Political slogans in Albania 1984. Was George Orwell a true visionary?
Brave new worlds!
Orwell's "1984" 'for real' in Socialist Albania.
In May/June 1984, I visited Albania. In those days, its dictator Enver Hoxha was still alive, directing his Stalinist regime's rigid grip on life in the country. Isolated from the outside world, just as North Korea is today or even more so, the Albanians were bombarded with propaganda extolling the virtues of Albania's brand of Marxist-Leninism. I travelled on a guided tour - it was the only way for tourists to see Albania. We were closely watched, and prevented from conversing with any Albanians except our official guides. Photography was permitted, which is how I was able to capture images of the various methods used to convey the all important political messages. Here are a few of my images scanned from the original colour transparencies that I made in 1984, the 40th anniversary of Enver Hoxha's Socialist Albania.
Lezhë is revered in Albania's history as it is the place where the country's national hero George Kastrioti Skanderbeg was buried in the 15th century. "Parti Enver" refers to Enver Hoxha's Party of Labour of Albania.
The roadsides, mountain slopes, and walls of buildings all served to display messages praising the regime of Enver Hoxha. Notice the pedestrians on the road. In 1984, there were NO private cars, a few busses, a few lorries, a few cyclists, horse-drawn vehicles, and many pedestrians on the road.
Skanderbeg Square is in the heart of Albania's capital Tirana. Recently, it has been modiefied to render it free of traffic. In 1984, there was barely any traffic in the square. Notice the words on the roof of the long building with pillars, The Palace of Culture, built by both the the Soviet Russians and finished by Mao Tse Tung's Chinese workers.
This mosaic is still mounted on the National Museum of Albania in Tirana's Skanderbeg Square. However, since the downfall of Communism in Albania (in 1991), it has been re-worked to eliminate the five-pointed star of Socialism.
Shqipëria Sot ('Albania Today') was a huge exhibition displaying the manufacturing triumphs of Enver Hoxha's Albania. The bunny rabbit with a gun (see first picture) was one of those triumphs, along with tractors and other industrial products. The oil-derrick illustrated highlights that Albania was (and still is) a producer of petroleum-bearing oil. Notice the firmament of red stars.
These photographs displayed at Shqipëria Sot show stages in the history of Albania's tiny railway network. Black patches were used to hide images of people who had fallen out of the regime's favour since the photographs were taken. Mehmet Shehu, who was Hoxha's right hand man until his mysterious 'suicide', is often hidden by such crude editorial patches. Enver Hoxha is portrayed in the picture marked 1968 (he is sitting by the window next to a lady).
The northern city of Shkodër is subject to flash floods such as portrayed in this picture. Notice the political posters in the background and the notice boards in the foreground at the left of the image.
Krujë near Tirana was the stronghold of Skanderbeg during his struggles against the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. The political slogan reads "RROFTE SHOKU ENVER HOXHA" (Long live Comrade Enver Hoxha). Notice the paucity of traffic.
These apartment blocks in the southern coastal city of Sarandë bear little decoration apart from some political posters.
The regime inherited a country where many diseases (eg malaria and tuberculosis) were prevalent. This poster in Sarandë exhorst people to get their children vaccinated against a variety of diseases. Although Enver Hoxha has been much vilified by his opponents and many Albanians who suffered under his rule, he did have his citizen's interests at heart. Education and health were actively promoted during his leadership. Maybe, progress would have also occurred without having a reign of terror.
Posters in the eastern city of Korcë celebrating 40 years of Enver Hoxha's Albania. This was not a pedestrian only street - there was no traffic!
Fier is near to the Albanian oilfields. This huge poster on the side of a hotel shows a triumphant worker holding some kind of tool.
Why waste space? The balconies of this still extant hotel (the Tomori) in the lovely city of Berat have been usefully employed to broadcast the messages of the Party.
Enver Hoxha looks down from a poster in Berat. I don't kow about you, but his trousers make me think of Mussolini.
So great was Enver Hoxha's admiration of Josef Stalin that Albania remained the only country in Europe to display statues of Stalin for decades after his death.
Most of the statues of Stalin and Lenin have been destroyed since the downfall of Communism in Albania, but one or two have been saved. I was shown this larger than life portrait of Stalin in Tirana in 2016
Finally, here is an unusual medium for propaganda. A cake, which I spotted in a bakery in Tirana in 1984: