Albania Plans Memorial to Communism Victims

Albanian authorities have promised to erect the first memorial to the victims of communism in Tirana, although a deadline for the project remains absent.
A protest in Tirana calling for the missing victims of the Albanian Communist regime to be found. Photo:Facebook

Albania plans to erect a memorial to victims of the former communist regime, which ruled the country with an iron rod for almost half a century after 1944.

The idea of a memorial surfaced at a conference held by the state-funded Albanian Institute of Formerly Persecuted People on Wednesday.

This idea for the memorial is widely supported as the first initiative of this kind after 25 years since communism fell.

Despite the broad welcome, many former victims fear that the process will be dragged out for and could fail, like other previous initiatives in this field.

Bilal Kola, head of the Institute of Formerly Persecuted People, told BIRN that they feel enthusiastic about the project since Albania is one of the only countries in Eastern Europe that still lacks a memorial to communism’s victims.

“The government and Tirana municipality have offered their support and help for the memorial that is going to be built in one of the new… parts of the capital,” he said.

However, Kola noted that the timeline of the project remains absent and much will have to be decided in the coming months.

“We have to determine the exact place where the memorial will be located, and then open an international contest for the best project,” he said.

The third stage is fundraising, when donations from inside and outside the community [of former victims] would be welcome, beside state funds,” he explained.

The lack of a start and end date for the project also bothers Agim Musta, a researcher and former political prisoner under the communist regime.

“Is very important to get serious when promising important initiatives like this. A clear timeline should be added to the project soon, otherwise it could stall and be forgotten, as has happened with other promised projects,” he told BIRN.

Musta emphasized that the authorities also have to be very careful about the memorial’s design and message, and said only the best historians and architects should be put in the charge.

Simon Mirakaj, also from the Albanian Institute of Formerly Persecuted People, told BIRN that the initiative has to be acted on soon and without further delay.

“A lot of promises have been made in the past to the former persecuted community but they were not kept, and sometimes this happened because the Albanian political class is not ready to be fully detached from the legacy of communism. I hope this will not be the case now,” he said.

Former victims in Albania have long complained about the government’s slowness in financially compensating them for their prison terms and suffering during communism.

The communist regime of Enver Hoxha was considered the grimmest and harshest in Europe. A self-confessed Stalinist, Hoxha kept Albania in almost complete isolation until his death in 1985. The regime collapsed in 1990.