place in those countries. Such slavish support always comes with advantages.
I’ve been following your blog for a long time now. It’s probably the best account online relating to the socialist era of Albania. I have a question regarding a building that was once located in Tirana, you might be able to help me. The building is the Museum House of the Party and I can’t figure out if it is still standing or what might be at its location now. If you have any idea I’d appreciate the info.
Sorry for the slight delay in replying, have been trying to find out more information from a friend who knows Tirana better than me.
Many years ago I went looking for the building. The only information I had at that time was the small map that’s in the book Museum House of the Party. You can download it here if you have not already done so. It was posted on Documents of the PLA 31-40 page. On page 19 there’s a small sketch map of the location – the problem was that street names were changed after the reaction took power and there is no actual street name for where the building was located.
I think I found a place which looked as if it might have been the building, but all locked up and no one around. I’m assuming it wasn’t demolished as it was a good building in it’s own right close to the centre of town. My assumption is that it was taken over by some individual as a bit of free people’s property – a private privatisation.
The friend I mentioned earlier is going to see if he can find any more info, if anything more comes to light I’ll forward the news on to you.
A few additional points about revisionists: https://youtu.be/O71pyIghiRI?t=10350
Thanks for the link. The presentation is two and a half hours long and haven’t had the time to watch it yet. It’s interesting that it deals with the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ but the subject can be approached in a number of ways.
Considering you comment about the SACU News I’m not sure if we see the dictatorship of the proletariat in the same way.
It’s not easy to refrain from commenting. This time wanted to say that couldn’t have ever read his invaluable speech hadn’t it been singled out here. Many many thanks! I expected it to be interesting but not easy and understandable. One is able to see what he means. We are very different people now from then conscientiously speaking, but the then reality was also different from what is pictured here in 1958. A cultural revolution must’ve been due much earlier than beginning of ’80s.
It would be a mistake to think that the Cultural Revolution in China only took place after the decision of the Central Committee of the CPC dated 8th August 1966. The struggle against revisionism and those who wanted to re-establish capitalism in the People’s Republic went into a new stage after that date but a ‘cultural revolution’ goes side by side with the efforts to build socialism from the first days after the revolution – and this is the case in all countries.
And it’s not just the case of the successful revolutions which took state power in the 20th century. We can see efforts to change peoples ideas and world view during the 72 (too short) days of the Paris Commune with the Patriotic Women’s Clubs, for example.
There was no formal ‘Cultural Revolution’ in the Soviet Union though we can see references to such a continuing struggle in the writings of both Lenin and Stalin.
And also in the writings published by Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour of Albania.
Useful readings as always. It was wandering to me why this blog uses ‘Cultural Revolution’ extensively for Albania. It now makes perfect sense for even though Albania never had a ‘formal’ Cultural Revolution as you put it, at least the three first decades during the construction of Socialism were a movement close to that, a continuing restless search and critique involving all in general.
Appreciate you taking the time to stop and provide an extended explanation.
Very interesting what your said about Paris Commune.
when i look at the lapidar sculpture i just know it. We’ve known the Peza stories of WWII when we were young from many sources, history school books, movies, literature etc.
And i’m thinking now but find that i am not able to even mention a specific book or story, it seems a long time ago.
Hi Mr. Harrison,
The group to the left relates to the event of the partisan intervention in the village of Peza after the fascists burnt and massacred it. Peza has been burnt more than once by fascists as it was known to be a great support point to local and other partisan çeta.
What is happening with the left hand side group is, the harmed and vulnerable peasants are desperately welcoming the partisans as these arrive the last minute to rescue them from fascists.
The trio of family is instead a group of unrelated people: The non-uniformed partisan has just rescued the orphan baby most likely from a burning house and is holding the baby, whose one hand is on shoulder of the woman partisan. I can’t figure out what she holds in her left hand either but they’re about to go secure the baby in a safe place away from the bullets field where he is taken care of.
Next, the woman resting her head on the man’s chest is in fact the mother of the partisan, an old lady, and she has been desperately looking for him and his partisan friends to come any minute now to save them from the disgrace. The little guy is her grandson she’s guarding while his father – meaning her son which is near her now – is away from home fighting for freedom.
In the meantime partisan çeta is fiercely fighting with the fascists. In this fight they are joined by village men, the village always being a reliable point of support for partisans.
The partisans of the çeta of Peza, were some of the very first organizations that would later become the national liberation army structured into brigades and divisions. At this initial stage we encounter partisans in distinguishable uniforms and already communists as well as many partisans still on their own local outfits, these maybe recently having joined the çeta or that while into a fighter mentality were not yet a partisan. But they would become soon.
Also Peza was one of the very first liberated sites during antifascist war with the national liberation council regulating and governing the area being the people’s power established there. This is what we see to the right group of the memorial, the unified group of communist partisans, non-communist partisans, civilians and village people. Among the four front figures the two civilians who stand in the middle should be the leading figures of national liberation council for Peza.
All are armed nevertheless. All civilian people are armed to the best they can and stand unified around their power representatives, the national liberation council and communist partisans.
An interesting interpretation. As I asked when you made a comment about ‘The Albanians’ mosaic – how do you come to such a detailed reading of the sculptural story?
verses are actual folk songs, Mavrova and Drashovica are individual villages and it’s being sung to each one of them altogether. You Mavrovë and you Drashovicë, what havoc combined that day, machine guns and artillery, the night looked like day.
Hysni Kapo like a hawk, threw himself over barbed wires, spoke himself to the germans, surrender you hateful aggressor.
“they eat bread once in three days”
your work here is really impactful
Thanks – if people can get something from my time it makes it all worth it.
With Shkoder being the last liberated, on Nov. 29th 1944, the Albanian National Liberation Army kept the fights going beyond country northern borders, in the area of Kosova and further northern to that, in Yugoslavian territory, helping neighbours and pushing Germans as further away the Albanians border as possible. These last army sections returned home in 1945.
My grandfather fought there and returned home only that year.
the mosaic man in suit with a piece of paper in hand is an Albanian renaissance figure rather than Ismail Qemali, the independence man.
this man is likely one of the three Frasheri brothers, probably Sami Frasheri or Abdyl Frasheri. Sami Frasheri the youngest, more of a philosopher, wrote the precious piece “Albania what was, what is and what will be”, Abdyl Frasheri the olderst was leader of the League of Prizren a unifying congress for albanians fighting against Turkey, 1878. Naim Frasheri, the second brother, was a great Albanian renaissance poet, maybe the greatest of the era.
Edvin Rama is disinterested in survival of the mosaic and is intentionally allowing its disintegration just like he’s doing with every socialist era buildings, architecture, structures, that have survived to date. His ambition is replacing the urban layout of the centre of Tirana so that no sign of pre ’90s is left as remembrance of that period.
In addition to Frasheri brothers, Edvin Rama recognized a successor of them Mit’hat Frasheri who headed a collaborationist government to Nazis during WWII, honoring him and adding him space in the grave ansamble of the trio Frasheri brothers. This was carried out in speedy sneaky but nevertheless official way, Rama being aware of not being allowed to do so if acts were publicly announced beforehand.
Thanks for another interpretation of the story behind the images. I must admit that with many of the lapidars I have described (and those still to post) I’m very much in the situation of making a (hopefully) informed guess as I have been unable to find any sources which provide a definitive explanation of the images, in whatever format.
I assume that much of this material was lost when the Writers Union archives were destroyed. I suppose there could be information in the National Archives – but then I come across the problem of the language.
Where did you find the details you have presented here?
Thanks also about the information about Rama and the addition of a fascist to the group of the Frasheri brothers in Tirana Park – I hadn’t heard of that. Reactionaries removing, destroying, or altering socialist monuments in secret and the dead of night isn’t new. The removal of the statue of Joseph Stalin that stood in the park that bears his name in Gori is another example that comes to mind.
But what was/is Rama’s rationale for this addition? Who is he hoping to impress? Surely there’s not much left of the country for him to ‘sell out’?
there’s a typo on painter’s name, the work “Partisan Vow”
correctly spelled it is Guri Madhi. Thank you so much.
Rectified. But WordPress doesn’t make it easy. You would have thought that moving two letters would be a doddle but it isn’t. Thanks for pointing out the error.
very kind of you. If of any use the below is from your great post on National Art Gallery,
– Ilia Kici Dashi, 1978 – Sali Shijaku
The title is Hero i Punës Socialiste – Hero of the Socialist Work, equivalent to People’s Hero but now during construction times rather than war times.
– The wireworker, 1969 – Sotir Capo
The wire factory was in Shkoder, and that was supplied with copper raw material by the copper enrichment factory of Rubik, Mirdite.
– The days of flying, 1986 – Spiro Kristo
there’s a typo error on date, as it is year 1968, which might affect the painting concept.
– July 30, 1978 – Çlirim Çeka
Relationships between Albania and China broke in the summer of 1978, however the date might mark the first production of albanian steel. Which relates to China because with the break they quit assistance to Albania on that project.
Thanks for more information and pointing out the error on the date of the painting of the airmen. It does change the the meaning of the painting – context is everything. Have made appropriate alterations.
I am looking to read the short Soviet booklets as part of the series “The Fifteen Soviet Republics Today and tomorrow.”
I have read one on Azerbaijan, printed in 1959
I might have to disappoint you there. I don’t think I have the series you refer to. However, it might turn up some time.
Michael thank you for making such wonderful socialist resources available to those who are still fighting for a socialist society ie here in England
Glad to hear that you find the blog useful. There’s a lot more to come so if you’re interested in a particular topic you might find more material here in the future.
Very good article. Thanks.
Can I ask a question. Is there at least one party of workers in England? Is there a “red university”? a “university of worker correspondents”? a “red channel” on youtube?
that keeps us on course,
of the whole working class.»
Unfortunately, there’s no Party I would consider as a true revolutionary Marxist-Leninist party in Britain – although there are a few organisations that claim to be. As for a ‘red university’ there’s never been anything like that in the UK – and perhaps one of the reasons for the lack of a party is the lack of emphasis on creating a structure where people can learn the basics of Marxism-Leninism in the past (parties were more concerned with practice and the theory, some times, wasn’t given the emphasis it requires).
A few sites (other than this one) are providing digital versions of much of the Marxist-Leninist theory as well as the history and experience of those societies that have attempted to build a socialist society. I would recommend BannedThought and From Marx to Mao. Also for other varieties of socialism the Marxist Internet Archive.
Wonderful post! Let we never forget the enormous sacrifice the Sovjets made for the defeat of Nazi-Germany and the liberation of Europe!
I’m glad you found the post interesting. With the western capitalist countries virtually writing the Soviet Union out of the war against Fascism – and at the same time attempting to present their contribution as greater than it really was – it’s important to keep the Red Flag flying.
Thank you, Michael. It’s a precious information, which helps us very much, to better understand the global situation. Stay strong. No pasarán !
Glad you’re finding what I write useful. Nothing surprising in their (the British government’s) approach – just a confirmation of their incompetence.
Just out of curiousity, I think that you can make a specific post about Vietnam under Doi Moi from your perspective. That would be great.
I could – but won’t.
To me ‘Doi moi’ is just a continuation of revisionism from the time of the First International – but with a Vietnamese twist.
Socialism’s biggest enemy is not capitalism, vicious militarism that comes as a consequence of imperialism (and the Vietnamese people had their fair share of that experience) but the traitors from within – and the failure of people to identify and crush them when they raise their ugly heads.
This was very interesting reading. For me, as someone with no ideological skin in the game, what;s quite interesting from reading “Reflections on China” (I have a *lot* of time nowadays, as do many of us!…how I got here in fact) is that Hoxha finds Mao irreducibly weird from early on, because he’s Chinese, or more broadly, Asian. I think the subjective aspect of this is mostly positive, i.e. he;s not being ethnocentric, but simply trying to make sense of a leader, and a country, that are totally befuddling to him even though they’re his only significant allies. It’s also interesting how Hoxha, whose cult of personality was a figure of fun in the West, convincingly distinguishes between the utilitarian rationale for that phenomenon in Albania and what he sees as the beyond-all-reason (and again, only understandable in cultural context) cults of Mao and Kim.
Apologies for the delay.
I don’t really understand your point. For me the the issue which lay behind Hoxha’s frustration (which was expressed in the 1976 letter to the CPC) revolved around the time it took the Chinese Party to make the ‘definitive’ split with the Revisionist Soviet Union.
I haven’t read the Enver’s ‘Reflections .. ‘ for some time so don’t really know where you got your ideas about the ‘cult of the personality’.
I also don’t think that was, at all, the way the ‘West’ approached Albania post WWII. The British, especially, were pissed that they couldn’t get control of the Balkans (something which determined much of their military approach for the Britain to get back into the war – i.e., go via Italy, then turn east and deny the Red Army success in that part of the world).
As it was the Albanian Communist Partisans freed their own country (as did, indeed the Yugoslavs – even if Tito took the Federation into the capitalist camp in the 1950s) and denied the imperialists their prize. I went into this idea in one of my earliest blogs.
The propaganda campaign against Albania, at least in Britain, was centred on the country’s so-called ‘isolation’, to try to denigrate its independence.
As it stands now the word ‘independence’ shouldn’t have an Albanian translation – they have no concept of it.
As a Vietnamese I am saddened by the parts you said after Doi Moi :(.
Tragic for a country that was able to defeat the Japanese, French and then American invaders.
Thank you, Michael, for all this information. I think many comments, you make about UK, apply also to Spain and Catalonia… unfortunately.
It’s not possible to closely follow events in all countries that are going through the pandemic at the moment. At the same time it’s not a surprise that you can see many parallels between events, statements, inactivity, errors and crass incompetence in Catalonia and Spain as I have seen in the UK. They all follow the profit agenda and not one that cares for people or the long term well being of an economy which isn’t ruled by short term gain.
It will be interesting to see if the people will allow the same selfish capitalist system to carry on doing what it has been doing for centuries – a system which constantly creates crises, whether they be financial and economic or, as at the moment, a health pandemic.
Find your link from Stalin Society India and saw that you are doing very
good work by posting Albania today with its contents.
I will see if I have missing numbers after 15th April if lock down ends here in India.
Our Facebook page-Kamgar Prakashan.
Hello Balram, Thanks for getting in touch. Will look forward to your news about missing Albania Today’s later in the month. Hope all is going well with you in the present health crisis. Take care, Michael
I am delighted to see this very full and thoughtful article about the fantastic art in the Tirana Gallery. My wife and I were there in 2015 – very briefly in a gap in our tourist tour of the country. We were the only people on the first floor enjoying these extraordinary examples of socialist realist art – an art style which has been almost totally removed from the ex-Soviet bloc countries’ galleries. The floor attendant was very concerned that we were taking photographs – so the ones I took (mainly of industrial scenes) were rather hurried and sometimes out of focus. But I have a selection of those in this brilliant overview, and a few more which may not have been there in 2015.
Are you aware of any book covering these key works of a very significant period of western art which is so ignored by the bulk of the British art establishment ? If not, have you ever thought about publishing your own ? It would be a pity to lose these works as has happened nearly everywhere else.
Thank you for bringing this to public attention
Happy you found the post useful and interesting. The attitude of the gallery (and the attendants) has changed over the years. It was a bit like a guerrilla campaign some times in the past but things were very much more relaxed when I was there in the autumn of 2019.
Even the ‘Sculpture Park’ at the back of the gallery – where I had to time it so I would get by without the security guard noticing – is now possible to visit freely. The authorities have obviously decided that there is an advantage to allow people to see the works of the Socialist period, even to the extent that the rear of the gallery is now on some of the organised ‘walking tours’ of Tirana. I’m sure with all the negative commentary that is seen as obligatory by the ignorant and anti-Socialists when it comes to Albania’s history between 1944 and 1990. Albania is such a paradise on earth now.
The only contemporary album I’ve seen about Albanian Socialist Realist Art is a book about graphic art from the Socialist period.
However, albums were produced in the past and I have added two that I have in digital format. Thanks for making your comment as it made me remember that I had other material which complement the contemporary photos. They are fairly large files but you should have no real problem in downloading them if you so wish. I’ve just added them to the end of the post.
I also have photos of art work from other museums/galleries in different parts of the country. They will eventually appear somewhere on this blog
In re “The breasts seem like small bowels that have been plunked on their chests” – I think you meant ‘bowls’
The other thing is that a gang of telecommunications workers (cable layers) are also treated as heroic in Venedikt Yerofeev’s “Moscow Circles’ Anti-heroes may be more accurate, or maybe parodies of heroes, or fasiledf heroes, but even then the idea is drawing on what I think might have been a known figure of heroic legend at some times in the Soviet imagination. Cf. Solzhenitsyn’s canal-workers, perhaps harking back to and inheriting something of an image of heroic road-builders (Lermontov?) and/or railway workers, all pioneers in the opening up of communication, progress, snd the bringing of modernity, even in earlier, pre-Soviet times. Is this fair ?
Thanks for pointing out the typo. Always a problem proof reading your own work but this one takes it into another dimension. The post-socialist revisionists in Georgia might have been perverse but not quite as suggested in my original (pre-corrected) post. What a difference an ‘e’ makes?
As for the terracotta mural I still contend it is no more than decoration. I don’t dislike it. Quiet the contrary I think it has some charming aspects – the looks on the faces demonstrating an element of innocence, for example.
But that’s me being soft.
My argument is that no work of art that is created in a society that used to be on the Socialist road but which, due to manoeuvrings in the Party which had succeeded in changing that Party from a revolutionary to a revisionist one, can be considered a work of Socialist Realism.
Images of Marx, Engels and Lenin were paraded in Red Square after 1956 until things fell apart in the 1990s. That didn’t mean the country was following the sort of society those individuals considered to be Socialism.
This is a stupendously wonderful resource, particularly for someone who first went to Albania in the 80s but who now fears that his own memories will fade as the things which one could marvel at in the 80s also fade from view. May your work prosper.
Hello Adrian, Glad you find my blog posts on Albania useful. I have a few more pamphlets/books to scan as well as many lapidars to describe whilst providing a photographic record. Do you have any material from your visit/s in the 1980s which doesn’t appear on my site? If you could lend them to me to scan and then post that would make the collection that more complete. I’m especially interested in copies of Albania Today (I’ve scanned and posted all to which I have access) and New Albania – I have some more to scan but there are many gaps in that collection.
The icon “Bloody Martyrdom” depicts a real historical event. Two Franciscans from Italy – Giacomo da Sarnano and Ferdinando d’Albissola – were impaled by the Muslims in 1648. That’s why the dress of the bystanders is old (foustanellas etc). More details here: Pacifico Sella, “Testimonianze inedite circa il martirio dei frati minori Giacomo da Sarnano e Ferdinando d’Albissola (Scutari 28 febbraio 1648)”, (2015), https://dialnet.unirioja.es/descarga/articulo/5533704.pdf
Thanks for the historical information.
When I saw the painting I was more interested in the style the artist had taken from the previous 50 years of Albanian art.
However, the putting the painting into its historical context raises an interesting point.
I’ve been in many Catholic churches in various parts of the world and seen paintings which with present thinking would be considered racist and inflammatory – Sant Iago Matamoros being one example. These images would be explained away now by the Catholic guardians as ‘being of their times. Things are different now and the Catholic Church is more tolerant.’ And then the present Pope would be cited.
But obviously not in Shkoder. Just over a hundred metres from this Franciscan church is a large, modern mosque. Yet in the 21st century, in a country that claims ‘religious tolerance’ after the atheist campaigns of the Socialist period, Albanian Catholics still seek to stoke hatred against Islam.
