Memoirs from my Meetings with Stalin
A five-hour meeting at Sukhurni. A tète-à-tète talk with Comrade Stalin. Once again about the Greek problem. About the situation in Yugoslavia after Tito's betrayal. The problem of Kosova and other parts of Yugoslavia inhabited by Albanians. "To attack Albania is not easy". "If Albania is strong internally it has no danger from abroad". An unforgettable dinner. Again about the economic and cultural development of Albania. Stand towards religion and the clergy. "The Vatican is a centre of reaction, a tool in the service of capital and world reaction".
In November 1949 I went to Moscow for the third time. On the way to the Soviet Union I stopped over at Budapest where I met Rakosi, who welcomed me very warmly and wanted to know about the economic situation of Albania, about the hostile work of the Titoites and the war of the Greek democratic forces. We had a comradely talk, exchanged a series of opinions and, as I recall, he informed me about the situation in Hungary.
Before I reached Moscow, I stopped briefly at Kiev. There I received an exceptionally warm welcome. At Moscow Lavrentyev, Marshal Sokolovsky, Orlov and other military and civilian personalities had come out to meet me. Later I met Malenkov with whom I had the first short talk.
Malenkov suggested to me that if I wished and had the possibility, I should write out the questions which I had in mind to raise in the talks so that it would be easier for him to transmit them to Comrade Stalin.
"Then", he told me, "we shall await Comrade Stalin's reply whether you, Comrade Enver, are to go to talk personally with him in the city of Sukhumi, where he is on holiday, or are to talk with some other comrade of the Soviet leadership whom Joseph Vissarionovich will recommend."
That evening I wrote out the questions we intended to discuss and handed them to Malenkov.
After he was informed about this, Stalin instructed that I should go to Sukhumi so that we could talk together. And this is what we did.
I met Comrade Stalin in the garden of the house where he was spending his holidays; a marvelous garden full of trees and beds of multicoloured flowers bordering the roads and paths. I saw him from a distance strolling at his usual slow pace, a little bent and with his hands behind his back.
As always he welcomed me very warmly and behaved in a very comradely way. He seemed to be in very good health.
"I stay outside all day," he told me, "and only go inside to eat."
Very happy to see him again and to find him so well, I wished him:
"May you live another hundred years, Comrade Stalin!"
"A hundred?" he said with a laugh, narrowing his eyes a little. "That's not much. In Georgia we've old people of 145 years of age and still going strong."
"Another hundred Comrade Stalin, this is what our people say, another hundred above the age you have!" I told him.
"Tak harasho!" he said in the best of humour. "That's fine, I agree." We laughed.
Our talk in which only Comrade Stalin and I took part (as well as our interpreter, Sterjo Gjokoreci), was held outside on the balcony. It was nine o'clock in the evening, Moscow time. Stalin was wearing a cap in his head, a brown scarf round his neck and a brown woolen suit. When we were about to sit down to begin the talk, out of respect I took off my hat and hung it on the rack, but he said to me:
"Don't take your hat off, keep it on, too."
I protested but he insisted, being concerned that I should not get a cold because it was damp outside, and told his aide-de-camp to bring it to me.
During this unforgettable meeting I discussed a series of problems with Comrade Stalin.
Among other things, I raised with him our views about the incorrect stands of leading comrades of the Greek Communist Party and the unjust accusations they had made against us. Amongst other things, I said that the Central Committee of our Party had always had close relations with the Central Committee of the Greek Communist Party, that our Party and people had always openly supported the just and heroic struggle of the Greek people for freedom and democracy, and against the Anglo-American foreign interference. "Precisely because of the special links we have had with the Greek comrades," I continued, "especially during 1949 we have seen mistakes and defects in the leadership of the Greek Communist Party and several times we have expressed our views about these mistakes to them openly, in a comradely way and in a sound internationalist spirit. We told them of our views once again after the blows which the Greek democratic forces suffered at Vitsi and Gramos. However, the leading comrades of the Greek Communist Party did not accept our comradely criticisms as correct, this time either, but considering themselves offended, went so far as to send a letter from their Political Bureau to the Political Bureau of our Party, in which they accused our leading comrades of being 'Trotskyite' and 'Titoite' in regard to our judgement about the line followed by the Greek leaders during their war.
