Could the Albanian Communist regime have been overthrown in the late 1940s?

raharris1973

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The second is the importance of nationalism to Hoxhas success. By all accounts his government was struggling in 1947-8. The Yugoslavs barely could manage their own reconstruction never mind Albania's. By breaking with Tito and siding with Stalin, Hoxha not only stuck it to the Serbs but also gained far more aid than he would have received from Belgrade.

Had the Albanians not done this they also would have lacked the intelligence from Kim Philby that enabled them to defeat the Albanian subversion. Xoxe would need to have a lot of things go his way in order for him to forge a lasting government and not be a mere interruption in King Zog's reign.

Kim Philby exposed anti-regime plotting. Maybe the PoD is he is caught earlier.

Or, he is doing the Albanians no favors because they have a Tito aligned rather than Stalin aligned leader?
 
Kim Philby exposed anti-regime plotting. Maybe the PoD is he is caught earlier.

Or, he is doing the Albanians no favors because they have a Tito aligned rather than Stalin aligned leader?

I assume the latter. It's also worth noting that the Albanians in this scenario have far fewer advisors and much less aid. I would also wager that the Titoists purge a bunch of the more competent Albanian officers like Shehu who were staunch nationalists. IMHO a Titoist Albania is going to have a really tough go of the late 1940s unless there's a POD prior to WW2.
 

raharris1973

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I assume the latter. It's also worth noting that the Albanians in this scenario have far fewer advisors and much less aid. I would also wager that the Titoists purge a bunch of the more competent Albanian officers like Shehu who were staunch nationalists. IMHO a Titoist Albania is going to have a really tough go of the late 1940s unless there's a POD prior to WW2.
In general though it seemed like *all* subversive plots against communist regimes in Europe were amateur-hour, doomed from the beginning, and hopeless. Did the anticommunist (and pro-monarchist) plot actually have a shot?
 
In general though it seemed like *all* subversive plots against communist regimes in Europe were amateur-hour, doomed from the beginning, and hopeless. Did the anticommunist (and pro-monarchist) plot actually have a shot?
The British intelligence community seemed to think so at the time...hence the disdain for Kim Philby.

As far as I can tell, here's why:

1. Albania was not part of Stalins "buffer zone" for the USSR. It was nice to have but ultimately not necessary.

2. The Albanian communists had just finished fighting a pretty ugly civil war in the North after WW2 so their popularity there was almost non-existent. Especially considering that they were pushing everyone to learn Serbo-Croatian until 1948.

3. Even in the south, the extremely slow and corrupt process of reconstruction and its similarities with the Italian period of informal colonization and occupation was deeply unpopular especially when compared to the relatively light German occupation from 1943-44.

Without the infusion of aid from the USSR, Albania would have been in trouble. Furthermore, Stalin actually has the exact opposite incentive to share intelligence. If Albania falls to the west in 1948 he loses very little and gets a massive stick to go after anyone he doesn't like.
 

raharris1973

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So say its a Tito-aligned leader, Xoxe (what was his first name, Kaiser? :)) getting in charge. The regime doesn't get Soviet and Philby's help. The British backed anti-communist plot works in 1949-1950.

I'm assuming that Tito does not feel he has the spare forces to prop up the Albanian Communists since he's worried about his own borders with the Soviet satellites and Italy. This isn't good for his new emerging relationship with the western powers though.

Non-communist anti-communist Albania would fall under the influence more likely of Balli Kombetar or King Zog? It would be influenced regionally by Italy and Greece.

I imagine it would remain Europe's poorest country and it's most corrupt for awhile, hardly a poster child for the west.
It will still be better off than Hoxha's Albania in most respects except for the situation perhaps of the poorest of the poor and having a lower literacy and educational level. The main advantage its people will have will be access to international aid, trade, and travel, with Albanians surfing the wave of demand for guest workers in Northern Europe starting in the 1960s and sending remittances.

By the late 70s or 1980s, some tourism and remittance driven prosperity in Albania may increase the standard of living to the point that it is competitive with Kosovo and Vardar Macedonia and it may encourage some ethnic Albanian migration from those areas.

Hopefully, Albanian irredentism about Kosovo and parts of Macedonia, and Yugoslavian fears about the same won't be a source of major trouble during the Cold War.
 
So say its a Tito-aligned leader, Xoxe (what was his first name, Kaiser? :)) getting in charge. The regime doesn't get Soviet and Philby's help. The British backed anti-communist plot works in 1949-1950.

I'm assuming that Tito does not feel he has the spare forces to prop up the Albanian Communists since he's worried about his own borders with the Soviet satellites and Italy. This isn't good for his new emerging relationship with the western powers though.

Non-communist anti-communist Albania would fall under the influence more likely of Balli Kombetar or King Zog? It would be influenced regionally by Italy and Greece.

I imagine it would remain Europe's poorest country and it's most corrupt for awhile, hardly a poster child for the west.
It will still be better off than Hoxha's Albania in most respects except for the situation perhaps of the poorest of the poor and having a lower literacy and educational level. The main advantage its people will have will be access to international aid, trade, and travel, with Albanians surfing the wave of demand for guest workers in Northern Europe starting in the 1960s and sending remittances.

By the late 70s or 1980s, some tourism and remittance driven prosperity in Albania may increase the standard of living to the point that it is competitive with Kosovo and Vardar Macedonia and it may encourage some ethnic Albanian migration from those areas.

Hopefully, Albanian irredentism about Kosovo and parts of Macedonia, and Yugoslavian fears about the same won't be a source of major trouble during the Cold War.
A few thoughts,

Come to think of it, the prospect of Albanian irredentism might prompt Tito to get involved. Unfortunately for him, and Yugoslavia, that would probably only make things worse. Then again, he might cut his losses like you speculate. Either way, Albanian irredentism is going add another interesting layer to the Cold War... A peaceful solution seems unlikely. I could see it going a number of different ways. It would be really interesting if Tito's government also collapsed around 1950ish. There was a good deal of unrest in Serbia and Croatia there as well. Djilas writes of one incident where several thousand Serbian villagers took up arms based on the mere rumor that the King's men had parachuted in.

I'd wager that some kind of power-sharing between the BK and the Zogists occurs following a successful subversion. That being said, they're also going to have to deal with the remnants of the socialist movement. Land Reform was hugely popular and though the Zogists and some of the BK want to turn back the clock, doing so would spark another civil war. Moreover, this newly mobilized part of Albanian society has a well spoken, influential, and pro-American leader in Fan Noli. If he could convince the CIA that his overtures in the 1920s to the USSR were true moves of desperation and not ideological, I could see him returning to Albania and heading up a political party which just might be able to form a government if things break properly. Also worth noting, that according to recently declassified documents, Zog was having an incestuous affair with his sister at the time. If the CIA thinks that Albania would be better under Noli rather than Zog, you can bet your last dollar they'd leak that. Given that Zog's abandonment of Albania in 1939 and poor performance in exile seriously hurt his popularity, I don't think he survives the blow. Albanians took and continue to take incest very seriously, even today more traditional Albanians see distant cousins marrying as incest to the point that whole tribes have been declared off limits.

Corruption would certainly be a massive problem for Albania in TTL, but I think you're a bit too pessimistic. The aid that they can get from the West, the access to markets, and the benefits of the Marshall Plan is going to dwarf anything they got in OTL even for the poorest of the poor. Honestly, a lot of the Albanian "success" with literacy was propaganda and took a long time to develop despite claiming to have eradicated illiteracy. The fall of Communism revealed a strikingly large number of functionally illiterate Albanians IIRC it was 20-30%. Far better than the near 90% rate pre-war but far from what they claimed. Albania also has the benefit of being almost undeveloped, so there's plenty of opportunity (chromium and hydroelectricity spring to mind immediately), especially if Noli and some more westernized Albanians get into power. I could easily see a Noli government achieving full employment much like Tito did (Western loans and a mass exodus of excess labor) but without hamstringing themselves with a fundamentally broken economic system. It's worth noting that in WWII the Albanians were the only people in occupied Europe begging to work in the Reich in 1944 (they weren't able to due to the nature of the German occupation wanting to prop up the fallacy of an "autonomous" and "functionally neutral" Albania). This development in turn probably spurs immigration from Kosovo and Macedonia, especially given both proximity and the fact that hundreds of thousands of Albanians were "Turkified" and forced/"encouraged" to move to Turkey in OTL by Tito. It's probably going to be worse in TTL...

Another interesting ripple effect would be that the Bektashi movement is much stronger than OTL as are the other faiths in Albania. This development probably aborts the trend towards Wahabism seen in recent years in OTL from happening in TTL.
 
Let's be honest here, if there is a successful anti-Communist revolution in Albania it is going to do much better than OTL. Corruption will be evident but there wasn't a Communist government that wasn't corrupt so no real change there. US cash would be flowing into the country as Washington would want to use it as a role model for a post-anti-Communist revolution.
 
Kim Philby exposed anti-regime plotting. Maybe the PoD is he is caught earlier.

