Artan R. HoxhaApr 25, 2023
The Transformation of the Countryside in Communist Albania
Central European University Press 2023
In Sugarland: The Transformation of the Countryside in Communist Albania (Central European UP, 2023), Artan Hoxha discusses the ambitious development project in state socialist Albania that turned a swampland into a site of sugar production after 1945. The author seeks to free the history of Albanian communism from the stereotypes that still circulate about it with stigmas of an aberration, paranoia, extreme nationalism, and xenophobia.
This micro-history of the agricultural and industrial transformation of a zone in southeastern Albania, explores a wide range of issues including modernization, development, and social, cultural, and economic policies. In addition to analyzing the collectivization of agriculture, Hoxha shows how communism affected the lives of ordinary rural people. As elsewhere in the Communist Bloc, the Albanian regime borrowed developmental projects from the past and implemented them using social mobilization and a command economy. The abundant archival resources along with interviews in the field attest to the authorities' efforts to increase consumption and to radically transform people's tastes. But the book argues that despite the repressive environment, people involved in the sugar project were not simply passive receivers of models from the nation's capital. The author also describes that—in defiance of Cold War bipolarity—technological requirements and social policy considerations required a degree of engagement with the broader world.
Roland Clark is a Reader in Modern European History at the University of Liverpool, a Senior Fellow with the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, and the Principal Investigator of an AHRC-funded project on European Fascist Movements.