Conveniently forgetting the atrocities that have been committed in the name of Christianity/Catholicism since 1648 against anyone who doesn’t bow down to the incumbent in Rome – including the counter-revolutionary activity carried out in the very same building where the Franciscan ‘martyrs’ are being celebrated.
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Fabulous detailed info Michael. Thank you. We visited Martyrs cemetery on the anniversary of the slain student and were fortunate to meet his cousin and friend at the graveside.
We later went to Hoxhe new grave. The road you turn off is 10.minites walk from the end of the bus line, and continues in the direction the bus was travelling (the part of your text where you said to keep on the returning bus and continue walking was ambiguous: it was not clear if you should walk on the return direction or continuing out if town direction).
Excellent information all round though. Thankyou for taking the time to post.
Thanks for your comment Tina. I’ve altered the text, and updated the bus fare, so hope that has done away with any ambiguity. Sorry for any confusion caused. Hope you’re enjoying your time in Albania.
Wonderful photos and commentary. Perhaps you can initiate a Go-Fund-Me effort to finance a rhinoplasty for Comrade Enver? I am good for a small contribution.
Good to read this this is true but seldom taught amongst friends and all us , should ,know yes
Thank you for letting us see some of real history , not mentioned oft I have a b a in political science and I am no smarter than the most average person believe me but the way Greece was treated was reprehensible they were committed to the fight that we anericans we’re simple as that and also simple perhaps also takes so much work but it’s the peace building with egalitarian robust energetic cooperative economies of human civilization without nationalist division but with national distinction a true communism would be the greatest step towards peace
Dear Mr. Harrison,
I was wondering if I could use the picture of “The Hanged Women – Gjirokastra”, the first one in this article, for a little quiz on twitter?
Some colleagues and I run a channel called @quiztime, where we post weekly quizzes for other so solve in order to train for geolocation and verification skills.
The image would be attached to a tweet tomorrow for people as a hint where to start the search.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Go ahead, no problem.
Thanks a lot!
Thank you, Michael. There are many aspects of your report that I didn’t know… See you… No pasaran !
I used to work in Martins Bank International Branch in Water Street. I now live in Nottingham but often visit Liverpool to meet up with friends whom I used to work with. Could you let me know if there are any plans to see inside the beautiful old building or heritage days organised for this year.?
The building has been acquired by an up-market hotel group. It seems to be taking a long time to do the conversion and, as far as I know, there’s no date about when it will open. The plan was announced almost 4 years ago so there have been questions about funding. The latest I’ve seen is that has been acquired by the IHG chain.
When/if it does open as a hotel the banking hall will almost certainly be the reception area so open to the public. What plans they have for the Board Room I have no idea. It could be converted into a dining room so that would also be available to the public.
Start saving up your pennies if you hope to visit the building in the future.
One clue as to the strangeness or incomprehensibility of the figures/bas reliefs around the monument is given by this translation of a guide-book-style website (1):
“The monument was projected by a group of artists resident in Ushuaia, directed by the sculptor Vilma Nattero and represents the silhouette of the islands.”
The group-produced artwork has a built-in tendency towards inconsistency in execution. The “group of artists resident in Ushuaia” may have been no more than the local arts club, with members of varying competence. Bringing the local community into the construction of a monument under the direction of a ‘proper’ artist sounds like a good idea, but it does run the risk of producing below-par work, as you clearly illustrate.
(1) see https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=https://www.ypf.com/guia/Paginas/Plaza-Islas-Malvinas.aspx&prev=search
That makes me feel a little better. If the artist/s don’t know what it’s all about then how can anyone else?
Oh dear, bang goes my credibility as a commentator of the left! At least, given the date, I can claim that I was under the influence of sherry and mince pies while failing to distinguish my Galtieris from my Pinochets. Thanks for not laughing too loudly!
Sherry as a ‘commentator of the left’? Shouldn’t it be mild in a dirty glass?
Mike, apart from the egregious use of ‘it’s’ when you should write ‘its’ (the English teacher writing here) this is a very entertaining and genuinely interesting piece of travel writing and matches anything to be found in the Guardian or elsewhere. [You might recall I left those animated arguments with yourself, Norman and Richard et al in the Caernavon pub, after the usual Friday show in the Merseyside Film Society, and headed out of the UK in 1980.] I was teaching in Jamaica at the time of the Falklands war and there was a strange sense of pride amongst some of the ex-pats who worked with me at the school. I saw it as a piece of grotesque opportunism from the Thatcher government. It was almost as if the Argentinian military dictatorship had colluded with her. Her wildest dreams came true as she was able to wrap herself in the union flag, sit in the front of tanks and in put back progress even further.
The museum seems rather tacky and the semi-detached house it seems to be based in (I’m looking at the blue fencing outside) might be a model for the development of future British museums, given government cuts.
Mike, I admire what you’re doing here. There’s quite an interesting alternative world view available although, as you would probably guess, I don’t agree with much of what you say. Anyway keep travelling and wrirting.
Hello Frank, I know there’s no excuse for bad grammar but I will offer a ‘reason’. By the time I’ve done something in the day to write about, get back and write it, process my photos, et al it is getting quite late when I press the ‘publish’ button. That means I’m considerably down the wine bottle (my chosen tipple here) and that means I might miss the ‘. I humbly apologise and will stop drinking to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
As for the museum you have to look at the sky blue colouring as a patriotic motif – it’s the colour in the national flag (or should that be ‘its’?).
This looks like deliberate policy on the part of the owners – you do not say whether it is privately owned or state-run. Assuming the latter, and that post-junta Argentinian governments have been broadly centrist or left-wing, you’d think that some historical analysis of the failings of Pinochet would have been highlighted. On the other hand, if it is privately-owned, perhaps the owners are/were pro-Pinochet and don’t want too many historical questions asked. Some perspective on this might be gained by studying the date when the museum was opened.
Hello Ian, I’m afraid you’re getting mixed up with your military dictators. My ideas have been evolving about who actually commissions the different memorials to the Argentine dead in the Malvinas War. Some are definitely the State but others are more likely to be commissioned by local veterans organisations.
As for the Rio Gallegos museum it appears to be part of some army complex. Whether it was a barrack or some administrative building I don’t know – didn’t investigate too closely and won’t be going back there. At the same time although there was no admission fee there was a request for donations for the maintenance of the museum and for the purchase of new material.
I’m hoping the museum in Buenos Aires will be a proper affair. We see in 3 weeks or so.
It is an awkward, unbalanced monument (compare the image of the miner in your earlier post, which had the merit of capturing with some skill the powerful dynamics of a man and a manual drill) which, though abstract up to a point, reminds me of some form of plant-life, with shoots growing from the ground at different heights. From these green(?) shoots emerge the faces of workers – presumably a generic visage to embrace all workers, though specifically in this case the office-workers at the FOM HQ. Again, though, the image is unclear. Perhaps the Pinochet lackeys realised the message of this monument was too obscure to become any sort of focus for discontent, and certainly not worth the cost of dismantling it. Or perhaps they didn’t get the point, either.
I read this statue as something like ‘the spirit of Argentina’, represented by a modern woman (hence the clothing) in rebellious pose (the exposed breast a reference to Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’, as well as the Amazon warrior), armed with a lance (to represent a willingness for armed conflict) and a book (to represent the importance of education and civilisation). I am not so sure that this is intended to be an indigenous person – I don’t see the evidence or the rationale for that.
I think the bronze (?) panels with the Malvinas silhouette are effective, but a fair amount of expense seems to have been spared on the statue, which is slowly mouldering away. Pity, because it is an arresting image.
Hoy los recordamos …. aqui, en calles y escuelas…
“Today we remember them, in the streets and in the schools…”
And those are precisely the places where we should teach others about what some people wish to do to us. (And if not, the internet must do, as it does here! Of course, I did not know of this piece of history, but I do now.)
We are beginning to see the ‘minute’s applause’ in the UK, in sports grounds and similar, which as you say requires a tad more participation than silence. It also obviates the possibility of a silent period being hijacked by counter-demonstrators (or just idiots) wishing to make their voices heard.
The inability of the teachers to coordinate with other workers over demonstrations is surely not because they cannot see the point of doing so, but because such organisation requires a lot of background work – which teachers (if their profession is anything like ours) simply will not have the time to do; their primary responsibility is for the children. State operatives, on the other hand, are paid to coordinate their responses.
Your first mural illustrated is indeed grotesque – what makes it so is the children’s comic idiom in which the soldier is (not very expertly) drawn. What does this say about the mindset of the artist? Gross sentimentality, perhaps, but certainly not the thoughtful dignity with which the 649 deserve to be remembered. That said, this particular area of the country seems well short of good street artists – none of the murals shown is especially well executed, the soldier-grandma image desperately short of artistry. Perhaps the best is the simplest – the “649, siempre eran nuestros heros” image. (I’m surprised that the Spanish plural is “heroes” rather than “heros”, but then again my Spanish never progressed beyond O level.)
It’s regrettable that the memorial is poorly maintained, but as you imply, it seems to be trying to say too much at once. The backwards tilt of the main element is intended, I suggest, to reflect agony (a soldier shot while advancing into enemy fire, perhaps). I can’t make much of the rest.
Some remarkable images here, Michael! Well done for circulating them.
As for the G20 Summit, we are reminded that among the plenipotentiaries attending is that currently interesting character from the Middle East MBS, whom the Argentinian authorities might (it is reported here) attempt to arrest!
I’m not holding my breath on that one, though.
Hello Ian, There are more images in the Gallery. I forgot to add it earlier on but should be there now.
Not picked up anything, on TV news or newspapers, about an Argentine arrest during the G-20. Argentina will be sucking up to the IMF and won’t want to upset MBS’s best mate in the White House.
Looking forward to reading the rest of this, Michael!
Fascinating as usual, Michael. A great posting.
Mosque with cross.
What’s your point? It’s an Orthodox Cathedral. Christian. Crosses are all the rage. The mosque is being built elsewhere. Get your facts right before you bother me with your ignorant and uninformed prejudices.
Hi, thanks for sharing. I was just wondering if anyone could tell me if the finikas lines ferry from corfu to saranda was reliable?
Very. The only time I had a problem – and that was just a matter of bad timing on my behalf – was in 2011 (my first visit to Albania) when the very day I wanted to travel there was a)
work on the dock in Saranda and b) maintenance of the boat (or so I was told).
Every other time I’ve travelled by boat it has been spot on.
Obviously, depending upon the time of year, you have to take into account potential weather problems.
Hey! Just wondering once in Saranda how easy is it to bus to Durres?
Very. All the buses that go to Tirana from Saranda go close to Durres and they’re very frequent, at least until mid afternoon. Those buses don’t go to the centre of Durres itself, though. They go to the bus station at Plepa and you catch a local bus from there. Local buses run every few minutes and only cost 30 lek. That bus takes you pass the bus/train station in the centre of town and its terminus is a further couple of hundred metres west in the direction of the Martyrs Cemetery.
Two days ago I visited Skadar and the Franciscan church. After coming home looking for some information I found your story. I’ll probably visit her again. Thanks for this fantastic explanation.
Hello Aida, Glad you found my explanation useful. I think the artwork in the Skhoder Franciscan church might well be unique. I’ve certainly not seen anything like it anywhere else.
The statue of Bajram Curri is by Fuat Dushku (who also worked on the monument of the Four Heroines of Mirdita, which was formerly in Rreshen, but was destroyed after the end of socialism). I found this artcle (http://www.fjalaelire.com/tema/27967.html), which seems to indicate the Bajram Curri statue was inaugurated in 1982, corresponding to the anniversary of Albanian independence.
Thanks for the information Raino. Have updated the post to take the name of the sculptor into consideration.
Thank you for this – San Michele al Pozzo Bianco is my favorite church in Bergamo, where I have the good fortune to be living for a while.
And regarding the quaint saint with spectacles, I have come across two more and thought you might be interested.
Both are in Lorenzo Lotto paintings of the assumption with the apostles.
The first one is the the 1512 Assumption of the Virgin now in the Brera Pinacoteca in Milan (http://pinacotecabrera.org/en/collezione-online/opere/assunzione-della-vergine-3/) in which the apostle on the far right is looking up, through spectalces, as if to better see or validate it, at Mary going to heaven on a cloud pushed by bunch of cupid-looking angels.
The second one is the 1527 altarpiece in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Calena, Bergamo (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/Lorenzo_lotto%2C_assunta_di_celana%2C_1527%2C_00.jpg). Here, the bespeckled apostle is in the center, behind the empty tomb.
My best guess is that the bespeckled in the Lotto paintings is Saint-I-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it-Thomas, but I am not sure of this.
During my search for information on war memorials in Albania I came across your blog. Having read the information, you stated that you did not know the background of the changes made to the cemetary after the 1980s. Chances are that you have already deepened your knowledge in the meantime and I have simply not read the follow-up posts, but if this is not yet the case, maybe this article that I have found online as well might be of interest to you.
Sincerely yours, Karen
The pistol held by the defeated German soldier is not a Luger. It is a Walther P-38.
Thanks for the correction. I try to get the details right but I’m not an expert in WWII weapons and sometimes end up making a, as near as I can get, guess.
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WWII Albanian Nazi collaborator statues in Macedonia – built by the ethnic Albanian political parties.
“Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again”
My wife is English and has taught English in Saranda 6 years. We lived in Ipsos Corfu 8 years.When you get off in the port a taxi to town centre is 4 to 500 Lek. Or turn right out of port walk and you will see about 40 yards on your right a long flight of steps at the bottom you will walk straight on keeping the sea on your right keep walking its a 10 mins nice short walk and you will eventually come to another flight of stone steps about 80 of them on your left easy to walk up with restaurants either side at the top you will see a bus stop that bus stop is just to your left that bus is to Butrint its 100 lek fare they run about every 30 mins and its about 20 mins to Butrint terminus and drops you off at the front of the Butrint site TAKE WATER and a CAP 80yards from terminus you will see a Hotel Toilets Food Beer Etc and very nice. Or ask a taxi how much, normally they will take you and wait for you same with Blue Eye just come to an agreement on the fare. DO NOT give any money to Gypsy kids or you will be pestered from then on by others. If hungry and want a beer 200Lek for a large draught or a nice cheap meal good varied menu with a very clean toilet go to top of steps you came up for the bus look down and 15 foot on left is Leos OR go to bottom of steps cross road and to Left is Limani good food and Beer next to sea but a bit dear. 2 Supermarkets just get off bus and walk up road with park on right you will come to Conads supermarket for Drinks andCigarettes to take back you are allowed only 1 litre of Gin Vodka Brandy Etc each and only 2 packs of cigarettes or 40cigs each NO MORE the Greeks do not have a sense of humour in customs. You will be save here no problems at allHonest you will be shocked when you compare cost off cigs beer and restaurant food in Saranda compared to Corfu believe me. Nearly everyone takes Euro but ask 1st. Sorry no commas Etc. its my wife who is English teacher hope this helpsyou enjoy yourday.
Thanks for this explanation. We travelled through Ksamil earlier this month and thought that the buildings had collapsed due to bad footings, or an earthquake. We were on a coach from Sarandë to Butrint and the guide on the bus was expounding the wonders of democracy in Albania, and mentioned nothing of the obvious wonky buildings.
I’m surprised there are still buildings which haven’t been completely demolished – I haven’t been there for a year or so. When I first saw them in 2011 there were many more along the route from Sarande to Butrint – not just in Ksamil.
my husband and I are planning a day trip in Albania this coming June 2018,
Would it be best to book in advance but I cannot find a website that says we will be using the hydrofoil so it would be quicker and we also want to go to Butrint and visit the Blue eye cave. Basically,Saranda,Butrint National park and Blue eye cave as day trip from Corfu(with pick up and drop off from hotel)if possible.
Which tour operators are best to use and website please?
As I don’t know how to go about from Saranda to Butrint National park,would it be best to to a package day tour for this.Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.
Sorry for the delay in replying. I don’t think there should be a problem with getting on the hydrofoil in June. It’s the hydrofoil that leaves every day at 09.00. You will have problems doing both Butrint and Blue Eye in the same day trip – they are in opposite directions out of Saranda. I don’t know anything about package trips s I’ve always traveled independently and with less time constraints.
There’s a local bus to Butrint that leaves from the big tree, which you can see on the right when you get to the road above the port after clearing immigration. It takes about 45 minutes but it’s only once an hour so time could be wasted if you arrive just after a bus has departed.
As you are tight on time the best bet might be to negotiate a taxi for the both trips. The cost shouldn’t be too prohibitive – how good are your negotiating skills?
The problem with going to Blue Eye by public transport is that there’s a bout a two kilometer walk each way from the main road so a taxi to take you to the sight itself makes sense.
You could do a pick and mix – taxi and public transport – but that all alters the time it takes to get from point to point.
Hope this helps.
Be careful on Package Tours the Greeks will charge you 10 Euros each person Saranda port entry tax and give you just a cloakroom tkicket with a number on for a receipt. This 10 Euro port entry tax stopped over 7 years ago its a CON We live in Saranda ask em why the Dolphin doesnt charge it and why you cant pay it when you land, wil they come back with a load of waffle honest.
As a result of stumbling across your wonderful blog site, we are taking the boat from Corfu to Saranda this week to go to Boutrin.
Can you tell us if there is any significant social realism art in Saranda? We will visit the martyrs’ cemetery in hopes.
Glad to hear you find my posts on Socialist Realism in Albania interesting. This is my post on the Saranda Martyr’s Cemetery. There’s another lapidar, at Manistir, which is at a low point in the hills, between the sea and the lake, about half way along the road from Saranda and Butrint. My post is here.
All the recent development in the town of Saranda itself has left us with little. However, there’s a nice little sculpture of young girls picking oranges on the sea front promenade. This is between the port where you arrive on the hydrofoil and the small marina which you will see on the right hand side of the bay.
Hope you have a good time.
Thank you, Michael. Very interesting.
Hello Francesc. Hope to get further posts on the journey to Moscow posted soon.
Thank you for this article. It is “true to life”, which in this case means that it is true to the real event that has happened in Edinburgh. I enjoyed looking at the pictures, learning about the artists and bits of life mosaic reflected in it.
Good “true to life” painting is always a little window to the time and place depicted by the artist. It provokes thoughts and emotions, it calls to learn more about the times and peoples that are in the pictures.
To enjoy text we have to know its language. To enjoy figurative “true to life” art we don’t have to know anything. It is universal. It moves us to learn about who, and what, how and why is there. “True to life” as a style is different from Social Realism.
Social realism is charging us with ideas of socialism the same as church art is charging us with ideas of christianity. It would be true to life to say that it is still possible to love these kinds of art not sharing the ideas expressed by them. At least it is how I feel about it. There is so much that they say about real people, their eternal struggle, inspiration, motivation…
You guys have no idea how a communist system works. Check all those countries/empires took the idea of Marx and Lenin and see how they end up. Human history could have save millions of life without communism. Arguing? Have a year in North-Korea and you change your mind…
As you’ve spent a year in the DPRK (because surely you must have if not why would you make such a crass and meaningless comment) I will welcome any comments you might make on my considerably shorter but more recent visit
Here is my ‘take’ on the exhibition: https://londonadam.travellerspoint.com/53/ . Thanks again, Michael
Have visited this exhibition – it is small but superbly fascinating, and well-curated.
Looks fascinating. Will visit. Thanks for posting this.
I have film of a large memorial, appears to be carved from stone, in shape of a 5 pointed star, with ‘1944’ above a group of soldiers. Alongside are the words ‘lavdi brigades pare heroika sul. huesi’. I thinki it is on the road between Korce and Tirana, perhaps near Elbasan. Any ideas?
Hello Chris, The lapidar you are describing is the Star at Qukes-Pishkash, which is on the main road between Librazhd and Prrenjas, heading to Lake Ochrid – so going east from Elbasan. You can find my post on this at http://michaelharrison.org.uk/2016/03/pishkash-star/
I would very much welcome a link to a video from before everything fell apart in the 1990s. It’s very difficult to get information or other visual sources of the lapidars during the Socialist period. The quality, or your non-Academy award winning filming, is not an issue, what is important is more detail.
When you’ve finished your editing please send me the link and I add it to my post.
Do you have any other clips from your 1980 trip? I struggle to get accurate information so any clues you can pass on, from whatever part of the country, would be appreciated.
I was in Albania in 1980 and recorded my trip (with Regent Holidays) on std 8 cine film. Only now have I had it copied to digital and I am at this moment editing it in moviemaker, with captions, and hopefully some Albanian music later. I filmed this memorial but I was not sure where it was, so I am grateful to you for putting this online. I am now able to say that it was definitely near Korce (where we visited a carpet factory, stayed at the Hotel Floria, visited a very beautiful building, the Museum of the Middle Ages, and where my diary tells me that we saw local people still wearing traditional Albanian costume.)
I will add the youtube reference to my (admittedly deteriorated film – and poor quality filming) when I have completed the editing in the next week or so.
Michael, I always appreciate your analysis of communist statuary and imagery in general, but I take issue with your assumption that the presence of large amounts of text proves a high level of literacy. Of course this is not capable of definite proof either way, and it is quite possible that the authorities also assumed that their words would be read and understood by all. But it is equally possible that the slabs of text included were self-aggrandising (“see how well we have succeeded in educating the proletariat”) or even self-justifying (“we know this to be eternally true and set in stone, and that is all that is necessary for posterity; we are not bothered whether you can or cannot read it”).
Faith in the benevolence and wisdom of authority is one of the main reasons why people have ultimately rejected communism – that and the undeniable material comforts capitalism confers on those in a position to benefit from it. The fact that a certain sort of ordinary person can also successfully jump on the capitalist bandwagon ensures that, sooner or later, successor regimes to Stalin or Mao will eventually prevail.
I think we have to look at the Nanjiecun ‘complex’ in a different manner from virtually ALL other Socialist monuments in whatever country. For a number of reasons.
One, it was constructed in 1993,the centenary of Chairman Mao’s birth, in a country that had spent, at least the government, the Party and the authorities, the previous 17 years trying to denigrate and virtually ignore all that had been achieved under Chairman Mao’s name and leadership. To say that the people of Nanjiecun were going against the flow is an understatement.
Two, the ‘authority’ which made the decision, and the people who paid for the structure, were the people who lived and worked there. I can accept that in the past the decision for the installation of a monument may not have always come from the enthusiasm and initiative of the local people. Here it definitely did. And also going against not only national government and Party but also those authorities across the road.
Three, it must have been paid for by those local people. The surplus they had created in their collective enterprises were diverted from what might have been seen as immediate needs, i.e., housing, health resources, cheaper food in the stores, etc., to something that had no tangible benefit for the people. The fact that Nanjiecun has become a bit of a tourist draw would not have been, I contend, a consideration 25 years ago. That was with the statue of The Chairman.
Four, they would not – ten years later, more or less, have then spent more money on the construction of the marble faced frames for the portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin and (I assume at the same time) the two bill boards for the words and images of Chairman Mao.
We must remember that we are talking about a permanent population of only 3,000, supplemented by an ‘immigrant'(this is one thing I find a little problematic) population of another 10,000. Would that number of people have sanctioned the installation and the expense of something which they co
I think we have to look at the Nanjiecun ‘complex’ in a different manner from virtually ALL other Socialist monuments in whatever country. For a number of reasons.
One, it was constructed in 1993,the centenary of Chairman Mao’s birth, in a country that had spent, at least the government, the Party and the authorities, the previous 17 years trying to denigrate and virtually ignore all that had been achieved under Chairman Mao’s name and leadership. To say that the people of Nanjiecun were going against the flow is an understatement.
Two, the ‘authority’ which made the decision, and the people who paid for the structure, were the people who lived and worked there. I can accept that in the past the decision for the installation of a monument may not have always come from the enthusiasm and initiative of the local people. Here it definitely did. And also going against not only national government and Party but also those authorities across the road.
Three, it must have been paid for by those local people. The surplus they had created in their collective enterprises were diverted from what might have been seen as immediate needs, i.e., housing, health resources, cheaper food in the stores, etc., to something that had no tangible benefit for the people. The fact that Nanjiecun has become a bit of a tourist draw would not have been, I contend, a consideration 25 years ago. That was with the statue of The Chairman.
Four, they would not – ten years later, more or less, have then spent more money on the construction of the marble faced frames for the portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin and (I assume at the same time) the two bill boards for the words and images of Chairman Mao.
We must remember that we are talking about a permanent population of only 3,000, supplemented by an ‘immigrant'(this is one thing I find a little problematic) population of another 10,000. Would that number of people have sanctioned the installation and the expense of something which they couldn’t understand? I would think that if they had gone against the stream on so many fundamental issues they would not have just accepted the ‘imposition’ of banners with text they didn’t fully understand – and agree with.
As I wrote in my post I am only guessing about the content of the text (I will seek to get confirmation or otherwise of that as soon as possible) but it does seem to be a reasonable guess, taking into consideration what I know about the Nanjiecun commune.
You are obviously aware of the love I have for Socialist Realist art and imagery in different parts of the erstwhile Socialist world. Perhaps the reasons why those works of art were created and installed, where and when, wasn’t always done with the active support of the people in the immediate vicinity. If it had been then perhaps we wouldn’t see the examples of vandalism and lack of care that we do, especially in Albania as I have had the chance to see at first hand what can happen if the locals are divorced from ‘their’ monuments. I will use the example of the respect that has been accorded the Arch at Drashovice in contrast to the Four heroines of Mirdita in Rreshen or the monumental panel of Enver in Berat. Perhaps, on reflection, people regret what was done in their name but if people have a connection with a particular piece of stone they will not be swayed by any fascist who might achieve a position of power and using their anti-Socialist feelings in a destructive manner.
Five, the people of Nanjiecun continue to use their surplus to maintain the square. Things get added, such as the rainbow arch, or taken away, such as the trees. All this costs,someone has to pay for it. And in Nanjiecun that can only come from the labour of the local people. there’s no subsidy from elsewhere.
Whether they know it or not I think the people of Nanjiecun are answering questions that are not really being asked. Those questions revolve around how the working class and peasantry will shape their cultural heritage once they achieve state power.
Perhaps we should consider their example when we next have the opportunity to celebrate our revolutionary leaders and the achievements of revolutionary men and women in the next round of revolutionary transformation and the destruction of this odious and parasitic system which is long passed it’s sell by date.
Yet another debate we need to have to make sure that next time our revolution will last longer than a couple of generations.
Very interesting article. Thank you, Michael.
I visited the chapel last year 2017 with my wife , we picked up a gentleman after telephoning the number on the information board on the church, who showed us around, fasinating church & history, he told us this year ,it will be celebrating its 400 year anniversary. Will you be doing anything to celebrate this event, if so could you contact me on 01704 879396, or by e,mail please. Thank you. Mr p & k Cuffe.
As I’ve written before I have absolutely nothing to do with the chapel – I only wrote a blog because I thought it was an interesting building. Any queries about what they might be doing for an anniversary should be directed to the person on the end of the phone number that’s on their notice board.
Excellent guide to a potentially confusing system.
It’s truly a nice and useful piece of info.
I’m glad that you shared this useful information with us.
Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.
Overstated, comrade. You allow ‘savage indignation’ to trump nuanced historical assessment. This would be acceptable in a satirical piece, but here you present these arguments as history. Sorry, but for many of your readers, it is mere agitprop, which grows increasingly comical as it proceeds. If only Iannucci had realised the humour inherent in blinkered fundamentalism his lamentable ‘Death of Stalin’ film would have been far better.
The statue in Gjirokastra has now been cleaned up. It now looks rather too white. Unfortunately, immediately behind it is a collection of café umbrellas so it loses much of its impact. Happy to send a photo taken last month.
Hello Andrew, This inappropriate restoration of Albanian lapidars and other monuments/statues has been an issue for some time. The problem of advertising is also something that has had an impact on various lapidars – the result of the uncontrolled march of capitalism. A picture of the ‘restored’ monument would be appreciated, not too sure when I might back to Gjirokaster.
Hi, I am interesting in the magazine Albania Today November/December 1972. I was a pioneer at that time and 4 others and I, we were in the cover picture there standing by a canon to the old national museum. If you can find it I will greatly appreciate, and I will buy that.
Hello Merita, If I haven’t posted the early issues of Albania Today it’s because I, myself, still don’t have access to them. If what you want is the picture then I suggest you go to the National Library in Tirane when you next visit family members still in the country. They have all (almost) of the Albania Today editions in various languages. If you are careful I’m sure you would able to record your early life as a pioneer without any problems.
your post is very helpful, thank you! 🙂 Next week we will go from Paleokastritsa to Tirana. The first bus departure from Paleokastritsa to Corfu at 7.20 and the ferry departure at 9:00. What do you think we able to catch the ferry or we start to think another solutions? I read on the ferry company page the ferry boarding closes 30 minutes to scheduled departure…
Best regards, Viktoria
Hello Viktoria, If your bus gets in at 08.00, as it’s supposed to, according to what I’ve seen on the net, then you should have more than enough time to get your ticket and then get to the ferry itself. I don’t think that they will turn you away at the departure gate if you have a valid ticket. It’s now the quiet season so there won’t be great crowds of people. If there is a delay and you are in doubt ask when you buy your ticket and they can phone ahead to the ferry to let them know you might be arriving a little late but are on the way.
Hi Michael, thank you!☺
Hi there, thanks for the great info! I will be traveling to Albania from Corfu on September 23rd, but my flight doesn’t land until 16:50. I am planning on checking one bag, what do you think that chances of me catching the 18:30 ferry? I am hoping the airport might be less busy as high season dies down but I have no idea. Any suggestions? Thanks!
In theory 1hr and 40 minutes should be more than enough time to get from the airport to the ferry. Are you normally lucky? Just move as fast as you can, catch a taxi to the ticket office (10 or so minutes) and unless there’s any serious delays I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to make the 18.30 to Saranda
In 2012 I discovered that the big Lenin statue was standing in the former state foundry somewhere near the Lana river: https://albanianpyramids.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-foundry/
Correction: Lenin = Stalin
Hi Michael ……. your information is really helpful. I am hoping to get ferry service schedule information for Saranda to Corfu in December for a walk on – no car. Does a ferry depart Saranda for Corfu daily in December of 2017 or just certain days?
Depending upon the weather there should be sailings every day of the year. The timetable changes according to the season. I’ve just updated the links in the blog – that should make confirming the times of sailings from both Corfu and Saranda a little easier than in the past.
Thank you, Michael! We can say that Egels came back to his historical motherland from the place where he was worshiped as a new god and then went in exile when the masses found a different g-d to worship. I am glad for him and for the work of art and for the artist, whose impressive creation found a place, which he probably did not see even in his dreams. One more life’s twists.
Great write-up. Greetings from Adam
Do you know of any small/interesting vineyards in the Durres Kruja area. My wife Will be on a cruise and stopping in Durres in early September and are planning on getting a car with a driver for the day and having a look around. We grow grapes ourselves in NZ so are interested in the wine culture here.
Hello Paul, There’s a vineyard close to the town of Vora (which is virtually halfway along the ‘new’ highway between Durrres and Tirana, less than 30 minutes drive from the port. I can’t remember the name and can’t find the details in the information I collected on a recent visit. If your wife has a local driver then local knowledge might help. If you want more information about vineyards in the locality type ‘kantina e veres albania’ into a search engine and you will get a few other suggestions. Some of them are very much in ‘day trip’ distance of Durres.
Thanks for that, if you come across the name of the place near Vora give me a shout.
Gone from sight, currently shrouded.
I don’t understand. Do you mean that now ALL the statues are covered in some sort of covering?
Not all hidden but Uncle Joe and Lenin are definitely under wraps. Pity, I made the trip just to see them. I can’t post photos here so If you would like to send me a personal email address I’ll send you photos of what was there as of last week. There might be a new one since I didn’t see any previous references to a rather large bust of a woman that is done in a Chinese red guard style.
Thank you so much for your detailed directions to the Jewish cemetery in Segovia. They were invaluable in helping us find the location…not exactly a straightforward route to figure out on our own. We were going to turn back three times times before we stumbled on your blog post giving clear instructions on how to find the cemetery. It was definitely worth the extra climbing to see the site! Your description of the Jews leaving and looking back on the city as they passed through the cemetery one last time were quite a powerful image.
Glad you found my route useful and that nothing had changed to make the directions unintelligible. The site of the cemetery definitely gives a unique view of the town walls, which are appreciated by too few.
Googling “communist franciscan” hoping in my boredom to find another communist franciscan what do I find but your excellent, informative and utterly unexpected post! Wow! Thanks for that – easily the weirdest church paintings I’ve ever come across. Nice link too (Reasons to be suspicious – Albanian-British Relationships in the 1940s). Gonna take a look at some of your other posts now.
PS I realise that this post is five years old: how’ve things been in the meantime? 🙂
The original article was posted after I had first seen the images on the left hand side of the nave. On a subsequent visit last year I saw the new ones on the right hand side. So I updated the original post with the new pictures and also some extra information I had gathered in the mean time. Not only are new paintings appearing in some of the churches (the ones on either side of the alter in the Sacred Heart Church in Tirana are also worth a visit) but the fate of the lapidars (the Socialist period monuments and statues) is constantly changing. Some are destroyed, some are located and some are renovated so it’s an ongoing project.
What an ignorant view to have. The young are leaving the country because of the severe lack of jobs, lack of economical globalisation and ridiculously corrupt government. No woman chooses to become a prostitute out of luxury, but out of necessity. And the reason the principle export is arms is because Albania was armed to the teeth by Russia and China during the Communist era for fear of being invaded – when you are the seventh poorest country in Europe, you will sell what you can. Albania is home to countless priceless Byzantine artefacts, Illyrian strongholds, Venetian architecture – unfortunately, with a GDP of 11 billion, as much as they would love to preserve this beautiful history, it isn’t exactly a priority. Not many willingly choose to leave the country they love and belong to, but making money in, “capitalist heavens” so that they can send it home to their starving families is a priority.
And with all due respect, the resilience, hospitality, loyalty and integrity of the Albanian people (despite their severely corrupt leaders, constant invasions and their status as a peripheral) far outweighs most societies I’ve experienced. But you continue with your analysis of a mosaic from your ivory tower.
I sometimes wonder at the Albanians who take exception to some of the things I write on my blog. I honestly don’t understand the world you live in, or, at least, the way you look at that world.
First of all I’ll make an admission. Although I supported the Party of Labour of Albania and agreed with the vast majority of its policies from 1944 to 1990 mistakes were obviously made. What they were and how I see them in retrospect is something that will take too long to introduce here.
Whilst saying that the blame of what happened at the end of the 1980s – and especially during the 1990s – have to be placed at the feet of the Albanian people themselves.
For reasons I still don’t fully understand they just gave up on everything and too many of them just wanted to get to the capitalist west so that they could ‘enjoy’ the fruits of capitalism. The fact that they were so stupid as to not realise that all that came with negative consequences seems to have been ignored by those who left at the time and haven’t been accepted by them, or many others, since.
I have no doubt that the situation in the country became more difficult after the desertion by the Chinese revisionists and the consequences of the isolation that Albania had to suffer following this betrayal. But for Albanians that shouldn’t have been a problem. All your history, prior to the liberation from fascism in November 1944, was predicated upon the struggle for independence.
The cult of the personality of Skenderbreu was well established before the defeat of the Italian and German fascists. Whether it was a healthy cult to perpetuate under Socialism is another issue – but as with so many ideas, not something which can be discussed in any depth here.
As the ships left Durres and Vlora, in the mad rush to get to the capitalist heaven across the Adriatic, any national pride that those Albanians on board might have had sank in their wake. Durres, where Mujo Ulqinaku was one of those who led the fight against the Italian Fascist invasion in April 1939, was only able to hold its head high for 50 years. As the workers deserted the port, the tobacco factory and other local industries they put an end to any concept of Albanian independence.
The celebration on 28th November in subsequent years has been a sham. The once proud Albanian Army is now just a lapdog to NATO. In fact I’ve encountered more foreign troops, in my visits to Albania, than Albanians. And respective governments, of whatever colour, have allowed this loss of independence to be taken away due to the misconstrued idea that by accepting such an unopposed invasion you will be invited to join, at some indeterminate time on the future, the capitalist club that is the European Union – a pipe dream that will only be realised when Hell freezes over.
Present day Albanians are a disgrace to Skenderbreu and to the thousands of partisans who fought – and too many of whom died – for your country’s freedom between 1939 and 1944.
So once you have prostituted your country it’s not a surprise that you allow your daughters to populate the brothels of western Europe – whether these be run by Albanian gangsters or the scum of other nationalities.
You say that Albanians had to leave their own country because there was no work for them there. But it is the Albanians themselves who are responsible for this.
In the 1990s it wasn’t a foreign invasion force that destroyed the infrastructure, industry and agriculture. It was the Albanians who did it themselves.
In their thousands they deserted the land and the factories. With such a reduction in the workforce any economy would have problems in adapting. Then, on top of the desertion, ‘good’ Socialist Albanians allowed ‘bad’ monarcho-fascist, reactionary and foreign agents to put the final nail in the coffin.
By not defending the collective farms and the state industries those people who had developed a Socialist conscience allowed reaction and capitalism to prevail. They allowed the enemies of Socialism, who exist in any Socialist society for many years (we still don’t don’t know how many) after a successful revolution, to destroy all the gains made over many years of sacrifice to turn a backward, semi-feudal country into something resembling a modern state in the 20th century.
I hate and detest the enemies of Socialism but, and this is a lesson of history, those who don’t defend gains from the past also have to bear some of the blame. Crimes of omission can ultimately have the same consequences as crimes of commission.
You talk of a ‘need’ to leave the country. I assume you are Albanian but haven’t you seen the innumerable deserted and looted factories, abandoned greenhouses and the results of privatisation of land that has led to the destruction of collectivised and state agriculture and returned Albanian agriculture to something resembling feudal strip farming.
Obviously not, otherwise you wouldn’t write such rubbish.
If you still live in Albanian perhaps you should travel a little bit more. You words betray a lack of knowledge bordering upon parochialism.
Have you no knowledge of the abandoned factories and industrial complexes of; Elbasan, Fier, Gijrokaster, Lac, Korca, Permet, Pogradec, Prenjas, Vlora, Berat, Durres, Shkoder, Kucove – to just mention the biggest and most obvious? Have you not seen the hundreds of railway engines and rolling stock just rotting away beside the railway lines throughout the country (especially in Vlora and Prenjas) which indicate the amount of material that used to be, in the Socialist period, transported from one part of the country to another?
You make the bizarre statement that I am making my analysis from an ‘ivory tower’. I have travelled extensively in Albania and have seen the results of the last 25 years of capitalist ‘renewal’. I have heard about countless examples of corruption and mismanagement. I have met many people whose greatest ambition is to leave the country of their birth as soon as possible. With such a background Albania has no future – apart from being a low income economy where only those who can’t escape live and work in ever worsening conditions and for lower pay.
In the 1990s. When Albanians were destroying (or allowing to be destroyed) their industrial infrastructure I and many other workers in Britain were fighting to keep our factories open. Yes, we failed, but at least we tried. What did you do?
Depending upon your age you were either a destroyer or a passive watcher. Whichever of the two you then, under the new ‘won’ capitalist ‘freedom’, were incapable of constructing a viable, modern society.