"Our Political Bureau," I told Comrade Stalin, "analysed the letter of the Central Commitee of the Greek Communist Party signed by Nicos Zachariades and arrived at the conclusion that with its mistaken views and stands, the Zachariades group had not only gravely damaged the new line which the Greek Communist Party adopted after the end of the anti-Hitlerite war but was now trying to put the responsibility on to others for the defeats and the sabotage which it had inflicted on this line itself."
"When did you first meet Zachariades?" Stalin asked me.
After I replied, he said to me:
"Comrade Zachariades has never said anything against you Albanians to our comrades," and at this time he opened a letter which the Political Bureau of the Greek Communist Party had sent to the Political Bureau of the PLA and read it in silence. Then looking at me he added:
"Here I don't see the accusations which you mention, but I read only that they accuse you of having hindered them in some technical matters."
"At first," I said to Comrade Stalin, "they made the accusations I mentioned orally and later in writing, in their last letter. We have sent you a copy of this letter and our reply through Ambassador Chuvakhin."
After asking about the dates of these letters which he had not seen, Stalin gave the order to look them up. In a little while they brought them to him. When he had read them he said to me:
"I have been on holiday and I have not read these materials. I have read all your other letters." Then he added:
"The Greeks have sought to talk and reach agreement with you."
"In the opinions and criticisms which we have made of the Greek comrades," I told Comrade Stalin, "we have always set out from sincere comradely aims, considering this an internationalist duty, irrespective of whether or not our opinions would be pleasing to them. We have wanted and have always tried to resolve these problems with the Greek comrades in a comradely way and a healthy communist spirit, while they for their part, have not only failed to display a similar spirit of understanding but also make accusations against us and are trying to lay the blame on others. Such views and stand are unacceptable to us," I said and added that Comrade Zachariades should bear in mind and not forget that we ourselves were responsible to the Albanian Party and people for the affairs of our Party, people and Homeland just as he was responsible to his party and people.
Listening to me attentively, Comrade Stalin asked:
"Are any of the Greek democrats who were given temporary asylum in Albania still there? How do you intend to act from now on?"
In connection with these questions, I gave Comrade Stalin a detailed explanation of our stand. Amongst other things, I said that the imperialists, the monarcho-fascists and reaction, for ulterior motives, had long been making accusations against us alleging that we were to blame for what had occurred in Greece and were interfering in the internal affairs of Greece, and so on. "However the whole world knows," I said, "that we have not interfered and never will interfere in the internal affairs of Greece."
"In regard to the support which we have expressed and still express for the struggle of the Greek people, this we consider a legitimate right and a duty which every people ought to carry out in regard to the just fight of a fraternal country. But the fact that we are neighbours with Greece brought about that many innocent Greek men, women and children, maimed, terrified, and hotly pursued by the monarcho-fascists, came over our border as refugees. Towards all of them we adopted a just and very careful stand: we gave them aid and shelter and established them in allocated centres far from the border with Greece."
Continuing my explanation of this problem, I told Comrade Stalin that the influx of these refugees had created many acute difficulties for us and, apart from carrying out our humanitarian duty, we were being careful to avoid allowing the presence of Greek democratic refugees on our territory to serve as an opportunity for the further incitement of the anti-Albania psychosis of people in the Greek government. This was one of the main reasons why we welcomed the request of Comrade Zachariades and the Greek refugees themselves to leave Albania for asylum in other countries. "At present," I added, "following the incorrect stands towards us by leading comrades of the Greek Communist Party and the grave accusations they are making against us, our Political Bureau thinks that the departure of those few Greek refugees who still remain in our country has become even more urgent." I told him that not only the democratic soldiers, but also those Greek leaders who had also been given asylum in Albania recently, ought to leave.
Continuing my presentation of our views in connection with the Greek problem, I also told Comrade Stalin about some other mistakes of the Greek comrades, such as their underestimating of protracted partisan war spread over the whole country and their reliance solely on "frontal war" with a "regular army", their elimination of the role of the political commissar in the partisan units, etc. "The pressure of mistaken, petty-bourgeois views of career officers who did not want or tolerate trusted party people beside them," I told Comrade Stalin, "brought about that the role of the commissar in command in the Greek Democratic Army was diminished, considered of second-rate importance, and even totally eliminated. These and other such mistakes make us think that there is confusion, opportunism and false modesty in the leadership of the Greek Communist Party and hiding of the leading role of the party."
After listening attentively to all I put forward, Comrade Stalin, amongst other things, said to me:
"Like you, we too, agreed to the request of Zachariades for the departure of the Greek democratic refugees from Albania and have interested ourselves in assisting them to be settled where they wanted to go. We did this because such a stand is humanitarian. Aid for this number of people was a burden even for us, but they had to go somewhere, because they could not stay in a country bordering on Greece."
