Recent Peace Corps Volunteer Suzanne Weiss spoke on “Albania’s Communist Hangover” on Sunday, September 10th.
When you mention Albania to an American, many respond (sometimes sheepishly) that they have no idea where the country is. Others confuse it with Armenia. But, there’s a reason why so few Americans are aware of this small country in the southwest Balkans: Often called the “North Korea of Europe,” it was the most isolated country in Europe for close to 45 years. Prior to World War II, Albania had, according to historians, “a long history of subjugation and humiliation.” Then, during its Communist years, Albanians suffered under Enver Hoxha and his totalitarian, repressive regime with its informants, labor camps, executions and 700,000 bunkers.
Now, 25 years post-Communism, the country is still struggling to find its footing. Albania is officially a democracy, but Albanians are afraid to invoke their democratic rights. Albania is officially a free-market economy, yet Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is so invisible in Albania that it’s virtually non-existent. In fact, unemployment is so bad that, according to a Gallup study, Albania ranks second in the world (after Sierra Leone and tied with Haiti) in citizens’ desire to emigrate – 56%.
Some have said that “the worst thing about communism is what comes after.” But, why have so many other countries kicked their Communist hangover while Albania continues to struggle?
Suzanne Weiss worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania from 2015 to Summer 2017. As a member of Peace Corps/Albania’s Community and Organizational Development efforts, she assisted with a US Agency for International Development (USAID) initiative focused on building effective governance at the local level.
Suzanne’s talk was the first in our new monthly platform series at the Sulzer Library.