Added to this you also freed from centres such a Spac those vicious, greedy psychopaths who then caused untold havoc on the country. I’ll accept that some people were imprisoned when other methods could have been used but all societies have to deal with individuals who have no concern for anyone but themselves and who are prepared to do anything to get what they want. I don’t have the perfect answer to how to deal with them – do you?
Disagree with my analysis but don’t just think you can do so by claiming that Albanians are hard done by. In the 1990s the Albanians made their bed, now they have to lie in it.
That can be changed but not if all Albanians do is whinge about being innocent victims and/or run.
I’ve met some great people in my travels in Albania but, unfortunately, very few who want to rebuild their country for the benefit of all – that would mean the fight to reconstruct Socialism.
With all respect to your very emotional comment and to the country where I have my best friends, I don’t see a connection between the analyze of symbolism and artistic merits of the mosaic Albanians and the fact that young Albanians give up on finding a way to work in their own country. You can not blame the mosaic on supporting the corrupt government. You might use this mosaic as a symbol of Albanians struggling for their country through the whole its history. Those, who dream to have not corrupt government and work for young people to stay in their wonderful country, have to leave their ivory towers and understand that they have to struggle for their dream. Every country the young people go from Albania has a long history of struggle for better life and against their corrupt governments…
Hi, is it possible to arrange a visit preferably round noon on a Tuesday or Thursday for a small group of walkers? Thankyou
The Chapel has nothing to do with me – I just wrote about it. Check one of the other comment for contact details.
As I was reading, I was thinking to comment that the relations with China had already started to get colder, I mean publicly, since the visit of Nixon in China, although maybe not in English publications. But you mentioned it in the second half of the text.
Also in several artistic movies the end of this relationship is featured as a long agony, rather than an immediate or unexpected death, with Chinese supplying defective machinery for several years before the end of this relationship.
I’ve seen the guy in the following facebook link to post frequently about the history of Vlora, often about its sport history. He may know, or find out, who is the author of those art works.
Thanks for the information. The only problem is I’m not on Facebook.
Hello- I’m traveling from Corfu to Saranda on 24 May. Unfortunately our flight doesn’t arrive until 10:00 AM so we miss the morning ferry. While I saw there is an 18:30 ferry departure, I was wondering if there are any other options like a water taxi that could get us to Saranda earlier? Thanks for the help.
I’m not aware of any other option than the ferry.
Thank you for the response. Cheers
I am an Albanian who moved in UK in the late ’90’s. I have met 2 types of people:
Type 1- those who have heard about Albania and Albanians mainly from newspapers (‘written in a hurry’ to quote a witty British stand-up comedian), TV programmes/movies (depicting Albanians as the villains of the world/pimps/drug dealers etc, etc) and anecdotal evidence from the above ‘reliable sources’ . Type 2 – people who have visited Albania like Michael Harrison (i am assuming this is a real person and judging by the web domain and comments, based in UK). I am old enough to have lived the ‘Communist era’ and also compare and contrast with a capitalism. Paranoid? Well, Michael presents some compelling evidence pro-paranoia. Villains of the world? Would you be surprised if i told you that the worst crime i ever heard of before the 90’s was someone hitting another with a bottle in a fight? The few ‘villains’ learned from the best and became better than the master – perhaps for the wrong reasons. Are all British ‘hooligans’, all Italians ‘Mafia’ or all French ‘frogs’ (don’t answer the last one!)? But thank you, Michael Harrison, for summing up Albania; to quote UK Foreign Office: ‘Albanians are very hospitable’.
I have read that the so called ‘Port Tax’ entering Albania is a scam and was obliterated 6 years ago.
What are people’s experience of this please?
I’ve never heard of anyone being caught by this scam and had no such experiences myself. I would be very surprised if you were asked to pay such an entry tax but if you are refuse point blank.
I’ve read a few people given a raffle ticket on the ferry over to Albanian. As payment for Port Tax!
Excursion companies have included it in the speal.
Probably go indpendant !
Getting your ticket from the office at the port in either Corfu or Saranda is so easy there’s no point in using an intermediary. If there is any sort of tax it will be included in the ticket price and will NEVER be asked for at any time en route. Enjoy your trip.
Congratulations on (yet again) bringing to our attention a work of art many of us would not have known. However, I have some reservations. While I agree with your main points (the standard behaviour of imperialists, the relative mediocrity of the statue), I feel you allow yourself to be sidetracked into routine anti-capitalist fulminations which detract from the thrust of your analysis. I suggest there is little need to attempt conversion of the bourgeois/metropolitan/Western imperialist strand of your readership, simply because I doubt they exist in significant numbers. However, judicious criticism of works of art is an important part of what you do on this website. Here I feel it is diluted, which is a pity.
Hello Ian, Glad to hear you find my blogs interesting and thanks for the time to make a comment on my last one.
I’m aware that I fall into the ‘trap’ of a rant from time to time. In my own defence I think I do that to stress that a ‘work of art’ is not divorced from the situation in society in general and hence feel I have to provide examples to back up that assertion.
However,, in future I will step back a little before I press the publish button to make sure I don’t go over the top.
I was the British Defence Attache based in Tirana between 2005-2008. Certainly while I was there Remembrance Services were annually held at the Memorial Park with good international attendance and representation from the senior most figures in Albania.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, a decision was made to greatly reduce the number of attaches worldwide and in the case of Albania after I left representation was made from the attache based in Italy. I will say no more. I am now out of touch but heard a rumour that this decision might have been changed from last year.
I continue to have a deep love and fascination for Albania. I have heard many comments about the rights and wrongs about what happened in Albania during WW2, from all sides, some expressed to me with great emotion and passion. The truth is that the complexities of the actions, from all sides, who did what and who didn’t, for what reasons, with short or long term objectives, are considerable and quite typically much easier for us to criticise in the comfort of our armchairs 70 years later. What is certainly true however is that, at an individual level, immense bravery and determination was shown by some, Albanians and British (and others), and I am full of admiration for them, if only we can strip away the politics.
‘If only we can strip away the politics’? Not something that can be done when we are talking about wars. I agree that many brave men and women fought (and too many died) in the fight against Fascism. The added complication with the Balkans was even though British service personnel were sent to those countries occupied by the Fascists to ‘help’ those local partisans fighting against the invaders they were also there with a sub-text (even if not known to themselves at the time). And that was to attempt to promote British imperial interests after the war – this especially so when the defeat of Fascism was only a matter of time after the Red Army went on the offensive and pushed the Nazi’s out of their country.
This is especially evident in the British support for the Greek Monarchists in the Civil War. British military personnel and equipment (which only a matter of months before were in action against the Nazis) were used against those partisans who had fought the Fascist in Greece and in support of those who had collaborated with the Fascists. The British supported victory of the Monarchists led to almost 30 years of on off fascist and military dictatorship of the country. The people fought a foreign fascist only to be dominated by a home grown version.
This, not surprisingly, had an effect upon the thinking of the Albanian people. I went into some of these issues in my blog on British interference in Albanian affairs and the so-called Corfu Channel Incident.
And recently, you might have heard if you are now back in the UK, their have been a number of programmes on Radio 4 telling the story of the British and American attempts at ‘regime change’ (before the term was coined) in Albania.
The stripping away of any independent military force in Albania and its replacement by a foreign, NATO force has only served to confirm the long term ambitions of the British, in concert with other western capitalist powers.
We’ll arrive Corfu at 04 am, and takes the ferry to Saranda at 09am. Is it smart to wait at the airport some hours or take a taxi to the harbour at 04 o’clock? I think we must be at the ferry 1 hour before, at 08 am? So we have 4 hours to wait somewhere…. What is your sugestion?
This is in late july, in the high season.. I will order tickets for the ferry, but I can’t buy before 3 months before we are leaving..
Hello John, can’t really give you much advice based upon personal experience. Airport’s are terrible places at the best of times but at least you’ll probably be able to find somewhere relatively quiet to rest before your journey to Saranda. At the same time you will be arriving when it’s going to be warm so watching the sun rise over the water might be attractive – if you’re not too tired. There’s a cafe attached to the docks (just opposite the Saranda ferry ticket office) but whether it will be open at that time of day I can’t say.
Thank you, it is a good thing to see the sun rise,so maybe we will try not to sleep at all
Hi john i think that at 4am in the morning i would split the difference i would head to harbour around 6 am as cannot see anything going to be open for you hope that helps, ian
Went from Corfu to Sarande last July, arrived 2am at airport, taxi to ferry port €15, bar was open all night but quite expensive
Another excellent presentation complete with great interpretations of the artworks. Thank you.
Glad you continue to enjoy reading my interpretations of the lapidars – now including mosaics and bas reliefs as well as the more major monuments.
Do you have the following books:
1. The Ideas of Marxism-Leninism Will Triumph on Revisionism
English Edition, Tirana, 1962, pp 226.
2. Oppose Modern Revisionism and Uphold Marxism-Leninism and the Unity of the International Communist Movement
English Edition, pp.420
Published by- “Naim Frasheri” State Publishing Enterprise, Tirana, 1964
3. The Belgrade Revisionist Clique — Renegades from Marxism – Leninism and Agents of Imperialism
English Edition, pp.325
Published by- “Naim Frasheri” State Publishing Enterprise, Tirana, 1964
(The books contain thirteen articles originally published in Zeri i Popullit between Jan., 1962 and Sept., 1963. Articles are on the Belgrade Revisionist crusade against Marxism-Leninism and Tito’s policies and the many plots he hatched with Khrushchev).
4. The Dangerous Maneuvers of N. Khrushchev’s Group on the So-Called Fight Against the “Cult of the Individual” Should Be Stripped Bare of Their Mask.
English Edition, pp.123
Published by- “Naim Frasheri” State Publishing Enterprise, Tirana, 1964.
( This books contains three articles reproduced from 1964 June 12, 13, 14 issues of Zeri-i-popullit Daily).
Of your list I only have ‘The Belgrade Revisionist Clique -….’. Give me a few days and I’ll try to get it scanned and posted on my blog. I’ll let you know when that happens.
Of the same period I also have ‘Marxist-Leninist Ideology will certainly overcome Revisionism II’, Naim Frasheri, Tirana, 1964. 462 pages. It contains 12 articles from Zeri i Popullit from May 17, 1962 to June 29, 1963.
A pdf of ‘The Belgrade Revisionist Clique’ is now available on the ‘Documents of the Party of Labour of Albania 41-50’ page of the blog.
Thanks for your information.
We travelling from Corfu to Albania by car.
My question is: can we take the car on the ferry?
I have no information of how you can take a car direct to Albania from Corfu. The only way I know would be to take the normal ferry to Igoumenitsa and then drive to the Albanian border at Konispoll.
Oh dear; another left-wing rant.
“the so-called ‘Corfu Incident’).”? There was no ‘so-called’ about it. 44 Royal Navy men died – in peacetime – as a direct result of a minefield that had just been laid by the Albanians in international waters.
And not just in 1946. I was skippering a delivery of a yacht from Yugoslavia to Greece in 1976, and we had to cross right over to the Italian side of the Adriatic at Bari, to avoid the Albanian-laid and maintained minefields extending half way across from the port of Dürres.
So: let’s have a bit less of the “peace-loving Albanians”, and let’s remember the 750,000 pillboxes built on Enver Hoxha’s instructions, whilst he kept the entire population in impoverished slavery for over 40 years.
“Buried in a municipal graveyard” ? Too good for him; it should have been the rubbish dump; and for his even more vicious wife, Naxjimje.
If all you want to read is something that reinforces your own prejudices don’t waste your (and my) time reading my blog and stick to the right-wing, neo-fascist ideas presented in the likes of the Daily Mail. You’re not going to learn anything with such a closed mind.
However I will, this time only, respond to your lack of knowledge and understanding of the situation in 1946 and world politics in general.
I consider the events in 1946 a provocation by a failing imperialist power (with the support of the imperialist power that was to takes its place, i.e., the USA) against a small country, with a population at the time of a little over a million people and which had been invaded by two Fascist powers and had beaten them both. But at great sacrifice. The term ‘incident’ is merely a diplomatic device to avoid blame.
I state that 44 men were killed but unlike you, who merely spews out the same propaganda spoon-fed to the unthinking and unanalytical, I ask the question of who was really responsible for their deaths and why they were where they were. They were put in harms way by politicians in London who thought they could still use the ‘gunboat diplomacy’ of the 19th century. Atlee and Bevin were the guilty ones not the Albanians.
Peacetime? The war for Britain had finished in 1945 but not for many of the people in the Balkans. The reason that such a powerful naval force was in the region at all was because the British were in Greece, supporting the monarcho-fascist collaborators of the Nazis against the working people and peasants who had fought against the invaders of their country. Without such foreign support there’s no doubt the history of Greece would have been very different. (The victory of the fascists with British and US support in the 1940s led inevitably to the rule of the Junta from 1967-74.) This meant that a potentially hostile force was just over the hills from Albania on its southern border. It’s no wonder that when huge warships came close to the Albanian coastline the government in Tirana was wary.
In another post on my blog, ‘Reasons to be suspicious – Albanian-British Relationships in the 1940s’, published in January 2013, I speculated what would have been the response of the British if a Soviet flotilla had sailed along the English Channel at that time. We know now, from the fuss that was made when a Russian flotilla did exactly that (in ‘international waters’) in October of last year, of the level of paranoia and hypocrisy that permeates British thinking. There was no threat whatsoever to Britain last year, the same cannot be said about what happened close to Albania in 1946.
And that threat had not diminished by 1976.
I don’t think I’ve used the term ‘peace-loving Albanians’, not really my style. They wanted peace when they were attempting to build Socialism but the British and Americans (and their hangers-on) wouldn’t allow it. It’s a pity we can’t use the term ‘peace-loving British/Americans’ in the post 1945 context. Since 1945 the armed forces from those two countries have been involved in other people’s countries, killing under a variety of ‘reasons’, but fundamentally denying them the right to determine their own futures. It wasn’t until the slavish, capitalist government in Tirana brown nosed NATO that Albanian troops stood aggressively on foreign soil.
As for the bunkers, at least they were for the defence of the country against any foreign invader. The cost of those small concrete structures were only a tiny fraction of what has been spent by the British and the Americans to kill millions outside of their national boundaries – a list of countries too numerous to list here. With the renewal of Trident and Trump’s promise to increase military expenditure that figure will only carry on increasing. Get a perspective.
First i have to remind You that by thinking in terms like “German Guilt” You enter the realm of Nazi thinking. There is nothing like “guilty peoples” as the Nazis believed because guilt is individual and Germans behaved quite differently during Nazi rule. Some time ago there was a documentary about Jews in Germany during WW2.
A Jewish woman who then was on the run told she was desperate because she had no place for hiding anymore. She asked an unknown woman on the street whether she could help her. The woman gave her the key to her flat. So she survived. If she wouldn’t have been asked by the Jewish woman she would have remained an ordinary German later accused of not having helped Jews (like You do).
Are You really sure what You would have done?
Not “the Germans” murdered the Jews but the dictatorship that came into being 1933. And the governments of some of the nations most critical against “the Germans” weren’t innocent in regard of this.
My grand father complained about the new government a short time after Hitler was appointed chancellor. Being red and living in a mostly red district in a German industrial town didn’t help him. He was denunciated by one of the few Nazis there and was interned in one of the new concentration camps as ca. 100000 others. He lost 30 kg because of bad treatment but luckily was released 4 months later. Hitler had to do a coup d’etat to install a dictatorship because he failed to get a majority of votes (last free elections Nov. 1932 NSDAP 33,1%). The left parties never dropped under 40%. Because of the strong results of the Communists the Conservatives and big business panicked and Hitler’s defeat made him chancellor. The behavior of our enemies was an important factor in the destruction of democracy. They violated the agreed 14 points by dictating the Versailles Treaty. Instead of reparations as defined (compensation of private losses) they demanded compensation of all war costs. Because of that the German governments couldn’t do anything against the great depression unlike the US under Roosevelt. Germany had to pay or to be austere until death. That changed with Hitler. The war enemies obviously didn’t want to cooperate with Democrats instead they preferred Nazis. After war they treated the German civilian population and the German POWs ill by denying them enough food. Instead they destroyed the economic infrastructure. Their propaganda accused all Germans to have known of the Holocaust and to have supported the Nazis. These insane accusations and the bad role model of the Allies themselves proved to be very good for Nazis. Guilty people were helped by criminalizing not guilty people. Strangely the Allies preferred Nazis for most posts. No wonder it wasn’t possible to talk about Nazi crimes for a long time (including the Anti-Nazis who were thrown into the same bag as the Nazis only because they were Germans as my father told me). Great thing for the Nazis! They really had to thank the Allies.
My opinion of some peoples will forever be negative because of the role their governments had in the destruction of German democracy and the rise to power of the Nazis (and the hardships my grand father had to endure in KZ), their vile post war defamations against people who hadn’t done anything wrong, they behaving like Nazis by starving the population (my mother nearly perished) and ill treatment of POWs (Manfred my father’s brother survived live in a US camp near Liege in Belgium but many died every night. Every morning he had to put dead bodies into bags).
Sorry, but You are part of that because of Your arrogant and ignorant statements.
I’ve delayed in replying to your comments as I have had trouble in getting my head around what your point was substantially about.
It’s such a long time since I saw the film ‘Lore’ that I will have to address my reply to your comments and not to argue, again, what I might have written more than 4 years ago.
I have never said, written or believed that ALL Germans were guilty for the rise and existence of Nazism. As a Communist I praise the efforts of the German Communists in their street battles against the various fascist groups before Hitler’s election victory in 1933 – and we must also remember that the first victory of German fascism came in 1919 with the slaughter of the Spartacists by the state sponsored Freikorps. (Those murdering scum and dregs of humanity who relished the killing of the trenches were not just a German phenomenon, to the shame of the British we allowed the Black and Tans to murder with impunity in Ireland in the early 1920s, I mentioned their role in the political scene post-1914-19 war in my blog on Armistice Day.
I also accept that some people but themselves at great personal risk both in the early days of Nazi control from 1933 and well into the war to defend and protect those being persecuted by the Fascists. But they are the exception that prove the rule. Most people didn’t – whether for fear or because they actually agreed with Hitler. The argument about percentages in elections is spurious and is one of the principal weaknesses of bourgeois democracy – most parties win with a minority of the vote.
But you can’t just forget that a sizable proportion of the population of Germany supported the Fascists in the 1930s, 40s and beyond. Going across the Atlantic to Chile we saw in the referendum on the fascist Dictator Pinonchet’s desire to ‘rule’ for another 8 years that although the ‘No’ vote won still 44% of those who voted supported the Fascist (after the country had been under the military boot for 15 years).
I agree with your points about the western powers installing Fascist functionaries in positions of power after the defeat of Germasny and that the ‘ordinary’ German man and woman suffered. My question is ‘why do you seem surprised?’. What else did you thin they would do – give power to the people? Your naivete would be laughable if the circumstances were not so tragic.
And I never condemn Germany and the German people forgetting the history of my own country. Yes, tens of millions dies because of the rise of Nazism but many more have suffered and died over the centuries at the hands of British imperialism, from slavery, dominance of whole continents and the planned genocides of peoples in different parts of the globe. As a citizen of the UK I would also be ‘guilty’ of those crimes if I have not spent most of my adult life fighting against its present day manifestations.
Don’t try to re-write history. The German people, at all levels, knew what was happening in the extermination camps. Buchenwald concentration camp was only 8 kilometres from the city of Weimar, the ‘cradle of German culture’. Trains travelling across country full of people and returning empty should have pressed some buttons. The fact that the British and Americans also knew about the slaughter in the camps and did nothing about it is an important fact, often ignored, but that doesn’t absolve the Germans for what was happening in their soil, planned by the sons and daughters of the German people.