"The stand which you have adopted towards the democratic soldiers who crossed your border seems to me correct," added Comrade Stalin. "As for their weapons which have been left in Albania, I am of the opinion that you Albanians should keep them, because you deserve them."
"It appears," continued Comrade Stalin, "that the leaders of the Greek Communist Party have not evaluated the situation properly. They have underestimated the strength of the enemy, thinking they had to do only with Tsaldaris and not with the British and Americans. As to the final withdrawal by the Greek comrades, there are people who say that they should not have retreated, but I think that, after what had occurred, the democratic soldiers absolutely had to retreat, otherwise they would have all been wiped out."
"On the other questions the Greek comrades are not right. They could not wage a frontal war with a regular army, because they did not have either an army capable of this kind of war, or a sufficient breadth of territory for this. Overestimating their strength and possibilities, they did everything openly, making it possible for the enemy to discover all their positions and their arsenal."
"Nevertheless, I think you should reach agreement with the Greek comrades. This is my view. What they say about you Albanians having adopted a 'Trotskyite' and 'Titoite' stand towards them are baseless accusations."
At dinner Stalin asked me where and when I thought we could meet together with the Greek leaders to clear up the disagreements over principles which had arisen between us.
"We are ready to meet whenever you like,,. I said. Possibly even :in January next year and we should hold the meeting in Moscow."
Continuing the talk with Comrade Stalin, we spoke about the grave situation in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia following Tito's betrayal, about the anti-Marxist, nationalist, chauvinist policy which the Titoite clique pursued against Albania and the other countries of people's democracy. In particular, I spoke about the situation of the Albanian population in Kosova and some other parts of Yugoslavia.
"The line of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in regard to Kosova and other regions in Yugoslavia with an Albanian population," I told Comrade Stalin, "from the beginning of the anti-fascist war to Liberation, and even more after Liberation, was and is chauvinist and nationalist. If it were in a sound Marxist-Leninist position, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia should have devoted special attention during the Anti-fascist National Liberation War to the question of the Albanian population in Yugoslavia, because it is a minority large in numbers and right on the Albanian border. In the first years of the war, our view was that the question of the future of Kosova and other Albanian regions in Yugoslavia should not be raised during the war, but the Albanians of Kosova and other Albanian regions should fight against fascism within the framework of Yugoslavia, and this problem would be resolved by the two sister parties, by the people's democratic regimes which would be established in Albania and Yugoslavia, and by the Albanian population there itself, after the war.
"The main question was that the Albanians of Kosova and other parts of Yugoslavia had to be persuaded and convinced that by fighting fascism, shoulder to shoulder with the peoples of Yugoslavia, after the victory they would be free and the possibilities would be provided for them to decide their future for themselves, that is, that they themselves would decide whether they would be united with Albania or remain within the framework of Yugoslavia as an entity with a special status.
"A correct and principled policy in this direction would have brought about that the Albanian population of Kosova and of other regions would have been mobilized with all their strength in the great anti-fascist war, irrespective of the savage reaction and the demagogic fascist propaganda. Right from the start of the war we told the Yugoslav leaders of our opinion that they should mobilize the Albanian population in a patriotic spirit, should allow them to fly the Albanian flag along with the Yugoslav flag, should think about the participation of a bigger number from the Albanian element in the new state power to be created in the course of the war, should support and develop among the Albanians both the feeling of great love for Albania, their Homeland, and the feeling of fraternity in the just war of the peoples of Yugoslavia, that very close collaboration should be created and strengthened between the Albanian fighting units of Kosova and the National Liberation War of our country, while these fighting units of Kosova and other regions should be linked with and guided by the General Staff of the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia, etc. But, as the reality showed," I continued presenting my ideas to Comrade Stalin, "these just and essential demands were not to the liking of the Yugoslav leadership, therefore, not only was it obscure on statements of principle, but Tito made accusations of 'nationalist deviations' against us and those Yugoslav comrades who considered these demands correct.
"The nationalist and chauvinist policy on the part of the Yugoslav leadership in Kosova and the other regions inhabited by Albanians was further intensified after the war, irrespective of the demagogy and some partial measures which the Tito-Rankovich clique took at first, such as the opening of an occasional Albanian school.
