Brigadier Edward Hodgson:
Report on the Present Administration of Albania
Brigadier Dante Edward Pemberton Hodgson (1904-1978) was head of the British Military Mission in Albania in the spring of 1945. In this document he reports on the situation in the country half a year after the communist takeover, and appendixes a list of influential Albanian personalities.
Report on the Present Administration of Albania
May 29, 1945
I. The Present Political and Economic Situation
The F.N.C. [National Liberation Front] is still firmly in control of the country. In the Scutari area, which hitherto has been the centre of armed opposition to the régime, everything is, superficially at least, quiet after several months of severe suppressive measures. As communications, both road and telephonic, have improved, so the degree of control has increased.
Control is maintained by overwhelming armed force, rigid checking of movement, periodical raids on houses and the suppression of any form of popular expression. For this purpose are employed not only the specially formed security brigades operating directly under the commissar-in-chief but also the irregular army formations.
Due to the large quantity of arms supplied to F.N.C. and those captured from the Germans, the present administration is in a strong position to quell any counter-revolution.
The billetting of large numbers of partisans in private homes continues and gives an additional degree of control as well as helping to solve the difficulties of maintaining a large force without expense to the F.N.C.
Nevertheless there are indications of nervousness on the part of the F.N.C which have increased recently with the deterioration of the food situation in the country.
2. The F.N.C. Government
(a) There are still no signs of any toleration of any political party other than the Communist party.
(b) Those members of the Government, even ministers, who are not Communist, are strictly supervised and their powers are restricted. Cases are known of such ministers having to refer matters to their communist subordinates. It would appear that their continuance in office is only tolerated because of a desire to make the Government appear representative and democratic and the disinclination to put out of office those who have fought as part of F.N.C.
(c) The various ministers, with certain exceptions, are showing little sign of incorporating more able elements from outside the party and cannot be said to be functioning as organised departments of a government. There is still no decentralisation by Ministers to their subordinates, or even by the few leaders to the Ministers.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is one exception as it has recently taken on a certain number of elements who previously served under Zog or the Italians.
(d) The form of Government at present is in every way as totalitarian as the previous Fascist régime. No freedom of expression is permitted in fact, although such freedom is talked of in the press and criticism of the Government invited.
(e) The Government is in the hands of a very few real international Communists. Many of the so-called communist members of the Government are undoubtedly more nationalist in their outlook and are truly interested in the well-being of the people and an independent Albania.
(f) The youth of the country, from the age of 4 or 5 years, is being regimented, drilled and subjected to political propaganda.
(g) When this Government was originally formed, the country was promised a general election after the final withdrawal of the Germans in order to choose the type of Government the people wanted.
As yet there are no signs of any such elections being contemplated and in reply to questions asked on this subject, the answers are always vague and non-committal.
If any such election were to take place at the present time, there is no doubt that it would be organised in such a way as to leave the result in no doubt whatever. With one party only in being, even an election by secret ballot would not demonstrate the true feelings of the people who could have no confidence in its secrecy or their freedom to vote as they please.
There are indications that potential political rivals are being steadily and systematically eliminated.
(h) There is every indication that the F.N.C., after the refusal by Great Britain and the United States to recognise its Government, and the continued lack of recognition by Russia, realises at last that it depends very much on British and American opinion. This is borne out by the extremely friendly and co-operative attitude shown to this Mission since its arrival and the elaborate steps taken to impress the Commander of the Mission during his visits to various parts of the country.
This attitude does not appear to be extended to M.L. (Albania) and the F.N.C does not appear yet to realise the political impressions which are given abroad by its apparent policy of putting political considerations before the welfare of its subjects.
(i) The F.N.C. appears to regard relief as a means of keeping the country quiet and of gaining for itself the credit for the arrival of such badly needed supplies.
These two aims are not easily compatible as the struggle with M.L. to retain all possible control has inevitably delayed the means of placating the people at a critical period of the year. Other means have been employed to attract the attention of the people during the intervening period, such as the trials of war criminals, the second Youth Congress, the working up of popular feeling over representation at San Francisco and recognition of the Government. The arrival now of M.L. supplies on terms satisfactory to F.N.C. will have justified the risks which the latter has run.