If the Germans were not guilty in the 1930s and 40s then they can prove that by making sure that such groups can never again gain such prominence and power. That is not guaranteed if we look at the present surge in support for right-wing parties.
Unfortunately history has been slanted once again. These 5 ‘heroes’ may well have been fighting against fascism but at the same time they were fighting for communism which turned out to be far worse for the country, just as the nationalists had predicted. Too bad history in Albania is always on the side of communism rather than praising the efforts of those who gave their life fighting to preserve a free Albania and rid it of the monster who ultimately ruled it with a vengeance for 50 years! Statues of the real heroes are never created. The truth of the fighters who fought and died in their fight against communism is never told!
First, apologies for the delay in replying.
When the Italian fascists invaded Durres in April 1939 patriots (like Mujo Ulqinaku) ran for their guns, the self proclaimed ‘king’ Zog ran away. Not just from the battle front but from the Second World War, living in luxury in a mansion in the countryside in England after London became too dangerous for him.
When the ‘nationalists’, that you so admire, sat down and collaborated with the German Nazis in Tirana those same Nazis were massacring the inhabitants of the village of Borove.
It wasn’t only the Communists that fought against the aggressors – that can be seen in all the martyrs’ cemeteries throughout Albania – but they were led by the Communists who were the driving force of the National Liberation Front. Without the Communists there would have been no organised and strategic military leadership, no National Liberation Front.
After Liberation in November 1944 the Albanian people had to decide whether to return to an almost feudal structure, welcome back the cowardly Zog or attempt to build a new society based on Communist principles.
Those Nationalist collaborators, traitors and cowards didn’t like losing their power base and – with the active help of the American and British states – set about undermining and attempting to destroy this new Socialist state by attempting to infiltrate hundreds of paid stooges into the country to carry out acts of sabotage. This is all documented and the imperialist nations were/are unapologetic in their illegal acts.
If you think there are nationalist ‘heroes’ that should be commemorated then there’s nothing stopping you from identifying them and placing that information out on the internet. However, whereas the biographies of the Communist heroes filled a number of volumes I would tend to think your effort would result in a very thin volume indeed.
And don’t complain. You’ve got the while of the capitalist world and its powerful media outlets fighting in your corner. You’re just a whinger who provides them with some sort of credibility, you represent the ‘common’ man.
I don’t mind, that’s how it goes.
none of the links work ….
Thanks for taking the time to let me know of the broken links. I’ve had a look and they were all external links and therefore outside of my control. That’s not an excuse, just a reason why they now go nowhere. This was one of my earlier posts and I was in a learning process. I wanted to put in links but those I chose were virtually all links to the Segovia City Tourism site. They must have changed their address – not a particularly sensible thing to do for a city that depends so much on tourism, I would have thought.
I will look at my post over the weekend and see if I can get the information in a way that it is on my server and therefore much more under my control. If you need the information before I have the chance to update my post then I suggest you go to the new location of Segovia Tourism at http://visitsegovia.turismodesegovia.com/. I’ve had a quick look and it seems that all the information I was directing readers towards is on the new site.
I hope the broken links didn’t detract from the rest of the post and if you are going to visit Segovia at some time in the future you find it useful.
Thanks again for bothering to notify me of the non-existent links.
I take it that you are not a royalist then, Michael?
I wouldn’t say that.
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Cloud you post the articule: “The Marxist-Leninist Parties – the leading force of the revolutionary movement today – Agim Popa”?
Its look basic for reorganization of M-L movement…
Hello Comrades, I wish I could but I don’t have access to that issue at the moment. I plan to fill in the gaps in the late 1970s at some time in the future but don’t know exactly when that will be.
Dear Mr. Harrison,
We are publishing the almanac about ecumenical orthodoxy (http://lodka.sreda.org). Can we, please, use your photo of Tirana church dome in our printnig and web edition and on what conditions?
Hello Natasha, You’re quite welcome to use the picture – just give credit to the blog.
Great reply. Thanks!
Another wonderful posting. Thanks!
You wrote: “In many ways they capture a feeling of optimism and hope for the future which other art forms just can’t achieve”. So very true. I wonder whether they really achieved this aim. Has anyone written anything about the perception of this kind of art by the ‘common people’ during the Socialist era?
Not that I have been able to discover. The only material I have come across is that produced in Albania throughout the 1970s and 80s. This was more a documentation of what had been produced although there were articles in various issues of Albania Today discussing the relevance of art in a socialist society.
Yoy wrote: ” I also don’t really understand why the myth around Skenderbreu was perpetuated as much as it was during the Socialist period.”.
This also puzzles me somewhat. My simplistic feeling is that because Skanderbeg defied outside forces hostile to the Albanian people, he was appealed to Party ideology, which during the Hoxha era wanted to portray Albania as being defiantly against outside interference.
Skanderbeg like Hoxha defied forces far superior to those of the Albanians.
Hello Adam, I think your analysis is more one of hindsight than one which existed from the earliest days of the Revolution. Taking the national flag as that of Skenderbeu with the addition of the gold star was a decision made when Albania was playing a part in a rapidly changing world, with the defeat of fascism in Europe and the soon to be successful revolution in China. Paskali was making statues of Skenderbeu in the 1930s and the one he created for the centre of Tirana was inaugurated in 1968. At that time Albania was still in partnership with China and although there had been a split with the Soviet Union this was not seen, internationally, as a weakness, quite the opposite, this was seen as a necessary break for the future of the revolution. In many ways even before the fascist invasion in 1939 nationalism was part of the thinking of many Albanians. The problem was that some of them ditched that idea of independence to collaborate with the fascists as they saw the Communists as a bigger threat to their personal power and influence. I disagree with the analysis that Hoxha was isolationist. He sought alliances – but based on principles not force. And, anyway, the idea of self determination was a principle established by Marxist-Leninists at the beginning of the 20th century. That’s something which few countries presently maintain, following the dictats of the most powerful, and that includes the UK with it’s ‘special relationship’ with the USA. Blair as Bush’s poodle comes to mind.
There is a monument in Peqin with a constellation of small red stars above it.
When I started on my lapidar project everything was hit and miss. Fortunately, by the beginning of 2015 I had access to the information provided by the Albanian Lapidar Survey. Here most of the lapidars have been identified and photographed. So on my last couple of visits I have used that totally invaluable resource. If you click on ‘Albanan Lapidar Survey’ at the top of my home page you will be taken to a page with downloadable pdf’s of their work. I saw and photographed the one in Peqin earlier this year. However, the one in Saranda is the first where it looks like it might be based on a traditional constellation.
I have already downloaded them. Thanks
Fascinating. Thanks! Have you ever published an ‘analysis’ of the murals in the Hotel Cajupi in Gjirokastër?
Hello Adam, good to hear you found the post on the traditional wedding interesting. As for the Cajupi in Gjirokaster I didn’t know there were murals in that hotel as well. I went in there a number of times (didn’t stay in the rooms) for the rooftop bar on my last visit. Didn’t see any murals. Where are they? I’ll search them out on my next visit.
On the ground floor in a sort of bar. I could send you some pictures if you want.
Hello Adam, I think I know the bar you mean, it’s on the right as you come through the main door from Topulli Square, just before the stairs. When I was there I went to the first floor and roof top bars. Would appreciate a couple of pictures to know the subject and will make an effort to check it out myself when next in Gjirokaster.
Hi! Congratulations for your work…
We are a marxism-leninist blog of Spain, we call us “Bitácora Marxista-Leninista” or “Bitácora (M-L)”.
We are translated some editions of Albania Today from here, thanks to you.
We want to know the next information:
1) How can we know the next numbers that you will bring?
2) We are interested in translate some articles, for example:
‘Mao Tse-tung thought’ – an anti-Marxist, counter-revolutionary theory – Servet Pëllumbi
The Marxist-Leninist Parties – the leading force of the revolutionary movement today – Agim Popa
The Chinese Social-imperialists – supporting the reactionary and Fascist regimes – Zeri i Popullit
In China there is no Communist Party, but Clans and Factions Struggling with each other for Power – Zëri i Popullit
Victory of the Nicaraguan people in their struggle for freedom and independence – Zeri i Popullit
Hello Comrades. Glad that you are finding the magazines interesting. My ultimate aim is to post all the Albania Today issues published. I have a number of gaps in the early years but have most through the 1980s’. It’s a matter of finding the time, with wanting to work on my Albanian lapidar project. They will get there eventually.
To translate the articles you wish would be a truly monumental task. In parallel to Albania Today there was a Spanish edition, Albania Hoy. It might be worthwhile trying to see if they are available in your country before embarking on the translation task. Unfortunately the only place where I know the Spanish version exists is in the National Library in Tirana
Thank you for this information. I note that Qybra Sokoli is featured on an Albanian stamp of 1983, in a series issued each year between 1979 and 1986, depicting a total more than seventy martyrs and partisans.
Dear Mr. Harrison. I enjoy this blog very, very much. Thank you for your time and effort to enthuse us with your tales.
I wanted to know if you would give me permission to use the photo of Mao addressing the Chinese people on the 1st October, 1949, for my own blog -website
I am currently in China and a filmmaker, however, it is not easy to get the permission and entails going to the central archives in Beijing.
I would give full credit to you for this usage…With thanks…
Hello Jeanne, you’re more than welcome to use that picture on my blog. If you are in China (or even when back home) I don’t see why you should have problems about using pictures from the Mao era. China did not sign the Berne Convention – which deals with copyright – until 1979 so material published before that date shouldn’t be covered by any such regulations.
I was in Tirana this week and had à Nice chat with the security guard in front of hotel Dajti…
Was able to take Nice shots of Stalin and Lenin…still Thére !
Yes, they are still there, hidden away from general view. Good to hear you found a friendly security guard – I always seem to encounter one who sees his job to ‘protect’ the statues. But the location is dirty and I don’t understand why they are not displayed in a proper manner. Or just destroy them and make a political point. Why this ‘half-way house’?
Thank you for all of the great information about Albania. I am wondering if you have any information about the history or Plazhi Gjeneralit?
I’d never even heard about Plazhi Gjeneralit before this post – not really a beach person, more interested in the hills. Let me know if it’s worth going there.
You say, “On a banner is the famous phrase from Karl Marx – ‘religion is the opium of the people’.” That’s a misquote. It should be “opiate”, meaning anything which acts to subdue or suppress action, create passivity, etc. Also, I think it’s important to point out that all the people in the foreground are among “the faithful”. The unbelievers are all facing the other way, toward the works of man/ buildings in the background. I’m interested in the very traditional dress of the older people. The old woman appears to be wearing Turkish-style trousers and yet there is something in her hand that may be a rosary – impossible to see due to poor picture quality. I lived among Albanians in Skopje, Macedonia years ago and saw many men dressed like those with the hairy waistcoats, white skull caps and striped trousers. Some Albanians are Catholics, some are Muslim. One aspect of culture your articles does not mention are the blood feuds or vendettas that rage between families for centuries.
Do you also have discussions about how many angels can dance on a pin head? Marx used opium/opiate as a metaphor. My dictionary gives opiate = something that soothes, deadens or induces sleep and opium = something having a tranquillizing or stupefying effect. Taking Marx in context opium would seem to be the better word.
You don’t seem to have read the words of my post. I draw the distinction between those in the foreground – there because the painter wants to give them precedence even though they are in the minority – and the rest of the people in the square.
Yes the old woman is holding a rosary, I mention that in the post, in the third paragraph below the picture. Sorry about the ‘poor quality’ of the photo.
The post is about the paintings, not the cultural history of Albania. I might write about blood feuds in the future but didn’t see it as relevant when writing about paintings in a Franciscan church.
Please let me know who I may contact to arrange a visit to The Ancient Chapel of Toxteth in late September early October 2016. Thanks.
Have a look at one of the previous comments from the people at the Chapel. That provides a local telephone number for out of hours access.
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Les américains sont des porcs qui ne savent que semer la mort et le désastre partout où ils passent. Ce sont eux qui ont encore mis le monde à feu et à sang avec leurs interventions en afghanistan,irak,libye…Il est normal qu’ils paient leurs crimes avec leur propre sang.
Tout comme la France en Algérie.
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There’s a contradiction that in those societies (in the 20th century) that attempted the most revolutionary and radical transformation of their societies in terms of economics and politics did not extend such an approach to relationships and sexuality. Quite the reverse, in many cases, as the leaders of those societies took an almost extreme bourgeois approach towards morality.
All of us brought up in a bourgeois, capitalist society carry with us the baggage of that society and even the most revolutionary of us can get it wrong at times.
However, in preparation for the future round of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist led revolutions we will have to address this issue as part of our analysis of what went wrong in the past.
Thank you for helping uncover the mystery! Yes, this seems very prominent in the south. In Himare, where half the buildings are stalled-out and now abandoned half building constructions we saw so many stuffed animals hanging. I especially love the ones – many around Sarande- where the doll hangs from within the grape vines. These two things have now become the major symbols of Albania for me. Working title for my Broadway musical: Grapes and Dolls.
I very much enjoyed your careful analysis. I’d like to add, that it is misleading to think of Albanians as a single ethnicity, or mono culture. The people that fought against invaders and built Albania after WW2 are different from those that destroyed it after the 90. It’s not the same people that “changed their mind”.
This is an election map:
As you can see, it more of less corresponds with division Tosk / Gheg
The difference is not merely ideological and linguistic, genetic tests show that they are two completely unrelated people:
The Ghegs are actually descendants of slaves brought from north-east Africa in antiquity and they gave Albania in these quarter century the typical history of a nation of ex-slaves: plunder and destruction, criminality, high corruption.
So, even in rapport with women, it’s not meaningful to speak about “Albanian women”. Which one? The ones that had the right to vote decades before (1920) those in Italy (1945) or those in Greece (1952)?
Or those that were married covered as in Africa in the 60′?
You seem to damn with faint praise. All those ‘facts’ that you present in your comment go completely what I have argued in my posts which include ideas about the role of women both in the National Liberation War and in the construction of Socialism.
I won’t comment on the voting maps, parliamentary cretinism means you can prove anything with the selective use of statistics.
However, I find your racist comments about the Ghegs quite disturbing. Many people, when confronted with difficulties, either take on the victim status or blame others – as you do.
It’s difficult to deal with all the issues you raise by that couple of lines about ‘ex-slaves’ but suffice it to say that the destruction of the infrastructure in the 1990s and the continuing lack of respect or concern for anything public in Albania is encountered the length and breadth of the country.
As all Albanians can be proud of expelling the fascists from their country prior to 1944 all Albanians have to look at the destruction, chaos and corruption around them and try to answer the question, why?
I believe that to understand a subject, means to be able to make predictions. This should be obvious, the past can’t be changed so the only use of knowledge is to make predictions about the future. Explaining is similar to predicting, except that the things that you’re predicting have already happened. If you can’t explain something, you wouldn’t be able to predict it, and the reverse.
If you believe you’ve understood what has happened here during the period you’re interested in, go back (with imagination) at the beginning of that period, and start predicting everything that would happen later. You wouldn’t be able to, and your politically correct position that “everyone is the same” wouldn’t be of any help.
People generally manifest consistent behaviors. Even in those rare cases when behaviors are inconsistent, they still can be grouped in such a way, that within each group they are consistent. Such groups of consistent behaviors are called personalities, and the person in question is said to suffer from a multiple personality syndrome. The usefulness of thinking of someone as animated by multiple personalities is that once you know which personality is in charge you can start to make predictions.
This area of the globe has been the epicenter of civilization that lasted for many centuries and gave birth to multiple empires, and empires leave behind two kinds of people, the descendants of those that founded them, and the descendants of their slaves. Albanian speakers are a mix of these two diametrically opposite people / cultures and the history of Albania has reliably oscillated from one extreme to the other reflecting the culture of the group that has been in power. Ghegs have been in power only two times, in both cases with help from outside, and in both cases have given Albania the history of a nation of slaves. Until before the Ottoman invasion, they weren’t even considered Albanians, while Albania included even what now is Greece.
What happened during the last century can’t be understood (in the sense that it can be considered predictable) without knowing from where Albanians come from.
If you’re open minded and interested to go deeper I’m willing to provide all arguments and evidences to challenge your beliefs.
Lastly, since you’re interested in visual arts, what do you think of the following two pictures? They both show a scene from crucifixion and in both paintings the soldiers hold a red flag with a two headed black eagle, the flag that now identifies Albanians.
I don’t really understand what you mean in most of your comment. I have never written anything about being able to predict the future – something which is an impossibility and the domain of charlatans. A study of the past is, however, useful in order to learn from what has gone before – both the negative as well as the positive examples. This is so as to not make the same mistakes. Unfortunately too many people ignore the past and fall into the same traps which they might have avoided if they had respected the mistakes of those before. As for the double-headed eagle I don’t know what point you are trying to make. That symbol has been around for around for just under 4000 years, stretching from India in the east to Wimbledon in the UK. The presence of a black eagle on a red flag in a depiction of the mythical crucifixion in Palestine a couple of thousands of years ago has absolutely nothing to do with what occurred in Albania in the 20th century. I don’t know why but you seem to be desperate to find someone to blame for the past in Albania. My point that it was the same people (that is, the Albanian workers, peasants and ‘intellectuals’) who made the revolution were the ones that saw things collapse in the early 1990s still stands. People are responsible for their actions and can’t always look outside of their own society for the culprit to take all the blame. External factors were/are important but ultimately it is the people themselves who ultimately determine the sort of society in which they live.
2014 date….anything for this year ? 2016 ?
Liverpool L18 8AR
You can see what’s planned for this year by following the link: https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/advanced-search/results/eyJyZXN1bHRfcGFnZSI6IlwvdmlzaXRpbmdcL2FkdmFuY2VkLXNlYXJjaFwvcmVzdWx0cyIsInNlYXJjaDpjZl9ldmVudF90b3duIjoiTGl2ZXJwb29sIiwic2VhcmNoOmNmX2V2ZW50X29wZW5pbmdfdGltZXMiOiJUaHVyc2RheXxGcmlkYXl8U2F0dXJkYXl8U3VuZGF5In0
Hi this is a great article we are going to Segovia in September do you know a guide who can take us around your Jewish tour.
Glad you found the post useful. It’s been some time since I was in Segovia and can’t help you when it comes to a guide. However, the area covered by my suggested walk is very small really and making sure you have a good (free) city map plus (perhaps) the booklet on the history of the Jewish community in the city – mentioned at the end of the post – should be more than adequate. You can’t get lost as you are never more than a few hundred meters from the castle wall – something which can’t be confused with anything else.
Dear Michael Harrison
In course of rather belatedly writing up my notes of a visit to Northern Italy in 2014 I have been trying to identify a painting of The Last Supper which I saw in Santa Maria Maggiore. I was struck by its composition. It had an angled aspect from below rather than front on or from above. The dominant feature was a white tablecloth with angled folds. The left hand lower part of the picture had a child dispensing water (?) into flagons. The right hand lower frame depicted an animal waiting for discarded bones. Does this description jog your memory perhaps?
Thank you for what you wrote about your visit to that city. As always there are regrets about what one has failed to notice or not had time to visit, and I enjoyed your unique insights into this most fascinating part of the world.
The painting you mention is just inside the South Portal, on the right hand side of the alter. I mention it in this posting. What struck me was the depiction of Judas. He is the principal figure on the right hand side, with his back to the viewer. He is trying to hide his bag of silver but the young servant boy to his right sees what is going on. I attempted a couple of times to get a half decent picture but failed and that’s why I didn’t use it in the post – wrong angle, too little light, no tripod, etc. I’ll send you a couple of photos to remind you of what you saw on your visit to Bergamo. I have no idea of the painter or it’s date.
I need to get on to a customs officials at Trinidad airport can some one help me it’s important
I really like this post. Highly recommend to everyone. Thank you.
Is there ever any need to book the Corfu-Saranda ferry in advance (for foot passengers)? Hoping to just turn up and buy the ticket on the day, and wouldn’t want to find all tickets sold out!
It all depends upon the time of year. In the low season there should be no problem – in the high season I don’t know for sure. See the previous reply to a comment.
Do you think it’s necessary to book the ferry ticket in advance (before flying over there) during high season or is it fine to just show up the same day / day before?
I’ve only done the trip out of the high season. The trip over, as a day excursion, is becoming more and more popular so at the height of the season there may be many tour groups organised by the big travel companies. Whether they organise their own boat or not I don’t know. It won’t do any harm, if you know exactly what day you will be travelling, to reserve in advance. It would give you peace at mind, especially if you have an itinerary to follow. Outside of the high season I don’t think there’s a problem.
I’m currently traveling around Albania, and happened across your article when, believe it or not, I was googling courgettes and evil eye.
I’ve seen dolls, and ram horns, but there was one item which I was unable to identify which was grey, curved, and about 2 feet long hanging from a construction site bill board in Berat. One of the work men indicated it was a courgette, and I’m not convinced he wasn’t just making fun of the foreigner.
Interesting article too.
In can’t remember seeing what you describe but at the same time I don’t think the superstition really cares what is placed where. You can invest virtually anything with ‘magical’ powers. If a bunch or garlic why not a courgette? I’ll be on the look out nonetheless.
Did you get a photo of the baptismal font itself? Would love to see it.
There’s a picture of the font in the slideshow at the bottom of the post.
Once in Bergamo, do not forget to visit Lake Endine, only 18 km away.
A little hidden gem just outside Bergamo.
To sleep at Lake Endine: B&B MarcoLaura . We have been there a couple of weeks ago. Fantastic!
I will be coming to Albania via Corfu in August, but my flight arrival at 12:20 probably means I will have to wait until 18:30 for the ferry to Saranda. I’m hoping to get to Himara that evening, but will have missed all buses. Will taxis at the port take me this far?
Taxi drivers in Albania are no different from taxi drivers all over the world – they will do anything, it all depends on how much silver you will cross over their palms It might be expensive though I wouldn’t have any idea of the cost. It might be cheaper to find a place to stay overnight in Saranda and then catch the early morning bus heading for Vlora – but if you choose to do that book in advance as the place will be busy at that time of year.
Use this timetable as a guide only and don’t just turn up at the place and time suggested without double checking first. For example, things are more organised in Tirana and there are now separate ‘bus stations’ for buses and furgons going north or south of the city.You can see by the dates on the right hand side that some of the information has not been confirmed for years. Later this summer I hope to post information that was accurate as of the middle of 2016.
The official website for ferry and boat
Hello, is it easy (and safe) to rent a car in Albania? Also, I would like to know if the there is highway just parallel to the coast as Croatia?
Then, any interesting beach in Albania?
Thanks a lot
I haven’t rented a car myself, using public transport on my travels. I have, however, met a couple of people who have done so and they seemed quite pleased with the experience. If you’re arriving in Saranda that might be problematic unless you intend to also leave the country from there. Honestly I can’t remember seeing car hire there but then I wasn’t looking. Once out of the cities, especially Tirana, the roads are fairly quiet so shouldn’t cause too many problems. In the cities the car rules and they drive like crap – but that’s no different from any other city I visited. Don’t know where you’re from so don’t know how that might effect you.
The coastal route from Saranda to Vlora is impressive and well worth the effort, although you climb high through a number of hairpin bends.
Both Saranda and Vlora sell themselves as beach destinations but I’m not a beach person so really can’t give any recommendations.
My idea is to come from the north, Montenegro, cross all Albania and to leave the rented car in Saranda but if there isn´t rent a car office, then I have to changes plans.
What about the services bus between locations? any web page interesting with timetables?
Thanks a lot
Don’t have any up to date websites with all country bus timetables. Plenty of buses or mini-buses (furgons) going from all major towns on a regular basis. Often starting early and sometimes finishing mid afternoon. As long as you only want to go to the major towns you shouldn’t have a real problems once you’ve arrived in Shkoder. Public transport cheap.
As you leave the port, turn left there are a couple of rent a cars there. Starting at 30 Euro per day.
As always interesting and passionate, Michael! The ideas expressed using the art forms created by talented artists are very attractive and moving. The fact that these art forms are abandoned and vandalized is a direct evidence that the gap between what was said and what was actually done by the ruling party was intolerable.
The “war” agains the symbols of the communist past is actually a war against the Pharisees, which communists turned out to be. The gap between words and actions of the political powers always creates disappointment, disbelieve and anger. The new power has come. It also needed art to support it. The first and easy action to use art in its support was to erase the symbols of the previous discredited power as a promise to erase from real life all that the previous power did wrong. To my mind the war with the past in this way destroys the respect to the real heroes of the past, who are the simple people, as they are shown on all the monuments, doing their best to have a better life for their children in the future. Yet, all the monuments of the communist origin that you have been describing, are still there, in their places. They have not been distracted, they still can be cleaned and repaired. It all depends on how the thinking people of Albania will choose to deal with Albania’s resent past.
Your comments address an issue I’ve been trying to get my head around for many years.
If I said that Uncle Joe defeated the Hitlerites you would say I was crazy, that it was the Soviet people who defeated the Fascist beast. I would agree with that, as did Joe. But when things fall apart it’s the leaders who are blamed, what they did caused the failure of the Socialist experiment. But this doesn’t make sense. If the working class and peasants are those who will take humanity to a new future free from exploitation and oppression then they cannot, at the same time, be victims. They are not able to take the credit for successes but pass the blame to others in the event of ‘failure’. It’s just an excuse for their unwillingness to get involved in a consistent and determined manner in the building of a new society.
I accept that mistakes have been made in the past in the leadership but the rest of society did nothing to correct those mistakes. Those ‘persecuted’, in the main, were anti-socialist and not those looking to find a more efficient road to the future.
This is a hugely complex issue and cannot just be dismissed as the responsibility of a few. This matter is as valid in the erstwhile Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and Vietnam as well as Albania.
I can’t seem to find the address of Finikas Lines Company’s office in Corfu.
Can you tell me where you found it ? Thank you!
I haven’t been to Corfu for some time but as far as I’m aware the office has not moved. Finikas Lines is the name used in Saranda, in Corfu the office that I know goes under the name of Ionian Cruises – Petrakis Lines. You should be able to get to their website via my post on the ferry.
Hi – I am looking at travelling to Corfu via Greece – I will be in Athens and would like to travel north by land a bit then ferry to Corfu and from there to Albania – any idea where I can get a ferry to do this
I’m not an expert on Greece but I know there’s a very regular ferry from Igoumenitsa to Corfu.
thanks for your answer. Do you have adresses of hostels in Kerkyra?
Hello Ulisses, The only hostel I’ve stayed is the Pink Palace. It’s on the other side of the island to Corfu town but they are good at either picking you up from or taking you back to Corfu port/airport. Put their name into the Hostelworld website. Take care, Michael
Can you take dogs on the ferry?
Hello Sarah, I honestly don’t know. I don’t see any reason why not but it would be better to get in touch with the shipping company in Corfu direct via email. Also I suggest you check what the situation would be with Albanian customs and immigration.
We ´ve got a flight from KERKYRA, GR (IOANNIS KAPODISTRIAS) at 10:40 on a Tuesday in July. Do you think we arrive on time there, when leaving from Saranda on that day (9 o´clock am)?
Hello Ulisses, You’ll be cutting it fine. You would need a taxi from the port in Corfu – make sure you’re the first one off the boat to make sure there’s a taxi free – as the airport is the other side of the town from the port. July will be busy. I’ve never been to Corfu in the high season and would imagine the airport security would be chaotic. And then you have to check what time your airline will close it’s gates. It’s a risk and, for peace of mind, it might be better to arrive the previous day and have a quiet night in Corfu.
Michael, this is superbly written review! I’m in the process of strongly recommending it to many other people.
Hello Scott, Thanks for your affirmation. I consider I’ve got it right when someone with your background, viewpoint and knowledge agrees with my points. Take care, Michael
I recommend Harvey’s Guesthouse in Saranda.
Hi wonder if you could advise me, I’m flying to Corfu 29/07/16 and arrive 2am 30/07/16, I’m thinking of staying in airport to daybreak then getting ferry to Sarande and staying 3 nights, I hope to stay in Ohrid for 3 nights ( 7/08 to 9/08 ) so I have 5 days travel, where would you recommend, many thanks Carl
Hello Carll, Gjirokaster would be the next place after Saranda. There are regular buses that leave throughout the day from Saranda (heading to Tirana). They leave you at the bottom of the town. The places of interest are all in the old town, which is dominated by the Castle. If you go there try the Babameto Hostel, it’s close to the centre of the old town, between that and the Castle. As you only have 5 days you can’t go to too many other places but Tirana would be the best bet. Try the Propaganda Hostel there. From Tirana you can catch a bus to Pogradec, where I assume you are planning to stay for Lake Ochrid. I stayed at the Chill out Hostel when I was there last year but it seems to have disappeared off the Hostel Worldwide site. You might like to read some of my other posts which relate to some places of interest on those cities. Have a good time in Albania, take care, Michael
Very interesting, Michael. Your investigation sounds like a detective story. Sometime all the photos and materials you have collected will be used by Albanians to research their own art of Communist time. It wasn’t any better, or worth than any other art. Realistic art is never quite realistic, it is always charged to express particular ideas. As long as it is art, it has to be preserved. I believe this is what you are doing as much as you can.
Hello Natasha, yes, every time I write something about the lapidars or another example of Socialist art I find there are more questions than answers. I put them in the article to remind myself of what is lacking and also in the hope that someone else might be able to offer and answer or, at least, an educated guess. The next time I’m in Albania I’ll come with a list of these questions in the hope of finding a local answer.
Thank you for these interesting informations.
I have a question about the second theory : it is difficult to imagine an importation from Greece because I never saw any dordolec in Greece. In which places in Greece did you see some of them ?
Hello Catherine, As I say in my blog post I’m not an expert on Greece myself. When I started to travel around Albania and noticed the toys and other effigies outside of buildings I did a bit of internet research when I got back home. In that search I came upon an academic paper that addressed the issue. A little bit dense and the information I took from it was very much simplified (and my understanding of what was written). You can read that article on-line by going to this link http://www.jstor.org/stable/4137641?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Thank you very much. I read this article which is very interesting.
Hoxha was amazing
Thank you. Very clear and thorough, and not information it’d be at all easy for a non-Albanian to find anywhere else.
I wonder whether the cleaning-up of these monuments has something to do with the Socialist victory in the elections a year or two ago. When I was last there Sali Berisha was still in power.
Near the end, you seem to suggest that the Catholic Church was responsible for the huge cross on the mountain. (“It seems that the Catholic Church is still at it in Albania.”) In Korce I’d have thought the Orthodox church was a more likely culprit.
I’m sure that some of the renovations that have taken place in the country were as a response to the Socialist Party election victory. However, I know that there is now, and never was, a coordinated national policy on renovation. If there have been political changes at a local level I think they have had more influence in this field. This local effect was evident when Berisha was still in place nationally. I first saw a change in attitude to the lapidars in Manastir, just outside Saranda, in 2012. (You can read what I said about that monument at http://michaelharrison.org.uk/2012/11/five-fallen-stars-rise-again-dema-monument/.)
When it comes to the cross I was drawing a parallel in Albania with what the Catholic Church had done in Latin America but I think you are correct in saying it was probably the Orthodox Church, in Korca, that was responsible for the cross high above the town. In reality I think it’s a joint effort by the Christian churches in Albania to plant these crosses in prominent locations as I have seen them the length and breadth of the country. Some parts the Orthodox is the dominant Christian presence, in others the Catholic, especially in the area around Shkoder. I’ll try and investigate further when I’m next in the country.
Glad you find the posts interesting and thanks for your comments.
I am planning on flying to Corfu this August from the US with a layover in London. The flight arrives at 16:45 and I am only bringing carry on luggage. Do you think I will have enough time to make it through customs/immigration and catch the 18:30 ferry to Sarande?
My experience of Corfu airport is that you get through very quickly – but then I’ve only been there during the off season. You will be arriving smack bang in the middle of the busiest summer season. However, having only carry on luggage will obviously help. Assuming there are no flight delays you should have plenty of time. If you take a taxi from the airport you’ll be at the ferry port within 15 minutes.
Remember you have to get your ticket at the office BEFORE going to the boat. If, for any reason, you are tight for time, perhaps the best bet would be to get the taxi to wait as you buy your ticket and then let it take you the few hundred metres to the departure point of the hydrofoil.
Have a good time in Albania.
I’ve just remembered. In the busy season there’s a ticket office near to the boat. Sorry if I have caused any confusion.
Hi Michael – I have heard [ I live in Corfu] that they won’t be doing the ticket office this year and you have to go to the main office – which means Anja is really going to have to get a move on as the airport in August is pretty crazy – she may make it if she does as you said and get the taxi driver to wait for her and she arrives on time….
Michael and Sarah Jane-
Thank you both for your comments! I already booked my ticket so hopefully I can sprint and make it in time. I am arriving on the 27th so I’m not sure if its still the peak season or if it will be a bit slower. Sarah Jane- do you have suggestions of places to stay or “must see” things in Corfu? I will also be there for about 5 days. I will definitely spend some time in Corfu Town and then would like to go a few days to a village or smaller town in Corfu that might be less touristy but still accessible by bus (if such a place exists). I was thinking Pelekas might be nice.
Hello again Anja,
We actually have rooms in a village just south of town called Benitses – there is a very good blue bus service which stops outside our gate to get to town and all the great things you ought to see …. have a look if you like –
any other help just email me – Kind regards SJ
Hi Michael, Just hit on your helpful information – we are planning a return trip to Albania, and there are reasonable flights from Dublin to Corfu with Aer Lingus. (Considered Turkish Airlines to Tirana, but the stop in Istanbul makes the journey over-long) Last time we flew to Bari and took the Adria ferry (ok but a bit grotty) to Durres, then bus north to Bajram Currie and Valbona. Came back to Tirana, collected a hired a car (autocar – good value, good service) to cover some of the South (Lake Ohrid wonderful, Gjirokaster welcoming and a handy size for sight-seeing), returning the car to the airport, and back by bus to the ferry. Perhaps not the best use of our time, but we learned lot.
Thanks to your blog, we plan to pick up a car and visit interesting places in the South from Saranda. Probably need to pick your brains again!
Have to say we were very impressed by the kindness and hospitality of all the Albanians we met.
Best wishes, Douglas.
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This is a great collection of PDFs, thank you for hosting it. Gilmore’s pamphlet on the Congress is particularly difficult to find today sadly. Readers might be interested to know that another recollection of the Congress, by Patrick Byrne, is easily available online and also worth reading.
You may be interested to know that I recently scanned this: https://archive.org/details/ATangledWeb
Thanks for the link Thomas. I’ve been looking for this book since you mentioned it last year. I’ll put a link into my post about the so-called ‘Corfu Incident’ – for people who might want to investigate the matter further.
Actually, close to the end of the interview, he does talk about the work in the Varreza in Fier (although some of his details conflicts since he says the sculpture was complete in 1973, I believe, whereas elsewhere, like you seem to have, I’ve seen the completion date as 72). He says he worked for a year and half on the project, with Qiraku [?] Dono, and that the varreza were created with according to a special order from the central government–apparently they wanted them completed in a hurry. He also says they were the ninth such project (I’m assuming he means a figural centerpiece in a martyrs’ cemetery) realized at the time. This is facinating to me; I’ve never heard anyone talk about what order their work came in, and of course he could be off about that number, but it still gives some idea of the early stage things were still at in the beginning of the 70s decade with memorialization…Finally, he says that he sent photos of the completed sculptural centerpiece to the central committee in Tirana for approval (since there was no commission approval group in Fier), and it was very well received and–he says–the photos were reproduced and put up around the Ministry of Culture and so forth in Tirana
Hello Raino, thanks for the link to the video and the added information. I’ve incorporated the new details in the post.
Here’s a link to an interview with Gjergji Toska, sone recently (in 2012) (in Albanian)–I don’t think he says much of interest in the interview; the interviewer asks him much more about his time spent in America. He does however, talk about how important it is/was to him as a sculptor to be from the region of Myzeqeja, and how his work sought to emphasize those aspects and motifs he felt to be typical of the region. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntfDx_WcoAU
I too was fed up of seeing different wars piggy-backed onto Armistice Day – a day I could never support from its origin in a land grabbing war of no interest to our class. I had arguments with people who cited the second world war as a reason why we should support our armed forces and buy a poppy. The second world war, with its anti fascist nature, provided the means to attempt to morally legitimise ‘the poppy’ and fudge over its origins. Latterly, involvement in wars in the Middle East has made some people think again about support for Armistice Day. Thank you for filling in the gaps on the ‘timeline’ since ‘The Great War’ ended; and for drawing attention to the almost ceaseless wars waged by Britain with such a cost in lives lost to our own class.
The whole issue about what Armistice Day means for our class should be more poignant for the horrific loss of life in Paris, as the consequences of Imperialist wars get close to home. In condemning the act of terrorism in Paris we will doubtless be encouraged to rally round the flag, there will be more obfuscation of acts of terrorism conducted by Britain that you aptly described. If we rightfully condemn terrorism it must mean all terrorism. We cannot cherry pick which acts of terrorism we condemn and which we ignore. Is not a drone strike itself an act of terror? Dress it up as a tool to help in the ‘war against terror’ and its true nature, terrorising the civilian population underneath is clouded. They may be “smarter” weapons than a world war two ‘doodle bug’ but their purpose is the same.
The Celebration of Armistice Day is like any other historical record – it is spun to reflect the interests of the ruling class. Thanks again for removing the spin and reminding us just how much our class suffers in the many conflicts it is called upon to fight; that’s what a poppy really symbolises, who would still wear one?
Armistice Day is a day of their making. Our day is May Day!
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Hi Michael (and anyone else who needs it),
Here’s a link to the pdf of Dhrami’s book; as I said, if you’re in Tirana, I’m sure if you drop by his studio you can get a copy!
Thanks for that Raino. I do hope to meet up with Mumtaz Dhrami the next time I’m in Tirana.
I just checked, and the work appears in Dhrami’s short book documenting his own works. It still might have been executed collectively (though there’s no mention of this), but I suspect that it is i fact Dhrami’s sole work.
You mention a small booklet of Dhrami’s works. Do you have a digital version or can you direct me to where I might be able to download a pdf? This is the sort of material that would be useful, not just for Dhrami but any other of the Socialist period artists, to get details and facts correct in the first place.
Just thought. Do you have any idea who might have been the sculptor of the 68 Partisan Girls monument?
First, thank you for writing this ongoing series on socialist monuments in Albania–it’s wonderful to have a site out there to send (English-speaking) people to when they are curious about these works. I’m curious where you got the attribution to Hektor Dule from…I’ve always thought (and I’m still relatively certain) that the sculpture is by Muntaz Dhrami…but it’s also possible the two of them worked together on it? (see, for evidence, p. 64 of Llambi Blido’s essay on Dhrami, published [in the collected book of essay] 1987), available here: https://afterart.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/lirizmi-qe-merr-jete-llambi-blidos-shenime-per-pikturen-dhe-skulpturen/; also p.100 of Blut und Honig: Zukunft ist am Balkan (Essl Collection, 2004), where the work is also attributed to Dhrami.
Hello Raino, thanks for keeping me on my toes. I can’t remember exactly but think I got the idea that Dule was the creator of the Tirana Liri from someone who worked in the National Art Gallery. I probably got myself mixed up. I tried to verify the information and was surprised when there was no mention on the web page where other Socialist period monuments by Dule were listed. That should have rung bells. I’ll update with the correct information later this afternoon.
I attempt to verify the information before posting on the blog but sometimes it takes a long time as material is hard to access. I’m building up a collection (and I see on your blog you have made other periodicals available – thanks for that) but there are still many gaps.
I’ll try to get things right in the beginning but if I err from time to time please continue to put me right. My aim is to be as accurate and faithful to the monuments, statues, etc, as possible but I know that (hopefully not too often) I will sometimes get things wrong.
As far as I can tell the information in your posts is usually very accurate! Even having spent a few years now studying socialist art in Albania, I know it can be hard to actually verify things, and oftentimes I too just rely on what someone tells me, which is sometimes accurate and sometimes turns out not to be (especially when it comes to attribution but also in terms of dates).
Unfortunately, I don’t know the creator of the 68 Partisan Girls monument–I wish I did; it’s a very interesting use of the figure-flag transformation motif…
I’ll try to scan the book of Dhrami’s works that I have this week and I’ll post a link to the file here. (I’ve tried to limit my blog to posting documents from the socialist period, just for historical consistency). It was printed around 2011, I believe; Dhrami just published it independently. I can’t say that it is much help from a scholarly point of view–it rarely includes the dates works were completed. And it doesn’t come close to showing all the public monuments he realized together with other artists–it has Peze and the major ones with K. Rama and Sh. Haderi, but is still far from exhaustive. But as you say, you might find it helpful and so might others. (Incidentally, if you ever find yourself in Tirana around the old studios of the sculptors near Komuna e Parisit, Dhrami is still often working their, and I’m sure he’d be happy to give you a copy of the book. He doesn’t speak English, but there are several younger sculptors often working on projects there that could translate, I’m sure.)
Once again, thanks for doing this documentation of so many of the monuments in Albania!
An excellent exhibition, well laid out and plenty to see. Give yourself plenty of time for this one, at least an hour
Thanks a lot for the interesting article. I am travelling around Albania and want to read more about that scarecrow hung on the houses. Your article is very useful.
I believe Auron Tare is responsible for the maintenance of the Albanian coast line. I am quite sure that this also includes the demolition of illegal constructions.
I spent a month in the Tirana region last November and there was a lot of clearing away of illegal constructions. To the best of my knowledge this was nationwide so even if a local matter in Ksamil in 2011 it is now reached national proportions.
Hello Jim Hogan
The reason that there is a flag of the USA flying at this lapidarë is that the man who owns the land on which this monument stands lives in the USA.
And Albania still considers itself an ‘independent’ country! People’s land held by an absentee landlord! And putting up two fingers (English style) to neighbours and visitors alike.
The road is actually quite good bit of forward planning. Sauk has very quickly become populated. When I first visited Albania in 2001 the only building the other side of the lake as the zoo. Now it is a mass of high rise buildings and houses that have progressed up the hills. Soon land on the other side of the hill will be populated and become a suburb of Tirana. Like all development, I am sure that those in the know of this road development have acted ahead and are in a position to capitalise on the expansion of Tiranë. The expansion of the city over the last ten years has been incredible but expected. Just look at Mullet today, it is no longer a separate village. This road over the hill from Sauk will soon be jammed with traffic like the rest of Tiranë.
As I said in my blog, this new road is in contrast to the roads in the village of Sauk itself. yes, development might increase in this part of the capital but at the moment it is only for the rich. And that doesn’t answer why the road has a small, but vital, section, missing. The only vehicle using it on my visit was a large lorry illegally dumping rubble from one of the demolished (illegally built) buildings down at the bottom end of Sauk.
Thanks for putting these books on your side. It has helped the people to learn about Albania and its contributions in the International Communist Movement. There are certain important books which has never been uploaded in the internet and these books are essential to overcome about the illusionf of the so-called “GREAT DEBATE” between USSR and China. The struggle against Titoite-Khrushchevite by the Party of Labour of Albania led by Enver Hoxha was little known to the lager world. On the other hand the Chinese perspectives were well circulated and projected as an alternative to Khrushchevite revisionism.
I have mentioned the the following books published in between 1961-1964 which exposes the Titoite-Khrushchevite revisionism and also provide an alternative to Chinese perspective:
1. The Ideas of MarxismLeninism Will Triumph on Revisionism
English Edition, Tirana, 1962, pp 226.
2. Oppose Modern Revisionism and Uphold MarxismLeninism and the Unity of the International Communist Movement
English Edition, pp.420
Published by- “Naim Frasheri” State Publishing Enterprise, Tirana, 1964
If any one has the above books, kindly upload in the internet so to expose the Chinese perspective and provide the real Marxist-Leninist position on Modern Revisionism.
GEORGI DOMITROV MEMORIAL COMMITTEE, INDIA
Enjoy your blog. Thought you may appreciate this email link. There are still many images still to add to the website, like the one at Drashovicë. The month of August I had a month long exhibition of my Lapidar project at the National Gallery in Tirana. The opening night Dhrami turned up. Very embarrassing not to have had his famous arch in the printed collection. However, I did manage to loosely organise a meeting with him on my return to Albania. Will most certainly ask him about the the ‘faded’ figures on the top left arch. All the best, Robert.
Sorry I wasn’t in Tirana to have seen your exhibition. Any light you can shine on my many questions about the lapidars, including the what appears to be the missing figures on the Drashovice arch would be appreciated.
Hi, Michael! Very interesting article! I have nothing to add to it, but I have some people, who will forward it. There is a Women Museum in Tirana, run by Elsa Ballauri. She will be interested in the information you collected about women in the fights.
When do you plan to came to Tirana again?
Did you ever discover the name of the artist of these murals? I would love to look up more of his or her work.
Hello Tracie, No, not so far. Will try and find out when next in Tirana.
The author of the murals is the albanian artist Shpend Bengu
Thanks for the update. More information about Bengu can be found at https://www.shpendbengu.com/en/.
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It’s quite silly how many quislings have been rehabilitated after 1991. It’s even sillier because most of those who were executed are portrayed as staunch defenders of Albania’s national culture, implying that the Communists were nothing more than brutish thugs recruited from the dregs of society and were also nothing other than agents of a “Slav” ideology.
Hello Thomas, The situation gets worse every time I return to Albania. Apart from the fascists now being ‘honoured’ in the different Martyrs’ Cemeteries the most bizarre and the biggest insult to those who fought and died in the National Liberation War is the attitude to Zog. Not only was a main boulevard named after him, his remains were brought from Paris to Tirana, there is now a statue of the despot, usurper and dictator at the junction where the Tirana railway station used to be. This ‘rehabilitation’ of fascists from the past seems to take place whatever party is in power.
Can u let me no does it open to the public and when please
The Chapel has been open during the ‘Heritage Open Days’ in recent years. This year that will take place between 10th and 13th September, 2015. I’ve looked on the website (http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/directory) but there’s nothing for the Toxteth Chapel this year. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will not be open in September. Some places put their name down late but I slightly surprised that with only just over a month to go the Chapel isn’t on the list. All I can suggest is that you keep on checking the website and see if it gets added in the future. The problem is that, in the past, the information is not always as accurate as it really should be. If I come across any information I’ll let you know.
ANCIENT CHAPEL does not appear in HODS
(Heritage Open Days) List for Liverpool this Year
2015 as REPAIR WORKS ARE ONGOING IN CHAPEL
and will NOT be completed until at least the end of
November 2015. Hence we are NOT Open for this
coming special weekend – Chapel is in potentially
dangerous state (uneven floor, furnishings blocking
entrance etc.) However, we Keyholders (2) are always
willing to open at other times by Appointment. Caretaker’s
home no is 728 8028 (resident very close to Chapel).
Please PASS this info. on to enquirer/s. Many thanks:.
Mrs. A. BUTLER
Hello – Lionel ?? was churchwarden ? some years ago when I used to visit
Can you let me know if he is still working ion the chapel.
I have nothing to do with the chapel but if you want to speak to someone who might be able to answer your question phone 0151 728 8028
You should be commended for your efforts. Socialist realism is completely denigrated in the West and I would imagine its Albanian variant would come under particularly strong criticism considering that the bourgeois and revisionist countries constantly inveighed against the “dogmatism,” “fanaticism” and whatnot of the Party of Labour.
Wow, what a piece of shit distorted bit of history written here, even the Vietnamese tour guide page does better job of presenting history more accurately and unbiased. Communism sucks, always has and always will, it’s a complete failure.
It’s good to see that the deep political analysis provided by Reagan and Bush is still alive and well.
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I have studied the amazing Albanian response to the Holocaust of European Jewry. It is something Albanians can be so proud of because Albanians as one saved every single Jew in Albania from the Nazis in that dark period of time between 1939 and 1945 when the Germans and their collaborators murdered over 6 million Jews and nearly destroyed the world. Albania remained a lone light in a dark world and even tried to bring in more Jews in order to save lives! This was unprecedented anywhere in the world! There were other brave and special individuals the world over but nowhere other than Albania did every single family and person protect their fellow human beings because of “besa”, honour. There are articles on the internet and documentaries on YouTube about this moving and wonderful act of goodness. I do hope that pupils in Albania schools learn about this.
Thanks for this. Thanks for the description of the statue in the castle too. When the time comes there’ll be plenty of material for an exhibition of socialist art in Albania.
Did you see the tekke just south of Gjirokastra, with a tomb of a bektashi holy man ? (On the net, it’s called the Asim Baba tekke.) And if you did, did you see the rows of what look like chicken hutches on the mountainside just to the south. I was told that Enver Hoxha had them built as houses for roma people, who he detested. I wonder whether it was true. The person who told me wasn’t gloating.
One of the common aspects of all those socialist societies that collapsed in the final years of the 20th century is that they all get blamed for all the ills of capitalism (as well as for the mistakes made under the time of socialism). I’m not surprised at that. After all this is just part of the propaganda war against any society that seeks to create a life where the majority, and not the minority, benefit. Therefore all lies and calumnies are heaped on the shoulders of socialism. The problem is that too many people are gullible and believe any garbage they are fed.
This is the case with the idea that Enver Hoxha ‘detested’ the Roma. Where’s the proof? Just some hearsay. In the years when the country was attempting to construct socialism I can’t remember substantiated claims being about racism because I don’t believe it was a problem.
The internet allows, nowadays, anyone with a critical function to investigate this. I did and will bring two reports to your attention.
To quote from the first one:
‘Before the 1990s the situation of Roma was quite similar to the rest of the Albanian population. They worked in different state sectors and incomes of their families were on the same level as incomes of the majority of the population. After the 1990s, however, the situation of Roma people in Albania grew critical; most of the Roma people lost their jobs because of the privatisation of the state industry. The democratization process that developed in Albania and the period of transition caused an economic catastrophe for Roma families. Some factors influenced the conditions of Roma in this period in particular, for example, the competition on the free trade market and labour market and migration.’
Even the UN agrees:
‘During the socialist period, improvements in housing, education, health care and social services of the Roma were evident. In the rural areas, they found employment in agriculture and farming. In the cities they worked in construction, public services and handicraft sectors (Taho 2002). Their status relative to the Albanian majority improved.’
‘With the collapse and closure of state enterprises, and due to the lack of skills, low educational levels, and discrimination, Roma moved from a state of a relative well being to extreme poverty during the post-socialist transition period. They are currently the poorest and the most marginalized ethnic group in Albania (De Soto and others 2002). Studies have shown that their level of poverty is two times higher than among ethnic Albanians, while this condition is further deteriorating (De Soto and others 2005). The decline of Roma living standards during the post-communist transition has affected this group in a more significant way than it has for other groups of the population. This downfall has created a vicious circle of poverty, which produces illiteracy and low educational levels among Roma that further intensifies their marginalization in the society.’
(That’s a ludicrous address, isn’t it?)
So, in less than 5 minutes I was able to come across proof that during the time of socialism the life of the Roma improved. Since the restoration of capitalism their conditions have spiralled downwards. Who, then, detests the Roma?
Hi, and thanks. There’s quite a lot more on the web, actually – on the roma in Albania under socialism generally (e.g. their resistance to the attempted ‘homogenisation’ of the Albanian people) and specifically on the roma in Gjirokastra (e.g. their difficulties after the end of socialism when landowners reclaimed the land that had been taken from them, where roma people had since settled), but it’s difficult to know how much to believe. Any or all of the writers might be consciously or unconsciously writing to conform to some extent with a pre-established narrative, they all seem to be viewing Albanian society as privileged outside observers, etc, etc. In any case, none of them have anything to say about those lines of hutches on the bare hillside you can see to the left of path as you approach that tekke.
I found it hard to believe what the person with me said about them, and I’m sure he didn’t mean it as a full account. He spoke some English, I spoke very little Albanian, and I imagine he was simplifying things for both of our sakes, maybe his perception had been affected by his close relationship to the tekke. Had it defended the roma ? Had it fed them ? Had it resented their presence ? Had the tekke been a centre for roma devotion ? As I said, he certainly didn’t seem to be gloating. Was he adapting the story to fit what he thought i thought ? Did the special status of Gjirokastra come into it ? The hutches had a strikingly ephemeral look (no gardens, no real streets, no square…), and it occurs to me that they might have been only meant as temporary. Maybe they’d wanted to clear some site outside the town for a few days for a fair or something ?
‘Homogenisation’ is a redo;ting-sounding word, but it isn’t hard to appreciate why something of the sort it should have been felt desirable. The far north east (Bajram Curri, Kukes..) still felt like a law unto itself when I was there in about 2002, and in Korce I saw a roma man and boy with a dancing bear.
If you go to Saranda, you could have a look at what I was told had been meant as a socialist model farm, about five miles out of the town on the left-hand (inland) side of the road.
Dear Michael thank you very much for collecting this part of our history and culture (and for not being one more voice in the defamation chorus about that period).
Just to show how ludicrous this propaganda can get, an American tourist in her blog about Albania explained the promenades Albanians do in the evening in most cities, as a custom born during communism by “people trying to exchange messages about the regime”.
I mean, why should a nation promenade for half century exchanging messages and never protest? Even once.
If you are interested about why Albanians did what they did during socialism, why they became the only Atheist country in the world and why they became the extreme opposite after the 90′, as well as a deeper background context, write me.
A better translation for Lavdi is “Glory.” Rrofte would be “long live”. Also, it appears to me that the big Lavdi Shqiperise in your last photo probably used to say Lavdi Partise se Punes e Shqiperise but the “workers party” part was removed.
Hello Xho, thanks for your comment. I’ve had a problem in how to translate ‘Lavdi’. I accept the best direct translation is ‘Glory’ but then that doesn’t sound right to me when placed in an English phrase. English isn’t a language where you find the sort of slogans used in the same way as many other languages. For example, in relation to war dead the phrase ‘In remembrance’ is used. That’s why, at times, I have chosen to use ‘Long Live’ which I consider more appropriate. But even that is a phrase taken from the Spanish and hasn’t really grown out of English itself.
I am sure you are correct about the missing words on the wall in Sheshi Cerciz Topulli. Looking at the picture again I see that the symmetry is all wrong and that long gash between the two existing words would have contained something else. I have come across photos of the square from the past but haven’t seen one which includes that slogan. Do you have any idea where I might come across such a picture? I could then put it on the blog to show how things have been changed.
In future I’ll have to look out for such anomalies.
Totally agree! Korca is the best Albanian beer. Flowery and with a nice bitterness. Chech style, I would say.
Thank you for your interesting and thought provoking comments. With reference to where the statue was positioned at The Florrie. You are spot on with your comments. Our first thought was to place it hall in the middle of the hall, with lots of space around it so that people could do a 360 degrees and inter-act with the statue. Our second choice was to place it parallel to the windows. However, a number of user groups utilise the Grand Hall so the statue would have had to have been moved every night to accommodate them which was logistically difficult with the chance that the statue may have been damaged. We feel that overall the positioning of the statue did not detract from the visitor experience and the feedback we have received more than confirms this.
We will be in St Lucia next month. And we plan to be there for Pentecost on the 24th. Can you send us your service schedule please.
Mark and Bonnie
I’ve nothing to do with the church. I only wrote about a visit I made a couple of years ago. You’ll have to find another way of getting the information you require.
Im sorry to say ,but the way you conducted wrighting this article makes this not worth my read… and truly a comment. AS a historian try to keep emotions outside of a topic please.
The problem with ‘impartiality’ is that it ends up accepting, justifying and excusing the status quo for its crimes. If I even ended up being ‘impartial’ about such crimes as My Lai then I would have become an as useless waste of space as most ‘commentators’ of such events. When I write something you think is worthwhile reading I will stop writing.
Mister Harrison,thank You very much for Your answer.
Have a nice day!
With kind regards and warm greetings from Ukraine.
Good after noon dear mister Michael Harrison!
Thank You very much for the Blog and for interesting and usefull information You share with people.With interest and gratfulness I’ve read Your blog articles about Your trips to Albania from Corfu.I am planing a trip from Corfu to Albania this year and then I have a dream to travel through Albania to Montenegro.
If You have any information about how to get from Saranda to Tirana and furter to Montenegro,could You be so kind to share it.I haven’t been been in Albania so far that’s why I am a bit stressed about how to reach Tirana?is there any railway connection Saranda -Tirana how much does it cost to get from Saranda to Tirana etc.
Might be You have Your own experience in such trips?
I would be very grateful if You share any information concerning my questions.
WIth kind regards and warm greetings from Ukraine.
Hello Tamara, As far as I know the information about the boat from Corfu to Saranda is still true and up to date.
There are plenty of buses from Saranda to Tirana. The last info I have is that the cost is 1500 lek (1Euro + 137 lek). There is one bus that goes from Saranda to Tirana via the coastal route and Vlora. That leaves at 05.30 (so an early start). It’s a very beautiful and interesting route as you go over a high pass. The journey is 10 to 12 hours long. I can’t remember exactly.
The other buses go via Gjirokastra. They leave Saranda at 05.00, 06.30, 08.30. 09.30, 10.30, 14.00 and 22.00. That journey takes about 8 hours.
I’ve never travelled from Tirana to other countries in the Balkans so have no personal experience but have met a lot of people who have done so and they say that’s there’s no problem in getting an international bus from the centre of Tirana. Your hostel’hotel will be able to help, I’m sure (I never found the Tourist Information Office in Tirana very helpful). Have a good trip.
Thanks for “illuminating” me on the sad story of how people deal with their own history.
William Calley and Earnest Medina were pigs then and hopefully are dead now as their leadership was nothing more than a personal war and not leaders of men…….Personal Knowledge
Yes… indeed Redi, I just wanted to say “thanks” for your effort (and for your contribution to this article) by writing this comment – what I was “wondering” myself is how is “possible” that Michael “…couldn’t really see HOW that highway benefited the Albanians” – I just had to smile, of course 🙂
Sorry for the delay in commenting on your comment. It’s all a matter of priorities. Thousands of people travel each day on roads that are falling apart (as is the general infrastructure of the country – just look at the railways). Historically such infrastructural ‘improvements’, partly funded by international organisations, seem to benefit those other than the inhabitants of the country concerned. this is especially when we are talking about communication links in’out of the country. The reaction that began its work of destruction in the 1990s has meant that there is little that Albania will be exporting to other parts of the world. If anything they will be exporting raw products which are cheap and for which others will make the profit. Roads into the country might make imports cheaper and hence will mean that any attempts to rebuild Albanian industry will come up against almost insurmountable odds. Such projects are pretty and impressive, but are they really necessary. To cite other examples in Europe take the AVE (high speed train) in Spain where the rest of the railway system is creaking and the proposed high speed train in Britain. These projects are paid for by all but only really benefit a few. The argument about resultant jobs is also a fallacy as they are becoming more insecure, with no long term contracts, with lower pay and lower productivity. These are some of the reasons I don’t think the Albanians should be too happy about the major road construction. There are others but it will take to long to give them all.