"Nevertheless, in the first post-war years we still considered the Communist Party of Yugoslavia a sister party and hoped that the question of Kosova and the other Albanian regions would be resolved correctly as soon as the appropriate moment arrived.
"We thought that this moment had been reached at the time of the signing of the treaty* *( 1 The reference is to the Treaty of Friendship, Collaboration and Mutual Assistance between the People's Republic of Albania and Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, signed in July 1946.) with Yugoslavia and I raised this problem with Tito then. Tito asked me what I thought about Kosova. 'Kosova and the other regions of Yugoslavia with an Albanian population,' I replied, 'are Albanian territory which the great powers unjustly tore away from Albania; they belong to Albania and should be returned to Albania. Now that we are two socialist countries the conditions exist for this problem to be solved correctly'. Tito said to me: 'I agree, this is what we desire, but for the moment we are unable to do anything because the Serbs do not understand such a thing'. 'If they don't understand it today,' I said, 'they will have to understand it tomorrow'."
At this moment Comrade Stalin asked me when I first met Tito and the other Yugoslav leaders. After telling him that I met them after the war, on the first visit I made to Belgrade in 1946, I continued:
"The problem of Kosova and of the Albanian population living in other regions of Yugoslavia, and its future, remains a problem which is up to the people of Kosova and the other regions to decide for themselves. However, we for our part, without ever interfering in the internal affairs of Yugoslavia, will never cease supporting the rights of our brothers of the one blood, living in Yugoslavia and will raise our voice against the terror, the policy of extermination, which the Tito-Rankovich clique is pursuing towards them." Finally, I told Comrade Stalin that we had written him a letter about this problem.
"I have read your letter," Comrade Stalin replied. "I agree with you that the people of Kosova themselves should decide the question of their future."
"Apart from the anti-Marxist policy Tito has pursued towards Kosova," Stalin continued, "he also wanted to annex Albania itself. This became obvious when Tito tried to send his divisions into Albania. We prevented such an action. Both of us know that the units of the Yugoslav army were to be dispatched to Albania to assist Koçi Xoxe, so that, by means of these Yugoslav forces, he would liquidate free Albania and the Albanian Government."
"Tito," I said, "took advantage of the fact that Greece at that period was committing provocations on our borders at every opportunity and he hatched up the intrigue that we would allegedly be subjected to 'a large-scale attack from Greece,' that 'the attack was imminent' and 'constituted a threat to Albania,' etc. After this, in collaboration with the traitors Koçi Xoxe and company, with whom he had secret links, Tito suggested to us that he should send his armed forces to Albania, precisely to Korça, and later also to Gjirokastra, 'to defend us from the Greek attack.' We strongly opposed this suggestion and immediately informed you about it. We were convinced that under cover of these divisions to help us, he aimed to occupy Albania, and this was also the view expressed in the reply you sent us in connection with our report."
With a chuckle expressing both anger and deep irony, Stalin said:
"And now Tito is accusing us, the Soviets, of allegedly interfering in the internal affairs of Yugoslavia, of allegedly wanting to attack Yugoslavia! No, we have never wanted to do such a thing and it has never even crossed our minds because we are Marxist-Leninists, we are a socialist country, and we cannot act as Tito thinks and acts."
"I think," continued Comrade Stalin, "that as Marxist-Leninists, in the future too, we must attack the anti-Marxist views and actions of Tito and the Yugoslav leadership, but I stress that in no way should we ever interfere in their internal affairs. That would not be Marxist. The Yugoslav communists and the Yugoslav people must attend to that matter; it is up to them to solve the problems of the present and the future of their country. It is in this context, also, that I see the problem of Kosova and the Albanian population living in other parts of Yugoslavia. We must not leave any way for the Titoite enemy to accuse us later of allegedly waging our fight to break up the Yugoslav Federation. This is a delicate moment and needs very careful handling, because by saying, 'See, they want to break up Yugoslavia,' Tito not only gathers reaction around him, but also tries to win the patriotic elements over to his side."
"As for Albania's international position," Comrade Stalin went on, "this has been defined by the meeting of the three foreign ministers of the United States of America, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. You know of the declarations of Hull, Eden and Molotov on this question. A big noise is being made alleging that Yugoslavia., Greece, etc., are going to attack Albania but this is no light matter, either for them or for any other enemy," said Comrade Stalin and he asked me:
"Are the Greeks continuing their provocations on the border?"
"After the lessons we have given them, especially this summer, they have ceased their armed attacks," I said, "nevertheless we are always vigilant and remain on the alert."
"Tsaldaris is very busy with his internal troubles," Comrade Stalin went on, "he has no time now to engage in provocations, as the monarcho-fascists are quarrelling amongst themselves. I think also, that the Anglo-Americans cannot attack you from outside, but will try to attack you from within, by attempting to organize insurrections and movements, by infiltrating agents and assassins to kill the Albanian leaders, etc. The enemies will try to stir up troubles Lind conflicts inside Albania, but if Albania is strong internally, it need fear no danger from abroad. This is the main thing. If Albania pursues a wise and principled policy, it has no reason to fear anything."
"As for the documents of the three foreign ministers," Comrade Stalin said, "these you should keep in mind and from time to time, at opportune moments, you should mention them to remind the 'friends' of them."
"However, the internal situation must be strengthened continuously in all directions; it must always be strengthened. This is the main thing," he said and asked me:
"Do you have defence forces under the Ministry of Internal Affairs to attack the counterrevolutionary bands and put down the attempts of internal reaction?"
"Yes," I said. "These forces, made up of, the sons of the people, have done a commendable job, especially in the early years, in clearing the country of the gangs of criminals, enemies hiding in the mountains, and agents smuggled in from abroad. In close collaboration with the people, our military forces are ever better fulfilling their tasks and the Party and our state power have always seen to it that they are very well trained and equipped."
"You must keep these forces in constant readiness to settle accounts with the counterrevolutionary groups, as well as with the possible bandits," Comrade Stalin advised me in connection with the situation in Albania and asked me:
"Did Tito denounce the Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Collaboration with Albania?"
"Yes," I said. "And the way Tito denounced the Treaty was typically Titoite. On November 2 this year the Yugoslav leaders sent us an official note full of slanders and base accusations, in which they called on us, in the form of an ultimatum, to abandon our road and take their road of betrayal. Then, on November 12, without waiting for a reply to their first note, they sent us their second note in which they denounced the Treaty."
"However, we gave them our reply to both their notes, just as they deserved, and we are still living very well, even without their treaty of 'friendship'."
This meeting passed in a warm, happy and very intimate atmosphere. After the téte-à-téte talk I had with Comrade Stalin, we went into the house for dinner. At the entrance to the dining-room there was a kind of an anteroom where we hung our coats and hats. In the dining-room itself, which was half-paneled in timber, there was a long table, and here and there other tables for serving dishes and drinks. Also present at the dinner were two Soviet generals, the one Stalin's aide-de-camp and the other my escort during my visit. Stalin talked, asked questions, cracked jokes with us and the two generals. When we sat at the table he made jokes about the dishes. The way the dinner was served was very interesting. There was no waiter to serve us. A girl brought in all the food in dishes covered to keep them hot; she put the dishes on the table and left. Stalin got up, took the dish himself and, standing there, carved the chicken, then sat down and resumed his jokes.
"Let us begin," he said addressing me. "What are you waiting for? Do you think the waiters will come to serve us? There you have the dishes, take them, lift the lids and start eating, or you'll go supperless."
He laughed again heartily, that exhilarating laugh of his that went right to one's heart. From time to time he raised his glass and drank a toast. At one moment, Stalin's aide-de-camp seeing that Stalin was taking another kind of drink from the table, made an attempt to stop him and told him not to mix his drinks. He did so as it was his duty to take care of Stalin. Stalin laughed and said that it would do no harm. But when the general insisted, Stalin replied to him in a tone half angry, half in fun:
"Leave me in peace, don't pester me like Tito!" and looked me right in the eye, laughing. We all laughed.
By the end of the dinner he showed me a fruit and said: "Have you ever tasted this kind of fruit?" "No," I said, "I've never seen it. How is it eaten?" He told me its name. It was an Indian or tropical fruit. He took it, peeled it and gave it to me. "Try it," he said, "my hands are clean." And I was reminded of the fine custom of our people who, while talking, peel the apple and give it to the guest to eat.
In this unforgettable meeting with Comrade Stalin, both during the conversation in the garden and during the dinner, we talked in a profoundly comradely spirit about problems of the economic and socio-cultural development of our country, too.
As in all the other meetings, after inquiring in detail about our economic situation and the overall development of the new Albania, Stalin gave me a lot of valuable advice which has always helped us in our work.
I gave Comrade Stalin a general outline of the state of affairs with us, told him about the successes achieved in the realization of plans, about the great mobilization of the people, as well as about a number of difficulties and shortcomings which we were aware of and were struggling to overcome.