(j) The attitude of the F.N.C. is essentially pro-Russian and pro-Yugoslav. No credit has been given to the Western Allies for their undoubtedly great help and none is likely to be given for relief supplies.
It would appear certain that after relief has been received and if recognition is accorded, the attitude of the F.N.C. towards the Western Allies will become much colder unless it is still dependent on one or other of them for help of some kind.
3. F.N.C Relations with Yugoslavia
(a) All indications are that the F.N.C. are continuing to draw closer and closer to Yugoslavia. Hoxha’s speech at the Youth Congress, press comments and the statements of various ministers all show an obsequious admiration of every aspect of Tito’s administration.
(b) No further indications either to support or refute the theory that the F.N.C.’s policy is to join a Yugoslav Federation have come to light. It is generally accepted, however, by elements both within and without the F.N.C. that such a federation is contemplated.
(c) Albania is at present receiving grain from Yugoslavia (possibly from Kossovo). This has arrived by sea to Durazzo and by land to Scutari. To date, 1,500 tons are reported to have arrived. The rate of arrival at Scutari appears to be only 7 tons per day, due to difficulties of communication. Grain may also be coming in by road via Struga.
In return, Albania is sending petrol and oil to Yugoslavia.
4. F.N.C. Attitude to Greece
(a) The Greek Government is still regarded as being very reactionary, but care is being exercised not to antagonise it too much. The main attacks are launched against the repeated Greek claims to Northern Epirus.
(b) There is undoubtedly official liaison between F.N.C. and E.A.M. There is reliable information that a number of E.A.M. members are at Berat, but whether these are people of any importance is not yet known.
(c) E.P.O.N. was represented at the Youth Congress and much E.L.A.S. propaganda was to be seen and heard. A room at the exhibition building was devoted to an E.L.A.S./E.P.O.N. collection of photographs and propaganda material.
5. War Criminals
(a) The excitement in Tirana has now abated with the death of seventeen of the more important “war criminals,” and the People’s Court no longer sits.
(b) The Military Court is still sitting and disposes summarily of a number of cases. Death sentences are frequent, mainly on charges of recent spying activities, and are rapidly carried out. Twelve persons are known to have been executed during last week.
(c) There are still a large number of political prisoners. The total number of prisoners is estimated at 1,200-1,800 in the country.
(d) Many cases of arrest and imprisonment are purely precautionary or, alternatively, for the purpose of removing someone temporarily in order to give the F.N.C. a free hand in some respect or other.
The victims are normally released after a certain period without any charge being preferred or any trial taking place.
6. The Economic Situation
(a) General – Good progress has been made in work of reconstruction. Many bridges have been completed, roads are being repaired, hospitals and schools are being opened.
Most of such work, however, is being undertaken by Italian firms or Italian troops at little or no cost to the Government.
(b) Food – In spite of much improved communications and the completion of many new bridges, food distribution is in no way satisfactory. Bread is extremely short both in Tirana and Korca. In the former place there has been no wheat bread at all for four days and little maize bread. Prices have accordingly risen to a level hitherto unknown, namely: -
In Tirana –
Wheat: 10 Albanian francs per kilog.
Maize: 7 Albanian francs per kilog.
In Korca –
Wheat: 16 Albanian francs per kilog.
Maize: 10 Albanian francs per kilog.
It is rumoured that a demonstration organised by anti-F.N.C. elements will be made in Tirana shortly.
An article in Bashkimi of the 28th April on the problem admits the complete lack of corn from the market and blames the “collaborationist” Bali Kombetar and Legality whose activities are stated to have caused the destruction of cornfield and grain-stores.
The article announces the arrival in the next few days of large quantities of cereals from Kossova and Struga. No mention is made of any Allied relief.
(c) Finance –
(i) The money situation is causing the F.N.C. much anxiety. There is a serious shortage of notes and taxation is the only method at present of getting paper currency.
(ii) The taxation on war profits is crippling all the larger merchants. Most of them are making every attempt to meet the first instalment of this tax in the hope that some change in the political structure of the country will have been made by the time the next instalment is due.
(iii) It is estimated that this tax will produce immediately approximately 60 million francs.
Government expenditure is estimated to reach 30 million francs per month.
