Declassified U.S. Documents on Albania Released
(December 22, 2015) — The Tirana-based publishing house Dudaj and author Fred Abrahams have made available to the public a large collection of declassified U.S. government documents that Abrahams obtained for his new book Modern Albania (NYU Press) about Albania’s transition from Communism.
The documents, mostly from the State Department but also from the CIA, have been given for use by the public to the Albanian National Library, the Center for Openness and Dialogue in Tirana and the public universities in Tirana, Shkoder and Elbasan. To view a selection of the documents click here.
“These documents were critical for the book, shedding light on this dramatic period in Albania and the development of U.S.-Albania relations,” Abrahams said. “But more important is that they are open for others – scholars, students, policymakers and journalists.”
In response to hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests, the U.S. government provided Abrahams with about 500 declassified documents, 239 of which contain information that he used directly or indirectly for the book. Thirty-eight of these documents are cited in the text.
The documents span the period 1981 to 2004, when the requests were submitted. They reveal how the U.S. government struggled to obtain information during Communism, such as about the mysterious death of Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu and possible successors to Enver Hoxha, and how Washington analyzed events when Albania began to open in 1990.
A set of documents address the period 1990-91, including the first U.S. contacts with the opposition Democratic Party, the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, and the historic June 1991 visit to Tirana of Secretary of State James Baker, as well as the slow reform process within the Party of Labor and renamed Socialist Party.
Many of the documents cover the period of Sali Berisha’s rule as president from 1992 to 1997, including his efforts at reform and his crackdown on critics. The U.S. government’s reporting on this era reflects the strong pro-Democratic Party stance of that time. Much of this material documents Berisha’s gradual break with the United States, including the trial of the ethnic Greek “Omonia 5,” pressure on the judiciary, and the fraudulent 1996 elections, leading to the crash of the massive pyramid schemes the following year.
Documents on 1996-97 include the belated warnings of World Bank and International Monetary Fund officials about the pyramids, the arrests of pyramid bosses, the looting of military arsenals, and the U.S. reaction to allegations of its involvement in the so-called “Lotus Plan.”
Some documents cover Kosovo, including the shifting views of the Democratic Party towards the conflict: Eager to prove its nationalist credentials, the new party at first spoke about changing borders but it quickly moderated its tone in line with international concerns. Other documents report on military activity and refugees on the northern border during the 1998-99 war.
The documents also show U.S. frustration with the Socialist Party over time, including on corruption, nepotism, and the use of domestic problems to score political points. Some documents address SP conduct during the 1997 crisis and the trial of then-party head Fatos Nano.
The book Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy in Europe (Shqipëria e Re in Albanian, Dudaj Publishing House) covers the fall of Communism and turbulent transition in Eastern Europe’s most closed and repressive state.
“The documents offer a new window into the politics of Albania, as viewed by Washington, and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations after decades of isolation,” Abrahams said.
To view a selection of the documents, click here.
The collection of 239 documents has been provided to Tirana University, Luigj Gurakuqi University in Shkoder, Aleksandër Xhuvani University in Elbasan, the Center for Openness and Dialogue in Tirana and the Albanian National Library.