"Besides the shortcomings in our work," I told Comrade Stalin, "the systematic sabotage of our economy by the Yugoslavs has created very great difficulties in the realization of plans in industry and other sectors. Now we are making great and all-round efforts to eliminate the consequences of this work of sabotage and we are giving particular importance to the sector of socialist industry, which, although taking its first steps, has great prospects in our country. Along with the construction of new projects, our mineral resources constitute a major field of great value in this direction. There is unexploited mineral wealth in our country. The group of scientists and geologists which the Soviet Government will send to our country this year, will provide us with further information on where these resources occur and in what quantities. On the other hand, we are exploiting deposits of oil, chromium, copper and other minerals. According to expert information there are big reserves of oil, chromium, copper and other minerals, not to mention natural bitumen, in our country. Through struggle and efforts with the mobilization of all our forces and possibilities, as well as with the credits granted by the Soviet Government, we have improved the exploitation of these valuable products. But we feel that big investments are required in order to step up the extraction of these products to the maximum. For the time being it's impossible for us to do this with the forces and means we possess. We have used the bulk of the credits accorded by the Soviet Government and the countries of people's democracy," I went on, "in order to improve the exploitation of the existing mineral resources to a certain degree. This means that, on the one hand, we are unable to exploit the already discovered underground assets such as chromium, copper and oil and those which will be discovered in the future, as we would like to, and, on the other hand. we are unable to develop the other branches of industry at rapid rates."
"Our Political Bureau has studied this question, which has great importance for the future of our people, and has arrived at the conclusion that, for the time being, we lack the internal means and possibilities to carry out this work ourselves on a full scale. Because of this we should like to know your opinion about whether you consider it proper to form joint Albanian-Soviet companies for the oil, copper and chromium industries. This might be a problem which we could put before the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance, but before doing this we want to know your opinion, Comrade Stalin."
In reply, after expressing his joy about our successes in the country's economic development, Comrade Stalin told me that he did not agree on the creation of joint Albanian-Soviet companies and explained to me that though some steps had initially been taken in this direction with some of the countries of people's democracy, they had considered them wrong and given them up.
"We shall help you today and in the future, too, " he continued, "therefore we are going to give you more people and more of everything else than we have given you so far. We now have the practical possibilities to give you more because our current five-year plan is going on well."
I thanked Comrade Stalin for the aid they had given and would give us in the future.
"Thank me when you receive the aid," he said smiling, and then asked:
"What do your trains run on - oil or coal?"
"Coal, mainly," I told him, "but the new types of locomotives we have received run on oil."
"Do you process your oil? How is work going on with the refinery?" he asked, continuing the talk.
"We are building a new refinery with Soviet equipment," I said. "Next year we shall install the machinery."
"Do you have coal?"
"We do," I told him, "and geological surveys show that our prospects in this direction are good."
"You must work to discover and extract as much coal as possible," Comrade Stalin advised me. "It is very necessary for the development of industry and the economy in general, therefore give it attention, because it will be difficult for you without it."
As at all the other meetings, Comrade Stalin displayed special interest in and concern about the situation of our peasantry, the development of agriculture and the policy of our Party in this important field. He asked me how we were getting on with cereal production and what seeds we used for bread grain.
I told Comrade Stalin that we had tried to increase the production of grain from year to year, because this was a major problem of vital importance to our country, that we had achieved a number of successes in this direction, but that we had to do still more work and make even greater efforts to ensure the bread for our people.
"Your government must work with might and main for the development of agriculture," Comrade Stalin told me among other things, "must assist the peasantry so that the peasant sees concretely that the government is taking an interest in him and in the continuous improvement of his life." Then he asked:
"You have a good climate, don't you?"
"Yes, we do," I told him.
"Yes, yes," he said. "Everything can be planted and grown in your country. But the important thing is what you sow. You must select good seeds," he advised me, "and for this you should seek our assistance. You must train many agronomists of your own for the future because Albania is an agricultural country and agriculture advances with good work and thorough scientific knowledge. Send an agronomist here to select seeds," he added.
Then he asked me:
"What about cotton? Is the peasant interested in cultivating it?"
I told Comrade Stalin that in the past we had no tradition in the cultivation of this crop, but now we were increasing the area planted to cotton from year to year. This was essential, because apart from anything else, the textile combine which we were building would be based on our own cotton.