(iv) An Albanian delegation is reported to have gone to Yugoslavia to try to arrange for the printing of a new issue. This request was also made to M. Palmero during his visit to Albania. The result of these approaches is not yet known.
(v) In normal times Albania without Kosovo required to import 400,000 quintals of grain annually. Where this is to come from, and how it is to be paid for, will be a difficult problem for the F.N.C. to solve. In spite of her own shortages Yugoslavia may be cast for the role of making this supply available in part at least. If this is so it will inevitably tie Albania completely to Yugoslavia.
(vi) Pay is now being issued to Army officers, skilled and unskilled Government employees. The rates are good and in some cases show an increase on previous wages. Unskilled labour received about 25 to 40 fr. per day plus 20 per cent. for overtime. Clerks and specialists receive 800 to 1,200 fr. per month with an allowance up to 50 per cent. for families.
No pay is issued for periods when not actually engaged in work.
Other ranks of Partisans are given occasionally a few francs for personal expenditures, but no regular pay.
(vii) The shops are still well-stocked with every commodity except bread. However, trade continues to be at a standstill due to shortage of money and lack of confidence.
(d) F.N.C. Attitude to Italian Firms – The policy adopted towards the large Italian constructional firms is to let them continue to operate on Government projects, using their own resources of money, labour and material.
Control of all activities is exercised by civilian commissars attached to each firm. No payments can be made nor letters sent without the signature of the commissars.
The financial resources of these firms are now practically exhausted and there are no signs of F.N.C. making any but the most nominal payments for work done.
The construction of bridges and roads has been entirely carried out by Italians firms with Italian labour.
It is rumoured that when their part in the reconstruction of the country is completed, the Italian directors will be gaoled and the firms taken over by the Albanian State.
7. The Albanian National Liberation Army
(a) A.N.L.A. strength is estimated at about 60,000 including all personnel under arms.
(b) The heavy concentration of troops (probably three Divisions) is at present in the Scutari area. The majority of the troops were recruited in the South of Albania.
(c) Unconfirmed reports state that large numbers of Partisans have been seen in the mountains guarding the approaches from Greece. It is known, however, that only two battalions are stationed in Korça. Many concentrations are, however, in the Gjinokaster-Delvine area.
(d) Considerable and continuous movement of formations up to Brigade strength has been observed recently. The reason for these moves being probably: -
(i) Shortage of food in certain areas and the inherent difficulty and unpopularity of large formations living on the country for any length of time.
(ii) Difficulties of finding adequate accommodations.
(iii) Control of areas for the purpose of tax-collecting and suppression of small anti-Partisan bands.
(e) The Albanian formations previously fighting in Yugoslavia have now been withdrawn to Albania or Kossovo.
(f) The standard of discipline, drilling, &c., has improved considerably during the past three months.
A course for potential officers is run in Tirana. It is believed that the complete syllabus is scheduled to take twelve months.
A number of partisans have been chosen for air training in Yugoslavia. It is rumoured that this course will last eight months.
(g) It can be assumed that there is no shortage of ammunition, since large German dumps are known to have been captured intact.
A small number of guns, both light A.A. and 75-mm. mountain, are held in Tirana.
(h) Non-Communist commanders continue to hold high ranks within the army. The wisdom of this attitude by the F.N.C. is apparent in that, while retaining control of the forces through the commissars, the non-Communist element is pacified to a certain extent.
II. Present Opposition to F.N.C.
1. The opposition to F.N.C. is certainly growing in relation to the deteriorating conditions in the country and the continuance of unpopular measures by F.N.C. in internal and external affairs.
2. Opposition is still centred mainly in those sections of the public who have always been basically opposed to communism, namely, the landed families, including a certain proportion of their dependents, the merchants and the Catholics. The existence of the first two sections is directly threatened by, respectively, agrarian reform and taxation, and the Catholics are fanatically opposed on religious grounds to communism.
3. More recently a considerable degree of anti-F.N.C. feeling has made itself apparent among the youth of the country. This is confined to youths of school age and also some of the younger partisans. The F.N.C. has had to take steps to deal with these youths and have been forced to gaol a large number of them in Tirana.