The evidence is pretty strong that the operation would have failed even without Philby.

(1) "More recent accounts see Phibly's betrayal as one factor among many and suggest that the operation would have failed regardless." https://books.google.com/books?id=MGZaDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT262

(2) https://books.google.com/books?id=_bV5ncXNke4C&pg=PA402

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Indeed, Hibbert states that"There are good reasons for thinking that it would have failed even if not betrayed, and probably at greater cost than was actually the case because it would have fon on longer." https://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&hl=en&q="and+probably+at+greater+cost+than+was+actually+the+case+because+it+would"

(3) Yuri Totrov, "Western Intelligence Operations in Eastern Europe , 1945-1954":

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(4) https://books.google.com/books?id=yybGuSBeujUC&pg=PA200
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(5) Even Ben Macintyre, who attaches more importance to Philby than Hamrick does [1]concedes "Operation Valuable might well have failed without Philby, but not so utterly nor so bloodily". https://books.google.com/books?id=wIzIAgAAQBAJ&pg=PT143

[1] I summarize Hamrick's views at https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...iet-agent-in-1942.448888/page-2#post-17539592
 
The evidence is pretty strong that the operation would have failed even without Philby.

(1) "More recent accounts see Phibly's betrayal as one factor among many and suggest that the operation would have failed regardless." https://books.google.com/books?id=MGZaDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT262

(2) https://books.google.com/books?id=_bV5ncXNke4C&pg=PA402

View attachment 668869

Indeed, Hibbert states that"There are good reasons for thinking that it would have failed even if not betrayed, and probably at greater cost than was actually the case because it would have fon on longer." https://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&hl=en&q="and+probably+at+greater+cost+than+was+actually+the+case+because+it+would"

(3) Yuri Totrov, "Western Intelligence Operations in Eastern Europe , 1945-1954":

View attachment 668870


(4) https://books.google.com/books?id=yybGuSBeujUC&pg=PA200
View attachment 668871

(5) Even Ben Macintyre, who attaches more importance to Philby than Hamrick does [1]concedes "Operation Valuable might well have failed without Philby, but not so utterly nor so bloodily". https://books.google.com/books?id=wIzIAgAAQBAJ&pg=PT143

[1] I summarize Hamrick's views at https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...iet-agent-in-1942.448888/page-2#post-17539592

These are good points, but they need to be balanced with perspectives informed by Albanian sources made available after the fall of communism. Using only Western sources only shows half the story. Blendi Fevziu's new biography of Enver Hoxha The Iron Fist of Albania and Tadeusz Czekalski's The Shining Beacon of Socialism in Europe: The Albanian State and Society in the Period of Communist Dictatorship (Cambridge, 2013) are good starts to addressing this problem. Daniel Perez' dissertation BETWEEN TITO AND STALIN: ENVER HOXHA, ALBANIAN COMMUNISTS, AND THE ASSERTION OF ALBANIAN NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY, 1941-1948 (Stanford, 2017) is also vital reading on this subject in particular if you have access to the ProQuest dissertation database. All of these sources use Albanian archival documents to undo misconceptions surrounding the success of Hoxha's "draconian social engineering" and the nature of Albanian politics and society under communism. Czekalski's chapter on religion is particularly good as it thoroughly debunks the propagandistic claim that Hoxha succeeded in transforming Albania into the world's first atheist state. In reality, all he did was drive religion underground which, though damaging, was hardly fatal which is why Albania's religious communities sprang back more or less following the collapse of Alia's government.

That being said, I agree with the point above and should have clarified earlier. Philby's absence would not have been sufficient to have the Albanian Subversion succeed even though it had the best chance of succeeding out of all the attempts to overthrow an Eastern European Communist Regime for the reasons I laid out in post #4. If the POD is simply that Philby isn't there, I'd line up with Macintyre's view that the subversion still fails, but not nearly as miserably.