"You must encourage the peasant to produce," Comrade Stalin advised me, "by paying him higher prices for cotton. When the socialist ideology is still not implanted in his consciousness, the peasant does not readily give you anything without first looking to his own interest."
Further on, he asked me:
"You still have virgin and unused lands?"
"Yes, we have," said I, "both in the hills and mountains and on the plain. The swamps, and marshes., in particular. have been a plague both for our agriculture and the health of the people."
I added that in the years of people's power we were carrying out a great deal of work to drain marshes and swamps, and had achieved a number of successes but we had big plans for this sector and we should realize them step by step.
"The peasantry," Comrade Stalin told me, "must not leave an inch of land untilled. The peasants must be persuaded to increase the area of arable land."
"In order to avoid the evils of swamps and combat malaria," he advised me, "you must plant eucalypts. This is a very good tree and it grows in many regions of our country. Mosquitoes keep well clear of this tree which grows quickly and absorbs the water of marshes."
During dinner Comrade Stalin also asked me:
"What do the Albanian peasants who visited the Soviet Union say?"
I told him that they had returned to Albania with very good and indelible impressions. In their talks with comrades and friends, at meetings and open discussions with the people, they spoke with admiration about everything they saw in the Soviet Union, about its all-round successes and especially about the development of Soviet agriculture. Among other things, I told him how one of our peasants, who had been in the Soviet Union, described the sample of the Georgian maize.
This pleased Comrade Stalin greatly and the next day I learnt that he had told it to some Soviet comrades who came to visit me. On this occasion Stalin, personally, had instructed them to bring me some bags of seed-maize from Georgia. Also on his instructions, that same day they brought us eucalypt seeds, too.
During this meeting, Comrade Stalin talked, as always, quietly and calmly, asked questions and listened very attentively, expressed his opinion, gave us advice, but always in a thoroughly comradely spirit.
"There are no cut-and-dried prescriptions about how you should behave on this or that occasion. about how this or that problem should be solved," he would repeat frequently, according to the various questions, I raised.
During the talk with Stalin I pointed out to him the stand of the clergy, especially the Catholic clergy in Albania, our position in relation to it, and asked how he judged our stand.
"The Vatican is a centre of reaction," Comrade Stalin told me among other things, "it is a tool in the service of capital and world reaction, which supports this international organization of subversion and espionage. It is a fact that many Catholic priests and missionaries of the Vatican are old-hands at espionage on a world scale. Imperialism has tried and is still trying to realize its aims by means of them." Then he told me of what had happened once in Yalta with Roosevelt, with the representative of the American Catholic Church and others.
During the talk with Roosevelt, Churchill and others on problems of the anti-Hitlerite war, they had said: "We must no longer fight the Pope in Rome. What have you against him that you attack him?!"
"I have nothing against him," Stalin had replied.
"Then, let us make the Pope our ally," they had said, "let us admit him to the coalition of the great allies."
"All right," Stalin had said, "but the anti-fascist alliance is an alliance to wipe out fascism and nazism. As you know, gentlemen, this war is waged with soldiers, artillery, machine-guns, tanks, aircraft. If the Pope or you can tell us what armies, artillery, machine-guns tanks and other weapons of war he possesses, let him become our ally. We don't need an ally for talk and incense."
After that, they had made no further mention of the question of the Pope and the Vatican.
"Were there Catholic priests in Albania who betrayed the people?" Comrade Stalin asked me then.
"Yes" I told him. "Indeed the heads of the Catholic Church made common cause with the nazi-fascist foreign invaders right from the start, placed themselves completely in their service and did everything within their power to disrupt our National Liberation War and perpetuate the foreign domination."
"What did you do with them?"
"After the victory," I told him, "we arrested them and put them on trial and they received the punishment they deserved."
"You have done well," he said.
"But were there others who maintained a good stand?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied, "especially clergymen of the Orthodox and Moslem religion."
"What have you done with them?" he asked me.
"We have kept them close to us. In its First Resolution our Party called on all the masses, including the clergymen, to unite for the sake of the great national cause, in the great war for freedom and independence. Many of them joined us, threw themselves into the war and made a valuable contribution to the liberation of the Homeland. After Liberation they embraced the policy of our Party and continued the work for the reconstruction of the country. We have always valued and honoured such clergymen, and some of them have now been elected deputies to the People's Assembly or promoted to senior ranks in our army. In another case, a former clergyman linked himself so closely with the National Liberation Movement and the Party that in the course of the war he saw the futility of the religious dogma, abandoned his religion, embraced the communist ideology and thanks to his struggle, work and conviction we have admitted him to the ranks of the Party."
