Before and after Enver Hoxha
Between 1944 and late 1990, Albania was in the grips of a rigid Stalinist dictatorship, which was 'founded' by Enver Hoxha, who died in 1985. It was continued by his trusted successor Ramiz Alia brought about its downfall in late 1990. Under the ductatorship, Albania was as least as well isolated from the rest of the world as North Korea is today.
I visited Albania as a tourist in May/June 1984 on a guded tour organised by Regents Tours. We were shown only what Hoxha's regime wanted us to see. We were not permitted to speak with any Albanians except out three trusted minders. We were made to eat separated from, and out of sight of, Albanians. We had to be careful where we aimed our cameras. Some of my fellow tourists even had film removed from their cameras when they left them in their hotel bedrooms.
Although I realised that what we were seeing was selected by our hosts to give a good impression, I had no idea until rcently how carefully everything was staged-managed to give us what the Marxist-Leninist regime hoped would be a good impression. When I visited Albania in 2016, I was told that during the Communist period, wherever foreign visitors were going to visit were specially 'tidied up' several days in advance so that the visitors would get an ideal, rather than a realistic, view of the place.
We ate well in Albania in 1984. But no one else did. I have since learnt that in 1984, most people in Albania were at near starvation level because everything that was grown in the country was exported to obtain much needed foreign currency. The country was in a mess, but the state tourist company did its level best to disguise that from us, and succeeded.
I have called this blog "FROM MARX TO MERCEDES" because when I visited Albania in 1984 Marx and his ideas dominated the scene, but in 2016 Mercedes Benz dominate the roads.
In 1984, there were almost no cars in Albania. They were all owned by the state, and were mostly Volvos, Peugeots, and a very few Mercedes. Now, Albanian roads are full of privately owned cars, many of them are Mercedes Benz.
Today's visitor to Albania will be greeted by friendly, generous, and extremely hospitable people. You can visit wherever you want, speak with whomever you meet, and can expect to be delighted by the countries fascinating folk and varying landscape.
A ever growing collection of my pictures of Albania taken in 2016 may be seen at http://www.ipernity.com/doc/adam/album/901890