4. A large proportion of partisans themselves, in spite of extensive propaganda of a pro-Russian and anti-British nature, are still non-Communist and pro-British and, while being loyal to their present army, would certainly welcome a broader and more liberal Administration in which their political views would be represented. Any moral support given by the British would obviously serve to crystallise and encourage this feeling.
5. A new feature has been the receipt by British military mission of a certain number of anonymous letters. These underline the purely Communist designs of the Government and call for our intervention to prevent Albania being sold to the Slavs.
6. The degree of armed opposition in the north is not known. The situation there appears to be quiet, but the leaders are known still to be at large, and it can be assumed that they have sufficient men and arms to remain a potential and ever-present danger to F.N.C. As proof of this is the continued retention in the north of large concentrations of A.N.L.A. troops.
7. However great the opposition is at present, it has no method of self-expression. The press is completely controlled and any public expression is out of the question. The opposition well knows that a vast preponderance of arms is with the F.N.C.
8. As a result, opposition is beneath the surface and verbal. It feels that its case is hopeless without outside assistance, and it is consequently defeatist and disinclined to take any desperate measures at the moment. Many of such elements, also, are in opposition to F.N.C. for reasons of self-interest rather than true patriotism, with unpreparedness to sacrifice themselves for their cause.
9. The elements opposed to F.N.C. look more to England than to America for help. This is probably due to our having taken the initiative in Greece in what they consider similar circumstances, and to the fact that we are regarded as having greater strategic interests in the country.
We are regarded as responsible for having helped the F.N.C. to power by the provision of arms to fight the Germans, and they regard us, somewhat logically, as responsible, therefore, for putting matters right again.
10. Given a free and secret vote, there is no doubt that the vast proportion of Albanians would vote against the present régime, particularly against that portion of it identified with the Communist party.
III. Probable Course of Events with no Intervention by Allies
1. An armed coup by the opposition from without the F.N.C. is unlikely to be initiated and would be doomed to failure.
2. The F.N.C. is closely controlled from within and it would be difficult, though just possible, for a split to take place between Communist and non-Communist elements. The latter may find it increasingly difficult to break away as time goes on and may well come more and more under the influence of official propaganda.
3. The F.N.C. may feel obliged to hold elections in a few months’ time in order to demonstrate to the country the popularity of the F.N.C. and the Communist party and to give further cause for a claim for recognition.
After any such elections, the hold of the F.N.C. would be likely to increase rather than decrease and certain wavering elements might be sufficiently impressed by the results to consider that, after all, this is the Government that the country really wants.
4. Attempts may be expected to be made by F.N.C. to cajole or force recognition from the Western Allies by the presentation of conditions in the country with a favourable light and possibly by getting Russia to bring pressure to bear. The F.N.C. may even hope to get Russian and Yugoslav recognition independently of the Western Allies.
5. The policy is likely to continue of grudging acceptance of Allied aid. How long this will continue will depend on the long-suffering of the relief organisation and the possibility of F.N.C. getting sufficient supplies from elsewhere.
6. F.N.C. will undoubtedly make every effort to gain representation at the Peace Conference especially in view of her concern over northern Epirus. Albania would appear to have a good claim to such representation.
7. Anti-British propaganda is likely to continue unabated within the Army and the party, and the idea continues to be stressed that Russia and Yugoslavia are the real friends of Albania and the countries who have in fact achieved victory against fascism and nazism.
It will continue to stress Albania’s dependence on these countries.
8. As F.N.C. becomes less and less dependant on the Western Allies and finds itself in a stronger position materially due to relief supplies received and possibly at a later date due to recognition by the Great Powers, it is likely to break away and to take an increasingly intransigent and unco-operative line with the Western Allies while aligning itself against the natural and national inclinations of the majority of the Albanian people more and more closely with Yugoslavia and Russia.
9. The effects of such a close affinity is likely to be felt most strongly over questions affecting Greece. Yugoslavia could hardly refrain from giving aid, both moral and material, to Albania in her struggle to retain northern Epirus.
A stronger attitude to Greece might be taken, an ultimatum on the Camorian refugee situation might be made and, possibly, even raids might be carried out against certain E.D.E.S. elements over the Greek border.