There used to be a collection of socialist-realist statues in a room off the main gallery in Gjirokastra castle, including a splendid one of Albania, as a young, noble, idealistic partisan, booting out monarcho-fascism (represented as a tiny, snivelling character in a military hat and greatcoat) and religion (a tiny, snivelling character carrying a book). Get out, she’s obviously saying, and don’t come back. I wonder if they’re still there.
Hello David, It is still there but the museum isn’t always open, you have to ask for the door to be unlocked. For my take on the statue go to this link: http://michaelharrison.org.uk/2013/05/mother-albania-expelling-the-priest-and-the-monarchy/
As always so inspiring to see what you are writing about and so beautiful and unique in a way. I love mosaic art form and this one is very unusual. Thank you, Michael. Would be good to publish on facebook a fragment of your articles and give a link to your block.
Hello Natasha, I too like the mosaics but there aren’t too many in Albania. I’ve visited one in the hills at Bosch (just before the northern side of the high pass of Llogara on the Vlore-Sarande road) and there’s one near to Vlore which I’ve yet to visit. Hope to write about those after my next visit.
May he rest in hell. History has never seen such a disgusting leader, killing his own people, forbidding religion, blowing up churches. I hope someone blows up his tomb and erase him from history. Screw all of you crackhead supporters.
You anticommunist pig may be payed by the state and the NATO you imperialist peace of garbage. But you believing in lovely god, instead using your brain.
I think you will find that the red book symbolises both the official Party history ‘History of the Party of Labour of Albania’ and also the Veprat (Works) of Enver Hoxha, as much as education. You see the same book being held/read in paintings and artworks in the National Gallery and other museums. It is thus overtly political and no surprise at all that it was removed from the mosaic. In 2011 the scaffolding was for the awnings that it held, i think, rather than any restoration and indeed the Democrats proposed removing it entirely. I do not believe anything was done about it, though it is now an a very shoddy state, with bits missing.
I will accept the History of the Party of Labour but not the works of Enver Hoxha (none of the collected/selected works of the great Marxist-Leninists were published in red). But I will still hold to the idea of the book representing education in general. A worker with a book is dangerous. A worker with an empty sack is just taking home what he controls of society under capitalism – nothing (so, perhaps, an ironic statement by the vandal artist?). Capitalism wants workers to be constantly occupied watching seemingly endless games of football (or other sports) or reality TV shows – none of which encourage thinking about the situation in which they find themselves. If they spend their time reading about ideas they might actually get up off their knees and do something about the exploitation and oppression they face on a daily basis.
Dear Michael Harrison,
With pleasure I have been reading your posts on Albania since you started to write them, especially those concerning socialist realist monuments, which as you may know by now, is also one of my personal interests. I saw that you asked on the punctum books website for the release date of the Lapidari book, which indeed should be in the coming days. However, I can imagine that you would like to have a look already, so I would be happy to send you the links to the online PDF versions if you send me an email.
Our research was to get an overview of all monuments from that period in Albania, and therefore our analyses have been more quantitative than qualitative, and miss the narrative detail with which you describe the monuments in your posts, to my great pleasure. Nevertheless I hope the research will be useful to your own endeavors as well.
Thanks so much for this great info! I am planning a day trip to Segovia from Madrid this weekend and now that I’ve found this I am going to take this exact walk! Really helpful!
I hope you have a god time in Segovia – but it could be cold this time of year! I would be interested to know how you think my description of the walk fitted in with what you experienced on the ground. Have a good weekend.
I went today and it was wonderful, not too cold at all, bright Spanish sun! I didn’t follow your route exactly but it helped me to find the cemetery and also just to have a background idea of the area helped me locate places much easier! Do you mind if I link to this page on my blog when I write about the Jewish quarter later this month? These are just great directions and would love to share them with my readers in case they are interested!
Hello Hannah. Glad you had a good time in Segovia. No problem about linking to my post. If it is useful then the more people who can make use of it the better. Also, if anyone can improve on what I’ve already written, things i might have missed, etc., those ideas would be welcome.
Your directions to this amazing piece of art proved to be priceless. The locals, including taxi drivers didn’t know where this was. I was gobsmacked by the lack of interest shown by Dutch people to such an important monument.
To begin with I couldn’t understand why the piece sits where it does, however once you visit it becomes clear that this is the prefect place for it.
Thank you, Michael. Interesting and simple as all your publications. I saw this monument many times and never paid attention… You are unveiling Albanian Social Realism monuments to me. Look at this sample of neoclassicism: http://wikimapia.org/18710871/Liri-Gero-Statue
It was just inaugurated and is dedicated to the same partisan that is abandoned behind the NGA, who we saw together….
Hello Natasha, just by chance I came across a similar picture of the new Leri Gero statue in Fier. This is a ludicrous depiction of a young woman born at the time she was and in the society that was pre-war Albania. In this new statue she looks like any of the young women who go partying at the weekend in the centre of Liverpool – not like someone who fought and was tortured to death by the German Fascists. Not only does it turn her into a sexual object it mocks her sacrifice and courage. I am trying to find out as much as I can about her and hope to write a blog of her achievements in the near future.
Visiting Shok Enver’s grave is on my bucket list. (For those of you for whom English isn’t your native language, one’s “bucket list” is slang for places one wishes to visit before s/he “kicks the bucket” (dies).
Rrofte Shoku Enver Hoxha!
The mistake that Hoxha made was that he hung-on too long. In the immediate post World War II period, a Hoxha was needed to secure Albania’s sovereignty as a number of surrounding countries had their territorial aims. However, once those threats faded and the internal infrastructures were solidified, Albania seemed to have got stuck in a time warp. It missed an opportunity to engage the best the world could offer while rejecting the worst. After Hoxha, Albania did not have the institutions in place for a modern late 20th century economy which created societal disorganization. This did not have to occur if Hoxha would have transitioned power much earlier.
Transition power to who? Albania hasn’t been able to give birth to a better leader yet.
I used to be subscribed to this magazine and it is fun to reread these issues once again. At that time, the magazine was about the only means for people outside Albania to get a glimpse into life there. How life and the world have changed.
Excellent analysis. You got this right. Today, China is an economic free-for-all or economic Wild West. While regulations exist, they are not enforced, or only selectively so. Nothing wrong with moving ahead with a progressive economy, but China had an opportunity to do so while preventing some of the downsides to it and failed (i.e. environmental problems, lack of business ethics, excessive gaps in wealth, lack of healthcare). I don’t think Mao envisioned beggars on urban streets and blatant prostitution in the 21st century. While the CPC is making renewed attempts to combat business and Party corruption, it seems to be selectively targeted and only token public relations efforts. China seems to be a ship without a captain.
Thank you for a very interesting article. I am from the Soviet Union and the Social Realism is the art I was brought up with. I love it, and looks like there are more and more people, who appreciate it for all different reasons.
I have been “paving” my Silk Road to Albania for the last 11 years. I make the artifacts of Albania’s culture into my designs for silk scarves and ties, and I tell my stories about these artifacts in the cards accompanying my Silk Gifts from Albania. It is my way of telling about the country, which I love. Here is my latest work, not yet printed, just finished and still in the process of my approvment https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10205287765419410&set=a.1735847441753.2098930.1405608748&type=1&theater
I like your site and your desire to show the facts without commenting on them.
The Ramsgate Tunnels are a 4.5 mile (7.25 km) network mainly built in 1939 for air raid protection, and are the largest network of air raid protection tunnels. It has been said that the Borough Engineer, Mr R Brimell, visited Spain prior to this but we have no documented evidence. The tunnels are similar in shape and also had toilet facilities, water cisterns and first aid points, and had a maximum capacity of 60,000 people although 12,000 to 20,000 was the usual occupancy during raids.
Due to lack of available accommodation over 364 families made the tunnels their home and lived there from several months to several years and even had their post delivered.
The tunnels form a semi-circular route passing beneath what were the most densely populated areas of the town, with fourteen entrances and eleven ventilation shafts so extended stays were not a problem. A connecting disused railway tunnel was far larger and housed the long stay residents who even brought down pianos and had regular entertainments, dances, and concerts to the extent that it became know as ‘Tunnel Town’.
The tunnels were sealed and neglected until much work by a volunteer group made reopening possible on their 75th anniversary 1st June 2014. Indeed the existence and extent of the tunnels even by Ramsgate residents was not realised until their opening.
There is still a lot of work to be done such as sound and light enhancements, opening up more of the network, exhibitions and interactive displays, etc, but so far over 7,000 people have enjoyed guided tours of about one mile (1.6km) into the network, complete with mockups of the dwellings people made in creating Tunnel Town.
The Tunnels are currently open Wednesday to Sunday with four tours each day although special groups can be accommodated by arrangement.
We certainly welcome any enquiries and look forward to seeing you there in the future.
Thank you for this article about the fashion issue of the moment. When you talk about Spain and the reasons it has for oposing “independence” in any other European state, I think it would be correct to add France, because it has the same two reasons North of the Pirinees: Basque Country and Catalonia.
And another thing: these two words at the end of the article ‘reach fruition’ may not be ‘rich fruition’ ?
Anyway, for the rest I agree completely with you.
Stay strong, no pasarán!
Firstly i would like say a big Thank You for your blog posts about Albania. It is my first time reading your blog and it will certainly not be my last.
With respect to your question/assumption on the newly build highway Durrës-Kukës. Quote “Again a road funded by foreign money but I couldn’t really see how it benefited the Albanians.”
Being originally from Kukës i have kept myself informed on the developments of this project.
1- It is true that a good portion of the money used to build the highway was a LOAN not free from (hope i am not mistaken ) the World Bank which the Albanian taxpayers are paying and have been paying in, for this project since the War in Kosova was over. There was a tax which was introduced around year ~2000 by Pandeli Majko the Albanian PM of that time, and it was intended to for this project only.
2- Why was this necessary and does it benefit the Albanian People?
Before the highway was complete travelling from Kukës to Tirana/Durrës took roughly 8 Hrs, while now its just 1:30 -2 Hrs.
As you have experience it yourself even people from the North part of Albania not just the North East are using it, as it is much faster and safer.
Add to that ~ 3 million Albanians in Kosova whom travel every year to the Albanian Coast for their holiday, additionally consider the ease and cost effective transportation links from Durrës port to other regional countries eg: Serbia, Macedonia etc.
I believe that the Albanian people are very much benefiting from this highway and it has made lives better for the Albanian Geordie’s :).
Let me conclude this comment by an Advert for a Flat in Prizren:
Albanian : Kemi në shitje një apartement vetëm 2 Orë larg Detit.
English : Apartment for sale only 2 Hours from the Sea.
We are travelling to Sarande from Corfu (via Ferry) next August. Would anyone know the timetable, cost and duration of journey for the bus from Sarande to Himare.
The timetable that I used in 2012 indicates that there are buses that pass through Himara leaving Saranda at 05.00, 13.00 and 14.30 every day. The journey is about 52 km and takes about 1.5 hours (I can’t remember exactly how long it took the bus on which I travelled). The cost was 400 lek (less than £2.50).
Thanks very much for your info
We waited for a bus in Ksamil to take us to Saranda and catch the bus there for Himara. It never appeared so we took a taxi, and was offered a ride all the way to Himara for 7000 lek. Surely more expensive than a bus, but still very acceptable. And a nice way to go, too.
Just in case anyone wants to stay a couple of days in Corfu before going or on return from Albania – we are outside of Corfu Town, [and therefore much cheaper] but have the Blue bus stop right outside – leaves at 7.20 am to Corfu Town and then a 15 min walk to the port for the first Albanian ferry …and runs until 22.45 from town to us ….. had a few people staying with us now that have done it…….
If interested please FB us – https://www.facebook.com/KERKYRAROOMS?ref_type=bookmark
Happy travels!! The KR team….
This is really a fine review/commentary about the police murder of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California, and about many of the broader questions that this whole incident raises. There are many points of interest, but just to mention a couple:
As an American I was surprised to learn that on a per capita basis the level of murders by police in the U.K. is even higher than in the U.S.! This shows clearly that this problem is not just one in the “gun-crazy U.S.” but something that is worldwide in capitalist society. The ruling class everywhere agrees that the masses need to be kept in their place by the police, including by violence and death “when necessary”!
Then too, I thought the question raised “Why is it that whenever things go wrong in capitalist society the loudest cry seems to be ‘compensation’?” was also very thought-provoking and on-point, when clearly the main concerns should be for punishment of the murderers and for building mass efforts to fundamentally change society so that these murderous police crimes cannot continue indefinitely!
Please let us know what kind of tour do we need to be able to visit this camp. We are
coming from Amsterdam as a tourist.
Jocelyn & Justine
If you’re asking for an organised tour I’m afraid I know of nothing. Without your own transport it’s difficult to get there. I’ve given some suggestions for those who depend upon public transport which is possible but it’s not easy. All I can suggest is that you contact the museum directly and see if they know of anything that might be organised from Amsterdam, such as from the Anne Frank House.
My wife and I just visited the monument at Derma in late June 2014 and it now has an Albanian flag on one side and an American flag on the other (2 flag poles). Flags are in good shape. Do you (or anyone) know why there is an American flag here? Monument also looks recently painted — I can share pictures …)
The first pictures I took of the monument in April 2012 it looked somewhat abandoned, the red Albanian flag hadn’t been repainted for a long time. At the end of the same year it was quite smart and had the red stars painted. So I got the impression that someone local was starting to take care of the location. I don’t really see the need for either of the flags on poles that you mention. The contemporary Albanian flag lacks the star which is the symbol used to represent the Communists who are commemorated on the monument. The inclusion of a US flag just seems to be rubbing salt into the wound of the Socialist state. Perhaps they’re trying to re-write history and claim that the liberation of the country from Fascism was the work of the American Imperialists?
I would be interested to see your recent pictures.
I took several very closeup pics of the inscriptions so I could research this monument. The following link has the only pic showing the full monument and flags.
I’ve been unable to find ANYTHING about this monument on-line through google searches (or about the 5 communists that it memorializes), Can you direct me to more info? Many thanks. Jim Hogan
I’ve recently been on a day trip to Albania from Corfu (date of trip was 1 July 2014).
In Corfu, you can get a ticket in a shop nearly opposite the entrance to the New Port. The very first shop on the corner only sells excursion packages and the unhelpful woman inside first told me that they were sold out for the day. I soon realised she was talking about their excursion packages and went in another shop a few doors down that advertises hydrofoil tickets to Albania. That’s where you want to be. You can only buy a Corfu to Albania ferry ticket there: you have to buy the return leg journey once you’re in Sarande.
The ferry leaves from the far end of the entire New Port – a 400m walk to the left if you’re looking from the port out to sea.
Once you’re in Sarande (remember your passports), the ticket office to buy return tickets to Corfu is on the main street above the dock, to the left as you come out. It’s the head office for the ferry company – you can pay in Lek or Euros.
If you get the 0930 ferry from Corfu, you arrive at about 0900 Albanian time (they’re one hour behind Greece). The bus to Butrint leaves at 0930. Go out of the dock and head to the right towards the roundabout with a tree in the middle of it. The bus leaves from the right-hand street, if you’re looking to the roundabout with the dock behind you. It’s more a coach than a bus, and there’s a sign in the window that says ‘Sarande-Ksamil-Butrint’ and the word ‘Henri’ in our case.
The timetable is as follows: From Sarande: 0700, 0930, 1130, 1330, 1530, 1730; and from Butrint: 0820, 1030, 1230, 1430, 1630, 1830.
It takes around 45 minutes. You get on the bus and pay during the journey. It only costs 100 lek each way, so 200 lek in total, which is next to nowt and MUCH cheaper than a taxi.
We only had the day in Albania, so we took the 0930 and arrived in Butrint at 1015. You can see Butrint quite leisurely in two hours and get the 1230 bus back to Sarande, but if you can afford more time there, another hour or two would be easily spent.
Butrint is an awe-inspiring place which you’re sure to love.
Im travelling to Albania via Corfu on July 16th, I will arrive late in the evening in Corfu so I have to take the ferry the next morning. Do you have a suggestion for a (cheap) hotel close to where the ferry takes off? And is the ferry close to the airport as well? Many thanks in advance and this blog is very helpfull!
There’s a problem about accommodation in Corfu town – there’s no hostels if that was the kind you were looking for and therefore can be quite expensive. I’ve only arrived in the off season so have been able to get reasonable deals in fairly good hotels but that won’t be the case on the 16th July.
The airport is the other side of the old town to the port, about 3 kilometres away. At night there are no buses from the airport to the town.
I think your best bet would be to try the Pink Palace (bookable via Hostelworld.com). It’s on the other side of the island and would cost a fortune by taxi but they do offer a free airport pick-up. If you’re arriving on an Easyjet flight late evening there could well be a number of people going there so a hostel bus is very likely to be at the airport. Make sure you make it clear that you want a free airport pick-up when you book online.
There’s a local bus that leaves Agios Gordios quite regularly but I don’t know if it does so early enough to catch the 09.00 ferry to Saranda. The Pink Palace offers transport back to town for €5 but it might depend if others are wanting to travel at the same time. If you don’t want an early start you could always go for the afternoon (18.30) ferry to Saranda – less of a rush and a chance to enjoy the beach in the daytime.
If you are looking for a cheap hostel in Saranda the best bet (I think) is Tomi’s place (SR Backpackers). It’s only a matter of 50 metres from the ferry port. If you do go there please pass on my greetings.
Thank you so much for your answer! I will think about what to do, earlier flight would have been sooo much easier 😉 In Albania I already have places to stay in Dhermi and Vuno but thanks for the suggestion!
Hi! Me and my family are travelling from Sweden to Saranda 21th of july and we´re taking the ferry from Corfu late in the evening. The plane from Stockholm lands at 21:20 so there is a ferry going over quite late…. Maybe not late enough to match your flight Judith?!
Have to ask you Michael, are there any shopping in Saranda? We´re hoping to find leathershoes/bags, clothes och some “tingletangles” 🙂
I’m afraid you’ll have to stay overnight in Corfu Town, there’s no ferry that late, even int he high season.
I’m not really into shopping but one place you might like to try is the daily market. It must be the biggest secret in Saranda and you wouldn’t know it was there unless someone told you about it.
Go up Rruga Vangjel Pando (the street which has the archaeological ruins on one side and the park on the other – also many bus leave from here). Cross Rruga Onhezmi and then take a left into what looks like a car park after a fast food place. Head to an alley at the top left hand corner and that takes you to a maze of narrow streets with different types of stalls. Probably best to go in the morning as I’m not sure if it closes in the afternoon. There are also many shops on the Rrugas Onhezmi and Skanderbreu heading west from the central park.
Hi again! Thank you for the shoppingtips! 🙂 I’m a bit confused by your reply regarding the ferry… From the beginning we were told that we had to stay the night in Corfu town but a month ago we recieved an email from the travelagency that there is a ferry going over in the late evening. I will call the agency tomorrow for more information!
The latest time for a departure from Corfu I’ve seen on the ferry company website is 18.30, and that’s only at the very height of the season.