The Monarchist aspect was certainly the weakest point of the entire plot and would have only been effective in an alternate scenario where their opponents are shackled to an unpopular and incompetent Yugoslav led reconstruction effort and have purged the Army of numerous competent officers for being too nationalist.
Let's be honest here, if there is a successful anti-Communist revolution in Albania it is going to do much better than OTL. Corruption will be evident but there wasn't a Communist government that wasn't corrupt so no real change there. US cash would be flowing into the country as Washington would want to use it as a role model for a post-anti-Communist revolution.
This is also a good point I hadn't thought of before. The US and UK are going to be invested in having Albania become a success story which means that the country will likely receive even more aid per-capita. Infrastructure probably plays a big role in this development which would be amazing for the country. Even today it's desperately short of adequate roads. Western observers noted this during the Cold War in OTL so it's likely they would in TTL as well. A network of simple roads connecting isolated villages to regional centers and so on would massively increase the country's economic performance and quality of life far beyond even today's levels in some areas. Furthermore, a railway connecting Durres/Tirana to Thessoloniki via Florina would be a huge boon for the country. There's also the massive impact Western technology and capital would have on Albanian Chromite deposits. In OTL they helped bankroll Hoxha despite minimal technological investment. In TTL they likely are exhausted earlier but will provide a very nice boon to the recovering Albanian state. Speaking of boons, the new Albanian government would also have access to its gold reserves which were being administered by the UK after being liberated from the Germans/Italians following the war.
 
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raharris1973

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A few thoughts,

Come to think of it, the prospect of Albanian irredentism might prompt Tito to get involved. Unfortunately for him, and Yugoslavia, that would probably only make things worse. Then again, he might cut his losses like you speculate. Either way, Albanian irredentism is going add another interesting layer to the Cold War... A peaceful solution seems unlikely. I could see it going a number of different ways. It would be really interesting if Tito's government also collapsed around 1950ish. There was a good deal of unrest in Serbia and Croatia there as well. Djilas writes of one incident where several thousand Serbian villagers took up arms based on the mere rumor that the King's men had parachuted in.

I'd wager that some kind of power-sharing between the BK and the Zogists occurs following a successful subversion. That being said, they're also going to have to deal with the remnants of the socialist movement. Land Reform was hugely popular and though the Zogists and some of the BK want to turn back the clock, doing so would spark another civil war. Moreover, this newly mobilized part of Albanian society has a well spoken, influential, and pro-American leader in Fan Noli. If he could convince the CIA that his overtures in the 1920s to the USSR were true moves of desperation and not ideological, I could see him returning to Albania and heading up a political party which just might be able to form a government if things break properly. Also worth noting, that according to recently declassified documents, Zog was having an incestuous affair with his sister at the time. If the CIA thinks that Albania would be better under Noli rather than Zog, you can bet your last dollar they'd leak that. Given that Zog's abandonment of Albania in 1939 and poor performance in exile seriously hurt his popularity, I don't think he survives the blow. Albanians took and continue to take incest very seriously, even today more traditional Albanians see distant cousins marrying as incest to the point that whole tribes have been declared off limits.

Corruption would certainly be a massive problem for Albania in TTL, but I think you're a bit too pessimistic. The aid that they can get from the West, the access to markets, and the benefits of the Marshall Plan is going to dwarf anything they got in OTL even for the poorest of the poor. Honestly, a lot of the Albanian "success" with literacy was propaganda and took a long time to develop despite claiming to have eradicated illiteracy. The fall of Communism revealed a strikingly large number of functionally illiterate Albanians IIRC it was 20-30%. Far better than the near 90% rate pre-war but far from what they claimed. Albania also has the benefit of being almost undeveloped, so there's plenty of opportunity (chromium and hydroelectricity spring to mind immediately), especially if Noli and some more westernized Albanians get into power. I could easily see a Noli government achieving full employment much like Tito did (Western loans and a mass exodus of excess labor) but without hamstringing themselves with a fundamentally broken economic system. It's worth noting that in WWII the Albanians were the only people in occupied Europe begging to work in the Reich in 1944 (they weren't able to due to the nature of the German occupation wanting to prop up the fallacy of an "autonomous" and "functionally neutral" Albania). This development in turn probably spurs immigration from Kosovo and Macedonia, especially given both proximity and the fact that hundreds of thousands of Albanians were "Turkified" and forced/"encouraged" to move to Turkey in OTL by Tito. It's probably going to be worse in TTL...

Another interesting ripple effect would be that the Bektashi movement is much stronger than OTL as are the other faiths in Albania. This development probably aborts the trend towards Wahabism seen in recent years in OTL from happening in TTL.
You see Tito’s government collapsing, to non-communist Serb and or Croat rebels around 1950, as a genuine possibility? I never would have conceived of that.

I wonder if the fall of Socialist Albania could stimulate a Soviet invasion of Yugoslavia to protect against the “twin contagion” of Titoism and imperialism?
Or, if it could stimulate an internal coup attempt against Tito in order to get readmission to the Soviet bloc and the associated regime protection?

speaking of irredentism, might non communist Albanian-Greek relations be somewhat spoiled by Greek claims to southern Albania they see in reach, and Albanian claims over Cham inhabited parts of Epirus?
 
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