F.N.C might try to justify her actions by pointing out, correctly, how she has hitherto been in the right over Albania-Greek disputes and cannot submit to Greek injustice any longer.
It is to be expected also that in order to have a friendly State on her southern borders, F.N.C. might well aid E.A.M./E.L.A.S., should they attempt to regain control after the withdrawal of the British troops, or at least to encourage them to stir up trouble there. The rumoured presence of E.A.M. personnel and arms stores in Albania and the friendly attitude adopted towards E.A.M. lends support to this theory.
IV. Possible Course of Events with Intervention by Allies
1. It is not the purpose of this paper to make recommendations but merely to report the reactions likely to result from a particular course of action.
2. Under Declaration No. 5 of the Yalta Agreement, the Three Powers agreed “To assist the people of any liberated State to form interim governmental authorities, broadly representative of all the democratic elements in the population and pledged to the earliest possible establishment, through free elections, of a Government responsible to the will of the people, and to facilitate where necessary the holding of such elections.”
Possible Course of Action by Allies
1. An election of the lines indicated above is unlikely to take place without pressure from outside. A possible course of action is outlined below with the probable effect it might have on the F.N.C. and the people of Albania: -
(a) The Three Powers might inform the F.N.C. that they are not prepared to recognise the F.N.C. Government as at present constituted as it is not considered to be either truly democratic or fully representative of the country.
(b) They might further state that they would be prepared to recognise a Government of Albania on the following conditions: -
(i) That organised political parties other than the Communist party were permitted to exist and that Albanians, who are not compromised with the Italians or Germans, be permitted to return to Albania to organise such groups.
(ii) That subsequent to the formation of such groups a general election take place with candidates appointed from all parties, this election to be by secret ballot and strictly supervised by a commission of Allied Nations.
2. It would be necessary to stipulate that any political party must have equal rights with the existing Communist party, would not be molested or interfered with by F.N.C., and would have the right to free expression in press and radio, to publish their own newspapers, &c.
3. A list of Albanians who might be eligible to lead such a political group or groups and who are in no way compromised in the eyes of the F.N.C. or the Albanian people, are attached at Appendix “A”.
4. In addition to moral support and possibly armed protection, these people would probably require some financial backing in order to carry out their political campaign.
5. Such truly Nationalist elements would, without doubt, receive the support of the vast proportion of the Albanians including all anti-Communist people.
6. The fact that the Allies, at British instigation, were taking a hand to bring a measure of freedom to the country would give a tremendous moral stimulus to the already large and potentially active anti-Communist elements of the population.
Possible Reaction by F.N.C.
1. Should the F.N.C. agree to the demands of the Allies, it might be possible for the present structure of the F.N.C. Government to remain, and for a broadening of the Government by the inclusion in it of such men as are listed in Appendix “A,” to be achieved peacefully.
2. The F.N.C. would be unlikely to agree to such Allied demands which might well be fatal to the future of the Albanian Communist party unless they were presented simultaneously by Great Britain, the United States and Russia. The backing of armed force or the threat of armed action by the Western Allies would probably be necessary to force their hand in the event of Russia not being willing herself to present the demands.
3. One would have to expect not only a refusal by F.N.C. to the Allied demands but also armed resistance to any military action in support of our demands.
4. The Allied attitude might well be sufficient to cause a serious split in the forces of A.N.L.A., many of the non-Communist commanders of which have a great backing from their troops than have the commissars.
The purely Communist element might be expected to split off and form a hard core of resistance somewhat in the same way as E.L.A.S. did in Greece.
Any armed opposition by F.N.C., which would be so inferior in quality to Allied force and so unsympathetically regarded by the bulk of the Albanian people, should not be of long duration or prove too great an obstacle to the achievement of forming of Albania an independent State with a freely elected and truly democratic Administration.
BRIGADIER D. E. P. Hodgson
Commanding British Military Mission, Albania
30th April, 1945
Within F.N.C. in Albania
Former Albanian army officer, retired to Yugoslavia when Zog returned in 1924 (killed Osman Bali, one of Zog’s agents). Operated with SOE in Yugoslvia, 1941. Attended the Peza, Labinot, Martanesh and Mukaj Conferences, and [was] one of the most prominent members of the F.N.C. Appointed Deputy President of the F.N.C. provisional Government, May 1944, with the rank of major-general. His group was disbanded September 1944, possibly due to doubt on the part of the F.N.C. over his Nationalist sympathies. Although he is still Deputy Prime Minister in the present F.N.C. Government, he is distrusted by the régime and retained principally for the personal support which he represents. He was a personal friend of Mustafa Gjinishi. He has opposed F.N.C. policy on maintaining women in ANLA. Non-communist. He has a large following in the Pezà and Tirana areas.
Member of the L.N.C. Central Council and General Staff, later member of the Presidency Council which elected the F.N.C. Provisional Government. Abbot of the Bektashi Monastery of Martanesh. Non-communist. He is now Vice-President of the anti-Fascist Council and has a great deal of influence in the F.N.C., the Bektashi sect and in Central Albania.
Dr. Medar Shtylla
Born in 1907, graduated as Doctor of Veterinary Surgery at Toulouse University. Subsequently government official at Durazzo. He went to France at the time of the Italian invasion and later was forced to return. He is now Minister of Economy in the F.N.C. Government. A non-party patriot, who does not share the communist sympathies of this brother Minister.
Son of Major Halit Lleshi who served in the French army. Lleshi is an Albanian patriot who has on many occasions fought the Germans in his area of influence, Dibra. He was one of the original members of F.N.C. as well as the Central Council and General Staff. He is now Minister of Interior in the F.N.C. Government. Lleshi is a close friend of Myslim Pezas and can be considered to have strong Nationalist sympathies.
Outside F.N.C. in Albania
An intelligent lawyer in Tirana. Interned by the Italians in Italy and repatriated to Albania in 1943. Has occupied several positions of State and defended some of the F.N.C. War Criminals in recent trials extremely well.
Ex-Albanian Minister in London for five years and representative of Albania at the League of Nations. He is a man of extreme intelligence with a sound knowledge of his country. A good linguist who has held positions in past Albanian Governments. Both Fuad and his brother Suad have considerable influence among the intellectual Albanians both inside and outside the country.
Mehmet Bey Konitza
Former Albanian Minister in London. President of the Albanian delegation to the Third Balkan Conference at Bucharest 1932. Interned in Italy 1941. Has sound judgment and is an able politician. Now in Rome. Mehmet Konitza is probably the best known and most respected Albanian at present resident outside the country.
Son of Abdi Bey Toptani, Regent 1920. A young, well-educated and intelligent man who has not become involved in politics during the war. His views are moderate and well-expressed. Married the daughter of Behdi Bey Frasheri. Now in Rome. He is well thought of and respected in the intellectual circles in Albania, and has considerable influence in Tirana.
Bishop Fan Noli
A graduate of Harvard University. In 1908 became head of the Albanian Orthodox Church in America. He founded the “Vatra” organisation in 1912 and returned to Albania shortly afterwards. He led the Albanian Democratic Party and, after a short period as Foreign Minister, he became Prime Minister in 1924. On various occasions he represented Albania at meetings of the League of Nations. Having fallen out with Zog, he returned to America where he led the anti-Zog elements of the Albanian Colony. At the end of 1944 he declared publicly that he was a supporter of the F.N.C. He is now an American citizen.
A well-educated, intelligent young man who is the brother of Gani Bey Kryeziu. Studied in Paris with Ymer Dishnica and Enver Hoxha. He worked for SOE in Belgrade during 1942 and was captured and interned by the Italians in Florence in the same year. He, with the help of Mehmet Bey Konitza, returned to Albania where he acted for a long time as political advisor to his brother, who was fighting the Germans on the borders of Montenegro and Albania. Said Kryeziu is highly respected in all Albanian intellectual circles.
Gani Bey Kryeziu
A true Albanian patriot who worked with SOE during 1942. He was captured and interned with his brother Said in Italy and returned to Albania where he formed a large band of followers and fought the occupying Germans. In September 1944, F.N.C. attacks forced him to disperse his following. He was last reported to be a prisoner in the hands of the Yugoslavs at Prishtina. Gani Bey has a considerable personal following and much influence in North-East Albania.
[British Foreign Office document, preserved in the National Archives in London (FO 371/48091).]