Postwar Development

Albania Table of Contents

Initially, Albania's postwar military forces were equipped and trained according to Yugoslavia's model. Between 1945 and 1948, Yugoslavia's control over the Albanian armed forces was tighter than Italy's had been. In addition to having military advisers and instructors in regular units, Yugoslav political officers established party control over the Albanian military to ensure its reliability and loyalty.

Albania was involved in several skirmishes early in the Cold War. In 1946 its coastal artillery batteries fired on British and Greek ships in the Corfu Channel. Later that year, two British destroyers were damaged by Albanian mines in the channel. Together with Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, Albania aided communist forces in the civil war in Greece between 1946 and 1948 and allowed them to establish operational bases on its territory.

Yugoslavia used its close alliance with Albania to establish a strong pro-Yugoslav faction within the Albanian Communist Party. Led by Koci Xoxe, the group served Yugoslav interests on the issue of ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia. It also cultivated pro-Yugoslav elements within the military and security forces to enhance its influence. It sought a close alliance, a virtual union, of communist states in the Balkans, including Albania, under its leadership. However, when Yugoslavia embarked on its separate road to socialism in 1948 and was subsequently expelled from the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform--see Glossary), Albania used the opportunity to escape the overwhelming Yugoslav influence. The nation completely severed its ties with Yugoslavia and aligned itself directly with the Soviet Union.

The shift to Soviet patronage did not substantially change Albania's military organization or equipment because Yugoslav forces had followed the Soviet pattern until 1948. Albania joined the Soviet-led Warsaw Treaty Organization (see Glossary), popularly known as the Warsaw Pact, on May 14, 1955, but did not participate in joint Warsaw Pact military exercises because of its distance from other members of the alliance. Soviet aid to Albania included advisory personnel, a considerable supply of conventional weapons, surplus naval vessels from World War II, and aircraft. Albania provided the Soviet Union with a strategically located base for a submarine flotilla at Sazan Island, near Vlorė, which gave it access to the Mediterranean Sea. Albania also served as a pressure point for Stalin's campaign against Yugoslavia's independent stance within the communist camp. Albania preferred the Soviet Union to Yugoslavia as an ally because its distance and lack of a common border appeared to limit the extent to which it could interfere in Albania's internal affairs.

Albania's relations with the Soviet Union were strained in 1956 when Nikita Khrushchev improved Soviet relations with Yugoslavia. Hoxha feared that, as part of the rapprochement with Yugoslavia, Khrushchev would allow Tito to reestablish Yugoslavia's earlier influence in Albania. Albanian-Soviet ties deteriorated rapidly in 1961, when Albania joined China in opposing the Soviet de-Stalinization campaign in the communist world. De-Stalinization was a threat to the political survival of an unreconstructed Stalinist like Hoxha. The Soviet Union cancelled its military aid program to Albania, withdrew its military advisers, and forced Albanian officers studying in Soviet military schools to return home in April 1961. Albania in turn revoked Soviet access to Sazan Island, and Soviet submarines returned home in June 1961. Albania broke diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union on December 19, 1961; it became an inactive member of the Warsaw Pact but did not formally withdraw from the alliance until 1968.

As tensions grew between Albania and the Soviet Union, Albania had sought Chinese patronage. In the 1960s, China succeeded the Soviet Union as Albania's sole patron. Albania provided China with little practical support, but its value as an international political ally was sufficient for the Chinese to continue military assistance. China provided aid in quantities required to maintain the armed forces at about the same levels of personnel and equipment that they had achieved when they were supported by the Soviet Union. The shift to Chinese training and equipment, however, probably caused some deterioration in the tactical and technical proficiency of Albanian military personnel.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress