Soviet industrial equipment arrives in Albania, 1951. Photographic Archives of the Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATSH), Tiranë, Albania. 

Soviet industrial equipment arrives in Albania, 1951. Photographic Archives of the Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATSH), Tiranë, Albania. 

Stalinism on the Mediterranean

Soviet-style socialism spanned a vast landmass, from the Adriatic shores to the farthest reaches of Siberia. Marked by serious internal disagreements, the socialist world nevertheless came to feature strikingly similar repressive regimes, powerful but permanently insecure Communist parties, and centrally planned economies. More than that: The world of socialism also came with a new vocabulary, feats of imagination and engineering, borrowed blueprints for a non-market society, aesthetics, transnational personal relationships, and unofficial rituals. Socialism, which had long been associated with global aspirations, connected far-flung countries, brought strangers into intimate contact, and magnified conflicts. Bringing all of this to life requires telling a local story placed in a global frame. 

Along the northeastern Mediterranean, tiny Albania went from Italian fascist occupation to Nazi rule, Yugoslav tutelage, Soviet and Eastern bloc patronage, and then—implausibly, in the 1960s—to a partnership with Mao's China. It thus offers an unparalleled case study for illuminating the possibilities and paradoxes of the socialist world.

Albania embraced Stalinism but rejected Soviet politics after Stalin, showing how international socialism could help spread ideas, blueprints, and expertise without bringing about political cohesion. This is a study, then, of commonalities that take shape despite the intentions of powerful states and their elites. I argue for a kind of exchange that is no guarantee for political loyalty, or even, ultimately, more openness.

Reflecting the breadth of the subject, my book is based on extensive archival research in Albania, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, and the United States, drawing from a vast range of sources—most of them never used before.