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Published on Jul 3, 2013
Communist Albania of Hoxha was a fortress state, seeing enemies everywhere. There were regular purges, the death penalty was applied, and there were a large number of political prisoners. There were thousands of executions of political enemies and of enemies of communism. Albanians did not have the right to a passport until May 1990.
Two decades later Albania has undergone a dramatic transformation. And yet, few countries in Europe are less understood than this Adriatic republic. Gratuitous violence, organised crime, human trafficking, blood feuds and grinding poverty are the images that first come to mind when the country is mentioned. This is not all due to the particular ferocity of Enver Hoxha's communism. The first post-communist decade has also produced its fair share of dark images, culminating in the anarchy of 1997. It is this dark and difficult legacy which makes the story of Albania's recent transformation all the more remarkable.