"Very good, " Stalin said to me. "What more could I add? If you are clear about the fact that religion is opium for the people and that the Vatican is a centre of obscurantism, espionage and subversion against the cause of the peoples, then you know that you should act precisely as you have done."
"You should never put the struggle against the clergy, who carry out espionage and disruptive activities, on the religious plane," Stalin said, "but always on the political plane. The clergy must obey the laws of the state, because these laws express the will of the working class and the working people. You must make the people quite clear about these laws and the hostility of the reactionary clergymen so that even that part of the population which believes in religion will clearly see that, under the guise of religion, the clergymen carry out activities hostile to the Homeland and the people themselves. Hence the people, convinced through facts and arguments, together with the Government, should struggle against the hostile clergy. You should isolate and condemn only those clergymen who do not obey the Government and commit grave crimes against the state. But, I insist, the people must be convinced about the crimes of these clergymen, and should also be convinced about the futility of the religious ideology and the evils that result from it."
I remember that at the end of this unforgettable meeting Comrade Stalin gave us a piece of general advice: strengthen the internal situation well; strengthen the political work with the masses.
Stalin kept me a full 5 hours at this meeting. We had come at 9 o'clock in the evening and left at 2 after midnight. After we rose from the table, Stalin said to me:
"Go and put on your coat."
We came out with the two generals and I was waiting to return to the room where we had our meeting in order to thank him for the warm reception and to say good-bye. We waited a little, looked into the room, but he was not there.
One of the generals told us:
"No doubt he has gone out into the garden."
True enough, there we found him -- modest, smiling, with his cap on his head and his brown scarf round his neck. He accompanied us to the car. I thanked him.
"Don't mention it," he replied. "I shall phone you tomorrow. We may have another meeting. You must stay another couple of days here to visit Sukhumi."
Next evening, on November 25, I was waiting impatiently for the telephone to ring, but unfortunately, I did not meet Comrade Stalin again. At 1:00 a.m. of the 26th he had arrived in Sochi and sent to me his regards through the general who accompanied me. From Sukhumi, on the 25th of November 1949, I sent the comrades in Tirana this telegram:
"Finished work yesterday. They will help us in everything. All I requested was agreed to with very great cordiality. I am well. Can hardly be there for the celebrations. My best greetings for the celebrations. I leave by the first means available."
On 25th of November we visited the town of Sukhumi, which had 60,000 inhabitants. The Minister of the Interior of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia and another general accompanied me during the visit to Sukhumi. Sukhumi was a very beautiful, clean city, full of gardens and parks. There were many trees from tropical countries. Flowers everywhere. Among other things, I was struck by a wonderful park which had been built by the inhabitants of this city in just 50 days. The park was a little larger than the space in front of our "Dajti" Hotel. By night Sukhumi was ablaze with lights. Its inhabitants were handsome, smiling, looked happy and content. Not an inch of uncultivated ground to be seen. Stretching before our eyes were plantations of mandarins, lemons, grape-fruit, oranges, and grapes, boundless plains sown with wheat, maize, etc. The hills were cultivated and covered with fruit trees and forests. In the city and everywhere one saw tall eucalypt trees.
We went to see a state farm on the outskirts of the city. It was nothing but hills covered with mandarins, oranges, lemons and grape-vines. The branches of the mandarin trees were breaking under the weight of the fruit. One tree produced 1,500, 1,600, 2,000 mandarins. "Sometimes we cannot manage to pick them all," the director of the state farm told us. We visited the place where the mandarins, etc. were packed. Women were working there. A big machine graded the oranges and mandarins one by one, according to size.
We also visited an old bridge built back in the 15th century and preserved as a monument of antiquity, as well as the botanical garden. It was a garden rich in trees and flowers of different varieties. We also saw a centre where they raised monkeys which get up to all sorts of amusing games. We were told that this centre had served Pavlov for his scientific experiments.
The Georgians were very kindly people. They welcomed and farewelled us in the friendliest way.
In the morning of November 26, the Soviet comrade who accompanied me came with the newspaper "Krasnaya Svezda" in his hand and told me the news of my promotion by the Presidium of the People's Assembly of the PRA.
 At 8.00 hours of November 27, we left for Moscow by plane. The flight lasted 5 and a half hours. A few days later I returned to the Homeland.